The different perspectives on education. 

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Functionalist view on education

Functionalists believe society is held together by common beliefs and values and that we support each other. There are three parts of society:- family


Durkheim's view was the school is a practice run of society, it teaches children the norms and values they need to get along in society. Also, it teaches them how to work with those you don't necesseraly like but need to in order to progress and gain achievment in both school and wider society. This is known as social solidarity. 

He feels schools also teach specialist skills that are needed for the world of work. Without these skills being taught to pupils, society wouldn't run as we wouldn't have anyone to take up the necessary jobs. These are taught throught vocational subjects but there is a large debate about whether vocational subjects hold the same achievement as others. 

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Parsons sees school as a 'focal socialising agent' which acts as a bridge between tha family and society. School teaches the skills needed for society which the family does not as it doesn't have the appropriate skills to do so. 

Whilst the family judge the child by particularistic values, society and school do not, there are universal standards for everyone. In a family, your status is ascribed whereas in school and society you must work for your achievement. This is known as meritocracy. 

Parsons feels that school is needed to prepare us for wider society as they are based on meritocratic principles; everyone is given an equal opportunity to achieve. 

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Evaluation of Functionalist view.

  • There is evidence that shows not everybody has equal opportunities in education but that class and background play a bigger part than the ability you have. 
  • Marxists argue that education transmits the view of a ruling class rather than shared values for the whole of society. 
  • Interactionalist Dennis Wrong feels functionalists wrongly imply that pupils accept everything they are taught and follow without question. 
  • The New Right feel that the education system fails to prepare young people for the world of work.
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Marxist view on education.

Marxists see education and society as based on class division and capitalist exploitation. They feel that middle class pupils automatically have an advantage against working class as they already have an ascribed status. 

Althusser sees education as performing two functions: 

  • Reproducing class inequality by teaching generation to generation by failing generation after generation of working-class pupils
  • Legitimising class inequality by producing sets of ideas and beliefs that disguise it's true cause. 

The function of ideology is to persuade workers to accept the fact that inequality is inevitable and that they deserve their position in society.

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Bowles & Gintis

Bowles and Gintis develop these ideas and argue that a capitalist work force requires the kind of attitudes, beahviours and personality type to accpet hard work and low pay without question. They feel this is what education does. 

From their study of 237 New York high schools, they came to the conclusion that schools reward the personality traits of a submissive, compliant worker and those who didn't were disciplined. Those students who were independent and showed creativity recieved lower grades while those who showed characteristics of obedience and discimpline recieved the higher grades. 

From this, they do not believe that school support personal development but aims to produce obedient workers that the capitalist society needs. 

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