Education- key sociologists

  • Created by: Lucy Kent
  • Created on: 08-04-13 14:24

Durkheim: education and social solidarity

Durkheim (education and social solidarity) 1925

Emile Durkheim saw the main role of education as where society is taught it's norms and values. Education helps to shape individuals within society, giving them a sense of belonging and commitment to society, which is called social solidarity.

Durkheim saw school as society in miniature, where pupils learn to interact with others and follow a set of rules - this helps prepare them for later life when they have to interact with others and follow the rules of society.

He also believed that education helps to teach skills needed for industrial society with specialist jobs, which could not be taught by parents who are lacking in specialist knowledge.

INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY : a society that has undergone the process of industrialisation.

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Parsons: universalistic values

Parsons (universalistic values) 1961

Education has 3 main functions: 1. it is a bridge between the family and wider society

                                                2. it socializes children into the basic values of society

                                                3. it selects people for their future roles in society

Particularistic standards: children are trated as particular individulas.

Universalistic standards: where people are judged according to standards that apply equally to everybody

Ascribed status: status fixed at birth     Achieved status: status based on merit

Education socializes individuals into the major values of society, the belief in individual achievment and in the value of equality of oportunity.

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Davis and Moore: Education and Role allocation

Davis and Moore (education and role allocation) 1945

Davis and Moore viewed education as a means of role allocation, where education sifts and sorts students according to their ability, so the most able can gain high qualifications and can progress to the most functionally important jobs in society. This means the most important jobs are highly rewarded, therefore motivating the talented to work harder in order to achieve those positions. In this way education helps to ensure that the more educated people fill the important roles in society and are motivated to work harder.

Dvis and Moore also saw education as meritocratic, where people are judged according to their ability and efforts and not according to their personality.

ROLE ALLOCATION: determining which individuals carry out which roles (e.g deciding who does what in jobs) 

FUNCTIONALLY IMPORTANT JOBS: occupations which are believed to play a particularly crucial role in the effective functioning of society.

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Karl Marx: capitalist society

Karl Marx (capitalist society) 1818-1883

Power in society largely came from wealth, in particualar those who owned the means of production were dominant and formed a poerful ruling class, they were able to exploit the subject class.

Society passed through several eras in which economic systems were dominant. Capitalist society - the ruling class (bourgeosie) were wealthy factory owners, and the subject class (proletariat) were the working class employees. In capitalism the proletariat were exploited by the bourgeosie because they were not paid the full value of the work that they did.

MEANS OF PRODUCTION: those things required to produce goods such as land machinery, capital, technical knowledge and workers.

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Bowles and Gintis: Capitalist schooling

Bowles and Gintis (capitalist schooling) 1976

There is a close relationship between school and work, as schooling is used to prepare children for working in capitalist businesses. The correspondence principle states that education corresponds to employment.

The Hidden Curriculum:

  • conformist pupils, awarded higher grades.
  • schools teach acceptance of hierarchy- teachers give orders, pupils obey
  • pupils are rewarded by the external rewards or exam success
  • both work and education are fragmented, so that workers and pupils have little understanding of production or society.

Bowles and Gintis see meritocracy as a myth and class background as determining how well a person does. however as people believe the education system is meritocratic it legitimises the system making it seem fair.

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Giroux: neo-marxism, struggle and relative autonom

Giroux (neo-marxism, struggle and relative autonomy) 1984

Giroux disagrees with the conventional marxist approach in 3 ways:

1. working class pupils do not passively accept everything they are taught, but actively shape their own education and sometimes resist the discipline imposed in them by school.

2. schools are sites of ideological struggle for different classes, ethnic, religious and cultural groups. capitalists have more power than any other single group but they do not have all the power.

3. the education system possesses relative autonomy from the economic base; that is it has some independence and is not always shaped by the needs of capitalist economy.

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Willis: learning to labour

Willis (learning to labour) 1977

Paul Willis conducted a study using interviews, observation and participant observation in a school:

  • the lads saw themselves as superior to staff and other pupils
  • they weren't interested in getting academic qualifications, such as G.C.S.E's and A-Levels
  • they aimed to do as little work as possible while entertaining themselves through bad behaviour
  • they were unhappy at being treated like children and identified more with the adult world
  • they formed a counterculture, which was sexist and racist. They valued traditional working-class masculinity, which emphasised toughness and despised weakness
  • physical, manual labour was seen as more valuable than 'pen-pushing'

shop-floor culture: was racist and sexist and had little respect for higher authority.

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Douglas: cultural deprivation

Douglas (cultural deprivation) 1964, 1970

In a longitudinal study he followed the careers of over 5000 children in the education system, Douglas found that working-class parents showed less interest in their children's education than middle-class parents. For example working class parents:

  • visited school less often to discuss their children's progress
  • were less keen than the middle class for their children to stay on at school after the minimum leaving age.

Douglas also found that working-class parents gave their children less attention and stimulation during their early years. He therefore believed that differences in primary socialization between the social classes explained the relative educational failure of the working-class.

PRIMARY SOCIALIZATION: the first stage of the process through which children learn the culture of their society, it mainly takes place within the family

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Bernstein: speech patterns

Berstein (speech patterns) 1972

2 types of speech patterns:

Restricted code: type of shorthand where meanings are not made fully explicit, they are characterised by short, simple and often unfinished sentences. This type of speech code is more typical of the working-class, who are more likely to communicate verbally in their jobs and less likely to need to write reports.

Elaborated code: type of speech, where meanings are made explicit; sentences tend to be longer and more complex. These are more likely to be used in middle-class jobs where there is greater requirement to write reports and produce documents.

In education elaborated codes are necessary for exam success in many subjects and tecahers themselves are more likely to use elaborated code. The working-class tend to use restricted codat home, therefore making it more difficult for them to gain academic success.


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Bourdieu: capital and educational achievement

Bourdieu (capital and educational achievement) 1984

Economic capital: ownership of wealth, owning valuable houses, shares, having an income

Cultural capital: possession of educationalqualifications, knowledge of arts and literature, and lifestyle, which are valued in society, degree-level qualification or higher educational holidays, knowledge and experience to help children with school work. Educationally stimulating home environment- children become familiar with knowledge that is valued at school.

Social capital: possession of valuable social contacts, knowing teachers, head-teachers, professors socially, may help with admission to best educational institutions or finding expert help.

Symbolic capital: possession of status, having an image of respectability, could help with admission to private or slective schools.

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Ball et al: cultural capital and educational choic

Ball et al (cultural capital and educational choice) 2000

He studied the process of choosing a secondary school and found that middle-class parents had a significant advantage over working-class parents:

  • Middle-class parents are more able to play the system to give their children the best chance of getting into the most successful schools.
  • working-class parents lacked money and transport to pay for tansport to send their children to better schools or to move into the catchment area of a successful school.
  • working-class parents were keen for their children to do well in education but they lacked cultural capital and material resources to ensure success.

CATCHMENT AREA: The geographical area from which pupils eligible to attend the school are drawn.

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Mac and Ghail: labelling and peer groups

Mac and Ghail (labelling and peer groups) 1994

Mac and Ghail in a study of boys in secondary education identified 5 distinct subcultures:

1. 'academic achievers'- bought into the idea of being upwardly mobile through working hard.

2. 'macho lads'- opposed to the values of the school and the authority of teachers and saw the academic achievers as effeminate.

3. 'new enterprisers'- were pro-school but were keener on vocational education as a path to success.

4. 'real englishman'- a small group of mainly middle-class pupils from highly educated backgrounds who valued eduaction for it's own sake.

5. gay students- critical of the homophobia of school.

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Strand: Ethnicity and achievement in secondary edu

Strand (ethnicity and achievement in secondary education) 2007

The success of indian pupils was due to cultural and material factors such as:

  • high aspirations and dedication to homework.
  • low levels of truancy and exclusion.
  • good resource provision at home (e.g computers or private tuition)

African-caribbean pupils were held back mainly by material factors such as:

  • high levels of poverty.
  • living in poor accommodation.
  • attending schools in deprived areas.
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Francis and Sue Sharpe: girls and achievement

Francis (girls and achievement) 2000

There continues to be some disadvantage for girls in the education system.

  • males still dominate classrooms.
  • boys are disciplined more frequently and more harshly than girls, meaning girls get less attention.
  • gender divisions in subject choice are getting stringer, fewer women are taking IT and science.

Sue Sharpe (girls' aspirations) 1976, 1994

Interviewed a sample of girls in the 70s and a similar sample in the 90s, she found that over this time period priorities had changed. In the 70s, love and marriage were their first priority, but by the 90s, jobs and careers were more important to them than love and marriage.

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Sewell: African caribbean subcultures

Sewell (african caribbean subcultures) 1997

Sewell found the following subcultures:

1. conformists- accepted the values of the school and tried to succeed through education

2. innovators- wanted to succeed but disliked the process of schooling. they did not seek approval from teachers but they tryed to keep themselves  out of trouble.

3. retreatists- individuals who tended to  keep themselves  to themselves and didn't join the other subcultures

4. rebels- strongly rejected the school, and were aggrassively masculine.

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Rosenthal/Jacobson: The self-fulfilling prophecy

Rosenthal and Jacobson (the self-fulfilling prophecy) 1968

Rosenthal and Jacobson tested the theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy using a field experiment. Pupils were selected at random but teachers were informed that one group was particularly  bright and were expected to do well, while another group had low iq scores were expected to make little progress.The students performed in line with the information that had been given to the teachers, the pupils that the teachers had been told were intelligent made much more progress than those whom they believed had low intelligence.

However, some of these studies have found evidence to support Rosenthsl and Jacobson, many have not found evidence that labelling produces a significant effect.

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