Functionalism & Education



Believe that everyone in society has a certain role to play

Organic analogy- society works like a human body

Social stability- everyone must behave well, so as not to cause any chaos or anarchy

Consensus theorists- they have a very positive outlook on society

Social solidarity- society is unified by shared norms and values 


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Emile Durkheim

- A major function of education is transmission of society’s norms and values

- Without similar attitudes in people, social life would be impossible

- Education, especially the teaching of history, provides links between the individual and society. Children will come to see what they are a part of; something larger than themselves. They would develop a sense of commitment to the social group

- School makes children learn to co-operate with other members of society besides friends and family, it is like a mini-society

- Education also teaches children skills for their future roles

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Criticisms of Emile Durkheim


- More likely to get a job when you DO acquire specialist skills


- Doesn’t look at individuals feelings and thoughts

- Fails to acknowledge the fact that people are from different places

- Peers/education system can sometimes make you feel like you don’t belong

- Crime, e.g. terrorism, extremism

- Unemployment

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Talcott Parsons

- At school, we are judged by universal standards, unlike home, where particularistic standards are applied

- School, like the wider world, are meritocratic

- The education system/school, act as a focal socialising agency

- School is vital, as it prepares children for the transmission from the family to society

- Meritocracy- a society governed by people selected according to merit

Allocation and selection- future employment roles are achieved by the examination of students’ abilities in school

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Criticisms of Talcott Parsons


He is right in that he believes that school helps you decide what career you want to go into


- Society is not meritoratic

- Exams do not determine a chid's ability

- Doesn't consider all types of work

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Davis & Moore

- Inequality is necessary because important roles need to be filled by the best people

- Education plays a big part in this role allocation by sorting people according to ability

- Inequality is important

- There is a relationship between education and social inequality

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