Marxist perspective on Education - Bowles and Gintis

Questions from a booklet and the answers

What is the correspondence principle?

Bowles and Ginitis maintain that there is a 'close "correspondence" between the social relationships which govern personal interaction in the work place and the social relationships of the education system'.  According to them, this 'correspondence principle' provides the key to understanding the workings of the education system

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What do you understand by the term hidden curricul

The education system helps to achieve objectives (hark-working, docile, obedient and a highly motivated workforce) largely through the 'hidden curriculum'. It is not the content of lessons and the examinations which pupils take which are important, but the form that teaching and learning take and the way that schools are organized. 

The hidden curriculum consists of those things that pupils learn through the experience of attending school rather than the stated educational objectives of such institurions. According to Bowles and Gintis the hidden curriculum shapes the future workforce in the following ways.

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Element 1 of the Hidden Curriculum: A subservient

It helps to produce uncritical, passive and docile workers. 

In a study based upon 237 members of the senior year in a New York high school, Bowles and Gintis found that the grades awarded related more to personality traits than academic abilities. They found that low grades were related to creativity, aggressiveness and independence, while higher grades were related to perseverance, consistency, dependability and punctuality. Far from living up to the liberal ideal of encouraging self-development, the American education system was creating an unimaginative and unquestioning workforce which could be easily manipulated by employers.

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Element 2 of the Hidden Curriculum: The acceptance

Bowles and Gintis  claim that the hidden curriculum encourages an acceptance of hierarchy. Schools are organised on a hierarchical principle of authority and control. Teachers give orders, pupils obey. Students have little control over the subjects they study or how they study them. This prepares them for relationships within the workplace where if workers are to stay out of trouble, they will need to defer to authority of supervisors and managers. 

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Element 3 of the Hidden Curriculum: Motivation by

School pupils learn to be motivated by external rewards. Because students have so little control over, and a feeling of involvement in, their school work, they get little satisfaction from studying. Learning is based upon the 'jug and mug' principle. The teachers possess knowledge which they pour into the empty mugs, the pupils. It is not therefore surprising that many pupils do not enjoy the process of schooling. Instead they are encouraged to take satisfaction from the external reward of a qualification at the end of their studies. The qualification offers the promise of employment, or better paid employment than would otherwise be the case. A workforce motivated by external rewards is necessary, according to B&G, because work in capitalist societies is intrinsically unsatisfying.

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Element 4 of the hidden curriculum: The fragmentat

Bowles and Gintis claim that another important aspect of the hidden curriculum is the fragmentation of school subjects. The student during the course of the school day moves from one subject to another: from mathematics to history, to French to English. Little connection is made between the lessons: knowledge is fragmented and compartmentalized into academic subjects. This aspect of education corresponds to the fragmentation of the workforce. Bowles and Gintis believe that most jobs in factories and offices have been broken down into very specific tasks carried out by separate individuals. In this way workers are denied knowledge of the overall productive process which makes it impossible for them to set up in competition with their employers. Also easier to control. 

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Is the educational system meritocratic?

From the functionalist perspective of Parsons, and Davis and Moor industrial societies are open and meritocratic: they provide genuine equality of opportunity. Social democratic theorists do not accept that this situation exists, but they do believe that changes to education could bring meritocracy closer to being a reality. 

Bowles and Gintis reject the view that capitalist societies are meritocratic and deny that they can become so within a capitalist framework. They believe that class background is the most important factor influencing levels of attainment.

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Isabella Swan .. Edward Cullen ***


good notes

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