Role Of Education

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School is an agency of secondary socialisation which creates value consensus in society. It achieves this through both the hidden & formal curriculum.

DURKHIEM presents 2 socialisation functions of education- 1) It binds/ intergrates people together through socialisation & creates social solidarity. 2) it offers the opportunity to the young child to socially intermix.

SOCIAL SOLIDARITY- education provides a vital function in intergrating together a number of diverse people into a unite whole by teaching them consensual norms & values, hence social solidarity. This is one of the unofficial methods of learning in school- the hidden curriculum.

For DURKHIEM the teaching of subjects- the formal curriculum eg history is central in schools for the creation of social solidarity as it gives children a sense of belonging in society.

SOCIAL INTERMIXING- DURKHIEM argued children learn the vital lessons through socialisation & playing & interacting with other pupils about how to behave in the presence of others. They learn rules such as self-discipline as well as how to share & compramise.

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PARSONS belives that school acts as a bridge between home & work. In the home, the child is socialised into particularistic values (your ascribed status/position). However, at work everyones socialised into universalistic values, whereby you have to achieve your status on merit alone.

The function of education is to therefore ease this transition from the home to the formal world of the meritocracy & children learn vital lessons mainly of achievement & equal opportunity.

Both PARSONS & DURKHIEM see the school as being crucial in teaching values such as conformity & achievement. These are promoted both through the hidden curriculum & the formal curriculum.

EVAL- MARXISTS question where the values in society have come from & in whose interests they represent- its believed that these are not simply 'societal' but those of the ruling class (ruling class ideology).

- In a multicultural society are different values being taught to different groups? Is there really a common set of values?

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ALTHUSSER argues that school is simply one further institution which is used by the ruling class to control the working class- main function of education is ideological.

This means it plays a crucial role in persuading the working class that their low position in society is justified & that they fully deserve their fate.

 ALTHUSSER refers to this as the ISA- the education system is only one example of this, others are the media etc (anything that transmitts ruling class ideology (RCI))

This is known as Cultural Reproduction- it keeps the working class in the working class & the middle class in the middle class. It ensures replication of the social structure.

RCI in the education system teaches the working class: 1) To accept their position in society as normal, natural & inevitable so they become blind to the reality of their exploited situation. 2) Specific values which are vital to capitalism eg that competition is a 'good thing'; inequalities are inevitable & even desirable & to prize the ownership of private property.

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Therefore, working class pupils accept their position in society as they learn to be submissive & passive & to blame themselves for their position. However, the ruling class child in the public school would learn how to manage, lead & control others.

Through the use of this, the real nature of society (based on inequality & exploitation) is hidden & the working class learn to accept their position & fail to change society.


- ALTHUSSERS work is highly theoretical and weak in providing actual evidence to support his views.

-  The evidence to support cultural reproduction is starting to look weak when more people are moving upward in society. GOLDTHORPE- social mobility.

- However, ROBERTS points out that most of the working class still stay working class, which supports the marxist view.

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Bowles & Gintis made similar points to Althusser & put forward the correspondance theory- that theres a close relationship between the schooling a person revieves & their future job role. They believe that the main function of education & training courses are to instill a set of values which will make the working class children into obedint, passive workers.

Working class pupils are taught: 1) The teacher is powerful & the students powerless, which teaches them the boss is powerful & the workers powerless- hence passive & obedient workers. 2) To stifle self-fulfilment & creativity within the education system. 3) To accept alienation & to be content with extrinsic rewards (eg grades in school & pay at work). 4) To accept the boredom of school which paves the way for the tedium of the shop floor.

Bowles & Gintis also attack the notion of meritocracy, arguing that from their own research in schools that social class & not ability is the key factor which determines success in terms of qualifications.

Eval- Gramsci- the superstructure could influence the infrastructure/ economic base. So the teacher could actually raise class consciousness rather than simply reproducing RCI. Willis- Study of 12 working class delinquent boys in1970s. Lads were active in school rejection & created own counter-school subculture. This goes against Bowles & Gintis- they werent passive.

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FUNCTIONALISTS believe pupils are selected for their future job occupations via a number of selection processes in school  eg exams. Therefore, through hard work & natural ability one earns their position in life (meritocracy).

PARSONS believe the main function of the education system is to put people into their correct occupation based on the qualifications they revieve. These have been rewarded to people on the basis of their natural ability & the hard work involved in an egalitarian society. School is a place where people are treated according to universalistic values which prepares us for the wider world of work & the realisation that we have to earn our own place in it through hard work & ability- status is achieved not ascribed.

DAVIS & MOORE believe that education system sifts, sorts & selects people in terms of their talents & abilities, rewarding the most talented with a large number of qualifications & hence the most important occupations & vice-versa.

Implicit with the view of meritocracy is the idea that theres only a limited amount of real talent around, hence those at the top not only deserve their position but should also be paid high wages accordingly as only they can fulfil these vital occupations.

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Functionalists argue that the work on social mobility by Goldthorpe clearly indicates that theres more long range mobility from the bottom to the top of society- in line with a meritocracy.

The rise of women in the economy is cited to provide further evidence that its now ability which counts & not social factors of class or gender etc. BUT what about the glass ceiling?

Hannah's research has shown that the majority of the top company chairmen came from grammar schools & not the old public school system- suggesting its ability which counts. BUT is the school you go to still important and who goes to a grammar school?

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Marxists believe that theres no meritocracy & the education system is unequally benefitting the middle classes & ensuring cultural reproduction.  Educational achievement- stats clearly indicate that the middle class pupil benefits at the expense of the working class pupill. Marxists see the meritocracy as simply an example of RCI which is used to justify the ruling classes own high pay whilst the working classes pay remains low.

Critics argue that too often occupations are achieved on the basis of who you know, which in the past has led to children of the ruling class attaining a high status occupation once they've completed public school- elite self recruitment.

Support for Marxism: - Roberts pointed out that the vast majority of the working class is still drawn from working class backgrounds. However, the proportion of working class members is declining.  -Feminists point out that women still only earn 84% of the male wage. However, the Sutton Trust would disagree, pointing out that in 2006, 75% of Lords & Judges had been privately educated as had 69% of barristers at leading chambers, with only a 1% change over the previous generation.

Eval: Clearly the evidence for a decline in elite self recruitment is limited & only 7% of the UK population attend a private school.

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Functionalists claim that theres a strong relationship between education, training & the economy. As the economy becomes more complex, it requires new skills & greater technical expertise. Its the function of education to provide a labour force that will meet these needs.

DURKHIEM believed that in school children learn the crucial skills which equip them for the workplace eg, socialisation, punctuality & teamwork.

However, in the late 1970s it became clear that education had failed to fulfill this role convincingly. Therefore, in the 1980's the government introduced the national curriculum into British schools.

The aim has been to tailor the skills of school leavers to the needs of the economy & raise the level of expertise in the workplace.

Marxists criticise this view, arguing the education system simply creates the nect generation of workers.

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Many Marxists were highly sceptical of the Conservative Governments claims for the new vocationalism introduced in the 1980s.

Finn argues that the real function of training schemes like the youth training sceme was to reduce youth unemployment, provide cheap labour for employers & undermine the power of trade unions.

Neo- Marxists have arged that the skills being developed weren't craft skills but basic skills that only prepared them for unskilled work with frequent job changes.

Marxists viewed the vocational training schemes as legitamising class divisions & inequalities. There was an assumption that middle class children would do A levels & go on to higher education whilst the children who were working class would be trained in basic vocational skills.

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