Roles Of Education

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Functionalist Perspective

Parsons - universalistic views - three functions of education, a bridge from the family to wider society which is necessary because they operate on different principles, to socialise children into the basic values of society and to select people for their future roles. School prepares us to go into society because they are both based on meritocracy.

Davis and Moore - role allocation - view education as a way of selecting people for their future roles - sifts and sorts through people to find the ablest, and they go on to do the more functionally important jobs. They incorporate the economic factor also, in that people who work hard and get good grades get the highest paid jobs, which attracts and motivates others to work hard.

Durkheim - social solidarity - three functions according to Durkeim: social solidarity, which allows people to cooperate with one another, provides us with specialist skills that are required for work, and also acts as a society in miniature, for example, at school you follow the teachers rules, just as you would follow your bosses rules at work.

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Evaluation of the Functionalist Perspective

  • Critics argue that school does not actually equip you with the skills needed for work.
  • Equal opportunity within schools does not exist - different social groups perform differently within the education system.
  • Critics argue that meritocracy does not exist, and there is lots of research to suggest otherwise.
  • New Right argues that the education system fails to prepare young people adequately for work. This is because the state control of education discourages efficiency, competition and choice.
  • Marxists argue that the education system promotes competition and individualism rather than shared values.
  • Other factors affect the labour market, for example, contacts. Sometimes, it is who you know and not what you know that gets people good jobs.
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Marxist Perspective

Bowles and Gintis - Correspondence Principle - educational inequality mirrors the inequality of wider society. Education is controlled by capitalists and serves their interests. Bowles and Gintis consider the main role of education in capitalist societies to be to regenerate the labour market. They believe there is close correspondence between treatment of children in schools and adults at work, which means education is preparing children for their future exploitation. They argue that it operates through the hidden curriculum, for example just through everyday school life, children become accustomed to accepting hierarchy and competition, and working for rewards. The fragmentation of the school day mirrors that of a working day. From their own study of 237 NY high schools, they found that schools reward the kind of personality traits that make for a submissive, compliant worker.

Althusser - Ideological State Apparatus - maintaining the rule of the bourgeoisie by controlling people's ideas by using the institutions in society to trasmits their values and beliefs. He believes the education system socialises working class children into accepting their subordinate status. In a capitalist society, he sees education taking over as the main agency of control. Education reproduces the behaviour for divisions of labour. It teaches people how to accept their postions, to be exploited, and also shows rulers how to rule a work force.

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Evaluation of the Marxist Perspective

  • Marxist approaches are useful in exposing the 'myth of meritocracy'. They show the role that the education system plays as an ideological state apparatus, serving the interests of capitalism by reproducing and legitimising class inequalities.
  • Postmodernists criticise Bowles and Gintis' correspondence princple on the grounds that today's post- Fordist economy requires schools to produce a very different kind of labour force from the one described by Marxists. Postmodernists argue that education now reproduces diversity, not inequality.
  • Marxists are often too deterministic - their arguments fail to explain why some pupils reject the school's values.
  • Marxists put too much emphasis on 'social class' - they ignore other types of inequality such as sex, culture or race.
  • New Right argues that the state education system fails to prepare young people adequately for work. This is because state control of education discourages efficiency, competition and choice.
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Neoliberalism and New Right

In the New Right view, there still remains two important roles for the states: the state imposes a framework on schools within which they have to compete, for example by publishing league tables and Ofsted reports, the state gives parents information so that they can make an informed decision. Also the state ensures that schools transmit a shared culture. By imposing a single national curriculum, it seeks to guarentee

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