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Functionalist perspectives

Functionalist see society as an interrelated whole. To functionalist every institution in society performs one or more important functions or jobs and they assume that this helps society run smoothly like a well oiled machine. Functionalist theories of education therefore look for the positive benefits and functions that education performs for all society. Durkheim- education and social solidarity, Durkheim (1925) saw the main role of education as the transmission of the norms and values of society. Education helps to unite all individuals within society, creating a sense of belonging and commitement to that spciety, or what Durkheim called social solidarity. Durkheim saw schools as societies in miniture in which individuals learn to interact with others and follow a fixed set of rules. this provides preparation for later life when individuals will have to get on with others and adhere to rules in society. Durkheim also believed that education helps to teach the specific skills neccessary in an industrial society with specialist jobs (and advanced division of labour), which could not be taught by parents, who lack the specialist knowledge.

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Functionalist perspective

Parsons: univerlistic study  = parsons believed education has three main functions 1. bridge between the family and wider society. 2. socializes children into the basic values of society. 3. selects people for their future roles in society. Before attending school, children are socialized within the family where particularistic standards are used; that is, children are treated as particular individuals. In society as a whole, however universalistic standards are usually used, in which people are judged according to standards that apply equally to everybody. in families, status is fixed by birth; this is ascribed status. However, in society as a whole, status is based on merit (for example, people compete to jobs) and status is therefore achieved. Parsons believed that education makes the transition from family to society as a whole possible by getting people used to universalistic values and achieved status. Education socializes individuals into the major values of society, the belief in individual achievement and in the value of equality of oppourtunity. The exam system encourages these values because it judges people fairly and motivates them to be successful. Education also assesses students' abilities so that they can be matched to suitable jobs, allowing them to make a major contribution to society.

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Functionalist persepective

Davis and Moore- eduaction and role allocation Davis and Moore (1945) viewed education as a means of role allocation Education sifts and sorts people according to their abilities so that the most able gain high qulaiifications and can progress to doing the most functionally important jobs in society. The most important jobs are more highly rewarded, thereby motivating the talented to work hard to achieve those positions. in this way, education helps to ensure that competent people fulfil the important roles in society and are motivated to work hard. Davis Moore saw education as meritcratic; that is, people are judged according to their ability and effort, not according to who they are.

There has been an immense amount of research on whether society really is meritocratic, and most of it has concluded that meritocracy is a myth. For example, your social background seems to influence both the qualifications and the jobs that you get independently of your ability or achievements in education.

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Criticisms of functionalism

Marxists argue that education benefits the ruiling classs, while feminists see it as benefiting men.

Marxists see education as promoting the values of powerful groups. Haegreaves believes education promotes competition and individualism rather than shared values.

Education can be divisive because of a hierrachy of schools and universities, which can seperate social classes.

A great deal of research shows that class, gender and ethnicity influenece achievement. Other factors apart from qualifications influence the labour market (e.g. social contacts - who you know)

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Marxists perspective

Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles stated that power in society largeley stemmed from wealth. In particular, those who owned the means of production formed a powerful ruiling class. They were able to exploit the subject class who did not own the means of production and therefore had to work for teh ruiling class.

Economic systems:

Marx said that society passed through several eras in which different economic systems or modes of production were dominant;  in each of these there was a different ruiling class and subject class. In the lateset stage,  capitalist society , the ruiling class were the bourgeoise and the subject class was the working class employees. in capitalism teh poroletariat was exploited by the bourgeoise because they were not paid the full value of the work that they did and the bourgeoise kept some surplus value or profit.

Economic base and superstructure:

The power of the bourgeoise derived from their ownership of the means of production. The means of production forms the economic base or infastructure of society. Because they controlled the economic base, the bourgeoise were able to control the other, non-economic, institutions of society, such as the media, government, religion, the family and education.

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Bowles and Gintis capitalist schooling (marxists)

Bowles and Gintis argue that education is controlled by capitalists and serves their interests. there is a close relationship between schooling and work, because schooling is used to prepare children for working in capitalist businesses. the correspondence principle states that education corresponds to employement.

The hidden curiculum:

Capitalism requires a hard-working, obedient workforce that will not challenge the management. Bowles and Gintis belive that education prepares such a workforce through the hidden curriculum.

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Neo-marxists perspective

Neo-Marxism = New Marxism, disagree with Karl Marx while still being influenced by them.

Giroux disagrees with conventional marxists approach of Bowles and Gintis in three ways:

1. Working-class pupils do not paaively accept everything they are taught, but actively shape their own education and sometimes resist the discipline imposed on them by school.

2. Schools are sites of ideological struggle for different classes, ethnicities, religions, and cultural groups. Capitalist 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 the capitalist economy.

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Bowles and Gintis cont.

This done by:

  • comformist pupils which are awarded higher grades than those who challenge authority or think creatively.
  • schools teach pupils to accept the hierarchy, since teachers give the orders and pupils obey.
  • pupils are motivated by the external rewards of exam success just as workers are motivated by wages.
  • both work and education are fragmented, or broken into small pieces, so that workers and pupils have little overall understanding of production or society. This keeps them divided within the hierarchy.

Bowles and Gintis see merticracy as a myth and, in reality, class background as determining how well a person does. however, beacuse people belive the education system is meritocratic, this legitimates the system, making it seem unfair.

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Neo-Marxists perspective cont.

Willis: learning to labour

- ethnographoc study of a comprehensive school through observation, interviews and particicpant observation.

  • the lads saw themselves as superior to staff and other pupils
  • they were not interested in getting academic qualification
  • they aimed to do as little work as possible while entertaining themselves through bad behaviour
  • they were unhappy at being treated as children and identified more with the adult world
  • they formed a counterculture, which was sexist and racist. they valued traditional working-class masculinity which emphasized toughness and despised weakness.
  • physical manual labour was seen as more valuable then 'pen-pushing'

Willis followed the lads into their jobs in factpries in which they were still sexist and racist, and also had little respect for authority. However he also saw that their actions led them into jobs where they were exploited by the ruiling class.

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