The Role of Education

Functionalist Perspective on Education

  • Durkheim - education performs two basic functions:
    • It promotes social solidarity.
    • It prepares young people for work.
  • Parsons - school is the 'focal socialising agency' of modern society:
    • Secondary Socialisation - it teaches universalistic standards & socialises individuals into the shared values of a meritocratic society.
    • Society in Miniature - school & wider society are both meritocratic, which prepares individuals for life in a competitive & individualistic society.
  • Davis & Moore - main function of education is role allocation:
    • some people are more talented & some jobs are more complex so the most talented should be allocated to the most important jobs.
    • higher rewards offered for these jobs to motivate all to strive for them.
    • meritocratic society allows all to equally compete = more productive society.
    • Human Capital Theory - meritocratic system is the best way to develop a sufficiently skilled workforce & so creates greater economic efficiency.
  • Evaluation:
    • Schools discriminate against some groups so it is not meritocratic.
    • Hargreaves - place more value on competition than on developing social solidarity.
    • The values transmitted by education are the values of the ruling class.
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Neoliberalism and the New Right Perspective

  • Neoliberalism:
    • State should not provide education.
    • A free-market economy encourages competition & increases standards.
    • Schools should be more like businesses & operate in an education market.
  • New Right:
    • A political perspective.
    • A more recent conservative view than functionalism.
    • It has influenced educational policy in Britain.
    • Older industrial societies such as in Britain are in deline partly as a result of increased global economic competition.
  • Comparison of Functionalism and the New Right:
    • They both believe that some people are naturally more talented than others.
    • They agree that education should be run on meritocratic principles of competition.
    • They believe that education should socialise pupils into shared values & provide a sense of national identity.
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The Market versus The State

  • The New Right argues that the state cannot meet people's needs as education inevitably ends up as 'one size fits all' so does not meet individual needs.
  • State schools have lower standards as aren't accountable to consumers.
  • Solution - Marketisation:
    • Introduction of market forces of consumer choice and competition between suppliers.
    • Creating an education market forces schools to respond to the needs of the pupils, parents & employers - the school's survival depends on the ability to raise achievement levels.
  • Chubb & Moe - consumer choice:
    • Low-income families do about 5% better in private schools suggesting that state education is not meritocratic - it has failed to create equal opportunity for all.
    • Parents & communities have no control over failing schools.
    • Private schools - higher quality education as answerable to consumers.
  • The state should create the framework for competition between schools and should encure that schools transmit society's shared culture through a curriculum that emphasises a shared national identity.
  • Evaluation:
    • Low standards are due to lack of funding.
    • Gerwitz - competition benefits middle class as can get into desirable schools.
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The Marxist Perspective on Education

  • Capitalist class eploit the labour of the working class.
  • This creates class conflict that could threaten the stability of capitalism & could result in a revolution to overthrow it.
  • Social institutions reproduce class inequalities and play an ideological role by persuading exploited workers that inequality is justified.
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Althusser: The Ideological State Apparatus

  • The Repressive State Apparatus - the state uses force to repress the wokring class via the police, courts and army when necessary to protect capitalist interests.
  • The Ideological State Apparatus - controls people's ideas, values and beliefs through religion, mass media and education.
  • The education system performs to functions as an ISA:
    • Reproduction - reproduced class inequality by failing each generation of working-class pupils in turn and therefore ensuring that they end up in the same kinds of jobs as their parents.
    • Legitimation - justifies class inequality by producing ideologies that disguise its true cause; it tries to convice people that inequality is inevitable and that failure is the fault of the individual not capitalism.
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Bowles and Gintis

  • Capitalism needs workers with obedient attitudes & submissive personalities in order to be willing to accep hard work, low paer & authority.
  • They agree with Althusser on the role of the education system - reproduction & legitimation.
  • There is a close correspondence between relationships in the school and those found in the workplace so creates new generations of workers ready to accept their exploitation:
    • alienation; authority hierarchy; extrinsic satisfaction; competition.
  • The Hidden Curriculum - 'lessons' that are learnt in school without being directly taught; through every day workings of the school, pupils accept hierarchy, competition, alienation/
  • The Myth of Meritocracy - Legitimating Class Inequality:
    • prevents people from recognising exploitation & rebelling against the system by producing ideologies explaining inequality as inevitable.
    • education is not meritocratic, in reality success is based on class background, not ability or educational achievement. By promoting claims that rewards are based on ability, the myth of meritocracy helps persuade workers to accept their subordinate position.
  • Role Allocation:
    • Bowles & Gintis' research found that the obedient pupils were most successful suggesting that the education system rewards those who conform to the qualities required of the future workforce.
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Willis: Learning to Labour

  • Willis found that working-class pupils may resist attempts to be indoctrinated in school as they are able to partially see through the meritocratic ideology that claims that wokring class pupils can succeed through hard work.
  • The Counter-School Culture:
    • the 'lads' formed a distinct counter-culture opposed to the school.
    • they flouted the school rules as an act of deviance & resisting the school's authority.
  • However, by resisting the school's ideology, the students are guaranteed to fail, therefore ensuring they end up in the manual work capitalism needs someone to perform so their resistance reproduces class inequality.
  • Business and Education:
    • marketisation policies result in more direct capitalist control over education & training.
    • the education system functions to provide a willing workforce whilst making profits for capitalists.
  • Evaluation:
    • Postmodernists - class divisions are no longer important in a post-Fordist economic system that is more diverse & fragmented; where marxists see inequality thre is diversity & choice.
    • Feminists - schools reproduce partriarchy too.
    • Romanticisation - Willis present the 'lads' as working-class heroes despite their anti-social behaviour & sexist attitudes.
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