The role of education in society


Social Solidarity

Social solidarity: 

Durkheim argues that society needs a sense of solidarity; this means individuals must be apart of a body or community.He argues without social soliarity, social life will not be able to continue or cooperate as it would be impossible. The education system helps to create this social solidarity by transmitting societys culture, beliefs and valuesfrom generation to generation. He says schools act as a miniture society preparing us for later life in wider society.

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Parson; meritocracy

The American funcionalist Talcott parsons points out many of Durkheims ideas. Parsons sees school as the 'vocal socialising agency'. He says that that is the bridge from family and wider society like Durkheim

In the family the sex and age may be a factor of what duties to do or what rights they have within the household, this is already inequality. However in society they judge us all on the same characteristics and impersonal standards. Likewise at work we get promotion depending on strength and skills, while at school, we pass or fail through individual effort.

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Davis and Moore

Davis and Moore see education as a device for selection and role allication. They say inequality is necessary in order to full the important roles in society by the most talented people so it benefits all of us. Everyone is not equally talented so they must offer higher rewards for jobs such as pilots and surgeons. They also want people to compete for these so they get the most skilled. 

Education sifts and sorts the individuals according to there ability. The most able get bigger rewards.

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- There is evidence that equal oppotunity in education does not exist. Achievement is influenced by gender and class.

-Melvin Tumin critisises Davis and Moore as hes states that we dont know what jobs are important within society.

-Functionalists see education as a process that instils the shared values of society as a whole but marxists would disagree and say that education in a capitlist society only transmits the ideology of minority.

-Dennis wrong says that they have a 'over socalised view' of people being puppets and learning everything which is taught.

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Neoliberalism is an economic doctrine that has a major influene on education policy. They say that the state should not provide services such as education, health and welfare. Instead the goverment should let consumers decided what they will spend their property on. They dont want a free-market economy. Neoliberals say that education should become more buisness like so schools can compete to drive up standards.

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The new right

There main view is that the state cannot meet everyones needs and that people are left to meet their own needs through the free market. This is in favour the marketisation of education.

Similarities between new right and functionlism.

-Both believe that some people are more naturally talented than other.

-They both agree that the educatio system runs on meritocratic principles of open competition and then they are preparing young people for work, and socalise them with shared values.

The key difference with functionalisation is that the new right do not believe that the education system is ahieveing these goals, and that is because it is run by the state. Neolibrals say the education is 'one size fits all' approach and the local people have no say in how the schools are run.

Their solution is to create an 'education market'. This will allow competition between schools and will also allow consumers to bring ideas and greater diversity.

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Chubb and Moe. P.1

They say the state run education system has failed in many ways;

-It has not created equal oppotunities and has failed disadvantage groups

-fails to produce pupils with skills they need in economy

Chubb and Moe base their answer of a comparison of 60,000 pupils from low income families in 1,000 state and  private high schools. They found that pupils from low income families did 5% better in a private school. From these findings they say the market system would be controled by the hands of consumers. This would allow consumers to shape schools to meet their own needs.

Their idea is that parents would get a voucher to spend on buying educaion from a school of their choice. This would force schools to become more responsive to parents wishes since the vouchers would be the schools income. They would compete to win customers.

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-Gewirtz and Ball coth argue that competition between schools benefits the middle class with the use of culture capital and economic capital.

-Critics argue that the real cause of low educationak standards is not state control but social inequality and low funding within school.

-There is a condradiction between the new rights support for parental choice on the one hand and the state imposing on compulsary national curriculum on all its schools on the other.

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The marxists perspective

The capitalist class/bourgeoisie- They own the production such as farms, factories, machinery and office. They make profit by exploiting workers.

The working class-They are forced to sell labour at a cheap price to the capitalist as they dont own production.

This creates the potential for class conflict. Some examples of this is that the workers are being exploited, so they demand higher wages and better working conditions. Marxists say they want to overthrow the capitalist system and create a equal, classless society.

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The reproduction of class inequality


In school, the middle classes use their material and cultural capital to ensure that their children get into the best schools and the top sets. This means that the wealthier pupils tend to get the best education and then go onto to get middle class jobs. Meanwhile working class children are more likely to get a poorer standard of education and end up in working class jobs. In this way class inequality is reproduced.

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The Legitimation of class inequality

Marxists argue that in reality money determines how good an education you get, but people do not realize this because schools spread the ‘myth of meritocracy’ – in school we learn that we all have an equal chance to succeed and that our grades depend on our effort and ability. If we fail, we believe it is our own fault. This legitimates or justifies the system because we think it is fair when in reality it is not.

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Schooling in capitalist America.

In ‘Schooling in Capitalist America’ (1976) Bowles and Gintis suggest that there is a correspondence between values learnt at school and the way in which the workplace operates. The values, they suggested, are taught through the ‘Hidden Curriculum’. The Hidden Curriculum consists of those things that pupils learn through the experience of attending school rather than the main curriculum subjects taught at the school. So pupils learn those values that are necessary for them to tow the line in menial manual jobs.

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Learning to Labour- Willis

Willis’ research involved visiting one school and observing and interviewing 12 working class rebellious boys about their attitude to school during their last 18 months at school and during their first few months at work.

Willis argues pupils rebelling are evidence that not all pupils are brainwashed into being passive, subordinate people as a result of the hidden curriculum.

Willis therefore criticizes Traditional Marxism.   He says that pupils are not directly injected with the values and norms that benefit the ruling class, some actively reject these. These pupils also realise that they have no real opportunity to succeed in this system.

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The Lad counter-culture


Willis described the friendship between these 12 boys (or the lads) as a counter-school culture. Their value system was opposed to that of the school. This value system was characterised as follows:

1. The lads felt superior to the teachers and other pupils
2. They attached no value to academic work, more to ‘having a laff’
3. The objective of school was to miss as many lessons as possible, the reward for this was status within the group
4. The time they were at school was spent trying to win control over their time and make it their own.

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-They suggest that Marxists ignore the real victims, and only appear interested in victims of the crimes of the rich. As previously mentioned, left realists point out that this is particularly ironic because most victims of crime are working class.

-Postmodernists criticise Bowles and Gintis corresponding principle principle on the ground that todays post fordist economy requires schools to produce a different kind of labour from the described ones by marxists.

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