Sociology- Education and main theories (New Right, Marxism, Functionalism)

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  • Created by: JD244
  • Created on: 26-01-12 19:38


A consensus theory. Society has basic needs, including the need for social order. School is fair to all, and helps encourage positive social solidarity, and socialises students effectively. 


  •  Durkheim saw education as the transmission of society’s norms from one generation to the other.  This is vital to produce social solidarity. 
  •  The school is a miniature society, where students are trained to interact with other students much like they are trained to interact with other members of society.
  •  He argues that individuals must be taught specialist skills in order to obtain a job in a highly complex division of labour in which people must cooperate. 



  • Marxists argue that educational institutes teach the dominant culture of the ruling class.
  • Studies by Willis and Hargreaves, for example, show that the transmission of norms is not always successful. Some students form anti-school subcultures, such as Wills’ Lads.



  • Through the process of socialisation, education is used as a bridge between the family and society. 
  • In the family, children are judged according to particularistic standards. Their status is ascribed. In society, the individual is judged according to equal standards. Status is achieved through merit.
  • Education eases these transitions. Exams judge based on merit, and rules such as wearing uniform makes all students equal.
  • Schools transmit two basic values:
  • The value of achievement
  • The value of equality.



  • Dennis Wrong argues that functionalists such as Parsons view people as mere puppets of society, i.e. they passively take in school values.
  • Parsons assumes that Western Education systems are meritocratic, rewarding students based on intelligence and achievement, etc. Inequalities such as social class and the existence of private schools challenge this view.



  • They see educations as a means of role allocation. Educations sifts and sorts people according to their abilities.
  • The most talented gain high qualifications which lead to highly-paid jobs.
  • This will lead to a natural inequality in society, justified by the capitalist system. Society offers incentives through rewards such as higher pay.



  • Intelligence and ability have only a limited influence on achievement. Bourdieu argues that middle class students possess more cultural and social capital and therefore are able to gain more qualifications than working class students.
  • Bowles and Gintis argue


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