Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the claim that ‘the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society’ (Item A, lines 7-8)
The role of education in society is perceived in a variety of different ways. This is due to the fact that different sociologists hold different and conflicting views. Functionalists generally believe that society is based on a shared culture consisting of similar values and norms; therefore as Item A says ‘Schools play a vital role by socialising young people into these basic values.’ Whereas, a different approach to education is held by Marxists who believe that education simply ‘transports values that benefit the ruling class not society as a whole. It is a complex argument as many questions could be argued by both viewpoints of what the true nature of education is.
On the one hand, the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society as argued by Functionalists. Durkheim acknowledged that education performs the function of creating social solidarity; this is where individual members in society feel that they are part of a community. The education system has an ethnocentric curriculum which can teach all pupils the country’s history as it gives them a sense of shared legacy and British tradition. This prepares us for wider society as we are held together by a shared culture by committing to the same values. However, a critique of the ethnocentric curriculum is that even though it brings social solidarity, it ignores multiculturalism which can result in ethnic minorities becoming disadvantaged and thus underachieving. This could mean that individuals in society are not simply agreeing to the same values but are forced to commit to help maintain society.
But do functionalists just perceive education in society through rose tinted glasses? Marxists would conflict with this view of social solidarity and say that the role of education is to prevent revolution and maintain capitalism by oppressing pupils on class division and capitalist exploitation. Althusser argues that the education system acts as an ideological state apparatus. It does this by reproducing class inequality by failing successive working class pupils and it justifies why class inequality is acceptable by producing ideologies that hide where it stems from.
According to Bowles and Gintis the education system produces a set of ideas and beliefs that inequality is inevitable, workers will begin…