Education as a Social Institution
The social institution referred to as Education is comprised of the school system and it is in the school system where knowledge and skills are developed along with cultural and social values and norms. Additionally, through the school system culture and society continue and further those social values and norms thus fulfilling a need prescribed by society. The purpose of this paper is to examine how the theories of functionalism, conflict, and interactionism perceive the social institution of education. As the functionalism theory states, each social institution exists in order to fulfill a social need in addition without the social institution in question, social order would falter. The conflict theory states, a social institution creates and/or furthers social inequalities and assists in maintaining an ascribed social status in the social order however, as the social order is continuously in flux, the social order tries to find a balance in and for society. The interactionism theory tries to understand why individuals who maintain a presence within a social institution act and/or react to each other under certain stimulations (Vissing, 2011). The social institution of education is comprised of what we term as schools therefore throughout this paper the terms education institution, schools, and the school system will be used interchangeably and accordingly. Each individual within a society is introduced to and educated in a system of values and norms pertaining to their particular society beginning at an early age and continuing through the individual’s lifetime additionally, the school system plays a large part in that education as the youth of that particular society develop into adults. The instructors or teachers within the school system act as role models to elicit proper behavior and strengthen cultural and societal norms (Beaver, 2009). Along with the academic curriculum taught in schools, schools also act as a large socializing agent where students are introduced to their first tertiary peer group. Education is a social institution and through the school system it fulfills a social need because the school system is our first tertiary peer group, the school system introduces us to societal norms, and the school system imparts to society, knowledge and skills. As a socializing entity, school is a basic and necessary universal structure for society. Using an interactionism view, this is so, because it introduces us to, reintroduces us to, affirms, and/or reaffirms most of society’s values and norms through a tertiary peer group consisting of other students and the instructors. The school structure shows the student through example and instruction how to integrate into and act within the group setting and the value/reward system of participating in a team setting. This is accomplished through the instructions and guidance presented to them from the instructors. The student is also influenced by the expectations of the instructor, the expectations of their peers, and the manner in which their peers perceive them and their accomplishments (Vissing, 2011). Additionally, failing to meet academic schedules the student may appear irresponsible to their peers and the instructors as they academically fall behind others in their peer and age groups. It has been noted that students generally meet the expectations made of them, in other words if students are expected to perform well they do so, conversely, if they are not expected to perform well they do not (Vissing, 2011). Therefore, the student’s academic achievement level may be determined by the manner in which the instructors view the students and the student’s behavior and achievements. For example, if an instructor views a student as a trouble maker the student will be labeled and treated as such thus deterring the student from reaching his/her full potential. Looking at this issue with the view of the student as the priority, the...
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