Education as a Social Institution
Introduction to Sociology SOC 101
Dr. Stephen Ulrich
May 19, 2009
At some point in time everyone is a recipient of some type of education. This can take the form of traditional schooling, home schooling, or mentoring by an individual. Formal schooling, within industrialized nations, typically encompasses one third of an individual’s life. This is one of the reasons sociologists have examined education as it relates to various social perspectives. This paper will explore education in regards to the Functionalist, Conflict, and Interactionist perspectives/views. (Perspective and views will be used interchangeably throughout this paper). “Two theories are considered in accounting for the increased schooling required for employment in advanced industrial society: (a) a technical-function theory, stating that educational requirements reflect the demands for greater skills on the job due to technological change; and (b) a conflict theory, stating that employment requirements reflect the efforts of competing status groups to monopolise or dominate jobs by imposing their cultural standards on the selection process” (Collins, 1971).
Applying the Functionalist Theory
Functionalist theory is explained by asserting that “societies function like biological systems in that they have differentiated parts that function together to ensure the smooth operation and survival of the organism as a whole” (Morrow, Torres, 1995). It is important to note that within the functionalist theory there are three different functions. “Manifest functions of institutions are open, stated, conscious functions. They involve the intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of society, such as the university’s role in certifying academic competence and excellence” (Schaefer, 2009). An example of this would be the core classes that are available to students in elementary school. Such as math, history, English, etc. While some schools, dependent on them being private or public institutions, offer various additional classes, they all predominately educate their students in core capabilities. Latent functions are those functions that “are unconscious or unintended functions that may reflect hidden purposes of an institution. One latent function of universities is to hold down unemployment. Another is to serve as a meeting ground for people seeking marital partners” (Schaefer, 2009). The third sub-function is dysfunction. In the military, dysfunction is referred to as the ten-percent. This means that for every group, unit, etc there will be ten percent of the population that does not conform to the military way of life. More simply, this can be expressed as “an element or process of a society that may actually disrupt the social system or reduce its stability” (Schaefer, 2009).
Today’s educational system teaches students to become integral parts of society. Through public education, teachers are able to influence tomorrow’s workforce in societal norms, ensuring they understand how to become contributors to their society’s stability. An example of the contribution to society the education system provides is: parents that take on extra jobs to fund their child’s education. This provides revenue for the immediate family, while funding and teaching the child the importance of hard work, devotion, and self sacrifice (societal norms). This can be compared to the example in the text about Hindu’s and their devotion to cows. Just as the Hindu understand the benefit the benefits that they receive by ensuring their cows remain available to cultivate and fertilize their agricultural crops, most parents apply the same concept to educating their children. Understanding the benefits an education will provide not only their immediate family, but also their children and the community as a whole.
Applying the Conflict Theory
The basis of...
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