1. The function or role of education
Functionalists say it does 3 important things
• Teaches the skills needed for a job (so helps the economy) • Sorts the clever people from the thick for the right jobs (allocation function) • Is secondary socialisation (so helps people fit into society).
Durkheim said the last one is done by passing on norms and values and this continues shared values – a consensus. Thus we have social order. Parsons adds that schools prepare children for the adult world too – and prepares them for the competition they face as adults since schools are competitive (you have to compete with others to do well). Davis and Moore say we have to have unequal rewards (pay) to motivate the cleverer students to stay on in education to learn and to be willing to do the harder jobs.
Functionalists see society as a meritocracy – people get what they merit/deserve in jobs based on how well they’ve done in school.
Marxists say education does 3 things too
• Helps capitalism by teaching kids what they need to work for the capitalists • Justifies inequality because the working class kids fail exams and look ‘thick’ • Passes on beliefs that all is fair in society (passes on a ruling class ideology).
Althusser says it produces a docile and obedient workforce – they failed exams and accept they only deserve a poorly paid job. Class-based inequalities just carry on generation after generation because children grow up believing capitalism is normal, just and fair. Education is part of the ideological state apparatus m Bowles and Gintis say at school kids learn to accept a hierarchy (people in charge of others) , they accept getting a reward for doing something boring, they get used to a ‘working day’ with a lunch break, and they learn you get rewarded for following the rules. All this prepares you to accept a boring job in capitalism. Willis said not everyone accepts school – some kids cope by mucking about and they cope with a boring job the same way too. Bourdieu used the idea of cultural capital – middle class kids have a language, skills, attitudes and knowledge which fit in with middle class schools.
Radicals like Illich want to get rid of schools. He says they simply look after kids so parents can go to work, sort pupils in top job roles, pass on dominant values and teach skills. Just like the functionalists really – but for Illich this isn’t good enough. He wants to get rid of schoold and have education for life – mainly all we need is training and this can be done at work – most of what you learn at school isn’t necessary!!!!
Criticisms of Functionalists :-
• Doesn’t look very meritocratic when you see different achievement according to class, ethnicity and gender! You can’t really believe working class ‘deserve’ to do badly! They can’t all be thick – something fishy is going on!! • Nepotism is still important – it’s who you know, not what you know – hardly a meritocracy – I might be cleverer than Charles but he got the job because his Daddy is friends with the factory owner! Where did education fit in there?? • There are loads of jobs we don’t have people trained for – engineers for example – so education isn’t working that well for the economy really. • Functionalists don’t see the conflict – as ever they only see the positive side. They don’t see how it’s used to help capitalism.
Criticisms of Marxists :-
• They exaggerate how passive people are – working class don’t just all accept education making them ‘failures’ – many are very defiant about it! • They think we don’t see the unfairness of education – we know there’s not a meritocracy –people moan about it!
Criticisms of both Functionalists and Marxists :-
• Being Positivists, they both ignore internal stimulus; they don’t look at what goes on in schools. They ignore social interaction and labelling. They both only look at the whole of society and how external factors...
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