SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology
Instructor: Emily Frydrych
March 30, 2012
Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism in Education
The three theories I plan to discuss are Functionalism, Conflict, and Internationalism with education. The need for these theories is what actually makes the system in education work, with the teachers, parents, school boards and committees the institution of education continues to function.
The first theory is Functionalism and is about the study by Lawrence Kohlberg. It has been forty-three years since Lawrence Kohlberg published his doctoral dissertation characterizing six stages of moral development and fourteen years since his death.  During this period, much has been written that has discredited stage theory and the overarching use of justice as a "first principle" of moral development. Yet Kohlberg's evolving moral theory continues to be used as a theoretical basis for moral development research and to influence teacher education. While some educators have dismissed Kohlberg's approach as wooden and "fossilized," it continues to be central to what teachers know about, and how they think about, moral development.  Indeed, one author suggests that "every psychology textbook published in the last quarter-century touches upon Kohlberg's work." This consistent message, coupled with continued public talk about character development and moral education in schools, makes it likely that Kohlberg's stage theory continues to influence classroom practice, consciously and unconsciously, across the United States, Henry, (2001).
By exposing the structural-functionalist roots of Kohlberg's theory, this essay raises concerns about the application of Kohlberg's ideas in the classroom. Fundamentally, Kohlberg focuses on individual development, a universal conception of justice, and universalizability do not translate well to the institutional-level application that he hoped his Just Community Schools would provide. What Kohlberg failed to realize was that a collection of individuals using a Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism in Education
universal conception of justice in consistent ways across situations (morally mature individuals by Kohlberg's standards) did not necessarily create a moral community. In a moral community, the degree to which individuals have grown along a continuum of moral development should not be of greater importance than the ability of community members to work together to detect and solve moral problems. Henry, (2001)
Foundational to the Just Community model was Kohlberg's belief that schools were important locations for the socialization of children into broader society. School was a child's first formal introduction into society at large. By going to school "the child learns to fill the expected public roles of a member of his society" (LKA, 21). Part of the power of schooling was the teaching of lessons necessary for successful life outside of school. In particular, Kohlberg stressed that students needed to gain an increased awareness of themselves in categorical terms.  In other words, he and his colleagues claimed that students needed to learn the categorical expectations to which they would be held publicly accountable and that school had an important function to play in teaching these lessons: [T]he child has to learn to be one among a crowd of peers in a classroom that is run by a relative impersonal authority figure who gives orders a power to wield praise and blame. What the child learns about how to handle "the...