Marxist View on Education

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Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that the education system exists mainly to select and prepare young people for their future work roles. (20 marks)

As stated in Item A sociologists see the education system as performing a vital role in modern societies. Item A also highlights that the education system can equip individuals with the specialised knowledge and skills they will need when they join the workforce. Therefore, the education system helps select and allocate individuals into their future work roles. Although many sociologists agree this is the main role of education, they argue whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing. Whereas Functionalists believe this role of education benefits society and the individuals, Marxists believe this is simply not the case it benefits society but not the individuals especially the working class within society.

The Marxist view on the education system is mostly quite negative. There overall believe of education is that it is designed to prepare pupils for their role in the workplace and to reproduce new generations of workers schooled to accept their place in capitalist society. They believe the education system carries this out successfully by using school to legitimise inequality, disguise exploitation, reward conformity and obedience and finally transmit the ruling class ideology through many different ways within school i.e. teachers are often middle class and the only language accepted and used in school through text books and exam papers is always middle class. Also the lack of non-academic subjects in schools promotes that exam success is the only success. This is just some ways in which school promotes the ruling class ideology and prepares students for their future work roles.

Firstly I will look at Marxists, Bowles and Gintis view on education. Bowles and Gintis believe there is an extremely close correspondence between the ways in which people and children are treated in the workplace and the school. This is often referred to as the correspondence principle. They argue this is to get children used to their future exploitation. It achieves this through the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum which is referred to by Bowles and Gintis is the unofficial learning that takes place as a result of the ways that schools and teaching is organised. This is sometimes referred to as the three R’s - rules, routines and regulations. Some examples of the hidden curriculum within schools are the organisation of schools as hierarchies with teachers having power of pupils this is similar to in the workplace were managers have power over the other employees i.e. supervisors and operatives etc. In school we are taught to submit to an authority figure and to behave quietly and politely, suppressing impulses so that by the time we have got a job, it feels completely natural. Also the organisation of the school day i.e. lessons and breaks at set times, a daily routine and insistence on punctuality is extremely similar to the organisation of a typical day at work. Bowles and Gintis claim by maintaining power over children, teachers are training children to become a subservient and docile workforce who will not challenge the power of capitalism. The division of the school day and subjects corresponds to the division of the workforce. Bowles and Gintis also agree with the Fordism view on education. This is a work environment where workers must complete repetitive and alienating work on mass production assembly lines. Bowles and Gintis’ correspondence principle states that school mirrors this type of workplace. Therefore school is preparing pupils to accept this type of boring and monotonous work.

Louis Althusser also has a Marxist view on education. Althusser sees school as an ideological state apparatus were pupils learn deference and submission through being taught simple manners like please and thank you and by being told to respect the authority...
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