School Function

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What is the function of schooling and how does schooling reflect the stratification system? In this paper I will be using two sociological perspectives conflict theory and social exchange theory. Conflict Theory is based upon the view that the fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within society. The criminal justice system and criminal law are thought to be operating on behalf of rich and powerful social elites, with resulting policies aimed at controlling the poor. The criminal justice establishment aims at imposing standards of morality and good behavior created by the powerful on the whole of society. Focus is on separating the powerful from the “have-nots” who would steal from others and protecting themselves from physical attacks; in the process, the legal rights of poor folks might be ignored. The middle class are also co-opted; they side with the elites rather than the poor, thinking they might themselves rise to the top by supporting the status quo. There are several social theories that emphasize social conflict and have roots in the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883), the great German theorist and political activist. The Marxist, conflict approach emphasizes a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical method of analysis, a critical stance toward existing social arrangements, and a political program of revolution or, at least, reform. The materialist view of history starts from the premise that the most important determinant of social life is the work people are doing, especially work that results in provision of the basic necessities of i.e. life, food, clothing and shelter. Marx thought that the way the work is socially organized and the technology used in production will have a strong impact on every other aspect of society. He maintained that everything of value in society results from human labor. Thus, Marx saw working men and women as engaged in making society, in creating the conditions for their own existence. Marx summarized the key elements of this materialist view of history as follows: In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. In contrast to functional theory, conflict theory assumes a tension in society and its parts created by the competing interests of individuals and groups. Karl Marx and Max Weber, laid down the foundations for conflict theory based on his outrage over the social conditions of the exploited workers in the class system resulting from capitalism. He contended that society’s competing groups, the “haves” and the “have-nots,” were in a constant state of tension, which could lead to the possibility of struggle. The “haves” control power, wealth, material goods, privilege including access to the best education, and influence; the “have-nots” present a contstant challenge as they seek a larger share of society’s wealth. This struggle for power between groups and individuals helps determine the structure and functioning of organizations and the hierarchy that evolves as a result of power relations. The “haves” often use coercive power and manipulation to hold society together to their benefit, but this theory recognizes that change is inevitable and sometimes rapid, as the conflict of interest lead to the overthrow of the existing power structures. Why do we have schools? Why should our youth spend hours upon hours in a building that looks like a factory, but we’re calling it “school.” On the surface it seems like such an innocent question; such a simple question with an equally simple answer. A question so rudimentary that most individuals currently concerned about our schools seem not to have noticed, or perhaps they feel that the answer is so obvious it would be a waste of time discussing it. Most high...
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