Professor Rachael Horn
August 1, 2011
Throughout the world, education has become a vast and complex social institution that prepares citizens for their roles demanded by other social institutions, such as family, government, and the economy. The functionalist, conflict and interactionism perspectives offer distinctive views of education as a social institution. Besides being a major industry in the United States, education is the social institution that formally socializes members of our society. In the last few decades, increasing proportions of people have obtained high school diploma, college degrees, and advance professional degrees. In the United States, from the age of five through sixteen, we are required to attend school full time. Some people further their education by attending a college or university after high school. Many people do well in education, but unfortunately others do not. When a person furthers their education by going on to a college or university, this confirms that they have Functionalism is what is known as a structural theory. Functionalists see society as being structured like a human body with many interrelated parts that function together to maintain a healthy whole. Functionalists argue that for a healthy society, individuals must obey society's norms and values. We are socialized into these 'normative behaviors' that are the core of the social structure. Society needs to transmit social solidarity and value consensus, and education plays a vital role in this for instance: What contributions does the education system make to the keeping of the value consensus? And, what are the functional relationships between education and its assistance to society as a whole? To understand the education system we must consider how it contributes to the healthy maintenance of the whole social system. French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who expressed a functionalist view in his theories, argued that the main function of education is the diffusion of society's norms and values in certain areas (Durkheim, 1895). One of these areas focuses on social rules. In school, children must learn to interact with others with a fixed set of rules that include learning promptness, respect for authority, cooperation and sharing, and other requirements. School is a miniature society since it stresses that individuals follow rules of conduct so that the organization or school can continue to function and to carry out its responsibilities. For example, in a kindergarten setting, children have playtime; they learn to share toys and take turns. Functionalists argue that education prepares children for their future role in the economy. It does this through their qualifications. This is the function of selection. Education selects the most talented children (Davis and Moore). It operates on a meritocratic basis. Children are then allocated to their future work roles on the basis of these qualifications. Moreover, Durkheim portrayed the division of labor in his functionalist theory. Education teaches individual skills necessary for future occupations. People take this education and it in turn gives them roles in society that they are to perform. Education conveys general values necessary for homogeneity, the quality of being uniform throughout society in an individual's role. Furthermore, specific skills provide necessary diversity for social cooperation, as people need to work together to be the source of goods in society. With functionalism, society works together as a system.
Our next view of society is characterized by conflict rather than consensus. This is called the conflict theory, where norms and values are not equally distributed or accepted among members of society. Karl Marx is one of the sociologists who have adopted this theory of social conflict or also known as Marxism. Marx believes that there is a tenuous relationship within groups and that society has structures...
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