Professor Jessica Lee
October 3, 2011
G. K. Chesterton once said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” Since the beginning of human existence, education has played a major role in society. There have always been individual views on what education contributes to society and whether an education is necessary for society to survive.
Sociological Theories and the Impact They Have on Education
Education is the cornerstone of modern society. It is the vehicle we use to pass along our knowledge and culture to our future generations. In order for us to better understand our educational system; we must exam it from multiple perspectives instead of looking at it one-sided. These perspectives are the functionalist, conflict, and interactionism perspectives. We will explore the differences and similarities in the functionalist, conflict, and interactionism theories of education as well as their effect on individual views, approach to social change, and views of society within education. The functionalist theory focuses on ways education caters and contributes to the needs of society. Functionalists first see education as a means of conveying basic knowledge and skills to the next generation. From a functionalist perspective, education is an interrelated yet independent element that benefits society as a whole. Education selects and prepares individuals for their future roles in society. Talcott Parsons say that this benefits the individual as well as society. Education provides value consensus and social solidarity which is certainly positive in helping society to function. Functionally speaking, education serves as a venue to transmit culture and skills. “Schools supplement the family by passing on to youngsters’ important elements of their culture, (Sullivan, T. J., 2007).” Functionalists see education as a tool that equips individuals with the proper skills necessary to function in society and that promotes success in their lives. Education does not only pave the way for change and innovation but it also establishes a social network for the young. Of equal importance to passing on knowledge is the socialization of the individual. (Charon, 2007) tells us that socialization is the method that our social institutions “teach people the ways of society and, in so doing, form their basic qualities.” He goes on to say that as people learn through socialization, they internalize those ways.” In the world as we know it, we believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The need for advanced technological knowledge progresses and alone with it the progression of technology and innovations. This occurs both academically and personally. Social growth occurs both academically and socially with the exploration of self. Functionalists argue that this process takes part in establishing the equilibrium in society and is a part of what keeps it in a stable state. There are four distinct and inevitable processes that cause societal changes. These processes are •Differentiation – refers to the increase in complexity of social organizations. •Adaptive upgrading – whereby social institutions become more specialized in their processes. •Inclusion – this occurs where groups previously excluded from society because of such factors as race, gender, social class etc. are now accepted. •Value Generalization – this is the development of new values that tolerate and legitimate a greater range of activities. Conflict theorists did not view education the same way that functionalists did. They viewed education as a tool that those with power used to perpetuate the current social status quo. They established private schools to educate their children and pass down their values and...