March 1, 2010
Sociological Theories on Education in the World
There are many different sociological theories on education in America and other parts of the world. Throughout the history of education, the institution has served both economic as well as political needs. Both of these needs have also dictated the function of education. “Throughout the world, education has become a vast and complex social institution that prepares citizens for the roles demanded by other social institutions, such as the family, government, and the economy” (Schaefer, 2009 pg 313). In the world today, there is a debate between sociologists and educators about three of the three main theories and their connection to education. The three main theories discussed in this paper are the functionalist theory, conflict theory and the interactionist theory. Though there are differences in each theory, there are also similarities, and though out this discussion these will all be brought to light.
The functionalist theory has four main emphases: to transfer the dominant culture, integration of society, promotions of social norms, values, and sanctions and promotion of desirable social change. In industrialized nations in which the social institution of education is practiced, it is the dominant culture that usually controls the education on what and how things are taught within the schools institutions. Education is considered a rather conservative function. As the generations of youth travel through its particular countries’ education system, they are taught that cultures existing beliefs, social norms and values that are relevant to one’s own culture. In our country our children are taught the important values, stories and beliefs that pertain to the main culture in the United States. In other countries, the children are taught their countries values and beliefs. Examples of this are: American children are taught American history about how our leaders and nation came to be, where as in England, their children are taught about their revered leaders like Queen Elizabeth I and Winston Churchill. In China a new history curriculum has been put in place to teach its children their view on history. They feel that the Chinese Communist Party played a significant role in the defeat of Japan in World War II. In textbooks, in some areas of China, there is some acknowledgement of how Western culture and advancements in technology have been made, but they have no mention of criticism of the Chinese government in certain affairs (Schaefer, 2009 pg 313- 314).
In the functionalist theory, promoting social and political integration of its youth is essential. With the new online schools, and easy access to an education on the internet, education and culture are being shared with others who might not have had contact with such diverse groups of people. Even though school online is a fast growing way to get a college degree, college campuses still by far foster a community of young people who are from different and sometimes very diverse groups. Many people from different races, ethnic backgrounds and religious groups come to a particular college campus of their choice to attend classes of their choice. The on-campus lifestyle helps to aid and blend students’ differences in beliefs together, in hopes of forming a type of common identity for the students who attend their institution. Most of the time, it is also the dominant culture’s views that are suggested as norms for its students who are attending college on that particular campus.
Another view of education comes from the Conflict view of education. A conflict theorist’s view on this institution is domination by the elite through unequal access of schooling, hidden curriculum, credentialism, and bestowal of status. Unlike the functionalist theory, that believes education sorts students into...