The Conflict Theory: The Elites Profit while the Lower Class is Controlled by Education

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Education in America today plays numerous roles in determining the social and economic outcome of society and those who dwell in it. When questioning the purpose of education and whether it is producing social classes or providing equal opportunity for all students, there are two general responses to contemplate. The Consensus theory states education’s purpose is to bring out the potential of every student and that each person can positively contribute to the well-being of society according to his or her capabilities. The Conflict theory argues education is in place to dictate and determine the potential of every student and if everyone was pushed to their potential society would not work, basically society needs the working class to thrive. By controlling the lower class through education and other institutions the elite persist to profit and stay at the top of the social and economical scale. Consensus theorists define society as a collection of like-minded people pursuing a common goal, yet along with natural resources, human resources are limited, so society must maximize its short supply in order to accomplish necessary functions. This social structure requires society to be divided into separate, but overlapping areas of responsibility creating social institutions. These institutions establish and organize a system of social behavior with a particular and recognized purpose. Before the Industrial Revolution sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, focused on schooling as one of the most important social institutions existing. He wrote, “Education is the influence exercised by adult generations on those that are not yet ready for social life. Its objective is to arouse and to develop in the child a certain number of physical, intellectual and moral states which are demanded of him by both the political society as a whole and the special milieu for which he is specifically destined.” (Sociology of Education, pg. 14) Durkheim strongly believed that schools played a major role in forming a functioning society with consistent moral values. This institution was a crucial element for sustaining order and growth in society. As society advanced from the agricultural to the industrial era public education arose as businesses required more complex knowledge in order to build and sustain society. The shift from gemeinshaft to gesselschaft created a rapid breakdown in socialization. Because functionalists, such as Durkheim believed the social order was brought about by educational institutions “any change in society reflects a change in education and vise versa.” Sociology of Education, pg.14) Rather than a community defined by intimate bonds, it became impersonal and focused on organic solidarity. In order to keep a cohesive society public schools reflect the widespread beliefs creating a forged sense of nationhood and American values. In society occupational roles were expected to be achieved by merit. Education, an obvious input mechanism for achievement, became a necessity in society. Occupational tasks in the newly developed work force required various levels of skills, intelligence, and motivation. Jobs involving higher levels of human resources are more highly rewarded due to their important impact on the eminence of the American way of life. Functionalists today view school as “The consensus and common bond between members of society, taught and reinforced in schools through socialization into shared norms, unites groups working toward common goals and keeps groups from disintegrating.” (Sociology of Education, pg. 15) They view school as an essential foundation in building an open democratic society, as a means of solving problems of inequality and discrimination. Yet these “shared norms" imbedded into the learning criteria are produced by the upper class and ensure them from “disintegrating” because they are already exposed to the curricula being taught , where as those of lower social classes and other ethnicities...
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