The Contribution of Functionalist Sociology to an Understanding of the Role of Education in Society

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The Contribution of Functionalist Sociology to an Understanding of the Role of Education in Society Works Cited Missing

''Schools serve a function in a complex industrial society that family and peer groups cannot'' ( Durkheim,1956)

Education is important in society. The structure and processes of education systems are related to the general process of socialisation. All sociologists agree with this, but sociologists have many different views about how societies are structured. They have many different views about the role of education in society. The following research will focus on the role of education from a Functionalist, Marxist and an Interactionalist's perspective.

Functionalists think of education as a positive function for all individuals in society, which has a powerful influence over it. The aims of education in functionalism are to maintain social stability, keep society in consensus and resolve any conflict. Durkheim and Parsons saw education as an essential agency of socialisation whose function is to transmit common values to the next generation. Parsons argued that schools act as a bridge between the family and a wide society within the role of education being to promote universal values such as achievement, individuation, competition and equal

opportunities. Education is the mainsecondary agent of socialisation, family being the primary agent. In advanced industrial society we are judged in terms of achieved status and universalistic values. That is to say we are judged in terms of what we achieve and schools prepare us for this. At school, our conduct is measured against the universal school rules and our status is achieved through examination. Parsons claims that education reinforces norms and values, such as individual achievement is rewarded with praise, good grades and a good job. However, these norms and values transmitted could be those of the ruling class or elites to exploit the proletariat. This idea of false ideology is recognised by Marxist-Louis Althusser. Althusser argues that lower class people are told what to believe and how to achieve this, is then reinforced by education.

''children are given a set of ideas which they use to understand the world. They are not allowed to examine and discuss these ideas, just accept and believe them''(cited in Sociology in perspective)

If this is true, individuals are being exploited and easily controlled conforming to the position given to them in society.

Durkehim agrees with the idea that shared norms and values create social solidarity. This involves a commitment to society, a sense of belonging and a feeling that the social unit is more important to the individual, however, from an interactionalist point of view, how can so many different individuals all have the same type of norms and values, especially when according to functionalism, these are a continuation of norms and values created from home life. If this was correct, every family would have the same norms and values which every school would then continue. However, as there is a diverse range of cultures, life experiences and beliefs, every would family would not operate the same norms and values. Parsons claims that school establishes universalistic standards in terms of which pupils achieve their status. Behaviour and achievement can be measured so that status is achieved on the basis of merit. Every pupil can be equally measured regardless of sex, race, religion etc. This meritocratic principle means that the education of students is based on achievement rather than ascription.

Private and grammar schools could be argued to have an advantage than to state schools. If parents can pay for a school with fewer pupils in classes and the opportunity for a wider variety of subjects, this must be considered better than state schools. However, it could be argued that many higher and richer classes do not want private...
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