The Functionalist View on Education (for as Level Sociology)

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“Asses the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of the role of education”

Functionalists take a very positive view of education. They see it as a form of secondary socialisation which is essential to the maintenance of society. Functionalists believe that social institutions including education benefit society and perform functions to maintain a stable society. However there are many different theories to consider. Sociologists such as Durkheim believe that education has two main roles. These are ‘Creating social solidarity’ and ‘teaching specialist skills’. Durkheim believes that social solidarity is created through teaching children shared norms and values. These are taught particularly in history lessons where students learn about their shared heritage. It may also be constructed through wearing school uniform or in American schools, pledging to the American flag. This helps create value consensus and prepares students for work as both children and adults have to work with people who aren’t family or friends. Durkheim also establishes the fact that modern industrial society has a very complex division of labour. He argues that education teaches students specialist skills in order to keep the economy functioning, as students can apply their skills to specific jobs that society needs them to perform. Parsons argues that school is a ‘bridge` between family and wider society, especially work. He states that how we are treated in the family is different to how we are treated at work. Therefore schools must prepare children for this change. Parsons claims that in the family a child is judged by particularistic standards (rules that apply only to that child/family) thus their status is ascribed. However in school and work, children are judged by universalistic standards (rules that apply to everyone equally), which means their status is achieved through passing exams or working towards a promotion. According to Parsons both school and work are...
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