SOC101: Introduction to Sociology
Professor Christine Henderson
November 22, 2010
Education is the most important part of a person’s life. Without a good education people would struggle in everyday life just to be able to get by. There are three theories that help understand education. Even though most people feel theories are just someone’s opinions, education has many different theories that support it because these theories help people understand education better and these theories are all different but yet they help identify what education really is. The three theories that are important for people to know are Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism. These three theories play an important role in helping to understand education and why education is important. These theories are not just one man’s opinion; they give a prime meaning of what education is really about. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically….intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” Without sociological theories to help understand what education is all about and why education is important, we would not get the true identity of education. Education does not just help you with a better career, it also helps you with your social skills, your ability to understand things better, and most importantly it helps you to be able to identify yourself. Functionalism
“Functionalist perspective is a sociological approach that emphasizes the way in which the parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability.” (Richard Schaefer, 2009) Functionalists will focus on ways that universal education can serve the needs of society. The first thing that functionalist do is see education in its manifest role. They believe that education conveys knowledge and skills to the next generation. Emile Durkheim was the founder of functionalist theory. He identified the latent role of education, which was identified as one of socializing people into society’s mainstream. He called it “a moral education”, and it helped form a more-cohesive social structure. It did this by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds.
The other latent roles of education that functionalist point to are transmission of core values and social structure. Core values reflect the characteristics that support political and economic systems that had originally fueled education in American education. This means that children in America will receive rewards for following schedules, directions, meeting deadlines, and obeying their authority figures.
A benefit that functionalists see in education is something they call sorting. This means they separate students on the basis of merit. They feel that society’s needs demands that the most capable people get channeled into the most important occupations. Schools are capable of identifying the most capable students early. They do so by seeing who scores highest on classroom and standardized tests. The students who score high on these tests are put into accelerated programs and college preparation courses. Many sociologists like Kingsley Davis, Wilbert Moore, and Talcott Parsons referred to this as social placement. They felt this was a beneficial function in society.
Functionalists believe that education plays an ironic dual role in both preserving and changing culture. There have been studies that have shown that as student’s progress through college and beyond, they are usually able to become increasingly liberal as they encounter a variety of perspectives. People who are more educated are generally more liberal, but people who are less educated are conservatism. “Heavy emphasis on research at most institutions of higher education put them on the cutting edge of changes in knowledge, and, in many cases, changes in values as well. Therefore, while the primary role...