Analysis of an Area of Social Life with Three Sociological Theories

Topics: Education, Sociology, Curriculum Pages: 5 (1535 words) Published: January 30, 2014
Analyse one area of social life using three sociological theories

Education plays a major role in the early years of human life, further developing the skills and abilities taught to individuals by their families during primary socialisation and instilling upon them the necessary requirements to become functioning adults in society. Since the Education Reform Act 1988 (Legislation.gov, n.d), there has been a national curriculum in place that teaches academic knowledge, this essay will focus more on the norms and values that are perpetuated into society, this term is known as the hidden curriculum. There are differing views on the merits of education and its influence, this essay will analyse these from the perspectives of Marxism, Functionalism and Feminism.

It is commonly acknowledged that the educational system is dictated by those in power, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the Education Secretary (Gov.uk, n.d) along with parliament, are responsible for making the decisions that will affect the nation’s schools, while the executives of the institution hold the power in how it is individually ran. This is seen by the Marxists as an example of capitalism and the influence the bourgeoisie has over society. In a reference to the communist manifesto, Waugh (2010) talks of the kind of measures workers might fight for to ‘rescue education from the influence of the bourgeoisie’. It is their belief that the educational system is designed to repress individuality and non-conformity and establish the mindset of the proletariat and their role in society.

However, the introduction of the Education Act 2011 intended to make it easier for establishments of further education to make their own decisions and have more freedom to govern themselves (Gov.uk n.d) It could be argued however, that it is necessary to have a state governing body to regulate the educational system throughout the country. This therefore ensures a basic minimum standard of education is maintained throughout the country.

The theory behind the ‘hidden curriculum’ (appendix 1) support the claims of Marxists however. While not in the national curriculum, other things that are taught in education include respect for authority, conformity and obedience and a hierarchy of power amongst many others. This non-academic education is what is seen by Marxists to perpetuate the repressed mindset of the proletariat (Pearson, n.d).

Marxists may also argue that the current education system attempts to instil upon us a level of patriotic solidarity, the teaching of subjects such as history, English and R.E. unite the country and reinforce positive unity. Yet when it seems attempts have been made to combat this, those responsible come under fire. “Labour is criticised for telling schools to strip back the traditional curriculum, removing Churchill and Hitler from the syllabus in favour of courses in debt management, the environment and healthy eating.” (Collins, N. 2011) It could be argued that this is an outdated view from Marxism with the development of multicultural society and the downfall of Christianity in England meaning religious studies are far less about patriotism. However when Marxism was in its infancy, religion still united the country and was seen by Marx as “the opium of the people.” (Marx cited in Martin, G 2013)

While Marxists feel the educational system inhibits society’s ability to develop towards being mutually beneficial for all, functionalists believe the institution of education is vital in upholding the structure of society and that each member of society functions to work together as a whole. It is their view that education is already based on equal opportunities for all and that society exists as a meritocracy.

Functionalism is based upon a consensus theory, every member of society working towards a common good the role of education is to socialise young people with the skills and attitudes required to maintain the equilibrium. It...
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