Assess the claim that ‘the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society’.
The term ‘value consensus’ refers to an agreed set of norms and values amongst society. Different theorists have different views depending on their sociological field; Marxists and Functionalists tend to have opposing views.
Functionalists view education as a form of secondary socialisation in which individuals form a common set of norms and values. Durkheim believes, that for this to take place, individuals must become ‘social beings’ that commit to society. Education plays a fundamental part in this formation by the process of the formal and hidden curriculum. The formal curriculum is the knowledge taught and the hidden curriculum is essentially knowledge that isn’t openly taught, so it is the transmission of norms and values in the classroom that will be reflected in society. Functionalists believe that these learning processes contribute to sharing a collective conscience.
However, Marxists do not support the idea that society’s value consensus is very much agreed; they believe that it has been formed on dominant ideologies of the upper class, which maintain the capitalist society. Althusser believes that education is part of the ISA, which reproduces class-based in equalities by forming a distorted belief of normality. According to Marxists, the formal and hidden curriculum is used to ensure a social equilibrium and the reproduction of dominant ideologies that aid individual’s places in society, which is referred to, by Bowles and Gintis, as the social reproduction theory.
Parsons argues that the classroom is a ‘microcosm of society’; the classroom is a bridge between the family and society, as within the society, children learn to interact appropriately with a variety of people. At birth a child is born with an ascribed status, but education gives them the opportunity to form an achieved status, which is achieved with meritocracy (effort and...
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