Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of education
Functionalists believe that everything in a society contributes to the wellbeing and running of society, e.g. the government, the family, education etc. functionalists are concerned with the role of education within society, Durkheim and Parsons have identified 4 basic functions of education; passing on societies culture – this creates a consensus of shared norms and values. Education also provides a bridge between particularistic values (judging particular individuals values) and ascribed status of the family (fixed by birth) and the universalistic values (judging according to abstract set of standards). Education provides society with a well-trained and qualified workforce. Finally Education selects and allocates people to roles in a meritocratic society and legitimizes social inequality. Functionalists believe that education benefits society as a whole, however Marxists argue that education benefits the ruling class, while feminists see it as benefiting men. The idea that education passes on society’s culture is criticised by Marxists, seeing education as promoting the values of power groups/ruling class. Hargreaves believes that education promotes competition and individualism rather than shared values. If education does provide a bridge between particularistic and universalistic values that education should promote social solidarity – however education can be divisive because the hierarchy of schools and universities can separate class. Education is meant to select the most appropriate people to do particular jobs, however other factors apart from qualifications influence the labour markets (e.g. social contracts), therefore promoting social inequality as a great deal of research shows that class, gender and ethnicity influence achievement, making the labour market unequal. Parsons also argues that schools provide a secondary socialisation. It teaches that relationships in society...
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