Social Institution in Education

Topics: Sociology, High school, Education Pages: 6 (1969 words) Published: December 15, 2008
There has been criticism of Structural functionalism. Structural functionalism is a general theory in sociology. The concept that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate conflicts with one of the main objectives of a public school education: the inculcation of fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system. Much of the research and many of the policies about commercial media in schools reflect adult assumptions about how young people learn, rather than provide empirical research about how young people actually interact with commercial texts while in school. These issues have a strong impact in educational institutions. Functionalism

We can gain some insight into these questions by examining Kohlberg’s theory of moral development and its application in his just Community model for schools. Specifically, in developing his just Community model, Kohlberg drew upon social theory that was strongly influenced by sociologists such as Emile Durkheim and Robert Dreeben. There are many similarities between elements of Kohlberg’s theories and those of Durkheim and Dreeben, which are now characterized as being part of the structural-functionalist school of sociological thought. Kohlberg's strong link to strucutural-functionalism is best exemplified by his reliance on a universalistic conception of justice and a desire to promote social interaction that leads to equilibrium in society. While these ideas carry many positive connotations, criticism of the structural-functional school reveals the rigidity in such ideas and the ways they may support the status quo in society. Because Kohlberg relies so heavily on structural-functionalism, his theories are vulnerable to the same types of criticism. By exposing the structural-functionalist roots of Kohlberg’s theory, this essay raises concerns about the application of Kohlberg’s ideas in the classroom. Kohlberg focuses on individual development, a universal conception of justice, and universalizability do not translate well to the institutional-level application that he hoped his Just Community Schools would provide. What Kohlberg failed to realize was that a collection of individuals using a universal conception of justice in consistent ways across situations (morally mature individuals by Kohlberg’s standards) did not necessarily create a moral community. In a moral community, the degree to which individuals have grown along a continuum of moral development should not be of greater importance than the ability of community members to work together to detect and solve moral problems. While seeing his developmental theory successfully applied to the problem of how individuals develop morally, late in the 1960s Kohlberg turned his attention to the use of his theory in educational practice. Kohlberg recognized that the theory did not assist school people with the significant issues of student behavior and discipline. The primary problem in applying his theory to the real world was that Kohlberg had not established the link between what someone thought she should do in a moral dilemma and what she would do. Until then, Kohlberg relied on the Socratic notion that to know the good would lead to doing the good. In the lower stages of moral reasoning at which Kohlberg found most school-age children, however, this link was tenuous at best. It was this missing link that motivated Kohlberg to look for social models upon which he could establish a school-wide program of moral education that would “provide the best social arrangement for promoting the free exercise of participants moral reasoning” (LKA, 61). In his search, Kohlberg discovered the work of Durkheim and Dreeben. These theorists ideas about the need for universal principles and societal equilibrium resonated with his own and led Kohlberg to create the Just Community approach to moral education in schools. Foundational to the Just Community model was Kohlberg’s...
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