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Assess the claim that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society

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Introduction

Using material from Item A, and elsewhere, assess the claim that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society (20 Marks) Education has a number of functions within society, value consensus being one of them. Value consensus is a term which refers to general agreement about norms and values amongst the members of society. Different theorists believe in different functions of the education system, some think it as promoting value consensus and some see otherwise. Functionalists and Marxists have opposing views on the function of education which I will discuss in my essay. I will refer to sources from Durkheim, Parsons, Davis & Moore, Althusser and Bowles & Gintis. Functionalists believe that education transmits society's norms and values and therefore promotes value consensus, with the educational and economic system working hand in hand to develop the skills required for the world of work. Emile Durkheim provides the basic framework of the functionalists view on the education system, agreeing with its function of transmitting norms and values. ...read more.

Middle

Education works as the bridge to develop universal standards and shared values (value consensus) from particularistic values we learn from primary socialisation in the home. Education helps to ease the transition and encourages us to value universalistic values. In summary, it can be argued again that value consensus is the main function of education as universalistic standards are built from value consensus (agreement about norms and values). However, Durkheim suggests that another main function of education is to teach specialist skills. Durkheim believes that education should provide pupils with necessary skills to enter work as each individual must have the necessary specialist knowledge and skills to be successful in the social division of labour. Parsons argues that schools also perform another function: that of selecting and allocating roles in preparation for a meritocratic society. As stated in item A education socialises children to adapt to a meritocratic principle (which refers to the idea that everyone has equal opportunity and can achieve as long as they work hard). ...read more.

Conclusion

They introduced the correspondence principle which suggests that there is a close link between schooling and work places in a capitalist society. Both school and work places are hierarchies with authority figures such as head teachers (schools) and bosses/managers (workplace). This correspondence principle operates through the hidden curriculum; pupils accept the unequal hierarchy of society. Therefore some sociologists would argue that infact the main function of education isn't entirely to maintain a value consensus in society. In conclusion, functionalists argue that value consensus is essential for the well being of society. Schools play a vital role by socialising young people into these basic values. In western societies, school stress the value of achievement and the importance of equal opportunity. For example, schools operate on meritocratic principles. Functionalists also see education as 'sifting and sorting' young people, matching them to the future work roles that suit their abilities. However, not all sociologists agree that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society. Marxists argue that education transmits values that benefit the ruling class, not society as a whole. ...read more.

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