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Compare and Contrast the Functionalist and Marxist explanations of the roles of schools in society.

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Compare and Contrast the Functionalist and Marxist explanations of the roles of schools in society. Education for all began in 1870 and in 1880; school attendance was made compulsory for all children up to the age of 10. This rose in 1918 to 14, in 1947 to 15 and in 191. 72 to 16. There has been a huge expansion in education this century. There have been many critics of the education system since. Functionalism is what is known as a 'structural theory'. Functionalists see society as being structured like a human body with many interrelated parts that function together to maintain a healthy whole. So as a body has a heart, lung, liver etc society maintenance to the whole social system. Functionalists argue that for a healthy society individuals must obey society's norms and values. We are socialised into these 'Normative behaviours'. Parsons argued that schools act like a bridge between the family and wider society-preparing us for adult roles in society. He said the Family is the primary agent of socialisation-in the family we are judged on particularistic terms because we gain ascribed status from the family. ...read more.


They argue as long as private education continues to exist society can never be meritocratic, because public schools symbolise class inequality. Parsons argues that schools also perform the function of role allocation. This means that by testing and evaluating students, schools match the students' talents and capacities to jobs they are best suited for. Marxist on the other hand argue that education is an ideological state apparatus which aims to maintain, legitimate and reproduce, generation by generation, class inequalities in wealth and power. The role of education to a Marxist is ideological- it promotes capitalist values as common values. This is done through the hidden curriculum, which refers to the informal ways in which conformity, subordination and acceptance in equality are encouraged in working class young people in the knowledge that is taught in schools and the ways schools are organised. Marxists believe that schools mould children into subjects to fit the requirements capitalism. At school children learn- submission, deference, respect for work and their place within it. In summary, schools work to meet the needs of the workforce. ...read more.


Most work is boring and routine and school functions to prepare working class pupils for their future role as a factory worker. Paul Willis provides a major critique of both perspectives by pointing out that both theories are over-deterministic, i.e. both see pupils as passive products of the educational system. Functionalist see pupils being turned into model citizens whilst Marxist argue that working class kids are turned into conformist workers. Both theories fail take into account the power of pupils to resist these processes. In Willis' study, 'Learning Labour', the 'lads' took little notice of the hidden curriculum- they substituted their own definitions of what school was, based upon 'having a laff'. The 'lads' in his study were very happy to take factory jobs because their working class culture valued factory work. Taking such jobs was seen as success rather than failure. Both Marxist and Functionalist approaches are structuralist theories in that they see social institutions as more important than individuals. Out that both theories are over-deterministic, meaning they fail to take into account the power of pupils to resist these processes. They do not pay mush attention to classroom interaction or how both teachers and pupils interpret what goes on in schools. ...read more.

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