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Critically compare and contrast two theories of Western schooling with respect to the following statement: Education acts as an agent for the reproduction of the social order and the preservation of status of the privileged in society.

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Introduction

Critically compare and contrast two theories of Western schooling with respect to the following statement: Education acts as an agent for the reproduction of the social order and the preservation of status of the privileged in society. The term 'school' has its origins in a Greek word meaning leisure or recreation. In pre- industrial societies, schooling was available only to the few who had enough time and money available to pursue to it (Giddens, 1989). However, education in its modern form, involves the instruction of pupils within specially constructed school premises (classrooms). Also, in advanced industrial societies education is provided by the state as a matter of right for all its citizens. The acquisition of knowledge has become increasingly based upon abstract learning rather than upon the mere transmission of specific skills from parents to their children. In a modern society people have to be equipped with basic skills such as reading, writing and calculating on top of having knowledge of their physical, social and economic environment (Gittler, 1957). Modern education has been studied immensely by various sociologists. There exist a number of theories on the nature of modern education. We will review, compare and contrast two such theories of modern schooling in this essay. The primary goal of an educational institution is the socialization of young people. Human culture is not biologically inherited but learned (Giddens, 1989). Also, very young people develop social personalities through adult care and teaching. It is due to these two reasons that educational institutions are of utmost necessity (Hebding and Glick, 1992). ...read more.

Middle

They propose that the student's lack of control over work in school reflect his or her future situation in the workplace. Lack of personal involvement and fulfillment in schoolwork results in alienation from work in later life. Thus they conclude that individuals are prepared for their work roles by a close correspondence between the social relationships which govern personal interaction in the work place and the social relationships of the educational system (Haralambos and Heald, 1980). Finally, Bowles and Gintis examine the relationships between education and occupational rewards. They reject the claim that higher qualifications result in an individual obtaining a highly paid job. They argue that the main factors accounting for occupational rewards are the individual's class of origin, race, and sex. Thus, Bowles and Gintis conclude that the intellectual abilities developed or certified in school make little causal contribution to getting ahead economically (Haralambos and Heald, 1980). Hence, Bowles and Gintis viewed educational system as a means of promoting inequality in the society. This is because educational attainment as well as occupational reward is based on merit. Education creates the belief that those at the top deserve their privilege and those at the bottom have only themselves to blame. Having established the principles of the two theories, we can now compare and contrast them in relation to the above statement. Durkheim was of the view that education acts as an important agent which helps in the subsistence of social order. Education helps in the transmission of norms and values but many critics view these as norms and values of the ruling class and not those of a society as a whole (McNall and McNall, 1992). ...read more.

Conclusion

Durkheim's approach was more functional whereas that of Bowles and Gintis took an approach from an economic perspective. Although both the theories are contradicting of each other in most aspects, they agree with one another in that education is a key element which plays a dominant role in shaping the society. Although Bowles' and Gintis' approach have attracted many criticisms, Durkheim's theory is also not fully accepted. It is now accepted that education does produce inequalities among the members of the society, also, as Bowles and Gintis claim the inequalities exist due to one's own actions. Thus, as Durkheim portrayed, any individual can attain education as long as he or she tries to attain it and thus ascend to the level of ruling class. Until this happens however, there will always be a fissure amongst those in the ruling class and those of other classes in the society. Thus although education is not the only factor responsible for inequalities in our society, it plays a major role in distinguishing individuals from one another based on the level of education attained. Although several studies have been carried out by sociologists to understand the nature of education and schooling, it is not possible to conceive the nature of these with the help of a single theory. A number of theories must be reviewed carefully and future research is required to understand schooling and education completely. We reviewed a couple of such theories in this essay to try and comprehend what we can from them about education. Although there exists a number of differences between the two, both of them serve their purpose of providing a fair explanation about the nature of education and schooling. ...read more.

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