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Examination of the Functionalist view that schools serve the interests of both society and individuals.

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Introduction

Examination of the Functionalist view that schools serve the interests of both society and individuals. The functionalist perspective is that society consists of institutions that are required to perform functional pre-requisites that are necessary for society to function. Schools are one of these institutions, and contribute to society by educating children and providing them with the necessary skills needed in working life later on. Also, schools provide secondary socialisation, taking over from the family, to instil societies beliefs and values in children and this is important to maintain social order by ensuring value consensus. Functionalist Emile Durkheim saw this secondary socialisation as being the main function of the education system. He looks at social solidarity, which teaches children a commitment to society and expresses the sense of the social unit being more important than the individual. Schools teach social solidarity through such things as assemblies, sports days, and in Durkheim's research in America, through saluting the flag before school. Durkhiem also sees the teaching of history in schools as being vital to creating solidarity, all of these giving children a sense of commitment and identity. Durkheim also looked at how schools teach social rules and how the school is a 'society in miniature'. ...read more.

Middle

It therefore serves both the needs of society by maintaining consensus and harmony and also the interests of the individual who receives a fair education with as equal an opportunity to do well as their peers. Marxists, however, criticise the functionalist viewpoint and would argue that this stance ignores the inequality in society. It disagrees with the idea that education acts as a neutral sifting process where ability is the only factor regarding achievement. They would argue that social class is very much an influencing factor in success and that no equality of opportunity exists within education. Bowles and Gintis argue that the main function of the education system is to ensure adequate labour power for the capitalist class. Also they believe that education is subservient to the needs of the dominant class and due to this there is a great level of correspondence between what occurs in schools through the hidden curriculum and what happens in the workplace. This is referred to as Bowles and Gintis' 'Correspondence theory'. There are four main correspondences that are highlighted, firstly, that schools produce subservience and the education system is set so that those who conform do well whereas those who do not, do badly. ...read more.

Conclusion

Willis theory on education is similar to Bowles and Gintis in that there are correspondences between the workplace and education but it is not as deterministic and shows that it is possible for the individual to resist capitalism. The main criticisms of Willis findings are that it involved only a small sample, all of who were male, and therefore cannot be used to generalise for the whole population. Also as the study involved participant observation the subjects were therefore aware of the study and as such may have acted differently under this situation. Overall the education system does appear to benefit society, be it a meritocratic society from the functionalist view, or a capitalist society from the Marxist perspective. It provides society with an educated workforce and, whether they are right or wrong, teaches the norms and values of society. However whilst functionalists argue that the individuals interests are served well by the education system it seems that their idea of education does not truly exist and that equality of educational opportunity is not prevalent and thus the interests of individuals could be better served in a system that is free from discrimination on the basis of gender, class or ethnicity. ?? ?? ?? ?? Becky Screech 1 ...read more.

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