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Functionalist analysis of education

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Introduction

SOCIOLOGY: EDUCATION The functionalist argument that schools serve the interests of the individual and the society can be supported. That is, we are focusing on education in terms of the purposes served by this institution in relation to the overall social structure of society. Mainly Functionalist, theorists see the role of schools and education as being that of an institution charged with making people different educationally and selection of individuals into adult work-related roles. Durkheim's theoretical position was that the education system should be seen as an agency of secondary socialisation. As the family is an agency of primary socialisation (performing the initial socialising functions required to integrate children into their immediate culture), the education system is an institution that "broadens the individual's experience" of the social world. It prepares people for adult role relationships. One of the primary functions of the education system in an industrialised society is that of socialising people into instrumental relationships. These are relationships based upon what people can do for us in return for the things that we can do for them. Therefore education serves in the interest of the individual. In Durkheim's terms, people have to learn how to develop instrumental relationships and the education system effectively serves this kind of function. ...read more.

Middle

Also the school encourages individual competition and the influence of social stratification largely prevents the school system from efficiently grading individuals in terms of ability this does not seem to favour the individuals. Theorists like Illich suggest schools create mindless, conforming and easily manipulated individuals. They are learning to defer to authority to accept alienation and to forget how to think for themselves. This then prepares the pupils for their roles as consumers to who the passive consumption of goods and services becomes an end in itself. This therefore means only society can benefit from this social solidarity and reluctance to question authority and routine, and the ruling class can keep power. For Functionalists schools can produce social consensus, involving shared norms, values, beliefs and so forth. Society, in this respect operates for the ultimate benefit of all and individuals benefit from the skills and knowledge gained to fulfil their roles in society. For Conflict theorists the emphasis is placed upon the ways that a powerful, politically and economically dominant, social class attempts to use the education system and schools as a means of reproducing their domination over time. ...read more.

Conclusion

The role of education is therefore to give people the impression the educational system is based on merit and to control and limit people's expectations. This is false class consciousness. The main opposition to this theory of ruling class ideology and false class consciousness is that it seems to state that people have no choice and conform to the ideas they are presented with. But Paul Willis has shown that people may have some understanding of the way they are treated in school and they may try to resist in various ways. Willis argues that many working class children do resist the ideological messages transmitted through the education system. Some may argue that education produces students that can see through the system and rebel against it. Overall there is a very strong argument that education is beneficial to the ruling class in a society and the ruling class can produce an ideology that all future generations will conform to thus keeping social order and control over them. This then can cover their true identities as exploited workers in the future. However education does not totally benefit the ruling class as it teaches pupils skills and values that may enable them to achieve a high status and may educate them into realising the situation they are in. ...read more.

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