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'The function of education is to reproduce and legitimate social inequality. Discuss.'

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Introduction

Merroney Williams Humanities Access Course Sociology Don McClean 'The function of education is to reproduce and legitimate social inequality. Discuss.' Education is an aspect of socialisation which involves the acquisition of knowledge and learning of skills. It shapes our beliefs and moral values through a systematic formal transmission. Education is said be an integral function of society, as it provides a contributory characteristic which helps to maintain and adapt society and it's values. Before the 1960's, education was taught through a system known as the 'Tripartite' system. This involved all children at the age of eleven undertaking an exam in order to ascertain individual ability in order to separate the children into streams of ability and assign them to what was believed to be the most appropriate school. Those demonstrating exceptional ability went to Grammar schools, which were designed to prepare them for professional occupations. Those of lesser ability moved to Secondary modern schools which focused on providing pupils with the skills necessary to prepare the students for more manual and unqualified jobs. A third sector was introduced called a Technical college. This was primarily based on teaching the children purely manual skills which in turn would be used for manual labour. This system frequently served to reinforce social inequality because it was largely middle class children who went to Grammar school, while the working classes were frequently restricted to either Secondary Modern's or technical schools. ...read more.

Middle

The embodied state, the culture that we already possess in our heads; the objectified state, the culture which can be found in possessions such as art and literature; the institutionalised state, which is the culture represented in qualifications. Success in examinations and therefore later success within the workplace depended on whether or not the individual possessed the right culture in the early stages of primary socialisation and therefore, serves to reinforce inequality. The dominant culture (the elite) established the standards of excellence within our schools and therefore generally possessed those elements in order for academic success, e.g., Cultural Capital. Cultural capital is the culture of the elite, the elite decide the curriculum therefore providing their own success in a structure created by themselves for themselves. According to Bordieu, this again, reinforces a reproduction of class. The education system maintains the class structure by making it appear that the success of the elite and failure of the working class was an objective procedure. The working class fail academically not down to inadequacies but because of a lack of cultural capital. Some members of the working class have and do succeed academically and later in employment, but according to Bordieu, this reinforces the system further by suggesting the working class fail due to incompetence. Bordieu has been criticised by Jenkins (1992) ...read more.

Conclusion

According to King (1977 p.3), the values and ideas promoted by schools are not necessarily equal to all sectors of society; "There are many different ways of being British". Analysis of curriculum materials have shown racism, ethnic, social class and sexist bias exist therefore the curriculum is only compatible with some groups in society. In conclusion, of the two approaches and their view on inequality of society through the education system, both emphasise the relationship between education, the economy and social inequality. Neither considers the day-to-day interactions between pupil and teacher. The main emphasis is on the structure of education rather than the content. Neither the Functionalist nor the Marxist approach allow for non-conformists within society. It is difficult to conclude whether or not the education system reinforces and legitimises social inequality. Although the evidence is there to suggest that it does and that there are serious aspects of the system that need to be changed for a brighter future for our children, at the same time, we see success on a more intimate level in most working class area's. In conclusion, although it is not fully clear whether education serves to fully reproduce and legitimate inequality, it is clear that middle class children in general appear to gain more from the current education system. Furthermore, it is not only the qualitative outcome or educational attainment that serves to reinforce inequality, but also the values that education serves to convey, values which maintain the capitalist system and legitimate elite privilege and rule. ...read more.

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