Assess Functionalist and Marxist approaches to the relationship between education and the economy

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Assess Functionalist and Marxist approaches to the relationship between education and the economy

    Functionalist and Marxist perspectives differ considerably in the way they view the relationship between education and the economy.  Both perspectives agree that the educational system provides society with certain functions, but they disagree about the purpose of these functions and more importantly who benefits from them.  Functionalists see the educational system as providing a positive educational experience, which benefits the children and society.  Whereas, Marxists claim that the system oppresses and harms people, and that it only benefits the powerful.

    Functionalists believe mass formal education is an essential part of industrial society, and that the expansion of industrial economies brings a corresponding expansion in the educational system.  They also see the introduction of mass education in Britain during 1870, as a response to the increasing demand of industry, for a literate and numerate workforce.

    Many Functionalists, such as Durkheim, claim that education performs two central functions, which relate to social cohesion and the division of labour.  Durkheim (1961 ‘Moral Education’) argued that education transmits the norms and values of society to the next generation.  It therefore reproduces social solidarity, which according to functionalism, is needed in order for society to exist.

    Durkheim offered an explanation of how social solidarity is reproduced by the educational system.  He said that school creates a miniature model of society, where the child interacts and cooperates with other pupils whilst following a set of fixed rules.  In this way, the child is prepared for society and will join it with a sense of social solidarity, and will understand that he/she must cooperate with people that are neither peers nor kin.

    Another important function of the educational system, according to Durkheim, is the transmission of occupational skills.  He felt that this was essential for industrial society, due to its specialised division of labour.  At school pupils must acquire the skills that enable them to become specialists.  Durkheim believed this was particularly important, because he felt that social solidarity is based upon the interdependence of specialised skills.  From a Functionalist viewpoint social solidarity, value consensus and the interdependence of specialised skills are essential to the survival of society.  They are therefore, also essential to the survival of the economy.

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    Durkheim believed that pupils, who misbehaved in school and disrupted class, should be given appropriate punishment.  He argued that by doing this, pupils would learn that it is wrong to act against the interests of the social group, and would also come to realise that misbehaviour damages society as a whole.  Durkheim stressed that it is not only important to punish disruptive pupils, but also to explain to them why they are being punished.  All these processes of secondary socialisation, described by Durkheim, contribute to value consensus and the specialised division of labour.

    Parsons (1961 ‘The ...

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