Assess the claim that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society

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Using material from Item A, and elsewhere, assess the claim that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society (20 Marks)

Education has a number of functions within society, value consensus being one of them. Value consensus is a term which refers to general agreement about norms and values amongst the members of society. Different theorists believe in different functions of the education system, some think it as promoting value consensus and some see otherwise. Functionalists and Marxists have opposing views on the function of education which I will discuss in my essay. I will refer to sources from Durkheim, Parsons, Davis & Moore, Althusser and Bowles & Gintis.

Functionalists believe that education transmits society's norms and values and therefore promotes value consensus, with the educational and economic system working hand in hand to develop the skills required for the world of work. Emile Durkheim provides the basic framework of the functionalists view on the education system, agreeing with its function of transmitting norms and values. He believed that for society to operate effectively they have to develop a sense of belonging to something, becoming 'social beings' with a loyalty and commitment to society as a whole. The education system creates this effectively by teaching subjects such as history, which enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society. He argues that one of the two main functions of education is creating social solidarity. Social solidarity means individual members feel themselves to be a part of a single community or group. Education encourages social solidarity through several ways. E.g. in History, pupils learn that they share a heritage – (they are from Britain and the British fought for the country in 2 World Wars). Furthermore, citizenship tries to encourage community spirit, emphasising certain norms and values that should bring people together. Without social solidarity everyone would be selfish and society would break down. For social solidarity to be present in society value consensus must be maintained, therefore it can be argued that value consensus is one of the main functions of education.

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Parson, who builds on Durkheim’s ideas, suggests that there are three main functions of education. Two of the three functions are: to bridge the gap between adult and family roles and to develop universal standards and values. Parsons suggests that education is necessary in bridging the gap between norms and values learnt as part of family and the norms and values expected in society. The bridge is needed because family and society operate on different principles so children need to learn a new way of living if they are to cope with the wider world. Education works as the bridge ...

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