Sociological View of Education
‘The education system is meritocratic’
The education system is viewed in many different ways by different sociologists. When talking about the education system sociologists are referring to forms of education where people experience secondary socialisation which is the relearning of the norms and values learned during primary socialisation in the family; it is also viewed as an agent of social control where children are taught to conform to societies expectations and they are taught this through the hidden curriculum which is lessons which aren’t part of the national curriculum which the government says are needed to be learnt but are lessons such as how to be obedient and who to be obedient to. The system of meritocracy the idea that the ones who do well are rewarded and the ones who not do well are not i.e. those who do the best get the best job. The meritocratic view of the education system means that the system is fair and supports all however, other sociologists discard this view as legitimising a system of inequality where some people dues to wealth/class do better than others.
Functionalists believe that the education system is meritocratic. A meritocracy is the idea that those who work hard receive rewards this is the view the hardest working students get the best grades and go on to get the best jobs they believe that it is difference in cultural values that lead to differences in class results which have been seen throughout the years and were evident in the end of the recent academic year with children in the highest social classes doing better than those in the lowest social classes. Trough this system of meritocracy there is an equality of opportunity which is where school creates a system where all people can become equal no matter what class, gender or ethnicity everyone has the same opportunity to become a police officer or a doctor.
This meritocracy is said to sift and sort perspective students into their correct positions as an adult in society. According to Parsons school is simply the bridge between the family or primary socialisation and entry to employment. He views the education system as a positive system of placing the best students at the top both in school and eventually the work place. This idea is supported by Davis and Moore (1945) who say that meritocracy is the system which social institutes (this includes school) use to sift and sort its members into different positions in this way they believe that school is meritocratic. They view meritocracy as allowing the principles of stratification to take place where individuals are place and motivated into different positions.
Marxists criticise Davis and Moore for having extreme conservative views and being very class based. Functionalists view meritocracy as being evident in society and they use evidence such as the rise of working class children in universities as there has been a rise of working class children in higher education than in the fifties supporting the idea of a meritocracy. This view however like others comes up against scrutiny from Marxists who say the proof that is given isn’t as conclusive as would be made out as the expansion of universities has largely benefited the bourgeoisie as there are more middle and upper class people in universities. They say that meritocracy is ‘made yup’ in order to legitimise the system they view the few working class kids in universities as letting a few through to keep the rest quiet as it means people accept their positions as if I would have worked harder I could have achieved this.
Marxist’s then due to this fact view the education as unfair and not meritocratic. They do however believe that there is a myth of meritocracy which was made up to legitimise the system of unfairness in which the bourgeoisie rule and the proletariat are exploited. The myth of meritocracy sets up a way of making the working class accept that they are working class and will always be working class this is where legitimising comes in they believe that the few working class kids that go to university make the rest of the working class think that it’s possible but they just didn’t try hard enough to achieve the top positions and in this way as Althusser talks about a docile and obedient workforce is produced because the education system of a capitalist society passes on the belief through meritocracy that it is fair and the poor should accept their poverty as it’s their fault as they didn’t try hard enough or they messed around. The myth of meritocracy is spoken about by Bowles and Gintis they said that school did allocate students into jobs but said this was not a positive concept but a negative one which was legitimised by the myth of meritocracy where there is an idea that meritocracy exists and this is fed through the hidden curriculum as children are told through school if you work hard you can achieve this but this doesn’t exist it’s just said to not only to make sure there is not an uprising against the capitalist system but also reproduce the classes.