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Functionalism and Education

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1 Functionalism and Education

2 1. What are the functions of education for society as a whole?
Functionalist research into education has been motivated by two main questions. 1. What are the functions of education for society as a whole? How does it fit in with the social solidarity of society as a whole?

3 2. What is the functional relationship between education and other parts of the social system? This links to the relationship of education to the economic system and how this helps to integrate society as a whole.

4 Functionalism - as you would expect - focuses on the positive contributions that education makes to society. Here are some quotes …

5 ‘The function of education is to transmit society’s norms and values’ - Emile Durkheim.
‘Society can only survive if there exists among its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity; education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity’. Emile Durkheim.

6 It is by respecting the school rules that the child learns to respect rules in general’. Emile Durkheim.

7 Education is needed in a modern industrial society
Because of the complex division of labour that such societies have. The skills needed for a specialised work-force cannot be taught by the family. The social solidarity of modern society is based upon the interdependence of specialised skills. Schools provide the homogeneity through the transmission of general values and also specific skills needed for co-operative behaviour. This is called unity based on value consensus e.g. rules on property rights; and the promotion of a specialised labour market the members of which combine to produce goods and services.

8 School serves as a function which cannot be provided by peer group or by family.
To have friends you make personal choice; to belong to a family is based on kinship. Being a member of a society is based on neither of these principles. People in society need to co-operate with people who are neither their kin nor their friends. School provides the context by which these skills can be learnt. It is a society in miniature. Interaction is needed with other people following the rules of the institution. This is preparation for adult integration into full membership of society.

9 Example – but not followed by all American States anymore
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

10 Talcott Parsons Writing in the 1950’s this functionalist sociologist has been the representative for education views. He argued that the school, after the family, takes on the role of the ‘focal socialising agency’. School acts as bridge between the family and society as a whole. In a family the child is judged against particular standards whereas in society the child is set against universalistic standards.

11 and A child’s status is ascribed in that it is fixed by birth; in modern societies status is largely achieved. The usual example being occupational status. School begins this process by providing universalistic standards for children to achieve their status. Conduct is measured against school rules; their achievement against performance in tests. This is applied to all regardless of background. This is referred to as a meritocracy - success is achieved through individual merit. This compares equally with Emile Durkheim’s view on the school being society in miniature. Industrial society rewards its people according to achievement rather than to an ascribed status. [Achieved v. Ascribed status]

12 The Value System Schools socialise into the basic value of society. In the USA the two most important value that education instills is:-    1. The value of achievement    2. The value of equal opportunities. This is important in an industrial society when a highly motivated achievement orientated workforce is required. Everybody perceives it as fair even the losers as it is based on meritocracy. How does this compare to the UK system? Are we at the same point or, moving towards it? Selection Parsons also identified education as a way towards selection of individuals for their future role in society. Human resources are allocated roles and therefore education is involved in role allocation - matching occupations to talents.

13 Criticisms Do schools transmit values of society or the values of the ruling classes? Are schools truly meritocratic? Kingsley Davis & W.E. Moore - role allocation and 1967 The education system sifts, sorts and grades individuals in terms of their talents and abilities - it rewards the most talented with occupations that are functionally more important in society. End

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