Using Material From Item A And Elsewhere, Assess Functionalist Views Of The Role Of Education In Modern Society (20 Marks)

1181 words - 5 pages

Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess functionalist views of the role of education in modern society (20 marks)

The consensus functionalist approach is just one of many that attempt to explain the role of education in modern society. Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of interdependent parts held together by a shared culture or value consensus. Each part of society such as the family, economy and education system performs functions that help to maintain society. Functionalists such as Durkheim and Parsons seek to discover what functions that educations performs and what is does to meet society’s needs. Marxists such as Althusser and Bowle & Gintis ...view middle of the document...

Marxist sociologists disagree with this view and argue that this shared culture is not what is being transmitted by education, but rather those of the ruling class. Another criticism of Durkheim’s view is that social solidarity is what leads to negative effects within schools such as bullying because you can’t speak English and therefore not assimilate with this social unit that has been created as a result of social solidarity. Hargreaves (1982) argues that schools place a greater emphasis on competition and developing individuals than on developing a sense of social solidarity as Durkheim claims. Durkheim fails to take into account these negative factors but instead chooses to ignore them.
The American functionalist, Parsons (1961) draws on many of Durkheim’s (1903) ideas. As mentioned in ‘Item A’ Parsons sees the school as the ‘focal socialising agency’ in modern society. He argues schools act as a bridge between the family and wider society. This bridge is vital because families and society operate on different principles and so children must learn a new way of living if they are to cope with the wider world. For example, a first born male child may be given an ascribed status within the family, meaning that his age and gender may affect his rights and duties within the household. However in schools and society, a student’s status is likely to be achieved rather than ascribed, teaching children that they are all equal and that is their own hard work, effort and ability that will determine future success and is not dependent on whether you are older or of a different gender. However this ideology contradicts what children were taught within their families. Parsons defines the ideology of individual achievement and equal opportunity as Meritocracy. However one could argue that in fact, education is meritocratic because school discriminate between different groups such as the lower classes or black people and do not give them an equal opportunity to achieve. Also, this ‘focal socialising agency’ could instead be a very negative factor because it overshadows the fact that ascribed characteristics are more important in determining their income later in life than their achieved status after hard work at school. This means that they are given false hope and work very hard in school and got them into a debt due to university, but then realise that they stood no chance which can lead to negative effects such as depression and/or poverty later on in life. However this evaluation fails to take into consideration success stories of people who came from lower classes and gone on to become successful after hard work, evidence supporting meritocracy.
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