Social Functions of Education
Some, such as Robert Bates, suggest that the inability of societies to develop low-cost and effective self-regulating mechanisms for enforcement of social contracts prevents economic development.
The social contract. The concept of a social contract is broader than a legal contract. A social contract includes for instance, a willingness to pay taxes and fulfill other public obligations; it may include the willingness to participate in public affairs, maintain cleanliness of one's property, act responsibly, or be a good citizen. In instances where a society's general philosophy, such as racial tolerance for one's fellow citizens, conflicts with one's private ...view middle of the document...
The challenge then is to achieve compliance without tyranny.
The most effective check against tyranny is a public consensus on the definition of tyranny; on the rights of those who believe they are the objects of tyranny; and on the obligations and responsibilities of those who use coercive power. Such a consensus makes it more difficult for tyranny to occur because it can be more easily identified and controlled. How can this public consensus come about, and more importantly, how can it be passed to the young?
The mechanisms of education's social functions. Education should contribute to social cohesion in four ways. First, schools ought to teach the rules of the game: those that govern interpersonal and political action. They consist of the social and legal principles underpinning good citizenship, obligations of political leaders, behavior expected of citizens, and consequences for not adhering to these principles. Schools can also facilitate a student's appreciation for the complexity of issues related to historical and global current events and, in so doing, may increase the likelihood that a student will see a point of view other than his or her own. By teaching the rules of the game in this manner, schools foster tolerance and lay the groundwork for voluntary behavior consistent with social norms.
Second, schools are also expected to provide an experience roughly consistent with those citizenship principles, in effect, decreasing the "distance" between individuals of different origins. The educational experience derives from a wide variety of activities, whether in the classroom, the hallway, schoolyard, playing field, or bus. The degree to which a school may do this well depends on its ability to design the formal curriculum, its culture, and the social capital of its surrounding community. The purpose for providing experiences that are consistent with the principles of citizenship is clear. Both formal and informal social contracts require elements of trust among strangers–to the extent that the socialization of citizens from different social origins allows them to acknowledge and respect each other; that is, decreasing the "distance." If the educational task is done effectively, this allows political institutions to adjudicate differences and economic institutions to operate efficiently.
Third, school systems are expected to provide an equality of opportunity for all students. If the public perceives that the school system is biased and unfair, then the trust that...