Using material from item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of the role of education.
Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of interdependent parts held together by a shared culture or value consensus (agreement) amongst individuals as to what values or norms are important in society. Therefore they take a positive view of the education system. As item A suggests they see it as a form of secondary socialism essential to maintaining society i.e. the values and norms transmitted by social institutions and groups which build upon those learnt in the family (primary socialism).
The French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1903) ...view middle of the document...
Item A sums up Durkheim’s view in one very important sentence “its performs a vital social function, including transmitting shared norms and values and equipping pupils with the knowledge, skills and habits needed for work”.
Durkheim argued that society needed a sense of solidarity, that is, its individual members must feel that they are part of a single group or community, reinforcing this statement with how social life and co-operation would be impossible without social solidarity as each individual would pursue their own selfish desires instead of working together to reach an agreement on important things. In his eyes the education system helped to create solidarity by transmitting society’s culture, shared beliefs and values from one generation to the next. For example, he argues that if a country’s history was taught, a sense of shared heritage and a commitment to wider social groups would be gradually established or instilled in the minds of children.
Marxists however criticise this view as they believe the values transmitted by education are not those shared by everyone in society but rather those of the ruling class. In some examples this can be seen when the ruling class creates a list of values which they believe everyone should learn in society.
In contrast to this school can be seen to act as ‘society in miniature’ preparing us for life outside of school. For example both in school and at work we have to co-operate with people who are either family or friends. In school teachers and pupils have to co-operate and also colleagues and customers at work. In addition to this both in school and at work we have to interact with others according to a set of impersonal rules that apply to everyone i.e. treat everyone as equals in society.
Further more Durkheim argues that education prepares young people for work. Industrial societies have a specialist division of labour which requires people to undergo often long periods of training for specific occupations. Education equips individuals with the required skills needed to participate in work in a modern economy be it through schools or vocational education and training courses like apprenticeships, N.V.Q and G.N.V.Q courses. Yet again Marxists criticise new vocationalism by saying how its true function is to serve Capitalism at the expense of young people by reproducing existing inequalities by forcing working class and ethnic minority students on to low paid low status jobs.
Talcott Parsons (1961) argues that schools are the ‘focal socialising agency’ of modern society. During primary socialisation within the family, each child is treated differently i.e. each child is special. Parsons argues that wider society cannot function in this way and everyone has to be treated the same for example everyone is equal before the law. He argues that education teaches these universalistic standards and acts as a bridge between family and wider society, reflecting the values of equal...