Sociology and Education
Education is the process by which knowledge is imparted, skills developed and abilities trained. It is used to prepare citizens for various roles demanded by social institutions, such as family, government and economy ( Schaeffer, 2001). A society’s survival depends on the ability of its members to maintain and pass on the culture to succeeding generations (Preston & Smith, ) Education is an ongoing process that takes place in all locations, such as while watching television, attending religious services or visiting places of interest. Education happens everywhere and is a lifelong process ( Arends, 1998)
In agrarian societies, children were educated by imitating adults. While imitative learning and informal training fit the needs of small societies, they are ineffective for larger technological societies where there are advanced economic and culturally diversed population. Highly specialized occupations have arisen and new forms of technology have been created which demand a higher level of human judgement and knowledge ( Giddens, 1990). As a result, skills needed in today’s society cannot be left to chance, thus the process of education has become informal and learning is now organized into a curriculum and taught for a specified number of years in institutions such as schools and colleges. Formal education is provided by teachers, lectures and professors.
Sociology and Education Essay Example
This essay examined and critiqued Durkheim’s functionalist perspective and the Marxian’s perspective to education. The views of a random sample of primary school teachers to Durkheim’s functionalist perspective were examined to determine the implications of their views to educational reform in Barbados. were analysed. The functionalist view was selected because their educational reform created structures, plans and curriculum that were technically advanced , rationale and promoted social unity ( Balantine & Spade, )
To adequately accomplish this task, a few terms were defined. Socialization is the process by which we acquire our social characteristics and learn ways of thinking and behaving that are acceptable by society (Giddens,). A value is a belief that an idea or behaviour is good and desirable whereas a norm determines what is acceptable or unacceptable in a given culture or situation. A society is an independent grouping of people who participate in a common culture. A culture is the way of life to the people of a society; it is also the collection of ideas and habits that they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation. The hidden curriculum refers to the principles or behaviours that are considered proper by society and taught subtly by the school(Kendal, ). Meritocracy refers to the structured inequality in which there is equal opportunity to compete for inequal rewards and power (Giddens, ).
To Durkheim, education performed the following functions: enforced discipline, preserved the society, encourage value concensus, used the division of labour to maintain the status quo (Blackledge & Hunte, ). There is a relationship between society and its institutions, changes in society is reflected in education (Soltis & Freiberg, ). Schaeffer concurred by stating that education is an agent of change. To Durkheim, education is ‘the influence exercised by future generations on those not yet ready for social life ( Blackledge & Hunte, year ,p.13 ). It is the spreading of society’s norms and values needed for group life( Haralambos, ).
Durkheim emphasized cultural and social reproduction which was the maintenance of social order needed for the preservation of society. Through education students were socialized with basic norms, thoughts and similarities of their culture to ensure homogeneity ( Blackledge & Hunte, ). Children were confronted with codes and practices which governed their behaviour. They learnt how to relate to teachers and fellow students and how to live in a group which assisted them in gaining skills in cooperation and collaboration ( O’ Donnell, ). They were also socialized into core values of honesty, discipline, politeness , fairplay (Schaeffer, ) and good citizenship (Preston & Smith, ). This would result in students developing national patriotism ( O’Donnell, ) and thus achieving education’s political purpose. Although Parson concurred with Durkheim however he stated that the values enforced by the school were universalistic values in which students were prepared for their role as citizens and workers. This value judged everyone on the same merit, the values were equality of opportunity and achievement which were based on meritocratic principles.
The educational system sought to react to the economic needs of society( Maciaonis, ), This was achieved when individuals were selected according to ability to fill positions in society. To achieve cultural reproduction, education was used to develop capacities and abilities for the wider society . It was important to develop children who had physical and mental states so that they would not be lacking( Blackledge & Hunte, ). Schools served an intellectual purpose in which students were aided in the development of higher order thinking skills( Balantine & Spade, ) and the transmission of knowledge needed for individuals to gain their place in the hierarchy (O’Donnel, ). By preparing young people for participation in social institutions, education was seen as providing a link between society and the family( Schaeffer, ). To Durkheim, the diversity in the division of labour was important since without cooperation, life would be impossible. However by doing so, conditions were created for society to perpetuate itself or to continue with the status quo (Blackledge & Hunte, ).
Specialized subjects such as Religious Education and Science were taught to students for them to forge a link between the past and present in order to give them a sense of belonging to the social group ( Blackledge & Hunte, ).
To Durkheim, discipline was an essential component which acted as a link between the family and society. By being subjected to rules, children learnt that rules should be respected and obeyed. In this way they developed self discipline and realised that their desires were less important than the class, or society. Durkheim felt that punishment should be fair, however corporal punishment was demoralizing and counterproductive (Blackledge & Hunte, ).
To Marx, the economic base or economic system dictated the activities, values and belief systems of the superstructure and consequently, the society. The superstructure referred to the institutions such as the family patterns, political organisations, educational systems and religious beliefs. To Marx, the superstructure supported and maintained the divisions of labour between the elites and masses and this lead to exploitation and oppression(Hass, Markson & Stein,1993). Best et al concur with Marx that the superstructure maintains and reflected the infrastructure which sustained the status quo. Marx saw the social order referred to by Durkheim as problematic because it was based on exploitation and conflict.
To Bowles and Gintis, education could not be understood independently of society. Education was linked to society’s basic economic and social institutions where the ruling class benefitted at the expense of the subject class which contributed to massive inequality (Best, Griffith & Hope, 2001) The society was perceived as capitalist which was exploitative and oppressive. Education served a reproductive purpose by reproducing the class structure and maintaining the capitalist economic system (Blackledge & Hunte, 1993). Chapman concurred by stating that the minority capitalist class continued to dominate the working class (Chapman,2001)
Gintis & Bowles (Giddens, ) argued that the educational system reflected the organization of production in the capitalist society. Knowledge was fragmented just as work was fragmented. Students had little control over what was learnt and how it was learnt just like workers. Students needed motivation to work by being rewarded since work was intrinsically boring. For the working class, docility, obedience and rule following were emphasised . Students were socialized through the hidden curriculum into habits and practices for future positions in the labour force. GIVE EXAMPLES OF BARBADOS Marx saw the hidden curriculum being used to teach students about obedience to authority and conformity which were necessary to shape individuals into their roles in the society (Haralambos, ) Education was perceived as fair by all, and this perception caused the inequality to be legitimized.
The two perspectives had several similarities and differences. Both perspectives emphasized the relationship between education and other institutions. They both saw social institutions as more important than the individual ( Chapman, 2001)
Both realized that by socializing youth through education to accept norms and values lead to the survival of society (Giddens, ). Blackledge and Hunte concurred with Giddens and O’Donnell that education had the power to mould people’s lives and minds especially through formal and informal means. However, Marxist opposed the way in which youth were socialized to society. Marxist saw education as producing conformist students whereas functionalist saw education as producing ideal students. Durkhiem failed to consider the clash in values at home and school and assumed that socialization by schools would be successful ( Chapman, 2001). Blackledge and Hunte , (1993)concurred with Chapman on this lack of transfer of values.
Durkheim like Parsons failed to consider that values to be transmitted were those of the ruling class ( Haralambos, ) To Marxist, functionalist such as Durkheim took conformity for granted and assumed that societies had shared cultures which were transmitted throughout the educational system(O’Donnell, ) . To Marxist, there was no common culture(Chapman, 2001) O’Donnell concurred with Chapman that the values of the educational system were not those of the entire society but the ruling class.(O’Donnell, )
To Marxist, education functioned in the interest of the dominant groups but to functionalist education functioned in the interest of the majority of citizens (Haralambos, ). Functionalist such as Parsons and Davis and Moore saw society as meritocratic in which individuals were placed in jobs where they made an efficient contribution to the capitalist society. The most and least talented contributed to the efficient functioning of society. However Marxist disagreed, they felt education functioned to maintain, legitimize and reproduce inequalities in wealth and power(Chapman, 2001). They felt that the pursuit of equality of opportunity and equality were seen as impossible since some students would be more successful than others. Bowles and Gintis also rejected the meritocracy because they believed that class background was important in attainment (Haralambos, ).
Marxist believed that the existence of private schools and the selective intake of students undermined the concept of meritocracy (Haralambos, ) Marxist saw the source of inequality of educational opportunity in socio economic background differences (O’Donnell, ) and real change as only occurring in terms of major changes in the structure of the society. To short for a paragraph Both perspectives focused on the structure of education and not on the content of the curriculum (Giddens, ) Neither considered the interaction between the teacher and pupils in the class room (O’Donnell, ).
To Blackledge and Hunte, education could not be a force for social change when it promoted inequality since it did not promote equality and social justice (Blackledge & Hunte, 1993)