The Marxist view on the role of education in society is a critical one. Marxists see education as a system of reproducing inequalities between working and middle class. Society needs skilled and unskilled workers, so Marxists see education as responsible for providing these types of workers, in the interest of the economy. However, there are other sociologists like Paul and Wills, David Reynolds and Henry Giroux who had another opinion on the role of education in society. For example, Paul and Wills, who criticized Althusser, believes that the Marxist view is over deterministic and it fails to consider the power that students have to resist against the system.
Firstly, Bowles and Gintis believe in the importance of the hidden curriculum, rather than the content of the curriculum, because students learn to accept the norms and the values of the capitalist society. For example, they learn how to be competitive and work hard for rewards. Bowles and Gintis saw a strong correspondence between what students learn in schools and what is required from workers. They found that pupils who get higher grades are those who follow the system, without questioning and the success is not necessarily related to intellectual ability. These qualities are valued in workers as they will accept the authority of their employers, and not question their orders. They also argued that these are the norms and values of the ruling class and workers are socialised into them to promote the myth of meritocracy.
However, Bowles and Gintis have been criticised. The critics tend to agree that Bowles and Gintis exaggerated the correspondence between work and education, and failed to provide evidence to support their case. David Reynolds points out that they ignored the role of the national curriculum in British schools. The curriculum suggests a lack of correspondence because pupils study high status and liberal subjects which reflect that pupils are informed about the society and they are encouraged to think critically about the world. Bowles and Gintis have been also criticised for failing to explain how the economy shapes education. Reynolds argued that ruling class can’t control what goes into the British classrooms and he considered that the teacher is responsible for the ideas that go into the class.
Secondly, Athusser argue that education is an ideological state apparatus, which aims to maintain and reproduce generation by generation of workers. He also sustained Bowles and Gintis point of view that the hidden curriculum promotes ruling-class values as common values. The hidden curriculum through the norms and values that it transmits, justifies inequality as normal or natural and make students who didn’t achieve to consider that it’s only their fault and the system is actually fair for everybody. Working class is seen as passive to the system. Working class accepts its economic and social position because they were socialised to believe that educational failure is deserved for those who don’t work hard enough.
On the other hand, Athusser was criticised by Paul and Willis who believe that the traditional Marxist theory is over deterministic