Using material from item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of Functionalism to our understanding of the role of education.
Functionalists are a group of people who study society in a very positive way and think that everyone in society gets alongin agreement because we are in the same culture and share the same norms and values. Their view on education is very positive, Item A tells us that they see education as a form of secondary socialisation and is essential to maintaining society. Socialisation is the learning of our norms and values.
Functionalists say that education is an agent of socialisation andteaches people to share the same norms and values, just like it will be in the wider society. They say the 3 main things that education does is: skill provision, role allocation and socialisation. Skills Provision means that education learns the children the skills and knowledge that they need for the world of work, for example being punctual, organised etc. Role allocation is when education puts people into the most suited and appropriate jobs according to their talents and skills, this is usually through their exam results.
Durkheim was the founder of functionalist society in 1903, he argues that the two main ideas of education is social solidarity and specialists skills he suggests these are both essential for society and the world of work. Social solidarity is when the children have a sense of belonging and commitment so that people co-operate and don’t be selfish in society. Specialist’s skills is when education teaches us what we need to know for society and the world of work.
Item A sums up Durkheim’s theory “it performs vital social functions, including transmitting shared norm and values and giving pupils knowledge of skills and habits needed for work.” He argues that society needs the sense of solidarity and everyone feels that they are part of a group in community. They say that if they don’t have a sense they will become selfish for their own desires instead of working together, for example he says that the country’s history was taught they feel they have sense of heritage and a commitment to society. He also says that education learns children the norms and values for work, also the skills and knowledge that they need for the wider society.
However the functionalists view have criticisms from Marxists and the New Right’s view of education. Major criticism of Durkheim’s theory is by Marxists who believe that the values given by education are not shared by everyone in society but those in the ruling class. This gives them a better chance in education and benefits them more than those in the working class.
Parson was a sociologists that studied functionalist society, he argues that schools are the focal socialising agency in modern society this means that education is the main institution in teaching us our norms and values. Parson says that education teaches children the universalistic standards which is when everyone is treated the same in education and society, rather than the Particularistic Standards which depends on the age, sex and class of the individual he also says that education acts as a bridge between the family and society which reflects the values of equal opportunity and individual achievements.
Parson believes that education gives everyone the equal opportunity to achieve their full potential, however some believe that this is not the case. Parson say education is a society in miniature and meritocratic. Society in miniature is when schools act as a miniature society and allows people to co-operate with others outside the family. Meritocratic means that those who work that hardest and most talented will get the best out of life when it comes to work.
A different explanations of Parsons view on educationhas been given by Marxists and the New Right which believe that education is not meritocratic as schools discriminate against some groups in society like the working class.