To explain the role of education we need to look at education through different theories, a theory is a way of looking at the world. Within Sociology there are a number of theories, these include; Functionalism, Marxism, Interactionism, Feminism and Post-modern theory.
Functionalists believe that society is made up of four parts; the Economy, the family, decision making and education. They believe that each part functions for the good of the whole. French Sociologist Emile Durkheim defined the major function of education from a Functionalist view as “the transmission of society’s norms and values”, the role of education is to socialise children into these norms and values which include ...view middle of the document...
Critics of the functionalist approach argue the evidence of differential achievement in terms of class, ethnicity and gender suggest that education is not Meritocratic and in some society “who you know” is still more important that “what you know”. Marxism is a sociological theory that is critical of existing society. Marxists argue that meritocracy is a myth and that the education system is a mechanism for maintaining class inequalities and that the education system plays a key role in promoting the ideology of the ruling class. Althusser (1971) disagrees that the main function of education is the transmission of common values; he argues education is an ideological state apparatus (P.164).
Bowles and Gintis were two Marxists who did not agree that education is meritocratic and the idea that everyone starts on a level playing field is a myth, they believe that the hidden curriculum provides a tolerant and obedient workforce that unquestioningly accepts authority, although education is free and open to all, and individuals can apply for jobs as they wish, Bowles and Gintis insist that some have much better opportunities than others. The children of rich and powerful people tend to gain better qualifications and better paid jobs, irrespective of their abilities. From a Marxist perspective education prepares children for work, it produces an obedience and docile workforce that accept their position within a capitalist society. Louis Althusser (1971) believed that education socialises working class children into accepting their subordinate status to the middle/ruling class. Bourdieu also used the concept of “Cultural capital” to explain how middle class get into top positions.
The work of Bowles and Gintis is considered to be extremely controversial, and it has been criticised by Marxist critics and others, their theory is seen as to deterministic and they make assumptions about the existence of the hidden curriculum rather than proving it actually exists. By focusing singularly on the class system, Marxist theory ignores other important factors that affect educational achievement such as gender and ethnicity.
The biggest difference between the two approaches is how they differ in the way they see equality, Marxists say education makes people accept inequality where Functionalist say education passes on the value of meritocracy and lets people better themselves.
Interactionism differed from both functionalism and Marxism in the fact it focuses on small scale interaction rather than society as a whole...