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Andrew Fergus Wilson

on 5 March 2013

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Transcript of Education/Functionalism

Burgess, R G and Parker, A (1999). ‘Education’. In S Taylor (Editor), Sociology: Issues and Debates. London: Macmillan, pp180-207.

Heilbroner, R. (1980) Marxism: For and Against London and NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Meighan, R and Siraj-Blatchford, I (2003). ‘Social Systems, Structures and Functions.’ In R Meighan and I Siraj-Blatchford, A Sociology of Educating: Fourth Edition. London: Continuum, pp251-263.

Parsons, Talcott (1971). ‘The School Class as a Social System: Some of Its Functions in American Society.’ In T Parsons, The System of Modern Societies. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, pp434-455.

Wood, A. (2004) Karl Marx Second Edition London: Routledge. Further reading / references Key authors within Functionalist school of thought?
Key arguments?
Main criticisms of the Functionalist perspective? Summary Links between home-life and school achievement
Parental attitudes to school
Local environment
Pre-school language socialization
Classroom life
Social class And the impact of… Sociologists of education began to suggest the education system was
Too many able working class children
Failing educationally
Leaving school early
Not entering Higher Education Questioning the functionalist meritocratic assumption Principal channel of selection
A specialised agency of socialisation
Performs an essential role for the rest of the social system
Closely linked to the economy by:
Driving change
Responding to change Functions of the education system Differential achievement leads to differential rewards and better opportunities for the successful
This is fair as long as there is initial equality of opportunity, ie
Everyone has access to schooling
All enter school on an equal footing Pupils learn to accept that… Primary school teaches
Commitment to broad social values
Emphasis on good behaviour
Internalises motivation to achieve
Secondary school teaches
Commitment to specific social role in adult life
Differentiation btween types of achievement Focus of levels of education Compares and contrasts roles of mother and primary school teacher
Compares socialisation from family to school to wider society
Pupils exposed to conflicting pressure more ambivalent
In high achieving peer groups scholastic attainment becomes important Key comparisons Status based on achievement
Little emotional support
Shared values with family/ home (based on achievement)
Adult control
Compulsory involvement/ no choice Role in school Children learn how to play pre-determined social roles (ie are socialised)
Learn work and social roles
Learn skills to fulfil their roles
Learn to want to fulfil their roles
Family’s social status and child’s educational ability are closely linked to later occupation status Role allocation How social order is maintained
Agencies of socialization (institutions)
Family, church, education system
Social actors
Social roles Talcott Parsons Inferior
Empty vessel
Accept common social values
Learn to want what society needs him/ her to want The child’s role Education shapes us into what society needs us to be
School is microcosm of society
Social relationships reflect those of wider society (eg workforce hierarchy)
Teaches that society’s values are more important than individual/ family concerns
Through acceptance, not force (ideology) Durkheim Socialisation

Role allocation

Preparation for adult role Main function of education "…how the school class functions to internalize in its pupils both the commitments and capacities for successful performance of their future adult roles, and …how it functions to allocate these human resources within the role-structure of the adult society."
(Parsons 1971, 434) Functionalists analyse… (Functional) Structuralists
Function of education in society
Consensus approach
Assumes meritocracy
Emile Durkheim (French – 1858-1917)
Talcott Parsons (American – 1902-1979) Functionalist perspective What are the key features of the Functionalist perspective?
What are the main criticisms/ shortcomings of this school of thought?
How do Functionalists explain/ treat inequalities within the education system? Seminar questions Ignores conflicting interests in society
Fails to explore how individuals influence/ effect change in society
Talks about the needs of ‘society’. Are all members of society equal? To Marxists, the functionalist 'society' reflects an elite minority who possess sufficient power to impose values and transmit ideology Main criticisms of functionalist perspective Regional variations in quality of schools
School selection procedures
The teaching role
Internal organisation of schools including:
Streaming (Bowles & Gintis; Hargreaves et al; Rist)
Anti-school attitudes (Willis) Research began to explore… School teaches attitudes and behaviour for life in society
Essential/important to label children as educational successes and failures Overall purpose Status achieved independent of adults
Supplementary emotional support
Non-adult values, no adult control
Choice of movement of involvement
Physical prowess & belonging important
Very gendered
Strong identification with teacher or peers Role in peer group Predetermined
Biological status
Unconditional emotional support
Shared values with school (based on achievement)
Adult control
Compulsory involvement/ no choice Role in family …socialization in schools which is not based upon this principle will produce an educated person who might know the common culture, morals and mores but who will be unable to identify with them personally, and such a being is likely to become a danger to both self and society.

(Meighan & Siraj-Blatchford 2003, 255) Superior/ authority figure
Transmits social values/ norms
Teach morality
Teach skills
Needed in order for society to function
Needed for child to survive in that society
A role model and instrument of system
Conform to societal norms
Constrained/ constraining The teacher’s role Gain an understanding of the functionalist perspective on sociology of education
Explore some of the key issues addressed by functionalists
Identify some of the main criticisms of the functionalist perspective Aims of the Session 5ED512

Session 2:
The Functionalist Perspective Sociology of Education Parson, T. 1971. The System of Modern Societies. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Meighan, R. and Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2003) A Sociology of Educating (Fourth Edition), London: Continuum. Moore, R. Roles? The consequences of this process of identification can be quite profound: In school the teacher is institutionally defined as superior to any pupil in knowledge of curriculum subject-matter and in responsibility as a good citizen of the school [...] the school class tends to be bifurcated [...] on the basis, on the one hand, of identification with the teacher, or acceptance of her role as a model; and, on the other hand, of identification with the pupil peer group. This bifurcation of the class [...] strikingly corresponds with the bifurcation into college-goers and non-college-goers. (Parsons 1964, 141) The role of the school is thus to act as a grounding for the social world beyond the family and the teacher's role is to supplement and provide an alternative to the familial influence.
The first major step in socialization, beyond that in the family, takes place in the elementary school, so it seems reasonable to expect that the teacher-figure should be characterized by a com,bination of similarities to and differences from parental figures. The teacher, then, is an adult, characterized by the generalized superiority, which a parent also has, of adult status relative to children [...] compared to a parent's, her responsibility to them is much more universalistics, this being reinforced [...] by the size of the class; it is also much more oriented to performance rather than to solicitude for the emotional "needs" of the children. (Parsons 1964, 141) Parsons, T. 1964. Social Structure and Personality. New York: Free Press Roles are refined Any questions? 1) To reinforce social solidarity
2) To maintain social roles
3) To maintain division of labor For Durkheim, the function of education was to: And was key to society's survival: The education process is above all the means by which society perpetually recreates the conditions of its very existence (Durkheim 1956, 123) Durkheim, E. 1956. Sociology and education. New York: The Free Press. [Education] is the influence exercised by adult generations on those that are not yet ready for social life. Its object is to arouse and to develop in the child a certain number of physical, intellectual and moral states which are demanded of him by both the political society as a whole and the special milieu for which he is specifically destined. [...] To the egotistic and asocial being that has just been born, [society] must as rapidly as possible add another capable of leading a moral and social life. Such is the work of education.(Durkeim 1956, 71-72) Education is primarily for the benefit of society and only benefits the child insofar as they are taught to conform and 'fit in': Pre-summary video
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