The Contribution Of Functionalist Sociology To An Understanding Of The Role Of Education In Society

3253 words - 13 pages

The Contribution of Functionalist Sociology to an Understanding of the Role of Education in Society

Functionalists have constructed two questions to help them research
education. The first question is. "What are the functions of
education for society as a whole?" and the second question is. "What
are the functional relationships between the education system and
other parts of the social system".

Firstly, Functionalism is a theory. A theory based on “value
consensus”. Functionalism is based on the view that society is a
system of interdependent parts held together by a shared culture or
value consensus (an agreement amongst society’s members about what
values are important). Functionalist theories assume the different
parts of a society each have their own role to play (their own
"function"), and work together smoothly in order to form a harmonious
whole (macro). The metaphor often used to describe functionalism is
that it views society as a body, with the different socialisation
agents —government, media, religion, the family, etc., and, of course,
education—being like the different organs in a body, each contributing
in a different way to keeping the entire body healthy.

Emile Durkhiem writing at the turn of the last century found that the
major function of schools was the transmission of society's norms and
values. Durkhiem stated that without "essential similarities",
co-operation and social solidarity social life would be impossible,
there needs to be a "degree of homogeneity". Durkhiem stated that
for a child "to become attached to society, the child must feel in
something which is real, alive and powerful, which dominates the
person and to which he owns the best part of himself". Durkhiem’s
view is supported by the UK where there is a common national
curriculum, which helps to support shared norms and values and they
also learn about the history of Britain.

Durkhiem stated that school serves a function in a complex industrial
society that the family or peer group can't. Children are taught to
get along with those who are neither their kin nor friend. Durkhiem
saw schools as society in miniature. Durkhiem also argued that school
rules should be enforced and punishment which should reflect the
seriousness of the damage done to the social group and should be made
clear why they were being punished. Durkhiem also explained that
education teaches individuals specific tasks, which are necessary for
their future jobs.

David Hargreaves supported Durkhiem view by saying that schools place
too much stress on the developing the individuals and not enough on
the duties and responsibilities for social solidarity. Hargreaves
also noted that schools fail to produce a sense of dignity for working
class pupils and therefore fail and may form subcultures, which

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