(Original post by samfreak)
could someone mark mine aswell please? its the same essay title ^
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the claim that “the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society”.
Many sociologists have given alternate views about the main function of education. Functionalists argue that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus – agreed social values – whereas Marxists argue that education transmits values that benefit the ruling class.
Durkheim (1903), a functionalist, argues that society needs a sense of social solidarity because without it, social life and cooperation would be impossible as individuals would pursue their own selfish desires. The education system helps create social solidarity by transmitting society’s culture from one generation to the next so the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society. However, Marxists criticise this and argue that education in capitalist society only transmits the ideology of the ruling class and not the shared values of society.
Furthermore, Durkheim argues that modern industry has a complex division of labour where production of a single product involves cooperation from many different specialists. But for this to be successful, each person must have the necessary specialist knowledge and skills to perform their role. So education teaches individuals specialist skills and knowledge that individuals need to play their part in the social division of labour. So the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society.
Consequently Parsons (1961) sees schools as a bridge between family and wider society. This bridge is needed as they both operate on different principles. Within the family, the child is judged by particularistic standards and status is ascribed. Whereas in education and wider society, status is achieved and we are all judged by the same universalistic standards e.g. the same laws apply to everyone. Parsons sees the school and wider society based on meritocratic principles where everyone is given an equal opportunity. However Parsons has been criticised as there is evidence that equal opportunity in education does not exist e.g. achievement is greatly influenced by class background. So the main function of education is clearly not to maintain a value consensus in society.
Davis and Moore (1945) see education as a device for selecting and allocating pupils for their future work roles. Social inequality is necessary to ensure that the most important roles are filled by the most talented people. So higher rewards are offered to the most talented which encourages everyone to compete and allows society to select the most talented individuals to fill the most important roles. So the main function is not to maintain a value consensus in society. Conversely, the New Right criticise Davis and Moore and argue that state education fails to prepare young people adequately for work and this is because of the state control of education which discourages efficiency, competition and choice.
On the other hand, Marxists such as Bowles and Gintis (1954) argue that there are close parallels between schooling and work in capitalist society. This is used to describe the “correspondence principle” in which the relationships and structures found in education correspond to those of work, and this principle operates through the hidden curriculum e.g. through everyday working of the school, pupils become accustomed to accepting hierarchy. In this way schooling prepares working class pupils for their role as the exploited workers. So the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society. However postmodernists reject the Marxist theory and argue that today’s post-Fordist economy requires schools to produce a different kind of labour force from the one described by Marxists; society has become more diverse and class divisions are no longer important.
Furthermore, Bowles and Gintis argue that the education system prevents the poor from rebelling against inequality by the production of ideologies such as the myth of meritocracy. Evidence shows that the main factor determining whether someone has a high income or not is their class background. By disguising this fact, the myth of meritocracy makes it seem that higher classes gained privileges through open competition which helps to persuade the working class to accept inequality as legitimate. So the main function of education is not to maintain a value consensus.
Moreover, Willis’ study shows that some working class pupils can resist being indoctrinated into the myth of meritocracy as he studied the counter-culture of “the lads” and found out that these lads rejected school’s values and this helped them slot into the very jobs that capitalism needs someone to perform e.g. their acts of rebellion ensured that they did not get any qualifications and therefore end up in unskilled jobs. Conversely, this has been criticised as Torres (1998) argues that Marxists overemphasise class and ignore structural inequalities such as gender. Furthermore, many working class children do succeed in the education system.
In conclusion some sociologists such as functionalists have argued that the main function of education is to maintain a value consensus in society. However many others disagree with this and give alternate functions such as providing a workforce for capitalists, selecting and allocating young people for their future work roles and acting as a bridge between family and wider society. So therefore, a function of education is to maintain a value consensus, but it not one of the main ones.