The History Of The Liberal Theorists Education Essay

Published: 2021-06-30 18:00:05
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Category: Education

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Amy Jones
Lisa Evans
Education Assignment
Task 2
This essay will assess the role of education from the Functionalist perspectives of Durkheim and Parsons, with further comparisons made against the views of Marxists, Bowles & Gintis and Willis, additionally the Liberalist perspective of Illich will be assessed.
Durkheim believed education fulfilled a number of functions in society, mainly the socialisation and perpetuation of a value consensus, an agreed set of rules and guidelines, regarding norms, values, morals, ethics, and religious and political beliefs, which enable society to operate in a way that is not chaotic. During this socialisation, cultural and national heritage passed from generation to generation, further enables social solidarity by making its members feel they belong to society.
Parsons, while in support of Durkheim, also attributed another function to education; it moves people away from the Particularistic standards, which only apply within the family, to the Universalistic standards, which apply to everybody. Parsons suggests during childhood, our ascribed status is special; being in a family, where we are special to our parents, but as adults, must learn our status is achieved through our merits. Education acting as the bridge between childhood and the adult world, instilling the idea the comparisons made through examinations and testing are what future status will depend on. This aspect, according to Parsons also allows the allocation of roles that are best suited to the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. This idea is supported by Davies and Moore, who suggest there is a hierarchy in the job market; selected and sorted through education, with the most capable, achieving the best jobs.
The Functionalist perspective provides a wide view of education, so can be applied to all known types of society; in industrialised society, the education system is large and formalised, yet in a small pastoral society, education may consist of how to till land and gather food, taught by parents alone. Nevertheless, this is still the passing of skills and culture essential for society to operate effectively. The ideas of Durkheim and Parsons that education compares via examinations and encourage social solidarity through the teaching of history and heritage are unquestionable. Moreover, links between education and the development of the social system are illustrated in its response to the needs of industry, such as the implementation of vocational qualifications throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. However, this particular Functionalist view of education and the workplace being linked is criticised by the New Right as being overemphasised, as it has, on numerous occasions, failed to produce a suitable workforce to fulfil the economy’s needs.
Marxist Althusser views education as part of the ideological state apparatus; social control with two main functions; to justify class inequality by instilling the ideology capitalism is reasonable, lower classes accepting their place in society without question, passively becoming compliant, obedient, workers. Also to reproduce the class system, ensuring the success of the rich and the failure of the poor, generation after generation.
Bowles & Gintis conducted a study, which found social relationships experienced at school are similar to those experienced in the workplace, known as the correspondence principal, school features mirror those of work and reward obedience, further producing a docile workforce. They argue a ‘hidden curriculum’ is present, not content of lessons, but socialisation of learning to listen to and obey those in authority without question, shaping the future workforce; acceptance of a hierarchy, learning to obey school authority is preparation for future workplace expectations. Legitimisation of social inequality is upheld through the myth of meritocracy, suggesting that education is equal for all when in fact the poor have fewer opportunities and lower standards of education. Rewarding of docile personalities produces passive workers, traits such as perseverance and punctuality prove to have a greater effect on grades than actual achievement; creative or aggressive personalities graded lowest. Due to the workplace being unrewarding, external rewards are offered, in school, in the form of qualifications, promotions and bonuses in the workplace. The fragmentation of specific subjects such as Art and Science in school operate in the same way as the workforce, specific tasks are performed by separate individuals in certain areas, as a fragmented workforce is considered difficult to unite and easier to control.
Marxist Willis questions the idea that education provided an ideal workforce on the basis that many working class lads did not make ideal workers. The ‘Lads’ study found a subculture existed, wherein school values were rejected, the lads preferring fun to working hard, with a lack of respect for authority. They considered education a waste of time as manual labour would be their chosen career, as their fathers and brothers before them. This ensured the class system was reproduced as more workers were willing to perform the most exploitive kind of work.
The research by Bowles & Gintis and Willis supports the theory education is a way of facilitating the reproduction of class. It also demonstrates how education is essential in order to produce an efficient and functional workforce that can be exploited by capitalists and sustain the economy. The idea of meritocracy is proven a myth, as lower classes have access to a lower standard of education. The existence of which in socialist societies supports the necessity of education other than for the reproduction and justification of capitalism. The suggestion teachers encourage capitalism and students have no free will, passively accepting capitalist ideology is also discounted; most teachers reject capitalism and teach students, who sometimes reject schooling, to be critical of capitalism through the teaching of the Marxist perspective. This has been criticised for focussing on class inequality, completely ignoring Patriarchy, according to Feminists and considered out of date by Postmodernists.
Liberal theorists believe there is a mismatch between what education should do; enable an individual to fulfil their potential by allowing them to develop areas in which they are interested and have ability in, and what it actually does; turns individuals into mindless, passive consumers, creates inequalities and fails to encourage the development of creative abilities.
Liberalist Illich’s takes the view compulsory education is a kind of prison, which keeps young people off the streets, to avoid potential trouble and allow their parents to go to work. This idea may stem from the fact that during the late nineteenth century, when immigration and urbanization was increasing, so was crime, overcrowding and homelessness. The introduction of compulsory education through the Forster Act 1870 and the Fisher Education Act 1918, proved to have a latent function in reducing these ill effects, by keeping young people off the streets and out of trouble. Illich goes on to say education teaches information of little relevance to students, suggesting there is a hidden curriculum; which teaches individuals to listen to and obey those in authority, turning them into unquestioning consumers who conform to and are controlled by, government and authority. In many ways, Liberalist attitudes very much align with Marxist views in their ideas of education existing to produce passive adults that contribute to a capitalist society. In order to solve these problems, Illich suggested society be ‘de-schooled’ and an alternative approach to education implemented; individuals would receive vouchers to spend on education and skills they wanted to learn. There would be lists kept of people who could teach a particular skill, these people would be those who used the skill in everyday life. Learning networks, libraries, museums and skills centres would also provide information and resources.
The strength in this idea lies in the fact the availability of technology today, in particular the internet, makes it realistic and achievable. Illich also demonstrated those who used their skills every day, made better teachers of the subject, Spanish immigrants being as competent in teaching Spanish to students as qualified teachers. However, a reduction of this theory is it is unrealistic to suggest these changes would remove all the problems in society. There would also need to be a basic standard of literacy and numeracy achieved before chosen subjects and skills are studied.
Conclusion, the functionalist view education is socialisation, standards, social development, meritocracy
However socialisation hidden curriculum myth inequality highlighted by Marxists and rigidness of education etc suggests it is not as equal fair and functional as suggested.

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