The Functionalist Perspective On Education Essay

The Functionalist Perspective On Education Essay

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The functionalist perspective argues for education as a means of development from simple, traditional social structures to more complex, modern ones. Drawing heavily from biological theories, functionalism equates society with a living organism composed of various internal systems, asserting that an understanding of these systems, in our case social practices and institutions, requires an examination of the means by which they serve the ‘body’, society (Feinberg and Solitis, ). In assessing the relationship between education and development, it is imperative to note that functionalists associate the advent of formal, compulsory education with the requirements of modern society, with modernity seen as synonymous with industrialization. That is, while other institutions within the fundamentalist framework may serve a broad societal role, the development of the education system is a reflection of specific industrial needs. Specifically, education addresses the two main needs of modern society, role differentiation and social solidarity.
[Functionalists argue that all societies require that their members perform different tasks.] Examined through the functionalist framework, the formal education system acts as a sorting mechanism by which to initiate the advanced division of labor. While traditional societies relied on ascribed characteristics to determine an individual’s role in society, modern societies use the education system as a means to sort individuals on the basis of achievement, using measures such as grades, test scores, and work ethic to guide high-achieving students into jobs that recognize and utilize their skills, and low-achieving students into jobs that are less skill-demanding. For example, a high-school student wit...


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...he meritocratic role differentiation system described above, form the prerequisites for technological and economic development.
While the functionalist perspective argues that education serves as a mechanism by which to fulfill society’s larger industrial needs through meritocratic role differentiation and socialization, the Marxist perspective argues that education serves the needs of a capitalist society by producing an efficient and obedient workforce. Education reflects not [], but serves as an indicator of the power of the ruling class and acts as an instrument by which to create and reproduce social control. The education system serves as a mechanism by which the bourgeoisie ruling class can assert its dominance and control over the proletariat through a) the transmission of ruling class ideology, and b) the justification of capitalism as just and reasonable.

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