Sociologists and educators argue the function of education in society. Historically speaking, education was very informal; formal education was only for the elite. Whether education serves a political or an economic agenda can be best viewed within three perspectives. These perspectives are the functionalist, conflict and interactionist perspective. We will explore the differences and similarities in functionalist, conflict, and interaction theories of education; as well as their effect on individual views, approach to social change, and views of society within education.
The functionalist theory focuses on the ways that education serves and contributes to the needs of society. “Functionalists first see education in its manifest role: conveying basic knowledge and skills to the next generation (CliffsNotes.com).” From a functionalist perspective, education is an interrelated yet independent element that benefits society as a whole. Functionalist Talcott Parsons says that education prepares and selects individuals for their future roles in society, therefore benefiting the individual as well as society. Looking from the functionalist’s perspective, education is positive in helping society to function because it provides a value consensus and social solidarity.
Functionally speaking, education serves as a venue to transmit culture and skills. “Schools supplement the family by passing on to youngster’s important elements of their culture, (Sullivan, T.J., 2007).” Functionalists see this as equipping the individual with the skills necessary to function in society and to promote success. Not only does it establish a soci...
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