Just Sociology

Critiquing the Functionalist Theory of Education: Examining Marginalization Neoliberal Views and Marxist Criticisms

The Functionalist theory of education holds that education plays a crucial role in shaping society, promoting social stability and order, and preparing individuals for their roles in the workforce. Supporters of this theory view education as a meritocracy, where individuals are rewarded based on their abilities and hard work, and see it as an essential institution for secondary socialization and role allocation.

This article will discuss the Functionalist view of education and its supporting evidence, focusing on key principles and technical vocabulary in a readable format. Subtopic 1.1 – Education as a Meritocracy: Durkheim and Parsons

Emile Durkheim, an early pioneer of the Functionalist theory, believed that education systems create a meritocracy, where students are taught to develop social and intellectual skills that enable them to secure higher-status jobs.

Durkheim argued that education helps to identify and cultivate the innate abilities of students, and that when individuals are rewarded based on their abilities, societies become more productive and efficient. Similarly, Talcott Parsons viewed education as a way of sorting students based on their abilities and preparing them for their roles in the workforce.

Parsons believed that education systems were meritocracies that rewarded students for their hard work and success, giving them the tools they needed to succeed in their careers. Overall, Durkheim and Parsons shared the belief that education serves as a meritocracy, rewarding hard work and talent, and playing a crucial role in promoting social stability.

Subtopic 1.2 – Positive Functions of Education: Secondary Socialization and Role Allocation

Beyond creating a meritocracy, education systems serve other essential functions in society. For instance, education is instrumental in secondary socialization, which is the process of learning societal norms and values beyond the family unit.

Schools instill cultural beliefs, values, and norms in students, preparing them for active participation in society. In addition, education is essential for role allocation, which is the process of determining who will perform which role in society.

Role allocation occurs through selecting students based on their abilities and providing them with the training and education needed to perform their roles in the workforce effectively. This process helps ensure that society operates efficiently and effectively, with individuals equipped to fulfill their roles.

Overall, the positive functions of education in promoting secondary socialization and role allocation help to maintain social stability and ensure that individuals are prepared for their roles in the workforce. Subtopic 2.1 – Cross-National Comparisons: Formal Education, Economic Development, and Human Development Statistics

There is strong empirical evidence supporting the Functionalist theory of education.

Cross-national comparisons show that there is a positive correlation between formal education and economic development. Countries with higher levels of formal education have higher levels of economic development, indicating that education is essential in promoting economic growth and development.

Similarly, there is a positive correlation between education and human development statistics. Countries with higher levels of formal education have higher levels of literacy rates, access to healthcare, and social equality.

In summary, cross-national comparisons provide evidence supporting the Functionalist view of education, as higher levels of formal education are positively associated with economic development and human development statistics. Subtopic 2.2 – Correlation between Employment and Education: ONS, GCSEs, Income, Poverty, and Role Allocation

In addition to cross-national comparisons, national data provides evidence to support the Functionalist view of education.

Research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown that there is a significant correlation between education and employment. Students with better grades in GCSE exams are more likely to secure higher paid jobs and are less likely to be unemployed compared to students with lower grades.

Moreover, graduates earn more than non-graduates, and postgraduates earn the most. The income gap between graduates and non-graduates continues to widen, evidencing the importance of education in the labor market.

Furthermore, a longitudinal study by ONS has shown that there is a strong correlation between education and poverty. Students who do not achieve good grades in GCSE exams are more likely to experience long-term poverty than their higher-achieving peers.

Thus, education serves as a critical tool for enabling upward social mobility and reducing poverty in society. Overall, national data provides compelling evidence for the Functionalist view of education, supporting the idea that education is crucial for securing employment, reducing poverty, and promoting social stability.

Conclusion

This article has outlined and discussed the key principles and supporting evidence for the Functionalist view of education. The Functionalist theory posits that education is a meritocracy that promotes social stability, secondary socialization, and role allocation.

Cross-national comparisons and national data provide empirical evidence supporting the Functionalist theory of education, as there is a positive correlation between formal education and various measures of economic and human development. Thus, the Functionalist theory remains an essential perspective for understanding the role that education plays in shaping individuals and society.The Functionalist theory of education has been widely debated and criticized.

While supporters of the Functionalist theory view education as critical in promoting social stability and preparing individuals for the workforce, critics argue that it promotes social inequality, marginalization, and exclusion. This article discusses the criticisms of the Functionalist view of education, focusing on school exclusion statistics, school absenteeism statistics, Ken Robinson’s postmodern view, and Marxist and New Right perspectives.

Subtopic 3.1 – School Exclusion Statistics: Secondary Socialization and Exclusion

One of the significant criticisms of the Functionalist theory is the issue of school exclusion. Critics argue that the Functionalist theory discounts the social exclusion and marginalization that students experience in schools.

According to research, girls, students receiving free school meals (FSM), and Black-Caribbean students are more likely to be excluded from school than their peers. School exclusion has serious consequences for student attainment, and those who are excluded are more likely to leave school with lower qualifications, affecting their future career prospects and life chances.

Moreover, critics argue that school exclusion contradicts the principle of secondary socialization in the Functionalist theory. Secondary socialization is the process of learning social norms and values outside the family structure.

Excluded students are denied the opportunity to engage in secondary socialization and are thus at risk of not developing critical social and emotional skills. In summary, school exclusion statistics highlight significant issues with the Functionalist view of education, particularly regarding the promotion of social stability and the marginalization of certain groups.

Subtopic 3.2 – School Absentee Statistics: Absenteeism, Special Schools, and FSM Students

Like school exclusion, critics argue that school absenteeism contradicts the principles of the Functionalist theory. Research has shown that boys and students receiving free school meals (FSM) are more likely to be absent from school than their peers.

Absenteeism has serious implications on student attainment, as students who miss school regularly are less likely to achieve high grades and pursue further education or training opportunities. Furthermore, critics have pointed out that the Functionalist theory does not sufficiently address the issue of special schools.

Special schools cater to students with disabilities or mental health issues. Critics argue that special schools marginalize students with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities, segregating them from mainstream education and hindering their social integration.

Overall, critics argue that absenteeism and special schools counteract the principles of the Functionalist theory by promoting social inequality and exclusion. Subtopic 3.3 – Ken Robinson’s Post-Modern View: Contemporary Education System, Creativity, Standardised Testing, Collaboration, and Ritalin

Critics who subscribe to Ken Robinson’s post-modern view of education challenge the Functionalist theory by arguing for the adoption of more modern and innovative approaches to education.

Robinson criticizes the contemporary education system for its emphasis on standardised testing and narrow curriculums. He argues that the current system reduces the role of the teacher to “delivering” knowledge rather than promoting creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Robinson advocates for an education system that accommodates different learning styles, encourages creativity, fosters collaboration, and celebrates diversity. He argues that the current system often neglects the role of the arts, neglecting subjects such as music, drama, and art, which promotes creativity and an individual’s socio-emotional development.

Furthermore, Robinson critiques the use of Ritalin and other medication in schools, arguing that the current education system pathologizes natural behaviors, such as hyperactivity, rather than addressing the underlying causes. Overall, Robinson’s post-modern view challenges the Functionalist theory of education by calling for a more diverse and inclusive approach that accounts for individual differences and promotes holistic development.

Subtopic 3.4 – Marxist and New Right Views: Criticisms, Evaluation, and Perspectives

Marxist and New Right perspectives criticize the Functionalist theory of education’s reliance on meritocracy and the exclusion of marginalized students. Marxist critiques argue that the Functionalist theory only serves the ruling class and perpetuates social inequality.

Education, in the Marxist view of society, is an instrument of class control, enforcing capitalist ideologies and creating a docile workforce that accepts the status quo. New Right criticisms, on the other hand, argue for the adoption of market mechanisms, such as competition and choice, as ways of promoting individual autonomy, efficiency, and productivity.

The New Right view of education sees education as essential to the growth of the economy and the individual’s liberation, rather than social justice. Overall, Marxist and New Right perspectives offer an alternative evaluation and criticism of the Functionalist theory of education, focusing on the promotion of social inequality, class control, and market mechanisms.

Conclusion

This article has expanded on the criticisms of the Functionalist theory of education, focusing on school exclusion statistics, school absenteeism statistics, Ken Robinson’s post-modern view, and Marxist and New Right perspectives. Critics argue that school exclusion and absenteeism undermine the principles of the Functionalist theory, while Robinson’s post-modern view calls for alternative approaches to education, accommodating individual differences, fostering creativity, and promoting collaboration.

Marxist and New Right perspectives offer alternative evaluations of the Functionalist theory of education, emphasizing the promotion of social inequality, class control, and market mechanisms.

Conclusion

The Functionalist theory of education remains a significant perspective in understanding the role of education in promoting social stability, secondary socialization, and role allocation. However, it has faced a lot of criticism, with issues such as school exclusion, absenteeism, neoliberal and modern views, and critiques from Marxist and New Right perspectives.

It is crucial for policymakers, educators, and students to understand and acknowledge these criticisms and work towards creating a more inclusive education system that caters to individual needs, fosters creativity and collaboration, and promotes social justice.

FAQs

Q: What is the Functionalist theory of education? A: The Functionalist theory of education posits that education promotes social stability, secondary socialization, and role allocation.

Q: What is school exclusion, and why is it an issue? A: School exclusion is the process of removing students from school permanently, temporarily, or informally.

It is an issue because it promotes social inequality and marginalizes certain groups of students, denying them the opportunity for secondary socialization and the development of critical social and emotional skills. Q: What is school absenteeism, and why is it an issue?

A: School absenteeism is the process of missing school regularly without a legitimate reason. It is an issue because it negatively affects student attainment and future job prospects, and it promotes social inequality and marginalization.

Q: What is the modern view of education? A: The modern view of education emphasizes standardization, competition, and market mechanisms, which critics argue perpetuate social inequality and focus on economic outcomes rather than social justice.

Q: What is the Marxist perspective on education? A: The Marxist perspective on education views education as a tool for class control and capitalist ideologies, perpetuating social inequality and promoting social control.

Q: What is the New Right perspective on education? A: The New Right perspective on education focuses on market mechanisms such as competition and choice, promoting individual autonomy, efficiency, and productivity, rather than social justice.

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