A Comparison of Marxist and Functionalist Understanding of the Role of Education in Society

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A Comparison of Marxist and Functionalist Understanding of the Role of Education in Society

Functionalist theories assume the different parts of a society each have their own role to play (their own "function"), and work together smoothly in order to form a harmonious whole (macro). The metaphor often used to describe functionalism is that it views society as a body, with the different socialisation agents —government, media, religion, the family, etc., and, of course, education—being like the different organs in a body, each contributing in a different way to keeping the entire body healthy.

Functionalism assumes that the various institutions of a society always operate so as to support that
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And education legitimates class inequalities by producing ideologies hat disguise its true cause. The function of ideology is to persuade workers to accept that inequality is inevitable and that they deserve their subordinate position in society. If they accept these ideas, they are less likely to challenge or threaten capitalism.

Initially the functionalism view on education started with Emile Durkhiem who argued that society needs a sense of solidarity; that is, its individual members must feel themselves to be apart of a single ‘body’ or community. He argues that without social solidarity, social life and cooperation would be impossible because of each individual would persuade their own selfish desires.

The education system helps to create social solidarity by transmitting society’s culture- its value consensus (shared norms, beliefs and values) from one generation to the next. For example, Durkhiem argues that the teaching of a country’s history and citizenship classes instils in children a sense of a shared heritage and a commitment to the wider social group. He also argues that education teaches individuals the specialist knowledge and skills that they need to play their part in the social division of labour.

Parsons drew his ideas from Durkhiem’s. Parsons
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