Assess the Contribution of Functionalist Sociologists to Our Understandings of the Role of the Education System in Society

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Functionalists view society based on consensus. They believe that education helps to bridge the gap between family and society. They also believe in the theory of meritocracy. Other theories such as Marxism often challenges their theory. Functionalists believe education is a key component in the construction of society, they also believe that it is one of the most important institutions and plays a major role during secondary socialisation. They also believe that without education, society would not be able to continue functioning. This links to the idea of the ‘human body analogy’ which suggests that society is like a living organism, the institutions are like organs in a body and must work together in order to function. Parsons came up with the idea of role allocation. This is where young people are sifted and sorted in terms of their talents and abilities and then allocated a particular role in society. An example of this would be those with academic talents being pushed towards jobs such as doctors, nurses and lawyers. Role allocation is evident in schools through the use of setting and streaming within classes. This is where students are put into different groups/sets based on their abilities; there are usually upper band classes, middle band classes and lower band classes. The idea of role allocation also links with Davis and Moore’s idea of meritocracy. The idea suggests that someone who puts in lots of effort into education such as revising and getting homework done will be rewarded by gaining a good job. It also suggests that those who put minimal amounts of effort into their education will only receive the lowest jobs in society. There have been many criticisms made about the Functionalist view on education. People, such as Bowles and Gintis have made criticisms such as the theory assumes that all pupils start at the same level whereas, in reality,
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