Parsons argued that schools act as a bridge between the family and a wide society within the role of education being to promote universal values such as achievement, individuation, competition and equal opportunities. While the family induces primary socialisation, education induces secondary education. In modern day industrial values, we are judged based on achieved status and universalistic values. Education is the cornerstone of these values. We are judged in terms of what we achieve and schools prepare us for this.
Many sociologists have studied the role of education and argued that the education helps its members in ways such as language and academic skills. Emile Durkheim the founder of functionalist sociology identified two main functions of education. These were the role of social solidarity and how schools teach specialist skills. Firstly Durkheim argued the role of social solidarity this is that the individual members must feel themselves part of a single body or community. He argues that without social solidarity, social life would be impossible as everyone would pursue their own selfish desires and not work together to get what they want out of life.
He believed that all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning. Education was not only a place to gain content knowledge, but was a place to learn how to live. Schools shouldn’t just be a place to learn a pre-determined set of skills but rather to realize one’s full potential and their ability to use these skills. He said, “An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory, simply because it is only in the experience that any theory has vital and verifiable significance.” In Dewey’s opinion the role of teachers are social servants. They are there to assist children on how to act appropriately on ideas they form themselves.
Education is in the middle of the bridge. Education is an agency of secondary socialisation, it teaches us the norms and values within wider society and it also teaches us the skills we need for future occupational roles as well as providing us with qualifications. Functionalists argue that society is an organic analogy, meaning that society works like a human body and that everything is in consensus with each other. For example, the human organs work together to achieve consensus, just like society does with citizens, authority, norms, values etc. Durkheim argues that there are two main functions of education, these are social solidarity and specialised skills.
Parsons used the metaphor of education as a ‘bridge’ to work based on meritocratic principles. The education system takes children away from intimate relationships with family and puts them into a social institution where they are expected to follow instructions from an authority figure socializing them into obeying authority. School children also have a strict timetable which they must adhere to, this emphasis on punctuality and organization will prepare them for working life. Davis and Moore said that the education system was there for ‘sifting and sorting’ so that the best jobs go to the hardest working, more intelligent people. They argued that the education is meritocratic and is there to soft sort and select individuals on the basis of ability, motivation, talent and allocates them appropriate roles when they reach adulthood.
According to Durkheim, one of the main functions of education is to develop these similarities to bind members of society together. Durkheim sees a common history as vital for uniting members of society. With a shared history, people feel part of a wider social group – it is their country, made up of people like themselves. In this way, education contributes to the development of social solidarity. Industrial society has a specialised division of labour – people have specialised jobs with specific skill and knowledge requirements.
'Assess the view that the education system serves to maintain consensus in society?' Functionalists believe in a consensus. A consensus in society is the idea that everyone shares the same norms and values. Functionalists believe that maintaining the shared norms and values is the job of education. Education acts as a bridge between primary socialisation and secondary socialisation, therefore teaching us to adopt the same norms and values and socialising young people into the basic values of society.
This is what King seeks to explain to the reader in his essay. King believes that both education and knowledge are important; however the procedure is integrated it into their lives makes a difference. Education must teach students the means of right and wrong as well as be able to distinguish between propaganda and reality. King warns us an individual with critical thinking and knowledge is not enough. Without morals and personality, the individual won’t have a purpose in life.
A quote from The ASCD Committee on “Platform of Beliefs” describes how “the main purpose of the American school is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society.” Education is meant to compose well-rounded, creative human beings that are able to think for themselves, who also possess the essential skills to exist in this competitive world we inhabit. Young students should be introduced to not only a wide range of knowledge that will allegedly nurture their minds, but also be able to familiarize with the basic moral principles of existing as a human being. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his article “The Purpose of Education”. Martin Luther King Jr. is saying that with intelligence must come one's formulation of good
However, other perspectives (such as Marxism and the New Right) would have different-not necessarily opposing- views. To begin with, one view on the role of education is that it acts as a ‘bridge between the family and wider society’ which is shown in Item A. This is because Education helps ease transitions between family life and society. For example, Talcott Parsons argues that this is the case because in the family there are particularistic standards, which means the child is judged on standards that apply only to them. On top of this, the child’s status within the family is ascribed because it’s what they’re born in to.