Functionalism is a sociological theory society has certain basic needs the most important of which is social order. Without order society would fall apart. Functionalist Emile Durkheim argues that social solidarity and social unity is essential for the survival of society. Social solidarity is based on ‘essential similarities’ between members of society. According to Durkheim, one of the main functions of education is to develop these similarities to bind members of society together.
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.
Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and households Functionalists believe that society is held together by social consensus; shared norms and values into which society socialises its members, in order to achieve what is best for society as a whole. The functionalist theory views the family as a social institution that performs certain essential functions for the benefit of the society (not the individual). The family is the backbone of society and if it fails to carry out the functions and pass on certain values and attitudes to its members, the family is labelled as dysfunctional and society is affected as a result. Thus, functionalists argue that the family is vital to society, helping to maintain order and stability. George Murdock (1949), a well-known functionalist, argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members.
Assess the view that the function of the education system is to select and prepare individuals for their future work roles. Both Marxists and Functionalists agree that education is an institution of socialization to prepare individuals for future work roles, however they both have very different views on the extent to how well it works. This essay will explore those ideas. Functionalists say education is like training for working life, it is based on universalistic standards that will prepare children for their future by channeling norms and values to them through schooling. Parsons used the metaphor of education as a ‘bridge’ to work based on meritocratic principles.
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.
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.
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. If education teaches a consensus then it teaches all the values and mannerisms that haven’t been learnt at home, for the wider world. This helps the transmission from one to the other. A criticism of this theory is that this theory could appear to be an ‘over-socialised view’ on society and the education system. It also implies that all students will agree and comply with the norms and values when that is not the case, the transmission of norms and values may not always be successful some pupils will openly reject them.
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.
Item 2B “For functionalist sociologists, the family is an important institution in society. They see the family as having a number of roles essential to the smooth running of society. For example, the family is seen as key to socialising children into the norms and values of society. Other sociologists argue that the functionalist view is too uncritical and ignores the conflict that takes place within the family.” For functionalist sociologists the family is an important institution in the modern day society. Functionalists like Murdock, Parsons and Fletcher see the family as having a number of essential roles to give a ‘smooth running society.’ George Murdock, a functionalist, looked at 250 societies in the US.
These include a stable satisfaction of the sex drive, which help prevent a sexual ‘free-for-all’. Secondly, Murdock claimed another function was the reproduction of the next generation. Thirdly, the family socializes the young into society’s shared norms and values, and finally it meets it’s members’ economic needs, such as food and shelter. The concept of Murdock’s four essential functions are described in Item 2B concerning the “socializing children into the norms and values of society” function. It can be argued that without the family, there would be no form of primary socialization, which takes place largely within the family where the child learns key things such as language, basic skills and norms.