Monday, September 21, 2009

Theories of Schooling and Society

Reading through Chapter 2 from Sociology of Education (Barakett & Cleghorn, 2008) is a little overwhelming! It is important nonetheless. It was really interesting to read through the different theories regarding education and society and try to figure out which I most agree with. As with most theories, there are good and bad aspects of all of the theories mentioned. As we discussed in class, and as in mentioned in this chapter, sociology goes through various stages. According to Barakett and Cleghorn, “is it important to keep in mind that the process of explaining the relationship between school and society is not static – it is ever changing” (p. 31). Thus, it is pretty much a given that we find flaws in these theories. Not only are there biases in every theory, but they are also dependent on the context of which they were first theorized.

Because of the amount of information on these theories, I chose only a few to comment on.

Functionalist Theories (1950-60)

Basically, according to functionalist view, “the role of the school was to teach the necessary skills and norms for the individual to participate in society by sorting, selecting, and training people for jobs at each level” (p. 35). This would maintain the stability of social order. From the section on functionalist theory, we can see that this view indicates that in order to motivate individuals to strive be the most educated we must offer greater opportunities and “crucial positions” to those that have mastered the system and achieved higher levels of education. Although I feel that being well educated is very important in society, I find it funny that this theory states that crucial and important positions in the work force require high levels of education. When we look around our society, there are many important positions that do not require formal education. Also, as we discussed, just because you are highly educated, it does not mean that you are best suited for a particular job. In addition, higher social status cannot always be achieved with higher education. As it is critiqued in the text, this theory is static.

Conflict Theories (1970)

From this point of view, the school system is seen as an authority and means of social control. School teaches a “status culture” in which it is argued that the lifestyle of the dominant culture is deemed desirable (Barakett and Cleghorn, p. 37). Those students who are compatible with the standards presented by the dominant culture are rewarded. This theory questions how the education process contributes to equality and inequality. I feel that this theory has some truth to it. We are often shown how school books and some exams are geared towards the dominant culture. However, because these biases are being identified, I feel that the theory is not entirely true any longer. We are definitely moving towards more equality in education – from my perspective anyway.

Feminist Theories (1970s)

The feminist perspective on the relationship between society and education has often been excluded from theories prior. Gendered dimensions became a concern in the classroom and the feminist theories looked at domination and exclusion in the classroom (p. 53). Criticisms of the patriarchal ideology are often addressed from this perspective. Similarly to the changing trends regarding the dominant culture, is it still important to look at gender biases apparent in schooling. I feel that gender differences often still become apparent when considering the skills and career choices of different genders. As mentioned, hopefully we are moving towards gender equality as well.

Barakett, J. & Cleghorn, A. (2008) Sociology of Education: an Introductory View from Canada. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada. pp. 31-56

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