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Functionalism and Marxism views on Education

Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist perspectives on the main functions of education. Marxism and Functionalism are two major philosophical perspectives founded by influential individuals, who sort to put forward their political views in both communism and capitalism. First, Education can be described as a system by which society continually passes on the knowledge it has gained from generation to generation. Perspective can then be defined as a mental view or outlook. This then leads us to the two major perspectives of education that will be discussed extensively in this paper that is the Functionalist and Marxist view. Functionalist is derived from the theory Functionalism which means a doctrine stressing purpose, utility and practicality. The functionalist is the adherent of Functionalism. Whilst, Marxist is the adherent of Marxism doctrines which emphasizes the political and economical philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role. It helps us to understand society's allegedly inevitable development from conventional oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society. The Functionalist and Marxist perspectives are applicable to most societies. Take for instance, Marxism is reflected in the Cuban society, which can be classified as a communist country while, Functionalism is reflected in the Jamaican society which is a known capitalist state. Therefore, the topic of governance will dictate how the entire society is managed. Our main objective however is to examine the education process with regards to the varying perspectives that are held by both parties. The two perspectives are known to share some similarities when it comes to education. One such view is that they both are macro perspectives, which means that they look at the


Both look at the overall structure of the society. However. They look at the major organizations within a country such as the family. the economy. These are the attributes which eventually dictates the social class one belongs to. 9 .Functionalism and Marxism views on Education society as a whole rather than the individual person. the same goes for the functionalist views of the society. the two theories differ greatly in their opinion on the purpose of these structures. the educational and political system and how they all function together as a whole to form a complete structure. Functionalism views the system of social structures as entities that work together for the benefit of all. while Marxism believes the system of social structures are in place but vary in their benefits depending on the wealth and power of the people involved. and argue that education prepares pupils for their position or role in an unequal society. Basically the macro perspective deals with an overall model of society. structure of race and ethnicity and an individual’s income structure. For instance the functionalist sees the populace as a whole and is frequently referred to as a consensus theory which does not deal with the issues of conflict within the society. Social structure can then be defined as a social hierarchy in which some members of a group are established as superior to that of others or as facets of an organization within the society which focuses on one demographic structure. Both theories explain social class differences in education by the role or function which education plays in society and class differences. Both theories also view society as a system of social structures and both agree that these social structures exist within a society. which is made up of different individuals and groups struggling with each other in order to obtain scarce and valued resources. On the other hand the Marxist theorists view society as a whole. Every organs need to work together for the body to survive. A frequently used comparison of this type of society is to that of a functional body structure. urban-rural structure.

while the poorer class will just have to accept whatever is thrown to them. this includes: 10 The transmission of cultural values Social control Economic training Social selection Functionalists such as Davis and Moore suggest that an important function of education is to allocate people to occupations which best suit their abilities. They are of the view that there are four main functions of education. the capitalist and the communist theorists believe that people need the basic necessities such as food. This implies a non conflict view of society. The need for social institutions is shared by both theorists but Marxism states that different social groups will experience these organizations in different ways. clothing and shelter to survive. They are the view that education contributes significantly to the operation industrial and economic growth.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education Both theories also share the view that the education system socializes citizens formally and informally. Take for instance the functionalist division of labor. This is basically saying that the richer society will have more privileges and will be exposed to the best services available to them. they are of the view that education provides society with a . Functionalists view education in terms of the “functions” it performs in society. One thing is for certain. The differences among both perspectives far outweighed the similarities. They also share the view that people need to socialize their children to accept the dominant valves and norms in order for the country to function properly.

It is through rules. It therefore means that the society in which we live tries to present the education system in a manner which seems fair and benefits all people. they will continue to be a member of that class despite their performances in school while children of the lower class must work hard and be determined and have some luck in breaking the barrier that stifles their growth and development. however the founding principles upon which this theory is built provides a better opportunity for the aristocrats.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education division of labor which means that schools help in the process of identifying who will best be suited as a doctor or a garbage collector. Take for instance. routines streaming and selection that working class children learn their “place” in society and are conditioned to accept failure. Weber (1961) spoke of the “tyranny of educational credentials” as a prerequisite for high status positions. persons who are born to parents of the upper classes. 11 . Therefore the son of a wealthy businessman will eventually walk in his father’s footsteps not because he is brilliant in most cases but because of his family history and status in society. On the other hand Marxist states that education is ideological and is seen as part of the apparatus that legitimizes and reproduces society’s inequalities and divisions. These two groups are known as the bosses and the workers. While children of the lower classes tend to have low expectations which make it easier for them to accept defeat. It must however be noted that both the talented and the least talented end up in useful jobs that contribute to the smooth running of society. They also stresses that education helps to meet the needs of the society by dividing it into distinct social classes. The use of the examination system is to test and sort citizens in such a way that the society will make the best use of its available talents within each individual. It was Althusser who argued that working class children never come into contact with ways of thinking that will challenge their status quo.

It was Bowles and Gintis who argued that this curriculum teaches submission. Marxist holds the view that the hidden curriculum in particular is designed by the capitalist to socialize young people into accepting the roles assigned to them by the ruling class. Socialization helps to move children away from the particularistic values of their home lives and into the universalistic values of society. Some of this information is consequently conveyed through the hidden curriculum. A lot of attention is also given to the area of discipline therefore students tend to make a lot of effort to please the teachers and will remain quiet rather than on creative thought and academic growth. serving as an informal 12 . All this eventually results in the customary obedience to authority in the broader social context. For example: children are not expected to speak until the teacher calls on them and their activities are regulated according to the bell or the clock which dictates when a break should be taken or when school begins and ends. unorganized.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education From the Functionalist perspective education helps to socialize children with society’s shared norms and values. Take for instance. informal consequences of the educational process. The majority of teachers in the education system unconsciously deliver the hidden curriculum. This curriculum basically helps to integrate future citizens into the society by teaching and reinforcing the norms and values of the social order in the bid to establish and maintain a value consensus. and to accept that the society in which we live is unequal and exploitative. students experience latent functions in the education system. On the other hand. schools keep children off the streets until they can be absorbed into productive roles in society. deference and respect for the established organization of work. This basically speaks of unintended. Ballantine and Roberts in 2007 went on to say: Apart from the planned and formal curriculum.

They went on to say that inequality is based on one’s position in the social system. dating. They further said that the ruling class benefits from an education system which meets their needs by limiting the opportunities of the working classes and thereby legitimizes social class inequalities. The Functionalist speaks of meritocracy however Marxist speaks of social restrictions. slang. therefore if you fail it is nobody’s fault by yours.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education “babysitter” function. not merit. helps them to begin the move toward independence and provides experiences in large. They are of the view that the education system is a level playing field. Education also weakens parental control over youth. Their point of view is that meritocracy is a fairy tale. this is termed as meritocracy. The oppositions (Communist) decline to accept this theory as being realistic. This is basically saying that if an individual make the effort to succeed he or she will be rewarded. impersonal secondary groups. 13 . Schools also provide young people with a place to congregate. which in turn fosters a “youth culture” of music. dances. This is a process which legitimizes social inequalities since they believe that everyone has the opportunity to get qualifications. and sometimes gangs. and that schooling privileges some children and disadvantages others. with each child able to achieve to the highest level of his or her own ability. Max Weber (1958 and 1961) and Marx (1971) challenged the functionalist assumptions that schools are ideologically and politically neutral and that schools operate based upon meritocracy. fashion. The Capitalist are of the view that education helps to provide the means for people to make themselves upwardly mobile.

It was further stated that the structure and the processes within the educational institution remains stable only if the basic functions are met. In concluding Functionalism is viewed as a non conflict perspective while Marxism is seen as conflicted. They are both structuralized in their approach. Basically they are of the view that it gives working class children a second class education and an unrealistic expectation for the future.E.A pursuing a vocational course. Vocational schemes are interpreted as helping to legitimize class division because they promote the idea that the middle class receive education whereas the working class receives training. This is indeed true because you will never see a child from the ruling class in and institution such as H. the interruption in any one aspect of the whole will lead to problems in the overall operation of the system. however Marxist see vocational education as a bad thing.T. Marxist however looks at the society as being made up of 14 . Bearing all this in mind.R. only a few working class children will be exposes to a number of foreign languages and get the grand opportunity to study at elite universities such as Oxford and Harvard. vocational courses came into being with the hope of providing uneducated persons with a skill in order to provide for themselves and their families.T Trust N. It was also a way to get working class people to branch out into varying fields which would meet the requirements of the job markets or employers. The Functionalists saw this type of education as a good thing and states that it provides the skills needed by employers. The functionalist considers their approach to education to be a cohesive whole. which is the first organization most of us attend outside the home. Statistics speaks for itself.A. The theories also pay little attention to the interaction between teachers and pupils or how teachers and pupils interpret what is going on in school environment. paying attention to social institutions and structures that are placed over individuals.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education Take for instance.

At the end of it all both perspectives hold firm to the view that education is a positive thing in the growth and development of any country.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education different infrastructures which should be operated in the best interest of everyone within the society. 15 .

Ballantine. Spade Schools and society: a sociological approach to education.blogspot. Joan Z.html Text Book Caribbean Sociology By Jeanne H.%20the%20Hidden% .htm http://understandingsociety.Functionalism and Marxism views on Education 16 References Internet Sources http:///Perspectives%20on%20Education%20%20Marxist%20perspectives. Retrieved on November 14. 2011