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1. Discuss the sociological perspective on education.
Ans. Functional theory stresses the functions that education serves in fulfilling a society’s various needs. Perhaps the most important function of education is socialization. If children are to learn the norms, values, and skills they need to function in society, then education is a primary vehicle for such learning. Schools teach the three Rs (reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic), as we all know, but they also teach many of the society’s norms and values. In the United States, these norms and values include respect for authority, patriotism, punctuality, and competition.
A second function of education is social integration. For a society to work, functionalists say, people must subscribe to a common set of beliefs and values. As we saw, the development of such common views was a goal of the system of free, compulsory education that developed in the nineteenth century. Thousands of immigrant children in the United States today are learning English, US history, and other subjects that help prepare them for the workforce and integrate them into American life.
A third function of education is social placement. Beginning in grade school, students are identified by teachers and other school officials either as bright and motivated or as less bright and even educationally challenged. Depending on how they are identified, children are taught at the level that is thought to suit them best. In this way, they are presumably prepared for their later station in life. Whether this process works as well as it should is an important issue, and we explore it further when we discuss school tracking later in this chapter.
Social and cultural innovation is a fourth function of education. Our scientists cannot make important scientific discoveries and our artists and thinkers cannot come up with great works of art, poetry, and prose unless they have first been educated in the many subjects they need to know for their chosen path.
Education also involves several latent functions, functions that are by-products of going to school and receiving an education rather than a direct effect of the education itself. One of these is child care: Once a child starts kindergarten and then first grade, for several hours a day the child is taken care of for free. The establishment of peer relationships is another latent function of schooling. Most of us met many of our friends while we were in school at whatever grade level, and some of those friendships endure the rest of our lives. A final latent function of education is that it keeps millions of high school students out of the full-time labor force. This fact keeps the unemployment rate lower than it would be if they were in the labor force.
Because education serves so many manifest and latent functions for society, problems in schooling ultimately harm society. For education to serve its many functions, various kinds of reforms are needed to make our schools and the process of education as effective as possible.
Education and Inequality
Conflict theory does not dispute the functions just described. However, it does give some of them a different slant by emphasizing how education also perpetuates social inequality. Ballantine, J. H., & Hammack, F. M. The sociology of education: A systematic analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. One example of this process involves the function of social placement. When most schools begin tracking their students in grade school, the students thought by their teachers to be bright are placed in the faster tracks (especially in reading and arithmetic), while the slower students are placed in the slower tracks; in high school, three common tracks are the college track, vocational track, and general track.
Such tracking does have its advantages; it helps ensure that bright students learn as much as their abilities allow them, and it helps ensure that slower students are not taught over their heads. But conflict theorists say that tracking also helps perpetuate social inequality by locking students into faster and lower tracks. Worse yet, several studies show that students’ social class and race and ethnicity affect the track into which they are placed, even though their intellectual abilities and potential should be the only things that matter: White, middle-class students are more likely to be tracked “up,” while poorer students and students of color are more likely to be tracked “down.” Once they are tracked, students learn more if they are tracked up and less if they are tracked down. The latter tend to lose self-esteem and begin to think they have little academic ability and thus do worse in school because they were tracked down. In this way, tracking is thought to be good for those tracked up and bad for those tracked down. Conflict theorists thus say that tracking perpetuates social inequality based on social class and race and ethnicity. Tracking: Educational differentiation or defective strategy. Educational Research Quarterl.
Conflict theorists add that standardized tests are culturally biased and thus also help perpetuate social inequality. Grodsky, E., Warren, J. R., & Felts, E. (2008). Testing and social stratification in American education. Annual Review of Sociology. According to this criticism, these tests favor white, middle-class students whose socioeconomic status and other aspects of their backgrounds have afforded them various experiences that help them answer questions on the tests.
A third critique of conflict theory involves the quality of schools. As we will see later in this chapter, US schools differ mightily in their resources, learning conditions, and other aspects, all of which affect how much students can learn in them. Simply put, schools are unequal, and their very inequality helps perpetuate inequality in the larger society. Children going to the worst schools in urban areas face many more obstacles to their learning than those going to well-funded schools in suburban areas. Their lack of learning helps ensure they remain trapped in poverty and its related problems.
In a fourth critique, conflict theorists say that schooling teaches a hidden curriculum, by which they mean a set of values and beliefs that support the status quo, including the existing social hierarchy. Booher-Jennings, J. (2008). Learning to label: Socialisation, gender, and the hidden curriculum of high-stakes testing. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29, 149–160. Although no one plots this behind closed doors, our schoolchildren learn patriotic values and respect for authority from the books they read and from various classroom activities.
A final critique is historical and concerns the rise of free, compulsory education during the nineteenth century. Marxism and educational theory: Origins and issues. New York, NY: Routledge. Because compulsory schooling began in part to prevent immigrants’ values from corrupting “American” values, conflict theorists see its origins as smacking of ethnocentrism (the belief that one’s own group is superior to another group). They also criticize its intention to teach workers the skills they needed for the new industrial economy. Because most workers were very poor in this economy, these critics say, compulsory education served the interests of the upper/capitalist class much more than it served the interests of workers.
2. Compare functionalist and conflict approaches towards the understanding of education.
Ans. Functionalism and conflict theory are macro theories which try to explain how societies work.
Functionalism proposes that each individual contributes to the society’s overall performance and stability while conflict theory suggests that the society is in a state of perpetual conflict.
Theories of Education
Historically, American education served both political and economic needs, which dictated the function of education. Today, sociologists and educators debate the function of education. Three main theories represent their views: the functionalist theory, the conflict theory, and the symbolic interactionist theory.
The functionalist theory
The functionalist theory focuses on the ways that universal education serves the needs of society. Functionalists first see education in its manifest role: conveying basic knowledge and skills to the next generation. Durkheim (the founder of functionalist theory) identified the latent role of education as one of socializing people into society’s mainstream. This “moral education,” as he called it, helped form a more‐cohesive social structure by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds, which echoes the historical concern of “Americanizing” immigrants.
Functionalists point to other latent roles of education such as transmission of core values and social control. The core values in American education reflect those characteristics that support the political and economic systems that originally fueled education. Therefore, children in America receive rewards for following schedules, following directions, meeting deadlines, and obeying authority.
The most important value permeating the American classroom is individualism—the ideology that advocates the liberty rights, or independent action, of the individual. American students learn early, unlike their Japanese or Chinese counterparts, that society seeks out and reveres the best individual, whether that person achieves the best score on a test or the most points on the basketball court. Even collaborative activities focus on the leader, and team sports single out the one most valuable player of the year. The carefully constructed curriculum helps students develop their identities and self‐esteem. Conversely, Japanese students, in a culture that values community in place of individuality, learn to be ashamed if someone singles them out, and learn social esteem—how to bring honor to the group, rather than to themselves.
Going to school in a capitalist nation, American students also quickly learn the importance of competition, through both competitive learning games in the classroom, and through activities and athletics outside the classroom. Some kind of prize or reward usually motivates them to play, so students learn early to associate winning with possessing. Likewise, schools overtly teach patriotism, a preserver of political structure. Students must learn the Pledge of Allegiance and the stories of the nation’s heroes and exploits. The need to instill patriotic values is so great that mythology often takes over, and teachers repeat stories of George Washington’s honesty or Abraham Lincoln’s virtue even though the stories themselves (such as Washington confessing to chopping down the cherry tree) may be untrue.
Another benefit that functionalists see in education is sorting—separating students on the basis of merit. Society’s needs demand that the most capable people get channeled into the most important occupations. Schools identify the most capable students early. Those who score highest on classroom and standardized tests enter accelerated programs and college‐preparation courses. Sociologists Talcott Parsons, Kingsley Davis, and Wilbert Moore referred to this as social placement. They saw this process as a beneficial function in society.
After sorting has taken place, the next function of education, networking (making interpersonal connections), is inevitable. People in high school and college network with those in similar classes and majors. This networking may become professional or remain personal. The most significant role of education in this regard is matchmaking. Sociologists primarily interest themselves in how sorting and networking lead couples together of similar backgrounds, interests, education, and income potential. People place so much importance on this function of education that some parents limit their children’s options for college to insure that they attend schools where they can meet the “right” person to marry.
Functionalists point to the ironic dual role of education in both preserving and changing culture. Studies show that, as students progress through college and beyond, they usually become increasingly liberal as they encounter a variety of perspectives. Thus, more educated individuals are generally more liberal, while less educated people tend toward conservatism. Moreover, the heavy emphasis on research at most institutions of higher education puts them on the cutting edge of changes in knowledge, and, in many cases, changes in values as well. Therefore, while the primary role of education is to preserve and pass on knowledge and skills, education is also in the business of transforming them.
3. How does education perpetuate gender inequality in society? Discuss.
Ans. The discussion around gender inequality is steadily gaining traction, and the education realm is also starting to take note.
Gender is typically seen as binary – male and female. While individuals who identify themselves as non-binary – a term to describe genders that don’t fall into one of these two categories – are also gaining prominence, gender stereotypes continue to exist and can affect student achievement.
For instance, one study has found that female students who are taught by teachers with “traditional gender views” have lower performance in math and verbal tests. The effect is “amplified” with longer exposure to the same teacher, said researchers.
In a report by social enterprise Lifting Limits, Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching and Patron of Lifting Limits, was quoted saying: “The Early Years and Primary phases are of crucial importance developmentally and the influence of teachers and other trusted adults within school should never be underestimated.”
Meanwhile, Professor Gina Rippon, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Neuroimaging, Aston University, highlighted that gender stereotypes affect children’s views about their abilities and aptitudes to their potential achievements and probable failures.
She added that such messages are relayed to children in numerous ways, such as by the toys they’re given to play with (e.g. LEGO and tractors are “boy toys” and dolls and prams are “girl toys”) and the language used to describe approval or disapproval of their successes or failures (what a pretty girl/what a brave little boy).
Children are also soaking in gendered attitudes and expectations from their environment, such as how the school nurse is female, so all nurses must be female, or how the bus driver is a man so only men can be bus drivers, and drawing fixed conclusions about their world and their place in it.
“By the time they are about six years old, they have normally aligned themselves firmly to their own gender and made up their minds about what this means for them, what it means they can do and how they should behave. Sadly, this can also include firm beliefs about what they can’t do; six-year olds don’t think girls can be ‘really, really clever’; nine-year old girls think maths is a ‘boy thing’ and not for them,” said Professor Rippon.
Lifting Limits explained in its report that gender stereotypes limit children’s futures when they see certain careers as ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’.
“From the gender gap in attainment at the end of primary school, to the low numbers of women in engineering, from prolific sexual harassment to high levels of male suicide, gender stereotypes are bad for individuals and bad for society,” it said.
They added that gender stereotypes are unintentionally reinforced in school through the curriculum, books, language, staff assumptions and daily interactions with adults and peers, and that this happens at a crucial stage in pupils’ development.
However, primary schools can become “powerful agents of change” by adopting the right awareness and tools to recognise and correct unintentional gender bias.
Lifting Limits’ programme, which was tested in a year-long pilot study from September 2018 to July 2019 in five primary schools in the London Borough of Camden, is based on existing evidence of the need for a whole school approach to challenging gender stereotypes, involving all aspects of the school and all members of the school community.
Key aspects of the programme found to successfully drive change include: the whole school approach; the effectiveness of the staff training (Inset); assemblies; the appointment of a gender champion in school; and the breadth and quality of the programme resources. These aspects combined to introduce a ‘gender lens’ and to support schools and their staff in embedding and consolidating this awareness in their teaching, practice and interactions with children.
The results suggest Lifting Limits’ whole school approach is effective in disrupting gendered norms. Some of their recommendations include:
Conduct a larger-scale evaluated trial testing a whole school approach to challenging gender stereotypes in primary schools nationally.
Allocate funding for specialist organisations to support schools and middle tier organisations in challenging gender stereotyping and promoting gender equality.
Implement a whole school approach, covering school ethos, organisation, teaching practices and curriculum, to challenge gender stereotyping and promote gender equality, with explicit and visible support from school leadership.
4. What is multicultural education? Discuss its relevance in contemporary society.
Ans. Multicultural education is an emerging discipline that aims to provide educational opportunities to learners from diverse ethnic, cultural groups and social class. It seeks to help students acquire skills and positive attitude to negotiate, communicate and interact with individuals from diverse cultures to create a moral and civic community.
First, it holds that the public is already cultural. Its business is carried out in English, not French, not German, not Spanish; its institutions are shaped by the traditions of some groups and not others, and its educational and employment benefits are distributed unequally according to factors of ethnicity, race, and social class.
Unlike pluralists, multiculturalists do not envisage even the possibility of a culturally neutral public sphere. Their ideal of cultural fairness is not to maintain a wall of separation between culture and public, but to assure that no group dominates the public sphere in a way that serves to exclude from it the bearers of other cultural forms.
Second, whereas pluralism allows cultural identity to flourish, the multicultural ideal encourages it to do so. In other words, benign neglect is not sufficient for the multiculturalism. Nor is it adequate to exhibit cultural diversity simply to teach lessons about the inclusive and benign character of the American nation that is, as a means to multiculturalism seeks to give expression to the experiences of cultural groups, not from the point of view of some abstraction called the American nation,” but from the point of view of the members of different racial, and ethnic groups, or from the view of people with different sexual orientations.
Third, whereas freedom of association and equal opportunity are the dominant principles informing pluralism, affiliation and cultural recognition are the principles that inform multiculturalism. Multiculturalism views individuals as part of collectivities that provide meaning to their lives, and it seeks ways to support these collectivities. We also learn this fact that multicultural education is really essential in the society. Following are the points which show the importance of multicultural education in the society:
Some of these long-term benefits are as follows:
1). Multicultural education increases productivity because a variety of mental resources are available for completing the same tasks and it promotes cognitive and moral growth among all people.
2). Multicultural education increases creative problem-solving skills through the different perspectives applied to same problems to reach solutions.
3). Multicultural education increases positive relationships through achievement of common goals, respect, appreciation and commitment to equality among the intellectuals at institutions of higher education.
4). Multicultural education decreases stereotyping and prejudice through direct contact and inter actions among diverse individuals.
5). Multicultural education renews vitality of society through the richness of the different cultures of its members and fosters development of a broader and more sophisticated view of the world.
5. “Education is a tool for women’s empowerment”. Discuss.
Ans. Empowerment is an active multidimensional process which should enable women to realize their full identity and power in all spheres of life. Empowerment literally means making someone powerful, facilitating the weak to attain strength, to increase one’s self-esteem, to help someone to be assertive/self-confident, to enable someone to confront injustice and oppression and to support someone to fight for her rights. Educated women can play a pivotal role in eradicating poverty and accelerating development process. They can take active part in all the spheres of life. Educated mothers can take care of the education of their children irrespective of the boys or girls. The children in turn improve their capabilities and thereby enlarge their choices, enjoying long and healthy life, educated environment having access to the resources because of their better education qualifications. Thus peace, prosperity and stability of a family depend on the females who formulate the household budget in a manner that it builds up the healthy family environment. The family budget is oriented towards the provision of qualitative education and health facilities to the children so that they become competitive and promote cohesive social and economic development benefiting all the sections in the country. In this way the paper highlights process, indicators, levels of women empowerment, educational position of rural women, factors responsible for poor female literacy, education – a tool for empowerment and role of ICT in women’s education for empowerment.
Empowerment of women is directly linked with education. Women are the agents of change. Education is considered a key instrument for the change which is responsible for national development. It is true to the saying, “If you educate a boy you educate and individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a family, society and ultimately the nation”. The National Policy on Education 1986 states, “Education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. In order to neutralize the accumulated distortions of the past, there will be a well-conceived edge in favor of women. The National Education System will play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women. It will foster the development of new values through redesigned curricula, textbooks, training and orientation of teachers, decision makers and administrators. The year 2001 was declared as “Women’s Empowerment year” while formulating policies to think of female development with a view to alleviating inequality between male and female and to bring them at par, is women empowerment, the concept is gaining significance throughout the world. The core of the concept of empowerment is-the “idea of power” Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. Empowerment is an active and multidimensional process which enables women to realize their full identity and powers in all sphere of life. Empowerment of women is very much essential to achieve sustainable development. Education is the first step towards empowerment and the most crucial factor in over all development of the individuals as well as nation. Education is an effective instrument for social and economic development and national integration. Education enables women to understand their social and legal rights, become economically independent, acquire a voice in the affairs of the family and the community.
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