Education and sociology

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  • 1. Education and Sociology: Interactionalism Versus Functionalism A Brief Look at Two Well-Known Sociological Perspectives Used to Evaluate Schools Interactionists and functionalists view schools in two very different ways. While the interactionist is primarily concerned with relations and transactions in the school house, the functionalist is curious about the relation between the school itself and the rest of society. Does it incorporate and educate all members of society, or is it selective in doing so? Which functions should a school carry out, and which means does a school use to accomplish its educational mission? The interactionist is essentially concerned about the daily grind of the student, as well as the types of transactions that occur between the student and his or her teacher, peer, and other figures that are involved with the student. In doing so, the interactionist-minded sociologist generally disregards some more basic physical factors, such as whether the school is urban or rural, a large educational complex or a one-room shack, or if the school has a highly bureaucratic system or not. Rather, the interactionist would be more concerned with the transactions that occur between the student and others. Perhaps a prime concern to the interactionist would be the roles that people play in the students' education, the efficacy of the student's education, and the quality of the child's academic experience. Such interactionist questions would be "does the teacher carry out his or her role as a teacher effectively?" "Are the students receptive to the lessons they are taught?" Are the parents involved in their children's educational affairs?" "To which degree do the parents actively contribute to their children's schooling?" "Do the students get along with each other?" A Brief Look at Two Well-Known Sociological Perspectives Used to Evaluate Schools Functionalists tend to look at a school from the perspective that regards a school's feasibility to cope with society and all of the requirements society places upon the school to produce educated and capable adults. A functionalist wants to find out how a school correlates with other social institutions, has a desire to figure out how well the school can actually teach its students, and aims to determine how inclusive the school is in representing the local population in its student body and faculty. The functionalist is also interested in discovering how much flexibility the school has in being able to impart certain culturally 1
  • 2. based teachings into its curriculum and, if so, how certain cultural values and norms are integrated in the educational curriculum and overall educational philosophy. Though the consideration of all these functionalist topics are always a concern in most parts of the world, they are of particular use in locales such as the Middle East, where religious fundamentalism and anti-Western sentiment are often major components of some of this region's academic curriculum. Both the interactionist and functionalist perspectives work hand-in-hand when evaluating the role of education in children's lives and also within society. Along with other sociological perspectives that are often employed when analyzing the role of schools in society, it is important to understand how sociologists use interactionalism and functionalism in understanding the greater role of education so that society can continue to better understand how it is that academic institutions work within our communities. Furthermore, with an increased awareness of how educational systems work (or do not work) within society, we can continue to make the proper adjustments to our schools necessary so as to provide the best possible education to our children. Resource: Kornblum, William. Sociology in a Changing World. 6th ed. Belmont: Thompson, 2003. Chapter 2 Using Social Theories: How Can They Help Us Study Sports in Society? Theoretical Perspectives  What factors contribute to the popularity of certain sports?  What motivates individuals in their adherence to sport?  In what ways are sport opportunities influenced by race, gender, ethnicity, and Ses?  How is sport controlled within various social institutions? Social Theories  Theories are based on questions about why the world is the way it is, and on ideas about how it might be different  Theories involve a combination of  Description  Reflection  Analysis  Theories have practical implication because they help us make choices Five Major Social Theories Are Used to Study Sports in Society 2
  • 3.  Functionalist theory  Conflict theory  Interactionist theory  Critical theories  Feminist theories Functionalist Theory  Society is an organized system of interrelated parts  Sports are studied in terms of their contributions to the system  Research focuses on sport participation and positive outcomes for individuals and society Functionalist Theory (cont.)  Many people like it because it assumes that shared values and agreement are the basis for social order  Those with power and influence often prefer it because it emphasizes stability and equilibrium in society  Everyday discussions and media coverage often are based on assumptions used in functionalist theory Using Functionalist Theory to take social action  Promote the development and growth of organized sports  Increase sport participation opportunities to foster individual development  Increase the supervision and control of athletes  Mandate coaching education programs  Highlight success in elite programs Weaknesses of Functionalist Theory  Overstates the positive consequences of sport in society  Assumes that all social groups benefit equally from sports  Does not recognize that sports are social constructions that privilege or disadvantage some people more than others Conflict Theory  Society is a system of structures & relationships shaped by economic forces  Sports are studied in terms of how they promote economic exploitation and capitalist expansion  Research focuses on how sports perpetuate the power and privilege of elite groups in society Conflict Theory (cont.) 3
  • 4.  Those with power and influence dislike it because it emphasizes change and a redistribution of economic resources  Many people dislike it because it identifies problems in society  Seldom used in everyday conversations because it portrays sport as an opiate that deadens awareness of social issues Using Conflict Theory to take social action  Focus on class inequality and how it might be minimized or eliminated in and through sports  Develop awareness of how athletes and spectators are used for the profit and personal gain of the economic elite  More emphasis on play and less on commercial spectator sports Weaknesses of Conflict Theory  Assumes that all social life is “economically determined”  Ignores the importance of gender, race & ethnicity, age, & other factors in social life  Ignores the possibility that sport participation can be a personally and socially empowering experience Interactionist Theory  Society is created and maintained through social interaction  Sports are studied in terms of how they are created and given meaning by people  Research focuses on how people experience sports and how identities are related to sport participation and sport cultures Interactionist Theory (cont.)  Those who use it often employ “interpretive research methods” to study  Social processes associated with becoming involved, staying involved, and changing involvement in sports  How people develop and maintain identities as athletes  How people give meaning to sports  The characteristics of sport subcultures Using Interactionist Theory to Take Social Action  Change sports to match the perspectives and identities of those who play them  Make sport organizations more democratic, less autocratic, and less hierarchically organized  Question identity formation processes that involve the normalization of pain, injury, & substance use in sports Weaknesses of Interactionist Theory 4
  • 5.  Does not explain how meaning, identity, and interaction are connected with social structures and materials conditions in society  Ignores issues of power and power relations in society and how they impact sport, sport participation, and sport experiences Critical Theories  Society involves cultural production, power relations, & ideological struggles  Sports are social constructions that change as power relations change and as narratives and discourses change  Research focuses the meaning and organizations of sports, and on sports as sites for cultural transformation Critical Theories (cont.)  Those who use them assume that sports are more than reflections of society, and they study  Struggles over the organization & meaning of sports  The narratives and images people use to construct and give meaning to sports  Whose voices and perspectives are used in narratives about sports in society  How dominant narratives, images, and power relations can be disrupted to promote progressive changes SPORTS are more than reflections of society  Sports consist of sets of relationships that are produced by people in society.  Sports are the creations of people interacting with one another.  Sports are the “social stuff” out of which society and culture come to be what they are. Using Critical Theories to Take Social Action  Use sports to challenge and transform exploitive and oppressive practices  Increase the number and diversity of sport participation opportunities  Challenge the ideological implications of the stories told about sports in a culture  Challenge the voices and perspectives of those with power in sports and society Weaknesses of Critical Theories  No clear guidelines for identifying and assessing forms of resistance and strategies for producing transformation  No unified strategies for dealing with social problems, conflicts, and injustice Feminist Theories  Society life is pervasively gendered  Sports are gendered activities grounded primarily in the values and experiences of men with power and influence  Research focuses how sports reproduce gendered ideas and practices related to physicality, sexuality, and the body 5
  • 6. Feminist Theories (cont.)  Those who use them study  How sports are involved in the production of ideas about masculinity and femininity  How women are represented in media coverage of sports  Strategies used by women to resist or challenge dominant gender ideology  The gendered dimensions of sports and sport organizations Using Feminist Theories to Take Social Action  Challenge aspects of sports that systematically privilege men over women  Expose and transform oppressive forms of sexism and homophobia in sports  Use sports as sites to empower women and promote the notion of partnership and competition with others Weaknesses of Feminist Theories  Lack clear guidelines for assessing forms of resistance and the value of ideas and actions in producing social transformation  Have not given enough attention to connections between gender and other categories of experience WHAT THEORIES ARE BEST?  Theories are tools that help us ask questions, collect and analyze information, and interpret the implications of the analyses.  Our choice of theories is influenced by our goals and political agendas.  The best theories are those that help us find ways to make the world more democratic and humane. (Right?) Theories of Schooling and Society Conflict and Neo-Marxist Theory The idea that there are have’s and have not’s and education is a vehicle for the have’s to continue having. e.g. Pierre Bourdieu (1977) maintained language in texts used in schools reflect the interests, values and tastes of the dominant power groups helping those students to be placed in higher educational streams with more demanding curriculum Theories of Schooling and Society Functionalist Theories Education is a part in the system with functional processes that help to maintain social order. The system attempts to stay in equilibrium and thus a change in one institution could create changes in others. Symbolic Interactionist and Interpretive Theories 6
  • 7. • Links social structural realities , such as wealth, power, and status position, with patterns of interaction and education is related to social inequality. e.g. Caroline Persell (1977) drawing on Marx and Weber says there is a dominant ideology that is carried through by the teachers to the students. Teacher expectations of students have been learned in teacher-training school. Symbolic Interactionist Perspective Study the face to face interactions inside the classroom. Found that expectations of teachers has profound consequences for their students. Students performance was affected by: • Teachers middle class background • Teachers expectations which comes from signals that they are “good students”. The teachers pick up those signals and reward them with better grades. The signals include • Eagerness to cooperate and accept what the teacher says combined with • Greater effort and interest Critical Theory in Education Critical theorists purport a dialectical view that permits us to see both the domination and liberation aspects of schooling. They exhort knowledge must be used as a practical tool for change. e.g. Teachers recognize that some students are at a disadvantage in the classroom because their values and beliefs are not congruent with that of the school. They would like to change the curriculum to meet the needs of the students, but Ministry of Education controls the curriculum. Feminist Theory • Examines gender bias in curricular materials and stereotyping of girls. 4 types: Liberal Feminism: Attempts to eliminate sexism practices such as distortions in textbooks and differential career counseling for girls and boys Feminist theory cont’d Socialist feminism: Place inequities between men and women in the patriarchal ideology that exists through the capitalist production, division of labour etc. Education helps to maintain the gender-based division of labour at work and in the home. Feminist theory continued Radical Feminism: Points out that systematic devaluation and oppression of women is embedded within all forms of social organization and is due to the inherent values of patriarchy in society. Postmodern Feminism: Call into question the privileged position of male theorists. 7