Sociological theories of education (transmission)

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Overview of Functionalism and Reproduction theories as they apply to American schools

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  • Sociologists study the structure of society and the roles people play within it. Educational psychologists are concerned with what goes on inside the minds of individual learners, while educational sociologists are interested in everything that happens outside of the minds of individual learners, including how learners interact with each other and the characteristics of the settings in which they interact. Sociologists distinguish between schooling and education. The term education broadly refers to the process of learning over the span of one’s entire life. Education begins at birth and continues in a wide variety of formal and informal settings. Schooling is the learning that takes place in formal institutions whose specific function is the socialization of specific groups within society. Schooling is another name for socialization in schools.
  • In its simplest terms that theory is a worldview, a way to organize and explain the world we live in. All human beings use theoretical thought every day. The informal explanations we use to guide our daily lives as well as the hunches we have about why things work as they do are “tacit” or lay theories. they derive from our own cultural background, academic training, life experiences, and individual personality traits. Theories are interrelated sets of assumptions, concepts, and propositions that explain observed processes or that account for causes the relationships between phenomena. Theories evolve over time because they’re affected by historical and cultural developments. Theories change because we need more workable or accurate explanations for what we believe to be true. For example, science was guided for centuries by religious and philosophical theories that the sun revolves around the earth, and so all scientific inquiry was organized to support that belief. In time, however, as data amassed demonstrating that the earth revolved around the sun, support grew for a heliocentric view of our planetary system. Social and cultural beliefs have influenced theories about education. Throughout history people have observed that individuals who have higher levels of education tend to have higher social status, and a number of theories and been developed to explain this observation. At first people believed simply that the wealthy were smarter than capable of more education. Then, belief in the value of education led them to believe that schooling would improve the human condition and help eliminate poverty, disease, and antisocial or immoral behavior. Schools, then, could make people better if not actually wealthier. This belief justified the institution of schools for the poor, compensatory education programs, and a variety of social service practices. Later developments in social theory have changed our beliefs about the role and purpose of education. Now some theorists believe that educational experiences, rather than leading to elimination of poverty and social differences, actually reinforce differences.
  • Functionalism has been the prevailing sociological theory throughout the 20 th century. Drawing on evolutionary theory in the natural sciences, functionalists argue that society operates much like the human body. Like all living organisms, all societies possess basic functions which they must carry out to survive. like living organisms, they evolve structures to carry out the functions. For example, the human body is composed of many interdependent organs, each of which carries out a vital function. Every organ must be healthy and must work together to maintain the health of the entire body. If any organ malfunctions, the entire body may die. Similarly, societies, in order to survive, develop specialized structures to carry out vital functions.
  • reproduce themselves, recruit or produce new members, distribute his services, and allocate power.
  • reproduce themselves, recruit or produce new members, distribute his services, and allocate power.
  • Sociological theories of education (transmission)

    1. 1. Sociological Analysis of Education Theories of Schooling
    2. 2. A Sociological Perspective <ul><li>Sociology is concerned with the structure of society and the roles people play </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology vs. Sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Schooling vs. Education </li></ul>
    3. 3. Theoretical Frameworks <ul><li>Theories are ways of organizing and explaining the world in which we live </li></ul><ul><li>Informal “tacit” theories vs. formal theories </li></ul><ul><li>Educational theories change over time and (cultural) space. </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Explanatory Function of Theory <ul><li>What theories would you use to explain the following questions? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why are some students more successful in school than others? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why is teaching frequently not respected as a profession? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why is the public dissatisfied with school in general, but satisfied with their own children’s education? </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Theories of Schooling <ul><li>Functionalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Functionalism is a theory of social transmission </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Functionalists draw on Evolution in the natural sciences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Living organisms (societies) fulfill basic functions to survive </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>They develop specialized structures to carry out those functions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The overall health of the organism (society) depends upon the health of each structure </li></ul></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Theories of Schooling <ul><li>Functionalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social structures (institutions) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Family </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Government </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Religion </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Economic system </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Functions or purposes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reproduction (recruit or produce new members) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Distribute goods and services </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Allocate power </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Transmit rules, customs, appropriate behaviors </li></ul></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Theories of Schooling <ul><li>Functionalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Transmission is probably the most important function of social institutions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Family </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Religion </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Schools </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Functionalists claim that if one socializing institution is not fulfilling its function, another will take over that role to retain equilibrium </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Functionalism & Purposes of Schooling <ul><li>Intellectual Purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acquisition of cognitive skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acquisition of knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acquisition of inquiry skills </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Political Purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate future citizens </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote patriotism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote assimilation of immigrants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Insure order, public civility and conformity to laws </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Functionalism & Purposes of Schooling <ul><li>Economic Purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepare students for later work roles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Select and train the labor force needed by society </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social Purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote a sense of social and moral responsibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serve as a site for the solution or resolution of social problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supplement the efforts of other institutions of socialization such as the family and the church </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Conflict Theory <ul><li>A response to Functionalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Too static </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doesn’t account for struggles/clashes among various social groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accepts inequalities (social/economic/political) as “normal” </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Conflict Theory <ul><li>Conflict theorists accept the Functionalist descriptions of how society works, but disagree with the Functionalist emphasis on equilibrium </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social systems are dynamic </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There are tensions (conflicts) between interest groups </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Whose interests are being served? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Reproduction <ul><li>Elites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whose interests are being served? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Powerful groups who control our economic and political systems </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Max Weber </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>C. Wright Mills </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Power Elite </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Reproduction <ul><li>Manufacturing Consent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Powerful elites manipulate public opinion to preserve their entrenched position. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because elites have superior resources and because they control the means of communication, they can maintain social inequities. </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Reproduction Theory <ul><li>Economic reproduction (Neo-Marxist) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutional “superstructures” reproduce the underlying means of production. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rather than promoting democracy, social mobility and equality, schools reproduce the ideology of the dominant groups in society </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Schools are structured like factories and are organized like bureaucracies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Through tracking and testing, students are sorted into class/gender/ based work roles </li></ul></ul></ul>
    15. 15. How Does Reproduction Happen? <ul><li>Structurally </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Differentiation is the organizing principle of schools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Space </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Time </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Roles </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tasks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rewards </li></ul></ul></ul>
    16. 16. How Does Reproduction Happen? <ul><li>Control of knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explicit Curriculum- some knowledge is “legitimate” some is not. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Hidden” Curriculum- “appropriate” values, beliefs and behaviors. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Raise your hand </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No “put downs” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t question authority </li></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Cultural/Social Reproduction <ul><li>Pierre Bourdieu </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Habitus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Each individual occupies a position in a social space or “ Habitus ” characterized by habits, beliefs, mannerisms, linguistic styles. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural Capital </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>These habits, beliefs, mannerisms, languages have value “cultural capital” in some cultural settings, but may not in others. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    18. 21. Theories of Transmission & Transformation Both Macro & Micro Macro Level Macro Level Goal is emancipation & empowerment Goal is to unmask sources of oppression Goal is to understand roles and reach consensus Actions are dictated by role expectations & personal qualities Conflict and change are normal/contribute to a system’s health Equilibrium is normal; disorder/conflict is pathological Meaning is constructed through social interaction. Power tends to define social institutions Economics and culture determine the organization of the rest of society Each social system, through its structures and institutions, must carry out certain functions to survive Transformation Theory (Critical Pedagogy) Transmission Theory (Critical/Cultural Reproduction) Transmission Theory (Functionalism)

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