Functionalismviews the educational system through the ways that it serves the needs ofsociety. Functionalists first see education in its main, or manifest role:teaching basic knowledge and skills to the next generation. Emile Durkheim, thefounder of functionalist theory, identified the secondary, or latent, role ofeducation as one of socializing people into society’s mainstream. This helpedform a more cooperative and diverse social structure by bringing togetherpeople from several backgrounds, which echoes the historical concern of”Americanizing” immigrants.Functionalistspoint to other latent roles of education such as transmission of core valuesand social control. Children in the American school system receive rewards forfollowing schedules, following directions, meeting deadlines, and obeyingauthority. On the other hand, they also receive punishment for not followingthe rules on behavior, assignments, and other activities in the schoolenvironment.
Thus, children learn their (literal) functions, norms, andbehavior in society through the educational community. Anotherlatent role of education that is not wanted, but very present, is the issue ofbullying. Throughout all of the schools in America, varying in culture, class,gender, and other factors that differ one school from the next, bullying doestake place.
Along with physical and emotional that can take place at theschool, cyber bullying also is apparent among the students’ internet community.ConflictPerspective sees the purpose of education as maintainingsocial inequality and preserving the power of those who dominate society. Bothfunctionalists and conflict theorists agree that the educational systempractices sorting, (separation of the advanced and basic students) but theydisagree about how it enacts that sorting. Functionalists claim that schoolssort based upon merit; conflict theorists argue that schools sort alongdistinct class and ethnic lines. According to conflict theorists, schools trainthose in the working classes to accept their position as a lower?class member of society. Conflict theoristscall this role of education the “hidden curriculum.
“Conflicttheorists point to several key factors in defending their position. First,property taxes fund most schools; therefore, schools in affluent districts havemore money. Such areas are predominantly white. They can afford to pay highersalaries, attract better teachers, and purchase newer texts and moretechnology. Students who attend these schools gain substantial advantages ingetting into the best colleges and being tracked into higher?paying professions. Students in less affluentneighborhoods that do not enjoy these advantages are less likely to go tocollege and are more likely to be tracked into vocational or technicaltraining. They also represent far higher numbers of minority students.
SymbolicInteraction of education is based on what isdirectly observed in the classroom. It focuses on how the teacher’sexpectations influence student’s performance, perceptions, and attitudes. A Sociologist RayRist conducted research study on symbolism in the classroom in 1970.
In akindergarten classroom where both students and teacher were African American,the teacher assigned students to tables based on ability; the “better” studentssat at a table closer to her, the “average” students sat at the next table, andthe “weakest” students sat at the farthest table. Rist discovered that theteacher assigned the students to a table based on the teacher’s perception ofthe students’ skill levels on the eighth day of class, without any form oftesting to verify the placement. Rist also found that the students the teacherperceived as “better” learners came from higher social classes, while the”weak” students were from lower social classes. Monitoring the students throughthe year, Rist found that the students closer to the teacher received the mostattention and performed better. The farther from the teacher a student sat, theweaker that student performed. Rist continued the study through the next severalyears and found that the labels assigned to the students on the eighth day ofkindergarten followed them throughout their schooling.
While symbolic?interactionist sociologists can document thisprocess, they have yet to define the exact process of how teachers form theirexpectations or how students may communicate subtle messages to teachers aboutintelligence, skill, and so forth.