Outline and assess the view that the role of education system is to reproduce and transmit culture (50 marks) According to Bourdieu, the major of the education system is cultural reproduction. This involves society as a whole, as Durkheim argued, but, instead, the reproduction of the culture of the dominant classes. These groups have the power to impose meanings and to impose them as legitimate. They are able to define their own culture as worthy of being sought and possessed, and to establish is as the basis for knowledge in the educational system. The high value placed on dominant culture in society as a whole simply stems from the ability of the powerful to impose their definition of reality in other. The possession of dominant culture is referred to as cultural capital by Bourdieu. This is because via the education it can be translated into wealth and power. Children of dominant classes gain skills and knowledge from pre-school which puts them in an advantage because they have the key to understanding what is being transmitted in the classroom.
Working class students are at disadvantage in the competition for educational credentials, the results of this competition are seen as meritocratic and therefore as legitimate. In addition, Bourdieu claims that social inequalities are legitimated by the educational credentials held by those in dominant positions. According to Bourdieu the education system attaches the highest value to legitimate taste. Those who have legitimate find it easier succeed in education and are likely to stay on longer. Legitimate taste shapes the teachers perception of their pupils. Unconsciously, teachers recognise different tastes and the types of behaviour typical of different classes. Working class students are more likely to fail exams or will leave education of their own free will because they know that any real chance of success is slim. All these arguments lead Bourdieu to conclude that the main function of the education system is to transmit the culture of the dominant classes and to reproduce the ruling and working class.
It can be argued that Bourdieu theory is correct because of the existence of a private education system. Students of private schools were mainly from middle class backgrounds and were disproportionately found in the jobs in the UK. A study done by Roker in 1998 suggests that private schools transmit a hidden curriculum, geared to leadership and hierarchy that is different from the messages transmitted by state schools. There was a survey which was conducted in the year 2000 by the Cambridge student newspaper. It found that one in five of students at Cambridge had a parent who had studied there, while 40% had a close family who went to Oxbridge. On the other hand, Bourdieu’s critics say that he is vague in his operationalisation of cultural capital, and precisely how it impacts on education achievement is unclear. Critics also say that Bourdieu’s focus on cultural reproduction and the elimination of the working class from education implies that they are doomed to failure and therefore does not account for the success of the working class.
Bourdieu does not acknowledge that working class pupils may choose to negotiate their way through the education system or may even reject the value of education. Paul Willis work suggests that educational failure may be partly the product of some working class students resisting dominant definitions of what constitutes successes and failure. The American sociologists Bowles and Gintis (1976) argue that the major role of education in capitalist societies is the reproduction of labour power. According to them there is a close correspondence between the workplace and the education system. Bowles and Gintis say that the major role of education is reproduce a docile, obedient and highly motivated workforce for the capitalist society. This workforce has to be divided and fragmented so it cannot challenge the authority of management. The education system helps to achieve these objectives mainly the hidden curriculum which is the things which pupils learn through attending school.
According to Bowles and Gintis, the hidden curriculum shapes the future of the workforce. One way it does this is by producing a subservient workforce of uncritical, passive and docile workers. Bowles and Gintis did a study in which they found that low grades were related to creativity, aggressiveness and independence, while higher grades were related to perseverance, consistency, dependability and punctuality. As a result the education system was creating and unimaginative and unquestioning workforce which could be easily manipulated by employers. Bowles and Gintis also believed that the hidden curriculum encourages an acceptance of hierarchy. Schools are organised on a hierarchical principle of authority and control. Students obey orders given to them by their teachers and they have little control over the subjects they study or how the study them.
This prepares them for relationships within the workplace where, if workers are to stay out of, they will need to defer to the authority of supervisors and managers. At schools, students are taught to be motivated by extrinsic rewards which are the qualifications at the end of the process rather than intrinsic rewards which are enjoyment and interest in lessons. Lessons may involve dull exercises and worksheets. This prepares them for factory life which dull and repetitive. The wages are only thing that makes it worthwhile. Schoolwork is fragmented into different subjects. At the end of lessons students have to break off from unfinished tasks. Bowles and Gintis believe that in the factory the jobs have been broken down into very specific tasks carried out by separate individuals. In this way workers are denied knowledge of the overall productive process, which makes it impossible for them to set in competition with the employers. A fragmented and divided workforce is easier to control and it is easy to maintain this control because of the principle of divide and conquer.
It becomes difficult for the workforce to unite in opposition to those in authority over them. These processes in school help to reproduce the workforce. In support of Bowles and Gintis, Althusser commented that students are taught that they fail or succeed according to the won efforts and talents. They don’t not realise that they may be being held back by streaming and teacher labelling based partly on their social background. Examinations are designed to fail a proportion of candidates and governments are reluctant to create enough good jobs. Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist who said that the major function of education is the transmission of societys norms and values. Durkheim said Society can survive only if there exists among its members a significant degree of homogeneity; education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity by fixing in the child, from the beginning, the essential similarities collective life demands.
According to him without these similarities social life would be impossible and that a key task of society is the creation of social solidarity. The child must feel that he is part of something larger than himself and the child must have a sense of commitment to the social group. Durkheim believed that education provides the link between the individual and society. On the other hand Marxists argue that educational institutions tend to transmit a dominant culture which serves the interests of the ruling class rather than those of society as a whole. Durkheim assumes that societies have a shared culture which can be conveyed through the education system. However countries such as Britain are now multicultural and it is debatable whether there is a single culture which schools can be based on. In recent decades both New Right and New Labour perspectives on education have tended to focus on the economic importance of education and have downplayed the significance of transmitting a shared culture.
Paul Willis (1977) was a neo-Marxist who done a study on 12 working class boys whom he followed over their last 18 months at school, and their first few months at work. The main difference between Paul Willis theory and the Marxists theory is that, Willis believes that the education system failed to manipulate the personality of the pupils and create the ideal worker. The Lads also actively created their own subculture and voluntarily chose to look for manual jobs. This meant that education did not transmit culture to them and the ideal worker was not reproduced. In conclusion the Marxists Bourdieu, Bowles and Gintis, and the functionalist Durkheim believed that role of education was to reproduce and transit culture.