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Functions of Schooling

Functions of Schooling

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson will discuss the major functions of schooling.

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Introduction to Sociology

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. I hope you're doing well. Thank you for taking the time to tune in and join me. We're going to discuss the functions of schooling in society. This is an outgrowth of the structural functional prospective. Which we'll call the structural functional perspective sees society as a complex, interconnected, machine with various parts that work together to promote stability and harmony in the society as a whole.

So the education system is one of those parts. It has functions then for the maintenance of society as a whole. The first function then, of schooling in the education system, in the capitalist society, is socialization. Children need to be able to grow up and develop into functioning adults on their own in order for society to continue to perpetuate itself. And schooling is a fundamental part of socialization.

Teachers impart specialized knowledge that students will need in their adult lives in order to be successful in life and in their careers. So schooling socializes us and prepares us for a life as an adult that is outside of the nuclear family. You don't need to know say, trigonometry, in order to be a successful daughter or a successful participant in your family. But you will need trig if you want to be an architect, or you want to have a career as an engineer.

So schooling helps to socialize us and helps us to grow into adults that then go on to be our own people. We make families of our own and keep society going.

The second function we'll discuss is cultural innovation. Producing new culture, developing new ideas and technologies that then have effects that reverberate through society and culture as a whole. And, in this regard, universities, especially our major research centers, that generate new technologies that we then bring into our lives and adapt and then create new cultural practices around technology and research that occurs in universities. So that is one aspect.

And also, just the university itself is a laboratory. People interact all the time and you develop insights and think about new things. The universe is really just a laboratory for innovation. Look at Facebook. A game changer with respect to culture. A whole new culture has emerged around Facebook. And this was birthed at a university by a university student.

Even though Mark Zuckerberg didn't finish college, he doesn't have the degree. But just going there put him in contact with the right people, developed this technology, and then we have a new culture as a result. So there's a complex social machinery here involved with knowledge production, research, funding research, and the whole sociology of science is interesting.

So professors and doctors at research universities, as well as the students there, develop new technologies and ideas that spur cultural change and innovation. So universities and laboratories for cultural change.

Thirdly, social placement. School is where you get to show your stuff. Where you get to show how smart you are. And you get to get your success on, I guess. So school then sorts us. So Bobby is really good at this. Julie is really good at science. And Stephanie is absolutely brilliant. So school allows us to show what we have.

And schooling, then, is one of the first places we are to display this. In Germany, in fact, students are even tracked. In early years of high school students are either placed on a university tract or are geared towards employment. This kind of tracking is abhorrent to us Americans. But nonetheless, even in American society, school is one big sorting machine that parcels us out into different positions in the division of labor.

Likewise it's another step at college. So you either go to college or you don't. And then that will sort you into one track in life. Into a different place in the social structure, doing some function to keep the thing going. Then we get to college, there's a whole other sorting machine. OK. I'm going to be a Sociologist. But somebody else is going to be a financial lawyer. So they're going to go to different places. So college is also another sorting machine.

Fourth, social integration. Or establishing one dominant culture and one cohesive social entity. So the school system molds we apt pupils into one polity. Schooling shapes us all such that we share the same cultural values and norms. We get to school and what do we do? We venerate America and for what it stands with the Pledge of Allegiance.

You get there, you stand up, you pledge. Every day with the pledge. I pledge allegiance to America for which it stands. To think that we do it every day. And there's even some people that want to say maybe we shouldn't do the pledge. Like how could they?

It's almost like some Durkheimian sacred ritual. If you remember the functions of religion tutorial. Where we come together to venerate the religion of the flag and America for which it stands. You stand up and you look at it, and you do it every day. Maybe they don't anymore. And in some schools maybe they don't say the pledge at all, but in the '90s, in rural Wisconsin, we did. We said it every single day.

Finally, schooling, this was just one example, but schooling shapes us. It gives us a culture, gets us all on the same page with respect to our cultural norms. It integrates us culturally. That is the final function of schooling that we will discuss.

Finally, coming back to focus on the structural functional approach. Remember latent functions. Or those unintended consequences of a social institution or social system that are nonetheless functions themselves. So what are some unintended consequences of schooling? What are some latent functions of the school system?

For starters, an obvious one, is free childcare during the day. In modern society, parents work. They're outside the home. Well we've got to do something with these kids during the day. Well we can send them to school. That's, in addition schooling, a nice source of daycare for parents so they can get out and work.

Secondly, college is a marriage market. All these young people are thrown together at the same time without parental supervision. And it's a way to then find your marriage partner. It often happens that you find a marriage partner while in college.

Also, schooling shapes a capitalist workforce. And it perpetuates capitalism. When you get there, from a very early age, you're always being asked what do you want to do when you grow up? Emphasis is on career preparation. I want to be a firefighter, or I want to be a policeman, or I want to be a civil engineer. Et cetera. You take these little tests at school. And they try to get you to think about where you're going to go on and fit in into the division of labor.

You're not questioning the system itself. They're not asking you, Bobby, what do you think about capitalism as a system? Would you like to live in a different kind of society? Do you think-- They don't teach you to think like that. You instead are taught well I want to go do this when I grow up.

Finally, there is no equal opportunity with respect to college. And this means that the system perpetuates class inequalities to a large extent. There's no equal opportunity to college because it costs money. And college for some is prohibitively expensive. And it is only getting more expensive. Due to the politics of education, neoliberalism, and other politics in American society, it's getting more and more expensive for people to go to college. Because the states are not giving colleges the funding that they used to.

Everyone is now on their own more so than they ever have been with respect to college. So if it's super expensive to go, not everybody who would like to go can. So this is a problem if we really have equal opportunity. Well we don't. The college system, then, helps to perpetuate class inequalities and the status quo.

Well I hope you enjoyed this discussion of the functions of schooling, as well as some latent functions. Have a great rest of your day.

  • Socialization Function of Schooling

    A function of schooling that passes on the skills and attributes that students will need in order to grow into successful, functional adults in society.

  • Cultural Innovation Function of Schooling

    A function of schooling that creates new ideas and technologies that have ramifications for society and culture.

  • Social Integration Function of Schooling

    A function of schooling that shapes all manner of diverse pupils so that they come to share similar cultural norms and values.

  • Social Placement Function of Schooling

    A function of schooling that sorts individuals such that they go on to fill various positions in the division of labor as adults.

  • Latent Functions of Schooling

    Latent functions of schooling are those things that are not immediately recognized like schooling providing childcare, and schooling keeping young people out of the workplace as competitors.