The Functionalist Perspective From the functionalist perspective, society is a system made up of interrelated and interdependent parts, each performing a function that contributes to the operation of the whole. Educational institutions perform a number of important functions in preparing people to fit into society and make productive contributions. o For example, schools help to instill important cultural values in people, such as the significance of hard work or loving one’s parents. Education functions as a mechanism for placing people in various positions in society. In industrial societies, educational institutions can become a social problem when they don’t carry out their functions as effectively as desired. o The schools may not transmit useful skills to some people, or they may do so inequitably educating some students but not others. The school’s failure to perform its functions may be in part a consequence of social disorganization arising from an industrial social order.
o For example, poverty or racial discrimination may limit the opportunities of some people to develop valued skills and abilities. o In other cases, the educational system itself may be structured such that it fails some people. Some of the social disorganization associated with technological change occurs because of the tendency of cultural lag : a gap between the point at which one part of the social system changes and the point at which other parts adjust to compensate for that change (Ogburn, 1957; Volti, 2013). The Conflict Perspective The conflict perspective is based on the idea that society consists of different groups that struggle with one another to attain the scarce societal resources that are considered valuable. Education is one of those valued resources because, in modern societies, those with better educations tend to have more access to other valued resources such as good jobs, high incomes, and important political positions. o Educational degrees become important in the struggle over scarce resources. o The inequitable distribution of educational resources is not a failing of the educational system but rather represents the precise way in which the system operates. From the conflict perspective, science and technology do not necessarily benefit everyone, and in analyzing their effect, it is essential to look closely at who benefits from particular technological developments and who does not, as well as what can be done to reduce the costs. Unlike the functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective assumes that there are always winners and losers when social change occurs. The Interactionist Perspective This perspective focuses on the social interaction between teacher and student in the classroom and recognizes that social expectations and social meanings are a part of that interaction and play a powerful role in what students learn and accomplish in school as well as how they feel about themselves.
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- Fall '17
- Sociology, Science & Technology