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adults twenty-five years of age or older had completed high school, and 33.4 percent had earned a four-year college degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017).The U.S. educational system is shaped by both our high standard of living (which means that most young people do not have to work) and our democratic principles (the idea that schooling should be provided to everyone). Thomas Jefferson thought the newnation could become democratic only if people learned to read. Today, the United States has a strong record of higher education for its people, ranking fifth in the world in terms of the share of adults (one-third) who have a bachelor’s degree (OECD, 2016; DeSilver, 2017).Schooling in the United States also tries to promote equal opportunity. National surveys show that most people think that schooling is crucial to personal success. Therefore, it is just as important to add that half of U.S. adults also say that African Americans do not have sufficient access to good schooling (Smith et al., 2017). Good schooling is distributed very unequally in U.S. society. Generally speaking, young people who attend the best schools—from the primary grades through university degrees—are the women and men who come from families with the highest incomes (Aisch et al., 2017).Schooling is shaped not just by patterns of inequality but also patterns of culture. In the United States, the educational system stresses the value of practical learning, knowledge that prepares people for their future jobs. This is in line with what the educational philosopher John Dewey (1859–1952) called progressive education, having the schools make learning relevant to people’s lives. Students seek out subjects of study that they believe will give them an advantage when they are ready to compete in the job market. For example, as international affairs with predominantly Muslim countries have become more important in recent years, there has been an increase in thenumber of students studying these nations as well as the Islamic religion (Piela, 2017).Theories of Education1.15.2 Apply sociology’s major theories to education.Listen to the AudioIn the following sections, we apply each of sociology’s major theoretical approaches to education. We begin with structural-functional theory.
Structural-Functional Theory: The Functions of SchoolingListen to the AudioStructural-functional theory focuses on ways in which schooling supports the smooth operation and the stability of society:1.Socialization. Technologically simple societies look to families to transmit a way of life from one generation to the next. As societies gain complex technology, they turn to trained teachers to pass on specialized knowledge that adults will need for their future jobs.