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Inequality in American Education. Sociology of Education Overview. Sociology of Education: A division of the field. Functionalist Theory Conflict Theory Interactionist Theory Contemporary Perspectives Postmodern-Critical Theory. Functionalism

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inequality in american education

Inequality in American Education

Sociology of Education Overview

sociology of education a division of the field
Sociology of Education: A division of the field
  • Functionalist Theory
  • Conflict Theory
  • Interactionist Theory
  • Contemporary Perspectives
  • Postmodern-Critical Theory
functionalism and conflict theories of society

Society is held together by shared values and collective agreement

Consensus as the normal state of society/Conflict as abnormal or representing an area where society has broken down

Change is inevitable but evolutionary- a natural progression of society through reform

Meritocracy exists in our current society- if you work hard you can achieve anything. Rewards and success are commensurate with hard work and ability

Inequality and stratification are natural and necessary for the functioning of society

Conflict Theory

Society is held together by the ability of the dominant group to oppress and impose their desires onto subordinate groups

Conflict is the organizing principle of society

Change is abrupt, often violent and revolutionary because it must overthrow the existing social order

Meritocracy is an ideology used to disguise true power relations. It keeps people believing in the system which is actuality a sorting machine that serves the interest of the powerful

Inequality and stratification are manufactured by the dominant group to serve their own purposes

Functionalism and Conflict Theories of Society
interactionist theory constructivism
Interactionist Theory (Constructivism)
  • Critiques functionalists and conflict theorists as abstract and only looking at societal (macro) level
  • Focuses on interactions- takes the level of analysis down from the societal level to the individual level.
  • Explains how society is socially constructed through the negotiation between our interactions with one another and with the social structure.
  • Commonly combined with either functionalist or conflict perspective.
current dichotomies false dichotomies
Current Dichotomies/False Dichotomies?
  • Functionalism vs. Conflict Theory
  • Macro/Structural Perspectives vs. Micro/Constructivist Perspectives

We need an analysis of the field that recognizes how these dichotomies (false) intersect and actually overlap.

structural functionalist theories of education
Structural Functionalist Theories of Education
  • Since society is held together by shared values and collective agreement, education functions to socialize students according to these shared values
  • Function of schooling is to maintain social order
  • Schooling operates in the interests of the majority of citizens since social order is in their best interest
  • Purpose of education
    • Intellectual (teach cognitive skills)
    • Political (develop allegiance to the political order and how to function within a democracy, learn basic laws of society)
    • Social (socialization to ensure social cohesion)
    • Economic (prepare students for later occupational roles, select and train and allocate individuals in the division of labor)
  • Meritocracy: Success in school and therefore society is based on merit and/or achieved through hard work.
conflict structuralist theories of education
Conflict Structuralist Theories of Education
  • Since society is held together by the ability of the dominant group to oppress and impose their desires onto subordinate groups, education is also tool of oppression
  • Schooling is an active agent in the distribution of power and access to resources
  • Purpose of Education
    • Sorting Machine: education stratifies people in neither natural nor fair ways. Such stratification serves the interests of the powerful to maintain their domination. Students are sorted toward occupations not based on ability but based on their racial, gender, and class identities.
    • Differential Socialization: Inequality as perpetuated through socialization- where certain classes and races are socialized into limited occupational roles while others are socialized into higher tier occupations.
    • Promote Meritocracy: an ideological cloud that creates false consciousness.
  • Bowles and Gintis
bowles and gintis
Bowles and Gintis
  • Corresponding relationship between social relations in schools and social relations at work
  • Different tiers of the education system mirror different tiers of the workplace
    • Social Reproduction and Universities
    • Vocational vs. College Prep courses
  • These practices in education don’t cause stratification in society
    • “Indeed, the class, sex, and race biases in schooling do not produce, but rather reflect, the structure of privilege in society at large” (85)
constructivist theories of education
Constructivist Theories of Education
  • Social Construction: Focus on how the identities, realities, and inequalities among and between students are constructed through interaction in schools
  • Agency: They emphasize the power of agency in clarifying and uncovering interactions such as labeling, testing, counseling, and teaching that lead to inequalities within and through education
  • Purpose of Education: constructivists do not have a strong opinion as to the purpose of education
  • Mehan’s Article
conflict constructivism
Conflict Constructivism
  • Much like conflict structuralism but focuses on social inequalities as products of complex interactions
  • Purpose of education: social reproduction
  • Lack of agency: conflict constructivists leave very little room for social mobility, leading to a somewhat bleak and determinist view of schooling and the reproduction of inequalities
critical theory
Critical Theory
  • Student and teacher empowerment
  • Classrooms as sites for political action
  • Democratic education that empowers
  • Incorporate different voices in the curriculum
  • Education as social critique