• What are the patterns of achievement for students of different genders?

    What are the patterns of achievement for students of different genders?

    Learning targets:

    • Until the mid 1980s, boys outperformed girls in schools except at eleven plus. This was seen as natural, except by feminists who challenged entrenched racist attitudes.

    • The impact of feminist research changed many attitudes in schools so that there were educational policies that set out to raise the attainment of girls.

    • By the mid 1980s, girls and boys were achieving equally well. Girls are now consistently outperforming boys at all levels and in most subjects.

    • This is a cause for concern by many politicians and media publications so it has become something of a moral panic.

    Key questions

    (AO1) What patterns of attainment on the basis of gender are there?

    (AO1) How are gender patterns of attainment changing?

    (AO2) Are changes to the education system favouring women?

    (AO2) What other social factors may influence gender attainment?

    Summary of key points

    There are significant differences between the genders in terms of the educational success of girls and of boys.

    In the 1960s, boys achieved results that were on average 5% better than girls. Until the mid 1980s, boys out-performed girls at all levels of the education system, with the exception of 11+. Most educational writers read this as being 'proof' that girls were generally less intelligent than boys and that boys were 'late developers'.

    There was little serious challenge to this type of thinking until the 1960s and 1970s when feminists pointed out that the better school performance of boys was not the result of the superiority of male intelligence, but that the educational experiences of boys and girls were very different. A number of studies by feminist writers such as Spender, Deem, Stanworth and Delamont pointed to the sexism of the educational system that they claimed reflected the sexism of everyday life.

    In general, until the 1980s girls were usually offered a curriculum that prepared them for life in the home whereas boys were offered practical subjects such as woodwork and metal work or were encouraged to study academic subjects. Schoolbooks were written with the focus firmly on males. Even the common style of school uniform was masculine clothing of a jacket, shirt and tie, only modified with a skirt for girls. This reinforced the hidden curriculum idea that education and intelligence were masculine. Even as late as 1993, Scrimgeour investigated education with a small sample of Scottish teachers and found considerable bias in favour of males in terms of practice and materials.

    In the mid-1980s, both genders began to improve their school performance significantly. The improvement of girls was more rapid than that for boys. Females are now no longer the gender associated with underachievement. They outperformed boys at every key stage level in 2007 (except Maths KS2). Girls outperformed boys at GCSE in 2007 by 9.1 percentage points. Boys' achievement has been rising alongside girls' since the 1980s; but girls' results have improved more quickly. This has given rise to a moral panic in the newspapers about ‘boys’ failure’. The problem is generally located with working class White boys.

    In English, girls have been moving ahead the fastest at all Key Stages. At GCSE the gender gap is 13.9% with 69.2% of girls getting an A* to C grade compared to only 55.3% of boys in 2007. The importance of an ability in English to support all other subjects is underlined by the clear lead of girls in all GCSE results. The proportion of girls getting five or more passes at grade C or better in 2007 was 66%; the figure for boys was just 57%. A quarter of boys did not earn any A* to C grades. Although there is a gender gap in maths and science, it is not nearly so marked.

    Warrington and Younger (1999) note that the success of girls should be a cause for celebration and congratulation. Instead it is viewed as a 'problem' with concern expressed about how males are 'failing'. There is a danger that by over-focusing upon the new social 'problem' of 'underachieving boys' we ignore the reality which is that the performance of boys as a group has been rising significantly over time.

    In terms of post-16 education, females are staying on in education and attending Higher Education in ever-increasing numbers. This is having a knock-on effect in the workplace as increasing numbers of females with graduate status penetrate areas traditionally considered as male.

    The picture is not equally good for all women; feminists such as Becky Francis (2006) maintain that despite the focus on male under-performance, a high proportion of working-class girls still fail. In addition, they argue that many females fail to achieve their full individual potential or choose to study ‘feminine’ subjects which are less valued than ‘masculine’ subjects. Where females do succeed, feminists feel it is often in spite of the education system, not because of it. Feminists claim that females are still subject to institutional disadvantage in schools. Furthermore, Hartman points out that the attention that is paid to gender differences in achievement is large when compared to the way much larger differences in attainment between the social classes are ignored.

    Traditionally high achieving females have come from middle-class backgrounds. Riddell (1992) found that middle-class girls shared the achievement values of the school and sought the approval of teachers. Working-class girls saw their futures in terms of the local job market combined with motherhood and domesticity. However, Sharpe (1994) found working-class girls' attitudes had changed dramatically in the past 20 years with careers, travel and independence now increasingly valued.

    Such attitudes reflect what Wilkinson (1994) refers to as the 'genderquake' whereby young females are increasingly striving for a fulfilling career with good earning potential. Thus young women are more confident, assertive and ambitious; striving for gender equality. There has been a huge growth in the numbers of women working, with successful career women operating as positive role models. In 2005, figures show nearly double the number of women entering high status careers such as medicine and the law. Working mothers are providing positive role models for their daughters. Fuller (1984) found in her study of black girls in Brent, that girls were motivated not to end up in dead-end jobs like their mothers. Working class unqualified women still tend to be confined to cleaning, caring, catering and cash registers (the four Cs)

    Arnot (2004) found female pupils adopted private learning strategies such as asking teachers questions after the lesson to improve their understanding. Evidence shows that females are more likely to revise more effectively. They do not leave it to the last minute like many male pupils who assume it will be "all right on the day". For males poor examination performance is excused away. They blame external factors such as the quality of their teaching or claim that the wrong exam questions came up. Female students are more likely to blame themselves for poor performance and therefore seem more motivated in their revision and preparation to ensure a successful outcome.

    Crisis of masculinity and laddism

    Writers such as Susan Faludi and Robert Bly suggest male underachievement is linked to a 'crisis of masculinity'. Male pupils, it is argued, are sensing wider changes in society, and the growing opportunities and confidence of females generally. Even before leaving school some males are picking up the message that women do not need men. Such ideas can be very discouraging and it seems to alienate them further into acceptance of failure or brutal 'laddism'. Recent research by Carolyn Jackson suggests that girls are now engaged in similar behaviour which she calls ‘Ladette’ due to the extreme pressure of testing that occurs in modern British schools.

    Aggleton (1987) studied young men from the new professional middle classes and found that some boys distanced themselves from aggressive working class male masculinity. However, they also reject the idea of hard-work and seriousness. Instead, they aim for a male identity of effortless achievement. Clearly, success without effort is very difficult to achieve indeed and many of these boys underperform.

    Salisbury and Jackson (1995) say that there is more than one possible form of masculinity for boys to identify with. Archer says that not all of these are aggressive. Notions of maleness are fluid, so boys will behave differently in differing situations. Male identities are, however, concerned with the creation of hierarchies of power and dominance. Some male identities are seen as having more status than others. As early as the 1970s Willis pointed out that hard working academic achievement among boys was seen, even by some teachers, as being effeminate, low status and undesirable.

    Some males, especially from the working-class, see academic school work as feminine and resist it as undermining their culture of masculinity (Willis, 1979). It simply is not 'cool' to be academically able and can result in being labelled as a 'boffin' or 'geek'. As a consequence they seek alternative anti-school values and adopt 'laddish' attitudes and behaviour (Mac an Ghaill, 1994).

    Gender and single sex education

    Leonard Sax, in the USA, has taken the view proposed by many psychologists that male and female brains are different. He is a strong advocate of single sex education, arguing that lessons should be gender appropriate because boys and girls require different education. Certainly, schools and colleges are now more 'girl-friendly' places. There is some sociological support from writers such as Murphy and Elwood (1998) who argue that teachers are now more sensitive to gender issues facing females. Teaching has become a feminised profession, with fewer men choosing a career in education. There has been considerable INSET on equal opportunities that make teachers address sexist attitudes and practices in schools.

    Many Local Authorities and schools in the 1970s and 1980s experimented with single-sex classes and other initiatives aimed at improving female performance. Experiments at removing boys from the classroom have been found to be particularly helpful to girls in science and maths lessons allowing them more opportunity to answer questions, grow in confidence and develop an interest in the subject.

    There is evidence that girls at single-sex schools out-perform those in coeducation (mixed) schools. Many feminists have argued strongly in favour of single sex education for girls. Research published by the Girls' School Association (2007) showed that girls taught without boys achieve higher grades than those at even the most elite mixed-sex schools. Single sex girls' schools are regularly at the top of school league tables. It is suggested that single-sex schools promote debating skills in girls and lesson content can be tailored to female interests. Curiously, while parents are in favour of single sex education for their daughters, they are reluctant to accept it for their sons.

    There has also been opposition to the view that single sex education favours girls. Alan Smithers has argued that the differences between attainment in single sex schools and coeducational schools can be attributed to social class and intake as single sex schools are now mostly found in the private sector or among faith schools and they can select their pupils.

    Mitsos and Browne (1998) found that in coeducation schools girls worked harder and spent more time on homework, were better organised, and were more likely to meet deadlines than boys. Lyon, et al (2006), found that females were significantly more conscientious in doing homework. Research by Harris et al. (1993) found that boys were more easily distracted in the classroom and less determined to overcome academic difficulties.

    Pupils achieving five or more GCSE grades A*-C or equivalent: by sex

    What should you have in your folder of notes on this topic? (AO1)

    Definitions of the key concepts

    Crisis of masculinity

    Cultural deprivation

    Discrimination

    Feminism

    Gender

    Genderquake

    Hidden Curriculum

    Laddishness

    Ladettes

    Material deprivation

    Sexism

    Independent study

    Compulsory

    • Notes from Social Trends on differences in educational attainment between the two genders (perhaps with reference to ethnicity as well as gender)

    • Detailed notes from text books explaining why girls are now the gender of achievement in school. Use ‘A’ level textbooks and the Internet for ideas.

    • Notes on the persistence of gender inequality in the UK taken from the website of the Fawcett Society http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

    Extension work

    • Find out more about the history of women’s’ education and changes in attitude to the education of girls by talking to women who are older than you about the attitudes that their families had towards their education compared with the education of their brothers or boys in general.

    • Look at newspaper sites and download stories relating the different achievement of boys and girls in school. Add these to your folder of notes.

    • Find out what you can about recent research into differences in the attainment of girls and boys in education. Add notes to your folder.

    Useful websites and sources of information (AO1):

    You should use the website of the NgfL Cymru and look at the ebook to develop your notes

    http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/eng/sociology-as-ebook

    News stories about gender and attainment include

    http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/white-boys-achievement-4964

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/mar/27/schools.uk4

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8010834.stm

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1209287/GCSE-results-2009-Gender-gap-narrows-boys-overtake-girls-maths-time-12-years.html

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/gcse-results-reveal-boys-are-failing-to-close-the-gender-gap-710411.html

    Here is a summary of research into improving male attainment in school published by the government

    http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/ntrp/lib/pdf/horwood.pdf

    Estyn (the Inspection body for Wales) has done research into gender attainment and has relevant research findings http://www.estyn.gov.uk/ThematicReports/0308_gender_gap_report_march_2008.pdf

    Numerical data about UK education can be seen at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/Images/UK%20by%20numbers_tcm6-34204.pdf

    Online classroom has an excellent summary of recent research into gender and attainment by Carolyn Jackson (Lads and Ladettes) http://onlineclassroom.tv/files/posts/lads_and_ladettes/document00/p_jackson_article.pdf

    And some original related research data by Jackson can be seen here http://tobermory.cc.strath.ac.uk/erica/module6_reader/unit4/Jackson%20Reading%202.pdf

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  • Functionalism and Education

    Functionalism and Education

    What have traditional explanations of education suggested about attainment in schools?

    Learning targets:

    • According to Functionalists, education has three roles - socialization, skills provision and role allocation.

    • Education helps to support society by the socialisation of young people to cultural values.

    • Education categorizes people to the posts to which they are best suited according to their talents through the use of examinations and qualifications.

    • Everyone has the opportunity to succeed in society on the basis of their ability.

    • Schools operate according to meritocratic principles, and status is gained on the basis of merit.

    Key questions

    (AO1) What is functionalism?

    (AO1) How do functional sociologists view the education system?

    (AO2) What support is there for functionalist views of education?

    (AO2) What criticisms can be made of functional views of education?

    Summary of key points

    Functionalism is a view of sociology that suggests that the role of a sociologist is to look at the workings of society, in a scientific manner, in order to discover how it works. Holmwood (2005) and others have said that social phenomena exist because there is a purpose for them. This is controversial; it leads to the view that many negative things such as crime exist because they fulfil societal needs.

    Writers in the structural functionalist tradition of sociology claim that the education system is a meritocracy and that the education system exists to allow the most talented students through to fill the most important jobs in society. Testing of ability through examinations is one of the most fundamental elements of the British education system. British children are among the most tested in the world and this is controversial for a number of reasons, including the emotional impact of regular testing on children.

    Emile Durkheim (1858 - 1917) was a French sociologist and is known as one of the Founding Fathers of the discipline. Many of his ideas became the foundations of structural functionalism. He was interested in education and trained teachers for part of his career. He believed that education had a number of purposes (or functions) for society.

    The first of these is to reinforce our sense of belonging and community (social solidarity). This is done is schools in a number of ways, but it can be seen best in those things which unite people and make them feel part of a group. Think of uniforms, sport activities and competitions against other schools. The study of history gives us a sense of the continuity of our culture.

    The next role of education is to maintain social roles and social rules (social order). Schools are like a wider society in miniature, so pupils learn that some people have more power than others, manners are important. They learn the patterns of behaviour that will help them to survive in society when they leave school.

    According to Durkheim, the final function of education is to sort people out to do the correct work for their ability (meritocracy). In modern societies, we have division of labour. Nobody has all of the skills that are needed to survive in our complex world. Durkheim said that schools pass on the general values of society to students and also provide the skills that they will need to work together and produce goods. People must specialise in the kind of work that they do; we have plumbers, carers, check-out operators and doctors. Society could not survive if we did not have people to do different work. People sit examinations, they are sorted out and then encouraged to take up jobs that is suited to what they are able to do. The most able will study the subjects that will encourage their thinking skills, and the low ability children are taught what they need for life.

    In the USA, Talcott Parsons (1902 - 1979) developed Durkheim's ideas. For Parsons, the most important agency of secondary socialisation is education. Schools pass on the norms and values of wider society and we learn the rules that apply outside the home. The values that we learn in school apply to all of society, not just our own homes. However, schools have a more serious function than that. They also prepare us for future life. To do that, they act as a form of social selection, choosing what students will do for their future adult roles. Schools are competitive and the best students will go on to the best jobs whereas weaker ones will have to take low pay and low status work. Schools teach children that it is fair to have different rewards and so they teach children to be competitive.

    The values that American schools pass on to children are achievement and equality of opportunity. They reward those who have high levels of success and encourage children to work hard to achieve those rewards. In addition, examinations are held under equal conditions and students have equal access to the high grades as the system is impersonal. This means that students learn to accept that the system is a fair and equal one.

    In 1945, Davis and Moore, following on from Parson's writings and Durkheim's logic suggested that if education systems are unequal, then there must be a functional reason for this inequality. They argued that inequality is necessary and universal because all societies have inequalities. In effect, if it exists, then it must be because it is for the good of society. This analysis became an influential piece of work as it justified the high pay and status of the richest people in society.

    The basic argument is that some jobs and positions are more important to society than others. People who are in these special jobs must have skills and personal qualities that set them apart from other people. It is important for society that the best people fulfil these roles even though they may require huge amounts of work and may not always be pleasant. Very few people have the skill and talent for the best jobs. In addition, a lot of training is required for the top positions. People who undergo extended educational training to get those jobs or those who study hard, often give up a lot to do so. They may work long hours and have no personal time for fun. This is known as deferred gratification; people work hard now for the sake of possible pleasure in the future. People will not do this unless they feel that it brings them some form of advantage over other people.

    They must therefore be given an incentive to sacrifice their time so they should be rewarded in the form of excellent pay and rewards. Their pay and rewards should be significantly better than everyone else has to act as an incentive for them to work hard. Thus, social inequality is a good thing for the whole of society as only those who deserve the best rewards can have them. More than that, because society is unequal, it is clear that inequality serves a purpose for society as a whole, otherwise it would not happen.

    Surprisingly, this type of thinking influenced some members of the Labour Party in the 1960s, such as Antony Crosland who became Secretary of State for Education and Science. He thought that one way to make society more equal was to make competition between pupils within schools more equal. This led to the policies that created comprehensive schools.

    In 1971, another writer developed the ideas of Davis and Moore. Turner suggested that the education system operated to allow some early selection of very able children from the lowest sections of society for the top jobs through mechanisms such as grammar schools and examination systems. Thus education is a ladder of opportunity that people can climb or not depending on their ability and effort. Turner also recognised that some people strive and do not succeed, so schools need to provide systems to encourage the best, but to let the less able be happy with their situation and to accept that they are not good enough for the top jobs.

    Criticisms of structural functionalism

    One of the most famous critics of Parsons was Alvin Gouldner who wrote in the 1970s at the height of student rioting against the Vietnam War. He said that structural functionalism says that we are socialised by education. The education system is meritocratic so the best people get the best jobs. People who do not fit in are deviant. So, how come it was all the best and most intelligent who were deviant enough to complain about the war, the lack of equality for Blacks, homosexuals and women and who challenged traditional ways of thinking?

    Whilst Parsons wrote a great deal, he did not do much practical research and although he considered himself a scientist, there is little research evidence to support his ideas. This is a weakness because it is difficult to test his theories.

    In addition, Parsons and structural functionalists seem to confuse cause and effect. They argue that certain social phenomena exist because they are needed by society. If they are needed by society, they must fulfill a function for that society. By that logic, women take care of children in our society because that is what they do. This does not take into account all of the other reasons why women care for children, such as socialisation or even male dominance, which is what feminists would argue. There are many factors that influence how cultures develop that are not good for society: racism, sexism and differences in power, but functionalism appears to overlook these.

    Structural functionalists suggest that societies wish to be stable and not to change, so they fail to explain changes to society. In reality, societies appear to undergo massive changes, and sometimes in quite a short space of time. Consider changes that have taken place in the role of the genders in the last 50 years or so.

    Structural functionalism seems to believe that people all share the same values and morality in society. This is difficult to prove. There are many different social groups which all have very different points of view and patterns of behaving. Norms that apply to one group in society do not necessarily apply to another; for example, many youth cultures are openly critical of mainstream society.

    Alternative perspectives as they apply to the study of education

    Conflict or Marxist theory

    Education is part of the bourgeois hegemony. Education is a crucial part of the system of social control where we are taught to believe in the dominant ideology of the capitalist state structures. See Bowles and Gintis, Paul Willis’s Learning to Labour and Randall Collins.

    Radical theories

    These vary but are usually some aberrant form of Marxism. The usual suggestion is that formal structures of education alienate those it exists to serve so children and adults should learn through choice and experience. See A S Neill’s, Summerhill, Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society and the work of the Brazilian writer, Paulo Friere

    Sociology of knowledge

    Again this is linked to Marxism, but is more usually associated with the branch of sociology known as phenomenology. Knowledge is a way that experts have of controlling us. This is not as influential a theoretical viewpoint as it once was.

    Interactionism

    Theories are concerned with what is happening in the classroom and with teacher labelling of students. Key ideas include the hidden curriculum and ‘C’ stream mentality.

    See Hargreaves, Lacey and Michelle Stanworth.

    Cultural theories and Socialisation

    The concern with this type of theory is the differing success rates in the education system of children from differing circumstances. These look at two basic themes -

    Material circumstances - Children fail because they are deprived of the basic necessities of life. See Frank Field and Wedge and Prosser

    Parental values - Children fail because of cultural reasons such as ‘poor’ parenting skills or a severely deficient linguistic ability. See Kohn, the Newsons, Basil Bernstein.

    What should you have in your folder of notes on this topic? (AO1)

    Definitions of the key concepts

    Structuralism

    Deviant

    Meritocracy

    Socialisation

    Social order

    Feminism

    Deferred gratification

    Ladder of opportunity

    Functionalism

    Internalise

    Meritocracy

    Independent study

    Compulsory

    • A mind map or spider diagram that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of functional accounts of education.

    • Notes taken from an A level textbook or a website on functionalist views of education.

    • A list of each of the writers and theorists mentioned in this booklet and a 50 words or fewer summary of their main points about education.

    • One good paragraph either in support of or criticizing functionalism as a viewpoint.

    Extension work

    • Do the gap-fill exercise on http://www.educationforum.co.uk/sociology_2/functionalist.htm. Print it out and add it to your notes.

    • Use one of the names of the writers or theorists in this section of your notes and put them into a search engine to see what useful information you can find to add to your notes.

    • Write up your essay plan notes as a full essay with additional detail added from other sources and books that you have researched

    Useful websites and sources of information (AO1):

    You should use the website of the NgfL Cymru and look at the ebook to develop your notes

    http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/eng/sociology-as-ebook

    Look at Cliff’s notes on educational theory and add some to your folder http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/Theories-of-Education.topicArticleId-26957,articleId-26914.html

    http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/Three-Major-Perspectives-in-Sociology.topicArticleId-26957,articleId-26837.html

    Add some of Chris Livesey’s detailed notes to your folders by downloading and reading http://www.sociology.org.uk/function.doc

    Use Wikipedia, but treat it with care as it is sometimes incorrect

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_functionalism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology_of_education

    Tbhere is detailed notes and reading to be found on this site http://www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/pthrosse/Ed4-99/HaraHolborn.htm

    More about functionalism as a perspective

    http://sixthsense.osfc.ac.uk/sociology/as_sociology/functionalism.asp

    http://learningat.ke7.org.uk/socialsciences/soc-sci/soc/a2/Theory&methodsLT/funtionalism.doc

    A downloadable summary of the functionalist view of education with evaluations http://homepages.uwp.edu/goldsmip/education/Functism.pdf

    A summary page and a multiple choice quiz can be seen at http://home.clara.net/chrisgardner/sls1/tests_access/ed6/edpersps_multi6.htm

    Here is a useful summary PowerPoint to download http://www.angelfire.com/scary/helstonsociology/AS%20Education/The%20UK%20Education%20System%203.ppt

    Here is a sociology of education blog that has a number of entries relating to educational theories http://sociofeducation.blogspot.com/2009/09/theories-of-schooling-and-society.html

    Find an essay on the Helium website

    http://www.helium.com/items/779460-functional-and-conflict-theory-a-point-of-view

    AO1 Knowledge and understanding

    What is structural functionalism?

    What do functionalists believe is the main purpose of the education system?

    What three functions of education did Durkheim identify for the education system?

    What did Parsons say that students must learn to accept?

    Why do you think Davis and Moore’s views are popular with the ruling classes in our society?

    What impact did the theories of Davis and Moore have on the history of the British education system?

    How did Turner develop the ideas of Davis and Moore?

    What criticism did Alvin Gouldner make of functionalist views of education?

    What other criticisms have been made of functionalist views of education?

    Explain how functionalism can be criticised by using one alternative perspective to the study of education.

    Outline and assess functionalism views of the education system.

    What do functionalists say about education? Summarise their basic principles.

    What evidence and theories do functionalists use to support their views about education?

    Either: how can functionalism be criticised?

    Or what have other theories said and how can these be used to criticise functionalism?

    Summative conclusion: What is the overall view that you have as to the usefulness of functionalism

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  • SCLY4 Essay Marxism

    Marxism was developed in the 1800's, to encourage the lower classes to uprise against the unjust exploitations of capitalism. It was also a reaction to the Functionalism theory, as Marx agreed that society can be understood scientifically, and sought to continue in the enlightenment. However, although Marx and Durkheim agreed on the importance of sociology, their theories themselvesare fundamentally different.Marx saw the baseof society as a battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and believed thatmany of the traditions,beliefs and institutions praisedby functionalistswere in fact a means of reproducing the exploitative class cycle. From this concept Marx built his theory, which sought to revolutionise society working on the principle that 'proletariats have nothing to lose but their chains'. Many have since argued that Marxism is a naive theory, and one that is no longer relevant to our society- especially since the creation of a Welfare State and blurring divisions between classes. But some would argue that the class struggle still rages on, and is even more evident in our increasingly capitalist and monetary driven culture. With the election of our nineteenth Etonite Prime Minister and plans to reduce welfare and increase the cost of education, the topic of class struggle is perhaps at a peak of relevancy.

    Marx argued that societies shift into capitalism derives from the basic human instinct to seek material needs- e.g. food, clothing and shelter. These predisposed ideals manifest themselves into capitalism when 'means of production' are used in order to work to achieve these items. The basic principle of Marxism is that the means of production should be owned communally, and their fruits shared out, so that everybody is equal; thus ousting poverty and strengthening the community. In our current capitalist society there is a fundamental divide between those whom own the means of production, and can therefore assert power over others and control society (the bourgeoisie) and those who must work for the bourgeois and are thus effectively controlled by them (the proletariat). Marx argues that this division infiltrates all aspects of society- the superstructure of institutions, beliefs and behaviour; forexample, capitalism shapes the nature of religion, law, education, the state etc. However,thishas not always been the case, Marx explains that society has evolvedintoits increasingly capitalist stateas a result of the changing means of production.Although exploitation has been a constant in our society, the exploitationhas not always been focussed onfree wage labourers. In ancient societyslavery exploited thedestitute;in the feudal society serfs, who were legally tied to the land, were exploited by the wealthy land owners. Whereas inmodern, capitalist society, the labourers are exploited by their employers, who control the surplus profit, while rewarding the workers with just the necessary amount to live and continue providing cheap labour.Although this is a more subtle method ofcontrol and exploitation it it still as controlling as its predecessors; this evolution reveals that societyis more willing toaccept exploitation asthe method of doing so becomes more sophisticated and internalised into our norms. People may be less aware of this method of control because, unlike slaves or serfs, thelabourer is legally freeand seperated from the means of production, they are even protected by employment laws andsupported by thewelfare system. However,inorder togain a better quality of life and support their families, they have to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie.But this isnota fair trade, the proletariat does notreceive the value of thegoodsthat they have produced, and are instead rewarded just the cost ofsustenance, meaningthat their quality of life is not proportional to the work they do. But the bourgeoisie benefitfrom the surplus profit received fromselling thegoods, meaning that the work of themajority of the population only benefits a small minority of people(forexample, it is estimated that, as of 2009, 22% of the British population live in a low income household). This is a result of the competitive nature of capitalism, in which fewer and fewer people are among the privileged owners of the means of production, this concentration results in giant translational corporations which have driven smaller business owners into irrelevancy and placed them on par with the proletariat. This competition also forces capitalists to pay the lowest wages possible, resulting in the immiseratin of the proletariat. Furthermore, many skilled labourers are becoming obsolete, as technological advances mean that the work of labourers is no longer necessary and depreciates in value. These changes culminate in a polarisation of the classes, where there is a division between the majority of working classand minority capitalist class that 'face each other as two warring camps'. Marx argues that, in this respect, capitalism is self defeating- that by treating workers so unjustly and creating a rivalry between the two opposing classes it creates the perfect conditions for the working class to develop a consciousness of its own economic and political interests. Creating a shift froma class in itself, to a class for itself who are aware that capitalism must be overthrown. However, the capitalists are aware that this consciousness would end their reign of exploitation, and therefore try to subdue the working class by controlling the institutions that produce and spread ideas (e.g. religion, education, the media). All of these institutions create ideologies that legitimise the social order as desirable or unavoidable. This creates a 'false consciousness' which sustains inequality, however Marx argues that it is inevitable that the workers will eventually become immune to capitalist propaganda and recognise their position as 'wage slaves'. This could also be spurred by the alienation felt by those who no longer have control overtheir labour and its products, and therefore defy our human nature to create things to meet our needs. Alienation is felt most strongly under capitalism, because workers have no control whatsoever overthe forces of production, and because the worker is reduced to monotonous and menial work. Marx believed that in order to end this cycle the lower class would have to revolt against the 'ruling class' of the state (police, prisons, courts etc) which are the 'armed bodies of men' that ultimately control and suppress the proletariat. Thus becoming the first revolution by the majority against the minority, and the first revolution to spread throughout the world, effectively abolishing all government. This revolution would aim to remove the state and create a classless, communist society; human needs would be placed before the economy, there would be no exploitation, alienationor private ownership.

    However, this theory has been subject to heavy criticism, on both it's views about capitalism and it's description of an ideal communist replacement. Many argue that Marx's views of inequality are simplistic and one dimensional; Weber notes that status and power differences can also be sourcesof equality, e.g. a 'power elite' can rule without actually owning the means of production, as seen in the former Soviet Union. Weber also argues that Marx's two class model issimplistic, he presents an alternative model which sub divides the proletariat into skilled and unskilled classes, and includes a white- collar middle class of office workers and a petty bourgeoisie. Feminists argue that the theory does not acknowledge gender inequalities, even within class, for example, historically women have been neglected from both the work force and the capitalists, having to rely on their husbands wealth; even in modern society women are still not financial equals to men, a fact ignored by traditional Marxism. Also, Marx's theory of class polarisation has proved to be incorrect, instead the middle class has fused into the expanding proletariat, while the industrial working class has shrunk to reflect the economic climate. On the other hand, unlike othertheoriesMarxism does not have a Western bias, and Marx's theory is correct in countries such as China and India, in which the proletariat is growing as a result of globalisation. It is also argued that Marxism places too much emphasis on economic determinism, and thus ignores the importance of free will; if economic factors are the sole cause of everything in society, humans cannot bring about change through conscious actions. It also ignores the role of ideas, Weber argues that it was Calvinist ideas that brought about capitalism, rather than a natural reaction to shifting means of production. Thistheory would better explain the willingness to accept inequalities of class divisionsand how institutions of society (i.e. religion) seem to encourage capitalism. But, Marx cannot be critiqued as completely deterministic, there are instances when he argued that 'men make their own history', which indicates that he place some importance on human action. Nevertheless, it could be argued that this is an example of self- contradiction and inclarity in the theory, indeed there are several loose ends within his explanations, e.g. Marx wrote relatively little about how the revolution would come about; other theories, such as functionalism, are more well rounded and properly developed. On a basic level, it could be argued that this theory is incorrect because no such revolution has occurred, although there were communist stirrings in the earlytwentieth century, when the 'spectre of communism' loomed over Europe, communism mainly succeeded in inciting fear rather than class consciousness. Marx predicted that the overthrow of capitalism would first occur in the most economically advanced countries, such as Western Europe and North America, before spreading throughout the world. In reality, only economically backwards countries, such as 1917 Russia, have experienced a Marxist lead revolution

    The absence of Western revolutions has led manyNeo- Marxists to reject the economic determinism of the base- superstructure model and find different explanations as to why capitalism has persisted and how it may be overthrown. Gouldner (1973) identifies two approaches to these questions: humanistic Marxism and scientific Marxism. An example of humanistic Marxism is the work of Antonio Gramsci, who introduced the concept of hegemony, ideological and moral leadership of society, to explain how the ruling class maintains its position. He believed that in order to defeat capitalist society, the working class must develop a 'counter- hegemony'. He disputed Marx’s' belief that economicdeterminismwill result in the destruction of capitalism, believing that this will merely create the preconditions for revolution, ideas play the central role in bringing it into fruition. Gramsci believed that the ruling class maintain control by using coercion from the justice system to force other classes to except their rule, and by using hegemony to persuade the working class into providing consent. Gramsci agrees with Marx’s' argument that the ruling class control institutions that create and spread ideas inorder to convince the proletariat to support hegemony, as long as there is support from the working class there will never be a revolution, regardless of how dire the economic situation. But the hegemony of the ruling class is never complete, as they are a minority and must make alliances with the other groups, such as the middle class, in order to create a power bloc, to do this some of their ideologies must be compromised or diluted. Furthermore, the proletariat have a dual consciousness, their ideas are influenced by bourgeois ideology, but also by their living conditions and the poverty and exploitation they experience, which means that they can 'see through' the dominant ideology to some extent. This means that society is always susceptible to proletariat uprising, but in order to do thisa counter- hegemonic bloc must be created, to offer moral and ideological leadership to society. Gramsci believes that 'organic intellectuals' must create a revolutionary political party to create an alternative vision of society, this idea led to his involvement as leader of the first Italian Communist Party.

    Gramsci has been criticised for over emphasis of the role of ideas and neglecting the role of state coercion and economic factors. For example, he fails to acknowledge that the proletariat may feel intimidated, and fear state repression or unemployment, and thus tolerate capitalism because they have no realistic alternative. However, the majority of Neo- Marxists agree with Gramsci's approach, and stress the role of ideas and consciousness. Paul Willis (1977) described the working- class lads he studied as 'partially penetrating' bourgeoisie ideology, because they were able to recognise meritocracy as a myth.

    The opposing stance, scientific Marxism, is adopted by Louis Althusser, who believed that it is social structures that shape history and must be scientifically studied. Althusser rejected the base- superstructure model, in favour of the more complex 'structural determinism' which explains that society has three levels: economic (all activities that involve production), political (all forms of organisation) and ideological (how people see themselves and their world). Whereas the base- superstructure model has a one- way causality (the economic level determines everything about the other two levels), Althusser's model argues that the political and ideological levels have relative autonomy and can even affect what happens to the economy. It is argued that the state is responsible for performing the political and ideological functions in order to ensure the reproduction of capitalism. He divides the state into two apparatuses: the repressive state apparatuses, which are the traditional Marxists view of 'armed bodies of men' who coerce the proletariat into accepting the bourgeoisie control;and the ideological state apparatuses, who manipulate the working class into choosing capitalism as a desirable system (e.g. media, education system, the family, trade unions etc). Scientific Marxists view free will as an illusion, and believe that everything is a result of underlying social structures; Ian Craib (1992)analogizes that society is a puppet theatre, we are merely puppets, and these unseen structures are the hidden puppet master, determining all our thoughts and actions. Therefore, communism will not result from a conscious decision to uprise, but because of a crisis of capitalism resulting from over- determination, the contradictions of the three structures will result in the collapse as the system as a whole.

    Humanistic Marxistsbelieve that this theory discourages political activism, by arguing that individuals can do little to change structural factors. Leading Marxist historian E.P. Thompson (1978) to criticise Althusser for ignoring the fact that it is the active struggles of the working class that can change society. He accuses Althusser of elitism, the belief that the Communist Party should be blindly followed by the workers. But his views are supported by some sociologists, Craib argued that Althusser 'offers the most sophisticated conception of social structure available in the social sciences'. Ironically, Althusser's structuralist Marxism has also been a major influence on theories such as postmodernism, that reject the idea that scientific knowledge can be used to improve society.

    To conclude, although Marxism was a very relevant theory at the time of its conception, when class divisions were obvious and poverty was a problem which affected many people. Most people would argue that communism is no longer a legitimate threat to our current society, and that classis no longer a major issue.Furthermore, the utopia described by Marx is a pipe dream that would never create a truly equal society, as proved by the failure of communism in Russia, where the powerful managed tomanipulate the system. However, Marxism has never been practiced in it's purest form, instead being adapted to the advantage of the bourgeoise (e.g. stalinsim), so it cannot be fully ascertained that Marxism would not work.

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  • Marxist Perspectives of Education Notes!

    What do Marxists say about the education system?

    Learning targets:

    • Marxists see that the ruling class or 'bourgeoisie' rule the workers or 'proletariat'.

    • The bourgeoisie have the wealth and the power to rule. The proletariat are exploited because they are not treated fairly.

    • Marxists argue that the education system plays a key role in disseminating the ideology of the ruling class.

    • Education acts as a force of oppression for the children of the working classes

    Key questions

    (AO1) What do Marxists believe?

    (AO1) How do Marxist theories apply to the education system?

    (AO2) What strengths are there to the Marxist view of education system?

    (AO2) How have Marxist views been criticised by other writers?

    Summary of key points

    Marxists see capitalist society as being ruled by the economy. The minority, the ruling class or 'bourgeoisie' rule the majority, namely the workers or 'proletariat'. The bourgeoisie have the wealth and the power to rule. The proletariat are exploited because they are not treated fairly. This is the basis of class inequality.

    Institutions such as organised religion, the mass media, the political and the education systems all reinforce the ideology that the rich and powerful should control society. They promote an ideology or belief that our society is fair and just and that the proletariat should quietly accept capitalist society.

    Marxists argue that the education system plays a key role in promoting the ideology of the ruling class.

    Traditionally, the Labour Party has been associated with Marxist principles. It believes that the interests of the working class should be seen as important. Historically the Labour Party has been associated with policies that promote equality of access to education. The Labour Party introduced comprehensive schools, student grants and other educational legislation that made education more accessible to a wider range of people.

    Since the arrival of New Labour in 1997, that traditional link with Marxism has broken down. The Labour Party is much less associated with working class ideals because it has followed New Right ideas of competition and market forces in education.

    Nevertheless, the Labour Party in Wales has remained much more traditional than the Labour Party in London and has introduced a slightly different range of legislation that is concerned with improving education access for learners. It has abolished the unpopular SATS and made access to Higher Education cheaper for Welsh students applying to Welsh Universities.

    The American sociologists, Bowles and Gintis (1976), considered that the main function of education in capitalist countries is to regenerate the labour market. They proposed correspondence theory. This suggests that educational inequality mirrors the inequality of wider society.

    If capitalism is to succeed it must have an industrious and obedient workforce that is too divided to challenge the authority of the rulers. According to Bowles and Gintis, education supplies a workforce with the type of personality, attitudes and values that are most useful to capitalists.

    The education system succeeds in fulfilling this aim by means of the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum includes things that children learn by attending school rather than the alleged educational objectives. There is a correlation between the hidden curriculum and the needs of the workforce. According to Bowles and Gintis, the hidden curriculum moulds the workforce of the future in the following ways:

    In a study of 237 members of the senior year in a secondary school in New York, Bowles and Gintis showed that the grades gained had more to do with personal characteristics than academic ability. A relationship was detected between low grades and creativity whilst the higher grades were associated with reliability and punctuality. The American education system was creating an unimaginative, uncomplaining workforce that could be dealt with easily by employers.

    Very little control is given to students in respect of the subjects they study and the methods of study. That prepares them for the nature of the relationship in the workplace, where workers are expected to listen and obey.

    In capitalist society the workforce must be motivated by external rewards such as pay because the work is so dreary. The wage packet is the external reward, in exactly the same way as the external reward of qualifications was the motivation in school.

    Bowles and Gintis allege that knowledge is divided into fragments and kept in 'neat' compartments. The approach to education corresponds to the way that the workforce is divided. Bowles and Gintis believe that jobs in factories are also divided into specific tasks to be done by different individuals. A fragmented workforce is easy to control - an example of dividing in order to overcome.

    Bowles and Gintis, therefore believe that the hidden curriculum provides a tolerant and obedient workforce that unquestioningly accepts authority, and is motivated by external reward and which is divided. They also argue that formal parts of the curriculum correspond to the needs of capitalist employers.

    They argue that education is indirectly beneficial to capitalism by legalising inequality. By making a society appear to be fair and just, it obscures the awareness of class, and safeguards the stability of society.

    Although education is free and open to all, and individuals can apply for jobs as they wish, Bowles and Gintis insist that some have much better opportunities than others. The children of rich and powerful people tend to gain better qualifications and better paid jobs, irrespective of their abilities. This is what the education system seeks to hide behind the myth of meritocracy. Some who are deprived of success blame themselves and not the system which has condemned them to fail. The idea that we are competing on a level playing field is a myth.

    Louis Althusser (1971) believed that education socialises working class children into accepting their subordinate status to the middle class. He also stated that the media, the law and religion reinforce this message and pass on an ideology or belief system, namely the ideology of the ruling class. He used the term state ideological apparatus to describe the role of these agencies.

    In a capitalist society, he sees education taking over as the main agency of social control. Education reproduces the attitudes and behaviour for divisions of labour. It teaches people how to accept their position, to be exploited, and to show the rulers how to control the workforce.

    Education prepares individuals for the world of work, and to accept their position in the capitalist society. Marxists correctly claim that the education system benefits the wealthy in society. University students are more likely to come from professional and middle class backgrounds than from the working class. This is particularly true of the old universities and those that are high in the league tables, and that have close associations with private schools. Oxford University, for example, accepts a substantial number of students from the private sector, even after considering the 'A' level results.

    Connor and Dewson (2001) state that only one in five higher education students came from a working class background. This partly reflects their low grades at GCSE and 'A' Level, but also that there are a number of students from working class backgrounds who have the necessary qualifications but opt not to continue to higher education. This supports Marxist ideas that the education system is elitist.

    A survey of 2000 young people demonstrated that students from the working class showed more interest in jobs and financial matters than middle class students.

    Some of the most common reasons given for not considering higher education level were - wanting to start working, wanting training and to work at the same time, wanting to be independent, they were aiming for a job that did not require being highly qualified, and they were concerned about the cost, namely of student loans and the fear of not being able to repay the debt.

    This evidence can be used to support correspondence theory in that working class children are socialised into not challenging middle class power over education and the myth of meritocracy.

    However, the people who experience the most discrimination in Marxist terms are women and members of ethnic minorities. Yet it is these who are the two groups who are increasingly attending universities.

    The work of Bowles and Gintis is considered to be extremely controversial, and it has been criticised by Marxist critics and others.

    Critics agree that Bowles and Gintis over-emphasise the correlation between work and education and that they have failed to provide adequate evidence. A number of points have been made by their critics.

    The education system was established much later than the beginning of the industrial period. For a long time, industrialists were employing an uneducated workforce and thriving. This weakens the alleged relationship between education and economic development.

    Insufficient research was undertaken to the allegation that schools had an effect on personality. Detailed research into life in schools was not undertaken, whilst admitting that the hidden curriculum in fact was influencing pupils. Other research suggests that little attention is paid to school rules by many pupils, and their respect for teachers is minimal - in contrast to Bowles and Gintis' idea of a docile workforce for the future.

    Bowles and Gintis were criticised for ignoring the influence of formal education. Reynolds insists that it is not the objective of the curriculum to develop a workforce that is obedient. Pupils are taught to appraise and question, to know about social and political matters.

    In a study of workers in England by Richard Scase, only 2.5% were of the opinion that educational qualifications were an important factor in deciding social class. This does not suggest that education has succeeded in legalising inequality in Britain.

    According to David Reynolds, it would be impossible for British capitalists to completely rule schools. Local authorities have a great deal of freedom in the matter of organising education. Teachers do have freedom within the classroom.

    The Bowles and Gintis research was completed in the 70s. Since then, there have been many changes to the education system which suggests that their assumptions could be more relevant today. Local authorities lost some of their power and control over education, for example, by the establishment of grant-maintained schools; teachers lost their freedom as a result of the national curriculum; and there has been a growth in vocational training.

    The Marxist, Henry Giroux, sought a new analysis, following the criticisms made of Bowles and Gintis. He claimed that pupils from the working class participated in designing their own education. They do not accept everything they are taught. They take advantage of their own culture to find ways of responding to the school - often by opposition (anti-school subculture).

    What should you have in your folder of notes on this topic? (AO1)

    Definitions of the key concepts

    Correspondence theory

    Ideology

    Repression

    Proletariat

    Bourgeoisie

    Bourgeois hegemony

    Capitalism

    Ideological state apparatus

    Hidden curriculum

    Cultural capital

    Independent study

    • Compulsory

    • Conduct some research around school, how do Marxist approaches apply to the education system

    • Evidence of personal research from a textbook explaining Marxist approaches towards education.

    Extension work

    • Find out about one or more of the following Marxist writers and add notes or annotated downloads to your folder:

    Karl Marx

    Louis Althusser

    Pierre Bourdieu

    Antonio Gramsci

    Jurgen Habermas

    Useful websites and sources of information (AO1):

    You should use the website of the NgfL Cymru and look at the ebook to develop your notes

    http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/eng/sociology-as-ebook

    Karl Marx's life and influence are summarised here

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/marx_karl.shtml

    Summaries of Marxist thinking

    http://sixthsense.osfc.ac.uk/sociology/as_sociology/marxism.asp

    http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-marx.htm

    http://www.sociology.org.uk/ffmarx.doc

    http://www.sociology.org.uk/tmmarx.pdf

    http://www.mrthirkill.com/resources/marxism.doc

    There is an activity lesson on this website that should ensure your notes are good:

    http://www.educationforum.co.uk/sociology_2/basesuper.htm

    There is material that could be very useful on the pages of the Earlham Sociology pages http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/edtraintitle.htm

    Really detailed Marxism can be seen at

    http://www.marxism.org.uk/

    AO1 Knowledge and understanding

    Who was Karl Marx?

    What do Marxist believe about society and how it is structured?

    What do Marxists believe about education?

    What is the link between the Labour Party and Marxism?

    Explain what Bowles and Gintis suggest with correspondence theory.

    What are the strengths of Marxist thinking about schools and education?

    What weaknesses are there to Marxist views of the education system?

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Marxist Perspectives of Education Notes!

    What do Marxists say about the education system?

    Learning targets:

    • Marxists see that the ruling class or 'bourgeoisie' rule the workers or 'proletariat'.

    • The bourgeoisie have the wealth and the power to rule. The proletariat are exploited because they are not treated fairly.

    • Marxists argue that the education system plays a key role in disseminating the ideology of the ruling class.

    • Education acts as a force of oppression for the children of the working classes

    Key questions

    (AO1) What do Marxists believe?

    (AO1) How do Marxist theories apply to the education system?

    (AO2) What strengths are there to the Marxist view of education system?

    (AO2) How have Marxist views been criticised by other writers?

    Summary of key points

    Marxists see capitalist society as being ruled by the economy. The minority, the ruling class or 'bourgeoisie' rule the majority, namely the workers or 'proletariat'. The bourgeoisie have the wealth and the power to rule. The proletariat are exploited because they are not treated fairly. This is the basis of class inequality.

    Institutions such as organised religion, the mass media, the political and the education systems all reinforce the ideology that the rich and powerful should control society. They promote an ideology or belief that our society is fair and just and that the proletariat should quietly accept capitalist society.

    Marxists argue that the education system plays a key role in promoting the ideology of the ruling class.

    Traditionally, the Labour Party has been associated with Marxist principles. It believes that the interests of the working class should be seen as important. Historically the Labour Party has been associated with policies that promote equality of access to education. The Labour Party introduced comprehensive schools, student grants and other educational legislation that made education more accessible to a wider range of people.

    Since the arrival of New Labour in 1997, that traditional link with Marxism has broken down. The Labour Party is much less associated with working class ideals because it has followed New Right ideas of competition and market forces in education.

    Nevertheless, the Labour Party in Wales has remained much more traditional than the Labour Party in London and has introduced a slightly different range of legislation that is concerned with improving education access for learners. It has abolished the unpopular SATS and made access to Higher Education cheaper for Welsh students applying to Welsh Universities.

    The American sociologists, Bowles and Gintis (1976), considered that the main function of education in capitalist countries is to regenerate the labour market. They proposed correspondence theory. This suggests that educational inequality mirrors the inequality of wider society.

    If capitalism is to succeed it must have an industrious and obedient workforce that is too divided to challenge the authority of the rulers. According to Bowles and Gintis, education supplies a workforce with the type of personality, attitudes and values that are most useful to capitalists.

    The education system succeeds in fulfilling this aim by means of the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum includes things that children learn by attending school rather than the alleged educational objectives. There is a correlation between the hidden curriculum and the needs of the workforce. According to Bowles and Gintis, the hidden curriculum moulds the workforce of the future in the following ways:

    In a study of 237 members of the senior year in a secondary school in New York, Bowles and Gintis showed that the grades gained had more to do with personal characteristics than academic ability. A relationship was detected between low grades and creativity whilst the higher grades were associated with reliability and punctuality. The American education system was creating an unimaginative, uncomplaining workforce that could be dealt with easily by employers.

    Very little control is given to students in respect of the subjects they study and the methods of study. That prepares them for the nature of the relationship in the workplace, where workers are expected to listen and obey.

    In capitalist society the workforce must be motivated by external rewards such as pay because the work is so dreary. The wage packet is the external reward, in exactly the same way as the external reward of qualifications was the motivation in school.

    Bowles and Gintis allege that knowledge is divided into fragments and kept in 'neat' compartments. The approach to education corresponds to the way that the workforce is divided. Bowles and Gintis believe that jobs in factories are also divided into specific tasks to be done by different individuals. A fragmented workforce is easy to control - an example of dividing in order to overcome.

    Bowles and Gintis, therefore believe that the hidden curriculum provides a tolerant and obedient workforce that unquestioningly accepts authority, and is motivated by external reward and which is divided. They also argue that formal parts of the curriculum correspond to the needs of capitalist employers.

    They argue that education is indirectly beneficial to capitalism by legalising inequality. By making a society appear to be fair and just, it obscures the awareness of class, and safeguards the stability of society.

    Although education is free and open to all, and individuals can apply for jobs as they wish, Bowles and Gintis insist that some have much better opportunities than others. The children of rich and powerful people tend to gain better qualifications and better paid jobs, irrespective of their abilities. This is what the education system seeks to hide behind the myth of meritocracy. Some who are deprived of success blame themselves and not the system which has condemned them to fail. The idea that we are competing on a level playing field is a myth.

    Louis Althusser (1971) believed that education socialises working class children into accepting their subordinate status to the middle class. He also stated that the media, the law and religion reinforce this message and pass on an ideology or belief system, namely the ideology of the ruling class. He used the term state ideological apparatus to describe the role of these agencies.

    In a capitalist society, he sees education taking over as the main agency of social control. Education reproduces the attitudes and behaviour for divisions of labour. It teaches people how to accept their position, to be exploited, and to show the rulers how to control the workforce.

    Education prepares individuals for the world of work, and to accept their position in the capitalist society. Marxists correctly claim that the education system benefits the wealthy in society. University students are more likely to come from professional and middle class backgrounds than from the working class. This is particularly true of the old universities and those that are high in the league tables, and that have close associations with private schools. Oxford University, for example, accepts a substantial number of students from the private sector, even after considering the 'A' level results.

    Connor and Dewson (2001) state that only one in five higher education students came from a working class background. This partly reflects their low grades at GCSE and 'A' Level, but also that there are a number of students from working class backgrounds who have the necessary qualifications but opt not to continue to higher education. This supports Marxist ideas that the education system is elitist.

    A survey of 2000 young people demonstrated that students from the working class showed more interest in jobs and financial matters than middle class students.

    Some of the most common reasons given for not considering higher education level were - wanting to start working, wanting training and to work at the same time, wanting to be independent, they were aiming for a job that did not require being highly qualified, and they were concerned about the cost, namely of student loans and the fear of not being able to repay the debt.

    This evidence can be used to support correspondence theory in that working class children are socialised into not challenging middle class power over education and the myth of meritocracy.

    However, the people who experience the most discrimination in Marxist terms are women and members of ethnic minorities. Yet it is these who are the two groups who are increasingly attending universities.

    The work of Bowles and Gintis is considered to be extremely controversial, and it has been criticised by Marxist critics and others.

    Critics agree that Bowles and Gintis over-emphasise the correlation between work and education and that they have failed to provide adequate evidence. A number of points have been made by their critics.

    The education system was established much later than the beginning of the industrial period. For a long time, industrialists were employing an uneducated workforce and thriving. This weakens the alleged relationship between education and economic development.

    Insufficient research was undertaken to the allegation that schools had an effect on personality. Detailed research into life in schools was not undertaken, whilst admitting that the hidden curriculum in fact was influencing pupils. Other research suggests that little attention is paid to school rules by many pupils, and their respect for teachers is minimal - in contrast to Bowles and Gintis' idea of a docile workforce for the future.

    Bowles and Gintis were criticised for ignoring the influence of formal education. Reynolds insists that it is not the objective of the curriculum to develop a workforce that is obedient. Pupils are taught to appraise and question, to know about social and political matters.

    In a study of workers in England by Richard Scase, only 2.5% were of the opinion that educational qualifications were an important factor in deciding social class. This does not suggest that education has succeeded in legalising inequality in Britain.

    According to David Reynolds, it would be impossible for British capitalists to completely rule schools. Local authorities have a great deal of freedom in the matter of organising education. Teachers do have freedom within the classroom.

    The Bowles and Gintis research was completed in the 70s. Since then, there have been many changes to the education system which suggests that their assumptions could be more relevant today. Local authorities lost some of their power and control over education, for example, by the establishment of grant-maintained schools; teachers lost their freedom as a result of the national curriculum; and there has been a growth in vocational training.

    The Marxist, Henry Giroux, sought a new analysis, following the criticisms made of Bowles and Gintis. He claimed that pupils from the working class participated in designing their own education. They do not accept everything they are taught. They take advantage of their own culture to find ways of responding to the school - often by opposition (anti-school subculture).

    What should you have in your folder of notes on this topic? (AO1)

    Definitions of the key concepts

    Correspondence theory

    Ideology

    Repression

    Proletariat

    Bourgeoisie

    Bourgeois hegemony

    Capitalism

    Ideological state apparatus

    Hidden curriculum

    Cultural capital

    Independent study

    • Compulsory

    • Conduct some research around school, how do Marxist approaches apply to the education system

    • Evidence of personal research from a textbook explaining Marxist approaches towards education.

    Extension work

    • Find out about one or more of the following Marxist writers and add notes or annotated downloads to your folder:

    Karl Marx

    Louis Althusser

    Pierre Bourdieu

    Antonio Gramsci

    Jurgen Habermas

    Useful websites and sources of information (AO1):

    You should use the website of the NgfL Cymru and look at the ebook to develop your notes

    http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/eng/sociology-as-ebook

    Karl Marx's life and influence are summarised here

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/marx_karl.shtml

    Summaries of Marxist thinking

    http://sixthsense.osfc.ac.uk/sociology/as_sociology/marxism.asp

    http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-marx.htm

    http://www.sociology.org.uk/ffmarx.doc

    http://www.sociology.org.uk/tmmarx.pdf

    http://www.mrthirkill.com/resources/marxism.doc

    There is an activity lesson on this website that should ensure your notes are good:

    http://www.educationforum.co.uk/sociology_2/basesuper.htm

    There is material that could be very useful on the pages of the Earlham Sociology pages http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/edtraintitle.htm

    Really detailed Marxism can be seen at

    http://www.marxism.org.uk/

    AO1 Knowledge and understanding

    Who was Karl Marx?

    What do Marxist believe about society and how it is structured?

    What do Marxists believe about education?

    What is the link between the Labour Party and Marxism?

    Explain what Bowles and Gintis suggest with correspondence theory.

    What are the strengths of Marxist thinking about schools and education?

    What weaknesses are there to Marxist views of the education system?

    Read more...

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