Education and Marxism

Essay by aalim3University, Bachelor's April 2004

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The now infamous words of our Prime Minister during his 1997 rally cry highlight the emphasis placed on education in our society. Concerns with the system such as contrasting achievement between different social classes and ethnic groups (in addition to examination board incompetence) are always raised, again implying that education is seen as being of fundamental significance to citizens. This essay will look in detail at the analysis by Marx of education in capitalist societies, and then using examples to show that whilst his ideas are certainly valid, some aspects may be perhaps somewhat 'out of date', and do not fully correspond to the realities of a 21st century capitalist society.

Firstly the Functionalist view will be briefly looked at, which contrasts with Marxist theory. Durkheim and Parsons are two key sociologists who saw education as important for socialisation, its function being to transmit shared cultural values to the next generation.

Since education produces 'ideal citizens' committed to consensus and conformity, this process of 'social reproduction' is fundamental to the establishment and maintenance of social order. Durkheim argued that teaching of subjects such as history and RE promoted social solidarity, enabling children to feel a sense of pride as they recognise the links between themselves and society. Parsons argued that schools can act as a bridge between the family and society, with education having the role of socialising children into universal values such as achievement, individualism and equality of opportunity. I believe that such theories are idealistic but not necessarily realistic, since there is a considerable abundance of well educated individuals who are not committed to conformity; indeed quite the opposite, for example through anarchism or gothism. To contradict Parson's view, individuals may learn through schools that in the real world there is not actually equality (e.g. racial discrimination), and...