Education and the theories of Marxism
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1284
- Category: Marxism
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a) Explain what is meant by ‘hidden curriculum’.
All the things taught throughout everyday lives at school which are not formally examined or outlined in the formal curriculum such as obedience, conformity, social control, ethnocentricity and competitiveness for example.
b) Suggest 3 other institutions in society that might control people’s ideas and beliefs’ apart from education.
Religion is a big factor in controlling peoples idea’s and beliefs as this is present all over the world not just in our society, also the Media is said to be a growing controller of people’s ideas. Also the Government can control people’s ideas through controlling how society is run through social policy and this will have a significant impact on people’s ideas.
c) Outline the postmodernist view of the role of education.
Postmodernists claim that society has entered a new phase and is now completely different from the modern society that Marxists and Functionalists have written about. They reject the idea that we live in two-class society and argue that class divisions are no longer important and that society is much more diverse and fragmented so therefore the education system is. However Functionalists would agree with this point and say that the education system does not have class divisions and that education is meritocratic. Whereas this juxtaposes Bowles and Gintis’s view that the mass education system is preparing low skilled workers willing to put up with alienation and repetitive work.
They argue that the economy has shifted away from mass production is now based on ‘flexible specialisation’ where production is customised for small specialist markets. They believe that this post fordist system requires a skilled, adaptable workforce able to use advanced technology and transfer their skills from one specialist task to another. This point agrees with the Functionalist perspective by Durkheim who believes each person must have the necessary specialist skills to perform their role in society. However post-Fordism calls for a different education system, instead of preparing pupils to be low skilled/paid obedient workers they should encourage self-motivation, self-supervision and creativity. Post-modernists think this is not relevant to today’s society and is outdated.
Post modernists argue that the education system has become more diverse and responsive to the needs of individuals and groups. In their view, the correspondence principle meaning school reflects work ideology no longer exists unlike Marxists postmodernists argue that education reproduces diversity not inequality.
d) Asses the Marxist contribution to our understanding of the role of education.
Marxists see the state as the means by which the capitalist ruling class maintain their dominant position. According to Althusser, the state consists of two components both of which serve the capitalist system, these are the ideological state apparatus referred to in item A, which maintains the rule of the bourgeoisie by controlling people’s beliefs and values through the education system for example, and the second element is the repressive state apparatus which maintains the rule of the bourgeoisie by force. Althusser states that the education system reproduces class inequality by transmitting it from generation to generation by failing the working-class pupils. Also education legitimates class inequality by producing ideologies that persuade workers to accept that inequality is inevitable.
Like other Marxists, Bourdieu argues that the main function of education is to reproduce and legitimize ruling class culture and power. Another important function of education is to socialize the working class into a ‘culture of failure’ so that they take up, without question, routine and dull work.
Bowles and Gintis examine this idea further in their correspondence theory. In their view the education system helps to prevent the poor from rebelling against the system by legitimising class inequalities through producing ideologies that justify inequality. Unlike functionalists such as Parsons, Bowles and Gintis argue that meritocracy does not in fact exist. Evidence shows that the main factor determining whether someone has a high income or not is their family and class background not their ability in education, this clearly supports Bowles and Gintis’s point, this is justified by the ‘poor-are-dumb’ theory of failure. Morrow and Torress criticise Marxists for taking a class first approach that sees class as key and ignores other factors. Feminist’s make the point eg: Madeline MacDonald that Marxists ignore the fact that schools reproduce not only capitalism but patriarchy too.
Bowles and Gintis moved on to develop Althusser’s ideas further they argue that there are close counterparts between schooling and work in the capitalist system. Both school and work are hierarchies with head teachers or bosses at the top making decisions and giving orders. They refer to this as the ‘correspondence principle’. This is where the relationships and structure found in education mirror those in work. They argue that this principle operates through the ‘hidden curriculum’ referred to in item A; this is lessons in school which are not explicit on the curriculum, for example accepting hierarchy, competition and working for extrinsic rewards.
This prepares working class pupils to be hardworking, docile and compliant in their future jobs. However, postmodernists criticise the correspondence principle on the grounds that today’s economy requires schools to produce a very different labour force to the one described by Bowles and Gintis. A fellow Marxist, Paul Willis rejects Bowles and Gintis deterministic view which assumes that pupils have no free will and passively accept brainwashing, Giroux also argues that working class students do not accept the legitimacy of school. Many resist the influence of the hidden curriculum and the history of trade unionism and industrial action in the UK does not support the idea of worker conformity.
Willis’s Neo-Marxist work draws on a combination of Marxism with the interactionist perspective. He used qualitative research methods to study 12 working class boys in Birmingham during their last few months at school and their first few months in factory jobs. He believed the lads were in an anti-school subculture where they were rude to teachers didn’t do homework, played truant and got into fights.
‘The lads’ called the conformists ‘ear oles’ meaning they were the pupils who listened to the teacher, the lads saw them as effeminate. Willis stated the irony was that although they resisted the schools ideology in their anti-school subculture, this still led them to the unskilled work that capitalism needs workers for, by being accustomed to boredom they will cope with tedious unskilled labour. Where Bowles and Gintis see education as a straightforward process, Willis’ study shows that the working class can resist attempts to brainwash them. However critics argue that Willis’ account of the lads portrays them as working-class heroes despite their anti-social behaviour and sexist attitudes.
His small scale study of only 12 boys in one school is unrepresentative of other pupils and you wouldn’t be able to generalise from his findings. A further criticism is made by the Feminist Angela McRobbie who points out that females are largely absent from Willis’ study. However, Willis’ work has stimulated a great deal of research into how education reproduces and legitimises other inequalities, for example ethnic and gender inequalities. Another criticism of Willis is that he largely ignores the full range of subcultures within schools. Many pupils fall somewhere in between total conformity and total rejection of school values.
The Marxist perspective is generally a conflict view on the education system, however many disagree on how the education system is negative for the proletariat/working class. Post-modernists particularly challenge the Marxist viewpoint as outdated, and think that the education system Marxists describe is no longer relevant to today’s society, rather they state that the economy has now shifted away from assembly line mass production and boring factory work and instead requires a skilled adaptable workforce, rather than the low-skilled low-paid obedient workers Willis & Bowles and Gintis describe. They insist that the education system of today must encourage lifelong retraining, motivation, self-supervision and creativity.