Social Institution

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Social Institution

Social Institution

The social institution selected for this particular assignment is education. Now, the three theories will be applied to the social institution of education.

Education Functionalism

Functionalist sociologists begin with a picture of society that stresses the interdependence of the social system; these researchers often examine how well parts are integrated with each other. Functionalists view society as a kind of machine, where one part articulates with another to produce the dynamic energy required to make society work (Young, 2007). Most important, functionalism stresses the processes that maintain social order by stressing consensus and agreement. Although functionalists understand that change is inevitable, they underscore the evolutionary nature of change. Furthermore, although they acknowledge that conflict between groups exists, functionalists argue that without a common bond to unite groups, society will disintegrate. Thus, functionalists examine the social processes necessary to the establishment and maintenance of social order (Schaefer, 2009).

Functionalist theories of school and society trace their origins to the French sociologist Émile Durkheim's (1858-1917) general sociological theory. Durkheim's sociology was concerned with the effects of the decline of traditional rituals and community during the transition from traditional to modern societies. Based on his research, Durkheim provided a sociological analysis of the effects of modernity on community.

For Durkheim, the processes of industrialization, urbanization, and modernization led to the breakdown of traditional rituals and methods of social control, which in turn led to the breakdown of social solidarity and cohesion. He demonstrated empirically how the breakdown in traditional community resulted in the decline of collective conscience and the rise of individualism. Such a breakdown led to what Durkheim called anomie, or the condition of normlessness in individuals and society (Durkheim, 2007).

As the bonds that connected individuals to each other and to society became unhinged, modern societies faced disintegration from within. He did not believe that the solution to social disintegration was a return to the past, with its strict forms of social control and regulation. Rather, he believed that modern societies had to develop new forms of social control and cohesion that would allow for the newly developed individualism of modernity to exist within a cohesive modern society (Durkheim, 2007). Such a society would allow for a balance between individualism and community.

Durkheim was the first sociologist to apply sociological theory to education. Although he recognized that education had taken different forms at different times and places, he believed that in virtually all societies, education was of critical importance in creating the moral unity necessary for social cohesion and harmony. For Durkheim, moral values were the foundation of society.

Durkheim's emphasis on values and cohesion set the tone for how present-day functionalists approach the study of education. Functionalists tend to assume that consensus is the normal state in society and that conflict represents a breakdown of shared values. In a highly integrated, well-functioning society, schools socialize students into the appropriate values and sort and select students according to their abilities. Educational reform is supposed to create structures, programs, and curricula that are technically advanced and rational ...
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