1. The role and purpose of education, including
vocational education and training, in
contemporary society.
Marxist and other conflict views of the role and purpose of education:
social control, ideology, hegemony; ‘deschoolers’ (Illich, Friere):
socialisation into conformity by coercion.
By the time you’ve worked through this area of
the specification, you’ll be expert on:
Ruling class ideology;
Legitimation of inequality;
Correspondence principle / theory;
Social reproduction;
Counter(anti)-school culture;
Hidden curriculum;
Myth of meritocracy;
Shop-floor culture;
Ideological state apparatus;
Subservient workforce;
Acceptance of hierarchy;
‘Jug and mug’ principle;
Motivation by external rewards.
ruling class
Prepares pupils
for their role in
the workplace;
and disguises
Reproduces new
generations of
schooled to
accept their
place in capitalist
He wrote
for marx. 1969.
A structuralist, macro approach to the role of education in a
capitalist society.
KEY CONCEPTS: ideological
state apparatus.
* In modern society the education system has largely replaced the
church as the main agency for ideological control.
They won’t listen to
the Church anymore,
so they only way to
control them is
* The ruling class cannot hold power for long simply by the use of force.
Ideological control through influencing the way people think, is the most
effective way for the ruling class to maintain power over the subject
You are feeling very
sleepy; give yourself
up to those in
power; strive to
obey; don’t question
or challenge…
* Schools transmit an ideology which states that capitalism is just and
That’ll be $2.50,
please. Cost price
was 15 cents which
gives me a net
daylight robbery
figure of $1.35.
Uh-uh, OK.
We’ll just
pretend we’re
American for
a minute…
* Schools prepare pupils to accept their future exploitation.
Why do I have
to sit in the
cooler for three
hours because
I’m not wearing
the school tie?
It’s actually got
nothing to do with the
tie. We’re just getting
you trained up to do
as your future boss
says. We’re breaking
your spirit.
Having gutless
workers &
consumers is the
only way capitalism
will survive…
* Pupils who become managers and decision makers through their
qualifications which legitimate their power over others.
If you work really hard, Maxwell, you could
become a deputy head teacher, just like me.
Then you get to shout at people and drive
around in a Vauxhall people carrier.
I can’t be bothered to work
hard, Sir. I’ll just settle for
working in Farmfoods for
the rest of my life instead
and being treated like a lowlife by the terminally
superior, such as yourself.
RESEARCH METHOD: this was what we call ‘Armchair theorising’
because Althusser didn’t actually carry out empirical research, he was
simply expressing his opinion based on his Marxist beliefs.
WEAKNESSES: his work lacks empirical support.
They wrote
Schooling in
america. 1976.
A structuralist, macro approach to
the role of education in a capitalist
KEY CONCEPTS: Correspondence principle;
hidden curriculum; subservient workforce;
acceptance of hierarchy; ‘jug and mug’
principle; fragmentation; myth of meritocracy;
motivation by external rewards.
* There is close correspondence between the ways in which people and
children are treated in the workplace and the school. This is to get
children used to their future exploitation. It achieves this through the
hidden curriculum.
We teach you to submit to an
authority figure and to behave
quietly and politely, surpressing
your impulses….
…so that by the time you’ve got a job,
you’re a natural!
* By maintaining power over children, teachers are training children to
become a subservient and docile workforce who will not challenge the
power of capitalism.
How do teachers make children into
* The fragmentation of the school day and subjects corresponds to the
fragmentation of the workforce. By keeping workers unaware of the
overall running of a business, they cannot use this knowledge to set up
in competition.
Give a man a fish
and he’ll eat for a
day. Teach him how
to fish and you ruin
a great business
RESEARCH METHOD: they conducted a study based on 237 members of
the senior year in a New York high school.
WEAKNESSES: Trunacy rates and behavioural issues show children are
not docile and unquestionning. Also, can we apply findings of the
American education system to the British one?
He wrote
learning to
labour. 1979.
A structuralist, macro approach to the role of
education in a capitalist society. However,
Willis used a micro approach to examine
experiences of school.
KEY CONCEPTS: counter-school culture; shopfloor culture; penetrations.
* There isn’t a simple relationship between the economy and the
education system; students are active participants – some of whom
choose to fail.
Do I look like I’d become
part of a subservient
and docile workforce?
* ‘The lads’ formed their own friendship group which had a counterschool culture which was against the values of the school and doing
I’ve gone for the last half term
without picking up a pen. I’m
well proud!
Teachers are
Kids who work
hard in school
need kicking.
Flooding the bogs
was a particularly
proud moment for
* They focused on ‘having a laff’ to cope with the boredom they felt at
school & in work. But they clearly just try to cope with tedium and
oppression instead of actively challenging it.
RESEARCH METHOD: As well as drawing upon Marxist sociology, Willis
used some of the research techniques of interactionism and micro
theory. His ethnographic method used observation in class, recorded
discussions, informal interviews and diaries. He focused on 12 working
class lads in their last 18 months at school and their first few months at
unrepresentative sample
size which focuses only
on male experiences.
Why didn’t
Willis look at
people like
What is an ideological state
An institution, influenced by the State,
that transmits ruling-class ideas in the
guise of mainstream ideas in order to
reproduce, legitimise and hide existing
patterns of class inequality.
What is the main function of
education as an ideological state
To ensure that ruling class dominance
of economic, social & political power
continues undisturbed, by convincing
working class pupils that their
educational failure is their fault.
What is the hidden curriculum,
and how does it differ from the
academic curriculum?
The curriculum is concerned with
transmitting knowledge and skills,
whereas the hidden curriculum
(embodied in the organisation, rules &
routines of schools) is concerned with
transmitting conforming attitudes..
According to Althusser, what is
the function of classroom
knowledge such as history?
Why are city academies criticised
by Marxist sociologists?
History teaching has focused
traditionally on powerful figures such
as Kings and Queens. This passes on
the idea that heredity, hierarchy &
obedience to authority are worthy
values and norms.
The content of their lessons emphasise
capitalist values such as free
enterprise. This is not surprising, as
city academies are financed partly by
private capital.
According to Althusser, what does
most classroom knowledge either
neglect or ignore altogether?
Subjects that contain knowledge that
might be used to criticise the capitalist
system, e.g. republicanism, socialism,
According to Marxist sociologists,
what happens to those pupils who
question the legitimacy of teachers
and education?
They are often defined as problematic,
anti-authority etc. and relegated to
lower sets and streams, in which they
are subjected to further social
controls. This leads to their eventual
What message does the hidden
curriculum mainly transmit,
especially to working class pupils?
That failure is the result of individual
deficiency, rather than a consequence
of capitalism’s need for a manual
labour force.
How do Bowles & Gintis view the
concept of meritocracy?
As an ideological myth. A few working
class pupils are allowed access to
further and higher education to give
the impression of equality of
opportunity, which is false.
Critics argue the Marxist
sociologists of education have a
simple view of decision-making and
power in education. Why is this?
They say education benefits a capitalist
elite, but the large number of
influential groups in the education
system suggests Marxists are being too
How might truancy and exclusion
be used to criticise the Marxist
theory of education?
It suggests the hidden curriculum
doesn’t always succeed in producing
conformist pupils.
Why is it difficult to test Marxist
concepts such as the hidden
curriculum & ideology?
They are highly abstract ideas that are
difficult to operationalise (turn into
variables that can be observed &
measured easily).
Why did Paul Willis’s ‘lads’ see
education as irrelevant?
Because they were happy to move into
manual work in factories, for which
qualifications were generally not
What was the effect of the hidden
curriculum on Willis’s ‘lads’?
There was no effect. The value system
of the school was ignored – the ‘lads’
substituted their own value system
based on ‘having a laff’.
Why is Willis’s research an
interpretivist critique of Marxism?
Unlike traditional Marxists, Willis was
interested in how the ‘lads’ in his study
saw and interpreted the world around
them. He noted that they actively
sought out working class jobs and
chose to ‘fail’ at school – they were
not forced.
Who are the two most important
functionalist thinkers with regard to
the role of education?
Durkheim and Parsons.
According to functionalism, what
two elements underpin social
Value consensus (general agreement
on norms & values) and an integrated
division of labour (the way jobs and
skills are organised).
Identify two ways in which the
education system serves as a
secondary agent of socialisation.
It socialises each generation into
society’s values, norms, attitudes etc,
particularly the belief that work is a
highly valued activity. It encourages
social conformity by stressing
adherence to formal rules.
According to Durkheim, what is the
function of the knowledge taught in
To bind individuals to society, e.g. by
making them aware of the past
achievements of their society, so
encouraging cultural pride.
Apart from transmitting
knowledge, how do schools convey
the idea that the social group is
more important than the
Through mechanisms such as school
uniforms, assemblies and sports days.
1. Ruling class ideology
2. Legitimation of inequality
3. Correspondence principle / theory
4. Social reproduction
5. Counter(anti)-school culture
6. Hidden curriculum
7. Fragmentation
8. Myth of meritocracy
9. Shop-floor culture
10. Penetrations
11. Ideological state apparatus
12. Subservient workforce
13. Acceptance of hierarchy
14. ‘Jug and mug’ principle
15. Motivation by external rewards
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