Conflict theorists see the schools as agencies that reproduce and legitimate the current social order through the functions they perform. By reproducing and legitimating the existing social order, the educational institution is seen as benefiting some individuals and groups at the expense of others (Collins, 1977, 1979, 1988b)
Reproducing the Social Relations of Production.Some conflict theorists depict American schools as reflecting the needs of capitalist production and as social Instruments for convincing the population that private ownership and profit are just and in the best interests of the entire society. In Schooling and Capitalist America (1976), Samuel Bowles and Herbert Cintis set forth the correspondence principle—that the social relations of work find expression in the social relations of the school. They say that the schools mirror the workplace and hence on a day-to-day basis prepare children for adult roles in the job market. The authoritarian structure of the school reproduces the bureaucratic hierarchy of the corporation, rewarding diligence, submissiveness, and compliance. The system of grades employed to motivate students parallels the wage system for motivating workers. In short, the schools are seen as socializing a compliant labor force for the capitalist economy.
The Hidden Curriculum.In the eyes of conflict theorists, the hidden curriculum of the schools plays a similar role. The hidden curriculum consists of a complex of unarticulated values, attitudes, and behaviors that subtly mold children in the image preferred by the dominant institutions. Teachers model and reinforce traits that embody middle-class standards—industry, responsibility, conscientiousness, reliability, thoroughness, self-control, and efficiency. Children learn to be quiet, to be punctual, to line up, to wait their turn, to please their teachers, and to conform to group pressures. Thus schools provide a bridge between the values of intimacy and acceptance pervading the family and the more demanding, impersonal rules of a competitive, materialistic society.
Control Devices.Conflict theorists agree with functionalist theorists that schools are agencies for drawing minorities and the disadvantaged into the dominant culture. But they do not see the function in benign terms. Sociologist Randall Collins (1976) contends that the educational system serves the interests of the dominant group by defusing the threat posed by minority ethnic groups. In large, conflict-ridden, multiethnic societies like the United States and the Soviet Union, the schools become instruments to Americanize or Sovietize minority people. Compulsory education erodes ethnic differences and loyalties and transmits to minorities and those at the bottom of the social hierarchy the values and life ways of the dominant group. Schools, then, are viewed as control devices employed by established elite.
Productive Capital.Conflict theorists see the research and development function of the universities quite differently than do functionalist theorists. For instance, Michael W. Apple (1982) gives a Marxist twist to the functionalist argument by contending that the educational institution produces the technical and administrative knowledge necessary for running a capitalist order. Viewed in this manner, education is part of the system of production. It not only reproduces existing social arrangements, but develops the know-how needed by capitalists to fuel the economy and gain competitive advantage in world markets.
Credentialism.Collins (1979) also downplays the functionalist argument that schools serve as mobility escalators. He cites evidence that students acquire little technical knowledge in school and that most technical skills are learned on the job. Although more education is needed to obtain most jobs, Collins says that this development is not explained by the technical requirements of the job. The level of skills required by typists, receptionists, salesclerks, teachers, assembly-line workers, and many others is not much different than it was a generation or so ago. Collins calls these tendencies credentialism—the requirement that a worker have a degree for its own sake, not because it certifies skills needed for the performance of a job. Since education functions more as a certification of class membership than of technical skills, it functions as a means of class inheritance.
s Task 15.Every person has had some experience in the sphere of education. Now, look at the suggested list of questions and try to answer them recalling your own “educational background”:
1. How in your opinion does the school prepare children for adult roles in the job market, and thus mirror the work-place?
2. Did you discern the presence of the hidden curriculum while studying at school? What aspects did it include? In what way was it inculcated on pupils?
3. Do you agree that the educational institution produces the knowledge necessary only for running the order characteristic of a certain country? Back your point of view with examples.
4. In what way can an educational institution serve as a mobility escalator? What measures are taken in order to prevent it from overlooking really gifted and talented pupils/students?
5. Do you agree that nowadays students acquire little technical knowledge in school and that most technical skills are learned on the job? Was this true for you or your acquaintances?
6. What is having a degree for you? Should you obtain it for your own sake or in order to find a suitable job?
Sub-Unit 3.2.: Changing Education, Changing Times
“So, the education is political. The changes and developments that take place in the education system of any given society, at any particular time, reflect the political imperatives, priorities and ideas of those who govern”.
sTask 1.Do you agree with this statement? What are the prerequisites of the changes in the process of education of a particular country? In order to get some real examples that would back your opinion you are suggested to make a short trip into the history of the world education. You will read the words of pupils/teachers from different epochs known to you from your course of World History. Try to guess where they come from. Comment on your choice by trying to establish connections between what they say and your general knowledge of this or that epoch or country.