SOC224H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Cultural Reproduction, Solar-Powered Desalination Unit, Medieval University
by Nehan Afreen
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Week 4, Oct 5
Lecture #4 - Continued
Structural Functionalists and Selection
S. Functionalists also theorized about how schools serve a sorting & selecting function.
Functionalists argued that schools taught modern values. Schools provide a common culture in
societies that were growing increasingly diverse & complex.
Schools would function as transmitters as modern values like universalism, democracy &
meritocracy. Students would be taught a common culture in which individuals aspired to get ahead, to
champion universalism & to uphold meritocracy.
How students learn this common culture → Rather than teaching these values overtly, schools
actually taught them through their very form & operation. Students learned by doing. By treating all
students equally before common rules, schools embodied the values of universalism.
The structure of modern schooling functioned by implicitly displaying modern values through its very
The 2 functions of schools:
1) To socialize - Parsons reiterates Durkheim's ideas.
2) To allocate - Schools have a function in allocating who does what. The term 'allocate' is a neutral
term in contrast to terms like 'selection'. Allocation happens through grading, designating credentials -
deciding who earns what types of grades/credentials.
-The edu system as an important mechanism for the selection of individuals for their future role in
society. It functions to allocate these human resources within the role structure of adult society. Thus
schools, by testing & evaluating students, match their talents, skills & capacity to the jobs for which
they are best suited. School is seen as the major mechanism for role allocation.
“To Allocate”: Davis & Moore’s “Functional Theory of Stratification”
Meritocracy → If you work hard enough, you'll be rewarded. Cornerstone of their theory.
Meritocracy is a commonly held belief.
Some positions are more important than others, and require special skills.
These skills are in short supply, because talent is scarce and training is costly of people’s time and
Need adequate rewards to induce the right people to develop their skills (e.g., $, social status)
Argument → Schools are meritocratic. Those who work hard received good grades. They are seen as
deserving of merit. The function of schools is to bestow the recognition & merit upon those who are
D & M believe that everyone has the equal chance to pursue credentials/merit. However, socio
evidence shows that there are certain barriers that prevent some people from pursuing education (Ex:
Money). D & M assume that everyone starts at the same line to start the race & that everyone has an
equal chance at making it. But, they disregard the obstacles- financial constraints.
D & M focus too much on how inequality motivates people to undergo long & arduous schooling.
They avoid examining how inequality fails to function for others who are equally motivated but
unable to pursue the necessary edu.
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