Two big ideas:
1. Schooling is the most efficient means by which the most talented individuals assume the most important
positions in society.
• Schooling is the most rational and efficient way of ensuring that those people with the largest amount of
ability and the people who are most industriest end up assuming the most important positions in society
• Moreover, they reach those positions/achieve those positions regardless of their social origins
• School is the best way to have most talented individuals to fill those positions regardless of their race,
skin colour, gender, class, wealth
• Is innate ability/talent the only main determinant of success in school?
• Is it the case that the people who do best in school get the best grades irrespective of social background?
Or does class/race/ethnicity still matter?
-This is both a moral and rational argument.
• It is wrong for rich and powerful individuals/families to assume that they can pass on their high status to
• Why should you stand a better chance of becoming a doctor/lawyer/CA/CEO of a large company simply
because you have wealthy parents?
• This is also rational argument – society as a whole benefits from having the most talented individuals in
the most pivotal positions in society
• The overall wealth/productivity is going to be enhanced by having the hardest working and most talented
individuals assuming those important positions in society
• Important to have status in school rather than have ascriptions
• Functionalists view educational system as a means of ensuring a quality of opportunity in society
-The school system is a meritocracy: it facilitates equality of opportunity (status based on achievement rather than
• Their view of education is that it is a meritocracy, a means by which we ensure that the most talented
individuals are placed in the most important positions in society
• Functionalists also predict social mobility being facilitated by educational system
• How it relates to education system: if you are son/daughter of factory worker, but nonetheless you are a
good student (have abundant amount of education), as a result of your efforts/talents, you become
doctor/lawyer, your experience will be used in structural functional that you will assume you have higher
status than the ones possessed by your parents = upward mobility
• Conversely, if you are son/daughter of doctor/lawyer and have not been hard-working in school and
hence you managed to get out of high school, because of that you end up working in fast-food restaurant,
you would be assuming a lower status/position in society than the one occupied by your doctor/lawyer
parent = downward mobility
• Educational system = upward/downward mobility
• What determines your qualifications/credentials is ability and hard-work
2. Schooling concerned with the transmission of cognitive skills upon which the knowledge society depends
• Increasingly, we are living in a knowledge society
• Scientific knowledge is becoming of ever greater importance
• We trade in knowledge, we require massive knowledge for industry/tech, schooling is vital for success in
• School is key place where the younger generation gets cognitive skills
• In the past, the skills that were vital for economic success were considered to be learnt informally (at
home or from other adults)
• With the rapid expansion of human knowledge, because we are increasingly living in educated society,
the requisite skills needed for technology are changing so quickly, individuals increasingly need to spend longer periods of time in school, much likely to suggest that to survive in society, what we need is life-
• Are the cognitive/thinking skills that we learn in school, are they really vital for the performance of jobs
One big idea:
-Schooling benefits the few, not the many.
• School system is essentially engaged in process of reproducing and enlarging upon already existing in society
• Educational system as benefiting the needs/interest/ambitions of established interests (rich and powerful)
-Equality of opportunity is a myth.
• Because it serves to legitimate the existing social order
• In other words, people are less likely to criticize the status quo, people are less likely to revote the system if they
believe that those people who occupy the best positions in society, have the largest amount of money, have got to
their position in society because of their superior talent and they work harder
• Because it undercuts position to system which is essentially unfair
• Families who do have wealth are going to want to pass on those advantages to their children
• In modern times, the way that this ambition is facilitated is through educational system with the use of educational
-Schooling reproduces existing inequalities.
• Private education represents how wealthy parents ensure that their children enjoy the same advantages that
• There is evidence of what conflict theorists would argue: the educational system faci