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Chapter 2

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University of Guelph
SOC 3340
Victor Ujimoto

Chapter 2 – Classical Sociological Approaches to Education Introduction: using theory to study schools - theories are conceptual tools that provide perspective or illumination - they help you see - sociology doesn’t posses a unified theory that explains everything - offers competing perspectives, each having different emphases and starting points - most abstract theories are called ‘macro’ theories - ‘grand theories’ - attempt to understand vast horizons across entire societies - widest focus, centuries of time and large chunks of geographic world - macro sociologists interested in describing and explaining the casual transitions from pre-modern to modern societies, broad shifts in economic cultures and demographics - would approach schooling – by linking it to broad modernizing forces that have transformed the world – ie. Rise in science in past 2 centuries - ‘middle-range’ theorists: more circumscribed, offering propositions that are geared to specific times and places – particular nation in a time period - schooling – attempt to explain why Canadian higher education system greatly expanded in the immediate post-second world war era - might examine more proximate causes such as the growth of the welfare system, economic explosion of the ’50 and 60’s and impact of baby boom - ‘micro-level’ theorists: concerned with face-to-face interactions among people, with only a partial eye to broader social forces - different levels of explanation allow sociologists to examine various facets of the social world - no unified body of theory is uncritically accepted by all sociologists Durkheim and Socialization: the cultural shift to individualism - opportunities for making choices minimal in traditional societies - religion prescribed what you did, custom and habit ruled rising individualism was central to this radical break - changes motivated Emile Durkheim to address macro-level question: with the transition from traditional to modern societies, what provides for the social regularity of modern life? - both industrialization and democratic reforms had sparked greater individualism - people should develop individual talents and capacities to their fullest extent – revolutionary thinking - Durkheim wondered what was replacing the authoritative voice of religion, which had traditionally supplied the norms that prescribed social behaviour - response: social cohesion - argued against those who postulated about individual rationality, or a social contract, as the basis of society - trust came first - trust was fundamental - trust was ‘precontractual’ - only when you trust someone to not cheat you will you ever agree to abide by a contract - trust comes from individuals interacting with one another - your identity – sense of self – comes from others - you don’t define yourself, others do - self is assembled from the reactions of others - tend to internalize the reinforcing judgments of family and friends and strangers - religion had dictated the individual’s place within an enveloping collective - separate personalities absent - trust a key ingredient in social cohesion - each of us speaks a language we didn’t invent - we think with words created by others - mutual understanding is possible only by using a common language – we didn’t create the language ourselves - language is a microcosm of society - all these rules and resources exercised on the individual an external constraint - these rules and resources promote social cohesion - social norms were essential to providing a moral framework – the basis of enduring trust – within which mutual agreements can be reached (contracts) - our reliance, as social beings, on a community of others provides a moral basis for social cohesion - framework has a dual role - enables is to act by following the guidelines of the framework and constrains us by restricting the range of approved action - schooling was about the ‘systematic socialization of the young generation’ - all education is a continuous effort to impose on the child ways of seeing, feeling and acting at which he/she wouldn’t have arrived spontaneously - morality: 1) morals had an imperative quality, stipulating how one should act: ‘a system of rules of action that predetermine conduct’ 2) acting morally entailed some appreciation for the well-being of others: ‘to act in the light of a collective interest’ 3) acting morally meant taking personal responsibility: ‘have as clear and complete an awareness as possible of the reasons for our conduct’ - education must stress students’ learning a ‘system of rules’ - rules should benefit society (collective interest) - students must not follow rules blindly – must understand why they exist – must accept responsibility for their actions - socialization a complex activity involving important reciprocity between the individual and society - education was the institution that could fulfill this broad public mandate, the service to society - schools were to teach students to be socially responsible, to internalize their obligation to the large community - curriculum should include training in scientific reasoning and knowledge – ‘it is science that elaborates the cardinal notion that govern our thought: notions of cause, laws, space, number’ - before it was religion that fulfilled this - those enduring issues that he correctly identified - recognized that salience of socialization in formal education and was clear about its multiple objectives - proposed an important view regarding the relations between individual and society, and despite its shortcomings this remains a powerful statement of education’s role in the communal anchoring of social norms (morality) - education is more likely to reproduce society than to change it – education is only the image and reflection of society, it doesn’t create it - education plays a fundamental role in promoting social order, giving stability to society - social reproduction, not social change, is the focus of both socialization and legitimation - stresses conservative tendency within schools and schooling - preparing children to take on adult roles implies preparing them for positions and responsibilities in an adult world similar to the existing society - preparing children for some utopian or desired society would be irresponsible since this would be preparing them for a future that may never materialize - Durkheim concerned about education providing an equal opportunity for everyone - education as a vehicle to foster the development of individual talents and capacities - critics of Durkheim: 1) view of society leans too far towards consensus - society appears as one big happy family where everyone agrees about normal - conflict invisible - implies everyone in society provides equal weight – social norms - morality of powerful groups often the official morality - power plays a more fundamental role in the social order than Durkheim allows 2) Durkheim tended to point to the moral order, or society, as all-powerful - society was an ‘external constraint’ it ‘commanded us’, it ‘penetrated us’ and it ‘formed part of us’ - socialization took on the aura of pouring the concepts of societies’ morals into the child - ‘individual’ and ‘society’ needs to be more dynamic – recognizing that people actively interpret social rules - socialization not like turning on a faucet and filling a vessel 3) the ‘health’ of society could be seen as the ultimate goal - critics argued that schools should aim to develop people’s capacity to make the most of themselves - different interpretation of individualism - more emphasis on nurturing individual talents, and emphasized active learning – learning by doing - Durkheim promoted education as a social mechanism to promote social cohesion Marx: industrial capitalism, class inequality, and the spectre of selection - focus of any social analysis must be on the production and distribution of goods and services that are critical to the survival or society - earliest economies based on hunting and gathering - agricultural revolution occurred 12,000 yea
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