April 20, 2013
Sociology Textbook Notes
Chapter 10: 232-241
- The Functions of Education
Many Canadians believe that only the smartest, most intelligent
students achieve the highest positions in life.
Educational Attainment: Based on the outcome of
individual talent and hard work
Educational Achievement: How much a student actually
The view that schools sort students based on talent and effort is
a central component to the functional theory of education.
Functional theory also stresses the training role of schools
In schools, people learn to read, write, count, calculate ad
perform other essential tasks, which are essential to the
workings of postmodern society.
The third function of the school is to socialize students.
Schools teach students to view Canada with pride,
respect the law, think of democracy as the best form of
government and value capitalism
o Capitalism: an economic and political system in
which a country's trade and industry are controlled
by private owners for profit, rather than by the
Lastly, schools transmit culture from generation to generation,
which fosters a common identity and socially glues them
together in the process.
Schools play role in assimilating the disadvantaged,
minorities, and immigrants into Canadian society.
However, common identity has been based on respect for
Emile Durkheim emphasized the role of schools in socializing
the young and promoting social integration.
People are torn between egoistic needs and moral
Educational institutions must ensure that the moral side
predominates. April 20, 2013
By instilling a sense of authority, discipline and morality
in children schools make society cohesive.
Manifest functions: positive goals that schools accomplish
4. Transmitting culture
Latent functions: unintended functions
1. Necessary and normal peer socialization and challenge
to primary groups’ socializing
2. Mate selection
4. Prevention of flooding of labor force
5. Dissent and social change
Ex: Schools encourage the development of a separate
youth culture that often conflicts with parents’ values.
Especially at college and university levels, educational
institutions bring potential mates together, thus serving as
a “marriage market.”
- The Effect of Economic Inequality from the Conflict Perspective
Chief problem with functionalist view is that it exaggerates the
degree to which schools sort students by ability and thereby
ensure that most talented students eventually get the most
Conflict theorists argue that schools distribute the benefits of
education unequally, allocating most of the benefits to children
from upper classes and higher-status racial and ethnic groups.
Because amount and type of formal education are strongly
correlated with earning power, schools tend to reproduce the
stratification system generation after generation.
Ex: On pg. 233, Figure 10.6 shows that Canadians from high-
income families (top 25% of family income) are 61% more
likely to be enrolled in university at the age of 19 in comparison
to Canadians from lower-income families (bottom 25% of
Four mechanisms that operate in conjunction with the school
system to reproduce inequality:
1) Financial constraint April 20, 2013
2) One-parent households
Financial problems due to lack of two-parent
3) Lack of cultural capital
Cultural capital: “Widely shared, high status
cultural signals (attitudes, preferences, formal
knowledge, behaviors, goals and credentials) used
for social and cultural exclusion.
University education provides people with cultural
capital that they can transmit to their children.
The more intelligent a person is, the more likely
they are to do well later in life.
IQ tests: standardized tests to sort students by
o Depends on two factors:
1. How effectively an individual absorbs what his
or her environments offers
2. How closely his or her environment reflects
what the test includes
o Therefore, the underprivileged score lower because
they don’t have the training and cultural
background needed to score high.
o Problem with IQ tests and other standardized tests
is that they can only measure acquired
proficiency in a given cultural system.
Streaming reproduces class differences, determines
who goes to university and who doesn’t and
influences who enters which social class in the
- Case Study: Functionalist vs. Conflict Theories of the Community
Two social forces contributed most heavily to the rise of the
community college system
1) The country needed skilled workers in industry
2) The belief grew that higher education would
contribute to upward mobility and greater equality. April 20, 2013
Functionalists see that the community college system creates
new opportunities for disadvantaged youth who might
otherwise have less rewarding jobs.
Conflict theorists deny that the growth of community colleges
increases upward mobility and equality: it is the entire
stratification system that is upwardly mobile.
The quality of most jobs improves, but the relative
position of community college graduates vs.
university graduates remains the same.
Community colleges do create opportunities for individual
However, community colleges do not change the overall pattern
of inequality in Canadian society.
Functionalists paint a somewhat idealized picture of the
- Gender and Education: The Feminist Contribution
Women in colleges and universities have higher grade point
averages and complete their degrees faster.
More females than males in post-secondary education
Females are constrained by social stereotypes placed on them
by their parents.
Gender segregation in the labor market tend to direct boys and
girls toward what they regard as masculine and feminine.
Also influences choice of field of study.
Gender structures the educational experience and its
- The Stereotype Threat: A Symbolic Interactionist
Symbolic interactionists suggest that self-fulfilling prophecy
plays a large role in education.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: Am expectation that
helps bring about what it predicts.
Stereotype threat: The negative impact on a school performance
of disadvantaged groups.
Many teachers make assumptions about students
based on stereotypes and this can cause these
students to perform badly in school. April 20, 2013
Stereotype threat at the microsociological level combines with
the macrosociological processes to help reproduce the
Canadian Education in an International Perspective
- Compulsory mass education became a universal feature of European
and North American life by the early twentieth century, and nearly
universal literacy was achieved by the middle of the twentieth
- Education hrd become more valuable universally.
- Canada 3 overall in world education ranking (SNAP!)
Technology: Savior or Frankenstein?
Technology: the practical application of scientific principles
Normal accident: Accidents that occur inevitably though
unpredictably because of the very complexity of modern
o Ex: Your computer crashes at home.
Ulrich Beck coined a term that struck when he said we live in a
o A society in which technology distributes
environmental dangers among all categories of the
population, albeit to varying degrees.
The four questions…
1. Is technology the great driving force of historical and
o Sociologists believe that technology is able to
transform society only when it is coupled with a
powerful social need.
o People control technology as much as technology
2. If some people do control technology, then exactly who
o Sociologists: The military and big corporations
now decide the direction of most technological
research and its application.
3. What are the most dangerous spinoffs of technology and
how is risk distributed among various social groups? April 20, 2013
o Sociologists: They focus on global warming and
o They show that although these dangers put all of
humanity at risk, the degree of danger varies by
class, race and country.
o The socially and economically disadvantaged are
most at risk.
4. How can we overcome the dangers of environmental
o Markey and technological solutions are
insufficient by themselves.
o Much self-sacrifice, cooperation and political
activism will be required.
- Technology and People Make History
Nikolai Kondratiev was the first social scientist to notice that
technologies are invented in clusters.
Kondratiev argued that flurries of creativity cause
major economic growth spurts beginning 10-20
years and lasting 25-35 years each.
Kondratiev created technological determinism
o Technological determinism: The belief that
technology is the main factor shaping
- How High Tech Became Big Tech
In the late 1870s, Thomas Edison created the first “invention
factory” in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
At the beginning of the 20 century, the scientific or
engineering genius operating in isolation was only rarely able to
contribute much to technological innovation
By mid-century, most technological innovation was organized
along industrial lines.
By the time of Hiroshima, the era of big science and big
technology had arrived.
However, only governments and increasingly, giant
multinational corporations could afford to sustain the research
effort of the second half of the twentieth century.
During the 20 century, the number of research scientists in N.
America increased a hundredfold. April 20, 2013
As a result of these developments, the military and profit-
making considerations now govern the direction of most
research and development.
Close to a majority of leading biotechnology scientists have
Some scientists wonder whether work on particular topics
achieves optimum benefits for humanity.
However, a growing number of scientists and engineers
recognize that to do cutting-edge research, they must still any
residual misgivings, hop on the bandwagon and adhere to
military and industrial requirements and priorities.
- Global Warming
The biggest side effect of the development of technology that
causes people concern is environmental degradation.
Two aspects we must consider are: Global warming and genetic
Global warming: A gradual increase in the world’s
average surface temperature.
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning
increasing quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, natural
The burning of these fuels releases carbon dioxide in the air
which when accumulated allows more solar radiation to enter
the atmosphere and less heat to escape.
As temperature rises, more water evaporates
This causes more rainfall and bigger storms, which leads
to more flooding and soil erosion, which in turn leads to
less cultivable land.
- Genetic Pollution
Genetic pollution: The potential dangers of mixing genes of one
species with those of another.
Genetic pollution is the second main form of environmental
DNA is transmitted to offspring from the father.
Recombinant DNA is the opposite
Recombinant DNA: Removing a segment of DNA from a
gene or splicing together segments of DNA from
different living things, thus effectively creating a new life
form. April 20, 2013
Recombinant DNA will also enable farmers to grow
disease and frost-resistant crops with higher yields.
It will allow miners to pour ore-eating microbes into
mines, pump the microbes above ground after they have
had their fill.
Recombinant DNA will also allow companies to grow
plants that produce cheap biodegradable plastic and
microorganisms that consume oil spills and absorb
We cannot predict the exact environmental consequences of the
increasing immunity that plants will eventually have towards
herbicides, pests and viruses, which will induce the birth of
superbugs, super-weeds and super-viruses.
That is why the insurance industry refuses to insure genetically
engineered crops against the possibility of their causing
catastrophical ecological damage.
The Social Construction of Environmental Problems
- Environmental problems don’t become social issues spontaneously.
- Before they can enter the public consciousness, policy-oriented
scientists, the environmental movement, the mass media, and
respected organizations must discover and promote them.
- The Social Distribution of Risk
When disaster strikes, economically and politically
disadvantaged people almost always suffer most.
Their circumstances render them most vulnerable.
Environmental racism: The tendency to heap environmental
dangers on the disadvantaged, and especially on disadvantaged
In Canada, environmental racism is evident.
The uranium used to construct the atomic bombs
used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World
War II was taken from Port Radium in the N.W.
More than 30 Dene hunters and trappers were
recruited from the nearby village of Deline to mine
the uranium. April 20, 2013
While the governments of Canada and the USA
knew about the dangerous effects of uranium, they
didn’t tell the Dene people.
Therefore, all the people were affected as they ate
fish from the uranium-infected waters and used
many of the uranium-infected materials for
clothes, tents, etc.
Before, elders lived till 90.
After the exposure to uranium, elders lived only to
their 60s-70s and many died from cancer.
The village of Deline became known as the
“Village of Widows”
The people or the village never got an apology
from either government.
This is an example of environmental racism
because the people of Deline were disadvantaged,
as they didn’t have any protection from the effects
of uranium. They were taken advantaged of.
Furthermore, they were Indigenous people and so
they were treated this way due to their race, as
There is a disturbing association in Canada between level
of contamination and the concentration of Aboriginal
Class also structures exposure to environmental risk in
Ex: Sydney, Nova Scotia.
A poor, working-class town with the highest rate
of cancer of any city in Canada
This is because Sydney was home to a large steel
mill for a century.
Waste from the mill poured into tar ponds, a 50-
hectare site polluted to a depth of 24-metres with
The Less-Developed Countries
The underprivileged face more environmental dangers
than the privileged: This is due to the fact that they are
industrializing rapidly and therefore using more
resources, which cause more environmental damage. April 20, 2013
Less developed countries are more concerned with
environmental danger than richer countries
Richer countries cause most environmental damage.
Inequality and Biotechnology
Basically, social inequalities are evident in the field of
biotechnology, in which biopiracy- harvesting genetic
materials from less-developed countries and profiting
from them- and genetic engineering might ultimately
contribute to the increasing gap between the haves
(genetically superior) and have-nots (genetically inferior)
What Is to Be Done?
- The Market and High Tech Solutions
We have adapted new technologies that are environmentally
friendly in order to combat the worst excesses of environmental
They believe that human inventiveness and the profit motive
will combine to create the new technologies we need to survive
There are three factors, however, that suggest market forces
cannot solve environmental problems on their own: 1)
Imperfect price signals: the market fails to send signals that
might result in the speedy adoption of technological and policy
fixes; 2) The slow pace of change: We need to increase the
speed of change; all of the world’s renewable resources are in
decline; 3) The importance of political pressure: Without the
efforts of many organizations concerned with the issues of the
environments, it is doubtful that many environmental issues
would be defined as social problems by corporations and
- The Cooperative Alternative
The alternative to the market and high-tech approach would
involve people cooperating to reduce greatly their over-
consumption of just about everything.
It is not realistic however, as it would be political suicide for
anyone in the rich countries to propose the drastic measure &
people are not willing
Social Movements April 20, 2013
- Collective action: Occurs when people act in unison to bri