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Maya Doyle

Dr. Mark Silkey

Sociology 1113

18 November 2018

A Sociological Look at Education

Education is an important institution of society. It helps ensure that people are qualified

for their jobs. It also teaches people about previous accomplishments of humanity. A high-

quality school can improve a person’s chances at getting a good job later in their life.

First, a functionalist view on education looks at how education contributes to the stability

of society. This sociological perspective believes that education helps to socialize the next

generation of a society. Classrooms teach students about the history of their nation and

occasionally their ethnic heritages. As students must be on time to their classes, they learn to be

punctual to events. Also, students must develop a good discipline and manners to avoid getting

punished by officials in school. Using this perspective, education impacts daily life as people

must have an education to be a functional member of society. The punctuality of a school day is

an easy way for people to learn to keep track of time and arrive on time to public functions, such

as a job. People who have little or no education are not exposed to the norms of society. These

people may be unable to get a good job or create a family. Thus, functionalists believe that in

order to keep society stable, education must be present.

Second, a conflict theorist’s view on education believes that education helps keep

inequality in society. People who are poor, part of a minority group, or female tend to have

access to poorer quality educational facilities than people who are rich, part of a majority group,

or male. In addition, conflict theorists believe that education simply produces more workers for
industries in society. To a conflict theorist, people in disadvantaged groups in society will almost

always get menial education, which will lead to menial jobs. Advantageous groups in society

will almost always receive high quality education, which will pave the way for desirable careers.

Daily, people will work as hard as they can on their education. Most people will remain

oblivious to the fact that their placement in society has already determined the quality of

education they will receive and what job they will have in the future. Therefore, conflict theorists

view education as contributing to the inequality found in society.

Lastly, a symbolic interaction view on education believes that the expectations teachers

place on students impact the performance of students. A teacher who places high expectations on

a student will lead that student to performing well on achievement tests. In contrast, a student

will perform poorly if their teacher has low expectations of them. This phenomenon is called the

self-fulfilling prophecy. When a teacher applies the label of “smart” or “below average” to a

student, the student will adjust their behavior to match that label. A student may begin to work

hard on class work and answer the teacher’s questions in class if they are labeled as “smart”.

Meanwhile, another student labeled as “below average” may begin to ignore their homework. In

short, a symbolic interactionist believes that how people react to their education will depend

upon how their teacher has labeled them.

In summary, the educational institution in society is very important to society.

Functionalists believe it helps to keep society stable. Conflict theorists, on the other hand,

believe that education keeps inequality in society. Finally, symbolic interactionists believe that

students will only do as good or as poor as their teachers believe they can.