Educational Theories

There is and always has been a debate on what is the best way to educate the children of our nation. With many theories and perspectives, how do we say which one is better than the other? The variety of theories of how education is influenced, and how we view the learning and teaching process is what gives us the purpose and expectation of how schooling and education should be. While we compare and contrast the functionalist perspective, conflict theory perspective, and the interactionist perspectives on the desires and potential of education we will find that they are different in several ways. According to the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society’s functioning as a whole (cliffnotes, 2009). ” Functionalist perspective theory believes that the role of the school is to protect a common set of values that foster social unity and maintain social order. They also believe that the school is where the students are to become responsible and productive adults in society (Webb, 2007).

According to the functionalist the way to contribute to the economical and developmental growth is to upgrade your skills, and to do this you will have to have a good education. They also believe that school plays an important role in developing moral character (Webb, 2007). Teachers are not “only to exhibit high ethical and moral principles but also to teach those principles to their students. ” Functionalist view on education is that it is essential and orderly for an efficient society (Webb, 2007).

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Conflict perspective theory believes that schools can not agree on a set of common values and they are influenced by whoever has the most power and who will benefit more from the system. They are concerned with the conflict between the powerless and the powerful (Webb, 2007). Conflict theorists believe that school is for the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of others. According to Randall Collins “the main dynamic of rising educational requirements in the United States has been primarily the expansion of mobility opportunities through the school system, rather than autonomous changes in the structure of employment (1971). Conflict theroist also believe that schooling should be controlled by the elite and to train the workers that are needed in businesses and in the industries (Webb, 2007). Interactionist perspective sees education as an interaction in the social setting of the school. They criticize both the functionalist and the conflict theorist for being too abstract in their depictions of what schools have to offer the students and what the teachers offer the schools (Webb, 2007). They take away the interacting of students to student and students to teachers.

It also seems that interactionist combine the other perspectives to provide a more complete picture of society (Webb, 2007). The three offer different concepts and processes in their theories. Functionalist’s offers the official and hidden curriculum (Webb, 2007). Through the hidden curriculum the students are taught that the goals and ideas are that of the capitalist system. This in itself works against the working class because it implies that they should not challenge the authorities (Webb, 2007).

Conflict theorists see the educational system as perpetuating social inequality. They also see prestige chain of command of schools and cultural capital. Interactionists see education as relations in the social setting of the school. They believe in labeling and self-fulfilling prophecy (Webb, 2007). I believe that the entire functionalist theorist wanted to see that every one received an education not based on their background or their financial status. The conflict theorist wanted to educate, but only the wealthy (Webb, 2007).

The also wanted to educate the ones that were going into a business or an industry. Also they would set their guideline by whoever would benefit more from them at that time. Interactionist tried to incorporate a little from both of the other theories (Webb, 2007). They also wanted the students to become more social with the other students. So the debate continues when we compare and contrast the functionalist perspective, conflict theory perspective, and the interactionist perspectives on the purposes and expectations of education we found that there are different in several ways.

Reference Page CliffsNotes. com. Three Major Perspectives in Sociology. 4 Oct 2009 . Collins, R. (1971). Functional and Conflict Theories of Educational Stratification. American Sociological Review, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Dec. , 1971), pp. 1002-1019 (article consists of 18 pages) Published by: Stable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/2093761 Webb, D. L. , Metha, A. , Jordon, F. K. (2007). Foundations of American Education (5th ed). Pearson Education, Inc. , Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

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Educational Theories. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from