d)Assess the contribution of Marxism to our understanding of the role of education? Marxists. the Functionalist view that industrial capitalist societies are meritocracies and that every ones’ position in society is based on talent and hard work. Bowles and Gintis suggest ideas for why this is the case. They bases their theory around the idea of education being an ideological state apparatus. Bowles and Gintis’ theory is based on the ‘long shadow of work’ and the legitimating of inequality.?
When speaking of the ‘long shadow of work’, Bowles and Gintis are referring to the strong relationship between social relationships at school and at work – they believe this helps education to play its major role in reproducing a labour force with hardworking, disciplined workers. Educations do this through the hidden curriculum and the correspondence theory. The hidden curriculum relates to many features of the workplace.
An example of this would be that in school the hidden curriculum teaches students to abide by rules and accept punishment, this corresponds to the workplace where students would conform to rules and not argue with your boss. People believe that society and the education system is meritocratic. Bowles and Gintis believe this to be false, as in reality it is legitimating the inequalities that exist in society.? Althusser sees education as an ideological state apparatus.
This is where the government issues ruling class ideas through different institutions, or apparatus, in this case education is the main apparatus. This is needed by capitalism to transmit the idea that the inequalities in society are justified as society is meritocratic. This helps capitalism by preparing students for their future jobs. The working class are taught to accept their future exploitation in the workplace. Where as the middle class are prepared for management roles supported by their qualifications.?
However, these views from the Marxists are merely ideas and theories, as none of them put forward evidence to prove their theory of education, this is a huge weakness in their argument. Neo-Marxism offers a counter argument to that of Bowles and Gintis and Althusser. Paul Willis did research in a school and he claims that schools do not produce an obedient and hardworking workforce. He studied a group of twelve working class boys and found they had a counter sub-culture.
They had clear views and aims that were very opposed to those of the school. Willis saw a link between the sub-culture and the work place culture of male lower working class jobs. The attitudes were very similar and included a lack of respect for authority and sexism. Nevertheless he concluded that school does not prepare or force the working class into working class jobs but instead they actively reject school through their sub-culture and are happy to enter unskilled labour when they leave school as they see it as ‘real men’s’ work.
However, Willis’ conclusion was based on a limited number of male students so he cannot simply claim that this represents the whole of the working class and especially not the female working class.? There are also many limitations to Bowles and Gintis and Althusser’s arguments. Firstly it could be said that they exaggerate the supposed link between education and work. They perceive students as very accepting of what they are told and unable to think for themselves; which is not necessarily true as many students do misbehave and disrespect students.?
The Marxist approach to education is a very negative. Due to the complete lack of research it is easy to question the feasibility of their claims. They believe that education maintains and perpetuates capitalism as it creates the myth that society and the education system is meritocratic. However, it is difficult to believe that students accept everything they are told as Bowles and Gintis would like us to believe. This shows that although Willis’ research may have some truth in it, it is too limited to be considered as entirely correct.