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Sociology and Education: Schooling Purposes


Education is an integral part of every society. The modern system of school aims at providing all children with equal opportunities for studying. Schools prepare children for adulthood. They teach them not only general knowledge about this world but how to become a constituent of modern society and make the right decisions. Although there are several controversial issues concerning education, modern schools should serve the needs of the pupils regardless of their social status; otherwise, they will not meet the requirements of the liberal society.

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The connection between sociology and education

Generally speaking, sociologists study the interactions between people in various situations. Sociology of education and schooling, in particular, investigates the nature of education. According to Ballantine and Hammack (2015), the primary objective of the sociology of education is to analyze all aspects of education and to receive the maximum information about the functions of this institution. Ballantine and Spade (2014) add that sociology defines the effectiveness of various approaches and educational systems.

Major sociological perspectives on schooling

Currently, there are two primary theories that reflect some of the controversial issues. All of them concern the topic of the essay. As Levinson, Cookson, and Sadovnik (2014) state, the functional theory presupposes that schooling is equal for everyone. According to this theory, schools provide children with intellectual, political, economic, and social knowledge. It makes them ready to become socialized. In other words, schools teach how to be an adult. Usually, in schools, pupils are taught to believe that friendship and love always win and are the most important things in the world. Nevertheless, reality proves that sometimes the world is a difficult place to survive. Nobody tells that in schools. It is not according to the curriculum. This fact undermines the belief that schools serve the interests of children. In this case, the school serves the national curriculum or statistics as far as every educational establishment has to follow the program. These governmental requirements of the education can impede the successful teaching of pupils of what they need.

The establishment of public schools in the US has always been a sign of the country’s readiness to dispose of all prejudices. Such a system of education shows that America is a democratic country that takes care of the welfare of its residents regardless of race, gender, or social status (Reese, 2011). A significant step forward was made by President Bush, who signed the law “No Child Left Behind.” This law was aimed at changing the funding system and policies of public schools. According to it, the government should provide schools with low economic status with the necessary funding. Such schools were those in which children from low-income families of diverse populations studied.

From first sight, such a perspective seemed to be a significant reform of schooling. Nevertheless, further consequences have shown that the level of social inequality and injustice arose (Arce, Luna, Borjian, & Conrad, 2005). The investigation of these prejudices and other problems in schools refers to the so-called conflict theory. The theory represents the second sociological perspective on schooling. Theorists believe that the system of schools in the US leads to the severe stratification of society. Conflict theory proves that modern schools serve the interests of those who belong to the privileged classes. All these problems can be seen as struggles between races, genders, or even religions. The system seems perfect from the first sign. A deep and profound investigation can show the truth (Feinberg & Soltis, 2004).

The conflict theory’s goal is to give an answer to the question that is the topic of this paper. According to Wilson (2011), conflict theory refers to several significant issues that take place in all schools. First, it turns out that the experience of teacher impacts the choice of school. Thus, teachers with excellent professional abilities are more likely to teach students from high-income families. Students from middle-classes, in most cases, are taught by less qualified teachers. Such teachers can be eager to do their best, but they cannot provide pupils with the best education due to the lack of knowledge. The second important issue refers to the so-called “hidden curriculum.” As Konieczka (2013) states, this term indicates the set of unwritten rules in the classroom. These rules include the proper behavior in the classroom, academic, and cultural messages. In most cases, the hidden curriculum negatively impacts pupils from middle-class families in suburban areas. Such unspoken rules serve the interests of privileged students. The third factor concerns the notion of the equality of educational opportunity. Schmidt, Gogan, and McKnight (2011) have conducted research and found out the opportunities for studying mathematics vary in several districts. The level of parents’ income and education influences the quality of knowledge their children receive.


Modern education has changed drastically. The government aimed at establishing a system of equal education for every pupil. Nevertheless, the findings show that schools do not always serve the needs of all children. In general, the system of education aims at the right goals, but the practical outcomes should be taken into consideration.

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Arce, J., Luna, D., Borjian, A., & Conrad, M. (2005). No Child Left Behind: Who Wins? Who Loses? Social Justice, 32(3), 56-71.

Ballantine, J., & Hammack, F. (2015). The Sociology of Education: a Systematic Analysis. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Ballantine, J., & Spade, J. (2014). Schools and Society: a Sociological Approach to Education. Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Feinberg, W., & Soltis, J. (2004). School and Society. New York, USA: Teachers College Press.

Konieczka, J. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum. Advanced Research in Scientific Areas, 2(6), 250-252.

Levinson, D., Cookson, P., & Sadovnik, A. (2014). Sociology and Education: an Encyclopedia. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Reese, W. (2011). America’s Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind”. Baltimore, USA: JHU Press.

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Schmidt, W., Gogan, L., & McKnight, C. (2011). Equality of Educational Opportunity. Web.

Wilson, R. (2011). The Relationship between School and Society: Part II – Conflict Theory. Colleagues, 6(1), 10-11.

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