Education and Society

Functionalists believe that education is one of the most important social institutions because it contributes to the smooth and orderly functioning of society and provides society with avenues for social placement, which incorporates upward and downward mobility. Education has both manifest functions and latent functions. Several political leaders have attempted to reform the American educational system through programs like NCLB without much success. Conflict analysts believe that education is used to reproduce existing class relationships, among other things, through the hidden curriculum. Interactionists study classroom dynamics and how practices such as labeling can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Among the problems in education in the United States are the extent of functional illiteracy, even among people who have graduated from high school; race, class, and gender inequality in the classroom; school violence; and a lack of funding. Higher education faces problems as well, the rapidly increasing cost of a college education being one of them. Many different solutions have been proposed for these problems; however, American students continue to underperform when compared to their counterparts abroad.

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1. Is affirmative action still a relevant policy? How does it help or hinder minority applicants?

2. How do the soaring costs of higher education affect the typical college student? Should the U.S. government be actively involved in helping students pay for higher education? Should grants or loans be available for all students, or should they be available only to those whose family incomes fall below a certain amount?