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Exploring the Conditions & Purposes of Public Schools: Are Schools Simply Used to Create a Well-Trained or Well-Educated Workforce?

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What is the purpose of schools? Some would say the purpose of schools is to create a well trained workforce, others to prepare students to become democratic citizens. This essay will examine not only the current conditions of public schools, but also what their primary purpose should be.

After having read several articles on the inequalities of schools I would have to say, using Jean Anyon's terms, that the "affluent-professional" and "executive elite" truly benefit most from public schooling. In terms of social class, it's the talented tenth of society which is involved in discovery, hands on experimentation, and higher concept learning. These upper-crust schools are the ones which push intellectual reasoning, problem solving, and other cognitive skills in the curriculum (Anyon, 142). With help from the community and government these `executive elite' students are being prepared for upper class colleges, upper class careers, and will be able to adapt to the changes of their professional careers. With such excellent and thorough preparation its no wonder that these students do remarkably well on achievement tests, thus getting more federal school dollars which in turn helps them to maintain high achievement scores.

Two theories on how schools are organized as explained in Hurn's essay are the functional and conflict paradigms. The functional theory states that in a society that requires highly talented workers, schools have two very important tasks, to teach both specialized and cognitive skills. Merit based status, therefore, is the main cure for inequality in society. In terms of the level of schooling, higher education credentials are used to separate the unskilled from high status jobs. The functional theory also...


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...hool Knowledge." Exploring Socio- Cultural Themes in Education: Readings in Social Foundations (2nd edition). Ed. Joan H. Strouse. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice- Hall, 2001. 127-156.

Crittendon, Jack. "The Rise of Liberal Democracy." Democracy's Midwife: an education in deliberation. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002.

Glickman, Carl D. "Revolution, Education, and the Practice of Democracy." The Educational Forum vol. 63 no. 1 (Fall 1998) 16-22.

Hurn, Christopher J. "Theories of Schooling and Society: The Functional and Conflict Paradigms." Exploring Socio-Cultural Themes in Education: Readings in Social Foundations (2nd edition). Ed. Joan H. Strouse. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice- Hall, 2001. 62-74.

Spring, Joel. "The Purposes of Public Schooling." American Education (9th edition). New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2000. 3-27.



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