Functions of School: Socialization, Cultural Transmission, Integration & Latent Functions

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  • 0:05 Functions of School
  • 1:14 Manifest Function:…
  • 2:07 Manifest Function:…
  • 3:02 Latent Functions of School
  • 4:48 Hidden Curriculum
  • 5:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Erin Long-Crowell

Erin has an M.Ed in adult education and a BS in psychology and a BS in management systems.

Expert Contributor
Jennifer Levitas

Jennifer has a Ph.D. in Psychology. She's taught multiple college-level psychology courses and been published in several academic journals.

Schools serve a number of functions in our society beyond just transmitting academic knowledge and skills. In this lesson, we differentiate between manifest and latent functions of schools and discuss examples of each.

Functions of School

If I were to ask you 'What did you learn in school?' what would you say? Would you tell me about the subject knowledge you gained and the classes you attended? Would you talk about the time you spent with friends and your participation in extracurricular activities? Schools certainly act as a transmitter of knowledge and academic skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic. But they also serve other functions in our society as well, and these can be categorized as manifest or latent functions.

A manifest function of school is a function that people believe is the obvious purpose of school and education. Manifest functions of education are those that are intended and that most people think about. For example, in elementary school, parents expect their children to learn new information but also how to 'get along' with other children and begin to understand how society works. So, two of the most significant manifest functions of schools beyond teaching subject knowledge are socialization and the transmission of cultural norms and values.

Manifest Function: Socialization

Socialization refers to a process by which individuals acquire a personal identity and learn the knowledge, language, and social skills required to interact with others. Again, students don't only learn from the academic curriculum prepared by teachers and school administrators. They also learn social rules and expectations from interactions with others. Students in America receive rewards for following schedules and directions, meeting deadlines, and obeying authority. They learn how to avoid punishment by reducing undesirable behaviors like offensive language. They also figure out that to be successful socially, they must learn to be quiet, to wait, to act interested even when they're not, and to please their teachers without alienating their peers.

Manifest Function: Cultural Transmission

Besides socialization, another significant manifest function of school is the transmission of cultural norms and values to new generations. Schools help to mold a diverse population into one society with a shared national identity and prepare future generations for their citizenship roles. Students are taught about laws and our political way of life through civic lessons, and they're taught patriotism through rituals such as saluting the flag. Students must also learn the Pledge of Allegiance and the stories of the nation's heroes and exploits. Because America is a capitalist nation, students also quickly learn the importance of both teamwork and competition through learning games in the classroom as well as activities and athletics outside the classroom.

Latent Functions of Schools

In addition to manifest functions like socialization and culturization, schools also serve latent functions in society. A latent function is a function that people are not aware of or doesn't come to mind straight away and usually is not intended. For example, schools often play a matchmaker function: they put together individuals of similar ages and backgrounds, and this results in many of us finding romantic partners and mates in primary, secondary, or post-secondary school.

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Additional Activities

Functions of a School - Writing Activities

Prompt 1:

A great many abilities and topics are learned in schools. In addition to the "three R's," there are many so-called "soft skills" that are just as important for children to learn in order to become accepted and productive members of society. One primary function of a school is to socialize children. This means that, in the society of their peers, children learn acceptable behavior, reciprocal relationships, the norms of society, and appropriate conflict resolution. Do you think that homeschooled children are able to be socialized in the same way? Why or why not? Write two to three paragraphs, starting with your thesis statement on this topic (e.g., homeschooled children can be socialized just as well as traditionally schooled children) and provide evidence (e.g., there are many homeschool groups where children can interact with their peers, etc.).

Prompt 2:

One manifest function of school is to teach to each child's ability level. This often results in "tracking," or sorting children into ability groups. In other words, lower performing children are placed in lower ability groups, such as a remedial reading or math class, and higher performing children are tracked into GT (gifted and talented) classes. What are your thoughts on this function of school? In two to three paragraphs, list three to five pros and three to five cons of tracking and conclude your essay with a conclusion as to whether tracking is beneficial or not. For example, a pro could be that each child is taught at his or her level, appropriately stimulating them without leaving any child behind who may feel unintelligent next to a smarter peer. A con could be that children in low-tracked classes have low expectations placed on them, which they then fulfill by only working minimally hard and just fulfilling simple requirements.

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