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Study Notes

New Right Views on Education


Last updated 17 May 2019

As is often the case, the New Right have a similar perspective on education to functionalists. However, they tend to think that contemporary state education fails to perform the role it should perform because of centralised state control and policies that seek to standardise and improve equality.

They argue that for education to be properly meritocratic in the way described by Davis and Moore, it needs to be more competitive, more about choice and winning and losing and less about collaboration and fairness. They would point to the idea of sports’ days where everyone gets a prize and argue that this approach fails to provide people with the drive and ambition to achieve in today’s society. For the New Right, there should be competition within schools, competition between schools and as well as socialising pupils with the skills to prosper in a market economy, this will also drive up educational standards too, as schools try to attract customers (parents) with impressive results. Chubb and Moe, for instance, argued that the reason private schools (in the USA) performed better than schools in the public sector was because the schools were answerable to paying parents. The more the education system could follow this model, the better they would become. This clearly has an impact on educational policies.

Furthermore, New Right sociologists agree that education should impart shared values but again are concerned about the way this happens in practice. They argue that in the 1960s and 1970s, schools came to be dominated by local education authorities that might have values that differ from the value consensus. For example, the New Right was concerned that children educated in local authorities that had very left-wing councils might learn history that was not sufficiently patriotic (and therefore did not pass on the shared values of all working for common goals as described by Durkheim) or there might be radical ideas about gender or sexual orientation that would not reflect the views of the children’s parents. Again, if education could be reorganised in such a way as to put the parents in control (to create a parentocracy) then the value consensus would be set by the parents, and not by politicians who were often far from the mainstream.

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