To better illustrate this statement, the paper provides a clear-cut description of the nature of education and the scope of schools as an educational institution. Nonetheless, to further understand the technicalities associated with schools, there is a need to define schools as an educational institution, as well as, to expound the structure of authority evident among these institutions. Moreover, the political dynamics accompanying the sociology of education which may be apparent and obscure at the same time are elucidated under the contexts in which education operates such as the cultural and ideological setting of the politicization of education, the milieu of power configurations and relations, and the framework of globalization. Certain pedagogical implications are also explicated to illustrate the wide-ranging bearing of educational reforms or policies on concerned and affected individuals as a whole.
Understanding schooling and education in this approach allows the people to view and analyze schooling and education objectively and critically. In this manner, learners, educators, as well as those people who have no access to education, may no longer be mere passive recipients of the conceptions of education as prescribed by the society; rather, they may be the critics of diverse pedagogical perceptions who aim not only the betterment of education itself but the rectitude of knowledge and consciousness schools propagate as well. In connection with this, Henry Giroux (1985) asserted, “the need for a passionate commitment by educators to make the political more pedagogical, that is, to make critical reflection and action a fundamental part of a social project that not only engages forms of oppression but also develops a deep and abiding faith in the struggle to humanize life itself” (Freire, 1921, p. 5). It is certainly a conviction and a challenge all at once that is not simple and easy to actualize, however, displaying a demeanor of open mindedness and critical thinking, such may be achieved.
To realize this kind of goal is to take a step-by-step scrutiny of the sociology of education. Initially, a description of schools as an educational institution would help facilitate the study. Educational institutions are considered part of the society which exist “to help preserve or modify the conditions of life by promoting teaching and learning of one sort or another” (Reitman, 1981, p. 25). These institutions are also responsible for the continuity of social norms, values, customs and traditions in a certain societal area, as one generation passes after another. However, it is important to note that institutions of education do not necessarily denote schools for there are those which have no formalized curriculum or program of instruction, just like what schools have. Those belonging to this type are referred to as the informal educational institutions. These include, as enumerated by Sandford W. Reitman (1981), families, peer groups, mass media, work places, church, special-interest groups, social service agencies and the social class or the social stratum. Schools, on the other hand, are identified as the formal educational institutions. Nevertheless, it is surprising to know that the informal institutions have more encompassing influence than the formal ones due to the fact that they occupy a larger portion of the society.
Meanwhile, Reitman (1981) on his book entitled, “Education, Society, and Change”, explained that a changing society that moves forward to a more complex state requires, in effect, a more systematized process of cultural transmission which informal educational institutions cannot fully ensure. Thus, the formation of formal educational institutions or what most people commonly know as “schools” was introduced. Herein lies various views regarding the issues on what the schools ought to do as part of the society, on what pedagogical methods they should adapt, on how changes in society affect schooling per se, and on how schools consolidate different predispositions of several stakeholders and other equally significant considerations.
One of the perspectives delineated in relation to the above-mentioned concerns was the image of school as both a factory-like and temple-like institution. Deal and Peterson (1994) provided two metaphors which mirror contending perceptions about the purpose and design of schools. One metaphor portrays the image of schools being a factory while the other signifies them as cathedrals or temples. The former symbol perceives schools in a rational way such that schools function like a factory which “focuses on results, outputs, structures and roles” (Deal & Peterson, 1994, p. 70). Such comparison presupposes the goal-oriented approach of schools with regards to their main concerns: student control and academic achievement. In this manner, schools manifest organized, systematized and technical fashion of delivering their functions. Moreover, “this way of looking at school emphasizes the importance of managing their technical mission: instruction” (Deal & Peterson, 1994, p. 70).
On the other hand, the latter representation is the symbolic image of schools being envisioned as a temple by which the responsibility of schools to make sure that cultural patterns and practices adhere to the existing values and beliefs of the society is assured. Likewise, it is but necessary to state that “this conception embraces the importance of values, commitment, passion, vision, and heart-key ingredients of a beloved institution” (Deal & Peterson, 1994, p. 71). In this picture, Deal and Peterson (1994) stressed that the factory-like functions of schools are only “secondary” to that of the functions of the temple figure of schools. Such assumes that these “factory” roles are to maintain the “temple” character of schools.
Another view on the aspect of school as an educational institution was the belief that schooling opportunity can be considered as “one of the best investments a society could make to ensure its own future” (Hurn, 1993, p. 264). Christopher J. Hurn (1993) expounded such an optimistic notion of schooling prevalent during the 1970’s, stating that education reinforces cognitive competence among citizens of a country which the national economy would necessitate eventually from its populace. In addition to the ambiance of optimism, the “faith” in education emerged. This so-called “faith” mainly points out that education plays an important role in shaping “a more humane, tolerant, and democratic social order”. It is this idea that propagated the impression of how schooling molds the society towards “reason and knowledge rather than tradition and prejudice” (Hurn, 1993, p. 264).