Conflict theory and Education Grade Course (10th, April. 2013) Conflict theory and Education Conflict theory is a form of social theory, which upholds the fundamental perspective that human behavior within a social context will always arise as a result of conflicts between competing groups (Marx, 1971)…
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This created a conflict between owners of the factors of productions, such as land owners and factory owners, and their workers, who did not have a right to such factors of production. This occurred in the form of land owners and the employers exploiting the workers, through working them for long hours and hard labor, while paying them meager wages. This theory has been developed and refurbished by different scholars since then, but the fundamental similarity between all the versions of the conflict theory is that, different social groups have unequal powers to access and use material and non-material resources, although all groups are struggling for the same limited resources (Marx, 1971). Thus, using this fundamental tenet of the conflict theory, human behavior within any social context can be explained, which may include the educational practices, the criminal behavior or even the customs that are associated with the elderly. This discussion seeks to examine the conflict theory and its relationship to education, with a view to understanding the applicability of this theory in the field of education, through understanding how it supports or criticizes education. According to Conflict theory, there are two major ways the upper and powerful social classes can apply to exploit the lower classes of the society, who do not have access to the material and non-material resources, and thus have to depend on the upper social classes for their survival. First, the upper classes of the society can use brutal force, which include using the police and the army to subdue and exploit the lower classes of society, who do not own the means of production (Changhwan & Sakamoto, 2006). Alternatively, the upper classes can apply economic means to exploit the lower classes of the society, through ensuring that they suppress them economically and thus places them in a situation where they will always depend on the upper classes of the society for their survival (Morrow & Torres, 1995). Between the two major ways of suppressing the lower classes and ensuring that they remain dependent on the upper classes who own the means of production, the application of the economic means is the most effective, since it can be applied selectively amongst the different social classes to effectively sub-divide them, and ensure less resistance to the suppressions. Therefore, money is the major tool that is applied to create disorder in the society, through availing it in a limited fashion, making the lower social classes of the society to keep struggling to get more of it, and thus satisfy their needs. In all these, education is a vital tool, since educational practices can be applied either to challenge or to maintain the status quo (Schlee, 2004). Education is a major tool that is used to create enlightenment in the society, and thus differentiate between the educated and the uneducated. However, there is no doubt that education is a vital tool for social development and realizing individual goals of advancement, since it creates a channel through which an individual can move from one social class to the other (Marx, 1971). When an individual from a poor background, who is a member of the lower class of
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