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From the surface, functionalist theories can be seen as the direct opposite of critical theories. However, they do share a few similarities. Their greatest similarity lies in their aim of attaining the common good of the society. While the functionalists work hard to maintain society through educating the norms, values, and orders of a culture, the critical theorists is busy reflecting and acting upon the social oppressions or dominations in their society to bring forth a positive change for the society. Both of these theories center on the how people should act within their society as citizens.
Another similarity between two theories is the hierarchy of power, which can present even in schools. For the functionalists, one of their goals for education is role allocation, where education selects talented individuals (those who score highest on classroom and standardized tests) and allocates them to the most important jobs in the society. In the same way, in a critical theorist school setting, those who failed to perform “conscientization” (coming to consciousness) and “praxis” (an ongoing, reflective approach to taking action) will not do well in the school. For example, during part of the film we watch in class, “Pay It Forward,” the junior high school social studies teacher gave his students a year-long assignment:
Think of an idea that will change the world – Put it in action!
When one of his students asked what will happen if they fail to do this, the teacher jokingly replied with giving them C- as a final score. For both of these theories, only a few people have the power. In the functionalist perspective, the policy makers have the power and set the norms, rules, and order for everyone to follow. In the critical perspective, those who are experts in conscientization and praxis decide what to change in the society.
Among these similarities, there are many differences between the functionalist theorists and the critical theorists in terms of...
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