Inequality in the American Education System Inequality in the American education system is a key part of maintaining social classes. It began years before the current generation of scholars stepped into a class to learn how to assess its impacts on the society and it will remain for many years to come if nothing is altered. Social classes are in no way a mistake, but a deliberate creation of man. A black child staring at the discordance of his immediate neighborhood (the pimps, the whores, the junkies) may not understand why he is in such a situation, but he recognizes the challenges associated with it (Baldwin 2). If at all he knew his history, probably he would know it is the consequence of slavery followed by mass education to make servants out of the people of his race (Wilson 4). Upon arriving in the U.S., European settlers or rather convicts brought slaves from Africa to tend to their plantations. Using black flesh to make money at the crack of a whip, much of which was concentrated in the hands of a few white people (Baldwin 2). According to Baldwin, “the white republic had to brainwash itself into believing that they were, indeed, animals and deserved to be treated like animals” (2). In the process they have lost their actual history. Back then, education was also a privilege that only white people could enjoy. This enabled many white people to prosper in business and leadership roles as it made them conscious of their surroundings and enabled them to examine the society in which they were a principle constituent. After abolishing slavery, it was imperative to find an economic use for the once slaves. It was at this point, education became the only tool to converting slaves tilling on land to workers powering the industrial revolution. As such, the economic role and rationale of education inequality in the U.S. is to either make liberally-educated persons out of students through an elite education system or make skillful servants of society along mechanical lines through a mass education system. Economic Role The American social structure does not support social inequality because it is a pyramid, with the highest level being occupied by the elite members of the society and the lowest level constituting of the servants or the working class. A dual system of education, that is, elite and mass education, sustains the social classes that constituent the American social structure. As Wilson asserts, “you cannot train everybody for everything” (2). Therefore, an elite education system, albeit expensive, is designed for the children of the wealthy in the society to help them hone leadership skills in order to continue their family’s legacy. This is why rich parents of students attending public schools in the U.S. pay for private classes and extra programs to enable their children earn extra credits that will give them a head start in the job market. In comparison, the child of a poor parent is forced to contend with the standardized education offered in public schools, which is insufficient to help them get ahead in life because it drains their creativity and intelligence. As a result, the latter student becomes a constitute member of the working class as the former becomes a leader, a CEO of a company in which the latter works in, to continue his family’s rich legacy. Therefore, despite these two types of students sharing the same school and mascot, they form distinct populations within a public school (Godsey 1). My classmate, Zeyang Xu, concurs that South Korea and the United States focus on private education, which not fair to everyone. The exorbitant fees and stringent requirements for admission make it hard for children from poor families to access quality education. For instance, to be admitted at Yale, students must, other than meeting their financial obligations, poses special personal qualities. Successful applicants must be “well-rounded” or “pointy” (Deresiewicz 2). Well rounded students achieve this by attending extra programs and club sports to bolster their resume and GPA and STA scores whilst pointy students spend countless hours with a private tutor to nurture their talents. Very few, if any, poor children enroll for private tutoring because their parents cannot afford the tuition. Godsey argues that “while an advanced student might meet with her SAT tutor during the weekend, not-so fortunate classmate could be washing dishes at the local restaurants” (1). These two students will eventually take different career paths with the former becoming an elite leader whilst the later joins the working class. Rationale Anyon (11) argues that the various assessment, curricular, and pedagogical practices highlight divergent behavioral and cognitive skills in each social environ. This is a factor in the development of certain possible relationships to symbolic and physical capital among children, to authority, and to the process of work. School experiences differ significantly with regard to quality depending on the social class of the students. For instance, in schools serving children of working class citizens, work is observed to be the conforming to steps of procedure. These procedures are mechanical and involves little or no choice or decision-making (Anyon 2). The students are not told why they are learning the concepts and how they will apply them in their lives. In contrast, the objective of students in middle-class schools is to get the right answer because a good grade is the result of accumulating enough good answers. To get the right answer, the student follows specific directions that usually allow critical thinking and some decision making (Anyon 5). Answers are in their textbooks and notes given by their teachers. All they need to do is produce them in the right order during an exam. On the other hand, affluent professional schools teach students that work is an imaginative process that is conducted independently (Anyon 6). The students are continually tasked with the application of concepts and ideas. Students in such schools recognize that work is individual thought, expression, illustration and expansion of ideas in addition to choosing the right material and method to get the required results. Finally, students attending executive elite school are encouraged to develop analytical and intellectual powers (Anyon 8). Students attending an elite school are not asked to memorize facts or produce the right answers, but are challenged to reason out a real-life problem. The outcome must be logically and intellectually sound and of top academic quality. In essence, students gain critical analysis and problem-solving skills that are required of leaders in business and government. Impacts on the Students and the Society It is wrong to assume that racial segregation that was an important issue of national significance decades ago has gradually and steadily declined in recent years. The truth is far from this “picture-perfect” assumption that many have come to believe. The schools that were racially segregated thirty years ago have become more segregated as evidenced by the high number of public schools serving largely minority students, Black and Hispanic students (Kozol 41). It has come to a point whereby the presence of white students in public schools is “something of a wonderment to the teacher and to the other pupils” (Kozol 42). Also, these public schools are found in racially mixed areas where integration is the usual rather than segregated inner-city neighborhoods. This high level of racial segregation also affects the allocation of funds to develop learning facilities in public schools. (Kozol 45) cites the principal of an elementary school who laments of the poor state of the school’s learning facilities, “this would not happen to white children”. Also, the number of doctors serving students attending New York City’s public schools has decreased significantly from 400 in 1970 to 23 in 1993. The cutback affects mostly children from poor backgrounds who cannot afford quality health care. The changing racial demographics as a consequence of a dual education system is to blame for the deficits facing public schools. Because the majority of white students can afford private schools where their welfare is well catered for, politicians have little or no incentive to address the challenges affecting public schools that serve mainly the minority students. Also, public spending on public schools in minority communities as well as teacher’s salaries are way below the average of public schools in wealthy suburbs. This means that the teachers serving white students, whose parent live in wealthy suburbs, are highly motivated to teach as compared to their counterparts in public schools located in poor neighborhoods. Moreover, the students of the latter schools have better equipment than the former due to differentials in public spending. As a result, students attending public schools located in wealthy suburbs are likely to achieve success in their academics. This will guarantee them better job opportunities than their counterparts attending poorly funded public schools in minority communities. The ripple effect of skewed public spending depending on the demographics of the students perpetuates social classes. Those who get better schooling opportunities end up joining the elite class whilst the rest become working class citizens. Inequality is not problematic Despite the apparent disparities between social classes influenced by a dual education system in the United States, inequality is a key constituent of the modern society. People are not born the same and it is not possible to teach an individual everything. As such, selection is inevitable although how it is implemented is a contentious issues. Selection has for generation been implemented through various assessment, curricular, and pedagogical practices that emphasize different behavioral and cognitive skills in each social environ. Moreover, the demographics of the public schools have contributed to the inequality challenge inherent to the American society. I reiterate that inequality in the American education system is not problematic because a functional society must have leaders and servants. The elite education in private schools molds future leaders whilst mass education in public schools produces standardized working human resource to support the economy by providing labor.
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