A guest blog article by Jordan Jana (student, world citizen)
Many people look at the United States and see a land of equal opportunity. The claim made can be supported by the combination of a semi-capitalist like market and an equal education for all citizens.
Although America does provide the right market to support equal opportunity, the education system does not.
The American education system does not provide an equal education, which can easily be observed when looking at working class and upper class schools. Many would automatically think that upper class schools have an upper hand in educating over the working class schools because they have access to more materials to strengthen learning. This is not the case, as material differences are only seen at the surface.
Educational differences go much deeper in such areas as teaching methods and philosophy.
In one form, known as the tracking system, schools and teachers follow students’ progress for years, measuring their successes and failures. The tracking system in American schools, whether purposely placed or not, may dictate one’s future career and social class.
Jean Anyon, a professor of educational policy at the City University of New York, conducted an experiment using five schools, all of different social class majority. Her study, depicts four different types of schools: working class schools, middle-class schools, affluent professional schools, and executive elite schools (Anyon, 2013). Social class rises from low to high respectively.
Teachers at the working class schools just asked for the answers and assigned meaningless busy work while the teachers at the executive elite school allowed the children to express themselves through encouraged participation in class (Anyon, 2013).
The schools convey different teaching methods from each other and exist on opposite ends of the social spectrum. The executive elite schools show stronger results and undoubtedly perceived by many as better than the working class schools. Ultimately, Anyon’s study provides evidence that children from high income families do get a better education than children from a working class family. Tracking of students over the years seems to also support this notion.
But the issue of tracking students goes much deeper than merely looking at social class.
Take for instance remedial classes, designed to make it easier for students to learn if the standard level is too challenging. The idea itself is helpful to students but may cripple their chance of having a successful future compared to students who remain in the standard level. The use of remedial classes fails, however, when the class does not learn the correct material recommended by the curriculum, thus not preparing those children for the future.
Mike Rose, an Education professor at UCLA, tells a story of his experience with the tracking system in his work, I Just Wanna Be Average. In Rose’s true account of his experiences through middle school, a placement test score of Rose’s was mixed up with another student’s, landing him in remedial classes. Rose (2013) talks a lot about not only how easy the class was, but also the lack of meaning and learning behind the material. Rose even adds that his English class read some of Shakespeare’s work but never talked about the significance of it – they just read it, no more no less. Later, Rose (2013) was moved into a higher level English class and talks about how much more he was learning.
Not only can family income decide one’s future, as noted above, but a test score can do the same.
The tracking system is real and contradicts America’s claim of equal education, but does not have to decide a student’s fate. There are plenty of people who break free from poverty and become successful. Education is the one true key to opportunity and without that key equal opportunity cannot exist.
We can fix the education system in the United States. First, send an equal amount of funding to every school. Second, cut remedial classes and employ alternative methods of teaching to be more inclusive of all learning styles and lessons.
Some may argue that these solutions are a bit extreme, but these measures are the first step to make America equal in education for ALL children.
It is only then that we can have a society built on solidly educated citizens choosing their own path in life.
Anyon, Jean. 2013. “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work.” Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing, editors Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin’s.
Rose, Mike. 2013 “I Just Wanna Be Average.” Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing, editors Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin’s.