. Equality of Educational Opportunities in the United States Education has an immense impact on the human society. The quality of human resource of a nation is easily judged by the number of literate population living in it. This is to say that education is a must if a nation aspires to achieve growth and development and more importantly sustain it. In today’s world, the role of education has become even more vital. It is an absolute necessity for economic and social development, and the single most important predictor of good jobs and high income at the individual level.
In the United States, the Department of Education aims to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring educational equity. Educational equity is a federally mandated right of all students to have equal access to classes, facilities, educational programs, curriculum, instruction materials, assessment and evaluation materials no matter what their national origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, first language, or other distinguishing characteristic.
The public schooling is often regarded as “the great equalizer” in the American society. For many years, American students supposedly have had an equal opportunity to master the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Therefore, it is assumed that any student who works hard would have the chance to go as far as his or her talents and abilities allow, regardless of family origin or socioeconomic status. “This assumption regarding opportunity and emphasis on individual talent and effort seems to be natural offshoot of the rugged individualism and self-reliance that are so much part of the fabled American character. (Schmidt, Cogan, Huoang, 2009) Furthermore, the idea of equality of opportunity is often seen as providing the opportunities to learn without reference to the outcomes. It does not require any particular level of achievement for all students. It is also consistent with wide inequalities in outcomes between students from different social backgrounds. Students are given the opportunity to find success and if they fail to take up these opportunities it is attributed to their lack of talent or motivation.
Those who do not succeed are judged to be not capable of succeeding. As a result, the concept equality of opportunity in education as flawed and unjust. Although free universal public education was adopted early in U. S. history, equal opportunity has never been established. Public schools have been primarily financed by local taxes and controlled by the ruling classes of local communities. These two features of American education: local financing and local control of schools, which initially established and continue to maintain inequality in American education.
There is an unequal distribution of wealth, which is directly related to inequalities in education beginning at early education. Historically speaking, public education is filled with segregation, bias, and inequalities for the minorities and poor. In the South, laws mandated that schools be segregated into black and white. In the North there were no segregation laws, but school officials deliberately drew up districts with the intent of segregation. This segregation resulted in inferior education for blacks and minorities simply because their school districts were less funded.
By 1980 the federal courts were successful in eliminating the system of segregation in the south, and mandated that the school districts in the north be redrawn to include minorities in order to make education equal between districts. And in 2002, President Bush, in an attempt to reform and strengthen our educational system, passed the “No child left behind” act. This reform aimed at identifying poorly performing public schools by testing students in grades three through eight annually in reading and math. The reform focused on achievement among students and took action if the standards were not met.
But, despite countless initiatives, hundreds of billions of dollars invested in various school improvement efforts, there is still huge gaps in educational opportunity that mostly impact the lives of low income communities and communities of color across the fifty states. That is because , all of these reforms ignore the fact that no matter what we do in schools, students still live their lives in communities that reflect the systemic economic, racial and environmental inequalities that our society has need to resolve.
Many factors affect the educational experience of students, the issue of housing is one of main the factors that affect school experience. Low-income blacks and Latinos are not forbidden from attending more affluent, majority-white schools because of their race, they are forbidden from attending because they are unable to live in districts where affluent, high-functioning schools exist. Poor neighborhoods typically have run-down schools with less money and poor conditions, while affluent neighborhoods house newer and safer schools providing better learning environments.
That is because the primary source of funding for most school systems is property taxes. This means wealthy districts with high property values have more money to spend on education and students than poor districts. A school without sufficient funds is unable to provide quality education for their students. Because important funds need to be allocated so that students have the proper materials and environment for them to succeed. Low -funded schools are unable to provide the technology tools, such as science labs, computers, and internet that are necessary for education and learning.
Also, they have larger class size and insufficient classroom materials. In addition, without sufficient funds many of these schools cannot afford experienced quality teacher with experience that can produce high quality education. On the hand, wealthy school districts have smaller class sizes, experienced and high quality teachers, and the scientific and technical tools needed for learning and education. Therefore, low-income students not only struggle with poverty related issues at home but generally receive an inferior education at school as well.
This would leads the students to a sense of hopelessness and to achieve below their potential and eventually drop from school, which would reduce their opportunities for good employment or to secure housing in an area where better schools could serve their own children in the future. On the other hand, inequality of education is obvious within school districts, rich or poor, because school boards, dominated by the local ruling class, control both the content and quality of public education through policy setting and resource allocation.
School trustees decide what is appropriate and adequate education for different social groups and classes. Different school districts offer different educational content levels and curriculum, which in turn affect student’s level of education, achievement, and test scores. In the article “Equality of Educational Opportunity: A Myth or Reality in U. S. Schooling” , Schmidt, Cogan, and Huoang focused on equality of content coverage across districts and states, and examined the consistency of educational opportunities with respect to specific mathematics topics and its relationship to student academic achievement.
The article also studied the consequences of the US system of shared decision making in terms of curriculum – allowing states and districts to define specific content coverage in mathematics. The study showed that teachers – their content knowledge and their content-judgments about coverage – are variable, where the wealthy districts taught higher math levels than the poor. This resulted in students with higher socioeconomic status score higher on achievement tests, than students from poor districts.
Therefore, there is no equal educational opportunity in terms of the level of demand of content coverage, whether at the district or state level. And the US is not a country of educational equality, providing equal educational opportunities to its students. This is shown in the content coverage that is provided to the poor or to minority and disadvantaged students. Furthermore, any student in the US can be disadvantaged simply due to differences in the difficulty and challenge of the curriculum that depends on the district in which they happen to attend school.
The demand for equal educational opportunity, the historic dream of working-class and progressive people, must be recognized as a necessary and essential part of building a better society. Education affects every part of our lives. For the majority of people education level will determine income level, social class, and even health. Lack of quality education to our youth, quickly puts them at a great disadvantage then their peers who receives one. Therefore, it is very important for all children in the United States to have an equal education whether they live in a neighborhood of high or low poverty or high or low minority.
We need an educational system that provides adequate classroom materials, technology, and quality teacher for everyone, not only middle class and wealth students. A system needs to be put in place where quality teachers are spread out among the districts immediately until the remaining teachers become at least certified in the field that they teach. Also, we need to work on improving the living conditions of low-income and minority’s students so they can reach their full potential and be productive in the school environment. These children deserve to live in a safe clean environment, with proper housing and medical care.
In conclusion, the equality in education is the major factor in minimizing the rising income gap and improving the living conditions of all Americans, especially the poor and the minorities, which in turn, will improve our quality of life as a society and as a nation. References: Stephens, Eric, Education vs. Optimal Taxation: The Cost of Equalizing Opportunities (April 26, 2011). Runyon, S… (2011, April 14). An American roadmap to educational equality. The Boston Banner,p. 26. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW). Schmidt W. , Cogan L. Huoang R. , (2009). Equality of educational opportunity: a myth or reality in U. S. schooling (2009) . 32. Edelman, M.. (2010, September 29). Getting all children the schools they deserve. Chicago Defender,p. 11. Edelman, M.. (2010, September 29). Getting all children the schools they deserve. Chicago Defender,p. 11. Retrieved August 15, 2011 Charles H. , Lee J. (2005, Feb. 4). Race and ethnic inequality in educational attainment in the United States. 26. Hense, D.. (2010, February 18). Let’s Bend Public Schools Toward Justice. Washington Informer,p. 18-19.