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Social Class vs Educational Success sample essay

Is the correlation between social class and educational success truly acknowledged in America? When Mantsios, in “Class in America,” asks, the question, “Which of these gifts might a high school graduate in your family receive, a corsage, a savings bond or a BMW” (304), he makes the point that definite socio-economic separations exist in our society. This separation has a direct effect on our educational success. He proves this by presenting myths and facts about the United States social classes.

One study concludes that fewer than one in five people move out of their socio-economic status in which they are born (316). This is in direct relationship to the education they receive. There are exceptions to socioeconomic background determining a student’s educational success. For example, Mike Rose in “I Just Wanna Be Average” and Toni Bambara in “The Lesson” are successful authors who give us examples of going from rags to riches. Both authors benefited from a person who took a personal interest in them. Mike Rose, and at- risk student had a teacher who goes above and beyond and mentors him.

Toni Bambara relays a story about a college educated woman living in the ghetto felt responsible for her neighbor’s children wanting them to learn the practical lessons that they would not have been exposed to otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has the opportunity to receive an equal education. Children from affluent families are at a much higher advantage. According to Jean Anyon, (Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work), “a child’s social class reflects the kind of schooling that he or she receives” (168).

The type of education the poor and working class receive is not preparing them to achieve a higher form of learning. People do not choose to be poor or working class; instead they are limited by the opportunities allowed or denied them by a social and economic system. Social class or life’s opportunities are largely determined at birth. Even though the Constitution states that Americans are entitled to an equal educational opportunity, it does not mean that all education is equal.

Many factors are involved, such as school funding, location, quality of supplies and equipment, the curriculum and the attitudes and abilities of the teachers. Anyon observed that there was a huge difference in the way the students of affluent, suburban or working class city schools in New Jersey were taught. The working class schools rarely used textbooks, were given very few decision making lessons, and were graded on how well they followed directions, not if they had the correct answer.

In the middle class schools, high grades were dependent on reading the textbooks, listening to the teacher, figuring out the directions and choosing the correct answer. In the affluent elite schools, students were inspired to come up with their own ideas, asked to problem solve and were encouraged to challenge the teacher and the answers. They also created their own lesson plans and carried them out acting as student teachers. This type of education is exceptional in preparing students to achieve academically and to be able to problem solve in their future careers because it fosters independent thinkers.

Statistics from researcher William Sewell prove that children who come from higher income families have a much larger percentage of college graduates. These students later obtain more prestigious and lucrative positions than those who graduate from lower income families. Unfortunately, not many high schools in poorer districts adequately prepare students for college, and do not provide incentives to spark interest in learning. Mantsios discusses the findings of Sewell, who showed an absolute relationship between socio-economic class and overall school achievement.

He compared the top quartile of students with the bottom of a sample group and found that the students from upper-class families were twice as likely to attend college after high school and four times as likely to attain a post-graduate degree (315). Today these same statistics exist with two changes. The bottom quartile of the student population is more readily accepted into colleges, but their chances of completing and getting their degree are greatly reduced. The top twenty five percentile of students are nineteen times more likely to obtain a college degree than the bottom quartile.

Mantsios states, “The higher the student’s social status, the higher the probability that he or she will get higher grades (315). ” This conclusion was reached as a result of a study done twenty five years ago by Richard De Lone, who examined the SAT scores of over half a million students. It was also repeated fifteen years later with the same results. Test scores are still highly correlated with family income. Mantsios questions the belief that all people, whether they are underprivileged or wealthy, have an equal opportunity to become successful as long as they work hard.

He believes that people in the lower category of life have a lesser chance to become successful, largely due to class domination. An individual born into a life of wealth will have a better chance at success than a person born into a less fortunate family. Mantios proves that social classes do exist and cause a difference in the lives of people especially in their education. Even though more underprivileged students are being admitted to college everyday, it is hard to believe that fewer are graduating than before. Some have been successful and made a change in their status, but few can accomplish this.

The difference in the way children are taught in the New Jersey school system illustrates that where you live plays an important role as to what type of education you will receive. Ottawa hills, is a prime example of a wealthy community where the students’ test scores, the high school and post secondary amount of graduates far surpass any other in this area. The statistics presented by Sewell, all of Mantsios’ informative research and Anyon’s extensive analysis of the New Jersey school district, we can clearly see that socio-economic status plays a very crucial role in our educational success.

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