Social Class and Education

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Bethany Herold

Professor Robin Schofield

ENG 122 1N5

8 June 2014

Social Class and Education

According to a study completed in 2009 by the College Board for a correlation between SAT scores and family income, it was concluded that the lower a family’s income is, the lower their student’s test score will be (Wade 1). The findings blatantly show as financial resources in the home increase, so does the scoring of the student. A renowned academic with a PhD in Sociology, James W. Loewen strives to unveil the unjust standings of American social classes, arguing that although history books attempt to hide it, division of class status has been strongly instituted since the country’s origins. This makes it nearly impossible for an individual to break the cycle of their given class. Through his article “The Land of Opportunity”, Loewen challenges the assumption that class is a choice, and reasons that people need to be well-educated and aware of class segregation and limitations for this pattern to be broken.

Based on class system structure and preconceived notions about people born into certain privileges, he claims that the most defining factor for members of society is their bestowed social class (Loewen 203). It is stressed throughout Loewen’s writing that prejudices and chain of events cause a merry-go-round that people of lower classes cannot escape. Through teacher and job interview biases, history books excluding prevalent class information, and the population’s lack of education on the subject, Loewen illustrates that if people do not recognize and actively strive to shake the barrier of social class, their destined ruts will only continue to deepen.

Aside from providing reasoning as to why class segregation is still at large, Loewen takes a portion of his article to discuss how social class effects education and test scores, basically stating that

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the lower class is ultimately set up for failure in terms of academics. This point is not only accurate, but also very relevant to our modern education system. Americans view academic success as a choice, and typically consent to the idea that deficiency of success is caused by an individual’s own lack of effort. There are several correlations between lower class members and lack of academic prosperity, as well as connections for success and the middle and upper class counterparts.

A huge factor pertaining to post-secondary scholarly success, the home and education foundation poured for students from low-income families is insufficient in its resemblance to their upper class competitors. In his commentary presenting the opinion that poverty, not general education, is the true crisis, Dane Smith quotes authors Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff on advice for an equal education future for all classes: “Students must be entitled to educationally relevant supports in the areas of early-childhood education, expanded learning in out-of-school time, health care, and family engagement and support — that is, those services which directly affect success in school” (Dane 1). These authors make a excellent point by showing that life outside of the classroom can greatly influence the school life of children.

Burdened with worries beyond their years and an intense home life, low class students can be greatly distracted in the classroom environment. As they are generally sectioned off to the lower income areas of communities, their schools are located in less that satisfactory neighborhoods. These schools will also receive less funding and therefor these students have less opportunity for adequate school curriculum and after school programs. Their upper class peers are not only free of these home based problems, they also have better access to private or high ranking schools and extracurricular activities.

Even prior to college, finances play a large part in educational success. Low income children are less likely to receive one-on-one assistance or tutoring, and children of stable or high income families have access to all this, occasionally having personalized test preparation courses as well.

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Because of their academic success early on, these stable students are more likely to receive

scholarships and qualify for prestigious universities, where the low class students are lacking financial support. Due to poor test scores, these underprivileged students generally cannot access such schools. Many enter the workforce right away instead and get caught in jobs that max out at a low income wage, thus restarting the cycle for their children.

Although a portion of academic success is the effort of the student, there are many other factors that contribute to the final outcome. Because of class cycles and segregation, excelling in school can be nearly impossible for a large majority of the low class population. In order to raise educational prosperity for all classes, steps must be taken to tackle American poverty in general, and at the very least incorporate more equality into the school systems to set children of all backgrounds up for success.

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Works Cited

Clayton, Mark. “In student test scores, a wider gap. (cover story).” Christian Science Monitor 29 Aug. 2001: 1. TOPICsearch. Web. 7 June 2014.< detail?vid=10&sid=1f1d95f0-ae3e-45cb-b05c-d95b89775db1%40sessionmgr110&hid=11 4&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=tth&AN=5071378>

Greene, Stuart, and April Lidinsky. From Inquiry To Academic Writing: A Text And Reader For Pikes Peak Community College. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print.

Smith, Dane. “Commentary: A Poverty Crisis, Not A General Education Crisis.” St. Paul Legal Ledger (MN) (n.d.): Regional Business News. Web. 7 June 2014.< 4001&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=bwh&AN=L548 46098SPLL>

Wade PhD, Lisa. “The Correlation Between Income And SAT Scores.” Sociological Images: Inspiring Sociological Imaginations Everywhere. 29 Aug. 2012. Pulled from Web. 7 June 2014. < scores/>


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