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Inequalities in American Schools

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People from different races/ethnicities are constantly being discriminated against. Also, if you are not rich you are seen as being in a very low class of being poor and uneducated. Inequality is completely obvious in America. Maybe we should be doing more to stop this, but it is ultimately up to the government. More laws need to be put in place to end discrimination. One major place where individuals are not being treated equally is in schools. Why is it seen as fair that everything is reliable on someone that has money or that is white? Kids who have rich parents and seen as smart are given scholarships for college. Children have to suffer from this and never even get to attend college because they come from a poor family. African Americans and Hispanics suffer from this because of their poverty rate. This is far from creating an equal environment for our children to learn in. It is a major example of educational inequality.

Two Differing Theories on the Role of Education

“Education creates the appearance of offering a road to upward mobility, but in fact it usually works in ways that pass social inequality, including racial and ethnic inequality, from one generation to the next” (Farley, 2012, p. 390). A functionalist or traditional view is seen as “education providing a source of social mobility in society. In other words, it offers to everyone the opportunity to move up in society, and how far one moves depends on his or her ability and motivation” (Farley, 2012, p. 395). Every single individual needs education because without it he/she will be completely lost in the real world. One who does not attend school may never obtain employment and will therefore be seen as being poor to society. “Education provides employers with qualified workers, and it offers individuals the opportunity for mobility by rewarding them on the basis of what they know and what they can do rather than on the basis of who they are or what their background is” (Farley, 2012, p. 395). It all depends on what the person is capable of doing. If someone did not attend school, then they may be seen as not being eligible for certain careers. A person must work very hard towards a good job and to be seen as worthy to society. This theory strictly looks at education being very important. Others may view this theory very poorly and see it as creating unequal treatment in the United States towards certain people.

Another theory, known as the conflict view is very different from the traditional view. It sees “education as not operating in a way that offers much opportunity for upward mobility to the poor. Rather, education reflects and reinforces the social inequality in society” (Farley, 2012, p. 395). Basically, nobody should blame education for inequality. “Education cannot be expected to bring about equality when the larger social and economic system is based on inequality” (Farley, 2012, p. 395). Christopher Jencks completely agrees with this theory. He has made it very clear that, “if society wants to move in the direction of social equality, the way to do it is not to “educate” everyone, but rather to pursue changes in the economic system that would bring about equalization of income” (Farley, 2012, p. 395). We can all either agree or disagree. In my opinion, changing around some things in education may create a better environment for children, but society also has to step it up to make the world a better place without inequalities.

Whites typically come out on top in education and other minority groups are simply viewed as nothing more but being poor. “The overall effect of the American educational system is to preserve inequality rather than to reduce or eliminate it. Since economic inequality in the United States falls largely along racial and ethnic lines, education may well be acting in ways that preserve racial and ethnic inequality as well” (Farley, 2012, p. 396). Education fails children in many ways. The biggest being that rich white children are allowed to attend schools that are so much better than the school’s poor children have to attend. Education given to children should all be seen as equal treatment and not have anyone questioning if they are even being taught in correct ways.

The Role Funding Plays in Education Inequality

Funding can play a major role in educational inequality, especially when it comes to racial lines. “Schools in which many of the students are black, Hispanic, or American Indian have been underfunded in comparison to schools in which most of the students are white” (Farley, 2012, p. 398). Basically, schools that are seen on the wealthy side are going to be completely funded compared to schools that are seen as having poor students attending. “On average, schools get about half of their revenue from state aid and most of the rest from the local property tax, although this varies considerably from state to state. Because the amount that can be raised through the property tax depends on the value of property in the community, this tax tends to bring in more revenue in wealthier communities” (Farley, 2012, p. 398). Some students may even go to a school that is seen to not have very much money to help save them money. Books and tuition may be a lot cheaper for these students.

Back in the day, minority groups were subjected to this more then today. The funding amounts for these schools were completely unequal. For example, “in 1988, a Detroit school spent $3,600 per year. In several affluent nearby suburbs, per-pupil funding ranged from $5,700 to $6,400. In several inner-city districts, students went weeks or months into the school year without receiving textbooks” (Farley, 2012, p. 399). Although, money can solve some of this inequality going on in schools, it will not end it all. “As serious as funding deficiencies are in some school districts, it will take more than money to bring about truly equal educational opportunity. There are also problems in education that cannot be addressed by money alone” (Farley, 2012, p. 400).

Cultural and Behavioral Factors in the Education of Minorities

Education of minorities can be viewed as being negative. This all comes from where the student comes from and how they behave. “Students with certain kinds of attitudes and backgrounds were learning and those with other kinds of attitudes and backgrounds were falling behind” (Farley, 2012, p. 401). This can from the “functionalist view that the problem is one of cultural deprivation and the conflict theory view that the problem is cultural bias” (Farley, 2012, p. 402).

Cultural deprivation can be seen to blame for students performing bad in school. This typically affects children of different races and the ones that are seen as poor. It wants students from different minority groups to think just like the rest of the students do in order to succeed. “Minority students attending schools where students had more positive attitudes and study habits developed similar attitudes and habits themselves. Desegregation of schools might lead to improved learning among minority students as they took on the attitudes and study habits of their more advantaged white, middle class peers.” (Farley, 2012, p. 403).

Cultural bias can be seen as completely different. “According to conflict theorists, the problem is to be found not in the characteristics of the minority groups, but rather in the schools. According to this view, the reason for low achievement among those with certain attitudes and backgrounds is that the schools demand certain values, attitudes, and habits and, in effect, punish those who do not conform” (Farley, 2012, p. 403). Schools may be doing what’s at the best interest for upper white people but may be failing in other areas. This is why students who come from a different ethical group may receive inequal treatment in education.

How We Can Get Rid of Inequality in Education

One big problem that schools may have is that they are leaving out facts about past history and may be rearranging past history to make it look better. These students should be told the truth, so they are aware of how bad inequality used to be. This is beyond important for everyone to know about and it may change someone’s perspectives a little bit and encourage students to do better in society. We can get rid of some of the inequalities in education by doing things differently. Cultural immersion and multiculturalism can be ways to do so. It can alter the ways children are being taught and provide a more equal classroom for everyone.

Multiculturalism is “an approach that recognizes and values cultural differences and attempts to include all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in the content and examples used in the classroom and to teach history, literature, and other subjects from the perspectives of multiple groups rather than just the dominant group” (Farley, 2012, p. 434). Whites can be seen as holding all of the power and this can create unnecessary tension in classrooms by other ethical groups feeling left out. This approach can have very positive outcomes. “It can lead to better self-images, stronger identities, and greater self-confidence among students of color. It is intended to broaden the knowledge of all Americans about groups other than their own and to help students to understand how the different experiences of other groups have led to the development of different viewpoints” (Farley, 2012, p. 435). This list can go on for all of the benefits of using this approach. Every single minority group deserves a voice in education.

Cultural immersion is “an educational approach that directly promotes positive role models of the students’ own racial or ethnic background and that promotes collective self-worth by teaching students to value their cultural heritage, which has been subjected to attack by the larger society.” (Farley, 2012, p. 435). By using this approach, a teacher can be seen as a positive role model and more students will move forward in school feeling accomplished. The teacher will be protecting where the student comes from and make the student feel more comfortable in the learning environment. These ethical groups will begin to have a higher success rate in society when using this approach.

Anti-Racist Tool

All schools should be free of negative attitudes towards minority groups. Racism and inequality should not even be present. Students need to be taught about all of the different races and should be able to talk about race within society without being hateful. There are different anti-racist tools that can be used in schools to help stop racism. Privilege Walk is just one of them. It can be very effective in reducing inequality and racism. “This exercise helps students understand how socioeconomic class, gender, and other identities interact with race. It can be particularly insightful for students who are (or believe they are) “blind” to race and class” (Fox, 2014, p. 129). Privilege can be something that students are completely unaware of. The privilege walk tool shows race in a completely different way and allows everyone to learn about minority groups.

To start this exercise, “ask students to form a line shoulder to shoulder down the middle of the room and to listen carefully to the statements being made” (Fox, 2014, p. 129). You are then asked to take steps forward or back if any of the statements apply to you. Some examples of this could be, “if you were raised in a neighborhood where there was prostitution or drug activity, take one step back. Or if you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, speech, or behavior to avoid being judged or ridiculed, take one step back” (Fox, 2014, p. 129). After all of the statements have been made, “students should take a look around and see where they are standing in relation to their classmates” (Fox, 2014, p. 129). More privileged students will appear to be ahead of their classmates by taking more steps forward. The less privileged will be behind. Most students will be able to open their eyes to disadvantages some people have to face and create a more positive attitude towards all minority groups.


Obviously, schools in America are known for not being fair when it comes to class and race. Whites tend to be more acknowledged within a classroom and some schools cannot even afford proper learning resources for effective learning within a classroom. Every single child should be able to attend a school without worrying that they will be judged or treated unfair because of where they come from. Children need proper education to be effective members of society. All students should be recognized for their accomplishments and be able to move forward effectively. School funding should become fair for all schools. Teachers should be required to teach in ways that will be fair for every student. Discrimination needs to end, and it will start by all schools taking appropriate measures to get rid of it. Society will become such a better place when equal education is in place for all students.

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