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The Land of Opportunity

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In the article “The Land of Opportunity” written by James Loewen the author argues that most students leave school (preferably high school) with no understanding of social inequality, mainly due to their assigned textbooks. When they are told by their teachers that America has a great deal of social inequality that continues to this day, the student’s reactions are never positive and almost always defensive. “The students blame the poor for not being successful. They have no understanding of the ways that opportunity is not equal in America and no notion that social structure pushes people around, influencing the ideas they hold and the lives they fashion.” (Loewen page 304). The author places a lot of these issues on the history textbooks given out in class. These books are written in a way that omit issues that continue today with social inequality and ended years ago, for example the most recent example of this issue in one book was Taft-Harley act of 1947 when we have had many memorable labor issues in American history since then. “No book mentions the Hormel meat-packers strike broken by President Reagan. Nor do the textbooks describe any continuing issues facing labor, such as the growth of multinational corporations and their exporting of jobs overseas.

With such omissions, textbooks authors can construe labor history as something that happened long ago, like slavery, and that, like slavery, was corrected long ago.” (Loewen page 304). Loewen also writes about the inequality between students of affluent families and poor families. When a child is born he or she is automatically put into a social class which will shape the rest of their lives. When it comes to academics, schooling and jobs, the status you were born with affects every aspect of this. Teachers expect the poor kids to act and learn a different way than the rich kids, and even the test-makers of the Scholastic Aptitude Test have similar backgrounds to those of wealthy students, giving them a bigger advantage already. “As if this unequal home and school life were not enough, rich teenagers then enroll in the Princeton review or other coaching sessions for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Even without coaching, affluent children are advantaged because their background is similar to that of the test-makers, so they are comfortable with the vocabulary and subtle subculture assumptions of the test.” (Loewen page 306). It’s no wonder that author James Loewen finds it shameful that American students are raised into society with the idea and thought that our country is the land of opportunity.

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