Class definitely affects opportunity
April 25, 2010

One of the things I study for my degree in Education is how class affects the distribution of power and knowledge in society. This sounds like pretty basic stuff to most, but I'm always shocked by how innocently people refuse to get it.

For instance, this post from a fellow student earlier today. It seems good, at first:

Bureaucracy makes education a cumbersome machine rather than a fluid ever changing process. This is what the masses- aka the majority of people- are subjected to. This slow bureaucracy creates lack of creativity and there is no freedom to act. Then people just theorize how things should and could be, while people live stressed out lives (and stress creates freeked out people!)

... if a little oddly spelled. But then she posts her "point:"

There are fewer and fewer opportunities for high paid garment workers or any quality artistic endeavor (people who did not go to formal school). I blame this on the high level of government involvement, expense and red tape. People are being micromanaged rather than encouraged to flourish and innovate.

Okay, I mean... the argument that government should stay out of our lives has lost a lot of power for me over the years. Government may not be doing the best work here in America, but this argument of removing it is never meant to help the people. This student isn't so much against No Child Left Behind and its ineffective "solution" to schooling. She's against government safety nets, feeling that people should pull themselves up by their boot straps and make better lives for themselves. She is revealing a belief that class is just a dirty word used to separate people who are really equal.

She also posted this snippet, which really illustrates her naivete:

When I was little my family was not "educated" yet I was surrounded by many skills, interests, and abilities. I learned how to research and ask questions when I was very small. I read and read, preferably non-fiction. My fiction had to be based on facts, real life stories. I learned how to play the piano because there was a piano, there was music, and people played it. Then I asked to take lessons and I got to. It is our environment that we live in that can provide the most opportunity. (online communication, retrieved April 25th, 2010).

Whatís critical here is that the student mentions ďit is our environment that we live in that can provide the most opportunity.Ē This is absolutely true. But she has failed to ask herself why this environment existed for her and to recognize that it might not exist for everyone. In fact, it exists for only a relatively small percentage of the population.

Kids in the projects donít have pianos that they can develop an interest for music on. They donít have parents who have time to motivate, or money to foster, this interest. They donít have the cultural capital to create this situation in which learning is encouraged and sought. They donít have their basic medical needs addressed, like Richard Rothstein (2008) describes when he says ďpoor children have twice the average rate of severe vision impairment... resulting from mothersí poor medical care and nutritionĒ (p. 371).

Not everyone can just "rise above" their social class, pulling themselves up by their boot-straps. Being lower middle class is one thing. Not having parents to come home to or proper shelter or the ability to solve basic medical problems is an entirely different kind of hurtle, one that many children are facing every day. And, no, it isn't entirely the parent's faults. Certainly it isn't because they didn't "buck up" and work harder for their children. It is because of gross inequalities in the system that these familial situations exist.

Class isn't just a dirty word. It exists. This isnít a matter of being self-motivated. This is, as the student ironically states, a matter of environment and circumstances. Itís difficult to learn the piano when you canít see.

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zippdementia zippdementia - April 25, 2010 (09:23 PM)
That's odd... I swore Spaceworlder responded with a well thought out response that was fun reading! I'm sad it's gone...
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - April 25, 2010 (11:13 PM)
I deleted it because I had second thoughts about getting into a political discussion. Politics just isn't my cup of tea, and yet I sometimes find myself diving heedlessly into itÖ :-/
darketernal darketernal - April 26, 2010 (04:33 AM)
The fact that there are people arguing that there are no class dividing the people is naive at best. I know it's hard to say, and any person that works under the public's eye would be fired or at least hated by everyone if he said it out loud, but the fact remains that some people are just better than others. Not because they have some sort of superior DNA that turns them into a crossbreed of Nikola Tesla and Arnold, but rather because there were circumstances where they could develop and that made them better then the rest. It is hard to think about learning piano if your stomach is grumbling because you didn't steal/beg for enough money on that day and your dad beat the living crap out of you due to that.
zippdementia zippdementia - April 26, 2010 (05:35 AM)
Which was where my ire comes from, yeah! I think one of the problems is ignorance... people from higher classes just don't get what exactly it means to be lower class citizens.

Space Worlder had a good point about the government side of things which I'm sad he erased. Whether or not government can solve class issues or whether it's muddling everything up is really up for grabs, with evidence pointing to the fact that they are muddling things up.

To clarify, I wasn't really going after this student because they believe government should be out of our lives... it's the attached statement of "government should be out of our lives and the lower classes should really learn to just be more upper class" that gets me. That those too sentiments so often are attached speaks to me of a joint philosophy which makes me wary of removing government from regulations.

Personally, I tend to agree that government shouldn't be regulating things on the educational level. They've tried that with NCLB and it's a mess. But the politics run deeper than that. It's very well possible that NCLB was an intentional act of sabotage against the Title I schools. There are some government functions that would work well, if only the government would actually "function."
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - April 26, 2010 (06:08 PM)
Personally, what I find interesting is that your fellow student decries those who sit back and do nothing but hypothesize and discuss, and then proceeds to hypothesize and discuss.
zippdementia zippdementia - April 28, 2010 (11:51 AM)
Ha ha ha, yeah! Such is the dilemma of the student!

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