Inequality in Our Educational System

December 10, 2011

Political Theory


Last week during lecture, when Professor L-M asked what social movement we would be most interested in starting, a large number of class suggested reforming the current educational system.  As most of you already know, there are some serious flaws to our current education system today.  In my opinion, the biggest problem is the fact that even though it is prohibited by law, schools are still segregated, and the children of minority living in poverty are affected the most.

Although Brown v. Board of Education has outlawed the establishment of separate schools for African-American and white students over 50 years ago, a large number of minority students are attending public schools that are just as segregated as before.  The growing number of residential segregation is the primary factor of this separation.

Residential separation is the main reason the children from low-income families do not have access to a good education.   Various researches demonstrate that public schools in poverty-stricken areas and neighborhoods are often neglected.  For example, they have a lot less qualified and caring teachers and do not have sufficient funding and support from the government.  In addition, a significant number of students come from unstable households and have high exposure to crimes and other social problems, which play a big role in mitigating their potential to do well in school.

This segregated education system becomes more detrimental for a vast number of minority students because  they are not granted the equal opportunities to succeess and better lives in the future.  For instance, unequal education dimnishes their chance of getting a college education and a good career.  Studies also indicate that low-income campuses are often ignored by job recruiters and colleges.  As time goes on, this will only widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor, and the futures of the children born into poverty will only look more bleak.

Even after the abolition of separation of schools more than 50 years ago, children in poor minority families still suffer due to residential segregation.  No one chooses to be born into poverty and hard life, but this crisis is hardly alleviated due to neglect and lack of funding and qualified teachers in poor areas.  Is there really a way to solve this problem of educational inequality?  Will there be a day when the students of minority and poverty finally have the opportunity to enjoy the same rights to good education and better lives?

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9 Comments on “Inequality in Our Educational System”

  1. blevz Says:

    One of the main reasons schools are underfunded in poor and underdeveloped neighborhoods is due to how the education funds are distributed within a state. Because most education funding comes from property taxes in the district and is not generally distributed throughout the state, districts with a significant number of poor households will receive much smaller amounts of money per student than an area with richer households and thus property taxes. This seems to perpetuate poverty by diminishing the ability for those from low socioeconomic status to have access to the social capital of a good primary education. This seems to mimic the passing of wealth through families described positively by Burke. Those in rich areas become the nobility with the easy access to a good education and thus better occupation in the future.

  2. scottmha Says:

    The answer to your question is yes, and they have already imposed actions to try and reduce this inequality. I can say this because I experienced it first hand. I am from a suburb 25 minutes out of Detroit, but my school contained many kids from Detroit and other inner cities like Pontiac. How is this possible? In Michigan they have started a “school of choice” program where they allow high school students from designated areas (more poverty stricken, worser education) to enroll in other public schools.

    The concept is a great idea, but I can’t say that the bill proved to be that efficient at my school. While, these kids were given a new opportunity to attend a significantly better high school it seemed as if many of them didn’t take it in stride. Many of my classmates who were enrolled in the school of choice program who sat alongside me at my freshman orientation, were not there by Junior year. I believe that there is great inequality in the education system and a need for change but many times the problems may be due to their cultural expectations and values. Many of them did not have the support system that I did, a family who was always present and pushing me to do well in school, this seems essential. This disconnect in the education system may be a more deeply rooted problem than previously believed…

    Heres the school of choice Doctrine
    http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-6530_30334-106922–,00.html

  3. julieele Says:

    There is definitely an inequality in today’s education system. People from the poorer communities are unable to afford a good private school education for their children and are forced to place their children into the public schools. The quality of public schools varies regionally. I believe that all public schools should be equal but this is difficult when funding depends on the performance of the schools. Though the opportunity for public schooling was originally meant to create equality among the children, the quality of these schools has decreased in poorer areas. Wealthier areas often have higher performance rates, more programs, and caring teachers and thus, receive more funding to succeed. The poorer areas are ones that need to be worked on more and yet they are continuously neglected and fail to produce students with proper educations. Public education is based on taxes and people choose to live in better neighborhoods because there are better schools available to them but this is unfair to children that are born into already poor families. This only hurts that child who was unable to choose where they were born into and does not provide an equal opportunity for their success. Our education system definitely has a lot to work on.

  4. phillipschermer Says:

    One aspect of educational reform that I believe is too often left out of the equation is the role that the size of a school can play in the school’s ability to do well by its students. Coming from a small school myself, students were not able to hide in the crowd. As such, they were forced to accept responsibility, and by extension, take school seriously. At a large school though, more people can fall through the cracks. In fact, it’s pretty easy if no one is looking over your shoulder. So, maybe our solution doesn’t lie merely in achieving diversity within classrooms or eliminating segregation by neighborhood, but by also making our schools smaller, and by extension, forcing the individual student to take greater responsibility for their work.

  5. brookegustafson Says:

    I can’t necessarily speak to the public education system on a national level, but I definitely have witnessed the inequality in public schools here in Michigan. As others have pointed out, the quality of public schools depends largely on the financing they receive, and this unfortunately varies by district. Good schools are in wealthier areas, bad schools are in poorer areas. Growing up in a suburb of Detroit, about thirty minutes outside of the city, it is amazing to me how much the quality of education can vary over a stretch of miles. Schools in cities like Pontiac and Detroit definitely do not receive enough funding, making it difficult to provide the necessary higher quality of primary education and receive high-performance scores. Recently, lack of funding has forced some schools to be shut down, and students have been transfered to other schools in the district. A few years ago, there were two different Pontiac public high schools, and today, there is only one. The fact that public schools must be closed and the ones which are struggling now face the task of educating twice as many students does not make improving education any easier.

    I think that one day the education public schools can offer will become more equal locally and nationally, but I also think first the cities themselves must improve. Detroit has been making efforts to improve the downtown area, promoting safety efforts to bring back more local businesses and tourists to help stimulate the local economy. If this can happen, I think more people will eventually move in around the city, the schools can receive more funding, and hopefully more incentives, to provide access to good education. I don’t think a change can just come from providing the schools with money, it must come from a change in the foundation of the city and district. But, how long that will take is hard to estimate, unfortunately, and it far easier said than done.

  6. zrobbins24 Says:

    The high school that I attended was a good example on how to combat the problem of inequality in the education system. My high school “campus” also had an agriscience building within its boundaries. This agriscience program was an outlet for many students from neighboring communities whose school systems were not as good as ours to be able to attend my high school. The only way for other students from different cities and towns to attend my high school was to apply to and enroll in the agriscience program. Thus, the agriscience program allowed students from a less privileged area to attend our school and get a better education.

    Personally, I believe this program was a great way to help students seeking a better education and a way out of a less privileged area. Though having students in our school from other towns shows that there is educational inequality, it is one way to combat the problem. I know many people that came to my high school through the program who received a great education and gone on to college, whereas they may not have been able to move onto higher education if they stayed in their local school system.

  7. habavol Says:

    There is definitely an inequality between public and private schools. Although it makes sense if you think about it, to go to a private school costs tons of money and you’re paying for your education, like here at University of Michigan. At a public school it’s free and you’re getting the “public school” education. I went to Romulus community schools, which is on the outskirts of Detroit, so believe me, I know how rough public schools are.
    There is a great distinction between public and private schools, but there is also a great distinction between public an public schools. I’m sure many of you are aware of how bad off Detroit public schools are, and they are being abused by the people in power. Money isn’t being distributed correctly and the students are receiving a lousy education because people are selfish with money. States like Michigan are “broke” so they don’t get to distribute as much money as a better off state. This isn’t fair to the students, so I think something should be done.

  8. lukeythekid Says:

    Honestly, there is no solution to this problem that will not upset people: obviously we feel a moral obligation to aid those who are less well-off, but at the same time those who are in these good neighborhoods and attend better public schools feel as though they have earned it and deserve it. While we would like to provide a better start for those disadvantaged people, the issue is not unlike that concerning the distribution of wealth in general: If we have to level the playing field, people are going to be worse off in general. A socialistic approach to education is quite difficult to successfully implement, and it is not as though we can just allow poor people to live in rich neighborhoods cheaply, because those who can pay would feel cheated.
    Although it seems unfair, and is in some respects, our current system is very difficult to change. For instance, if we were to just let children from low-income neighborhoods go to better schools in neighboring districts, that would be unfair for those who actually pay the higher taxes which support the better education. In a competitive world, we may just have to let people work with what they have.

  9. maryblee Says:

    I think a huge issue that hasn’t been discussed thoroughly thus far is the system of funding based on test performance. The idea that under-performing schools, those in poor inner-city or rural areas, continue to be under-funded as “incentive” to boost scores is ludicrous. These schools support the most disadvantaged students yet they are forced to work with less money than their suburban counterparts. Standardized tests are by no means a qualified method of measuring a student’s knowledge or aptitude in general, and are considered by many to use biased language in favor of wealthier students from well-educated families. The system and the test itself are flawed, and tying such a precious resource to such a poor indicator should not be supported.

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