Many people tend to think that the education system in the US is full of benefits and opportunities, which is why it ranks among the best education systems in the world. However, although these claims seem to be valid, in recent decades, the issue of controversy of this system is more and more discussed in media and scholarly sources. Among the most often voiced complaints is the failure of the system to grant comprehensive education to diverse students. These cases include mistreatment and academic restrictions for the representatives of racial minorities and students who have problems with paying for their education.
This paper aims at investigating problems in the education system of the US connected with racial inequities and intersectional factors, such as class, gender, and sexual orientation. Therefore, the research question of the paper is: What factors prevent the system of education in the US from granting comprehensive and high-quality education to all residents of the country? The research paper concludes that although the country has the necessary legislation and regulations for granting free and equal education opportunities, the issues of racism and social stigma drastically restrain this process.
The system of education in the US offers a wide range of opportunities in any sphere of science and art, which is why it is popular with the citizens of the country and foreigners. One of the reasons for popularity of the US education system is accurate legislation that aims at addressing the needs of the population, including work, leisure, education, etc. In the majority of cases, the foundations of such freedoms and opportunities were laid in the historical past of the country. For example, throughout the 1980s, the President of the US Ronald Reagan relied on the policies that increase the level of comprehensive education in order to manage the problems associated with the economic struggle of the poor.
Thanks to such policing, Latino, White and African American workers now have “more education than ever before,” including such opportunities as college and job training. However, although many individuals experience these benefits, there are factors that demonstrate that the legislation is unable to meet the education needs of any community in the US. A typical example of such communities is “internal colonies” that consist of historically dispossessed people, which exist almost in any region of the country. The lack of education in these groups leads to an increased level of socially deviant behavior, which may pose danger to the community. This connection between the level of education and criminal behavior rests on the claims that academic opportunities may help the disadvantaged youth escape from dehumanizing conditions of their everyday lives.
In this sense, scholars recognize humanizing pedagogy as a factor that allows saving the disadvantaged communities from both the flaws in social policing and stigmatization due to diverse issues. For instance, a typical claim is that “relevant education confronts oppression, affirms the humanity of the learner, and uses literacy as a tool to transform their realities and subvert subjugation”. However, the reality is far from demonstrating that these principles are widely applied throughout the country.
The experts in education and other spheres connected with the problems of the youth indicate that there are many individuals who fail to obtain the expected level of education. For example, California experiences a graduation rate crisis, which the average state graduation rates being equal to 87%. At the same time, the graduation rates for white students reach 75%, whereas for African Americans, Hispanic and Native Americans it reaches only 50%. This statistic validates the research question of the paper and indicates that the causes for problems with academic success and graduation may bear a racial origin. However, there is a suggestion that many problems of the contemporary youth overlap each other, restraining the efficiency of originally racially beneficial policies. For instance, in case legislation addresses only racial factor, it may fail to grant access to education for economically disadvantaged population or sexual minorities. For example, 1.35 million young people in the US become homeless each year, which is why it is impossible to grant them access to education strictly on the basis of racially tolerant policing. Therefore, although the focus of the research is racial inequality in the education system of the US, it also considers intersectional factors, such as class, gender and sexual orientation.
Racism has been one of the gravest problems in the US due to its complex history and continuous attempts to equalize the rights and freedoms of African-Americans and free them from social stigmatization and numerous disadvantages. In this sense, the political and social achievements throughout the 20th century have been the most influential because they allowed the representatives of disadvantaged racial minorities feel respectable members of the community. As a result, it may seem that the problem has been solved and there is no need to address it.
However, the data of numerous investigations prove that there is something wrong with the system of education because it is impossible to trace so-called academic equality. This issue can be observed by addressing the statistical analysis, which proves the facts that that racial inequality in the sphere of education still exists. For instance, the data published by the Children’s Defense Fund state that, for African-American children, the school system in the US is a “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” (CPP). Thus, African-Americans obtain the least number of opportunities in terms of education, such as “the least qualified teachers, worst education facilities and fewest resources”. As a result, it is impossible for these children to reach the academic level of their white counterparts, which thus leaves them in the background of active social life.
Instead of using the full scope of education opportunities, such students get expelled from schools, colleges, and universities, thus facing a risk to become a part of a marginalized community. Thus, the problem of the American society is not a prejudice that African-Americans are mostly marginal, but the system of education that marginalizes them, creating a tremendous academic pressure. According to the statistics, this pressure is significant because African-American students are 2.5 times likely to be held back or retained in school than the white ones. Also, in 2006, only 17% of African-Americans attended public schools, 35.6 % of them experienced corporal punishment, 37.4 % were suspended, and 37.9% were expelled. Similarly, students that represent racial minorities experience other examples of social pressure on the basis of racial issues, including deprivation of special education opportunities, assistance to talented individuals, etc. For example, African-American children are the least likely to be placed in a gifted class.
On the contrary, they are 1.5 and 2 times more likely to become a part of a class for students with emotional problems and mental retardation respectively. As a result, these drastic social disparities create a “pipeline,” which increases the probability that African-American children will go to prison instead of obtaining a degree. For instance, in 2008, 5% of African-Americans aged 18 and over were college students whereas 36% of them went to prison. Similar perspectives the system of education in the US prepares for Hispanic children, adding their population to the CPP.
For example, in the fourth grade, 82% of Hispanic public school students cannot read and 76% fail to do math at grade level. The experts claim that instead of educating, the US state system is ready to assist these individuals with correctional facilities, which is why the Hispanic youth is almost twice as likely to be detained in the correction facilities. Also, such disadvantaged populations include Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities. In the current academic system, there is a tendency to identify these students as “model minorities” who seem to look and act alike, which is why they have problems with academic success. Therefore, it impossible to deny the fact that the education system in the US promotes racial inequality and fails to support the process of education of any individual disregarding his or her race.
The statistics proves the existence of racial disparities in the education system of the US; however, it is also important to identify their reasons. Most experts claim that a racial bias has become an implicit part of the social system, which is why the problem requires deeper discussion. For instance, Huber, Johnson, and Kohli argue that the major reason for racism in education is internalized racism, which is the conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy. Due to this acceptance, the system sustains oppression of students of color, disregarding laws and regulations. The striking fact is that the representatives of racial minorities seem to recognize and approve of this hierarchy. For instance, in a case in one of the schools in South California, an African American student blamed himself for not coping with the math not because he did not work well. Instead, he stated that “it was too hard and he was not smart enough,” which involves an issue of acceptance of racial subordination. Other scholars argue that the issue of a hidden acceptance of racial privileges in the education system of the US not only exists but represents a part of the social system.
This issue demonstrates that although the modern American society attempts to solve racial issues in the best way possible, some of its implicit aspects, unfortunately, remain unchanged. Thus, the situation with racial subordination in education resembles the times of Jim Crow South, when the white majority saw African-Americans as “intellectually inferior and less than human”. Gradually, these ideas became an implicit background for social bias, which is why some of the modern educational institutions seem to disregard intellectual needs of racial minorities. In this respect, experts state that there has been an implicit “Racial Contract” between the whites, which resulted in their supremacy established as a political system.
Although this system of false values and misbeliefs is not based on any official agreement, it has concrete real-life implications disadvantaging racial minorities. As a result, the problem of the US education system reflects the overall problem of the American society actualized in a particular situation, which is the academic setting. Moreover, it overlaps other issues, such as class and income problems, gender inequality, stigmatization on the basis of sexual orientation, etc., which aggravates the situation.
The analysis of the problems of the education system in the US demonstrates that fixing racial issues will not help if addressed in isolation from other factors. The reason for it is that the observed “education debt” before the nation is the result of a variety of historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral decisions and policies. Among these issues, the historical debt mainly represents conflicts between the indigenous population and the first settlers, which is why Native Americans still remain disadvantaged population. For instance, the first policy attempted to convert Indians to the Church, which afterwards was substituted by the policy “to kill the Indian in order to save the man”. Similar racial disadvantages were experienced by Latino and African-American population, among which the white settlers felt as exclusive individuals.
However, as times passed and African-Americans and other minorities were not prohibited from visiting schools, another problem has emerged. This problem relates to the enormous cost of education, which can hardly be paid by poor and homeless families. Partially, the historical background to restrained access of racial minorities to education was laid by historical issues with financing. For instance, more prosperous white students were not ready to pay for the education of racial minorities, who had insufficient funds for education. Unfortunately, despite the change of historical conditions and the economic level of the country in general, limited access of poor people to education still remains one of actual social problems in the US.
There is a probability that educational problems of the poor typically are not presented to the society because they may lead to public distress. Consequently, the life of the poor and their struggle for education remains unseen, and the population relies on the government to “take” the problem and fix it. The government seems to react to the issue by proposing various initiatives; however, the problem is still present since a considerable number of US citizens still have no access to education because of financial and housing troubles. Also, in some cases, the problems of the poor are not limited to financial inequality. For example, a 14-year-old Latina member of emergency youth shelter claims that she simply has no time for school because of the absence of shelter, loss of sleep and other problems. Thus, financial inequity represents an economic social barrier, which divides the population into people capable of payment for learning and those who struggle with first-need problems and neglect education.
Last, the problems of education allow revealing other critical issues of the current social system that relate to gender. Scholars state that similarly to the implicit world of racial inequity, individuals are currently face gender bias, which most of them fail to recognize. Similarly to other factors, this issue finds its historical explanation. Scholars claim that in colonial America, the major part of women was uneducated; in New England, female children were not allowed to attend school; later schoolgirls were taught only reading. Nowadays, although these issues do not take place, the influence of unequal gender representation at educational institutions is still evident. For example, in science textbooks almost 25% of images represent males, having no images of a woman scientist, and 70% music related figures at schools also were male. Similarly, such aspects as linguistic bias and exclusion of females from discussing subjects of the curriculum demonstrate that problems associated with gender in the sphere of education still exist.
Moreover, some experts claim that although the principles of democracy grant equal education opportunities to GLBTQ students, in reality they are more disadvantaged than their heterosexual counterparts. Thus, the benefit of the democratic community is that a GLBTQ student does not have to lie about his or her sexual orientation, as well as about religious beliefs and other aspects of life. However, one of the widespread social biases in the US is homophobia, which is also present in educational institutions. For instance, more than 90% of LGBT students reported that they sometimes hear homophobic remarks, over 60% experienced soft verbal harassment, and over 46% reported experiences of sexual harassment. Therefore, the problems faced in the education system of the US demonstrate that although it has specific benefits, the number of drawbacks is critical and requires consideration. Currently, it fails to grant compulsory education to all citizens due to such issues as racial bias, economic inequality of population, and gender and sexual orientation stigmatization.
The research suggests that the American society requires initiate a wide-ranging discussion of problems in education due to the fact that in most cases they are based on implicit assumptions. In general, there has been some progress in the process of solving the problems associated with racial prejudices, but in case of economic disparities, discussions are not enough. Poor representatives of racial minorities require special financing and policies in order to meet their needs as they struggle for survival instead of obtaining educational and job opportunities.
Also, there is a need to enhance education for the youth in the correctional facilities because the inmates fail to obtain proper education which is granted by state policies of the country. Probably the easiest problem to solve nowadays is the racial bias presented in textbooks and school curriculums due to the fact that all educational facilities are obliged to implement “gender-correct” policies. At the same time, in some cases the representatives of the LGBT community may even need additional legal protection. This measure is essential in order to equalize them in the eyes of the prejudiced society as respectable citizens of the state in terms of any human and constitutional rights. Consequently, the key to solving the abovementioned problems lies in the sphere of cultural discussion and adequate policies aimed at enhancement and control of the current education system.
Summarizing the presented facts, the paper comes to a conclusion that the education system of the US is far from excellent because it fails to advocate comprehensive education to all members of the society. The sources of the problem vary and incorporate such aspects as racial inequity in educational establishments and financial barriers to education of poor population. Moreover, there are such issues as gender bias, which makes education harder for female students than males, and stigma connected with students’ sexual orientation. The analysis demonstrates that each of the problems has its historical reasons and cannot be addressed separately.
Therefore, implicit social problems that include racial prejudice, gender bias, financial inequities, and sexual-orientation-based stigma prevent the system of education in the US from granting equal access to education opportunities to the widest scope of citizens. Thus, there is a need to initiate a wide-ranged social discussion supported by proactive policies that would change the cultural code of the society towards being more tolerant and supportive. The support of such discussion by social policing and legislation would ensure that educational opportunities are equal to all US citizens and clear the education system from problems based on bias, financial problems of the citizens, and other negative factors.