The analytical essay by Gregory Mantsios takes up the manifestation of class differentials in the education system. The author goes on to demystify some prevalent myths and denials surrounding educational opportunities. One of the chief denials blighting American culture is its refusal to accept class divisions in society. As he notes wryly, America has turned into a nation of middle-class people. It then begs the question what are the two ends of the spectrum that this great middle-class is placed in between? There are political reasons behind the propaganda of the ‘middle-class nation’. But evidence from the ground suggests that class is a significant determinant of several indicators of life. Primary among them are opportunity to education and quality of education. Upon these two factors impinge several social, economic and health consequences. To illustrate, those who were fortunate enough to graduate from Ivy League institutions have higher life expectancy, lesser instances of accidents, better rates of recovery from illnesses, live a more luxurious lifestyle, lesser chances of incarceration or prison terms, etc. So what Mantsios makes abundantly clear is that entry into prestigious educational institutions ensures a decidedly superior subsequent life experience for those fortunate students. For the rest, or the great majority of the nation’s children, the future is not as rosy. What we are witnessing here is an antagonistic relationship between education providers (in this case Ivy League institutions) and the vast majority of the population who are denied entry to them.
In the third article perused for this essay, Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work, author Jean Anyon talks about the variation in educational content across different schools. While Mantsios and Barber talk about the differentials in ‘quality’ of education, it is Anyon who expounds on what it entails. The common understanding is that schools in low socio-economic localities have poor amenities and facilities. While this is true, the most troubling aspect of these schools is how their curricula are markedly different to prestigious schools. It seems that poor students who are enrolled here are prepared for a career in clerical or other blue-collar jobs. This is in contrast with posh schools where the curricula are designed to prepare the next generation of doctors, lawyers and business leaders. Hence the very precept upon which the founding fathers emphasized the role of education in society stands defeated. Jean Anyon’s illustration of this ‘vocational’ imperative in curricular design strengthens the deep fissures along class lines in American society.
In sum, all the three essays underscore the problematic or dysfunctional relationship between educators and students in American schools.
Benjamin R. Barber, The Education Global Citizen or Student Global Consumer? Liberal Education, Spring 2002, p.22+
Gregory Mantsios, Class in America – 2003, Money and Success, p.307+
Jean Anyon, Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work, Journal of Education, Vol. 162, no. 1, Fall 1980.