Savage Inequalities and Their Impact on the Life Chances of Children
The public funding on educational institutions in the United States stems from state legislative appropriations and local property taxes and this has resulted in unequal funding that turned many districts into “ rich” and “ poor” school districts (Kendall, p. 359). The existence of racially segregated schools has also added to the unequal funding of public schools and “ savage inequalities”. One can notice clear cut inequalities and gaps among schools in various American communities. Kazol makes this clear this disparity and unequal treatment and their impact on the life chances of many in the American society in his article entitled “ Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s schools”. The author starts his discussion by pointing out how the Martin Luther King Junior High School and the St. Louis Senior High School were closed due to sewage. Besides the sewage problem, in East St. Louis, the teachers were “ running out of chalk and paper, and their paychecks [were] arriving two weeks later due to fiscal crisis’ (Kazol, p. 312). It is unfortunate that the governor Thompson declined to provide financial assistance to the schools to solve the problem and held that the East St. Louis residents ‘ must help themselves’ (Kazol, p. 312). The state superintendent of Illinois Board of Education later admitted that the school is incapable of finding a solution to the problem by itself and therefore decided to eliminate one quarter of the system’s teachers, 75 teacher aides, and several dozen others from the school in an attempt to reduce the financial burden. Even though the superintendent retained both sports and music in the school system without being affected, the school manager and the coach points out that the school does not have any proper sports facilities and it is striving for survival; it does not have a standard football ground and the players do not have good or new jerseys. The school does not have the essential facilities; the ceiling is in dangerous condition. Another school that the author visited in the same district suffers from overcrowding as there are 1, 550 students whereas it has the capacity to hold thousand students only. Similarly, the school does not have space for a computer lab, science room, library or gymnasium. It is interesting to note that the school comprises of 29 percent black and 70 percent Hispanic students and the students are negated of facilities and privileges that the white students enjoy elsewhere in New York. The Goudy school, for instance has “ no science labs, no music or art classes and no play ground-and where the two bath rooms, lacking toilet paper, fill the building with their stench” (p. 315). The author contrasts all the above mentioned schools with New Trier where the students and the teachers enjoy all sorts of freedom and as the author suggests the ambience of the school is quite ‘ wholesome and refreshing’. Only 1. 3 percent of the students are black and every fresh man in the school gets the service of a faculty advisor. It can thus be concluded that there are many schools in America even today who are victims of the “ savage inequalities” that prevail in the United States and this is most likely to adversely affect the life chances of the students who study there. Therefore it is mandatory from the part of the Federal government and the local authorities to provide better learning ambiences, infrastructural facilities, quality teachers and to ensure sufficient amount of public funding to these schools.
Discuss how race and IQ can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some students. Why do you think this controversy continues to exist in American society?
The ethnic minorities in the United States are subjected to wide range of unequal treatment in schools and some of them are destined to undergo a hidden curriculum where they are forced to follow a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tracking and labeling are the two forms of social inequality by which these students are made to fulfill the stereotyped bias that is thrust upon them. Tracking in schools very often is related to social inequality. For Kendall, “ tracking refers to the practice of assigning students to specific curriculum groups and courses on the basis of their test scores, previous grades, or other criteria” (Kendall, p. 354). It is generally considered that the process of tracking (education by separation) is a sort of discrimination and is likely to affect the performance and educational attainment of many students. While tracking is commonly done based on the abilities and performances of students, factors such as race, class, and language also act as determinants in tracking systems in many instances. Tracking based on color or race is quite dangerous as it harms the prospects of students of color to perform like their white counterparts. Many social scientists hold that “ tracking is one of the most obvious mechanisms through which students of color and those from low income families receive a diluted academic program, making it much more likely that they will fall even further behind their white, middleclass counterparts” (Kendall, p. 356). Ultimately, tracking, in this sense, results either in dropping out of the school or ending up in “ dead-end” situations where the students become incompetent to pursue higher studies. The severity of the issue needs to be understood in the light that many of such school drop-outs later turn to be criminals or anti-socialists.
Labeling and self-fulfilling prophesy are the other two forms of social inequality in education in the United States. The practice of labeling students as low achievers, gifted or talented based on standardized test scores or class room performance has adverse effects on the educational attainment and subsequent career choices of many students who have been labeled as low achievers or slow learners. Such students are most likely to internalize the label attributed to them and this naturally prevents them from performing naturally. Self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as “ an unsubstantiated belief or prediction resulting in behavior that makes the originally false belief come true” (Kendall, p. 358). The tests are very widely used as an authentic criterion to classify and track students based on the IQ score they achieve and this is a classical form of labeling and self-fulfilling prophecy. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) intentionally misinformed the teachers about the IQ scores of students in their classes and the experiment by the researchers showed that teachers paid special attention and designed different strategies for the so-called ‘ exceptional’ students which resulted in better performance. Thus, categorization of students based on IQ scores is nothing more than labeling. For instance, many African Americans and Mexican Americans are placed in special education classes on the basis of IQ scores whereas their actual problem was language related. Similarly, for many ethnic students who scored low scores in IQ tests were considered as academically poor and the IQ tests have turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for them. Thus, many sociologists conclude that the educational backwardness of such ethnic minorities occur not because they score low in IQ tests; in fact, the teachers “ did not encourage them or give them an opportunity to overcome the language barriers or other educational barriers” (Kendall, p. 358-359). Thus, it is high time that researches and studies focused more on the impact of linguistic, cultural and educational biases on IQ scores and the students of color should never be labeled or subjected to self-fulfilling prophecies.
Kendall, Diana. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. (Provided by the customer
Kozol, Jonathan. “ Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools”. Ed. Leonard Cargan & Jeanne H. Ballantine. Sociological Footprints Introductory Readings in Sociology. Tenth Edition, 2007.
Savage Inequalities and Their Impact on the Life Chances of Children