America is often referenced with the idea of the “American Dream” and the “Land of Opportunity.” For centuries, people have flocked to America in hopes of a better life and greater opportunity. However, if they are searching for equal opportunity, America is not the country that they will find it in. Success in the United States is limited to the opportunities available to the individual, and without equal distribution of opportunity, financial success is not reachable to those in the lower classes of American society. Notable educators and authors such as Gregory Mantsios and Diana Kendall have brought the problems of American society to attention, claiming that the rich are getting richer and the poor continue to remain poor. In his essay, “Class in America – 2009,” Mantsios discusses the myths that revolve around class in America, and then refutes these myths by describing the realities of the society Americans live in. Similarly, in her essay, “Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption,” Kendall writes about the realities of the classes in America while advocating for a change in the way the media portrays the class issues. The United States was founded on the belief of equal opportunity for all individuals, and many still believe that equal opportunity still holds true today. Despite the way media masks the class issues, empirical evidence and research show that equal opportunity does not exist in America due to
In other words, America has a widening gap between its wealthy and poor. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, there is a problem emerging: the disappearance of the middle class. Low-wage workers continue to fall behind those who make higher wages, and this only widens the gap between the two. There has been an economic boom in the United States, which has made the country more prosperous than it has ever been. That prosperity does not reach all people; it seems to only favor the rich. Rising economic segregation has taken away many opportunities for the poor to rise in America today. The poor may find that the economic boom has increased their income; however, as their income increase so does the prices they must for their living expenses (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 19).
Writer Gregory Mantsios in his article “Class in America”, talks about these things, and how wide the gap is between the rich and the poor and also discusses how the rich continue to get richer, while the poor continue to get poorer. Mantsios gives his readers the profiles and backgrounds of three hard-working Americans, two of them are white males, whose family background as well as education played a role in their success, while the other person is a black woman who is just above the poverty line despite her work as a nurse’s aide. Through these profiles, Mantsios article shows exactly how sex, race and shows how your parental and educational background of a person can play a role in the things that you achieve. Mantsios also talks about one’s performance in school and the level of school completed can suggest whether or not class that person may belong in.
As a first generation child whose parents immigrated from another country, I was fortunate enough to receive excellent education and opportunities that was not offered to them. During that era, those privileges may have been difficult to obtain due to racial segregation, poor living circumstances, and/or lack of time and commitment due to work. As of today, these issues are no longer a major problem. Although, education has never been better and opportunities have been even more achievable, David Brooks argues that the upper/middle classes are preventing the lower class from “joining their ranks” because of the egocentric methods that modern day families now utilize to their advantage. In his New York Times editorial “How We Are Ruining America,” Brooks explains how we (as the upper/middle class) have been ruining America by preventing the lower class from receiving the same privileges. Brooks then elaborates his argument by giving several examples like: improved parent supervision and planning, zoning restrictions, cultural codes, and even gives a personal experience. Even though Brooks provided a substantial amount of evidence, he mostly utilizes his powerful tone and writing skills to support his argument.
In most if not all cases, the class you are born into will determine how you will be raised, and who you will grow up to become. Whether you can speak up for yourself, if you are humble with what you have or you have a more hectic schedule or not, it all plays into what class you are from. No two childhoods are equal and Annette Lareau in her book, Unequal Childhoods explains why this is the case. I will be examining chapters four, five, and seven. These chapters examine poor and working children and teenagers and how their childhoods differ and relate to each other based on the class they were born in whether that be lower class to the poor. What can be learned from examining these three kids, Harold McAllister, Katie Brindle, and Tyrec Taylor is the advantages and disadvantages of having a childhood in the class of the poor or working class.
Julie Lythcott-Haims explains to us all what a perfect child is; straight A student, fabulous test scores, gets homework done without parents asking them to do it… She has the right idea, the right mindset of a parent, every parent wants their child to succeed in life. The way that parents are parenting their children is messing them up. They don’t have a chance to become themselves, they are too focused on whether they did good on that test that they were stressing about for a week, they are too worried about getting the best grade to be able to get accepted into the biggest name colleges around. The parents become too consumed with hovering over their children making sure that they are doing flawlessly in school, the parents are directing their every single move they make. The children then began to think that their parents love comes from the good grades. Then they start making this checklist; Good grades, what they want to be when they grow up, get accepted into good colleges, great SAT scores, the right GPA, the jock of the sports team.
Jonathan Kozol, in the chapter entitled “Other People’s Children, discusses and justifies the kinds of limitations placed on children who must attend poorly funded, educationally inferior school. Kozol argues that children in the inner-city schools are not fit to go to college and that they should be trained in schools for the jobs they will eventually hold, even though these jobs are less prestigious, lowest-level jobs in society. Kozol’s argument is based on the fact that students from the inner-city or rather from the societies that do not have enough job opportunities are not supposed to learn much because their society cannot accommodate most of the courses that are often found in the urban settings. For example, there is a point where Kozol cites one of the businessman’s statement which says, ‘It doesn’t make sense to offer something that most of these urban kids will never use.’ The businessman continues to argue, ‘no one expects these ghetto kids to go to college. Most of them are lucky if they are literate. If we can teach some useful skills, get them to stay in school and graduate, and maybe into jobs, we’re giving them the most that they can hope for’ (Kozol 376). This statement clearly indicate that the society should accept the inequalities and exercise the same inequalities even in education.
The educational system of the united states is not capitalizing on the full potential of its people. Jonathan Kozol in his article “Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid”, discusses the drastic difference in the quality of education based on a family’s income. Kozol discusses how economic disparities usually coincide with race, but focuses on the economic gap of education. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast “Carlos doesn’t remember”, gives a story and a personal touch, to the issues low income students face. Kozol writing and Gladwell’s podcast, both show that the quality of a child’s education is pure chance. A lottery of being born into a high or low income family dictates the outcome and capitalization of a child’s future.
In Jay McLeod’s influential book, Ain’t No Makin’ It (2009), he discovers new sociological theories and social reproduction through his research over many years. Through social reproduction McLeod shows us how education’s role gets passed down from one generation to the next from class inequality. He claims that aspirations/lack of aspirations is being reproduced. He deeply examines two resident groups of male youths that have opposing views on what their aspirations are in life. McLeod also deciphers what the American Dream is according to them. “The American Dream is held out as a genuine prospect for anyone with the drive to achieve it” (McLeod 2009: 3).
Consider Bobby and Jimmy, two second-graders who both pay attention in the classroom, do well, and have nearly identical I.Q.s. Yet Bobby is the son of a successful lawyer; Jimmy's works infrequently as a custodial assistant. Despite their similarities, the difference in the circumstances to which they were born makes it 27 times more likely that Bobby will get a job that by the time he is in late 40's will pay him an income in the top tenth of all incomes in this country. Jimmy has about a one in eight chance of earning even a median income. ("Small Futures: Children, Inequality, and the Limits of Liberal Reform", Richard de Lone).
Even more troubling within this book was the point being made about quality of life. While the American dream has always been something worth aspiring toward, the current economic climate within the United States seems to be eliminating that dream for everyone. When a family must have two careers in order to make ends meet and keep up with their parent's level of wealth, it begs the question as to the justice associated with such struggles. Upon reflection I am only more reminded of those hard-working people within American society such as teachers who work long hours to educate the next generation only to receive
My own children are being raised by parents with both more money and more education. Yet I do not see my children as having significantly better opportunities than I had at their age” (9). Therefore, although unequal opportunity prevents low income segments of the population from having a fair chance at receiving merit based aid, the same argument, according to Mankiw, doesn’t apply to the one percent in relation to the middle class who all have fairly equal opportunity.
All families want their children to be happy, healthy, and grow. Social classes make a difference in how parents go about meeting this goal. In Annette Lareau book, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, she promotes middle class parents as concerted cultivation. Middle class parents encourage their children’s talents, opinions, and skills. For example, engaging their children in organized activities and closely monitoring children’s experiences in school. According to Lareau, middle class children gain an emerging sense of entitlement through this pattern of converted cultivation. This causes a focus on children’s individual development. There are signs that the middle class children gain advantages from the experience of concerted cultivation. However, the working class and poor children do not gain this advantage.
Annette Lareau invites her readers to a new perspective of child-rearing, where people are not just individual human beings, but rather class subjects. Her book, Unequal Childhoods provides the best means to demonstrate her views, via following the lives of twelve completely socially and culturally diversified