The United States Public Education System

1818 Words Apr 30th, 2016 8 Pages
Most Americans believe that the United States public education system is largely based on the principles of work ethic and equal opportunity. We are taught that a strong work ethic is important in achieving good grades, and that these grades are crucial to attending elite universities and earning scholarships. The aforementioned features are key components of the dominant American ideology; a way of seeing that feels natural and inevitable. Although major institutions such as schools legitimize a societal reward system based on merit and hard work, also known as a meritocracy, the U.S. public education system evidently contains tremendous inequality, much of which is maintained and produced through the institution itself. Furthermore, structural factors such as cumulative advantage, which explains how those who are successful gain additional success, offer an explanation for the inequalities in the school system that manifest unexpectedly and cannot be solved by money. Through the legitimation of the dominant American ideology and the process of cumulative advantage, the U.S. public education system perpetuates social inequality within the classroom and provides additional power to those already born with better life chances.
In social theory, there exists a long-standing debate over whether structure or agency is central in shaping human behavior. While structure is the underlying set of rules for how a society works, agency is the ability of the individual to exert choice…
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