Inequality in education remains a pressing problem in America. Although citizens of the U.S. are expected to enjoy the same liberties and rights, they are very far from being equal. Unfortunately, socioeconomic factors, such race, income, and place of living, continue determining people’s perspectives in life. Chapter 13 provides some examples of discriminative practices and effects, such as correspondence principle, tracking, hidden curriculum, and teacher expectancy, used by the educational system to maintain social inequality.
The term “correspondence principle” means that schools tend to promote values of certain social class and encourage students to follow them. As a result, social class divisions are perpetuated through generations. Jonathan Kozol’s essay “Savage Inequality” provides a good example of how this principle works in real life. Some schools in the South Bronx provide their students with skills that are sufficient only for lower class jobs, such as typists, factory workers, auto mechanics, and so on. Schools in more prosperous areas train children who will become their future employers. Therefore, attending a school in a particular neighborhood can determine one’s future and even future of his or her children.
Tracking is the practice of assigning students to different curriculum groups depending on their grades and other factors. According to Kozol, his practice heavily affects black children because they are much more likely than white children to be placed in classes for mentally challenged students and far less likely to be put in classes for talented children. Classes for children with disabilities tend to have the majority of black and Hispanic students, and they have very little chances of graduating from school. This division happens very early and severely damages children’s self-esteem and encourages them to behave antisocially, which results in frequent legal problems and the low quality of life.
The term “hidden curriculum” means that children get indirectly educated on certain standards of behavior that are considered proper by society. Alexander, a sixteen-year-old immigrant from Jamaica, explains to Kozol how children from wealthy families are taught to be entitled and arrogant. According to him, they get used to having the best teachers and schools, becoming assured that all those good things belong to them. They know that their parents will do their best to help them in any situation. Such children believe that they have an exclusive right to high-quality education, well-paid jobs, and respect of society, and they cannot understand people from other social classes who call for changing the status quo. At the same time, the racist educational system distributes resources among white and black students unequally. As a result, African American children get used to the thought that they are not welcomed in America.
Since students are aware of what educators and society as a whole expect from them, they become prone to the teacher expectancy effect. As Chapter 13 states, expectations about a student’s performance expressed by teachers and other educators impact a child’s academic achievements. To illustrate this point, Kozol cites the report by the CSS, which notes that expectations have a lot of power. Children from low-income families are exposed to the belief that they are not worth investing, and knowing this fact encourages them to study and behave as if this is true. Therefore, their poor achievements support the statement that they are bad students who do not deserve proper treatment.
Overall, the educational system in the U.S. is biased and unjust because it treats students differently depending on their race and social class. The essay by Jonathan Kozol shows that practices and effects such as tracking, hidden curriculum, correspondence principle, and teacher expectancy have a long-term negative impact on children’s lives and reinforce social inequality.