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Sunday, December 26, 2010

“If Class Divides, Let Education Unite Us”

The education system is a miniature version of our own society. Schools serve as places that promote elemental components of our society. In our world, competition is BIG. In school, students compete against each other for the best grades. In society, people with higher salaries have the best careers. The better the class one is in, the greater chances they have of attending top schools. Society has a government and law enforcement to ensure that its citizens do not get out of pocket. Depending on the area, there is more surveillance. In educational institutions, there are rules, administration, and teachers to keep students from deviation. Again, depending on the school, there are greater or lesser restrictions. Higher class families tend to obtain prestigious opportunities with a wider scope for knowledge. These are the people who are recognized as the mighty and talented few. Those in working class families exhibit more fear and are less inquisitive. They are not inclined to the beauty that is concerted cultivation. Therefore, education is a process of the promotion of society through enculturation to divide the haves and the have not’s.

Class and Fear
Although fear can be used as a tool to prevent deviance, can it also be used to sort people by class? In working class schools, children must abide by rules and procedures so closely, that to disobey would bring about unfavorable consequences. Students are also often robotic and are not accustomed to formulate opinions or to ask questions. These are components of Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work”. In her case study she discovered that working class schools discouraged students when they spoke their mind. This makes them academically disadvantaged due to fear. Or as Krishnamurti points out, one is not encouraged to seek truth or answers because to do so would threaten what the system stands for in the name of safety. Students who attend affluent institutions are encouraged to inquire and to do tasks in multiple ways. They are free and independent thinkers. The rules in the school are not heavily enforced so they have a lot more power over the system and their education.

Concerted Cultivation (The opportune versus the submissive)
What does concerted cultivation mean? It is a social habitus or a social situation/place where you are comfortable with your surroundings. A good illustration of this term is best shown in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”.

One of the sections in the book talks about practical intelligence and of a study done by sociologist Annette Lareau. A girl named Kate and a boy named Alex were raised very differently. Kate’s mother was not involved in Kate’s interests so she signed up for choir and did things independently. The trouble is that she was not nurtured by her mother to develop her interests into lasting talents, rather she only took care of her.

Alex on the other hand was prodded to ask questions and not to be submissive. On a visit to the doctor’s office, his mother prompted him to think about questions he wanted to ask the doctor about his health. While there, Alex is in control of the situation and is actively engaged in this social habitus. What Lareau tells us, is that Kate is a lower class Caucasian and that Alex is an upper class African- American. The distinction here is quite clear. The better class you come from and the better nurtured you are, the more control you gain in the presence of authority.

In lower class schools, students do not have this luxury. They are submissive and assume a lower rank within their education. Therefore the word of the teacher is golden and you are deemed unintelligent. This is the core of the “Banking Concept of Education” by Paulo Freire. It is because students are not stimulated to engage in any form of practical intelligence.

The lack of nurturing homes are causing families to lose touch with one another. Children in working class homes are cared for ,yes, but slip far away from the traditional ways of their parents. A perfect example of this is Richard Rodriguez in “The Achievement of Desire” and his experience of being known as ‘the scholarship boy’ in his family. He was made fun of and became isolated from his family. They often overlooked his achievements and interests.

So, What Now?
What should education look like? Many people who have realized the flaws in the education system have analyzed and debated about this and have come up with reasonable ways to view possible solutions. One of the many include Dr. Yung Tae Kim. He is a renowned skateboarder and teacher. He is also known for the quote “School sucks.” and surfaced that skateboarding can be incorporated into education. If one keeps working at it, they can actually learn how to achieve true success. Schools have too much power and in turn is hurting students and education. Children become written off as failures because they cannot learn material in the given amount of time and are discouraged in trying again. So if the problem is disproportionate power, then lets target that!

If education systems are discriminatory and possess uneven power, what can be done to change that? Education systems must begin by being inclusive so that everyone has an equal chance to be educated fairly and effectively. To do that, their authority needs to be equalized. How can we do this? Education must be a collaborative effort of the education system, the institution, teachers, faculty, students, and parents with open-mindedness. Treating the system as a hierarchy only works to make others feel inferior. When that happens, individuals are discouraged from being included in the “unified body” and it then stops being collaborative.

Everyone should have a voice (opinions) without being looked down upon. This starts with the students. Students have [power] as much a part to play in the whole education system and process. It is vital that they work together to give themselves a voice that best represents their feelings and ideals. Overall, education IS social; it does not just happen, it is created by the people that contribute their part and that care about where the world is going.

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