“Many people in the United States hold the view that the society is, in fundamental ways, open. They believe that individuals carve out their life paths by drawing on their personal stores of hard work, effort, and talent. All children are seen as having approximately equal life chances. Or, if childrens’ life chances appear to differ, this is seen as due to differences in raw talent, initiative, aspirations, and effort (Anyon, Social Structure and Daily Life).
However, “the promise of schooling providing equality of opportunities to compete for income and wealth is seriously compromised before the child even enters the classroom. Parents develop different forms of social and cultural capital which advantage or disadvantage their children in school and in the labor market” (Spring, 2012, AmericanEducation).
To illustrate, “Families from elite backgrounds tend to participate in institutions serving the elite, and families in poverty tend to be involved with institutions serving the poor” (Anyon, Social Structure and Daily Life).
Thus, “it is no surprise that schools in wealthy communities are better than those in poor communities, or that they better prepare their students for desirable jobs. It may be shocking, however, to learn how vast the differences in schools are – not so much in resources as in teaching, methods, and philosophies of education” (Anyon, From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work)
With respect to California, 2013 data shows some striking issues to consider:
- 2 million students in California
- 3 million English learners (ELs) nearly equal the combined numbers of ELs in the next four most populous states – Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois – even through these our states together have roughly twice as many students as California
- More than half (53%) of students come from low-income families
- California schools have more students per staff than schools in the rest of the US, ranking last or close to the bottom.
- California spends $9,139 per pupil on education
- California ranked 51st nationally in students per teacher
- California ranked 51st nationally in students per guidance counselor
- California ranked 51st nationally in students per librarian
Writing Task: After reading the information above, and viewing the documentary: First to Worst, discuss the structural, legal/political, and social factors which have contributed to the cumulative impact on equality of opportunity in California schools. Be detailed and specific about the issues that has shaped California’s educational landscape over the decades.