Spring — Equality of Opportunity

The “Great” United States of America has set up a society that places a lot of value on education. We seem to pride ourselves on providing ‘equality of opportunity’  to all by granting all a chance at education. Chapter two of Spring shows us that often we fail to remember that:

“Equality does not mean that everyone will have equal incomes and equal status.” (Spring, p. 30).

Having grown up in a household that placed great value on education, college was never an option. Education for my family did not mean K-12, it meant K-college graduate. Spring writes about how education is the starting point for the competitive race that is life, and I would argue that my parents felt the same way. I don’t know that I personally thought of education as a way to get rich — good thing right as I am employed in education. :) Rather I look at education as just a part of life, a part I enjoy!  Education and knowledge is something that once gained is something that cannot be taken away from you. Now though education has taught me that my positionality on education comes from my family background and the privileges I enjoy being a white, middle class, Christian, educated woman. There is not telling what my views on education would be had I come from a different position in life.

Spring discusses that the emphasis on schooling in our unequality society would provide everyone the chance to pursue their “particular social positions because of merit and not because of family wealth, heredity, or special cultural advantages.” (p. 31)

Spring goes on to discuss the various school models that have come about for equality of education. As I read this section on the common-school model, the sorting-machine model, and the high-stakes testing model, I couldn’t help but think of how I have personally viewed all these models at play both in my personal experience in K-12 schooling and in the public school I currently work in. While, in this day and time we are under the high-stakes testing model, we can still see bits and pieces that linger from the previous models. As I was going through the public school system as a student, we were under the sorting-machine model, but migrating towards the high-stakes testing model. I vividly remember, being asked in eighth grade by a high school guidance counselor,who had come to map out my high school curriculum, whether I wanted to go vocational or college path. There I was a young child still having to make that decision that in so many ways would characterize the rest of my life. As I stated earlier, education had a lot of emphasis in my family, so of course I choose college path. Looking back though I see the sorting that was already taking place for the girls and boys in my class. I did though go through an education system that did also place value on tests (the dreaded ACT and SAT).  I remember thinking back then why was so much importance placed on this one test and not on the rest of a student’s application, little did I know then that the importance placed on standardized testing would only grow!

As I watch my co-workers stress over standardized tests such as TCAPs and the pressure that inevidently gets placed on students, I see just how much emphasis is placed on these tests. High-stakes testing starts as early as third grade and goes on through licenses granted for careers. There is so much debate though on whether high-stakes testing really creates equality.  In this society, schools become such a crucial part in determining economic success. While I think the case can be made that there is a positive correlation between schooling and pay, but education does not mean automatic economic success!

The section on bias of the labor market, made me sick! Here we are in 2011 and there is still such a huge percentage difference between genders and races. When I read this section, I had to admit that I was very grateful that I worked in an organization that currently has a pay scale that is equal. Pay is determined by years of service and educational attainment. Otherwise, I am afraid I would be wanting to see pay grades and compare the differences between gender and races. All in all I was disgusted that this disparity still occurs so prevalently!

Spring ends the chapter discussing differences between middle class and working class, and social class and at-risk students. This part hit home on my different levels. One, I grew up in a middle class family, so personally I could identify with that part of the section. Professionally, I work in a Title I school so I see the working class approach as well as seeing my at-risk students based on social and economic status as well as differences in various cultures.  Having grown up middle class, but working with many working class parents, I don’t know that I could say one is better than the other. Both have advantages and I believe people can succeed coming from either home environment.

As for cultural capital, I see how much our education system places value on school achievement. Kindergarden now is very academically driven and could be considered the way 1st grade used to be. If parents don’t teach students backs like the alphabet, how to spell their name, etc or the student is placed in Head Start, those children are behind coming into kindergarden. Can they catch up — definitely, but they start out behind the eight ball. It is just a sign of the times we are in and the way our education system is progressing!

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2 thoughts on “Spring — Equality of Opportunity

  1. Good job making connections, Liz. I think Spring’s chapter 5 is useful regarding Lisa Delpit’s thoughts on cultural capital, which relates to your comment about “getting behind the eight ball” :-) I look forward to what you have to say about Jean Roland Martin’s book, “Cultural Miseducation” – we will be discussing this this week too and adds to our unpacking class and cultural capital.

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