The idea that all education is equal is one of the biggest democratic farces conceived by the falsities of egalitarianism. In principle, this is a notion that should hold true to the concepts of idealism and social progress. Though this contention seems pessimistic, it is one of truth – though others might contend that the democratization of education works and is the greatest source of democracy. The idea that all people have a chance to prosper and advance under the Gilded Age notion that poor boy does well thanks to hard work is not wholly true. The conservative belief that all people can achieve a life of success due to individual achievement and work effort is true, but not to the same extent as the opportunities upper middle class students enjoy.
I find it interesting that states and the federal government attempt to create a system of educational egalitarianism, but fail to realize the improbability of such a construct in a society of such class differentiation. I think about the day school I teach at: it is a campus of great beauty; we have top notch facilities – – recently spending a great deal of money on newly erected buildings, relatively small classes, a dynamic faculty, and status that comes with independent school teaching. But, I cannot help but think about the advantages my students have in comparison to those who live in urban or rural areas that fail or simply cannot attract elite caliber teachers. This point holds true for property tax rich public schools that do not have a difficult time attracting top notch teachers and who also have the means and resources to help students get to the next level. Moreover, I often wonder if students of wealth on my campus or on the campuses of other fairly affluent campuses realize the academic opportunities they have compared to others who lack the wealth.
If we are really to discuss the myth of educational egalitarism, we must begin in a historical fashion. As a defender of affirmative action, I have long sought to explain why systems and checks against de facto elements prevent people of lower classes and various racial backgrounds from getting a start. For example, people often assume that lower socioeconomic blacks are in a great position to advance their plight here in the 21st century. But, if one were to count the decades, there is still a lingering impact on the educational processes of people. Let us take Jamal, who is a black kid that grew up in urban New Haven, Connecticut. Jamal’s parents speak broken English because they grew up in a home that was occupied by their parents who obtained a Jim Crow education. Jamal’s great grandparents were former slaves. Thus, with all of Jamal’s efforts to improve his plight and social condition, he is already years behind many of his affluent private school white counterparts.
With the exception of a number of national liberal arts colleges, most American schools require the use of the SAT for admissions. This College Board administered exam operates on a scale up to 2400. The best and brightest score high, while those victim to poor conditions and an inferior primary and secondary education fall victim to a system that professes to be egalitarian but is not. Why is it that my students have an advantage in getting into college and obtaining the careers they desire because their parents benefited from a system that rewards class differentiation? Richard Hofstadter points to the matter of class and economc elitism in the construction of the Constitution in his classic work The American Political Tradition:
It is ironical that the Constitution, which Americans venerate so deeply, is based upon a political theory that at one crucial point stands in direct antithesis to the mainstream of American democratic faith. Modern American folklore assumes that democracy and liberty are all but identical, and when democratic writers take the trouble to make distinction, they usually assume that democracy is necessary to liberty. But the Founding Fathers thought that the liberty with which they were most concerned was menaced by democracy. In their minds liberty was linked not to democracy but to property.