Democracy: Truth or Farce Part II

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.

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13 thoughts on “Democracy: Truth or Farce Part II

  1. Interesting post. In many respects, the problem lies in the local govenments and school districts who still believe that tossing more and more money at a problem will solve it. Take my school district for example. Instead of explelling kids who bring guns to school, they are wringing their hands and asking “how did we fail them?”. So, instead of removing the problem students, they enact more useless programs and throw more money at it.

    I truly believe that the main problem is that our schools are run by Govco where competition is squashed and education is subpar. I’m curious how you stand in regards to our Govco run schools.

    A side note, I am a firm believer in Liberal Arts schools and wish there were more of them. At one time I complained about taking things like Art Appreciation but later, after I learned a bit more of why (from an AWESOME professor at Harding University), I changed my tune.

  2. Carson this sounds a bit socialistic here. We do you say we do to fix this? Schools are already free. Plus, you teach in a private school. How do you justify such a position addressed here?

  3. I agree with Roland. Think if all schools were private and run the way yours run. Public schools should not exist in the fashion that they exist. Too many students who do not want to be in school contribute to this matter.

    I am sure you will disagree with me Edward.

  4. Carson, so do you have elitism/guilt? a privileged perch from which to pontificate? Next stop: urbania?
    Roland makes a great point; the stew is as good as the ingredients. Bureaucracy becomes self-perpetuating, like crime within prisons, or some other institution with a hidden heirarchy that focus on remaining entrenched and in power… education may (not) be a byproduct, though a stated goal… like the lotto and educational enhancement.
    I stll think we should have mandatory vo-tech education up to 8th grade, then for those wanting to climb higher into academia a national test like all the oriental countries that make high international merit marks and have high teen suicide… ummm, wait…

  5. Yeah Carson. Perhaps you can explain to Lena better than you have ever been able to explain to me, why it is ok for you to teach where you teach and hold these views. I think it’s because you’re secretly a Republican.

  6. Roland does present some interesting points as does Jim; I do not suffer from guilt because I prefer to work in independent schools. I do not teach because I am a missionary…. I teach because I have a love for my subject and knowledge I would like to pass. I would like for this passion to be seen and even acquired by my students.

    My contention is why not create a system of distribution that allows all schools to function like private schools. Hold admissions for students as well. Stop building schools that look like prisons, but look more like a learning community. Those who do not want to be a part of traditional schooling should consider a different track (vocational) as Jim mentioned. This is about as conservative as I get. Tracking is more of the European model. Mass democracy as it relates to schooling might not be the best option. I do fear that minorities could be punished by such a system, but I am not convinced enough of them or lower SES students are getting the most out of our current system.

  7. You didn’t really answer the question Carson. It’s ok though. Lots of Republicans and democrats, lest Roland get his panties in a wad, skirt questions.

  8. Whoa…chill out there Kristi. I actually agree with much of what Mr. Carson said here, esp his last comment.

    I do think that ond of the single worst things that is happening to our country is govco run public schools.

  9. Oh, it was a joke. Man up. Again, a joke. I would use an emoticon to signify that, but the little faces kind of make me ill.

  10. Hey, I am with ya there. I don’t mind the actual : ) but I really hate the real ones.

    BTW, I wear boxers, not panties, thank you very much. : )

  11. You guys are cracking me up. In the end, my boy Carson is right — so is Roland. However, I disagree with Roland in that I do believe the governement could help build such a system as Carson addressed above. European countries such as England are doing it.

  12. I just want less Govco. Also, the fact that Govco is teaching our kids…that’s the same thing that is pushed in communist countries as well as pre-war Germany. All the better to indoctrinate the children to the states point of view.

    That being said, I don’t think there is some vast conspiracy going on in that regard. Not that I don’t think any is going on, just not a vast one. : )

  13. Hofstatder called it like he saw it, but Jefferson agonized over the concept when he changed his phrasing of the Declaration of Independence to ” life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from a phrase that emphasized the freedom to acquire property.

    Jefferson was a lifelong proponent of public education, and though a very conflicted slave owner, looked forward to the abolishment of the “peculiar institution.” My belief is that the economic exit from slavery eluded those southerners who didn’t want to fall back into poverty themselves. No excuse.

    I’m thinking also that inequities in public and private education result from opportunities to network with politically and economically powerful schoolmates.

    BTW, Carson, I have linked you to my school board blog. I’m hoping folks who read it find their way here.

    http://hsdboardmember.wordpress.com/

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