A Closer Look At Inequality In America Sociology Essay
Growing up, the importance of education has always been made clear. My parents always told me that I needed to get good grades and try to go to an excellent college, so I can learn to be responsible, make money, and do the same for my very own children some day. I honestly never stopped to reflect upon how lucky I have been and that I am actually going to a college with what seems like, such economical ease. The unfortunate reality is that many people do not get that same opportunity as I am. In America, the majority of its people have little access to the same Universities that some middle and most upper class Americans have admission to. Equal Opportunity gives every man or woman a fair shot to earn what he or she has worked so hard to achieve. Equal Opportunity, in my opinion, is a myth; it gives false claims that there is no racism or prejudice and that we live in country where advancement and success is based exclusively on individual ability. Today, in America, the lives of people are limited by the world they live in, whether it be inner city or even the suburbs. The power elite are a small group of people who are in positions that exceed the environment that ordinary people live in or are restricted to. G. William Domhoff's, Who Rules America: Power and Politics, is not only a wonderful piece of sociological study, but also shows us a wide variety of ways in which the upper class and the power elite implement power. It places a specific emphasis on the range of organizations that play influential roles in the policy-planning, opinion-forming, and candidate-selecting processes, even though most are completely unknown to most Americans. While average people are controlled by a definite unseen power, it is where I began to notice a connection between education and income. Education and Income inequality go hand in hand and keep the underprivileged class deprived. If you have little to no income, you have almost no access to education and if you have low education you most likely come from a low income family. Surely there are many uneducated wealthy people, mostly children, but the fact of the matter is that there are very few and always more concentrated families of wealth. Families who are brought up in the inner city must send their children to schools in their area, which are usually lacking many of the vital educational utilities for these kids. It is directly at the beginning of people's lives that we can see an almost endless cycle of poor families who go to schools that seriously lack funding and bring children into this world who lack the resources to do what they desire and should be able achieve.
Domhoff shows that there is a distinct social upper class that exists and it has an unequal amount of obvious control, to the point that it could actually be called a governing class. While the upper class does have significant divisions among themselves, with effects such as the existence of two considerably different political parties, they also have a high degree of class awareness and share many of the same principles. Domhoff begins his analysis with a generally accepted, politically unbiased explanation of social class as being a large cluster of people that have "a strong tendency to interact primarily with people from one's own economic class" (Domhoff, 4). He studies schools that have elite membership, which means people with income and wealth in the top percentile, and finds that they organize admittance very carefully. For example, the Social Register, one of his primary manifestos of "upper class" status, requires several letters of social suitability from current listees to decide on adding a new member. Similar limitations on gentlemen's clubs, schools, and resorts show that the wealthiest groups of Americans treat one another as social equals. An important aspect of what makes this group so exclusive is how their values and social circles are linked.
The power elite are in command of the chief organizations in our society. They run the machinery of the state and even give justifications for it. They direct the military departments. They most importantly have complete control of the government. The simplest way to study how the power elite control our government is to look at the occupational and social backgrounds of the people who manage the major departments. According to Domhoff, many studies have shown that under both Republican and Democratic administrations the top dogs are corporate executives and corporate lawyers. This basically means that they are part of the power elite. Very frequently, we find that they are part of the policy-planning network also. It seems that being a part of this network plays a large role in the preparation of members in the power elite for the government. It is safe to say that the power elite are involved in all aspects of our social society to where it seems we have absolutely no power.
When examining how exactly the poor are in a position that they cannot get out of, we must understand how the power elite controls the government and prison system and how the government and courts do very little to help the situation. The power elite have a particularly structured way of controlling their power, which is defined through the storehouse of policy knowledge. The general policy-making issues of concern to the entire power elite are the work that is done in the policy network. The policy-planning networks are all intertwined with each other and the corporate community both in directors and funding. The corporate society and upper class not only pay for the universities and foundations, but also send trustees. This now sends more money along with trained experts from the universities and trustees to the think tanks of our social community. This is where the most critical thinking within the policy-planning network takes place. The thoughts go either directly to the government or to groups that converse policies and who send new ideas to task forces and then they go immediately to the government. Every portion of our policy-planning system has been undoubtedly structured and controlled by the men who put money and trustees into this massive cycle, yet another way of how the power elite rule the government. (Domhoff, 72)
While this is the usual path that policy planning networks take, it reaches the government in a variety of ways. On the most general level, the news reports and interviews are read by elected officials and their staff; while it might be in its original form it is still in the form as translated by commentators or columnists. According to Domhoff, members of the policy organizations also appear before congressional committees and subcommittees that are writing legislation or preparing budget proposals. The importance of foundations cannot be overlooked either. Foundations are "tax-free institutions created to give grants to both individuals and nonprofit organizations for activities that range from education, research, and the arts to support for the poor and the upkeep of exotic gardens and old mansions. They are an upper-class adaptation to inheritance and income taxes. They provide a means by which wealthy people and corporations can in effect decide how their tax payments will be spent, for they are based on money that otherwise could go to the government in taxes." (Domhoff, 71) This immense power has direct connections to the government through testimonies and reports and they play a huge role in policy forming. "Foundations, then, are an integral part of the policy-formation process....They are in fact extensions of the corporate community in their origins, leadership, and goals." (Domhoff, 78) Domhoff explains that power can be defined as "the ability to achieve desired social outcomes" (Domhoff, 9), and we now know how the power elite can has this power and how they can use to benefit themselves in any way they wish.
In an article that was in the L.A. Weekly written by Howard Bloom educational inequality becomes a reality. The article is titled the poor get worse schools and it may be legal which was in the L.A. Weekly on November 14th 2003.
"A Superior Court judge has concluded that the state is not to blame if rats run through a public-school classroom, if ceiling tiles fall or if the stench in a school bathroom overpowers. Or even if students lack textbooks. Nor is it necessarily the states business if poor students have to suffer these conditions while students from prosperous families do not." (Bloom, 1)
Now that we understand who controls the policy making issues and funds the state courts it is impossible not to recognize how the system is designed to fail as if in a pyrrhic defeat as discussed in class. If the system is designed to keep crime and problems in the poor communities and the only real way for people to get out of poor communities is through good education so they might be able to earn some real money it becomes a system that keeps its lower class in a lowly underprivileged state. The pyrrhic defeat can be seen, because while it seems bad schools are a bad thing to have in society the rich don't seem to care, as a matter of fact in this case the judge dropped all responsibility of bad schooling in the inner cities and blamed in on no body. Education is the key at any possible advancement in society and the poor have no access to it, on top of that it means they will always be poor and bring children into this world that are poor. Then there's the experience of Clive Aden, a sophomore at Fremont High in Los Angeles
"From the beginning of July until the end of August there were no books in my chemistry class, he said in his declaration. When we went back on track in October, we finally got a class set of books . . . We don't have books to take home. I need a book to study from at home and in school because I want to go to college and I want to study science and become a doctor." (Bloom, 1)
A young boy with the same visions of a fruitful future as any, but outside of this boys control he was born into a poor community with horrible schooling and little opportunity. This boy is stuck in the loop that is, for lack of better words, allowed by the upper class and almost warranted. The boy continues to explain;
"When I started my chemistry class, the classroom had about 50 students in it. It was very overcrowded. Then they split up the class into two separate chemistry classes . . . The second chemistry class, my class, did not have a permanent chemistry teacher. For about the first month and a half of the school year we had a new substitute almost every other day . . . Out of all the substitutes, we had only two substitutes who gave us an assignment. One teacher taught us poetry instead of chemistry." (Bloom 2)
The fact is that this boy is not the only kid being affected. He does want to be a doctor and that is a great dream for such a young boy, but the fact is that most kids will not even be able to see what they are capable of. It becomes a classism.
To look closer at this problem we notice that the inner city schools are consistently lower standardized test scores than the private or suburban public schools. With just this one indicator we have a number of problems we must face. Maybe the quality of education is lower. If this is the case we have to ask why. In many areas of America, only a small portion of the schools funding comes from the federal government, most comes from local property taxes. This makes it clear how the inner city school would have fewer resources. The poorer neighborhoods have lower property values, so they collect fewer taxes and have fewer resources. Inner city students also face problems of gang violence and drugs at a completely different level than any other type of school. For example, take the existence of metal detectors at the junior high schools so that kids don't enter school with knives and guns. Another common rule at inner city schools that are prone to violence is the abolition of book bags because you can conceal a great many things in a book bag. These are all little things that point toward a larger more menacing problem. What is happening to the poor?
The results of this dichotomy between the rich and the poor are great in variety but feed off of one basic idea. Without an education in our society you don't have the ticket to opportunity. You have a much smaller chance of becoming a lawyer if you can't make it past high school. In America today we require an education to reach many of the top paying professions. So if there is a fundamental breakdown in education in the lower income areas, they are being denied the equal opportunities that someone in a private school that specializes in teaching for the college advanced placement tests. This lack of an educational opportunity perpetuates the low-income status. If you are forced to flip burgers for a living and that has been your best job, what is to keep you from dealing drugs? What is to keep you from stealing from the wealthy? Sure there is the threat of the "man" bringing you down, but if the situation appears futile, what can you do?
So what causes this unbroken cycle of discrimination? I honestly believe it is a result of our well-trained capitalism and our power elite. We have been brought up to think that you always can work your way out of a bad situation and "make something of yourself" in our society. With that belief and the idea that what you earn is yours, America is in need of some serious revitalization. The strong drive to compete and outdo its competitors in the market economy has lead to the lack of growth in the income of the poor. Politically incorrect people blame the lack of education on the teachers union. They believe that help programs are simply failures because of a few welfare mothers having kids for tax breaks. They refuse to create job programs in the name of anti-socialism. They refuse to assist with the expenses of daycare, drug rehabilitation, and career training programs all in the name of republicanism. Social class system has remained basically been unchanged since it was first discussed by Karl Marx and Engels at the turn of the century. However it is somewhat different in America because it is a multicultural society. Minorities and immigrant groups encounter social inequality more severely in our country more than anywhere else in the world.
From the beginning of time until today, the lower classes have been the slaves or the blue-collar workers forced into a life that usually goes against the aim of our society. Today, America is allegedly striving to prove that all men are created equal, but when a young black boy is brought up into a life where he has to get a job to support his family, most likely drop out of a high school that was not adequate or respected by any good schools, that is a clear contradiction to the supposed society we live in today. When we have statistics like this article, "Death in the City," by Doug Struck and Hamil R. Harris (Washington Post, 6/29/98), which had documented that the life expectancy for D.C. men is shockingly, 10 years below the national average, and five years for women. Inner city life is hazardous and depressing. The conditions which people grow up in almost certainly and unjustly determine their lives and promote a certain lifestyle over another, when in all actuality, neither is chosen. Domhoff helps us to understand his explanation for the immoral power elite controlling the lower classes and limiting their decision making power by cutting taxes that only benefit the rich and welfare reforms that make single mothers struggle to help their kids get the same benefits as another child that just happens to come from a wealthy family. A growing inequality is more than observable, it is probably one of the largest social issues that we have nowadays. The inequality has many effects on the lower class is ways that denies these Americans with opportunities essential to the bettering of themselves. Therefore, the powerful power elite comes into this world ahead and leaves ahead while the poor come in poor and stay poor. We are presented with an issue with no real solution in our near future other than a complete revolution. Can socialism fully work? It would never go down in America as it stands today without a war. Many solutions have been provided to solve this problem, but the first step is extremely important. This problem needs to be discussed openly with the policy-making networks and must be acknowledged by everybody in our country today before anything can be done. Restrictions have been placed on some human being and not others. These restrictions make living much more difficult, as explained in this paper, and are definitely unjust to the people. We can stop this inequality and we can start by letting our important officials in our community know how we feel and freely debate on some of its most important causes.
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