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Social Justice in Education

3241 words (13 pages) Essay in Sociology

07/07/17 Sociology Reference this

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This paper presents a critical evaluation on the issues which link the current educational system with social justice. The paper will provide a critical evaluation based on the development of an appropriate framework for finding how education is supposed to be constructed to reflect social justice around the world today. By examining the various research, that centers social justice and education, one finds evidence that educational social justice in the education context is based on the aspect of democracy; this may be seen as an example of the extreme individualism. This hyper-individualism has dominated the educational debate as it relates to social justice. In this situation, the whole society, and social cohesion are marginalized. This marginalization led to the development of a school curriculum which is based on providing education for specific individuals within the economic imperatives. The paper concludes with the recommendation that in the creation of a socially just society, it is important for hyper-individualism to not overlook the importance of the whole social group. This means that there is a need for a shift of culture which would respect individual responsibilities and rights as part of the whole social setting. Development of a curriculum which addresses the needs of all in the educational setting is a product from addressing the middle of a society rather than all of a society.


Social justice means ensuring equality in all aspects which affect people in the community, society, nation and the around the globe. Social justice is a concept which fights s for the right of every individual for the opportunities available in the society, no matter the class, age, gender, race or ethnic origin. Social justice in modern day education is aligned to the dominate ideology of democratic liberalism. This is about the examination of the hyper individualism emergence which results into the dominance of the educational system and social justice. American students comprise of those from rich and poor families, those from the urban and rural areas and those who are straight and gay. Each day they are taught on the importance of equality and in every pledging they make, they promise to be indivisible, ensuring there is justice and liberty to all. Students are also taught of the value of democratic equality which suggests on the need of all American to be treated and regarded as equal citizens with no biasness on the basis of one’s background ,economic status, belief , background, religion, race, or sex. The students are also taught on the fundamental on the main democratic value of justice which is a core belief that America provides the same opportunities and benefits to all the citizens. Despite the teachings given to students on social justice the education system of America is characterized by inequalities which from year to year are being perpetuated.

The education system of American the 21st century is characterized by increasing wide gap between those with and those without. This situation has been fostered by the trickle-down economic policies and deregulation. These policies are traced back to the administration of President Reagan and Clinton’s administration which enacted the anti-worker legislation. President Bush administration further supported the major businesses and offering tax free breaks for the rich as compared to the lower and middle class people these polices have hindered the ability of America to move towards being an enlightened society because these policies have introduced a few Feudalism where as other already developed countries have had positive development in their education system.

The implementation of policies which support social justice in the American education system will mean providing equal opportunities to students in their rights to education. The reality about the American system of education is that schools have distinct economic disparities. There are those schools considered for the rich and those schools seen as poor schools. The socio-economic condition of the families the students comes from determines the schools they attend to. The choices of their extracurricular activities, access to money to pay for advanced placement, yearbooks field trips and many other academic and non academic aspects. In most cases, the students of low SES provide special education classes and remedial schools while their counterparts attend schools which have college preparatory curriculum. Therefore the reality is that students in America are not provided with the same educational opportunity as it is often assumed.

History of public education in the United States

The public education of America is very distinct and unique compared to other countries mainly because of the roles and responsibilities played by the individual school district and the states. The formal public education of the United States was created I during the 19th century. The public school system was initially suggested by Jefferson the American leader whose ideas were well incorporated in the development of the country’s education system. Other continents and regions which had been colonists by New England such as New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts had already established the primary form of education of public education which had already been implemented during the 1600s the main reason why the colonizers took to educate the children was solely based on religious aspects of the Congregationalists and the Puritans who were dominating on those regions. Alter when the regions began to be populated by other people of different faiths. The initial concept of these public schools became weakened through the opposition to learn both in the clergy imposition to the system and also in denial to learn in English. This led to the formation of private schooling which were already a norm by the mid of the 18th century.

The Declaration of Independence brought about unique standards and specifications of the public education system. Jefferson suggestion was that all the public schools be under the control of the government with no discrimination based on religious biasness and to be made available to all people irrespective of one’s social status. Other contributions on the issue of public education by then were made by George Washington, Robert Coram, Noah Webster and Benjamin Rush However the true concept of education system by then was not well defined due to the impact of economic transformation, political upheavals and wide scale immigration. Currently a lot of vast changes have taken place in both the education sector which comprises of public schools, religious, private and charitable institutions.

Public education system in America began in the 1840s and was attended with the wealthy people within a given locality. Reformers came up to fight for the need of ensuring education benefits are provided to even students from the poor families. One commonly known reformer is Horace Mann who was for education reforms in Massachusetts and Henry Bernard based in Connecticut. Common schooling was for the benefit of uniting the society, prevention of poverty and crime by ensuring every citizen is well. These reforms calls led to the development of public schools to students at the elementary level towards the fall of the19th century. The Catholic Church was however not in support of these reforms but instead created its own schools to be attended by students privately.

The first public school which came up in the United States came in 1635 called the Boston Latin School. And later Harvard University became the first university to enroll students from the various public schools who had done well. Students in these early colleges and schools got involved in the events of the time such as the World war 11, the Greater depressions and the Cold war. The passing of Morill Act in 1890 meant greater support to the universities of various states and land was also granted to construct these universities. Efforts were made to finance these public universities and even those at the lower level to ensure that each student in America gets high quality education.

However, the education system was not up to the level required by the members of public that education should be made available to all the children irrespective of their gender, race or economic standards. This was not the case in reality. Schools became highly discriminative despite them being founded by the tax paid by all the members of the public. Discrimination of these schools was on the basis of gender and race. In many schools, girls were not admitted and if admitted, they were not provided with the same courses as those done by the boys. They were only taught subjects like tailoring, cooking and secretarial courses. Discrimination in the United States public education has also been enhanced by the unfair public policies passed especially in school districts.

The cause of inequality in education system

According to various researches done to establish the cause of inequality in the education system, it has become evident that the socioeconomic factors play a significant role in the education of a child. Jerome Brunner, a cultural psychologist in his book the Culture of education (1996) explains that the mental growth of a child is determined by the effect of alienation, racism and poverty (p xii). He goes on to say that effective education is as a result b of the constituencies and culture which is powerful in the maintenance of the social status quo than in flexibility fostering (p, 15). The social status quo is promoted by political motivation which aims at developing a body of the underclass people who support the industry.

During the whole of the 20th century, the economy of America was depended on the manufacturing labor which was in need of workers who perform repetitive and simple jobs with no any required formal education. Therefore the aim of these manufacturing companies with the support of the government was not to cultivate a workforce which was educated. The 21st century saw a shift of the manufacturing company reliance into an economy based on information. This reliance required a workforce which is highly educated or literate; employees who are critical thinkers in solving problems have technological know-how. These are the goals which found not been achieved by every student because in the first place they are not been given the opportunity to attend to schools due to the inequality in funding, lack of school environment or the preparedness of teachers. That student who ahead attended the fully funded schools by the government had students who were attended to individually compare to the least successful schools which is a form of both geographical and economic segregation. In 2001 president Bush passed the policy of the No child Left behind Act as a law with the goal of meeting the high standards of education and as a solution to enabling schools around the United States to work and meet the standards provide by the Act. The Act has brought about heated debate on why it is not addressing the issue of racism and poverty which are the central problems that affect the education system in the United States. On the Contrary to the intentions of the Act as a way of maintaining high level of education in the United States the Act has instead fostered the racial segregation in the education system especially through its award system. It is only the schools which perform better that they are provided with funds but when critically examine these high performing schools are the schools attended by the whites students because they have been well equipped with the educational facilities and resources necessary for students success. Those schools which are attended by the Black students are mostly less equipped resulting to high rate of students with the least academic scores.

Public policies

Discrimination based on race

In 1619, many Blacks arrived in the United States as slaves and by mid 19th century there were as many as 5.5 million Black people in the country. The early form of education the blacks were provided with was religious education and to make them be Christians. In many regions with slaves many missionary schools were created but in some parts mainly at the southern states were against the provision of any form of education to the black people m because they were not ready to do way with slavery use. All in all, the education provided to the blacks was of low standards until 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was passed by Lincoln. The backs literacy rate was pushed up to 70% by 1910 compared to 5% in the 1860s.

Reaching 1950s, segregation was still a common phenomenon in America. For example in the southern states, there was a clear distinction of the black and white schools according to the Supreme Court rulings on the Plessey V. Ferguson case. Such laws were not in the North of America but still racial segregation in schools was still the common aspect and due to this unbalanced form education, the blacks were provided with inferior forms of education. The schools attended by the whites were also fully funded and had well equipped facilities and teachers were also well remunerated compared to the black schools.

The passing of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 by the Supreme Court was meant to ban any form of racial segregation in the country’s schools. This law marked that racial segregation was unconstitutional and it went ahead in ensuring that schools to be diverse. This was especially in the South where federal courts had made great efforts of eliminating segregation in the schools which in fact had been legalized. Despite the efforts by the courts it was still not possible to totally eliminate the practice of discrimination in schools. The urban schools became a place where the Hispanic Americans who were on the rises and the poor blacks to attend the middle class blacks and majority of the white student were move to private schools. Poverty became a common aspect to many Native Americans who had already lost their lands to the whites making them not to even attend school all together.

Discrimination based on gender

Social inequality in the school system also involves discrimination along gender lines. What the reality was during the time is that girls were not encouraged to study but this was fought by the work of Mary Lyon, Jane Addams, Emma Willard , Mary McLeod . They came up with colleges of higher learning for women which enabled young girls to learn the courses also learned by boys which had been deemed as courses only for the boys. The first college for girls was the Oberlin College which was founded in 1833. Others which followed were Vassar College in 1861 and Bryn Mawr College.

By 1960s many schools for girls and women had come up because of the rise of gender movements which was against sexual discrimination. This lead to the passing of the federal Education Amendment prohibiting against the discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1972. The girl’s schools and school for women began to be funded by the federal government. Despite the equality of education to both boys and girls, women and men, discrimination on the basis of gender is further seen when in search of employment after graduation. Many employees would prefer to employ a man engineer than a lady engineer which also applies to the other professions which were only meant for men in the past.

The current nature of the education system of America

Education today is considered as a vital and lever in uplifting the modern society. But this perception according To Sacks is a myth he presents various insightful aspects which portrays the true nature of the education system in America in the current times. His books present factual statistics and information to show the segregation in schools especially in the higher education level of studies.

For example in 1988 students from the lowest economic background results showed that for him to attain a university degree, he had to 6.9 % chances of gaining this chances. By currently this does not apply. Low economic background means no bachelors degree or even a masters. The only probability is that they can afford to join colleges by 50%. Also as student from high social economic background has 51 % chances of earning a degree and for a masters degree with probability of 8%. 9% and only 4. 4 percent to join a college (U.S Department of education 2002).

In the early 1990s students selected to join the national universities were 3% who are from the lowest economic backgrounds while at the same time those from the highest economic families had 75% chances of joining the compass. These statistics indicate the widening gap of the education level among the rich and poor students. As years goes by those from low economic backgrounds have ended upon not having education and if so they attended poor schools which offer cheap schooling and low quality of education. Racial disparities are evident in the education system. Minorities like the Latinos and African Americans among others are suffering most because of this. These racial inequalities are an associate also of the class inequalities. The educationist also characterized by unequaled findings depending on the prosperity level of the school the quality of education and the social class of most parents in that School.


Addressing the issue of social justice in the education system portrays the negative consequences of injustices in the education sector. Failure of equipping all the students in a given country leads to a group of idol people who have the time to involve in various social crimes in the society as well as Bad habits like drug trafficking and alcohol abuse. For the general good of all the members of the public it is important for the government to look into ways which even students from extremely low economic background can manage to learn. Education to all also means empowering the nation economically because all people will be having the skills and knowledge of investing and earning a desirable living condition. Brunner points that, “”Education is risky, for it fuels the sense of possibility. But a failure to equip minds with the skills for understanding and feeling and acting in the cultural world … risks creating alienation, defiance, and practical incompetence” (pp. 42-43). Dewey also believes that the society can only be empowered through education because it brings forth a change in knowledge, behavior and intelligence (Fishman, 1998). This therefore is the crucial time when the nation has to critically think on ways of improving the society by ensuring there is justices and equality in the education system.

The advancement in learning methods and technology has significantly contributed to major changes in the public education in a positive way but the modern day social life in Americans characterized by smoking, alcoholisms, drugs violence and issues related to sex. The public education I of America has been looked as a system of education which inculcates the ideas of individual freedom and equality but its current low standards has made any educators to find the ways of improving the system. The No Child Left Behind Act is one of the ways of improving the education standards in America but it requires critical examination to prevent the act from further contributing to the issue of bringing forth social injustice based or race and economic backgrounds of the students.

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