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Education System In America

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The Education System in America: Giant Success or Catastrophic Failure?


If education is vitally important to success why are we, as Americans, so lethargic, and apathetic in our attitudes towards obtaining a good education? Why do we discount the value of an education? Education yields knowledge, which in and of itself is a type of power. Power is coveted and sought after by many people, and sometimes is seen mistakenly as success. The education system in America can be perceived as less effective than in other countries. Is this a product of misspent funding, substandard academic requirements, or parental apathy and lack of concern? In answering some of these questions, hopefully, we can find some answers, and solutions to the current problems facing the educational institutions. Education has many strengths, weaknesses, and problems which will be brought to light in this paper. The bottom line on education is that no matter who you are, or where you live, having an education, especially a good one, is an asset or deep advantage to any individual, and should be sought after and strived for.

Regarding the value of education, the intrinsic value of any item or service is essentially set by the individual wanting to obtain the item or service. This is a fundamental principle, both, economically, and socially. For example, my own personal education is only as valuable as I perceive it to be. It is also an indicator of the effort put into it. Obtaining a good education is very hard work, and requires a deep sense of dedication. Education’s greats strengths are: to act as an agent of socialization, create greater social mobility within the social structure, contribute to social integration, and establish social status. The inherent failures in education are seen in these areas also. The problems that arise from the strengths and weaknesses in education derive mainly from the social system itself, or the individual, rather than the institution of education.

Education as an Agent of Socialization:

In the text, Essentials of Sociology, James Henslin states that, “People and groups that influence our orientations to lifeвЂ"our self-concept, emotions, attitudes, and behaviorвЂ"are called agents of socialization” (Henslin, pg. 68). The premise that the people or groups of people that we associate with will indelibly affect our outcome sociologically is both monumental, and entirely true. Science says that, “anything we observe or touch, we also change.” Our social outcome is, therefore, dependent on our association with other like-minded individuals, rather than those who do not reflect the social values or personal values we find in ourselves.

Henslin, later, says, “Entry into school is one of those significant steps in this transfer of allegiance, and learning of new values” (Henslin, pg. 69). This is important because learning new values, and transferring your allegiance (or thought process) from your parents to your associates is what brings about both positive and negative effects on the principle individual. For instance, one boy may choose very good friends who obey the law, and are not socially deviant. Another boy may choose very bad friends who break the law, and are very socially deviant. What is the outcome of these two boys, respectively? The first is more likely to go on to secondary education, find a good job that is fairly fulfilling, marry, and have children that will follow in his footsteps, and live a longer life. The second, however, is more likely to not continue in primary education let alone secondary, find a mediocre job that he finds less than fulfilling, not marry or marry and divorce, and live a shorter life. In examining these two hypothetical, very subjective cases, we can look at some of the reasons why education and early development in education are critical to forming a functioning, highly contributive member of society.

Examining the peer groups that the two boys associated with is essential to derive the outcome of the two boys. The first boy, Bobby, had good friends that were rarely in trouble with the law. They most likely advanced on to secondary education. They may or may not have found marriage successful, and because of their higher education found better, higher paying jobs. Through their higher education, they had greater social mobility, or the ability to move within the social system more effectively. They all had more options open to them, based on the fact of their high level of education, which yields a higher rate of pay in the workforce. Because of Bobby’s higher rate of pay, he will be a more able provider for both himself and his family, and will in turn live a longer life, as he will have access (due to his wealth) to better healthcare.

The second boy, Joe, had bad friends that encouraged and even committed crime, and had to suffer the negative effects of the legal system. They were less likely to have advanced in their primary education because of their personal attitude toward education. They did not see the value of education as it applied to them. They did not marry, or were in a relationship with similar values having fewer real options in the social system. Because they did not advance their own personal education, they were unable attain good jobs that paid well, but instead had mediocre jobs that paid little in the long run. This lack of education severely limits Joe’s social mobility within the system. He can not apply for or obtain the high paying positions that Bobby can. This limit on social mobility can have a drastic effect on an individual, resulting in a limitation on wealth or money; the individual may live a shorter life, and be prone to more diseases than the wealthy.

On Social Mobility within the Social Structure:

First, the definition of social structure, according to Henslin, is: “…the typical patterns of a group, such as its usual relationships between men and women or students and teachers” (Henslin, pg. 81). He also explains the significance of the social structure as: “…it guides our behavior” (Henslin, pg. 81). With this knowledge we have a basic understanding of what the social system is, and how it works or why it is important. Education affects an individual’s mobility within the social structure in many ways, such as, establishing clearly the roles and individual can play, and helps to determine one’s social status within the social class system.

While a good education can aid in the development of an individual’s



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