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The Relationship Between Social Class Origin

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In a perfect world, we would all be equals, all have the same opportunities, and all have a chance to lead great lives. The reality is, however, that once we leave our mothers' wombs, our lives have already been planned for us. Starting as early as 4 years old, our futures rely heavily on the education that we receive, because in the society that we live in today, high school diplomas are simply viewed as bottom-of-the-barrel education, and university degrees are a dime a dozen. More emphasis has been put on graduate level studies, therefore creating a greater gap between the rich and the poor. "In 2001, 1.1 million people in the working-age population (25 to 64) had doctorates, master's degrees or other qualifications above the bachelor level, such as degrees in law, medicine, dentistry and veterinary science. This was a 50% increase from 750,000 in 1991. (Census of Population..., 2003). Social class origin has a great affect on ones' ability to attain education, mainly due to three factors: money/resources, race, and family background/environment "Only 7.2 percent of the 1980 high school sophomores from the lowest socioeconomic quartile received college degrees by 1992, compared to 51.3 percent of those from the highest quartile" (Gamoran, 2001). With this in mind, one can also conclude that these factors then lead to replication of social classes. It's the classic story of how the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

Our world revolves around money, and our educational system is no different. Growing up in a working class or working poor family has many disadvantages including poor health and unstable living conditions to list a few, but more importantly is the fact that movement up the social ladder is highly unlikely due to the cost of education. Within the last 50 years, industrialized nations have changed their education policies to provide all individuals (for the most part) with free education up to the post secondary level. These policies were intended to educate individuals in order to fill new technical positions as industry continued to develop and the need for an educated workforce increased. It was also implemented to decrease the inequalities that existed between the class systems. However for the most part this has not occurred. The norms still exist today, with the upper class continuing to reap the rewards of private education, smaller class sizes, tutors, and increased acceptance to post secondary education. Take for example, the private schools that we find here in Toronto. If you take a drive through Forest Hill, you will find the all-boys prepatory school, Upper Canada College, for those privileged individuals who can afford the $17,000 to $37,000 per year price tag. For the girls, we have Havergal College which also has the same steep prices. Those who graduate from these renowned institutions have a greater opportunity to advance their educational careers at the most recognized and respected post secondary schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Graduation from these ivy-league schools almost always guarantees an individuals' financial freedom, and a life of privilege. They in turn pass on this wealth to their kids, therefore guaranteeing generations of wealth and continuously replicating their social class. Those individuals who come from working class or working class poor families, have a very difficult time advancing to the post secondary level, mostly due to the fact that they simply cannot afford the increasingly high costs of tuition. Most have to work harder than their wealthy counterparts in order to win competitive scholarships, and qualify for bursaries and funding. Of course, there are only so many scholarships given per year so many of these individuals do not go on to post secondary education, therefore limiting their earning potential. "The census showed clearly that higher education is a gateway to higher earnings. More than 60% of people in the lowest earnings category did not have more than a high school education in 2000, while more than 60% of those in the top category had a university degree." (Census of Population..., 2003). In the last 30-40 years, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have put a heavy emphasis on education. Individuals who are exceptional performers and show the drive and passion to pursue a post secondary education can apply for government funding. This is a great initiative however, it does not guarantee that all students are accepted. Not only does money affect a students' ability to receive a post secondary education, but it also affects them at the secondary level as well. Students who come from families who do not have the financial means to live comfortably, find themselves having to work to live. "In fact, 44% of students who worked 30 or more hours a week reported dropping out because of "wanting to work" or "having to work/money problems". (Relationship between working..., 2003). Money not only affects the individuals directly, but money also indirectly affects the type of schooling they receive. More money equals better trained, better skilled teachers, better school facilities and resources, and better or more extra curricular school programs. The latter plays an integral part in building an individuals' sense of self and provides opportunities to build relationships with fellow students. "High school graduates who reported low social engagement in the last year in high school were almost twice as likely to delay studies when compared with graduates with high levels of social engagement." (Paths to post-secondary..., 2003). Although we like to think that we're a forward-thinking, equal opportunity country, money does talk, and a higher education is only for those who can absorb the cost.

If you look at the population of North American post secondary schools, you will notice that visible minorities are far out numbered by their Caucasian counterparts. Our society has definitely changed since the early to mid 1900's when visible minorities were not allowed entry to White-American schools. "Anyone who compares American education in 2001 to that in 1901 is bound to see a dramatic reduction in over racial discrimination in the educational system. Legal segregation has been formally banished, overtly racist curricula have been dismantled..." (Gamoran, 2001). Discrimination still exists today; however, we all have the same rights for education. The percentage of visible minorities attending a post secondary institution has increased over the last few decades, but definitely not enough to call it equal. Those visible minorities continue to face prejudices in their every day life, because lets face it, racism is still a large and disturbing problem in our society, and in our education system. "Minorities



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