As I was reading “Savage Inequalities” by Jonathan Kozol I noticed that there are many very drastic and unfair social equalities that exist. These inequalities that exist not only in our societies, they also exist within our schooling system. Jonathan Kozol visits two very different schools in two very different areas. One of the schools is in a very decrepit, poor, broken down, dangerous area. The other is in a nice upper class, privileged community with yearly renovations and new additions of technology. The upper class school had just had renovations and had everything paid for by private funds and fund raisers.
All the facilities were up to date and very safe and effective for students to get good educations. The poor school was dangerous, and falling apart. The facilities had not been dated for years. There was raw sewage and all sorts of other health problems all over the school causing it to impact the students and there want to learn. The article explains that the main reason for the stratification of schooling for upper, middle and lower class children is because of the property taxes. The rich have a lot more money to spend on property taxes, and since the schools are funded by property taxes, the wealthy get the benefits and the lower classes feel the burden.
The first theorist that I will use to analyze this data is Talcott parsons. Parsons theory of action talks about how there are social system’s where more then one person is interacting in a situation. This situation has three components. The three components are 1) physical or environmental. 2) The actors are being motivated towards gratification. 3) It is mediated by a structural cultural system. This is very obvious in the article because the environment and psychical area which the lower class children are forced to be in gives them reason to look for something better. They are motivated toward gratification from the education system, and the school board and the city budget is what is mediating them. This is also true for the upper class except when they needed to have the repairs or the updating actually done; they had the resources to accomplish them.
In Parsons Theory he includes two basic units which are status and role. He defines status as the structural position within the social system. He defines role as what the actor does with this position. The children in both of these schools have the same units. The children in the lower class school have very little opportunity and are at the poor end of the educational system. They do not have much to better themselves with. They can only hope to do well, even though many of them do not care. On girl in the lower class school figured that since she knew she was not going to be able to better herself with an education, she figured she might as well have a child. This is showing how the different classes make decisions on what to do in there role based in there status. In the richer school the students are a lot better off and have a higher position with benefits that the education system provides. They have more money and resources to make there schools good. They provide no benefits for the people around them
The next part of Parsons Theory is the cultural system and the personality system. The cultural system is the values and norms that we learn as we grow into adolescents and adults. We then internalize and institutionalize these values and norms. While reading the article you can observe that the children at the two schools have very different norms and values from one another. The different areas give the children very different beliefs. Children who live in the ghetto and see terrible thing happen around them every day might not have any hope or determination to get out of there.
They saw how many people around them, including there family have not mad a better life for themselves so why should they. The children are so exposed to experiences children of the upper class are not exposed too. This is seen when Kozol is talking with the children on the walk. They were able to describe the murder of a friend perfectly, and none of them were older than 15. The children at the richer school have different values and much higher standards. They are in school to get an education and make money o have a comfortable life, they are not there just because they have to be. They do not even know of the experiences of the kids of the lower class.
The personality system is an organized system of orientation and motivation of action of the individual. This theory discusses how what you experience within your social system will drive you to do things. In the school in Rye, NY the students are motivated to do good because they have the resources and ability to do as good as they needed to survive comfortably. I think that the girl who had moved from the Bronx to the school in Rye is a rare occurrence. Her family obviously wanted a better life for her than they had and realized what they had to do to get that for her.
The second theorist I will use is Robert Merton. He looks at data and how it affects our society. He looks at situations analysis how the different parts impact the world society. His theory goes on further to talk about social integration, which is called equilibrium. Social integration looks at the cultural and social structures. He examines these two structures and sees if they are well integrated or not.
This is related to the article because you can look at how the schools in the poor neighbor hoods are badly integrated with the upper class schools. As one of the schools are completely separated, segregated and the resources are kept to itself, the other is sectioned off and given no help or any chance to even attend a school which would allow for them to succeed.
Another part of Merton’s theory argues that shared values are central in explaining how society works. It gives collective consciousness and helps people work together. As you can tell by the article students have no shared values. The children can not understand where the others are coming from. They have never lived in each others places. They have never walked in the others shoes, there for, they is no way in sharing the others value system, unless, in certain cases, the go from one class to the other. In order for the upper-class school students to want to help the lower class, they expect something to some how benefit them as well. All the children in the lower class school want is equality of some sort. Even if it is just the cleaning of all the raw sewage. To an upper class student, that would be expected, to a lower class student, the cleaning of sewage would be luxuries.
Merton discusses that institutions and values can dysfunctional or functional to society. When there are dysfunctional institutions that occur, they often hinder the adaptation or adjustment of the system. The argument of the dysfunction says that sometimes what may be functional for one is dysfunctional for another.
I compare this to the article for a few reasons. In the first comparison I made was when you look at the conversation that Kozol had with the students from the rich school. They believe that if the education system was to try and equalize the upper and lower class school, although it would benefit the lower class students, it would hurt the upper class communities. Another point that they made was the fact that although it would be good, it would take years to see results so it is almost as if they thought that it would not e worth it to them.
They also brought the race issue saying how although it would be good, it would be met with resistance from the members of the upper class causing conflict, which would be a dysfunction for them. By saying this, the students are not being prejudice, this is just that types of values that have been instilled in them, the do not know anything else. The children in the lower class schools can not even think to have conditions of the upper class.
The third theorist I am going to use is C. Wright Mills. IN his theory of Alienation and Bureaucracy, he speaks of the material hardships of the workers. In the modern world of big business and big government, the large increasing group of white collar workers who live not by actually making things, but profit off of what others had made. He talks about how stable communities have values that are fixed into society has disappeared. People’s self-esteem and status are closely linked, and the loss of tradition values undermine peoples self esteem and sends them into status panic.
I think that this relates to Kozol’s article because he discusses how tin the poor area of St. Louis75% of its population is living off welfare. The layoff of 1,170 city employees in the past 12 years has been detrimental to the community. The people in this community have been so poor for so long that they feel that they can not raise there status. They feel like the only thing that can do is get by off what they have. If they had a higher self esteem and maybe more determination to improve there status, they could collectively bring change about. If they had jobs that would bring people around to see that they can produce something good, maybe the people would want to make something of there community that they would be proud of.
He talks about how alienation from work makes people turn to leisure; this will give them no deep common values. This also gives the people in the community no idea of how society works. They have no need for the school to be good if they have no self-esteem or pride in there community.
Mills also argue that the growth of large structures is joined by a centralization of power. The people who hold the government, military and economic power are all close. I think that this can related to the article, but not in such a large measure. The people, who are the rich and upper class, are all very close. They do have the resources to benefit the lower classes, but if it changes there type of life style with no immediate benefits for themselves, they are most likely not going to attempt to help.
I think that this article gave me a very good perception of both ends of the educational spectrum. It is very unfair how people of the lower class can not really be given a chance to succeed in there education, which makes it very hard to increase there status in live. The values that have been instilled in them makes it even more difficult for them to even believe that they have a chance.
The people in the upper class take for granted the opportunities that they will have in there life because of money. They do not realize what they have, and some are not willing to help because they do not feel that it will benefit them. I do no think that people are this way because they are mean, I think that this happens because people do not know anything else,, these are the values and norms that people are taught from a young age and if you have not seen or experienced what other people have, there is no way for you to imagine what it would be like.