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Taking Class out of the Classroom: Socio-economic class in American education

Taking Class out of the Classroom: Socio-economic class in American education

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Published by Shaun Alvis
Anti-Discrimination Law Seminar Paper
Anti-Discrimination Law Seminar Paper

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Shaun Alvis on Jul 02, 2013
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Alvis 1Taking Class out of the Classroom: Socio-economic class in American educationShaun AlvisAnti-Discrimination LawProfessor Cary FranklinMay 14, 2013
 
Alvis 2
I. Introduction: The Classless Society?
That America was founded as a classless society is one of the foundational myths of theUnited States.
1
The reasons for this belief in classlessness are varied and are in many ways tiedup with the idea of America as a refuge from the hidebound class systems of Europe.
2
America,as traditionally held, is a place where birth and background are almost irrelevant to a person's place in life.
3
 Others argue that even if classes existed at one point in American history, they nolonger do today.
4
For many Americans though, the idea of a classless society seems far fetched. Todayindicators of social mobility show an ever increasing amount of stagnation surpassing even theheights of the 1920s.
5
Education has always been considered the gatekeeper to higher socio-economic status in the United States.
6
A person holding a doctoral degree has an expectedlifetime income of $3.25 million while a person holding a high school diploma can expect toearn $1.3 million in their life.
7
Education has only increased in importance during the 20
th
and 21
st
century. For instanceonly one President of the the 20
th
century-Harry Truman-lacked a college education compared to8 who lacked collegiate education during the 18
th
and 19
th
centuries.
But as the importance of 
1Paul Kingston,
The Classless Society
1(2000).2Paul Le Blanc,
 A Short History of the U.S. Working Class
56 (1999).3Benjamin Franklin,
 Information to Those Who Would Remove To America,
available athttp://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/makingrev/independence/text8/franklininfoamerica.pdf.4Jan Pakulski & Malcolm Waters,
The Death of Class
5 (1996).5The Economist (Apr. 15, 2010), http://www.economist.com/node/15908469.6The Economist (Apr. 15, 2010), http://www.economist.com/node/15911314.7Brian Burnsed,
 How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary
, US News & World Report (Aug. 5, 2011),http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/08/05/how-higher-education-affects-lifetime-salary.8Truman was also the only 20
th
century President who experienced actual poverty post-Presidency. Thismemorably led to the establishment of a Presidential pension in the late 1950s. (David McCullough,
Truman
928(1992))9James McMurty Longo,
 From Classroom to White House
(2011).
 
Alvis 3education in America increases, rising costs and diminishing returns make it more difficult thanever for those from lower socio-economic classes to enter into the upper echelons of theAmerican educational system.
To choose merely one statistic to illustrate this trend, the highschool dropout rate amongst low socio-economic class children is 16.7% while the rate for higher socio-economic class children is merely 3.2%.
Socio-economic status then has enteredinto a sort of feedback loop. As it becomes increasingly important for those of lower socio-economic status to receive a high quality education it is becoming increasingly difficult toreceive such an education without first belonging to a higher socio-economic class.
 While class plays an important part of determining who can receive a quality education,American law has traditionally not recognized a place for class within the various protectionsthat it envisions for other historically disadvantaged groups. In order to understand the role andnature of class under American law as well as to examine ways that class ossification can becombatted one should examine the history of socio-economic class in America, analyze the statusof socio-economic class under contemporary American law in relation to education, and thenlook at possible ways to improve access to education for lower socio-economic statusindividuals.
II. A Brief History of Class in the United States
The idea that America was founded as a classless society can easily be debunked. Theoriginal 13 colonies reflected and in some cases even intensified the traditional class structure of 
10Tamar Lewin,
 Financing for Colleges Declines as Costs Rise
, N.Y. Times, March 6, 2013, at A7, available athttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/education/aid-for-higher-education-declines-as-costs-rise.html.11
 Education and Socioeconomic Status
, American Psychological Association,http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-education.aspx.12Michelle Cooper,
 Reducing Poverty through Higher Education
, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity (Aug. 23,2010), http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org/ExclusiveCommentary.aspx?id=b550d3c5-42e3-4bde-a08c-21d14f26f493.

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