As the saying goes that “give a man a fish and he will eat it in a day but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” This goes to expound the pivotal role of education to every living individual without bias to color, race, creed or even nationality. With these facts, it is understood that every American Citizen should be granted access to equal opportunities in all spheres of the society with significant emphasis on education and employment. This assertion is occasioned by the fact that it is only through education that all people can be empowered in life (Rury 39).
Education can essentially be summed up as a process through which people learn. It entails imparting knowledge, values and skills from one person to another and even down the generations. In many a ways this done through educational institutions whereby teachers direct students in various fields such as mathematics, science, history, reading and writing among others.
Besides this method, there is also informal education system, which is meant for students with exceptional needs such as intellectual disabilities or pregnancy. It is also suitable for general audiences using alternative educational philosophies and methods. Education may be categorized into seven broad categories namely: Indigenous education, this type of education refer to methods used within the scope of formal and non-formal education and it is most suitable to members (learners and instructors) of indigenous communities who decide on this system (Gatto 48).
Adult education is a very common worldwide and it takes various forms that range from e-learning to self directed learning and formal class setting learning. Many courses that are career related are now widely available to students through the Internet. Alternative education is also known as an educational alternative.
This nontraditional category of education refers to all types of education that are outside the spectrum of traditional education. Alternative education is for individuals in all age groups and for all levels of education. This type of education has different alternatives such as charter schools; home based learning, alternative school and independent schools (Rury 39).
Higher education also known as tertiary or post secondary education is a non-compulsory level of education that follows the completion of secondary or high school. It includes vocational training, undergraduate studies and post graduate studies. The main institutions that offer this type of education are the colleges and universities. The results of higher education are usually in the form of certificates, diplomas and degrees. Secondary education is the type of education that occurs during adolescence. It is formal education and has various names depending on the type of system. These names are gymnasiums, colleges, middle schools, high schools or lyceums (Parkerson and Parkerson 78).
Primary education refers to the first five to eight years of formal and structured education. It is also known as elementary. Pre-school education is the first stage of education provided to individuals as young as two years to four years. In other countries, it is known as kindergarten and this offers an appropriate opportunity for children to learn how to interact with others as well as learning the few basics of education.
It is evident that, there is a need for educations for every individual to enable them lead a better quality life. Despite the need for this education, its access to all members of the society has been wanting. In other words, the education received may be hampered or enhanced by virtue of one’s race, color and nationality. Empirical studies conducted on the American populace have shown that there is inequality in the educational system. This inequality in the educational system has in turn impacted on the way people live. For instance, if one happens to get the best out of the system its imperative that they will also get jobs commensurate with their level of education and vice versa (Herbst 28).
We are going to give a distinct emphasis to inequality in education access to African Americans. However, it has to be noted that African Americans now constitute a greater proportion of Southern College students as compared to whites and Hispanics; this is according to a recent survey carried out by the Southern Region Educational Board.
The Southern area here in context is from Texas to Delaware. With the exception of this region, no other regions African American College enrollment matches its African American population. Despite this positive enrollment, the report further warned that significant gaps are still persistent in relation to the number of African Americans graduating as compared to Whites and other ethnic groups and their ability to pay for college.
Several factors have acted as barriers to equal access to quality education in America and especially to the African American students. They include:
Unequal academic opportunities: This is whereby African American students, who score the same marks as their White and Asians counterparts in tests, are more likely to be placed in low-track academic courses rather than accelerated courses. This barrier is exacerbated in schools where White students are a majority.
Racial Segregation: It has become prevalent that African America and Latino students are more educationally segregated than in the last twenty years. According to data from 2002-03 school years in Chicago, 87 percent of Public School enrollment was African American or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of the children in those schools were White.
In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were African American or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were White. In St. Louis, 82 percent of the student populations were African American or Hispanic , In Philadelphia and Cleveland, 79 percent ; In Detroit, 96 percent; In Baltimore, 89 percent and finally 84 percent in Los Angels.
Differences in meting out disciplinary measures: African American students are more likely to be harshly disciplined as compared to their White colleagues for the same offenses or worse less serious offense. Statistics show that 14.6 percent of White students had been expelled or suspended in grades 7 to 12 as compare do 38.2 percent Native Americans, 35.1 percent of African Americans and 19.6 percent of Latinos. There is a need for objectivity in determining the disciplinary measure to be taken instead of subjectivity.
Differential teacher quality: The likelihood of employing beginning teachers is more prevalent in schools with high percentages of African Americans and by extension minorities. Teachers who attain higher test scores get employed in higher quality universities and colleges, which are mostly out of reach to a majority of African American students.
Unequal school resources: Because of class and race segregation which by extension implies that local school revenues, students in high-poverty racially segregated lack highly qualified teachers, essential social networks and high quality curricula as opposed to White schools (Betts and Loveless 45).
There is an urgent need of equal opportunity throughout the American society to all and sundry. The need for equal opportunity is exemplified by the following factors. The repercussions of failing to ensure educational access are extreme. In the long term, this may create unemployment crisis, incarceration rates, high-poverty levels and a decreased output towards the world economic platform. Another reason is that we have adequate information on the needs and tools that are to be used to ensure children’s and youth’s success in education.
Of paramount importance is to ensure access to modern learning facilities, advanced curricula and the best quality after-school programs as well as access to experienced and highly qualified teachers and smaller class sizes. Last but not the least, the racial in equalities tends to produce unequal opportunities for educational success. The rate of success in African American children and to a greater extent, the opportunities of achieving educational success are adversely impacted by, stereotypes, systemic policies and practices (Ravitch 19).
The consequences of unequal opportunities in the education system within America include the following:
Differences in high school completion rates: There is lower high school graduation rate in African American students at 87 percent as compared to 91 percent of White American students. According to a report by the Harvard Civil Rights Projects the figures are more pronounced in a few hundred schools in thirty five key states in the United States of America, where the school rates of graduation is less than fifty percent of the students who enrolled as freshmen.
Differences in access to higher education: The majority of students who proceed to join higher education institutions are predominantly Whites and Asians. This alienates the African Americans and also to some extent Hispanics. Studies show that the major hindrance to college access for African American students is the high rate of high-school dropouts. This study showed that 16 percent of Native Americans drop out of college, African Americans at 14 percent aged below 17 years fail to graduate from high schools.
Another consequence of unequal education opportunities is differential achievement levels. African American, Hispanics and other low income students are highly likely to lag behind by a level or two by the time, they reach twelfth grade. National Assessment Educational Progress data indicate that averagely African American students trail their White counterparts by four grade levels by the time they complete their high school studies.
Several strategies can be put in place to ensure that Equal Opportunities are promoted within the American education system. They entail the following:
Programmatic equity: African American students are routinely over represented is disciplinary systems and special education while in the mean time they are under represented in more beneficial programs. This should not be the case, the African American students should be involved in beneficial bilingual programs as well as in criteria for decision making as pertains placement in colleges and lastly standardize punishments in order to deter stereotypes as the basis for decision making before meting out punishments (Parkerson and Parkerson 78).
Equitable funding: The allocation of resources to colleges and schools ought to be done from one central kitty, which takes into account the disparities between the various states in terms of their incomes. The National Conference of State Legislatures singles out three pillars of a reliable school financing system: identifying and acknowledging the educational capacity needed to accomplish education objectives of students, articulating educational objectives for students and supporting this capacity with adequate and appropriate funding. In essence, the state can equalize education spending, reduce teacher shortages and enforce better teaching standards (Betts and Loveless 45).
High Quality teaching: It is widely agreed by many researchers that high-quality teachers are the key determinants in influencing students to be academically successful. African American students and other students who come from low-income families have less experienced teachers who have less formal education and training. It is common to find that these teachers have no certification and or teach outside their area of expertise. A strategy should be implemented to ensure that highly qualified teachers are distributed equally throughout the schools in all the states (Chubb and Loveless 27).
Affirmative action is a term coined by President John F. Kennedy. It refers to an equal opportunity policy, which is meant to improve integration and cohesion in federal institutions and work projects. Back in the 1970s, the extent of affirmative action was broadened to include college admissions.
The role of affirmative action needs to be emboldened to cover sufficiently the gender and minorities with unique reference to college and high admission to African Americans. Besides this, the progress made should always be followed up to assess on the current state of equality in the education system. Federal policy makers can also be entrusted to come up with incentives for highly motivating teachers as well as providing them in the areas of high need (Ravitch 16).
Betts, Julian and Loveless Tom. Getting Choice Right. Brookings Institution Press 2005.
Chubb, John and Loveless Tom. Bridging the Achievement Gap. Brookings Institution Press, 2002
Gatto, John Taylor. The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling. Oxford Village Press, 2001.
Herbst, Juergen. School Choice and School Governance: A Historical Study of the United States and Germany 2006.
Parkerson, Donald and Parkerson Ann. Transitions in American Education: A Social History of Teaching. Routledge, 2001.
Ravitch, Diane. Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms. Simon & Schuster, 2000
Rury, John. Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling.’; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2002.