Inequality in the classroom

          Just by reading the title “Race vs. Class: The False Dichotomy”, I knew this The New York Times article would be perfect for my next post. The article covers an interesting facet of stratification, which is a person’s position in the hierarchy of society compared to its other members. The writer focused on whether to take race or class into consideration when approving students to Colleges and Universities and also the weight that both factors have in society to this day.


         According to the article, class is an important factor when it comes to which members of society will have access to good-quality education. The author also states that using class as a decisive factor on College applications wouldn’t be a way to generate more diversity to the learning environments. This substitution would only emphasize the stereotypes in society and all of its inequality. By mentioning the different positions that individuals and groups have in an institution, the author is also addressing the process of stratification, mentioned in the paragraph above.


         Economic inequality is clearly present in this text, since people don’t always have the same economic resources to afford the preparation for the SAT’s or even to attend an educational institution. Usually students who are members of a common medium/upper social class have economic capital to invest in preparing themselves for these exams and have a bigger shot at a College career. That shows that a minority of students has more economic power and prestige, having also a significant advantage in comparison to lower classes. Besides being an apparent evidence of classism, this also exposes the capitalistic ideology, in which economic differences play an essential role in society and in the current competitive individualistic market.


         I’d say that culture is definitely a factor in this article because culture is a lot about our beliefs how we interact with and see the world around us. It is within any kind of social institution and should be taken into consideration in the analysis of any social phenomenon. An example would be when the text mentions how society deals with race on a day-to-day basis. That is a part of cultural values and norms that society has adopted with the passing of time.


         What I thought was very interesting in this particular article was how the author had a very strong opinion on how not taking race into consideration in admissions decisions could emphasize the clear inequality in society. But at the same time, she mentioned that to have a diverse environment, it’s also important to have members from different social classes so people can be aware of different realities than their own as they are educated. I wish she had gone deeper on how stratification affected people from certain races, leading them to having less access to opportunities in the academic world.






10 thoughts on “Inequality in the classroom

  1. It’s definitely worth addressing the fact that there are enormous economic barriers to higher education for many, and how this continues to propagate a society based on class. While the SATs can be a stumbling block for many, in many private institutions, with all of their training sessions and personal guidance counselors, they are little more than a speed bump. It is also important to ensure that all types of class and race are well represented in our schools, without coming off as too discriminatory.

    • Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree that having racial and class diversity in schools is an important fact. The only thing that concerns me a bit is that, by dividing the opportunities that each student will get according to their race, there already is a kind of segregation taking place. I think it’s a very delicate matter, but if races should be viewed equally, maybe this kind of procedure counterpoint that. Just a thought!

  2. I agree that people from different social classes don’t have the same educational advantages. Wealthy students have many types of advantages when attending schools. Most of the time they don’t need to work during school, worry about how to pay for school and all the associated costs of going to school. I don’t think that classism exists when applying to schools or when Institutions make their decisions but I am not too sure.

    • Indeed, the difference between the opportunities that people in a higher class and better economic situation get compared to others economically below them is very clear. I’d say classism, considering it prejudice regarding someone in a different social class, is present in this situation. A lot of people think that students from lower classes are less capable then higher class students, not just because they have a smaller access to opportunities, but just for being considered inferior. This way of thinking is completely ignorant, and it happens on the other way around as well. Sometimes lower class students will say that “richer’ students only got it because of their powerful social position and not for their handwork/ own merits, which is not always the case.

  3. Many academic institutions make the effort to do the things of which you speak, in part, to “diversify” student bodies. Many graduate programs or summer internship/research positions will cater heavily to underprivileged students or minority races, because achieving the assets presented by the program normally would not be accessible. Affirmative action does exist in the application process to undergraduate institutions, in hopes to create a balanced matriculating class, but I think the reason for and importance of carefully allocating places for students goes beyond being able to display a diverse student body. Less and less in the work world are the elite sticking with the elite and the blue-collar with themselves, and more so than ever do different groups rely on each other. A doctor in 2013, for example, will be best served to be able to empathize with all patients, other doctors, and people from all walks of life. Exposure to a diverse amount of people driven by the system discussed relies on the development of this important trait – the ability to empathize.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Conor! Interacting with people that live in a different reality than your own when attending school is crucial because it prepares you for the real world: a diverse world. People will have to interact with others from various social classes, races and cultures during their lifetime. Starting that interaction in their educational environment is a good start to prepare them for that. That’s one of the main reasons why I believe Affirmative Action should continue in this process of College Applications.

  4. Nice blog Laura. It really does nicely go into what separates us as a society, in both class as well as race and does illustrate that both are still issues on many levels. Its interesting how they intersect, or shall I say how the colleges are trying to prevent them from intersecting by trying to choose one admissions criteria over the other? I think it would be difficult to make this a black and white issue, since race and class are so closely intersected in this issue. For example, a lower class white male in our society still has more advantages over a lower class black female, so to truly create a diverse environment, one needs to look at class and race. Of course in an ideal environment, all candidates would be highly qualified and ability to pay wouldn’t be an issue, but that is asking for a certain utopia.

    • Thanks for commenting, Mark! I liked this article exactly because of how it intersects both race and class. I agree that, for this particular matter they pretty much walk hand-in-hand with each other and that both factors should be taken into consideration when it comes to affirmative action. But now, you’ve added one more social marker in your comparison between a white male and black female: gender. Taking that into consideration would be a way of once again separating women and men regarding their access to opportunities. If women and men want to be treated equally, then I’d say that gender, for this particular case, shouldn’t be taken into consideration.

  5. It also appears that the colleges in the article are giving an adge to the upper class. Considering that there are a smaller percentage of people in the upper class than the other classes it would allow colleges to select more of the upper class students to increase “diversity” than if they also had to take race into consideration. This article also falls short on the intersection of gender and acceptance to colleges, forbes magazine published an article in 2012 showing the female student population overtaking the male student population between 6-10% depending on the type of college verses the almost equal amount in the 1970’s.

    • Hey Joshua, thanks for commenting! Indeed, the article does not mention gender, which is another important factor to be analyzed when it comes to the diversity of students in a school. I wouldn’t take gender into consideration when it comes to Affirmative Action, but I would have definitely have liked to see the article explore that facet as well. I didn’t quite understand what you meant regarding the giving an edge to the upper class, but I hope that isn’t correct, because it would make Affirmative Action fall short on its purpose.

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