College Sociology Papers

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Question

Social Problems in Education and the Family

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In an essay (750-1,000 words), explain how the change in social values in American society in the last 50 years or so has changed the face of education in the United States. Include a description of the social issues that schools face and offer an explanation of how you might mollify some of these issues.

Answer

Problems in Education and the Family

American schools are a reflection of the social change that has been unfolding in the country. Since the 1950s, significant changes have occurred in the American society, and their influence on education are tremendous. They can best be understood through concepts such as urbanization, industrialization, culture, social capital, equity, and ideology (Schofer & Meyer, 2005). Based on this perspective, one can understand how society changes and how the transformation influences various aspect of life, including education. Traditionally, school have been an integral component of the American culture. Nearly every American has attended school at one point in his/her life. However, educational experiences keep changing in response to prevailing social forces. The most dominant social changes that have affected the American education system are population diversity and technology, and the main negative effects associated with them are social prejudices and inappropriate use of technology respectively. To deal with these challenges, stakeholders in the American education sector should embrace curricular reform to embrace the values of social diversity and effective use of technology in all schools.

Population diversity

The demographic composition of the American society has changed dramatically since the 1960s (Futrell, Gomez & Bedden, 2003). More people continue to migrate into the United States in search of opportunity. A significant number of them come into the country to seek higher education. This situation has led to growing competition among different ethnic/racial groups seeking limited educational opportunities (Schofer & Meyer, 2005). This phenomenon may be said to have contributed to the expansion of the country’s higher education system. A contradicting view is that powerful ethnic/racial groups have reduced the mobility of opportunities among competing immigrant groups (Schofer & Meyer, 2005). For example, an in-flow of many immigrant groups may be said to have slowed the expansion of public school system.

Moreover, as population diversity continues to grow, the level of racial and ethnic prejudice has also increased, and this has negatively affected the country’s education system. They are mainly fuelled by existing stereotypes which have been used widely as a justification for discrimination against racial/ethnic minorities. One of these stereotypes is that changes have occurred in terms of the extent to which members of various social groups promote school enrollment. For example, Jewish and Asian-American communities are expected to place a lot of emphasis on education (Schofer & Meyer, 2005). Although enrollment rates for them may have increased during the last 50 years, this does not necessarily mean that they are more interested in education than other ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, it is true that many minority communities living in America have focused a lot on education as the best way of integrating into the country’s social fabric. For poor immigrants with little or no formal education, taking children to school is the best way of promoting access to available opportunities. In his book American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio explains how his poor immigrant parents with grade-school education helped him to become a successful person by working hard to pay for his education. Unfortunately, not every immigrant has been as fortunate as Rubio. Many of them have been denied access to education due to racial discrimination. Others have been forced by poverty to drop out of school and to begin looking for jobs in order to contribute to household income. To deal with this problem, stakeholders in the American education system must embrace social diversity (Rury, 2005). Unless this reality is embraced by everyone in society, many minority groups will continue to wallow in poverty due to lack of access to education.

Technology

            Many technological advances have emerged during the second half of the twentieth century, and their influence on education has been phenomenal. Networked personal computers have been introduced in most American schools, making them an integral component of the learning process (Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck, 2001). They continue to affect the education system by influencing the mode of instruction, communication, and curriculum decisions. The use of audio-visual devises has been replaced by explosive developments in information and communication equipment. Unfortunately, the growing use of technology has not led to a corresponding improvement in school outcomes (Lei, 2010). Although the advancements have made it easy for learners to retrieve information, some of them are using technology inappropriately. Lei (2010) argues that most American schools have focused on quantity instead of quality as far as technology use is concerned. In addressing aspects of quality, emphasis should be on how and what technology is deployed in various learning situations (Lei, 2010). Such efforts can transform technology into a tool of change not just in the workplace, but also in schools. At the same time, an element of technological integration should be co-opted into the ongoing curricular reform to ensure that teachers are equipped with the appropriate instructional framework that enables them to technology in diverse classroom situations effectively.

Conclusion

            Social values in America have changed significantly during the last 50 years. These changes have transformed the face of education in the country particularly in terms of social prejudices arising from population diversity and technology. Although more foreigners are migrating into the United States than ever before to seek educational opportunities, social prejudices continue to act as a barrier to their efforts. Unless all stakeholders in the American education system embrace social diversity, these immigrants will continue to be discriminated against in their quest for better education. Moreover, Americans have embraced technology in the education sector, although many challenges continue to exist in terms of effective use. The issue of technology integration should be addressed during curricular reform in efforts to promote proper use of quality technology for better learning outcomes.

References

Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H. & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813-834.

Futrell, M., Gomez, J. & Bedden, D. (2003). Teaching the children of a new America: The challenge of diversity. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(5), 381-385.

Lei, J. (2010). Quantity versus quality: A new approach to examine the relationship between technology use and student outcomes. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(3), 455–472.

Rury, J. (2005). Education and social change: Themes in the history of American schooling. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schofer, E. & Meyer, J. (2005). The worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 70(6), 898-920.

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