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Racism and Education in the United States Essay

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2020


An examination of the current system of education based on the experiences of the researcher reveals three distinct factors: that there is discrimination even though the system says there is not, opportunities for social advancement are only for a select few, and that the system needs to change in order to accommodate a new reality that encompasses minorities as well as immigrants.

If an outsider were to examine the current state of education within various grade schools and high schools in the U.S., they would notice that students within the same grade level are often separated into different tracks (Hughes, 126). This process labeled “tracking” is due to the fact that students within a particular grade level often have varying levels of intelligence resulting in some students with higher intelligence being placed in the higher tracks while students with lower grades are often placed in lower tracks.

A closer examination of the tracking system reveals that a large majority of students in the higher-level tracks are often composed of Caucasians (or the dominant class within the U.S.) while students at the lower level tracks are usually composed of minorities.

While various schools may argue that it is not discrimination but rather a result of low grades, the fact remains that the tracking system is, in fact, a precursor to discrimination since it propagates the notion that students from various minorities are in fact unintelligent and thus not capable of handling higher-level methods of education (Hughes, 126).

The reason why such disparities exist is due to the fact that Caucasian students or those who are part of the majority within society are often part of higher-income families who are able to provide a far higher level of financial and educational support for their children as compared to children from minorities.

The inherent problem that most minorities face, especially those of Latin American, Mexican, Indian, and Asian descent (as well as other cultures too numerous to mentioned), was the language barrier that existed since the language most often spoken at home was not English, Arabic, French or the dominant language in their region but rather the native language that they brought with them.

While it is true that some students of a certain dominant ethnicity do in fact outpace various members of the minority, this is only due to the fact that barriers to education such as language and socio-economic status exist which actually delays the progress of other students (Brisport, 17).

In cases where minorities were on equal footing with their peers from other ethnicities, minorities often paralleled or even exceeded the capabilities of the dominant class. It is due to this that this paper presents the notion that success and intelligence in the U.S. system of education are often propagated along the lines of ethnicity and race.

The article ” Why Our Schools Are Segregated” examines the issue of “reform” strategies being implemented in various schools around the U.S. which target academic performance as a key indicator of the performance of teachers resulting in either higher or lower budget allotments per school or school district depending on the results of the national exams students are supposed to take which measure their academic competency (Rothstein, 50).

Such reforms, it is argued, give a form of a militarized educational system where students are made to memorize facts, figures and various details regarding subjects they are taking without regard to deeper contemplative thinking and actually understanding how such ideas came about and were formed in the first place (Rothstein, 50).

In other words it is a teaching style that does the exact opposite of helping students to question, discover, collaborate and to argue certain points (widely considered by numerous studies as the best method of teaching in order to encourage the development of intellectual thought) but rather inculcates them into a form of thinking that emphasizes mind-numbing memorization, rote practice and mechanical precision in answering tests.

In fact, this very method of teaching encourages a form of non-reflective acquiescence which practically destroys inquisitiveness towards learning and in fact creates a certain resistance towards the learning process. Such a process will result in the form of educational recidivism wherein education will be the new gap, further dividing society between lines of class, race, and ethnicity (Vaughan, 14).

What must be understood is that this educational “reform” mainly affects children within various inner-city schools most of which are occupied by economically disadvantaged classes which also happen to be constituted by various minorities and immigrants.

As such, while this educational “reform” targets the performance of schools it neglects to address factors towards the proper education of children since the form of “militarized” educational regimen employed by the teachers in order to cram facts and figures into the minds of students does little actually to improve their academic capacity and in fact creates a distinct level of dislike towards the concept of learning.

Higher Levels of Education and Minorities

Based on the experiences of the researcher in enrolling in college, this paper can say with certainty that the cost of a college education is increasing yet the ability of the government to provide sufficient loans or the incomes of parents being able to sustain such an expensive method of education is disproportional to the increase in tuition fees.

This results in both the government and the parents of students suffering from the rising cost of education. Studies examining the earnings of high school degree holders with those possessing college degrees often show that having a college degree results in that particular individual belonging to a higher income bracket.

The benefits of a college education go beyond mere economic benefits but also extend into the realm of social and cultural distinction with college graduates often finding themselves placed at a higher social caliber compared to mere high school graduates. The inherent problem with the current ideology surrounding higher education is that it has led to the development of a “credential culture” (Starcher, 205).

The basic tenet of such a development is the belief that without proper college credentials, a person will wind up with a low paying dead-end job. It is due to this belief that high school graduates who initially cannot pay for their college education due to financial limitations wind up having to rely on student loans, scholarships, and financial aid in order to attend college (Starcher, 205).

Statistics examining the prevalence of scholarships among the different social classes reveal that on average people belonging to higher social classes are often the ones who are able to attain scholarships since they have the capacity to obtain the necessary educational merit (i.e., grades and achievements). This means that people who can already afford a college education without relying on scholarships are, in fact, applying for scholarships due to the level of prestige attached to them.

The problem with the current system for scholarships is that they are often given to students with high academic grades however individuals with the highest academic grades within high schools are often students who are part of the social elite (i.e., Caucasians) and thus have been given every advantage necessary to attain high grades while in school.

This leaves economically disadvantaged students, often minorities, having to resort to financial assistance from the government, which is often not enough to pay for their increasing college tuition fees. As a result, more students drop out of college in order to obtain jobs or receive low academic scores due to the task of having to both study and earn their college education at the same time. This was seen by the researcher all too often from fellow students and other people in various courses.

Examining Social Structural Inequality

Structural inequality, in essence, is an inherent bias within social structures which can provide some advantages to a select group of people within society while at the same time marginalizing others. This can be seen in instances related to racism, education, and discrimination wherein certain segments of the population are categorized and marginalized depending on the color of their skin and their particular race.

For example, the recent law involving illegal immigration passed by Arizona has, in effect created a form of discrimination against many Mexicans living within the U.S. who are in fact there legally (Cobb Jr., 104). The fact is structural inequality is one of the main reasons behind the continued limitations in school systems and various careers wherein minorities are in fact being discriminated against due to connotations involving their propensity towards illegal or criminal behavior.

One clear example where structural inequality promotes discrimination can be seen in the current U.S. school system and their use of tracking in order to segregate performers from nonperformers.

While on paper it can be seen as a viable way of providing the proper type of education where it is needed the most, the fact remain that the tracking system has actually resulted in racial lines being drawn with white Americans normally being segregated into the upper tier of the tracking system while minorities are usually set in the lower tier system.

While it may be true that some minorities do have difficulties in learning due to their origins the fact remains that such a system actually perpetuates the concept of societal inequality where it has come to be believed that white Americans are more predilected towards success while minorities are leaning towards marginal careers at best.

This is not only limited to the current school system in lower grades but also in higher education wherein the basis of college admission is the use of SAT scores as an indicator of talent in an individual (Donnor, 538). The one problem with using SAT scores as the main criteria for evaluating college admissions is that they fail to accurately represent the true value or abilities that a person possesses.

Take for example an individual who works to support his family, gets marginally good grades in school and average SAT results, it can be assumed that the average SAT results and the marginally good grades could be attributed to the fact that this individual has to work to support his family and as a result could not devote the same amount of time into studying. Most individuals would not be capable of balancing work, family obligations, and going to school, yet here is a person that is able to do that.

Based on an examination of various applications of minorities to several colleges it has been shown that on average the SAT score of white Americans outclassed that of their minority counterparts yet this is not an indicator of superior talent but white students were given more opportunities to learn and develop as a result of their social advantage.

This particular form of structural inequality denies the possibility of certain minorities from entering particular colleges resulting in not only a degree of inequality in lower education but in higher education as well.

Resolving the Issue

What this paper has shown in the examined areas is that the tracking system, the “militarized” way of learning as well as the inherent bias against minorities within the current system of education are among the main problems that affect it today.

Further examination on the issue showed that teachers actually had some form of bias against minorities while others readily did admit that over the course of their teaching experience they had come to believe minorities did perform poorly, but they admitted that this was probably due to inherent inequalities to the level of exposure to educational material (Clark and Reed, 39).

The problem that was indicated is the fact that teachers within the current system of education simply do not have time to try to raise the level of minorities to that of the more advanced students and, as such, are apt to leave things be.

Furthermore their levels of performance are evaluated based on the testing scores of students and, as such, they have to utilize the “militarized” form of repetitive fact absorption in order to artificially raise grades despite this harming the potential for students to attain a more in-depth understanding of the lesson (Clark and Reed, 39).

Lastly, further examination revealed that that the only way this problem can be fixed is to remove the necessity for standardized examinations and to encourage a more “open” learning environment in order for students to better understand a lesson without being rushed or forced into remembering facts and formulas (Clark and Reed, 39).


It is due the experiences of the researcher within this education system that it can be stated that the current system of education from grade school, high school and all the way to higher education is geared towards lines of ethnicity and race wherein a person’s ability to attain a particular social status is often dictated by the color of one’s skin.

While it may be true that there are cases where minorities do in fact achieve the so-called “American Dream,” they represent only a small fraction of a population that is being placed in a disadvantageous situation by a system that is inadequately capable of fully providing them with the tools they need to become a success.

This is a clear indication that the system of education within the country definitely has something wrong with it since not only does it seem that minorities have difficulties catching up but the system itself which provides a sub-standard method of education is actually causing them to remain in their social and economic classes since the gateway to a better life through a proper education is apparently shut to them.

Works Cited

Brisport, Neda N. “Racism & Power: The Inaccessibility Of Opportunity In The Educational System In The United States.” National Lawyers Guild Review 70.1 (2013): 17-29. Print.

Clark, D. Anthony, and Tamilia D. Reed. “A Future We Wish To See: Racialized Communities Studies After White Racial Anxiety And Resentment.” Black Scholar 40.4 (2010): 37-49. Print.

Cobb Jr., Charles. “Freedom’s Struggle And Freedom Schools.” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 63.3 (2011): 104. Print.

Donnor, Jamel K. “Whose Compelling Interest? The Ending Of Desegregation And The Affirming Of Racial Inequality In Education.” Education & Urban Society 44.5 (2012): 535-552. Print.

Hughes, Glyn. “Racial Justice, Hegemony, And Bias Incidents In U.S. Higher Education.” Multicultural Perspectives 15.3 (2013): 126-132. Print.

Rothstein, Richard. “Why Our Schools Are Segregated.” Educational Leadership 70.8 (2013): 50. Print.

Starcher, Richard L. “How Higher Education In The U.S. Can Inform Missions’ Diversification Efforts.” Mission Studies: Journal Of The International Association For Mission Studies 29.2 (2012): 201-212. Print.

Vaughan, Richard. “Schools In US ‘More Racially Segregated Than 40 Years Ago.” Times Educational Supplement 5061 (2013): 14. Print.

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