Wednesday, October 6, 2010

12th Post - Schools and the Labeling Effect

I am posting an assignment for my Schools and Society class, a class that discusses and analyzes the socialization processes schools provide, and the policies that drive schools. The question I am answering is how my ascribed statuses/labels, such as race, gender, age, class, etc. affected my education. Please note that this is my intellectual property and I own all rights to it. Please use correct citation if you would like to use any part of this essay at any time for academic purposes.

There are many things about us that we cannot easily change. Everyone comes into the world already dealt a set of circumstances that will impact them their entire lives. The four major attributions that influence a person’s life are race, gender, class and age. Our culture, as well as most cultures in the world have practiced stereotypes that deal with all four of these characteristics. In the United States, whites are superior to blacks and other racial minorities, men are superior to women, the rich superior to the poor. While age does not have such a general stereotype there are many instances in where one age group is preferable over another (older and experienced versus young and fresh, for example).

When it comes to education, especially public education, these characteristics collide in usually a very nasty way. Going to high school in Maine provides for me very little insight of the inner workings of racial stereotypes in a classroom. Even with two years of public university education under my belt, I have not come to understand this predicament personally very well. My political science experience has lent me knowledge of places like Arizona, a state that makes racial profiling nothing less than law. I can only gather that their education system makes it much harder for students who belong to a racial minority to graduate and become a truly welcomed member of their school.

From my own experience, I can explicitly say females are favored over males at any level of education, which is contrary to the general societal stereotype. In college, younger students are usually preferred over older students. I was born moderately lucky; a white middle class female. My race and gender pushed me into the favored group of education without having to lift a finger. I also made sure that I went to college straight after college, therefore becoming one of the most traditional, average students one could find. I was in the top twenty of my graduating class, got accepted into every college I applied to, carried a 3.6 GPA and was in National Honor Society. For sure, I can thank myself and my brain for getting those things. To a point. I can’t help but sit back and wonder if I were born poor, male, or black (or any combination thereof) if my education would have been different.

While I cannot be completely confident in my assumptions for the future, I can be marginally assured I will have a nice job, possibly with the federal government. I will get married to a white male, probably soon after I finish my Master’s degree. I will have a nice house, with a dog, and one to two children. I will acquire these socially correct objects with many thanks to my education, especially my higher, post-secondary education. I will most likely meet my future partner through school, and make connections to my future career the same way.

To date, I have reached what could be considered the highest academic level that is normal for my age. While I can thank my dedication from studying and classroom participation to my love of reading and intellectual television shows over sitcoms, can’t I also thank my ascribed statuses? I’m white, so therefore I have been favored. I am female, therefore favored and given more attention from teachers from elementary school until now, my junior year in college. I am middle class, therefore I have a nice home and was given the supplies, orderly home, and supportive and attentive parents I needed to succeed. I have always been the correct age for my education level, thus making me the favored normal yet again.

No matter where I go in this country, I will be considered an average American. And apparently, in the education system, that makes me special.

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