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Inequality in education means that there is an unequal allocation of academic resources such as qualified teachers, books, and facilities in certain groups of people. These groups of people usually are isolated, historically disadvantaged, and considered a minority group. Inequality in education leads to very big differences in the success of these groups due to the quality of education offered. The purpose of education is to equip citizens with the necessary qualities to live a fulfilling life in society. Following a democratic framework, and with a hope of providing everyone equal opportunities, access to education should be fair, equal, and inclusive. Education should be provided in accordance with the principles of social justice. In education, social justice means that everyone and all groups of people should be treated equally, fairly, respectfully, and with dignity, and they have a right to opportunities, protection, and the resources that schools could provide.
Even though the education system in America today has progressed, incidences of abuse of social justice are still evident. These incidences, which most of them are as a result of influences and trends of society have affected the educational experiences of a lot of children and teenagers. This paper aims to analyze the important events that show the history of inequality in education in American history during the exploration period to 1865 and connecting it to an example of how this issue exists in the United States today. These events are important for they have played a very big role in shaping the education system in America to become what it is today. As a result, this paper will focus on the relevant events that affected the education of people of different races, gender, language, and disability backstories. The paper will focus on the main issues that have developed throughout history that has shown inequality in education.
Race and Ethnicity
In America, issues concerning race and ethnicity go hand in hand with justice and equity. From the early days in the history of America, American Indians were enslaved by the first European settlers. The attacks from these settlers destroyed their way of life which led to the American Indians losing their land, resources, and many deaths (Rury, 2005). In the late 1800s, boarding schools materialized whose purpose was to force the children of the American Indians to learn the white culture. The American Indians were not the only group going through forced and unequal access to quality education. For example, at the same time in California, the Chinese American children were denied entry into schools by school administrators and board members due to their ethnicity. Even though these children had a right to education, Chinese children were forced to get their education from isolated Chinese schools for years. Latino students were also denied access to educational opportunities in the Southwest part of the United States where the population was mostly Latinos.
African Americans are the most discriminated group of all minority groups. Africans first came to America as captured slaves. The notion that blacks do not deserve any rights or they should not be treated equally came from the fact that Africans were transported to America in chains. In slavery times, most white people prevented black people in America, whether they were slaves or freed from accessing education. The 1800s introduced many laws that prohibited black people from accessing education (Reef, 2009).
Even though blacks were not allowed to go to school, some white people used their means to educate their slaves but as a way to teach them about Christianity. Even though such advances offered hope of black people having equal opportunities to education, the blacks continued to be denied opportunities to higher education. But it wasn’t until the year 1833 that Oberlin College started accepting black students in their college. It was the first college in America to accept black students. But still, most white people in the United States could not allow black people to get an education.
When people who tried to educate black people were punished, many southern states came up with laws and declared educating black people illegal. South Carolina was the first state to declare educating slaves illegal in the year 1740, and the other states followed soon after. Some states abolished the law after some time while other states came up with laws that did not allow educating slaves in a group. The whites were afraid that educating slaves in groups would lead to a rebellion. Only some few states like North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia kept enforcing the illiteracy law by the time of the Civil War (Kolchin, 1993). The few instances the white people allowed the black slaves to be taught anything was to teach them the white culture, teach them about morality and Christianity as they believed all these were in short supply with the slaves.
The rights of the blacks improved after the Civil War. Slavery was banned in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the African Americans were identified as citizens with the same right as the whites in 1868. Despite the law recognizing blacks as citizens, black students were still treated differently in the educational system. There was hope as new schools were constructed to educate the now free black slaves. All this progress backfired when laws were put in place that forced racial separation in public places. The quality of education or the facilities provided to both white and blacks was not the same. Low-quality education and inferior facilities were provided to the black students.
Other than racial and ethnic discrimination, linguistic minorities are also discriminated against in the education system. The reason why the whites were educating the American Indians was to teach them the white culture and the American Indians were not allowed to speak their language. The schoolmasters even changed the names of the American Indians’ names and gave them English names. The same thing happened to black slaves, but with blacks, their owners separated them from the ones that shared the same language to reduce the chances of ever causing a rebellion.
European colonization led to the existence of several different languages spoken by European settlers. It is said that colonial America was inhabited by seven different European language groups, and most of them ran their schools in their language in the hope of preserving their linguistic heritage. For instance, by the middle of the 1700s, a third of the population in Pennsylvania was speaking German, and the German-speaking schools were on the increase. Due to the fear that German would destroy the English way of life, the English settlers decided to use the school to control the German language. This was done by making sure teaching in German in public schools was no longer allowed.
Women having equal opportunities like men have been a problem throughout American history. During the early days of colonialism, women were normally expected to be content with their roles, their roles being becoming good wives and mothers. Their education was limited to following the examples of their mothers and following their father’s instructions at home. During the revolution time, it was very important for mothers to teach their daughters the values of the nation. Their education became more than just teaching them how to become good wives. This education was important because the women were expected to someday protect the nation by teaching their children the values of the nation and the importance of fighting for their country. Their other role is to make sure their husbands maintain the values of the nation. As many common schools came up in the 1800s, greater acceptance of girls going to school also increased, leading to more girls enrolling to schools (Reef, 2009).
Even though the belief that women were not as capable as men was maintained, nonconformists started to see that there is nothing wrong with women getting more education. However, the importance of women getting an education was still seen as a way to help women take care of their children at home and to be a better company to their husbands. On top of this, women who did go to school came from wealthy families that could afford and allow them to participate in school rather than help at home or on the farms (McClelland, 1992).
In the early 1800s, higher education was only allowed to men. The first college to offer women degrees was the Georgia Female College in the year 1836. Oberlin College, just like it was the first college to accept black students was also the first college to offer bachelor’s degrees to both male and female taking the same curriculum, with the first three women getting their degrees in the year 1841. The University of Iowa was the first University to accept women in 1855. Even though women had these opportunities, they were still not considered equal. For example, women were not supposed to hold important job positions, they were not allowed to vote, and there were certain professions considered appropriate for women.
People living with disabilities, may it be physical disabilities, people with learning difficulties, mental and emotional disabilities experienced discrimination and unequal access to opportunities. Earlier on in the history of the United States, people with disabilities were not allowed to have an education at all. In those early days, the disabled people were either locked away in their homes, but they were accepted by their people or faced all forms of discrimination in all kind of ways (Osgood, 2008).
In the years around the 1850s, some institutions started accepting and treating people with disabilities. Such institutions included an institution for the Deaf in Connecticut and an institution for the Blind in Massachusetts whose main purpose was to help people with disabilities. This move was one of the many moves the nation was taking towards reforming different attributes of the American society. During this period, many Americans started questioning the moral standards of the population and went through some reforms such as self-restraint, staying away from practising slavery, and improving educational opportunities for all American youth. Institutions and prisons gained a lot from this progress as protesters made sure the conditions of the inhabitants of the institutions were improved. The conditions that improved include the physical facilities and the quality of care provided.
Section 2. Native Americans
Minorities are Most Vulnerable When Wildfires Strikes in the United States, Study Finds. By Kendra Pierre-Louis. The New York Times
The study shows that people of colour, more so the Native Americans are at a greater risk of wildfire than whites. This is another scenario that shows how natural disasters often affect minorities and the poor the most. According to the study, the Western and the Southeast regions of the United States are the areas that are more prone to wildfires caused by climate change. The study also discovered that 29 million people live in areas of the United States that are high-risk. Most of these people are white and rich. The researchers also discovered 12 million people whose characteristics increased their probability of being affected by wildfires. People who are at the greatest risk are the people of colour. But this is not because these people were living in areas that were more prone to fire.
The factors that made them more vulnerable included factors like the availability of a car, which is important for evacuations, and whether people can speak and understand English. Whether or not people speak and understand English is important because, mostly, emergency messages are delivered in English, and if people cannot understand English, then it means they will be caught unawares. The study does not imply that the rich cannot be affected by wildfire; rather, it will take longer for a disadvantaged or vulnerable community to recover after a disaster. Also, the rich are covered by insurance, and their losses will be recovered after a disaster.
The study also found that minority groups living on government reservations were more likely to live in the most dangerous areas. Historical heritage is one of the reasons why Native Americans continue living in poverty in the federal reservations. Mostly, the reservations are based on grasslands and near forests that can catch fire very easily. There are old laws that were meant to control forest fires by suppressing it, and the law prohibited setting fire on public forest lands. The law prohibited many tribes from using contained burns to avoid causing forest fires. This study could be put into use when preparing to respond to disasters in the future.
An Asian American Woman’s Tweets Ignite a Debate: Is It Okay to Make Fun of White People Online? By Eli Rosenberg and Erin B. Logan.
Old tweets of a writer who was hired recently by the New York Times surfaced online and created a long debate. In her tweets, Sarah, who is Asian American spoke sarcastically about white people. Some media outlets called her a racist, and others thought her words were offensive. Others claimed that Sarah was hired due to her racist tweets and most called for her to be fired for being racist.
Sarah belongs to a minority group and if the circumstances were reversed, whereby, if she had been white and writing the things she wrote about blacks or other minority groups, then she would have been fired immediately. Being white is not a cultural identity like being a black and Indian American is. The term racism is an exploration of social inequality in consideration of the Color of a person and social injustice. The minority groups of the United States have never been in a stronger position than the whites to be able to oppress them. Some acknowledged that the tweets are still racism.
This situation has brought about the questions of how women belonging to the minority groups are harassed online. In her response to this situation, she said that she regretted the tweets, but the tweets were a response to the many people who harassed her online due to her gender and race. She added that the tweets depicted the same kind of insults that are usually meant for her and that she used the same language her harassers used. This type of harassment that is a mix of racism and sexism is a common one among women of colour. Even though social media has helped the minority groups all over the world to interact, it has also provided racists with an opportunity to attack while they remain anonymous.
Situations like this one of Sarah have become almost a normal occurrence online whereby, many factors such as political leads to tempers rising which ends up being controversies such as this one. Comments and statements made out of anger are recorded online to stay there forever until one day they surface, and they become a full-blown controversy with everyone having something to say, mostly negative things to say about the owner of the comments.
Even though America is no longer in the colonial period anymore, and even though the country has progressed and slavery is not practised anymore, the minority groups still face constant rejections and discrimination. Most of them still live in poverty because of their skin colour and their race. The first article shows that the minority groups are more vulnerable to wildfires because of poverty, for example, when they do not have a car to help them evacuate or because of their language, they did not get a message to evacuate beforehand.
The second article shows a woman belonging to a minority group who is considered a racist because she responded to people who harassed her online for being a person of colour and a woman. Even though times have changed, the minority groups can go to the same schools as the whites, women can vote and even compete with men on job opportunities, America even had a black president, social injustice is still evident. Minority groups are still considered inferior compared to the white people. They are still considered unworthy to enjoy some of the privileges that are simple and common.
Kolchin, P. (1993). American slavery, 1619-1877. New York: Hill and Wang.
McClelland, A. E. (1992). The Education of Women in the United States. New York: Garland.
Noltemeyer, A. (2012). The History of Inequality in Education.
Osgood, R. L. (2008). The history of special education: A struggle for equality in American public schools. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Pierre-Louis, K. (2018). Minorities are Most Vulnerable When Wildfires Strike in U.S.
The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/03/climate/wildfires-minorities-risk.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FNative%20Americans&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection
Reef, C. (2009). Education and learning in America. New York: Facts on File, Incorporated.
Rosenberg, E. & Logan, B. (2018). An Asian American Woman’s Tweets Ignite a Debate: Is It Okay to Make Fun of White People Online? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/08/03/an-asian-american-womans-tweets-ignite-a-debate-is-it-okay-to-make-fun-of-white-people-online/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6f18d80df0c3
Rury, J. L. (2005). Education and social change: Themes in the history of American schooling (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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