The Dream, the Disparity, the Dilemma

Lisa Chen, Sports Editor

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The foundation of American society has historically been set on the “endless” opportunities available in this country. Social mobility appears easier to achieve than in other countries and stories of poverty to wealth seem abundant. While America certainly provides many opportunities and resources inaccessible in other countries, its society presents a facade to the citizens who believe in it the most.

What is the American Dream? To some it may be the white picket fence, while to others it may be the job on Wall Street. Regardless of the dream, most Americans generally believe that education is the path to success. However, this is where the dilemma begins.

By the time they start kindergarten, children from families of low financial means are already a year behind in education than children from families of college educated parents, according to the New York Times. By eighth grade, the gap will have widened by at least 50%. Students from the top quarter of the income bracket are four times as often to graduate with a bachelor’s degree than students from the bottom quarter. Nearly 70% of students at the most selective colleges in the country are in the top income quartile (The Atlantic).

The statistics go on, but it is clear. There is a distinct disparity in education between the upper and lower class, representing how the future for low income kids is generally bleak because of the fewer opportunities available. While wealthier families are able to pay for tutors or multiple extracurricular activities, lower income kids are unable to afford them.

If education is the path to success, what path is society painting for those who are considered disadvantaged? The American Dream was founded on the principle that those from the lowest class can move to the highest class through hard work and determination, but is this possible today?

Theoretically speaking, the answer is yes. However, “success” in the lower socioeconomic classes is based on luck rather than work ethic more than ever. Those in lower classes hold less resources and connections than those in upper classes. While some of their achievements in school, given their circumstances, are more extraordinary than some of the upper classes’, society does not properly reward for this. To specify, some students from lower classes must focus on working and earning money.

However, their academic performance is equally compared to those who focus solely on school. While their work ethic is strong, they must rely on the chance that others recognize this apart from the grades.
So why should we care?

The education gap is widening the income gap. If income is an indication of future success, the cycle of poverty continues for those born into it. As this cycle continues, the income gap grows as the upper class gains and holds more wealth. Already, the wealthiest 10% hold 76% of the United States’ wealth (includes property), according to the Washington Post.

If America does nothing to stop the widening education and income gap, the American Dream will no longer exist because the differences between socioeconomic classes will be too large for lower classes to compensate for.

In other words, the United States must divert additional resources and reform for education. Education is the basis for the future of the country and every child should have the opportunity to positively become a part of the future.

While some argue that improvements are already being made in education, more could be done. More one-on-one assistance could be provided to parents in poverty and college tuition could be lowered. While others argue that it is near impossible to close the education gap, this is not true.

According to the New York Times, education reform programs in Australia and Canada have caused those in poverty there to show more equitable outcomes of rising socioeconomic classes than the poverty stricken in the United States.

It is easy for those born into financial stability to ignore the problems presented, but they must remember how they could have easily been born into a different life as well. It is not an obligation to help those that need it, but a necessity for the future of the country and the American Dream.

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