Back from my Marxist days; I hope you enjoy and laugh at me.
Intro to Sociology Sec. 006 Memo 8
The educational system in the United States, according to Mitchell Stevens, runs on paradoxical terms. On one hand, parents and educators agree to a large extent that education should be tailored for each individual child. There is a strong push for individualism in our schools, yet education is also a way to universalize the population in terms of class and educational attainment. The college admissions process also operates in admitting students based on evaluating the applicant as both an individual and as a competitor measured up to a standard rubric of academic as well as cultural merit. The role of education in creating classes is profound, as seen in Blau and Duncan’s studies. The reproduction thesis, based on Marx’s arguments, explains education and its institutions as a way to preserve the ruling class and transfer power to the offspring of the ruling class. On the other hand, the transformation thesis, advocated by Max Weber, argues that education is a way to structure inequalities based on meritocracy, that is, the best and the brightest are pushed to the top, while the mediocre and low ability people are pushed to the bottom. We see that in US education, ascriptive and merit based achievement both determine where an individual would find himself in the social hierarchy.
I believe that the reproduction thesis holds more sway in terms of how education creates class. The class with the most resources is more able to educate the children of that class in a way that prepares them to lead a life in the institutions of the ruling class. It is also important to note that although the transformation thesis explains how a gifted student may propel himself up the social ladder, it is still true that capital and power rest in the hands of the elite. The fact remains that a well-educated individual holding a well-respected profession is still a worker dependent on employment by the owner of capital. So, we see that education determines who is qualified for which jobs, but power in capital is still transferred in the way described by the reproduction thesis.
In "Child’s Education, but Parents’ Crushing Loans," by Tamar Lewin on November 11th, 2012 in the New York Times, it can be seen that higher education in the US is still a luxury good. Especially due to the economic recession, parents and students find it difficult to manage their student loans taken out to go to college. Student debt is hurting middle class families particularly, because the upper class families are able to pay the tuition in full and the lower class families, whose children make it to higher education, are offered financial aid to help with the cost of tuition. So, the middle class, the class, in my opinion, that defines the flexibility in class mobility, is being squeezed the most when facing student debt. We see that higher education is not only made unattainable by unequal childhoods, but also by its high cost once children enter the stage of young adult. The transformation thesis fails to explain how recessions affect class mobility, while in recessions, the results of the reproduction thesis are made clear: education is a way to preserve the ruling class.