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Historical Perspective
Classism in Education
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Historical 

A historical review of the initiation and development of public education indicates a tiered delivery of education. Access to education was frequently determined by a child's family wealth, social class and gender. Thomas Jefferson proposed a two track education system with different tracks for the "laboring and the learned". 

Public education was promoted to ensure that citizens could read and follow written laws to maintain a democratic government and support the economic structure of the country. The education was shaped by the needs of society. From the 1900's to the 1950's public schools served to Americanize an immigrant population and prepare them for an industrial workforce.

 In the 1950's, partially in response to the launching of Sputnik by Russia, the goal of education shifted. With the race to space, education focused on developing the "brightest students" to compete in science and math and prepare for college. The American workforce required a better educated worker as jobs became more technical. The schools responded by placing students in "tracks" of study with a specific outcome: anticipated college, vocational or general education.

Timeline of Public Education

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Challenges

Demographic changes were occurring in American cities and the urban school systems in the 1950's and 60's as blacks migrated into the northern cities and whites moved to the suburbs. The racial and economic make up of the students had shifted and the urban schools wsere faced with the problem of a growing disadvantaged student population. Unlike the immigrants that had proceeded them, t here were few unskilled jobs available for these poorly education students and drop outs (Jeffrey, 8).

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed that the "War on Poverty"was to be waged and won through education. A lack of jobs and money was viewed as symptoms of poverty. The cause was considered to be traceable to a failure to provide all citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities due to lack of education and training (Jeffrey, 14). Educators expressed concerns over these events, and mounting pressures from the civil rights movement prompted a sense of urgency to improve the school performance of poor students.

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   "The ultimate object of education should be, Gandhi said, to help create not only a balanced and harmonious individual but also a balanced and harmonious society where true justice prevails, where there is no unnatural division between the "haves" and the "have-nots," and where everybody is assured of a living wage and the right to live and the right to freedom."  

                                                        Arun Gandhi