The current educational system in the United States provides studying opportunities to millions of people every year. However, it is not ideal or equally accessible for all the citizens; many aspects could be improved and adjusted to support the diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds of the students. The federal policies currently responsible for the educational laws and regulations may also need to be renovated and corrected to meet the modern goals of U.S. society. Caucasian and non-white students often encounter different challenges in their academic experience. It is the responsibility of the political leaders of the country to create and maintain equal educational opportunities for all American people.
U.S. Education System
The United States of America remains the preferred destination for receiving a university degree for both its citizens and international students. It is highly competitive and decentralized since, historically, it promoted individualism and rivalry among those seeking a college degree. However, the U.S. Department of Education signs certain policies and guidelines regarding the education process. It establishes the rules and financial aid for students and institutions, analyzes operational statistics from various schools and universities, and raises some critical issues on the national level. Another essential function of the government in this sphere is prohibiting discrimination regarding people’s access to education and the studying process (Loo, 2018). Unfortunately, because the U.S. school and college system is severely decentralized, the control over all the institutions and their teaching conditions is not feasible. That led to numerous issues regarding the minorities’ access to education.
The primary federal document that guides the U.S. businesses and institutions on the issues of racial discrimination is Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits racial or ethnic prejudice against any American citizens, including students (U.S. Department of Education, n.d. b). Examples of illegal actions include harassment, segregation, and denial of language services to those who study English based on the person’s appearance or origin. Problems arise when people start interpreting the laws and provide definitions of discrimination that may not be universal. That caused the need for new regulations meant to clarify the guidelines for students and educational institutions.
Attending college would be highly problematic without a firm primary and secondary education. The American government approved the Elementary and Secondary Education Act over half a century ago to provide equal opportunity to attend classes in school for all U.S. children. Its new version, the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), was authorized by President Obama in 2015. (U.S. Department of Education, n.d. a). The document responded to educators and the public with children as they had asked for a law with the apparent goal of preparing young Americans for college and work career in the future.
The Act upholds necessary protection for disadvantaged and high-need students in the U.S. and requires all schools of the country to teach according to high academic standards. It also ensures that all critical information is provided to educational institutions, students, and their families. The document states the need to support the local innovations suggested and promoted by communal leaders and educators (U.S. Department of Education, n.d. a). The ideas behind these policies are helpful for minorities to receive an education but rely heavily on the law execution on the state level. Federal regulations in the U.S. raise awareness about specific issues and provide general guidelines but do not enforce detailed and mandatory implementation plans.
Functionalism and U.S. Education
Functionalist theory, when applied to the educational system, states that socialization, integration, placement, and cultural innovation are essential to the students. The curriculum, theoretical knowledge, and location of the school or university play a secondary role and do not need to be analyzed in-depth. The function of the academic program is more critical than physical details or even the personal feelings and comfort of each student (Social Sciences library, 2020b). While the practical part of such an approach is beneficial for the country’s economy, the personal value and well-being of young adults may remain undervalued in this scenario. The students should focus on their personal goals while receiving effective general education, though the institution may provide consulting services covering various development opportunities.
Conflict Theory and U.S. Education
Conflict theory promotes inequality and competition in all social spheres, including the educational field. Typical instruments include tracking scores and standardized tests to compare the students regardless of their personal characteristics and psychological well-being (Social Sciences Library, 2020a). Following this theory, society develops according to strength and resource distribution by providing the highest number of opportunities to those with more power. Such an approach often promotes injustice as it suppresses those students who do not have financial or networking advantages over the others at the start of their education process. Supporting the conflict theory would lead to inevitable creation of a disharmonized society with cultivated hate and segregation.
Economic Factors That Influence Education
Functionalist theory suggests that the education system should prepare students for their future jobs and social roles. They learn new technical skills meant to help them find work, network with each other and experienced adults, perform group activities, and try a leader’s responsibilities. All those factors help students to be more successful in life and solve various problems efficiently. However, education cannot be used as a step toward adult life if access to it is limited, and such is the case of minorities in the U.S. (Harvard University, 2016). Today, people of color realize the necessity of education and personal development. Despite that, the equality gap created over centuries does not allow them to access, receive, and use the curriculums and college diplomas the same way the white population does.
According to the conflict theory, there will always be a confrontation in any sphere of society because of the finite resources. Minorities struggle to pay for classes, housing, equipment, and uniforms more often than Caucasians, which may affect their desire to attend college (American Psychological Association, 2017). It might seem a typical situation when regarded as a distant social experiment. However, in reality, such an approach is unethical and deprives a large group of U.S. citizens of opportunities to become professionals in various job spheres. Furthermore, racial discrimination leads to personal struggles, psychological discomfort, and demotivation of minority students who can potentially benefit the American economy.
Aggressive Policing and the Educational Performance
One may think that strict policing and regulations, aiming to decriminalize specific neighborhoods, could lead to improvements in the educational performance of minority youth from that area. In reality, the effects depend on the circumstances and may reflect negatively on the adolescents’ desire to attend university or even graduate from high school. Legewie and Fagan (2019) found that, in some cases, suspicious and strict behavior of the law enforcement representatives led to minority youth’s distrust toward anything related to government, including the educational institutions. However, in other situations, patrolling and surveying increased the neighborhood’s safety and allowed a larger percentage of teenagers and young adults from the dangerous areas to consider higher education (Legewie & Fagan, 2019). Safety policies in minority neighborhoods have to be applied in a professional and respectful way to promote diversity support. Such an approach would help avoid misunderstandings and supporting the Conflict theory. Police should be associated with help and order, not anxiety and potential racial discrimination.
While attending high-school or college is a natural decision for a child from a middle-class group with educated adult family members, teenagers of dangerous neighborhoods with financially troubled parents may have different priorities. They do not see the U.S. government system as supportive and might exhibit rebellious behavior by either refusing to attend the classes or being disrespectful to the instructors. In this case, government officials need to provide enough information to such neighborhoods to convince the children and their families that education is necessary.
Another possible barrier is the financial situation, as the teenagers may have to support their families through a part-time job or might not possess the funds needed for attending college. Various scholarships, grants, and stipends should become available for such families based on household income. Finally, in extremely dangerous areas, children may be too nervous or anxious to consider commuting to the educational institution and back regularly. When regarded as part of the Functionalism theory, the schools and universities would not be able to serve their purposes in this case. The potential improvement of the situation may be possible through free or affordable dormitories available for the students from criminally active neighborhoods. However, one of the crucial steps to implement such a strategy would be informing the children and their families about these possibilities.
The original purpose of the police is supporting order and fighting crime, thus making the cities and towns safe for the public. However, in some cases, law enforcement officers act relatively rude toward people of color, assuming they break the law, act disrespectfully on purpose, or have bad intentions. Although many police representatives work professionally, there are those who create defensive reactions in neighborhoods of color. The conflicts may escalate to the point of confusion about the essence of disagreement (Ortiz, 2020). The U.S. needs reformations regarding police behavior to create a safe environment for all citizens, including minorities.
White Citizens’ Concerns
For centuries, minorities in the U.S. have experienced disadvantages in many spheres, including education, which followed the Conflict theory. They require help and support from the government to, eventually, reach equal opportunities with the white majority representatives. However, Craig and Richeson (2018) raise a corresponding problem with the Caucasian population of the U.S. Since the numbers of American minority population have been growing and gaining more support from the government than in the previous years, the white citizens of the United States experience anxiety regarding the changes. They do not want to be deprived of their freedom and rights because of the policies directed at helping the minorities receive education and desired job positions (Craig & Richeson, 2018). While to those not having any privileges, such an issue may seem unreasonable, the government has to educate every representative of the U.S. population on the subject of diversity. The explanation would make the necessity of changes in policies clear to all citizens, thus avoiding conflicts and aggression due to the non-obviousness of the government measures.
Co-existing in a diverse U.S. society may be challenging for individual ethnic group representatives. Since people have various cultural backgrounds, they might not understand the problems of a different race, social class, or nationality. The United States need the promotion of not only equal educational opportunities but ethnic heritage curriculum programs as well, for the colleges to correspond with the Functionality theory. It could be a part of the history or sociology class, but the instructors should cover the values of all the ethnic groups, allowing the students to talk about their problems.
Changes in African American Education
Historically, receiving a college education has been a white U.S. citizens’ privilege. African Americans, eventually, were able to access high school and university education, and partially disprove the Conflict theory, but they are still severely underrepresented in academia. The situation has improved overall, as the black students currently represent about thirteen percent of college attendants, as opposed to nine in 1976 (Allen et al., 2018). However, several issues make these statistics unsatisfying as a final result. First, about half of these African American students attend community colleges, while only forty percent of Caucasians enroll in the same institutions. Second, black minority representatives are overrepresented in for-profit colleges and universities, more frequently cannot pay their education loans, and receive the final degree less often (Allen et al., 2018). These facts do not deny the progress that has been achieved in the minority education sphere but show the necessity of further reformation of the school and university system in the U.S.
The year 2020 has affected the businesses and educational institutions regarding the policies for minority protection. Before the protests, the main focus of companies’ regulations was on diversity, but now the inclusion of anti-racism guidelines is mandatory (Rubel, 2020). It is not a matter of polite-correctness but a safety issue for all the minority citizens and those communicating with them. Some of the actions college management might perform include assuring the students of color that they are safe and welcome and discussing the possible problems with them. Educational institutions may need to revise their nondiscrimination and anti-racism policies to fulfill the Functionality theory. Employees have to understand the changes and the reason behind them. The reputation of the college or university depends mainly on the comfort and well-being of its students. Finally, social networks have much power with developed technology today, so any statement or response by an education official may affect another person’s feelings.
All the information related to college or university must be professional, racial-neutral, and respectful to those who may potentially receive it. The complex approach toward diversity would help the public and authorities create a comfortable society together. Although there is no definite strategy that guarantees the successful harmonized co-existence of people with different racial backgrounds, actions directed at mutual respect and support may lead to it.
Today, the educational system in the United States of America requires corrections to make college more accessible for minorities. Some of the rules and regulations have already been signed by the authorities, but enforcing them is challenging due to the old habits and various interpretations. The main issue about diversity policies is the education of all the population groups on the subject of tolerance and mutual support. Their practical application in educational institutions should be disciplined but respectful to ensure the promotion of diversity tolerance without unnecessary aggression from the law enforcement side.
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Craig, M. A., & Richeson, J. A. (2018). Majority no more? The influence of neighborhood racial diversity and salient national population changes on whites’ perceptions of racial discrimination. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 4(5), 141-157. Web.
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U.S. Department of Education (n.d. b). Race and national origin discrimination: overview of the law. Web.