Compare & contrast the two general views of education.
The two views are 1) That education provides a source of social mobility in society & 2) That education does not operate in a way that offers much opportunity for upward mobility to the poor.
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Most mainstream political discussion in the United States these days centers around the first theory, that is that education is the great equalizer if you can get it right. If you can get good teachers in every classroom and have good safe school buildings for kids to be in and provide just the right resources, then the playing field will be leveled no matter what kind of household a child grew up in, no matter what kind of dysfunctional family environment they go home to, etc. The hope is that a really great school environment will provide the opportunity and instruction to overcome those obstacles.
The opposite side of the argument is that education or a particular school environment, no matter how well designed and funded and staffed, cannot overcome or alleviate environmental factors such as poverty, crime, disease, etc. If one were to look carefully at the system of education in the United States and the way it is funded mainly through property taxes, it is easy to make the argument that it is not designed to provide equal opportunity since the rich areas already have far more resources than the poor.
There are a number of current and past resources addressing both sides of the argument, one of the more recent is the documentary "Waiting for Superman," and one of the more well known ones in recent years is Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities.
One cannot isolate one factor from people's lives and treat it independently. The problem is that a person from a poor family does not get an identical education to one from a rich family. A public school in a poor neighbourhood will offer fewer opportunities than an expensive private school. Even more, education involves things outside school, such as a quiet place to study, a linguistically enriched family environment, adequate nutrition, a group of peers focussed on going to university, computer access, etc. Although education is one factor that can contribute to social mobility, it cannot be viewed in isolation.
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