Consider how meaningful work at your organization has has changed over the last 75 years, or if it did not exist 75 years ago, how it has changed since its founding.   Note that many of these...

Consider how meaningful work at your organization has has changed over the last 75 years, or if it did not exist 75 years ago, how it has changed since its founding.   Note that many of these changes have affected - and been affected by - race, class, and gender. Examine the impact on these factors on your occupation's past and its future.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Over the last 75 years, the classroom has dramatically changed.  The entire focus of instruction has been significantly altered.  The teacher is seen differently, the students are different, and the realities of public education are much more divergent than what they were 75 years ago.  In its most theoretical vision, a more inclusive portrait of American schools has been one such way in which the classroom has changed.  The opportunity structure has become more egalitarian, stressing that everyone has a chance to succeed.  It is geared towards including and validating the voice of "the other," something that exists on gender, racial, and class- based levels.  Education is now a more powerful force for individual advancement than ever before.  The opportunity structure for success in America involves the classroom in a more significant way than 75 years ago. There is less occupational steering than there might have been in the past.  We shudder to think that a teacher would directly and openly suggest that a girl pursue "these careers" or a child of color be "realistic" to think about specific vocations.  The modern classroom openly rejects such elements as it professes now more than any other time before it that avoiding the reality of an underclass can be achieved through education. Teachers now receive instruction to ensure that all voices in the classroom setting are heard. Teachers are taught to recognize the value of an inclusive and heterogenous classroom. The thinking is even advanced that the classroom can become an agent of change, reflecting the type of society that we wish to have.

As with all theoretical applications, there is a level of reality that might provide a counterpoint. One recognizes that there might not be a direct and absolute notion of discrimination being advanced, but there are some levels of a "glass ceiling" or social class status evident in many public school settings. Differences between schools in different parts of town help to confirm this reality.  Students in an affluent parts of American settings might very well experience a different educational reality than those in a more economically challenged area. The opportunity structure that preaches equality of opportunity might not necessarily validate it in practice. The replication of a social class structure with a "master class" and "underclass" can be seen in such different educational experiences.  For example, students in the "corridor of shame" in South Carolina are channeled into a social and economic reality which is much different than the students who receive public education in Presidio Heights, outside of San Francisco.  While the structure of modern education does not affirm discriminatory realities, there are concrete power structures in how educational resources are disseminated, and this helps to create a reality where there are distinct master social statuses.

I would also argue that the hiring practices in the teaching profession has changed significantly in the last 75 years. As education has become more theoretically egalitarian, a desire to have a teaching staff that represents such change has become desired.  This has led to an emphasis on hiring people of color amongst teaching staffs. Some have argued that this practice can move very close to a setting of tokenism, or a misappropriation of affirmative action tenets.  Unlike the reality in the education setting of 75 years ago, this is a progressive trajectory that can continue.