Based on the book Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, by David M. Newman, how do our educational systems and occupational structures contribute to the creation and persistence...

Based on the book Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, by David M. Newman, how do our educational systems and occupational structures contribute to the creation and persistence of poverty in the U.S.?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, under the section titled "The Social 'Benefits' of Poverty" in chapter 6 ("Part III Social Structure, Institutions, and Everyday Life"), author David M. Newman points to the arguments of sociologist Herbert Gans to show that poverty benefits all other classes of society through occupational structures and to argue that we have to find some other way to fulfill these occupational structures if we are truly serious about reducing poverty rates.

Gans argued many points to show how poverty benefits other classes in terms of occupational structures. Some of his arguments include the fact that poverty provides a mass population of individuals willing to work low-wage jobs and fill up the military with volunteers. Poverty provides occupations geared towards protecting and serving the poor, such as "police officers, welfare workers, social workers, lawyers, pawnshop owners," and even drug dealers. It also provides a market for retailers of second-hand goods and inferior products. Hence, so long as we have an occupational structure in which we need either military service, other service occupations, or low-wage earners, we will always benefit from the impoverished and always have poverty.

In the same way that class divisions make use of poverty within occupational structures to keep poverty alive, institutional racism within the educational system makes use of racial disadvantages to keep educational inequalities alive and well. In the section titled "Racial Inequality in the Educational System," also found under Part III,  Newman argues that "lack of money" is not the only problem contributing to inequality in our educational system. Instead, he argues that we have built the educational system around "assumptions and practices" that also contribute to educational inequality. One example of "assumptions and practices" can be seen in the fact that black students are treated with different disciplinary actions than white students, as seen in the fact that blacks have much higher suspension and expulsion rates. Such unequal disciplinary practices will of course prevent black students from pursuing education as fairly as whites. A second example is seen in standardized tests, which are believed to measure and place students based on "intellectual abilities" but in reality are "culture bound" and only test a student's "familiarity with a specific range of white, middle-class experiences." Hence, if graduation and placement is based on such standardized tests, then such tests will contribute to education inequality. Plus, since education is directly related to higher income, unequal education will also contribute to the persistence of poverty.

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