Ideas of class in the United States can be subtle. Frankly, class is something of a dirty word in this country, as the U.S. is a place where many people like to say there is no such thing as a class system. After all, we are all beholden to a government that pronounces us all equal and free, with equal rights established under the law.
Yet the reality is that economic inequities in the U.S. have formed a kind of class structure in which money opens doors in many areas of life. For those without money—many doors remain closed.
How have ideas of class played out in the U.S. educational system?
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The unstated secret is that education is becoming a two-tiered structure. In recent decades, private schools have emerged as a major educational force, as families became less comfortable with public education and the social mixing that comes along with it.
Public education provides great opportunities for children in the United States, but with loss of funding and some cities and neighborhoods in social decline, many families with the financial resources have opted out of the public educational system.
While the change is understandable for families who are seeking the best education possible for their children, the difficulty is that the price of private education has gone up and up, making it an unaffordable option for many families of lower economic status.
Yet the story isn’t over for public education. In the midst of these changes, charter schools have emerged as another option, offering a mix of public schooling with ideas from the private sector. Though charter schools haven’t become the salvation of education in the United States, they have certainly invigorated the school culture in many cities—which is good news for all of us.