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Does Education Level the playing field?

Utitofon's picture

 Yes and No. Education does a good job of preparing youths, rich or poor, for adult life, especially the work phase of it. Education instills a ‘can do’ attitude in us, persuading us to step out of our comfort zone and explore the unknown. For example , through our Emily Balch Seminars, most of us have read, discussed and critically analyzed literary works we would ordinarily have assumed were beyond our comprehension.  We have also developed better self expression, confidence and an expanded view on issues. Education also provides us with free social capital – our classmates and professors. If we fuel those relationships, they can come in handy later in life, such as when we need recommendations for internships or employment. The educational curriculum also makes room for constructive criticism. This helps to refine us into better individuals, and if we learn from our mistakes and corrections, they can prevent us from remaining in a constant phase of trial and error.  We can easily transfer our 3 page paper writing skills into writing business proposals. We can move from making presentations  to our classmates to making presentations at Board meetings; from blogging on moodle or serendip to maintaining a web presence for our businesses or companies; from analyzing data to auditing accounts or conducting market surveys.

However, education cannot erase the effects of a disadvantaged background. For example, a student who does not have to worry about cash or clothes may have a more pleasant college experience than a student who is on financial aid and has to joggle work study and homework. Remember, it is not a given that such students will always find someone to take up their shifts, so they can handle their homework.  Just going to school with rich kids does not mean one is going to become rich.  Wittingly or unwittingly, class does rear its ugly head. For example, while affluent students may talk about taking a gap year to tour the world, taking summer classes or bagging more degrees, students from a working class homes, might be more concerned about finding summer employment and paying back  their college loans. The thought of an uncertain future can even rob such students of the joys of college life, forcing them to work extra hard to meet their burdensome obligations.  Besides, wealthy students can fall back on the already established networks of their parents to land lucrative jobs, while their less fortunate counterparts may have to start from scratch, which slows their progress. These are some of the factors that prevent education from providing a level playing field.