Race and Social Inequality in Education

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Major social institutions affect society, humanity, and prosperity in different ways. Education is a social institution that affects an individual’s “economic success and social progression (Wright 1368). Throughout today’s society, the level of education that an individual acquires has a large impact on the amount of employment opportunities, job security, and wages that are attained. According to a 2006 study by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average salary for college or university graduates is greater than $51,000, exceeding the national average of those without a high school diploma by more than $23,000 (The Washington Post). The Census Bureau’s study supported the concept that education is a direct link to economic success. Webster’s Dictionary defines education as “the process by which values, knowledge and skills are transmitted among individuals or groups” (qtd. in Sadovnik 241). Although education’s definition has remained the same over time, education’s role in society has changed. In today’s society, the U.S. government requires all children to receive an education up to a certain age and the age limit varies by state. Although “all states require children to continue their education into their high school years,” 26 states set the cutoff age at 16 and the remaining states require students to stay in school through the age of 18 (Sadovnik 238). This government mandate over education, also known as compulsory education, is a giant step from the American government’s position on education during the early 20th Century (Ravitch 537). In 1918 school attendance was mandatory, but only up to primary school, which is equivalent to the elementary school system of today. Most 11 year olds during the early 20th Century were qualified to join the work force after their completion of primary school, which is equivalent to the 5th grade of today (Ravitch 538). Although it was scarcely attended, secondary and higher education was available during the early...
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