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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Education in a Racist Society

Read the whole bulletin online.

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The following article was submitted by a student in “Women and Society,” a freshman class in women’s studies taught by department chair Christina Bobel. Students in Bobel’s class were required to submit their papers for publication in a local newspaper.

On my first day of classes, I realized that I’m one of the lucky ones, that not everyone has the ability to attend a high school like mine or a college like mine. Some may excuse this state of affairs by saying life isn’t fair, but I can’t accept that statement as truth. In the “Land of Opportunity,” everything should be fair (and I continue to believe in this principle despite the history of unfairness in the United States). 

For most of Western history, power and economic growth in any country resulted from the work of slaves and underpaid immigrants. It is only in the last 50 years that these societies have purported to find desirable the idea of non-whites competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, in reality, the playing field still isn’t even. There is a great divergence in literacy rates between races in the United States.

In 1992 and 2003, the National Center of Education Statistics performed a National Assessment of Adult Literacy measuring the average literacy of different races in prose, document, and quantitative texts. The results showed a large gap between white individuals and black, Asian, and Hispanic individuals. In the decade between the two assessments, there was little-to-negative change seen in the literacy rate of adults of Hispanic descent. 

It is not a coincidence that the literacy rates of nonwhite people differ greatly from those of people who are white. Since the beginning of modern Western society, the white “race” has been deemed the dominant one, and any person who was not white was simply of less (or no) value. 

But times have changed, haven’t they? We live in a society that welcomes all people no matter what their race, right? Unfortunately, no. Inequality still exists, but is often swept under the rug.

Those who are white are more likely to be literate. Those who are literate are immediately put ahead of those who are not. Highly capable people are being prevented from reaching their full potentials. We would like to think that everyone has the same chances at success, so we turn a blind eye to these injustices, particularly if they don’t directly affect us. Our “post-racist” society is a racist one. 

As Americans, we have been conditioned to believe that we live in the best country, filled with the most qualified and educated people. We have long been deluding ourselves. Not everyone in America has the opportunity to attend good schools, and not everyone has the financial ability to send their children to good schools. Minority children are most affected by a lack of quality education.

Our society would be more fair if we had better standards for public schools, incentives for good teachers to keep teaching, better ways to accommodate students experiencing financial hardship, and a way to bridge the gap between school life and home life. It is only after we have these things that every person, no matter their race, has the chance to achieve their full potential for success.



Email Makaela Niles.