Social mobility can be defined as the change in an individuals position in the social hierarchy. Various factors determine whether a person moves from one social class to another but according to David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times Magazine, Americans have adopted a myth of the self-made man regarding the issue. This myth is centered on the idea that a person is solely responsible for what he makes of himself. This belief runs against the actual condition of the American society of class and social mobility which is driven mainly by the inequality existing between the super-rich and the poor. Trends have revealed that with increased inequality comes slow social mobility, but when the economy exercises equality, social mobility tends to increase. Although reports have indicated a slow mobility in the country in the past decades, with the super-rich having made it, especially with the help of the Bush tax cuts during his term, Americans hold to the belief that there is more social mobility than there is. This essay will explore the role of education in social mobility.
In the modern society, education is considered a pivotal factor in social mobility. Education is the channel that facilitates mobility, with the achievement of higher increasing the opportunities for upward mobility. This is to say that access to education determines the extent of mobility one can aspire in the society. Moberg emphasizes the importance of a college degree since it does not only instill knowledge, but also it serves as a class-based mechanism to sort for certain jobs. With greater inequality, there exists widened disparities in resources that can be allocated to education, and which too are critical in entering many careers and for social mobility. Yet most Americans accept the view of having an ever-wider difference between rich and poor since they believe that one will make it through individual efforts. Records have shown that substantive equality creates more equality of opportunity, such as one to acquire an education.
The level of education dictates the kind of occupation one finds himself. The higher the education level, the more prestigious jobs one is likely to scoop, and vice-versa. Prestigious jobs move an individual up the social class since it offers a high remuneration package coupled with class privileges that come with the titles. This could be said to be the reason behind the self-made man ideology present with the American people. When one achieves, he or she attributes the achievement to personal efforts other than look at it from a broader perspective of the availability of an opportunity to education and the eventual rise in social mobility. A close study of the society even in the process of acquiring education should shed light to the learners on the actual drivers of positive or negative mobility, lessons which they will carry through even when addressing societal issues in future such as reducing inequality.
Education also tends to group people into classes depending on their levels. These classes determine the sustainability of the job that one is holding. For instance, a person who did not finish college is likely to get a job which has no security and can close any time with no consultation. Most of these jobs are temporal and low-paying. Such individuals are the children of the working class senior citizens who probably lacked enough funds to finish college and, after that secure a more secure job. On the other hand, individuals who finish college and acquire advanced education have an almost guaranteed opportunity of securing a permanent well-paying job with multiple allowances and job security. They are perceived to be of a higher class than those who did not finish college. Such individuals are assured of their jobs as long as they are available to work. That explains how education segregates people into different classes and rewards them differently.
Social mobility is an issue of power. Education offers knowledge, which is power. An educated person can easily maneuver around the social and political lines and solicit economic empowerment for himself. An educated individual can weigh a particular situation, determine the issue at stake and establish a bargaining notch with the target. If successful, the close association with the rich will expose him to opportunities which he will apply his knowledge to seize. Eventually, this individual will experience an upward social mobility which will be as a result of applying the knowledge acquired through education to create an opportunity which was otherwise not available. This shows the power of education if utilized wisely.
In summary, education has a pivotal role to play in determining social mobility. It is the channel through which an individual can rise the social ladder since it provides a variety of opportunities, class, and security. The self-made myth held by the American people contrasts with the truth that social mobility is largely affected by inequality between the super-rich and the poor. However, this notion can be overcome and social mobility boosted through fostering education.
"Class Consciousness Matters" by David Moberg.
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