The Socioeconomic Factors for Education in the First Day and a Level Playing Field

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In the excerpt from A Level Playing Field the author includes sources that enhance his voice. Gerald Early purposefully chose his sources to reinforce the historical accuracy of the difficulty faced by Jackie Robinson while being the first black man integrated in baseball. The first source highlights the terms of the integration where Jackie had to “for three years … to turn the other cheek.” (Early 1). He later goes on to explain to the reader that Jackie Robinson had to endure being mistreated and as if he was less than his white teammates. Early uses the quote as an idea in which he expands on in the paragraph that follows by explaining how Robinson was “Ghandi-like” (Early 2).

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The second source he uses to enhance his voice comes from The New York Times. He uses this one to show the kind of person Jackie was in spite of the hardships caused during integration. “Jackie Robinson met open or overt hostility with the spirit of a gallant gentleman.” (Early 2). Early also used footnotes in order to add commentary about the point being made in the article. The source noted in the footnote was from Jackie Robinson’s own book called “Now I Know Why They Boo Me!” published in 1955. The notes which come from the subject of the article himself, serve to provide confirmation of the process of integration in the 1950’s. The footnotes include the full citation of the sources.

In the “Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education,” Horace Mann expresses his belief in the power of education for all to counteract the “tendency to the domination of capital and servility of labor.” This stemmed from his belief that society is split between those who are “ignorant and poor” and those who hold “all the wealth and the education.” In this case, the wealthy were the powerful ones, leaving all others both powerless and hopeless. According to Mann, education should be made available to all, due to the fact that education is “beyond all other devices of human origin . . . the great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” To expand, education brings opportunities that may limit said power of one group over the other, which in turn, allows for the leveling of classes.

In addition, access to education “will open a wider area over which the social feelings will expand; and, if this education should be universal and complete, it would do more than all things else to obliterate factitious distinctions in society.” In other words, not only will education help transform the class system, but it will bring social and ideological change as well. Mann shows himself to be an idealist and a pragmatist by arguing that there is a direct correlation between increasing intelligence through education and increasing the wealth of a society. He claimed that “the greatest of all the arts in political economy is to change a consumer into a producer; and the next greatest is to increase the producer’s producing power—an end to be directly attained by increasing his intelligence.”

Broderick used Horace Mann’s selection as a guide to her essay. In some instances, it was effective in connecting the sources together. However, her argument was based almost entirely on ideas from Mann’s writing. For example, she introduces the topic by summarizing Mann’s argument, and refers back to it with every idea she develops, to the point where there is only one paragraph where Mann not mentioned. Though some strong ideas came from Broderick’s usage of Mann’s piece as inspiration– like the background provided in paragraph 2 –overreliance on the source hindered Broderick from developing her own clear argument.

Beginning with the third paragraph, Broderick begins to effectively use sources to enhance her argument. The sources she picked provide examples of inequality in education based on race and class. She uses them most effectively in paragraphs 4 and 5, where she focuses on income as the driving factor of educational inequality.

When explaining the story “The First Day,” Broderick claims that the author “reminds us [the audience] of the socioeconomic factors that govern which school a child attends.” The author of the story, Edward P. Jones, does not explicitly say that the reason why the girl could not go to Seaton was because of their socioeconomic status. It may also be interpreted that she was denied acceptance into the school because she lived too far. In this case, Broderick made an assumption that other readers may not have interpreted the same way.

Broderick’s counterargument is somewhat effective. In paragraph 2, she claims that “to some extent, the egalitarian dreams of Mann have come true.” She continues to discuss the change from factory work to schoolwork and how it altered society. The counterargument is addressed but not directly refuted, making it confusing for the reader. The only hint at disagreeing with the counterclaim is the qualification of the idea through the phrase “to some extent”. The counterargument has a strong start, but feels incomplete.

Though the conclusion relates to the argument, it is weak and ineffective. The conclusion expresses how education is a civil rights issue, but it is not well supported by the information in the rest of the essay. By demonstrating specific connections to the argument throughout the essay, the audience would better understand the author’s process to making her conclusion. It may be improved upon by offering a suggestion or a plan of action towards achieving equality in education regardless of income. With this in mind, the essay does not answer the “so what” question. The author does not express why civil rights in education is important other than a vague mention about social mobility and the ability to earn a higher income. If the author emphasizes the significance of education as a civil rights issue, the “so what” question would be answered.

Although Broderick sometimes uses the first person, she does not use any anecdotes or write about personal experience in order to solidify her argument. Adding the personal experience would not necessarily strengthen her argument, especially if her experience does not specifically demonstrate educational inequality. If anecdotes are added, it may detract from the overall tone of the piece. In this case, there is no need for additional appeals to pathos, so including personal experiences would not enhance the argument.

As a peer critic, the strength of her essay lies in her effectively showing that there is still inequality in education today. In order to improve the essay, she should revise the third paragraph which has the weaker examples and interpretations. In addition, the essay should be driven more by her own argument and ideas. She used Horace Mann’s piece to guide her argument throughout the entire essay, rather than her own thought process. Though in some instances, Mann’s ideas provide strong evidence, Broderick overused the source in a way that overpowered her own commentary.

When thinking back on their youth, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the high school years. As a teenager, most do not know much than high school, and for many it is not as easy as it is portrayed in the media. There are so many ways in which the high school experience may be improved, with the most important issues being, social system with high schools, increasing mental illness due to experiences in school, and the lack of preparation for life outside high school.

The social system at the high school level is nothing like that of the real world. High school is full of cliques– the popular students, the drama kids, the football team– leaving others left out. Many feel like outsiders trying to fit in because they are not part of one of these groups. Students long to be accepted instead of embracing their individuality. As stated by Leon Botstein, “…the rules of high school turn out not to be the rules of life.”

Because of the pressure students face in high school, mental illness sometimes arises. High schoolers worry about fitting in, and sometimes face bullying because they do not. In addition, excessive amounts of assignments, homework, and tests cause stress and anxiety. Students do not learn to gain a new understanding, rather they learn to get a good grade in the class and pass the final exam. The quality of learning is overlooked as a result of pressures to excel.

The last two years of high school revolve around college applications. High school is a time in which students must figure out what they want to pursue for the rest of their lives and where they want to spend the next four or more years. Though it may prepare students to get into college, high school does not prepare them to be in college, much less for life after. Due to the lack of real-world preparation, students are in for a rude awakening when they start college. Not only do they juggle taking care of themselves, finding a balance between their school and social lives, and doing their work for school, but they also have to manage the expenses of living on their own. Continuing schooling after high school is incredibly expensive, and many have to take out student loans. The average college student graduates with over $25,000 of student debt (Ellis 1). Many do not know how to manage this because of the lack of preparation at the high school level; this can be fixed easily by requiring a personal finance class before high school graduation.

Though it appears to be successful, there are a number of faults that can be addressed to improve the American high school system. The most important issues that when fixed may improve the high school experience include the social system, pressures that lead to stress and anxiety, and lack of preparation for life after high school. Many of these large problems do not require radical solutions, making them both efficient and practical.  

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