Assigned Readings and other materials for this chapter: Savage Inequalities Excerpt, Game of Life Sheet_Online_Soc 1.doc
, Social Class Ladder.jpg
Open the Sociology Game of Life sheet that is below directly this assignment on the homepage and play it with a friend or by yourself. This is a modified version of the actual game – NOT the real game.
Our chapter examines social class and life chances. This activity serves as an innovative way to mimic the life chances of a person in the working class poor.
If for some reason, you cannot access the game document (again, it is not the actual game but the version for our class), then you can use the link here and get the main idea about social class (American Dream
(Links to an external site.)
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/07/04/american-dream/11122015/). I recommend doing both, just for fun!
Once you are finished with the game, here are questions you will need to REFLECT on and answer in your assignment. You do not need to include all of the answers below – just a brief summarization (4-6 sentences) will do for this portion. Focus the majority of your post on the last questions.
Describe your situation: job, income, number of kids.
Describe your food menu. Is this food enough? Is it healthy? What are the consequences of this kind of diet?
Tell us where you live. Is this place big enough? Is it safe? What are the schools probably like?
How did you decide to spend the rest of the money?
Do you have enough left over for quality health care? How will you treat a sick person in the house?
Can you afford to give your children educational tools like a computer, the internet, a printer, etc?
Will your children go to college? How will you make sure that they have a better life?
Say you come home and you are tired and stressed out from working so hard. How do you unwind or release some tension? What are typical outlets for pressure among the lower class members?
Let’s imagine your child is sick. You take them to the ER. It costs you $600 for the visit. Can you pay this? Do you think you would turn to other means, perhaps illegal means, of making money?
Summarize your response to the above questions. Then, thoroughly answer the questions below in 300+ words. Include your word count in your assignment.
Share your overall reaction to this activity.
According to the text, who are the poor? What are the factors that might result in a person being poor?
Given this activity, what do you think is the relationship between social class and crime, physical health, education, parental guidance, mental health, politics, life satisfaction?
According to functionalists, poverty is essential in maintaining social balance. Evaluate this claim by arguing how poverty is functional for society and who benefits from the existence of the lower classes, then discuss how poverty is dysfunctional and causes social instability.
Look at the social class ladder chart uploaded for you on the main course page. How does education play a role in life chances and social class? How will you use your education to prevent the imaginary scenario of this activity from becoming your reality?
Savage Inequalities Excerpt
excerpted from the book
Children of the City Invincible: Camden, New Jersey
by Jonathan Kozol
Camden, New Jersey is the fourth-poorest city of more than 50,000 people in America. In 1985, nearly a quarter of its families had less than $5,000 annual income. Nearly 60 percent of its residents receive public assistance. Its children have the highest rate of poverty in the United States.
Once a commercial and industrial center for the southern portion of New Jersey-a single corporation, New York Shipyards, gave employment to 35,000 people during World War Il-Camden now has little industry. There are 35,000 jobs in the entire city now, and most of them don’t go to Camden residents. The largest employer, RCA, which once gave work to 18,000 people, has about 3,000 jobs today, but only 65 are held by Camden residents. Camden’s entire property wealth of $250 million is less than the value of just one casino in Atlantic City.
The city has 200 liquor stores and bars and 180 gambling establishments, no movie theater, one chain supermarket, no new-car dealership, few restaurants other than some fast-food places. City blocks are filled with burnt-out buildings. Of the city’s 2,200 public housing units, 500 are boarded up, although there is a three-year waiting list of homeless families. As the city’s aged sewers crumble and collapse, streets cave in, but there are no funds to make repairs.
In discussion of the problems that he faces, the principal of Woodrow Wilson High School differs in one interesting respect from several of the black administrators I have met. The latter, even when entirely open in the things they tell me, tend to speak with torn desires. On the one hand they want to be sure I understand how bitterly their children are denied resources given to the rich. On the other hand they want me to respect their efforts, and their teachers, and their children-they are frightened of the terribly demoralizing power of bad press reports-and also, partly out of racial pride and loyalty, they seem determined to convince me that their school is not a “dumpsite” or a “black hole” or “back water,” hoping perhaps that I will see it as a valiant effort to transcend the odds. So, on the one hand, they describe how bad things are, and, on the other hand, they paint an upbeat picture of the many hopeful programs they have instituted, typically describing them in jargon-ridden terms (“individually tailored units,” “every child learning at her own pace”), often labeled with elaborate alphabetic acronyms, which differ from one city to another only in the set of letters they employ.
But it is so very human and so natural and understand able that black officials wouldn’t want to see their school subjected to the pity or contempt of a white visitor. One of the most poignant things about the visits I have made to urban schools is that the principals make such elaborate preparations for my visits. In suburban schools, with few exceptions, it is not like this at all. “Go wherever you like. No need to ask permission,” I am told. “Take a bunch of kids up to the library and grill them if you want.” In the urban schools it is quite different. Careful schedules are arranged well in advance. The principal escorts me or assigns a trusted aide to shepherd me to the right classrooms and to steer me from the empty labs, the ugly gyms, the overcrowded rooms in which embattled substitutes attempt in vain to keep a semblance of control. Then, too, the principals are rarely willing to allow me very much unsupervised discussion with the children.
More often than not, they also seem reluctant to describe their schools as being “segregated” or. indeed, even to speak of segregation. It. is as if they have assimilated racial isolation as a matter so immutable so absolute, that it no longer forms part of their thinking. They speak of their efforts “to make this school a quality institution.” The other word-“equality”-is not, it seems, a realistic part of their ambition. I am reminded often, in these visits, of the times when I would visit very poorly funded all-black southern colleges, as long ago as 1966 and 1967, and would hear the teachers speaking, with the bravest front they could present, of “making do” and “dealing with the needs of our own children.” The longing voiced today, as then, by good courageous black administrators and black teachers is for something that might be at best “a little less unequal,” but with inequality a given and with racial segregation an unquestioned starting point.
Sometimes I have put the matter this way in talking with a black school principal and asked the question sharply: “Are we back to Plessy, then?” At this point, all pretense falls away: “What do you think? Just look around the school. Should I beat my head against the wall? This is reality.”
Only once, and not in Camden, did I have the opportunity to press the matter further with a black school principal. I said that I felt black principals were sometimes feeding into the desires of the white society by praising the virtues of “going it alone” as if this were a matter of their choice, not necessity. The principal, who must go unnamed, said this: “I’m sad to hear you say that, and I’m also sad to say it, but the truth is that we are, to a degree, what you have made of us. The United States now has, in many black administrators of the public schools, precisely the defeated overseers it needs to justify this terrible immiseration. It is a tradition that goes back at least 300 years. A few of us are favored. They invite us to a White House ceremony and award us something-a ‘certificate of excellence’-for our achievement. So we accept some things and we forget some other things and what we can’t forget we learn how to shut out of mind and we adopt the rhetoric that is required of us and we speak of ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’-not justice.”
Chilly, which is the nickname of a young Cambodian girl, speaks up for the first time: “I’ll give you an example. I went to my counselor. He said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘I want to be a lawyer. I don’t know what courses I should take.’ He told me, ‘No, you cannot be a lawyer.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Your English isn’t good.’ I’m seventeen. I’ve been here in America four years. I want to be a lawyer. He said, ‘No. You cannot be a lawyer. Look for something else. Look for an easier job.’ ”
Luis: “Who said that?”
Chilly: “I don’t want to say his name…. Well, anyway, I feel so disappointed. He tells me, ‘Choose another job.’ He gives me all these books that list these easy jobs. He says, ‘Choose something else.’ I tell him that I cannot choose be cause I do not know. ‘Which one do you want?’ he says. I say, ‘How can I know?’ I can’t decide my life there in just 15 minutes….
“This upset me very much because, when I came to America, they said, you know, ‘This is the place of opportunity.’ I’d been through the war. Through all of that. And now I’m here, and, even though my English may not be so good.”
The other students grow aroused.
“Don’t let him shake your confidence,” says Jezebel.
Chilly: “You know, I have problems with my self-esteem. I wasn’t born here. Every day I think, ‘Maybe he’s right. Do something else.’ But what I’m thinking is that 15 minutes isn’t very long for somebody to counsel you about a choice that will determine your whole life. He throws this book at me: ‘Choose something else!’ ”
The other students side with her so warmly, and so naturally; it is as if perhaps they feel their own dreams are at – risk along with hers. “I want to say this also,” she goes on. “Over there, where I was from, America is very famous. People think of it like heaven. Like, go to America-you go to heaven. Because life there is hell. Then you get here and, you know, it’s not like that at all.
“When I came here I thought that America was mainly a white nation. Then I came here to this school and there are no white people. I see black and Spanish. I don’t see white students. I think: ‘Oh, my God! Where are the white Americans?’ Well, I mean it did seem strange to me that all the black and Spanish and the Asian people go to the same school. Why were they putting us together? It surprised me. And I feel so disappointed. I was thinking: ‘Oh, my God!’
East Side High became well known some years ago when its former principal, a colorful and controversial figure named Joe Clark, was given special praise by U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett. Bennett called the school “a mecca of education” and paid tribute to Joe Clark for throwing out 300 students who were thought to be involved with violence or drugs.
“He was a perfect hero,” says a school official who has dinner with me the next evening, “for an age in which the ethos was to cut down on the carrots and increase the sticks. The day that Bennett made his visit, Clark came out and walked the hallways with a bullhorn and a bat. If you didn’t know he was a principal, you would have thought he was the warden of a jail. Bennett created Joe Clark as a hero for white people. He was on the cover of Time magazine. Parents and kids were held in thrall after the president endorsed him.
“In certain respects, this set a pattern for the national agenda. Find black principals who don’t identify with civil rights concerns but are prepared to whip black children into line. Throw out the kids who cause you trouble. It’s an easy way to raise the average scores. Where do you put these kids once they’re expelled? You build more prisons. Two thirds of the kids that Clark threw out are in Passaic County Jail.
“This is a very popular approach in the United States – today. Don’t provide the kids with a new building. Don’t provide them with more teachers or more books or more computers. Don’t even breathe a whisper of desegregation. Keep them in confinement so they can’t subvert the education of the suburbs. Don’t permit them ‘frills’ like art or poetry or theater. Carry a bat and tell them they’re no good if they can’t pass the state exam. Then, when they are ruined. throw them into prison. Will it surprise you to be told that Paterson destroyed a library because it needed more space to build a jail?”
The fear that comes across in many of the letters and the editorials in the New Jersey press is that democratizing opportunity will undermine even diversity and even excellence in our society and that the best schools will be dragged down to a sullen norm, a mediocre middle ground of uniformity. References to Eastern European socialism keep appearing in these letters. Visions of Prague and Moscow come to mind: Equity means shortages of toilet tissue for all students, not just for the black kids in New Jersey or in Mississippi. An impoverished vision of America seems to prevail in these scenarios.
In this respect, the advocates of fiscal equity seem to be more confident about American potentials than their adversaries are. “America,” they say, “is wealthy, wise, ingenious. We can give terrific schools to all our children. The nation is vast. There is sufficient air for all our kids to draw into their lungs. There is plenty of space. No child needs to use a closet for a classroom. There is enough money. No one needs to ration crayons, books or toilet paper.” If they speak of leveling at all, they speak of “leveling up.” Their adversaries call it “leveling down.” They look at equity for all and see it spelling excellence for none.
This, then, is the dread that seems to lie beneath the tear of equalizing. Equity is seen as dispossession. Local autonomy is seen as liberty-even if the poverty of those in nearby cities robs them of all meaningful autonomy by narrowing their choices to the meanest and the shabbiest of options. In this way, defendants in these cases seem to polarize two of the principles that lie close to the origins of this republic. Liberty and equity are seen as antibodies to each other. Again there is this stunted image of our nation as a land at can afford one of two dreams-liberty or equity-but cannot mange both. There is some irony in this as well. Conservatives are generally the ones who speak more passionately of patriotic values. They are often the first to rise to protest an insult to the flag. But, in this instance, they reduce America to something rather tight and mean and sour, and they make the flag less beautiful than it should be. They soil the flag in telling us to fly it over ruined children’s heads in ugly segregated schools. Flags in these schools hang motionless and gather dust, often in airless rooms, and they are frequently no cleaner than the schools themselves. Children in a dirty school are asked to pledge a dirtied flag. What they learn of patriotism is not clear.
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