Schools perform important functions in society, including training and socializing the
young, fostering social cohesion, transmitting culture from generation to generation, and
sorting students, presumably by talent, for further training and employment.
Schools do a far from perfect job of sorting students by talent. To a degree, they simply
funnel poor and minority students into low-ability classes. Eventually this results in
children occupying positions in the occupational structure similar to those occupied by
Standardized tests (IQ, SAT, and ACT) help to sort student by talent and reproduce the
existing class structure.
Student success in the education system is influenced by students’ cognitive ability, the
quality of the schools they attend, and the material and emotional support offered by their
families, the degree to which they learn elements of high-status culture in school, and the
operation of self-fulfilling prophecies about which students are likely to succeed and
which are not.
Mass, compulsory education has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, democratic
revolutions, the rise of the modern state, and globalization. These forces have spread
mass, compulsory education throughout the world.
Educational standards are very low in the bottom third of American schools. Proposed
solutions to this problem include local initiatives aimed at improving schools, the use of
vouchers that would allow students in inferior schools to attend private schools,
redistributing existing resources and increasing education budgets, and substantially
improving the social environment of young, disadvantaged children before and outside
Affirmative Action and Class Privilege
Academic researches, admissions officers at elite colleges, and investigative journalists at
respected newspapers such as the New York Times have recently detailed the privileges
in college admissions. Students routinely receive admission points if they have a parent
who graduated from the college to which they are applying. Such students benefit from
the so-called legacy factor.
A second mechanism that bestows advantages on privileged students involves parents
contributing money to the colleges that their children want to attend. This is the