According to Hallian (2006), sociology of education can be defined as the study of how social institutions, as well as individual experiences, affect education including its outcome. In schools, students are given the opportunity to learn mathematics, languages, history, science and other subjects. In addition to class curriculum, students participate in co-curriculum activities such as sport activities and socialize amongst themselves. This help them learn how to adapt to different social situations and become a person who can fit in the society. In the last couple of years, several societal changes have occurred. These changes have a profound impact on the education of children; negative societal values adversely influence children’s performance and create a situation in which the teachers’ expectations vary with every child. The belief that problems that face American public schools are confined within the city while wealthy suburbs produce extraordinary graduates does no longer hold. Societal issues affecting education have spread to all schools across the United States. This paper discusses major social issues in education that currently affect an American child and the various strategies the stakeholders are putting in place to ensure quality education.
Education is one aspect of life that either makes or breaks an individual. Schools are the places where children get to study and prepare for life, as well. On the basis of technological progress, America was among the most powerful countries. Currently, the country spends more money on education as compared to any other county across the world. Despite this, educators feel that the country’s education system has a problem and should either be restructured or revamped. They base their reasoning on the ground that several reports indicate that the quality of education in America has reduced. Developing countries whose government spends less amount of money seem to perform relatively better than America (Ornstein et al., 2011). This means that lack of capital is not a major problem facing American education system.
Education institutions should provide friendly environment to enable the students get education properly. This would reduce hindrance in receiving quality education and indemnify children from the social issues that have plagued the education system in United States and the world as a whole. Several issues including discipline and security, mainstreaming, public versus private education, ethnicity and race, equality among others are the social factors that the current pupils, educators as well as the community have to battle with to enable the children receive the necessary education. Most of these factors are societal issues and cannot be solved effectively by changes in education policies (Ornstein et al., 2011). However, these issues cannot be taken lightly, and each and every individual needs to take an initiative geared towards finding a long lasting solution for improvement in education.
Gun-culture, alcoholism, and drug abuse are the problems that form a part of the American society. These societal issues have infiltrated into schools and have contributed to the increase in indiscipline and insecurity in schools. They have thus affected the smooth learning in the institutions of education. Violence has increased in the American society at large. This means that violence in schools has increased, as well. In the past, serious violence was a concern only in urban and poor inner-city schools. Currently, all U.S. schools, small or large, from kindergarten to colleges, must be able to directly address the ever increasing cases of violence within their walls. In fact, incidents of violence have increased to a level that teachers have found even young children of kindergarten age armed at school (Ornstein et al., 2011).
In situations when students come with weapons to schools, most administrations react promptly to contain the risks. Most schools have resorted to conducting random searches, as well as setting detectors. However, some people have argued that this amounts to illegal search and seizure. On account of the risk, most students, teachers, administrators, as well as parents feel that violation of those rights would be slight. On the other hand, educators feel that solely relying on the installed metal detectors may not be adequate to solve the problem of insecurity in schools. It is critical that the society addresses the underlying issues that push the children to carry weapons (Benekos & Merlo, 2009). Several schools have introduced conflict resolution and anger management in their regular curriculum. They also advise students to take advantage of counseling services, which are made available to them. In addition, the schools provide platforms such as forums where students can air their differences and resolve conflicts among themselves.
Schools often experience insecurity as a result of gangs finding their ways into schools and indulging into violent missions. Schools have also moved in order to curb security threats emanating from strangers or gangs. Some schools require their students to wear uniforms at all times to identify and distinguish them from unauthorized people. Those who support the use of uniforms argue that this help reduce social class distinctions, as well. Uniforms are also considered to be cost effective as compared to designer wardrobes. However, the issue of uniform in schools has elicited a lot of debate (Ornstein et al., 2011).
Additionally, education in America is also affected to a larger extent by race, ethnicity and inequality. Studies have shown that students’ performance in education depends on family attitudes towards education, the social class they belong to, and their family background. Ethnicity remains a challenge in American education system whereby children from certain ethnic groups are often expected to be slower learners as compared to their counterparts from the mainstream society. Certain stereotypes have been attached to specific races such as the black race. Children belonging to such stereotyped races are often suffering from low self esteem. Gender inequality is another social issue that still affects the quality of education in the United States. Some communities provide their children with education based on differentiation of sex. In such communities, girls have lesser opportunities to receive formal education as compared to their male counterparts (Arrighi, 2007).
Some social issues that affect children are also the result of the economic strata they essentially belong to. Poor children are often confronted by widespread environmental inequalities, as opposed to economically advantaged children. Family turmoil, chaotic households, violence, instability, and separation from families are among the challenges that poor children have to strive to overcome (Arrighi & Maume, 2007). These children are accorded little or no social support as their parents are often more authoritative and less responsive. This social turmoil greatly affects their concentration in studies. Most of the poor children have little access to computers and books and usually resort to watching of television programs, which further robs them of their studies time. Their homes are often of a lower quality, crowded, nosy while their neighborhood is dangerous as a result of poor municipal services. These poor environments are usually pathogenic; thus, some children often become sick. All these factors greatly affect the ability of students to give earnest attention to their education. Coupled to the fact that the schools these children usually attend are predominantly low-income schools, they overall academic performance is usually poor as compared to their counterparts from well-to-do families (Gary, 2004).
Equally, students coming from immigrant families may have challenges in education due to their poor background in English. Since most learning involves communication between the learners and their teachers, language is quite important in the learning processes. This has led to bilingual education, which is a form of education where the students receive instructions in a language other than English. This is an attempt that has been made in order to equalize education performance of minority students. The system has however generated debate with supporters arguing that students whose first language is not English deserve to be given an equal chance. This can only be achieved by offering instructions to these students in their first language. However, the opponents of this system of education argue that students who are denied the opportunity to learn in English will lack fluency that is quite necessary in life. Nevertheless, the government has effected bilingual education in most schools where the bulk of students come from immigrant families. This helps the students learn English as well as other subjects faster. The government insists that language should not remain as a barrier in the path of education of such students (Ovando, 2010).
Another attempt put in place by the government to ensure equity in education is mainstreaming. This is the act of placing students who are physically, mentally and emotionally challenged in the regular classroom as opposed to having them in a special classroom. Generally, the practice seems to benefit those students who, despite the challenge, can still keep pace with their normal peers. However, the system does not favor students who have more severe challenges. Experts recommend that in order to implement this practice, it is necessary that consideration should be made on the case-by-case basis (Read et al., 2006). On the other hand, private education is mainly centered on public education. Most parents who are not satisfied with the quality of education offered in public schools cite violence and inclusion of some courses in the curriculum as the challenges that make them shy away from public schools. Such parents resort to parochial or private schools where their children can learn religion in the curriculum. A large percentage of private schools are religions with most of them being Catholic sponsored (Kahlenberg, 2003).
The number of school dropouts is still quite high in the U.S., and much should be done to reduce this number. As per the reports released by Education Research Center, around seven thousand high school students drop out of school daily (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Most of these dropouts take place due to the fact that most parents have neglected their duty to bring up their children and devolved the whole responsibility for teachers who have also been overwhelmed since they already have much in their baskets to attend to. Generally, students whose parents do show concern towards their education are likely to perform well in academics and complete their studies. However, most parents get involved in their children’s education only when they are summoned to school or whenever a serious problem arises. Most of them are usually busy, thereby, leaving the emotional needs of their children unattended to. On the other hand, some students come from broken families, which adversely affects their emotional health.
An effective education system is crucial in the development as well as the success of a country. Therefore, there is an urgent need to have something done concerning the health of the education system through dealing with the identified social issues. A change should be effected in order to give American children an opportunity to acquire education that would shape their lives to enable them become responsible citizens they ought to be. However, this should be done with a lot of caution so that decisions are not made in haste to complicate issues. The education system needs a leadership that would carry out a detailed analysis and find an honest approach that will enable the country to solve the current social problems facing education in American schools.