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In today’s society, many Americans feel the need to pursue the “American Dream”. The American Dream is most commonly associated with success, freedom, and happiness. This concept seems to have dwindled from where it was in past generations. It has gone from success, freedom, and happiness to having lots of money and the nicest possessions. To achieve the status of being successful, many feel that the best way to reach their goal is to receive the best education they can get. Education in the early nineteenth century was thought of to be essential in the prosperity and survival of the nation. The philosophy at the time was that education would build a better society and it would enable the nation to compete better with other countries. In the next century, that same philosophy carried over. But the attitude towards education was not the same as it was in the previous century. The quality of education declined due to many different reasons. To bring the quality of education back up, America in the twenty-first century should turn to a “multicultural” education system. With the diversity in the United States, it would be more beneficial to the nation.
After the American Revolution, the founders of the United States argued that education was essential for the prosperity and survival of the new nation. Thomas Jefferson was the first American leader to suggest a publicly funded school system. In 1779, he proposed an education plan that would have supported free schooling for all children in the state of Virginia for three years. The best students from this group would continue in school at public expense through adolescence. The most advanced of these students would go on to publicly funded colleges. Jefferson’s proposal was never enacted and his idea of selecting the best and brightest students for special advantage failed to gain widespread support. However, Jefferson’s plans for universal education and for publicly funded schools formed the basis of education systems developed in the nineteenth century (Mondale 22). The actual national system of education differed from education systems of other Western societies in three w!
ays. First, Americans thought that education was a solution to various social problems. Second, with the confidence in the power of education, the United States provided more years of schooling for a larger percentage of the population than other countries. Third, school systems were primarily governed by local authorities rather than by federal ones (Springs 97).
With the passage of time, the education system began to take shape. In the 1830s and 40s, a generation of reformers surfaced with a philosophy that education could turn youth into virtuous, literate citizens. It was thought by these people that education could build the country to be better equipped to compete with other nations. At this time, American’s fears were growing about increasing the economic and religious tensions as immigration of various ethnic groups increased (Mondale 149). These reformers believed that common schooling could create common bonds among a diverse population and could also preserve social stability and prevent crime and poverty. It was suggested that common schooling should be available to everyone and be publicly funded. By the end of the nineteenth century their philosophy was somewhat adapted. Public education was available at the elementary level for all American children (Mondale 152).
Towards the end of the nineteenth century secondary schools began to surface. At this time, only 10 percent of American teens ages 14 to 17 were enrolled in high school (Mondale 154). But it was during the twentieth century when the percentage a teenagers enrolled in high school began to increase. From 1900 to 1990 the number of teenagers who graduated from high school rose from six percent to 85 percent (Mondale 155). The numbers grew because more and more young people thought schooling was the key to succeeding in an increasingly urban and industrialized society. Also strict child labor laws resulted is fewer teenagers entering the workplace. Later on, laws were passed that required young people to be in school until they reached a certain age (Mondale 155).
The education system in the nineteenth century is the basis of what the system is today. In the 1950s, the system was set up in somewhat a different manner. There were schools strictly for white students and schools strictly for black students. The case of Brown vs. Board of Education changed this idea of “separate but equal”. The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously declared that it was unconstitutional to create separate schools for children on the basis of race” (Dudley 20). At the time of the decision, 17 southern states and Washington D.C. required that all public schools be racially segregated. Segregation usually resulted in inferior education for blacks, whether in the North or the South. Average public expenses for white schools routinely exceeded costs for black schools. Teachers in white schools generally received higher pay than did teachers in black schools, and facilities in most white schools were far superior to facilities in most black schools (Dudley 21). This case opened the door to “multiculturalism” in schools.
Like education in the nineteenth century, education was important to the American way of life. But education was drastically different. What used to be based on morals, success, and literacy was not what it used to be (Healy 68). The low amount of resources and the low pay teachers receive illustrates the poor quality of education the youth are receiving today (Healy 75). There was not as much emphasis on the importance of education today compared to the excitement about the opportunities education in the nineteenth century could create.
Education today should not just be about learning basic grammar and arithmetic, but about cultural awareness. A perfect way to achieve this awareness is “multiculturalism” in schools. Most people can agree that a person’s life is affected mostly through the personal experience they have in their adolescent years (Pruitt 254). If public schools today could become more diverse, then the society would be a more culturally aware order.
In the 1930’s several educators called for programs of cultural diversity that encouraged ethnic and minority students to study their respective heritages. This would not be easy because there is much diversity in many different places. A 1990 census shows that the population in the United States has changed more in the last ten years than in any other time in the twentieth century. It stated that one out of every four Americans identified themselves as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian (Gould 198). Foreign born residents was at an all time high with 20 million.
Joining multiple cultures would not be an easy task. Most people agree that the first step in intertwining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of other backgrounds. But the agreements stop there. One obstacle in this task is defining “multiculturalism”. When it means that simply there is an existence of a culturally integrated society, many people have no problems. When people go beyond that meaning and try to suggest a different way of arriving at a culturally integrated society, everyone seems to have a different opinion on what will work.
Joining multiple cultures would not be an easy task. Most people agree that the
first step in intertwining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of other backgrounds. But the agreements stop there. One obstacle in this task is defining “multiculturalism”. When it means that simply there is an existence of a culturally integrated society, many people have no problems. When people .............
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