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Education and Social Mobility



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    Most of our students now do not see the need for college education. They are discouraged by the reality that when they leave school, only manual labor awaits them. This memo will discuss the critical role the knowledge industry plays to erase the mindset these children have regarding economic opportunity and social mobility. Furthermore, this paper will point out the ways in which this problem could be handled or minimized.

    Webster defines education as the process of educating or teaching to develop one’s knowledge, skill, or character (cited in Teacher Minds Resources, 2002).  The word education comes from e-ducere, a Latin word meaning “to lead out.” This leading out means “guiding on a way especially by going in advance” (Merriam-Websters Dictionary). This was practiced by a group of itinerant teachers called the Sophists who “promised to give students the necessary knowledge and skills to gain positions with the city-state” (Teacher Minds Resources, 2002).

    However, in this day and age, it seems that our students do not strive to gain important positions in the society. Furthermore, they do not view higher education as a means to take them into the higher steps on the “ladder of social mobility” (Macleod, 1995). Where then is education’s “leading out” purpose in this situation? Where now is education’s promise of knowledge and skills to students for them to achieve decent and proper jobs in society? According to Ayn Rand, “the only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality” (cited in Teacher Minds Resources, 2002). If today’s reality speaks of various struggles in life such as money, love, and happiness, then education should continue to serve its purpose of helping students cope up with these struggles.

    To convince our students to pursue higher education, educational institutions need to make them feel they are accepted whatever their social status may be. Education should ensure “equality of opportunity” (Macleod, 1995) for all.

    The role of education in promoting social mobility has been a central issue in current sociological and political debates. Education has become a significant factor in determining which job people enter, thus determining their social class position (Iannelli and Paterson, 2005). Goldthorpe (1996) and Breen and Goldthorpe (1997) proposed a model in which they  assume that “families from different classes seek to ensure that their children acquire a class position at least as advantageous as that from which they originate” or, simply put, “to avoid downward mobility” (cited in Whelan and Hannan, n.d., p. 287).

    However, learning about Freddie Piniella, an intelligent eleven-year-old boy from Clarendon Heights who does not want to go to college because he thinks he will “just end up getting a shitty job anyway” (cited in Macleod, 1995), it is a reality that most children do not regard education as the vehicle towards social mobility. I have personally observed this from children of working class families whom I have talked to. These students fail to strive to get out from the disadvantaged positions they originated from. They are discouraged to aim for higher opportunities because they see that education lack the capacity to “deliver the goods” (cited in Macleod, 1995). Based on Erikson’s stages of development, the crisis of inferiority took over the value of industry in these schoolchildren’s minds, leading to the lack or absence of competence in achieving and accomplishing something (Chapman, 2007).

    Studies have shown that middle class families believe that “education and the acquisition of educational qualifications are important means through which they can pass on their social and economic advantage to their children.” This is why nowadays, children from these families are more determined to get a degree than children from working class families (Iannelli and Paterson, 2005). But this should not be the case since every student should strive to improve their lives as well as their families’, especially if they have long experienced social immobility.

    Educational institutions like you play a very crucial and important role in the process of convincing children to pursue higher education, not just for themselves, but for their families, and for the nation. These students are our future and we do not want them to dream ordinary dreams. We want them to aim high and never lose sight of the opportunities that are supposedly for them. You and your “admission, selection, and certification processes may play a significant role in reducing or maintaining social inequalities” (Iannelli and Paterson, 2005). You need to reach out not just to the privileged ones who have the capability to pay for higher learning but also to the less-fortunate and bright ‘Freddie Piniellas’ because they, too, will play a big part on our nation’s destiny. These students need to know and access the various options they have when it comes to educational opportunities.

    The expansion of your educational system may lead more children from working class backgrounds to occupy top-level occupations after college (Iannelli and Paterson, 2005), this is why your institutions should encourage them to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to gain positions that will best suit their capabilities.

    As what education has promised then and now, your institution should “lead out” our students – lead them out of the social immobility they experience so that they will be encouraged to improve their lives and not be discouraged with the lack of opportunities for them. You need to inform them that indeed, the education you will provide will be for their own, their families’, and the nations’ benefit.


    Chapman, A. (2007). Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory. Retrieved
    October 4, 2007 from
    Iannelli, C. and Paterson, L. (June 2005). Does Education Promote Social Mobility?

    Retrieved October 3, 2007 from

    Macleod, J. (1995). Ain’t No Makin’ It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income

    Neighborhood. Colorado: Westview Press.

    Merriam-Websters. (2007). Lead. Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary. Retrieved

    October 4, 2007 from

    Teacher’s Mind Resources (2002). The Meaning of Education. Retrieved October 3, 2007


    Whelan, C. and Hannan, D. (n.d.). Class inequalities in educational attainment among the

    adult population in the Republic of Ireland. The Economic and Social Review 30 (3),


    Education and Social Mobility. (2016, Jun 23). Retrieved from

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