April 9, 2008
Having come from a working class family with a moderate income, I have seen the vision of equality among classes and have felt the differences that keep us separated in class. Clothing, cars, material belongings, place of employment, and religious affiliation, just to name a few, defined the class people belonged to. Today the class division is not as noticeable. According to Class Matters, "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide"(1-26),"It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. Today the contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared."(2) With brand label clothing being marketed off the rack at outlet malls, cheaper material items, and the changes in gender and race roles, the class division is unnoticeable.
Looking at the people around us, we see the class division as unnoticeable. This is due to many changes in society and the economy. People no longer are separated by the appearances as they once were. In 1970-1980 the comparison of clothing was very noticeable. Now, due to new marketing, cheaper copies of clothing and material items, it is no longer a divider. According to Class Matters article, "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide", quality possessions, appearances, and material goods are becoming more readily available for cheaper prices. The article says, "The economic changes making material goods cheaper have forced businesses to seek out new opportunities so they now market to groups they once ignored. …BMW produces a cheaper model with the same insignia. Martha Stewart sells chenille jacquard drapery and scallop-embossed ceramic dinnerware at Kmart." (15)
Another thing that has made appearance of class equality seem less noticeable is the fact that race is no longer a divider in class. "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide" states, "Diversity of all sorts-racial, ethnic, and gender-has complicated the class picture."(18) This is because a person's race, gender, or ethnicity no longer dictates which jobs, communities, and businesses they are allowed in.
Religion is also no longer a factor in determining where a person is on the societal ladder. "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide" that this is due to the changing economy. The article states, "The growing economic power of the South has helped lift evangelical Christians into the middle class and upper middle classes…" (18) But this isn't all there is to see in our society
When one is willing to look deeper at our society, the stark differences are blatantly noticeable. Our country is taking steps to help every student, young and old, to succeed in school. The reality of it is the upper class children and adults will still receive a better education. The upper class is able to provide their children with personal computers and a private room for homework and studying. The upper class is better able to provide their children with a private tutor, such as Sylvan Learning Center, and to offer incentives for the child to strive towards. As the child grows into adulthood, the upper class is able to afford a better college education. This is discussed in "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide", which states, "Clearly, a degree from a four-year college makes even more difference than it once did. More people are getting those degrees than did a generation ago, but class still plays a big role in determining who gets one or not." (21)
One of the biggest topics in our society today is healthcare. So how does this make a difference in class? The upper class has more abundant resources available for insurance premiums, prescriptions, and better medical attention. "Shadowy Lines That Still Divide" approaches the topic with, "Life expectancy has increased overall; but upper-middle-class Americans live longer and in better health than middle-class Americans, who live longer and in better health than those at the bottom." (22)
Also the changes in healthcare will have an effect on class divisions. There are more government subsidized programs, as well as low premium insurance plans, such as Basic Health, which allows the poor to have access to healthcare. The coverage includes prescriptions, and prophylactic health plans. But this isn't where it ends; this is only the beginning.
So, will our classes always be this divided or will it change? I believe it is likely to change in our future. Right now there are more programs being funded by our government for college education opportunities for the lower class people. There are grants that are offered to the poor to help supplement funding for college. There is the Pell Grant, Equal Opportunity Grant, and the State Need Grant to name a few. Also to give the poor student a greater opportunity there is a State and Federal Work Study program that is offered, if they are willing to work. For our children who qualify for the Free Lunch Program and are able to maintain C's and above, the government sends them to college for free. On www.Ed.gov you can find many resources for access to education benefits such as No Child Left Behind Act. There are many outside programs that are designed to help the low-income person rise in education. People for People offers a program to people in the Worker Retrain Program that pays for tuition, books, transportation, or any other assistance needed to help the person obtain the goal of a higher education. So will this close the gap by itself? No.
There are also more opportunities available to the immigrants. In almost every school, welfare program, and safe haven in the communities, there are English as a Second Language classes being offered for free, or on a grant subsidy. Our schools, from K-12, are also using a bilingual method of teaching our children. One half of the day is in English and the other half is in Spanish so all get an opportunity to learn equally. There are housing loans and credit being extended toward the immigrants to help them succeed. Our government is even taking steps to help immigrants become legalized citizens.
In Class Matters, "Fifteen Years on the Bottom Rung", Juan Manuel Peralta was given an opportunity to get his immigration papers, he didn't grab hold of this opportunity and is still struggling to make it on his own, as an illegal immigrant. John Zannikos, on the other hand, was willing to take any help offered his way and is now a prominent citizen and an owner of 3 Guys Restaurant. By taking hold of the opportunities offered, Zannikos was able to make a success story of his life.
I believe this is the secret to climbing the social ladder and rising above the social class you are in. You must be willing to take hold of the many opportunities available. I have only mentioned but a few, and there is numerous more available to those who are willing to look, to ask, and to grasp. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees that things will change. Many feel that class division will not change because there are still too many barriers that are in the way. What could be deemed a barrier strong enough to keep people from finding their dreams and success in life? People say that education is still a major barrier because most low-income can't afford a higher education, and because the public schools their children attend are not as equally funded in many poorer neighborhoods.