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Classism in Education

By Jimena Somilleda

Classism is defined as the prejudice against or in favor of people of a certain societal status. In recent years, classism has become more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, including education. This has created an unequal educational system that favors wealthy communities and gives students of a lower income a huge disadvantage. Classism in the education system can be measured using different factors, such as: availability of resources, students’ internet dependency, and students’ lives beyond high school graduation. These manifestations of classism highlight and perpetuate the disparities among different social classes. 

The distinctions between affluent students from well-off districts and students from lower-income districts are evident in many aspects of academia. For example, students from school districts located in more affluent districts tend to perform significantly better on standardized tests such as the SAT or the ACT. This is due to the fact that these students have access to resources such as private tutors, expensive practice programs, technology, etc. On the contrary, students from less affluent communities present lower test scores. This is a result of their lack of expensive resources such as tutors and learning programs. Consequently, these students aren’t performing very well academically, in the classroom, or on test scores. In addition, more affluent school districts receive a substantial amount of funding from grants and loans, which permits their students to access tools, programs, and resources available to them to help these students gain a lead in academic success. 

Classism has snuck its way into our education systems in ways that make it seem almost invisible. Another way in which classism is present in education is the recent trend of internet dependency. This was made especially evident after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to in-person instruction and made the transition to virtual learning. School districts located in areas that are more well-off have access to technology that enables a different kind of learning experience. This better learning experience will catapult the students to success. On the contrary, many students who aren’t from an affluent school district will oftentimes struggle to get their hands on a computer to complete their routine homework assignments. School districts, administrators, and teachers are indulging ignorance when assigning routine online homework and study material. In doing so, some students are able to get ahead while many may fall behind. 

The classism in education doesn’t stop after obtaining a high school diploma. On the contrary, classism becomes magnified in higher education. Colleges and universities have become a manifestation of classism, especially with the growing dependency on technology and the societal pressures associated with college life. Essential tools and resources needed to make it through the challenging process of getting a degree are oftentimes very expensive or reserved for a select few, leaving many students at a huge disadvantage on their scholarly journey. Colleges and universities nationwide utilize online homework programs and requirements of purchasing a textbook. Besides this, they also use expensive housing, meal plans and strict attendance policies to name a few examples of devices that can be seen as inherently classist. These examples oftentimes pose a challenge to many students and places lower-income students at a disadvantage. Post-secondary institutions are progressing in their learning experiences and teaching methods, but in doing so, they are displacing and disregarding the circumstances of low-income students. 

Classism has maneuvered its way into our education systems and its influence has raised red flags among lower-income students and communities. To prevent the impacts of classism in education it is important to consider its impact on lower-income students. It is also imperative to consider how classism impairs their abilities to continue learning. Making progress towards equal opportunity for all students is seen as an elusive goal because equal opportunity does not always mean equal achievement.  It is important to hold academic institutions accountable and call out these institutions of oppression to make strides towards a more equitable future with equal opportunities for achievement. 

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of GALEO at jerry@galeo.org