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Equal opportunity is a joke

Many people seem to be under the impression that the majority of Americans are given equal opportunity because everyone can attend a public school and move on to get a job or go to college with enough hard work. The fact is, however, that a huge determining factor in people’s success is not their personal dedication to working hard, but the environment into which they are born. Location, race, gender, and income are all factors that have nothing to do with ability, but have a huge impact on a child’s ability to succeed.

Growing up in a more affluent neighborhood gives students a distinct advantage, because they have the opportunity to attend a public school that has the money to provide AP classes and the materials for strong science, art, and vocational departments, which will ultimately improve their chance of getting into colleges. Rural and inner city schools are frequently much more crowded than wealthy suburban schools, with classes up to 50 percent larger, and each student receiving fewer supplies and less teacher attention.

While some people might be inclined to believe that people from low-income families just are not as smart as wealthier kids (after all, their parents weren’t smart enough to be successful, so it is possible that the kids are inherently less intelligent), poorer children are less likely to succeed regardless of their intelligence or their capacity to learn.  Even if children from a poor family are fortunate enough to end up in a good school district, they are still at a disadvantage because they are more likely to be “tracked” lower than students from high-income households, even when they do well on tests.

Tracking is a system employed by many school districts in which students are put into groups based on their performance in elementary school. If a child is put into a lower track, he or she is likely to receive a lower quality education than students on higher tracks all the way through high school.

Gender and race also play a role in success. According to Time Magazine, in 2008 the average woman earned 77 percent of what the average man made.  Women of certain ethnicities made even less than that, with African American women earning 68 percent and Latinas making as little as 58 percent of the average man’s wage. While many people argue on behalf of the “self-made man” when it comes to discussions concerning “socialist” ideals, it should be acknowledged that women are forced to fill a significant gap before they are able to “make” themselves as successful as men.
I do not mean to undermine the achievements of successful Americans, because unless you are Paris Hilton, it takes a lot of time and effort to attain financial success. In fact, since we can’t all be born white middle-class males, nor can we eliminate prejudice in the working class, equal opportunity is highly improbable. After all, our country needs people to work lower-paying and less desirable jobs that many college graduates would turn their noses up at. But that is just the issue: we need them, and it astonishes me that so many people judge the intelligence, worth, and work ethic of others based on their socioeconomic status.