Data on the extent to which young Americans are not able to take advantage of educational facilities are revealing. North observes that "a very large part of the children of the lower paid families leave the elementary grades before the work is completed . . . . " 45
Sorokin offers some interesting figures in this regard. Although he has said that the educational system is a ladder which facilitates social class mobility, in viewing these data he states: 46
. . . contrary to the common opinion, universal education and instruction leads not so much to an obliteration of mental and social differences as to their increase. The school . . . open to everybody . . . is a machinery of the "aristocratization" and stratification of society . . . .
(Since lack of education for the masses makes, obviously, as in colonial times, for social stratification, it would appear that come what will, there must be social class rigidity! However, a free educational system could hardly make for more aristocratization and stratification of society than the lack of such facilities.)
The figures, quoted from Ayres as of 1913, show that out of every 1,000 children who enter the first grade, there are: 47
||in the second grade
||in the third grade
||in the fourth grade
||in the fifth grade
||in the sixth grade
||in the seventh grade
||in the eighth grade
||in the first grade of the high school
||in the second grade of the high school
||in the third grade of the high school
||in the fourth grade of the high school
In 1910 there were 24 million children between the ages of 5 and 17; 17 million were enrolled in school; the average attendance was 12 million. Today the situation has improved, but not so much as one might imagine. In 1936 there were 36 million between 5 and 17; 25 million were enrolled in school; the average attendance was 22 million. 48 In other words, 50 per cent of those who should have been in school were there in 1910; in 1936, 61 per cent were attending.Next Page
The American Youth Commission published a report in 1939 which showed that of "75 million adults, 36 million did not finish elementary school. Probably half of that number failed to finish the fourth grade." 49
When the whole story of American education is written it will probably show that great advantages have consistently been enjoyed by the upper and middle classes, that too much faith has been placed in the educational system as a means of social selection, and that no significant equalization of opportunity has resulted. Many members of the upper and middle classes have begun to feel considerable competition in the struggle for the salaried positions in large business enterprises, but they will have their family traditions, contacts, ivy-walled campuses, fraternities, and clubs. The lower classes suffer for lack of adequate housing, training, work, and habits of planning. They quit school. Lester F. Ward's dream for America has never come true.
Conclusion. It must be obvious that so long as higher education is denied the masses, no noticeable social mobility can result from education. Furthermore, when and if the bachelor's degree becomes as commonplace as the high school diploma was twenty years ago , and thereby gets into the hands of great numbers of the lower classes, its value (especially if received from colleges which cater to the lower classes) will tend to decline. It will then become a matter of what college one attends; or competition will be on the next level, the graduate level of professional or highly specialized academic training. For the position of teacher, even in some places where she must take over extra responsibilities in her community and care for the children in activities for a longer day, and where the remuneration is hardly "middle class," the master's degree is demanded before the position is granted. This eliminates all who could barely afford to finish their college course or who lacked the moral stamina to carry on. There is always some way of preventing the lower classes from engaging in open competition with the higher ones, except in times of social way and revolution.
45. Cecil Clare North, Social Differentiation (Chapel Hill, 1926) p. 264.
46. Sorokin, op. cit., pp. 189 - 190.
47. Ibid., p. 190.
48. World's Almanac, 1939.
49. New York Post, December 4, 1939.