Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Opportunity Disparity

             The beginning of this semester has brought us from a long ago history with the discussion of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings to the more recent issues influencing our sociocultural and political landscape today, as with the Occupy movement. I find myself continually drawn back to the discussion of the 1 and 99%, unable to accurately pinpoint where my opinion falls. While I generally do not like to discuss my particular political viewpoints, particularly in a strongly politically liberal college environment, I believe that knowing my viewpoints may further explain my difficulty with the discussion. I consider myself, most of the time, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, or, in other words, standing on both sides of the Occupy movement. It seems as though this is one issue us middle of the roaders cannot stand in….well, the middle of the road on. My parents are part of the 1%, however that is far from saying that they ride by on their financial success. They live below their means and spent much of their young adult years learning to save and invest wisely. As a result of good fortune, titled scales, or what ever you would like to call it, they achieved financial success. Should they be shamed for it, goodness no! But should everyone have the fair opportunity to reach this goal? Absolutely.
The question then lies in where the line is drawn between a socialist redistribution of wealth and more a more feasible attempt, in my opinion, to narrow the opportunity gap. While it is simple to pretend the issue of the Occupy movement is simply about taxing the rich more and giving that money to the less financially advantaged 99%, the greater issue surrounding it is the ramifications of the wealth disparity trickling down to influence the everyday make-up of our social and cultural surroundings. I came across this interactive map, which gave a perspective on the issue I had not considered (http://projects.propublica.org/schools/states/ca). The map shows, by school district, what percentage of students have access to certain programs, if those programs even exist within the district. While the Claremont colleges provide us with a beautiful pink cloud affect, the reality is the elementary and secondary students living just down the street from us do not have much of the easy access to resources, both personally and through their schools, that private schools and schools in high-cost living areas do. Perhaps the issue is not with the individual distribution of wealth, but the greater issue that wealth is being put back into wealth instead of into the programs that can provide American citizens with the opportunity to achieve that wealth in the first place. For example, instead of reinvesting wealth into the banking system, if we shifted some of the excess into the school systems to fund programs aimed at preparing our youth for handling the future of this country we might see greater improvement in all facets of the social and financial make-up of this country.
To touch on a point made by someone in class today about the history of slavery and its historical context, it is important to see how the issue of opportunity disparity is paradoxical: we claim to provide the American dream out of one side of our mouths while limiting the opportunity to select percentage of the population. We must become involved in the issue to disentangle the complex intricacies that created it in the first place and instigate change.
In class today Professor Delmont asked if there were things about our histories we may want to disremember…I cannot help but find myself wondering, will our great great grandchildren look back on the study of this time in American history and be embarrassed by how it was handled and wish to disremember it, or will this time serve as a point of pride and launching point for a better social landscape for tomorrow?

[Shameless plug for a tublr account I came across in my researching the 1%'s involvement in the wealth disparity issue: http://westandwiththe99percent.tumblr.com/

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