Results from the interview shows that in the United States there are different social divisions where people have unequal access to opportunities and rewards. Some respondents agree that minority such as people of a specific race, backgrounds are treated unfairly. In addition, some people get opportunities based on their family status and background. Others have attained their position as a result of personal achievement. These people work very hard to achieve their goals and they are rewarded. Moreover, some respondents states that in our society when an individual is powerful and wealthy they are more privileged. Other respondents believe that our economy is run by corporations, thus, hard work does not always pay. Our society is divided into various strata; therefore, there is no specific social stratification system that is used in our society but rather several of them.
Stratification refers to socioeconomic classification of members of the society according to wealth, position and power. In this case, it is evident that our society there are three types of social stratification namely class system, status hierarchy system and elite-mass dichotomy system. Class system is a social stratification based on individual achievements. Status hierarchy system is based on social prestige and shows potential for social mobility. Elite-mass dichotomy system is where few people of the governing elite control power (Saunders, 2002).
Most respondent states that United States exhibits a class system where by individuals move to a social status bases on their achievement. Interview number 27 indicates that it is possible for anyone one to rise to the top because it is a capitalist economy. Some occupations such as doctors, surgeon and others, individuals are hired based on their skills rather than family status. In addition, interview number 34 shows that those who pursue hard science courses especially doctors and engineers earn a lot of money. Interview number 36 also gives an example of college admission test; there is clear standard of entry where those who perform well get the opportunities to study. According to interview number 42, it is evident our society give status based on personal achievements because not all successful people were raised in rich family, some worked very hard to attain their current status.
However, interview number 27 also indicate that there exists a status hierarchy system where some people are likely to move to the top than others because they are more privileged due to their status and social background. Interview number 34 adds that people from rich family backgrounds do not have to work hard in order to achieve status in the society. In addition, interview number 42 recognizes that those were born in wealthy families have certain advantages in obtaining status, otherwise would not have if they did not have the resources.
Moreover, the American society has the elite-mass dichotomy system according to interview number 54 where the CEO earns a very high salary compared to employees. This means some people get opportunities while others may not. In addition, interview number 24 indicates our economy is run by corporations.
Education serves various agenda in a country and can be viewed in functionalist and conflict perspective. A functionalist explains ways that education contributes to the need of a society. Functionalists focus on education role in giving basic knowledge and skills to the society. Through provision of credentials, higher education institutions allocate students with to their appropriate place due to their ability and motivation. Organizations are demanding for employees with a higher education as a result of work being more complex in contemporary society (Levinson, Cookson & Sadovnik, 2014). In addition, the American economy is demanding for highly trained technological workers.
On the other hand, conflict theory argues that the soaring demand for higher credentials levels was not a response to economic needs and does not signify increase in democracy. It is rather a strategy used by elites to maintain and justify their high status and position in the society. Due to the increasing number of graduates, credentialism provides a way to ration the high status position and give a room for employers to select applicants whose credentials signifies certain cultural characteristics. In other words, it contribute to inequality because disadvantaged members will not get an opportunity to access education from institutions that gives credentials required in the job market.
Our interview data confirms that there is a strong consensus in favor of meritocracy because most people understand that professional jobs are more demanding and more specialized than they used to be; and these jobs have to be awarded to people who have the most skills and credentials. Education is very important because it connect with other institutions as part of overall functioning of our society. It also offers an equal opportunity where effort and ability of an individual determines the social status.
In addition, the modern society is based on contest mobility, where everyone in the society competes for social positions. Therefore, education credentials become very important whereby individuals are allocated into social positions and receive social status. Education has become very important due over reliance of our capitalist economy on technology; therefore, it requires qualified and trained personnel in every occupation. Additionally, our society recognizes education to be an avenue for social and economic success.
There is enough data from various level of academic achievement to confirm functionalism in our society. For example, interview number 3 states that people should be awarded positions based on their ability to perform and education gives the qualifications. Therefore, when educated people are awarded those positions will perform better because they have the necessary skills and knowledge. Interview number 4 also suggests that individuals who fit to complete specific task should be elected for those positions. Moreover, interview number 7 thinks that if an individual has exemplary skills and knowledge, they will always find a position which suits them best. Education is a necessary tool to help an individual to accomplish goals in life. Interview number 37 also confirms that individuals who are educated should get the opportunity first because it proves they are higher achievers in life.
In conclusion, all respondents from different levels of academic qualification favor meritocracy because they understand that education provide the skills and knowledge that will help in performing tasks.
Culture may be defined as a set of beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, traditions, and other material that influence people behaviours (Rubinstein, 2001). Through culture, people can pass from one generation to another thus conforming to its shared values and contribute to society.
Social structures can be defined as patterns of social relations. The social structure specifies broad guidelines for our behaviour by showing what is acceptable and unacceptable in our society. The behaviour can be associated with a reward or punishment to encourage conformity and discourage deviance. They are very essential to the organization of the society. It also allows the development of a broad consensus in the society about the behaviour boundaries.
Our long term goals are the ways we view grit are determined by the social context which include cultural and structural factors. This is evident based on our interview data. For example interview number 1, the respondent was disadvantaged due to his poor background with limited resources. This had a huge influence in his life; therefore, the respondents looked for ways that would lead to a better future. On the other hand, interview number 37 was interested in law since he was little. Despite, being dyslexic with reading problems, the respondent was very passionate about becoming a lawyer. This goal was very important and so the student continued to struggle reading and graduated with a distinction. Despite having equal grit level their goal are determined by the social factors.
Moreover, interview number 8 was raised in a community that has lived through poverty, displacement and oppression. This made the respondent desire to run for a political position in order to advocate for the community. Being a refuge and immigrating to a foreign country where they have not been treated equally inspired to run for political position. While interview number 4 long term goals is to achieve long term happiness. The respondent values being happy with people who are close. In addition, the respondent would prefer to work a less paying job with better hours so that he can be close to the people he loves. Both respondents have the same grit level but different goals because they are determined by different social factors.
Therefore, it is evident that cultural and structural factors determine long term goals based on our interview data. Cultural factors in interview number 4 and 37, where both respondent values happiness and law respectively. These goals were chosen because that is what they values most in life. Structural factors in interview number 1 and 8 determined their long term goals. Interview number 1 was raised in a poor background which inspired the respondent to look for ways of making life better. Interview number 8 is an immigrant and feel those who are in power are not advocating the community need that is what has inspired the respondent to run for a political position to represent the community.