The Role of the Society for the Success in Life Essay Example
I must be a genius or perhaps a prodigy. How else would one explain the fact that I attend UC Berkeley, the number one public university in the world? The reality is that many other factors that I have no control over and have led me down this path. I am the continuation of a trend of upward social mobility within my family, and I have been graced with the tools and policies that have allowed my family and I to succeed. In addition to hard work, my social resources and social location have played a huge role in enhancing my opportunities and put me in a position to succeed academically.
These opportunities enhance my chances of going on to live a satisfying and economically secure life and give me a distinct advantage over those who lack these opportunities.. The term social location refers to a person’s place within society dictated by the axes of inequality. The axes of inequality includes class, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, and geographic location.
Each of these individual factors has the potential to significantly impact an individual's life chances.I will use a combination of my own sociological imagination as well as the writings of Taylor, Baca Zinn & Wells, Woo, Collins, and Coontz to help illustrate the importance of social resources and social location in determining success in life. In this paper, I will argue that the trajectory of a person's life, social mobility, and academic successes are primarily due to quality social resources, such as education and housing, rather than hard work alone. This is not to say that hard work and individual effort do not play any role in social mobility; however, it is a less significant factor than the optimal social resources than one enjoys due to their social location within their community. I am the first child of a second-generation Italian father and a first-generation Puerto Rican mother.
My father only has a high school education; however, he quickly worked his way up to various managerial positions. My mother, whose first language is Spanish, became the first person in her family to attend college. She attended Santa Rosa Junior College, then graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
She found work as an insurance adjuster where she works with Spanish-speaking clients. I look very white; therefore, I believe that I am undoubtedly the beneficiary of white privilege, which refers to some groups having greater access to advantageous resources and opportunities due to historically enacted social policies (Taylor). I believe that the Puerto Rican side of my family benefited from the Segmented Assimilation Theory, where certain immigrant groups assimilate upwards into a white middle-class community, while the Caucasian side of my family can be described as Italians that transcended into whiteness (Baca Zinn & Wells).
The white privilege that Ienjoy is not the result of hard work, rather it is a social resource that I was born with. Attending Berkeley is a significant jump from the position that my parents were in at my age. Although my hard work is a major factor for my current position, I am aware my social location is superior to what my parents had. My family moved into our current home when I was 6 months old.
My parents saved up enough to move out of a bad neighborhood into the upper-middle class suburb of Santa Clarita, California (comparable to the difference between West Oakland and Piedmont). One of the main factors that my parents considered when buying their house was the schools zoned within its location. This move vastly improved my chances of social and income mobility.
22 years before I would attend Berkeley, my parents had already ensured that I would attend an excellent elementary school, middle school, and high school. I began my life with a head start. In Santa Clarita, I was surrounded by upper-middle class students, which allowed me to absorb cultural capital, which is a key factor in social mobility.
Cultural capital refers to acquired tastes, knowledge, dispositions, and skills provided to the upper-middle class with access to various resources even when economic capital such as property and money lacked (Woo). This privilege had absolutely nothing to do with hard work, rather, I am the beneficiary of social resources that permit success. This ideal situation is unaffordable for many lower-income families, which gives me an advantage over their children who suffered from a poor education and hostile environments.
Social Policies that Mattered
Several broad social policies have created a stable foundation for resource acquisition within my family and enhanced our social mobility. First off, I consider the fact that Puerto Rico is a U.S territory as an imperative social policy within the context of my family history. This allowed my mother's side of the family to freely immigrate to the U.S without having to battle the restrictive social policies that burden so many immigrant families today. Additionally, both of my grandfathers were Korean War veterans, which allowed them to take advantage of the veterans benefits that were afforded to them (Coontz 1997:41).
Their veteran status allowed both of them to receive government-facilitated home loans, which permitted significant tax breaks and low down payments (Coontz 1997:42). The homes bought with government assistance are still in my family today and helped to cultivate a positive and stable environment for my parents. The big picture is that these policies facilitated upward mobility throughout my family history. I once adamantly believed in the American family myth of complete self-reliance. I believed that everything that my family had was exclusively due to hard work. I now realize that a large amount of government assistance helped to
put my family in advantageous positions. My family was never impacted by racist or discriminatory policies, such as redlining or racist lending policies. Additionally, my family never suffered from “interlocking oppression,” which refers to various social disadvantages and the degree of oppression formed due to elements of one’s identity, such as race, class, gender, age, sexuality, appearance, and disability (Collins). There appears to be a clear relation between social policies and social mobility within my family, and it is clear that these external factors shaped my life chances. Once again, these external factors are not the result of hard work, but the results of social and governmental policies that benefited my family.
My family’s ascent in social mobility is evident in the generational education-increase. My grandparents and father only received a high school education, while my mother graduated from college. Conversely, I am attending Berkeley and my brother is attending CSU Fullerton. Additionally, we both plan on continuing our education and attaining Master’s degrees. Essentially, within three generations, my family went from exclusively high school degrees to exclusively graduate degrees. This progression is primarily due to the increased access to social resources, such as improved education and stable housing, rather than hard work alone. Past generations of my family have been extremely hard workers; however, they were never able to break through to the next level of education.
Resources in My Community
The exceptional resources available in my community were key to providing me with tools to get into Berkeley (a proxy for social mobility). My neighborhood had access to a public library, rec center, swimming pools, and parks. These resources created a constructive environment for me; however, I believe that the two most important resources in my community were Golden Valley High School and College of the Canyons. Golden Valley High School had an extensive library, advanced science-labs, powerful computers, enrichment classes, AP classes, clubs, college prep programs, and access to college information.
Additionally, the school was composed of knowledgeable teachers and counselors that provided me with the tools that I needed to excel and learn many of the comprehensive study habits that got me into Berkeley. Regardless of my work ethic, I was handed an environment that cultivated learning and success, which many low-income students will never experience due to their poor social location.
College of the Canyons is the most important public resource that helped me get into Berkeley. I graduated high school with an average GPA, average SAT score, and no extracurricular activities. I got rejected from CSU Northridge because I forgot to submit my SAT scores. I perceived myself as a failure and a loser; however, community college gave me a second chance. I refocused my life to prioritize education: the goal was Berkeley. My hard work paid off and I now realize how fortunate that I am to have had access to a community college because not everyone does.
Despite the cheap cost, some still cannot afford to attend. Additionally, many people face a geographical barrier; community college is unavailable in certain parts of the country. Once again, my success would not be possible without crucial social resources that enhanced my education. Regardless of how hard I worked after high school, I would have never had the opportunity to become a Berkeley student without access to the resource of a community college.
The Path to Berkeley
My path to Berkeley was also paved by the private social resources that my family provided for me; specifically, a stable home. The entity of a stable home allowed me to focus on my education without even considering the hardships that impoverished children faced. I could escape the world in the sanctity of my home, which gave me a place to study, do homework, and focus on academics. Underprivileged children may have lacked a place to study, while they had to focus on surviving, getting food, staying away from gangs, etc. This type of environment leaves absolutely no time or reason to focus on academics.
Many minorities fell victim to governmental policies that held them back and gave my family distinct advantages over them. Throughout the history of the United States, minorities have been impacted by institutional discrimination and structural racism. Institutional discrimination is the unfair treatment of a group of people due exclusively to their membership of the group (Taylor). This enables people in power to act on prejudice in the settings of institutions such as banks, mortgage companies, schools, welfare offices, and the criminal justice system (Taylor).
Structural racism consists of discriminatory practices woven into the fabric of social policies, political arrangements, and economic practices (Taylor). Discriminatory policies such as redlining or racist lending policies prevented minorities from buying houses in certain areas or being able to secure funding for housing. Redlining was a prominent practice in my father’s hometown of Syracuse, New York from 1930 until 1968; however, the community continues to suffer from the negative ramifications of its past.
Consequently, I believe that I am predisposed to succeed due to the social location in my community, while low-income minorities may have a lower chance of social mobility regardless of their work ethic. My parents were able to purchase an affordable home in good a neighborhood without discrimination preventing them from doing so, while their minority counterparts were not. This unfair reality played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of my life by allowing my family to be socially mobile while providing me with the resources that I needed to get to Berkeley.
Compelling Census data illustrates the superior social resources within my community that cultivate success and opportunity in comparison to low-income communities. Santa Clarita has a racially-diverse population of 209,489: 32.3% Latinx, 48.3% Caucasian, 4% African American, 10.8% Asian, and 4.5% other. The median household income is $461,500, which is above the California average ($385,500) and US average ($178,600). Santa Clarita has a higher median family income, per capita income, health insurance coverage, and less people living below the poverty-line than the US and California averages.
About 9.7% of Santa Clarita residents have less than a high school diploma (13.3% US, 18.2% California), 18.8% have only high school diploma (27.8% US, 20.7% California), 36.5% some college or Associate’s degree (29.2% US, 29.6 California), 23.8% Bachelor’s degree (18.5% US, 19.8% California), and 11.2% graduate or professional degree (11.2% US, 11.6% California). 95.5% of students graduate from Golden Valley High School, whereas only 82.3% graduate on average in California.
53.1% of students met UC/CSU requirements, including 48.3% of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, which both exceed the California averages. These statistics demonstrate that the social resource of Golden Valley High School provided me with an exceptional education, which altered the trajectory of my life and enhanced my social mobility. This privilege has nothing to do with my hard work, rather, I am the beneficiary of an exceptional social location.
In conclusion, my path to Berkeley was paved by the privileges that I enjoy due to social resources that are available to me. Social resources, such as housing and education have allowed my family and I enjoy all of the benefits that come with social mobility. Social policies that benefit my race, while holding many minorities back have provided me with advantages in housing and education throughout my lifetime. Therefore, I believe that these factors play the most important role in determining a person's achievements. Although hard work plays a role in success, my social resources and social location have done more to put me in successful positions in life because they give me additional opportunities and insights that others lack. Access to social resources provides a clear advantage to those without access.