Mythologically Induced Culture: the Way of Life Imposed by Society
Over the years, myths have been passed down through generations to tell a story of some kind to help children and even adults believe in one thing or another. Sometimes myths are used to scare children from acting poorly toward their parents and other times myths are used to bring structure to a society that would not know what to do without it. In the anthology Rereading America, the authors bring up to very influential myths that are still around today, these are: “The Myth of the Model Family” and “The Much of Education and Empowerment”. Both of these myths give structure by defining social classes, holding long-lasting effects on societal and political statutes, and bringing forth a slight positive effect on the culture as a whole.
Society is constantly telling people who they should be and how they should act. Television shows, forms of media, and even school systems are constantly creating new ways to lead individuals onto a certain path that is socioeconomically acceptable for their race, ethnicity, or familial pattern. Gary Soto grew up in a low class neighborhood where he would come home from school and turn on the television to watch shows that displayed this idea of a model family. The family would sit around the dinner table and discuss their day in a quiet tone while Soto’s own family would talk loudly and crack jokes. Soto believed that the appearance of the perfect family that was shown on television was a direct representation of how much income the family in the show had acquired. The following day, Soto set out looking for work (Soto 20). Television shows would depict characters to have some sort of perfect lifestyle that would make viewers question their own habits and want to conform to the what they are seeing on television. The idea was to set a standard that said that if you wanted to have this beautiful, nuclear family you would need to be of a certain socioeconomic status, thus placing those under that standard to feel inadequate in the eyes of society. Not only did television shows influence this but the U. S. public education system played a prominent part in making it more and more difficult for people to move in between social classes.
Journalist Jean Anyon relates, “…focusing on school knowledge, have argued that knowledge and skills leading to social power and regard (medical, legal, managerial) are made available to the advantaged social groups but are withheld from the working classes, to whom a more ‘practical’ curriculum is offered…”(Anyon 137). The point of public education is to offer all students a strong primary education that will become a base for what the rest of their life may entail, however, the opportunities are unequal among schools of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Schools in well off neighborhoods provide more opportunities for their students to grow and gain the familiarity with upper class jobs such as managerial positions, law practices, and doctor’s offices. Even the younger generations of these schools were given more time and attention to focus on critical thinking skills and communication techniques. Public schools in lower class areas spent more time on learning the know-how of lower income professions such as agriculture, manual labor, and teaching. The access to a strong education depended on the neighborhood that a student lived in and left little room for movement among the classes. The mythes of a empowerment through education and the appealing lifestyle of the model family cemented in the differences of opportunity between the classes and prolonged the desire of the lower class to have the same robotic, preconceived routines of the upper class family.
Society is still in search of the perfect family or an equal education when in truth, this reality is completely impossible to accomplish. In the latest election, President Donald Trump had one his presidency with a campaign that was proportionally nostalgic about the the 1950’s era. This section of his campaign targeted those who saw the 1950’s to have been a simpler time that had brought order and morals to American culture (Staples, 2016). People are constantly associated the 1950’s to a time of prosperity and morality when realistically it was a time where things were just not talked about. There were no media platforms for social groups and individuals to speak up for themselves. People did not discuss the things that cause turmoil now and that is why there was not as much turmoil then. The social problems that occur today are all about finding equality in a world full of unequal opportunities that are still based on race, ethnicity, and gender.
According to an Ravitch, “Since the advent of No Child Left Behind, many schools have cut back on every subject that was not tested” (Ravitch 106). Schools were supposed to have all students pass a certain proficiency in order to maintain the funding to run the school sufficiently. Teachers began to teach to the test, only offering students the knowledge of subjects that they would be tested on. Other schools would stop offering classes that students struggled in so that the low grades would not bring the positive numbers of the schools proficiency down. The amount of academic opportunities students were given were continuously cut to meet the demands of the state. For a student from a low income school to get into a high income university took hard work and dedication from the his or herself. The student had to work overtime an play catch-up to compete with higher class students from higher class neighborhoods. The education system the was advertised to promote equality eventually suppressed schools for not having the resources to do any better. It is almost impossible to still be in search of the nuclear family when women have received a much stronger stance in society and children have been given voices of their own. It is almost impossible to still hope for an equal education system when the government is programming schools into producing students who are well fit to do a specific job within a specific socioeconomic class. It is almost impossible to revert back to a time where separate but equal was acceptable when the actual definition of equality is being represented and achieved when Latino students could graduate with an Ivy League degree, a Middle Eastern woman can win the Nobel Peace Prize, and a black man could become the 44th president of the United States. The preconception of equality and perfection is not plausible without effort and good work ethic because nothing will ever be given out for free.
Although these two myths brought about struggle between the classes, they also brought a strong sense of work ethic and dedication into the lower working class that would not have been seen otherwise. Statistics from Forbes Magazine conclude, “…the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure. On the other hand, the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families”(Dunn 2012). Much like Gary Soto and his family, working class families are dreaming of a perfect lifestyle but are not able to make it a reality. However, this problem could all the same be a motivation for children to work harder in school, do the extra work, and get into a university that will take them farther than their parents did. The lower class can only be subdued so much; not every person born into a lower class family will be forced to stay at that status. Now, more than ever, students from minorities and lower income household are being offered the opportunity to make something more of themselves. Grants, loans, and scholarships are being offered to lower income students to help the dream of moving up a class as reality.
The hope of one day acquiring that perfect family, whether it be the 1950s nuclear family or not, has become a strong incentive for individuals to better themselves and push for something better in life. Having a strong family life also includes maintaining familial ties to loved ones despite the spike in social class. Graphs incorporated by Gerstel and Sarkisian depict how certain families of different socioeconomic statuses treat their family members when they need help. It shows that people from lower classes are more likely to bond together and offer relatives a place in their homes while others from upper classes are more likely to hand money to relatives in time of crisis (Gerstel and Sarkisian, 46). Those that come from a lower class and make their way to a higher class will benefit from growing up with those strong family ties and continues to include their family into their lives making it a best of both worlds situation. Being able to hold aspirations for a better life, uphold them, and continue to instill the same values as before is a positive transformation that only comes with the hard work of gaining a more prestigious socioeconomic rank.
Myths are constantly circulating throughout society telling people what is acceptable and not acceptable. Sometimes these myths can be negative and leave staggering differences between socioeconomic class and opportunities while others can bring hope to an individual and instill good work ethic into those aspiring for a better life. Myths such as the model family or the educational empowerment opportunities have been brought into the spotlight since the principled years of the the mid-20th century and will continues to be present in different forms for many years after. Either way, myths are always going to be here and can be interpreted however one chooses to do so.
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