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America: The Land of Opportunities

Posted by Crystal on December 3, 2001 at 13:07:30:

In modern day society, a college degree leads to people making specific assumptions about an individual’s capabilities, which proceed to shape social generalizations that may assist or inhibit the success of an individual in the economic system or job market. Universal standards form throughout the job market as a result of those assumptions made about students who attend college that may not encourage a full understanding of an individual’s ability to perform his duties. The assumptions made about a college education demonstrate the general principles of reductionism, in which people follow a logical approach according to his observations. As reductionists correlate the type of college degree to an individual’s intelligence, the overdeterminist looks to consider an individual’s surroundings and experiences (which include the education received) while evaluating an individuals’ aptitude. This social process becomes apparent not only in my own personal life, as I reflect upon the way in which society views me because I attend Mount Holyoke college, but also through the characters’ lives in the films: Mississippi Masala and the Boiler Room. I look to reevaluate the importance that the job market places on a college education, as well as the consequential economic trap that follows from the construction of assumptions.
Society assumes that people who attend prestigious universities are capable and astute individuals. After having told people that I go to Mount Holyoke College, I have had people expect that I am a capable and intelligent woman solely based on the university’s image. While serving at a restaurant over the summer, customers frequently treated me with more respect as they found out that I go to Mount Holyoke. This also becomes evident through the networking a student receives from alumni; a general understanding develops that all of the students at Mount Holyoke have similar characteristics and are of the same intellect. Such presumptions made about me and my fellow students follow the rationalist philosophy, in that “it is only through objective ideas and logic that we can come to understand physical reality,” (Gabriel, 1). The social guiding principle appears incredibly rational, however from that one assumption about intelligence and education more severe notions and policies form. In Mississippi Masala, Jay (Meena’s father) understands the phenomenon as he urges Meena to go to college and asserts the basic need for a college degree in order to find a suitable occupation. This also becomes clear in the Boiler Room, when Seth’s father insists on him attending a prestigious university, claiming that it is the only way to gain respect both in his eyes and those of society.
From an overdeterminist point of view, one must focus on the actions of an individual in relation to the environment he came from, rather than the quality and reputation of the university that he attended. In Mississippi Masala, Demetrius and Meena do not attend college, however such a reality does not indicate their level of intelligence. Throughout the Boiler Room, Seth defies the assumptions made about his capabilities, particularly in his interactions with his employer. J.T Marlin anticipates that he is a greedy and yet clueless individual who will act as a robot in order to get the largest salary possible under almost any circumstance (which becomes abundantly clear during the interview). Although there may be some truth to that assumption, Seth quickly outwits them as he uncovers the firm’s illegal transactions. Other issues become relevant when looking at Demetrius’ situation, he does not work rather than attend college because of him being lazy or unintelligent, in fact he yearns for the ability to go to college. However, when taking into account his social, financial, and familial situations, one understands that his intelligence has no bearing on him not receiving a formal education. In fact, one could argue that by virtue of not having a college education, he acquired other skills that serve him more efficiently in his entrepreneurial undertakings. Within the social view of universities, society implies that an individual has a certain level of training or knowledge after graduating from a university. However, institutionalized learning does not act as the sole way to attain knowledge or skills. If individuals simply sought out education, then why would they even consider attending college, particularly in the United States because of the incredibly high tuition? People could read or teach themselves through more efficient and less costly measures, but they continue to attend colleges and pay an increasingly larger sum as the caliber of the university improves. With the assumptions made about individuals that attend specific schools, a demand is created within the education system itself.
These social norms push students to try to pursue an image that a university will create for them in the job market, which will impart a series of opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to those who did not attend college. Seth’s father condemns his actions partly because, as an important figure in society, he understands the necessity of following the general tracking system. For example, Mount Holyoke urges its students to use the networking available, which will increase demand because of its more alluring image. The networking process automatically assumes a level of competence and within that system they use being accepted into the college and the grades received while attending the school as a gage. All of these expectations are being made under the alumni’s observations of Mount Holyoke, but their experiences may differ greatly from the student searching for the opening. For example, my family may have bought my way into the school or my professors may have been extremely easier in comparison to those that the alumni had. If the university were a constant entity that did not incur change or if principles were never broken, perhaps such an assumption would be more correct, however life changes and not all of the rules are followed.
The inference that society makes when regarding students who attend elite universities may appear logical and natural. However, the amount of exceptions to those clearly laid out generalizations may appear minute and trivial now, but they could grow to a catastrophic level as the theory expands on a macro level and becomes an unquestionable mentality in the job market. By affirming assumptions throughout society, it will eventually lead to huge misconceptions about groups of people that may be completely unwarranted. Although it clarifies situations, its also minimizes the complexity and ignores truths that should be considered, for example, when evaluating an applicant in the job market. Also due to the simplicity and attractiveness in the logic, a perpetuating cycle evolves that intensifies the class processes. By offering me an opportunity simply on the basis that I attend Mount Holyoke, both Mount Holyoke alumni and society follow image and deny others chances through erroneous means.


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