Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Susan Semel

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Education Policy | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration | Language and Literacy Education | Race and Ethnicity | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Urban Education | Urban Studies


Urban Education, Race and Ethnicity, Language and Literacy Education, Educational Policy, Sociology of Education, Curriculum and Instruction, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Social Inequality


My experience as a New York City public school student was absolutely electrifying, though filled with many trials. While my mother would have preferred to put me in private school, having access to some of the world’s greatest institutions and resources offered unique opportunities and exposures. The performing arts provided me with an outlet to express myself and build skills and confidence. In particular, dance education kept me occupied and disciplined in a large city full of danger. Every so often, I witnessed hostile, or even violent exchanges between students, or students and staff. While some of my schoolmates became doctors and Olympic medalists, others were parents at the age of fifteen. Unfortunately, too many teachers lacked the passion or desire needed to ignite their students’ true potential.

My long-time compassion for youth led me to a career as an educator and administrator. Through my work with several non-profit and educational organizations, I honed invaluable instructional and managerial skills; I learned to write and deliver engaging arts and academic curricula and manage contracts, programs and budgets. Over time, I began to discover the multifaceted issues that plague the urban education system. Despite my commitment to changing the American educational landscape, I often felt hopeless as I encountered endless obstacles.

My desire to gain a deeper understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic factors that affect one’s educational pursuit led me on a journey to study at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. The research I have conducted has provided me with mounting evidence that public-schooling fails to ameliorate social inequalities; instead they play a major role in reproducing them. In Schooling in Capitalist America, economists and social theorists Bowles and Gintis eloquently explain:

The perpetuation of the class structure requires that the hierarchical division of labor be reproduced in the consciousness of its participants. The educational system is one of the … reproduction mechanisms through which dominant elites seek to achieve this objective. By providing skills, legitimating inequalities in economic positions, and facilitating certain types of social intercourse among individuals, U.S. education patterns personal development around the requirements of alienated work. The educational system reproduces the capitalist social division of labor, in part, through a correspondence between its own internal social relationships and those of the workplace. (p. 147).

Bowles and Gintis’ correspondence theory still holds true. Race and class are undeniably intertwined and serve as the backdrop, while a record-breaking number of lower-class students continue to be set on a trajectory of failure. When we begin to understand the world in which we live and how it has come to be, it is only then that we can make it a better place. I dedicate this research to our nation’s young and the marginalized communities that continue to be intentionally left out of the rat race.