Growing up as an Asian American, I was always told to get into college and get a degree. My mother always emphasized that getting into a college is the only way to be successful, it was the only way to get a good job and have a better future. In a way, I believe that is true, because on average those who graduated from college gets paid more than those who didn’t. Those who get a degree get to have jobs they want. But even more importantly, me pursuing a higher education means that all my mother’s hard work has finally been worth it.
My mother immigrated here from China, she didn’t know any English and struggled to find jobs that qualified minimum wage. Growing up in a patriarchal household, my mother was not allowed to pursue an education, instead she was only taught how to cook and clean. Despite this, she had to raise both my brother and I alone. She suffered many hardships from trying to raise us, all in hopes that we would go to college, get a degree, and get a good job. For me, the purpose of higher education is a way to escape a person’s socioeconomic class in hopes of pursuing a better life, especially for minorities. For those whom been historically denied higher education to chase after their hopes and dreams.
The pursuit of higher education has always been a struggle for minorities. Countless of laws were enacted to prevent minorities from getting a higher education they deserve. Such an instance was the court case, Plessy v Ferguson in 1896. The Supreme Court upheld racial segregation as long as facilities were “separate but equal”, which turned segregation and racism into law, making it now legal (Dean, Aug 9, 2018). Facilities such as schools were definitely not equal, schools for minorities were less funded and had less resources. This prevented minorities from getting a higher education. Often times they were unprepared for a higher education because of non-practical first and secondary education. Even if they were to get into colleges, colleges for minorities were not well equipped to teach compared to their white counterparts. Such a scenario is Sweatt v Painter.
In 1950, Sweatt sued the Austin Law School, that discriminated against him based on his race; the school did not admit him because he was black. The Supreme Court ruled against Austin Law School, claiming that they have to admit Sweatt because the separate school they built for blacks were vastly unequal (Dean, Aug 9, 2018). Sweatt’s case is important because it challenged Plessy v. Ferguson. Despite all odds, Sweatt was able to defeat the racist institutions that worked to bring him down. Sweatt, an African American was able to unshackle the racist doctrine of “separate but equal” and pursue his dreams as a lawyer. But it was not until Brown v Board in 1954 was everyone able to do the same.
Brown v. Board challenged “separate but equal” and overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, finally making discrimination illegal (Dean, Aug 9, 2018). People of different ethnicities were now able to integrate into white schools with better resources and finally receive a fair education that will allow them to eventually pursue degrees in higher education.
Higher education itself is like a living doctrine, it is molded throughout time and history to suit its students. In the beginning, universities in the U.S. mostly taught humanities and art, but after a flood of student migration took place to German universities from the 1830s to civil war did universities in the U.S. started to mimic universities in Germany (Werner, 20). Eventually after World War I, the U.S. decided to create the first Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862. The first Morrill Land Grant Act donated public land to states to improve universities and create more practical skills such as agriculture and mechanics.
Schools established through the first Morrill Land Grant Act opened up to white farmers of low-income, allowing them also to pursue a higher education compared to before when only middle to high income white students could attend. But it was not till the second Morrill Land Grant Act when the “federal government took a more assertive interest in African American education, establishing … institutions for Blacks throughout the South [which] stipulated that those states practicing segregation in their public colleges and universities would forfeit federal funding unless they established institutions for Blacks” (Gasman, 123). This is the first time the government actually took charge to create and fund Historically Black Colleges and eventually Minority Serving Institutions. We can see that higher education changes throughout time.
In the beginning higher education only catered to affluent white people. It even limited minorities from having equal education as whites because of Plessy v Ferguson which created the “separate but equal” doctrine. But throughout time, higher education changes with the court cases of Sweatt v Painter and Brown v Board. Eventually the federal government paid more attention to minorities creating several Historically Black Colleges and Minority Serving Institutions. And as of now, more colleges are including minorities under its wings creating a more diverse college environment. This help minorities in pursuing their dreams and get careers and jobs they want, so they can finally pursue a higher education that have been rejected from them for so many years and raise their socioeconomic class.
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