Social Justice and Academic Success: Is Individual Effort Enough?

Essay by spiridoula99University, Bachelor'sA, March 2007

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QUESTIONThe expression that 'they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they want to succeed' is commonly heard in schools. Discuss the possible meanings of bootstraps and the assumptions implied in this statement about what is required of the student and the role of the teacher for the achievement of academic success.

With substantial reference to Gale and Densmore's (2000) different models of social justice locate this view of success within particular model of social justice, and justify your selection.

Introduction"Social justice implies a comparison" (Gale & Densmore, 2000:11) that is made between individuals and/or groups to evaluate and achieve justice in "social institutions like schools" (EDCX348 Unit Handbook, 2006:29). This paper is concerned with how the interrelationship between academic success and the bootstraps metaphor relate to social justice in education. The discussion and definitions presented focus on the notion of academic success and its place in the retributive model of social justice (Gale and Densmore, 2000), followed by a critique of the model's effectiveness in addressing the inequalities (on academic performance) arising from social class and poverty.

The Notion of Academic SuccessThe expression 'to pull yourself up by your bootstraps' originated from a legendary tale in the sixteenth-century (Wikipedia, 2006 online) and is still used today. Its generic meaning, to "improve your situation by your own efforts" (Martin, 1996, online), can be taken to a further extreme whereby improvement is achieved "only on your own" (Shetter, 2006, online, author's emphasis). Regardless of an individual's circumstances, he or she can succeed through dedicated hard work and effort. Open to interpretation, the expression can be applied in religious, moral, ethical, financial and educational contexts. Before defining bootstraps in the educational context, the ambiguous notion of academic success needs to be clarified.

What determines the point of 'success'? An average...