Education and Training

Education and Training: Examining Social and Political Factors Affecting Education

Social and Political Factors Affecting Education

by Denise N. Fyffe

Located between Canada, in the north, and Mexico, to the south, the United States of America is a western country filled with diverse people, places, cultures, and beliefs. Many went to America, in hopes of fulfilling their life’s goals, which comes with greater opportunities for success. The impact of being a country filled with mixed ethnic groups and beliefs is present in the nation’s social, political, and cultural fabric. By extension, every foundational element of modern society is also impacted. 

One of the formative components that have elevated the American people is education and as a result some of the richest and most successful people in the world, are from the USA. They have not only been afforded this opportunity because of their ingenuity and hard work, but also because of access to quality education. According to the University of Minnesota (n.d.). “Education is the social institution through which a society teaches its members the skills, knowledge, norms, and values they need to learn to become good, productive members of their society.”

Factors Affecting Education in America

The United States of America is a country with over 300 million people, as such its education system is quite diverse as it is complex. This western behemoth of military, social and economical power has a formidable military, the largest economy, and one of the largest education systems in the world (Loo, 2018) Over the years, there have been many social and political factors which have determined the operation and educational models we see today.

Some of those social factors include:

  • Immigration
  • Urbanization
  • Economic disparity (rich vs. poor)

In terms of political factors that affected education, these include:

  1. Political philosophy
  2. Federal government
  3. State government

Social Factors

American states often differ one from another, especially in terms of their accents because it is a country populated and molded by immigrants. Someone in New Jersey can sound quite different from another citizen from any of the Southern States. The educational system as it is today was largely constructed to deal with the effects of immigration, starting in one US state, Massachusetts.

  1. Immigration

Horace Mann helped develop the Common School Movement in the early 1800s, in response to the escalating need to assimilate immigrants coming through Massachusetts, into America. Immigrants were usually from mixed backgrounds and this led to not only social and economic problems but criminal ones as well.

To achieve the overall objective of elevating people’s social status and creating better communities, Mann pushed for schools to incorporate morality within its school agenda. Moral education was of great concern to many of the populace and Horace Mann sought to use this as the engine of his reform. People wanted to see their children and the future generation become more responsible and well behaved, with the ability to contribute to the upliftment of society as a whole (Jeynes, 2012).

  1. Urbanization

As America transitioned from an agricultural society to an industrial one, urban centers began to develop across the country. This forced educational institutions to adopt the school curriculum so that students would be prepared to work in factories and pursue careers that would help to build and support the manufacturing industry (Lattier, 2014). Consequently, during the transition, more people chose to migrate to the city, and families did not have time to focus on properly raising their children.

According to Lattier (2014), “in response to urban parenting challenges, Mann advocated the idea that schools and teachers could increasingly act in loco parentis – “in the place of the parent.” They became a place for students to get a well-rounded education that catered to their physical, psychological, moral, and educational needs. Subjects became more diverse and more positions were incorporated within the school administration, such as guidance counselors.

  1. Economic Disparity

Immigrants in Massachusetts were oftentimes at a greater economic disadvantage than those who were already established in the country. As poverty levels increased the need to find alternative ways to get parents to send their children to school, also grew. According to Jeynes, 2012, Horace Mann pushed the issue of taxation as a means of funding the Common School Movement because it would ensure that the American society became more wealthy, cohesive, and functional. Taxation of all would ensure the education of all. Those who had money could easily access education and could seek to fund those close in their circles, but taxation would make sure that whatever funding existed, could be distributed as best as possible. This eventually created a lesser economic disparity between poor and rich citizens of that time.

Political Factors

The United States is entrenched in its political establishment, any institution or substantial industry is controlled by the government in some way. The same is true when it comes to education. The formation of policies, establishing of boards, the placement of children in schools, and everything else surrounding formal education is influenced politically.

  1. Political Philosophy

As we have seen for many Islamic countries, political philosophy generally impacts education. Whereas some may prevent girls from attending schools or for women to become teachers, others may alter the school curriculum to prevent certain content from being exposed to students. In the United States, there is a myriad of schools, but largely as a democratic society with a democratic government, all children – male and female – have access to education. Besides, America also has a decentralized educational framework, which has a mix of capitalist and democratic influence. The roles and responsibilities for education are shared between the federal and state governments. This allows for the people who live close to, and whose children attend the schools, to influence the budget and policies of those institutions.

  1. Federal Government

The federal government has a lesser impact on education than states. Not until the 1960s did it contribute to formal education in America, by way of any policy. According to FindLaw (2018), education laws determined at the federal level have to do with teachers’ and students’ constitutional rights inclusive of equal access to education. Interestingly, “education is not exactly a constitutional right, like free speech and assembly, but it is an important enough interest to warrant constitutional protection. Students are therefore protected against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or disability, or ethnicity through the 14th Amendment.” In terms of funding schools that meet the federal criteria will benefit from a portion of the 3% budgetary allocation set aside for schooling.

  1. State government

School policy is dictated at the State level. This was imposed when the 10th Amendment was passed. Akin to the efforts dictated by Horace Mann, schools within the state are funded by its residents. Therefore, richer communities have better-funded schools with more resources, more qualified teachers, and a wider offering of subjects that are not threatened by budget cuts. 

Further to this, “The states are the entities primarily responsible for the maintenance and operation of public schools. The states are also heavily involved in the establishment, selection, and regulation of curriculum, teaching methods, and instructional materials in their schools.” The policies and guidelines will differ from one state to another (FindLaw, 2018).




FindLaw, (2018, March 21). The roles of federal and state governments in education.  Retrieved from

Jeynes, W. (2012). The widespread growth of the common school and higher education. In American Educational History. (145-156) Retrieved from

Lattier, D., (2014, December 12). 3 social factors that led to America’s education system. Retrieved from

Loo, B., (2018, June 12). Education in the United States of America. Retrieved from

University of Minnesota (n.d.). An overview of education in the United States. Retrieved from



About the writer:
Poetess Denise N. Fyffe is a published author of over 40 books, and enjoys volunteering, counseling, mentoring, and engaging in new experiences. 

Check out her book The Expert Teacher’s Guide on How to Motivate Students

This handbook highlights the most efficient teaching techniques to motivate students. The Expert Teacher’s Guide on How to Motivate Students initially examines who is an expert teacher and how to become one. Then it will delve into how to get students to learn any subject by implementing effective motivation strategies.

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…introduce information on the history of various global educational systems and discuss some of the social and political forces that shaped them. For the discussion:

  • Name three social and political forces that have shaped the educational system of the country you are in.
  • Explain how each has influenced the educational system and provide examples.

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