How Education Influences the Myth or Reality of Individual Opportunity in America Today Term Paper

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Education, Job Satisfaction, And Personal Happiness: An Annotated Bibliography

My Research Question

For this paper, I intend to examine the effect of education on personal happiness and job satisfaction in the United State of America. Although some may argue that personal happiness and job satisfaction have nothing to do with how education influences the myth or reality of individual opportunity in America today, happiness and job satisfaction are, in fact, two of the most important issues in individual opportunity. Most agree that individual opportunity can be defined as an individual's ability to seek success. While some believe success to be financial freedom or comfort, many others define success as the ability to live one's life as one chooses, or put more plainly, the ability to get up each day and pursue one's own ambitions. By defining success and individual opportunity this way, most would agree that personal happiness and job satisfaction have a great deal to do with an individual's success.

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Thus established, I will examine the connection between job satisfaction and personal happiness and education in the United States as of today. I hypothesize that the more educated a person is, the higher levels of personal happiness and job satisfaction the person will report. I have come to this conclusion by assuming that a person with a higher degree of education has a greater choice in the type of work he or she does. This means that not only can a person choose to work in an area that is more worthwhile financially, but also that the person can choose to do work that he or she enjoys. Additionally, persons with higher levels of education tend to be more socially aware, and I propose that those who have more education have a sense of purpose and meaning incorporated into what they do for yearly pay. If this is not the case, those who have greater levels of education can produce more money and become more active in society, contributing to the causes that they feel are important. For these reasons, therefore, my research will examine whether or not those with higher levels of education report higher levels of happiness and job satisfaction.

Term Paper on How Education Influences the Myth or Reality of Individual Opportunity in America Today Assignment

In order to research this topic, I plan discover using several different factors. First, I plan to look into the living and working conditions of the uneducated poor and determine whether or not their job satisfaction and personal happiness is at the same level of those who are educated. Second, I plan to discover whether or not those who have higher levels of education credit their education for the happiness and job satisfaction they experience, if indeed they experience higher levels of happiness and job satisfaction. By looking at both personal living conditions and working conditions of the educated and uneducated, I plan to present the case that the educated have much more comfortable, sanitary, and satisfactory conditions in which to live and work.

Although job satisfaction and personal happiness are not typically topics associated with individual opportunity, I contend that high levels of personal happiness and job satisfaction are the largest indicators of success and, therefore, personal opportunity, as opportunity is largely tied with the ability to be successful. Furthermore, because education is directly linked with higher levels of individual opportunity, I argue that higher levels of education are also linked with higher levels of job satisfaction and personal happiness.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2002.

Because Ehrenreich, an educated woman, steps into the shoes of uneducated low- wage workers, this book is very helpful in answering the research question.

Ehrenreich credits her education for her current position of ease and relaxation, and is constantly revolted by the difficult life that the low-wage workers with whom she works are forced to endure. In the book, Ehrenreich takes on the assumed identity of a woman going back into the workforce with no education and recounts the struggles of everyday life in different cities.

Gamoran, Adam. Standards-Based Reform and the Poverty Gap. Washington D.C.:

Brookings Institute Press, 2007.

In this report on the No Child Left Behind Act, author Adam Gamoran looks directly at the relationship between education and poverty. The book mainly details the successes and failures of the act in addition to improvements that can be made in order to increase the act's effectiveness. Although the book does not deal with the topic of job satisfaction or personal happiness, it aids in answering the research question because it discusses the future of ending poverty or lack of opportunity, which is one definition of poverty, through institutionalized reform.

Gerdtham, Ulf-G and Magnus Johannesson. "The relationship between happiness, health, and socio-economic factors: results based on Swedish microdata." Journal of Socio-Economics. 30.6 (2001): 553-557.

In this quantitative article, data is used to link education with a variety of factors in one's personal life, including happiness. The authors sampled over 5,000 people in Sweeden and determined that happiness increases with education, in addition to income and health, while it decreases with unemployment, in addition a variety of other factors. The article is helpful for its quantitative data that suggests there may be a link between higher levels of education and higher levels of personal happiness. Although the document comes from a Swedish source, its findings can be applied to American life as Europe has long been looked at as a testing ground for the social problems of the United States.

Noddings, Nel. Happiness and Education. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 2003.

In discussing the topic of education, Nel Noddings adds the caveat of education to the roundtable, suggesting that happiness should not only be a part of education, but also a goal of the educational process. According to Noddings, education is too often concerned with success, and while that success is attained, education is often viewed as miserable. Noddings calls for an education that increases both success and happiness. This book is extremely helpful to answering the research question because it acknowledges that success is not simply measured by monetary wealth, but also by personal opportunity and happiness. The book also acknowledges the concept that happiness should be a result of education.

Vollmann, William T. Poor People. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

In his book, journalist William T. Vollmann travels the world in order to become more attune to the case of poverty. His first-hand research is exceptional in that he conducts personal interviews with the impoverished, asking questions and making observations on everything from their job satisfaction and working conditions to their home lives, thought processes, and personalities. Vollmann mentions the level of education attained by his interviewees several times, and the book is also helpful in answering the research question because it gives a very personal view of the uneducated people's job satisfaction and personal happiness.

Part II

Heading Name

Heading Class

Heading Professor

Heading Date

Learning to Be Happy:

Education as Prerequisite for Happiness

In his book, Poor People, investigative journalist William T. Vollmann travels the world in search of the poverty. He does not have to go far, encountering the poor on the streets of the United States in addition to the hovels of India, Yemen, Columbia, Vietnam, and other third world countries. In the second chapter of the book, Vollman asks a critical question to his interviewees: are you happy? Most responded that they were, including the tuna fisherman and beggar woman in Yemen who earned very little each day. But although both of these, who would be considered impoverished by United States Standards, said they were happy, they also did not identify themselves as poor. They were not rich, did not have material goods, and were burdened by finances from engaging in every opportunity, but they were not poor, or at least did not say so directly (30). This begs the question: what are success, poverty, and happiness, and how are the three linked? The answer to the first question is philosophical, and religious leaders and thinkers from Homer to Muhammad to Jesus have been answering it in their own way for centuries. The second answer, however, is quite simple: education. In fact, education or the lack of education is the social binding that seems to tie every social issue together. Though it may be masked as other variables, it is education that is responsible for both happiness and personal opportunity. In fact, both the fisherman in the beggar in Vollman's book thanked Allah for their current situation. Without Allah, one can assume that the two would have been frustrated and unhappy with their lack of funds. It was knowledge or education about religion and Allah, therefore, which allowed both impoverished people to live happy lives, lives that allowed them an individual opportunity to turn to Allah and religion, to find a source of happiness despite poverty. By examining the personal happiness and job satisfaction of the educated and the uneducated, one can determine that education allows more choices, which, in turn, allow educated Americans to make personal and occupational choices… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How Education Influences the Myth or Reality of Individual Opportunity in America Today.  (2008, June 24).  Retrieved July 8, 2020, from

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