We Must Stand Together to be Heard
In Jonathon Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation, he brings to light the staggering reality of segregation within our school systems. He says:
“Many Americans … have the rather vague and general impression that the great extremes of racial isolation … have gradually but steadily diminished in more recent years. The truth, unhappily, is that the trend, for well over a decade now, has been precisely the reverse.”
He then illustrates this fact by looking at the falsely identified “diversity” in schools, the physical conditions of these school buildings, the financial ignorance placed towards these school systems, and the robotic “primitive utilitarianism” teaching tactics implemented within the high schools. Each one of these elements will hinder a school system’s ability to serve its students. But with all four present in so many cities, our school systems are not only lacking the ability to meet our students’ needs but are failing completely to prepare them for anything in life after high school.
One of the main points brought up by Kozol is that of financial ignorance. He compared the worth of public education in different areas of New York and found grave discrepancies. He found that, “the present per-pupil spending level in New York City schools is $11,700, which may be compared with a per-pupil spending level in excess of $22,000 in the well-to-do suburban district of Manhasset, Long Island.” This dramatic inequality of over $10,000 per-pupil is a trend that can be found across the board when comparing inner city schools to wealthy suburban schools. And the financial disparity doesn’t stop there. In 1997, teachers in “affluent white suburbs” were paid up to $31,000 more than teachers in the city’s struggling school systems.
Kozol then goes on to point out that, “Many people, even while they do not doubt the benefit of making very large investments in the education of their own children… appear to be attracted to the argument that money may not really matter that much at all.” The paradox within this argument is apparent when it is pointed out that these same people then send their own children off to private schools that could cost up to $60,000 a year. So if these people find it effective to spend thousands of extra dollars on the education of their own children, how can they argue that investing money into the education of those less fortunate wouldn’t be useful?
Edelman agrees with this point in her chapter A letter to Our Leaders About American’s Sixth Child and the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Crisis. She points out that “No other industrialized nation permits the high rates of child poverty that we [America] do.” To her the solution is simple. She realizes that it is not that we lack the funds to end child poverty, but the initiative to become our own Robin Hood and take money from the rich to give to the poor. She says:
“Every child could be lifted out of poverty for less than nine months of the tax cuts for the top I percent and four months of the Iraq War. The irresponsible giveaways to our richest 300,000 Americans need to be reinvested in saving the future of 13 million poor children. We do not have a money problem; we have a values and priorities problem.”
She clearly lays out that the drastic disparity in our education economics can be closed if only we were able to assign the proper priorities within our morals. Education can be equalized for all our students if only we were willing to give up that which we have excess of and give to those who do not have enough.
In Edleman’s A Letter to Our Leaders About American’s Sixth Child and the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Crisis, she lists nine steps that we as America must take to end child poverty and the cradle to prison pipeline. Step seven is “We must link all children to a permanent, caring family member or adult mentor who can keep them on track and get them back on track if and when they stray.” This is crucial to a child’s development as not only a student but as a person. Having a mentor gives a child motivation and helps develop a work ethic that will last throughout a child’s life. This doesn’t have to be a parental figure; however, often times those are the only figures of authority in a child’s life in a position to be the role model. But like Edleman points out, “So many poor babies in rich America enter the world with multiple strikes against them … poorly educated single mother and absent father.” The absence of a father in his son’s life could be due to many reasons. One far too often reason in these situations is that the father has been imprisoned, leaving nothing but a bad example behind for his son to follow. Whatever the case may be, a son looks up to his father to show him the way and if the father can’t be there for his son, the child may become withdrawn and not feel motivated to do well in school. This perhaps could be in an attempt to get his father’s attention or perhaps because he knows no better. With a father gone, all responsibility falls on the mother who could quite possibly be too young to truly know how to care for a family on her own. With both parents out of or not fully present in the picture, the child’s chances of success greatly decrease. In her other chapter A Letter to Teacher and Educators, Edleman points out that “A child’s self-esteem is often fragile, especially if that child lacks crucial family encouragement as so many do.” If a single mother is too preoccupied with trying to pay the bills, or a father is not present in his child’s life, who is there to encourage the child to do well? Children need praise to understand their worth and boost their self-esteem. Without this, they fall flat in their motivation to do well in life.
If a child were to have a positive mentor in their life however, they could be lead down the path of success. Providing a kid with encouragement could be the difference between them failing out of school and graduating. If just given that extra bit of encouragement and a small push down the right path, a child will be able to succeed. It is up to us to ensure that all children are provided with that figure, may it be a parent, relative, friend, or teacher.
In Edleman’s A Letter to Our Leaders About American’s Sixth Child and the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Crisis, she lists nine steps that we as America must take to end child poverty and the cradle to prison pipeline. The step that I think this colloquium has helped inform me most about how and why I can take part in this step forward is Step one. It reads: “Call us to be our best selves. Lead us in building a united and compassionate national house where the deep divides between rich and poor, white and nonwhite, men and women, and imprisoned and free are bridged.” This is the basis of everything we have touched on. This call to action is based on us acting as our best selves in an attempt to create a better more ethical world. That entails being aware of the privileges we are granted at birth and how we must change the way we live and function to establish each privilege as a countrywide standard. First we must become aware of these disparities, then we must take action towards abolishing them. If we all stand together in this effort, we can change the fundamental inequality of our country.