Posted in Miscellaneous

Socio-Economic Gap

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Before taking Elementary Education 203, I did not fully comprehend the injustice that plagues American schools stemming from stemming from socioeconomic bias. Being raised in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, attending an upper-middle-class school, and being surrounded by upper-middle-class friends, my childhood was relatively void of experiences with people of differing socioeconomic classes. All of us were white, middle-class Christians with similar backgrounds, goals, and futures. I have gained greater knowledge regarding multicultural education, I have been surprised to learn that our education system caters to the wealthy, providing the affluent with more opportunities than the underprivileged.

During class, my professor, Dr. Waite, shared with me an analogy I am sure to remember, years from now. He described life as a river. Each human being is directed to paddle upstream against the current. He said, “Some individuals are given grand boats and taught the pitfalls of the river and how to steer through the current; others are given small canoes a small amount of instruction and a paddle. The last are sat on a log given a stick and expected to thrive as well as those in the grand boat.” He then tied this analogy to socioeconomics in schools. Describing that not every student will enter the school building with the same knowledge and circumstances but that as teachers it is our duty to ensure that each student leaves with enough knowledge or equipment to succeed. This was a powerful analogy and one that gave a visual image to an issue I was unaware of at the time. Those on the log cannot be compared to those on the boat, for no matter how hard they try they will never have the same start off point.

I was surprised that not every school is created equal. It seems as if those from a different socioeconomic class simply cannot bridge the gap and overcome their circumstances. When their school is not up to par with even the government’s lowest standards, their log is bound to fall behind. As said by Gorski, “The socioeconomic opportunity gap can be eliminated only when we stop trying to ‘fix’ poor students and start addressing the ways in which our schools perpetuate classism.” The change needs to occur at an individual level.  As I think about this quote from Gorski, I believe that there is an opposing side to the argument of school involvement. Many believe that by the time the problem of socioeconomics reaches school systems, it is too late. In my child development textbook from this semester, I read an interesting statistic: “During early childhood, a middle-class family will read to their child on average ten thousand hours; meanwhile, a lower-class family will on average read to their children only twenty-four hours.” This is a gap that needs to be changed on a family by family basis and not by the school system. By the time, the lower-class students reach school they are already so far behind that even the best teachers are nearly powerless in filling the gap.

I am shocked to see this problem being perpetuated and not fixed. I believe that is because the fix is two-part. Both parties, the parents as well as the educators, need to work together and only then will the circumstance change. Parents need to read to their children and use resources, like the public library and other free institutions, to find free options to provide their children with the exposure they need to do well in school. I think that the parents need to work to give their children the paddles and the raft that every child deserves. Not only that, the teachers need to take part in further filling this gap by teaching the students the value of hard work. Simply, the teachers need to be there to where the parents have left off and maybe teach the student how to steer their raft. This is not an easy or perfect solution, but, as parents and teachers work together, I believe this gap can and will be filled.

Socioeconomics is a difficult subject to discuss because of all the moving parts, but I believe that as families, schools, and even communities work together to teach the young, the world will be changed, people will rise from poverty, and America will truly become the land of opportunity. I believe in the power of hard work and family and that through the combination of the two, the world will be at the next generation’s fingertips despite the amount of money in their parents’ pockets.

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