Recently in my Education in American Culture class, we’ve been discussing educational inequality. I grew up in a middle class family that put education as a priority. My family was also religious, and the public schools in many of the districts where we lived were sub-standard. Accordingly, I was placed in a private, Christian school and stayed in my private school bubble until I graduated from high school in 2009. I knew that the high schools my neighbors attended were sometimes rough and a little ghetto, but I never thought that their education may have suffered from conditions beyond their control. Granted, my neighborhood was hardly inner-city Chicago or the Bronx in NYC, but there was still educational inequality. In fact, if you followed any of the school district dilemmas in Kentucky, you’d have heard about the recent turmoil in Louisville over busing and racial discrimination. Yes, we are in the United States, where everyone is supposed to be given an equal opportunity to succeed, starting in the public schools. Yes, we are in the year 2011. And yes, educational inequality still plagues our nation’s children today.
The main text that sparked such indignation in me was Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation. It’s an incredibly moving book which divulges intimate details regarding the state of many of our public schools, which are underfunded, hazardous, and stunting the growth of America’s future. Obviously, this isn’t always the case. I’m not even saying that most or half of our public schools are failing; all I’m saying is that there is extreme inequality. The children from wealthier neighborhoods attend better funded schools, while the poorest children are left with the least funding and the worst educational experience. Whoever says money doesn’t matter when it comes to education is willfully ignorant. There is a reason families will sacrifice everything to send their children to more expensive, yet “better” schools. There is a reason that primary education facilities, as well as universities, have a price that goes along with a good reputation.
America prides itself on the idea that anybody can do anything with his or her life; the individual has the power to climb the social ladder and achieve greatness by the work of his or her own hands. But not everybody starts on an even playing field. I, personally, want to impact this. Children should not be placed at a disadvantage because of how much money their parents make, or because of where they live. Children can’t change what they were born into. I want to continue this discussion later, but as it’s getting late, I’ll wrap things up for now. Kozol’s book made me look at education in a new light. Schools are not merely daycares. They provide access to higher education, jobs, and social skills. But when we keep the best schools for the rich, and the poorest schools for the poor, we simply make our own caste system where our children must fight against the odds in order to achieve anything for themselves. Our underfunded schools have become a breeding ground for poverty and missed opportunities, instead of an uplifting environment that can and does expect success from each student.