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Pot in the Pocket… Poverty in Public Schools

So today is my 6th day of my writing goal.  I am somewhat disappointed in myself for not writing purely academic posts each day, but at this point, I think I just need to write to build up this habit.  I need to get used to writing 500 words each day.  And so, I will just be discussing some of my thoughts:

A few days ago, I read an article (summary can be found here) on inequality and was very interested by this idea that educators must work harder to uncover the forces which perpetuate poverty.  My question is really about dreams, the importance of dreams, and whether or not they are immoral… I mean, if we are to reveal to students the greater forces which nearly control their fates, then do we really seal their fate?  If students are to believe from the very beginning that they are doomed to a life of poverty, failure, hunger, dealing drugs on the street, and a multitude of other “curses,” then would they even strive for greater things?  I do not disagree that students must uncover the reality of our society and their own situations, but when is the “right” time for these realities?

poverty cycle

I fear that a glimpse into reality too early could be extremely detrimental to these students.  I imagine kindergarten students with no dreams… And first graders who feel no need to even go to school.  How early might failure set in for poverty stricken students?  And how much better off are really once they finish school.  Perhaps they graduate, perhaps they don’t.

My sister was telling me just the other day about elementary students in her own school.  One of them opened a baggy from his pocket to get out change and within the baggy was a joint… She asked him what it was and he said, “oh, it’s a cigarette.” She asked yet again what it was and he finally gave in, “a joint…” A joint… A first grader carrying a joint in his change bag.  Drugs play a daily role in this child’s life.  So much so that he didn’t even realize that it was in his pocket.  And as much as I want to believe that this young boy will succeed and overcome so much adversity, I fear the worst for a child who is in a situation such as this.

Does he dream?  He comes to school each day, he works hard for his teachers.  Sure, he may have some pot in his pocket, but he tries to focus during the day.  What are his dreams?  Are they the same as the dreams of the wealthy kids in my own county?  Does he believe that some day he might be able to become president?  Or a firefighter?  Imagine if we showed him the oppressors of his own future right now, in first grade.  What might happen?  Would he understand enough to rise up eventually?  Is that what we are looking for?  A revolution?

Perhaps we need to first provide him with the tools to become a well educated young man, to think critically, to dream big, and to lead others before we reveal reality.

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