Contemporary Education Obstacles

We have discussed before the difference between what the law says and how it is enacted. “Separate but equal,” did not really mean that the education for blacks was equal in quality to the education that whites were receiving. Even when segregation was made illegal and blacks were allowed to attend the same schools as white students, black students were excluded from certain classroom settings and were not afforded the same amount of resources or opportunities that were available to the white students in the same school.

There are still inequalities in public schools. These inequalities are impacted by a variety of factors, but it appears that race and socioeconomic status play a large role in the materials and resources that are available to students. In addition to what is provided to students, there are other hurdles that disadvantaged students have to overcome that better-off citizens and even teachers may not realize or care about.

For instance, I come from a public school where the ratio of white students to minority students is approximately 1:1, with black students making up a majority of the minority-status students (Ohio Department of Education 2014). In addition to the racial composition of the school, the school’s poverty status is considered medium-high (Ohio Department of Education 2014). Speaking from personal experience, many students come from single-parent homes and have one or more younger siblings. So when the School Board proposed a change in school time for elementary schools and the high school students, that was a large problem for a lot of families. Who was going to be there to see the younger children off to school or pick them up after school? The new schedule would not have made it possible for the younger children to be looked after by the older children, which was the situation for a good amount of people. This is just one example of how the current system upholds inequalities in education and opportunities for students that have more obstacles to overcome, be that race or income. If school times in my district had changed, then the rates of tardiness or absence from school likely would have gone up, which means less time for older students in the class room. Other factors such as fees for certain activities and sports also make it less likely that disadvantaged students will be able to participate in the same activities as other students.

We already knew that education isn’t equal for everyone, but it is important to recognize that there are still hierarchies even within public schools as to which students have which resources and opportunities at their disposal. This problem is exacerbated when a School Board is comprised of middle-class white citizens yet is supposed to represent the needs of a school with a large minority population and a medium-high poverty level.

Citation: Ohio Department of Education. “Ohio School Report Cards.” Ohio School Report Cards. 2014. Accessed May 2015. http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

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3 thoughts on “Contemporary Education Obstacles

  1. Great example, Bree. Another similar situation that might help support this claim. The ’emergency evacuation plan’ for New Orleans was an appointed committee. Basically, prior to Katrina, their evacuation plan called for most people to use their cars to evacuate the city in case a massive hurricane approaching. Seems reasonable, right? Except that about 26% of the city’s residents DIDN’T OWN A CAR (http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~raphael/BerubeDeakenRaphael.pdf). So that kind of shot the plan. How could that have been remedied? By having poor people represented on that planning commission! Or at least doing a better job of ensuring that the situations of ALL residents were accounted for.

    The problem, of course, is time. If you are a single parent working to support kids and to ensure that they are well-cared for, that often requires more than one job. So how would you have time to sit on a school board, even if you might win a seat? There are real structural difficulties with ensuring that everyone who is affected gets a seat at the table.

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  2. A common thread in pretty much all of my contributions has been the importance of community, but I am going to reiterate it once more because it really is that important. In my situation, I had a very strong teacher that served as a role model for change. Once we realized what the change in school hours meant for a lot of our peers, we created a grassroots student movement to petition the change. We ended up getting hundreds of student signatures and presented them to the school board to serve as evidence that the majority of the student body was against the changes.

    In the end, we won the support of the school board. However, I will never forget one teacher who told me that she was for the change in hours because she would no longer have to sit in as much traffic on the main road to the school. That same main road is one that a student was found walking down because the bus system was taken away and he had no other way to get to school. God forbid she had to sit in her car for a little while longer.

    While law and structure is many times a source for problem, I think our personal situation showed that it can also be a tool used to overcome the problems that we are facing. Where you sit is where you stand, but we will never overcome anything if we don’t try to look at things from multiple perspectives.

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  3. It’s so cool that you petitioned your school Bree!

    When I think about educational resources, I also think of parents and how the want to provide the best for your children overcomes lines of race and gender. For example, I know many families who removed their kids from schools in which minorities where the majority for a white majority school because the education is “better.” We understand the history, of course, of why this is the case but I often wonder if this is an act that exacerbates the problem. If this continues to happen will it just keep the balance at white school majority = good (due to higher income and thus resources), non-white school majority = bad? Will then everyone who can try to go to white schools? If this keeps happening does it mean these “white schools” will decrease in the quality of their education and those kids will end up moving as well? (Crisis!)

    On a different note, Bree, your post brought to mind how many people think of including women in politics. The approach often taken is that women taking up high positions in institutions like the Senate, United Nations and even Fortune 500 companies, means women are now finally represented by and within these institutions. We cannot, however, “add women and stir.” This is a very superficial approach to a very deeply rooted problem. Although I still wouldn’t argue to have these women not be a part of these institutions- it is still the difference between equity and equality, between sustainable and Band-Aid solutions.

    I believe one of the ails of society and government’s attempt at colorblindness is the idea that we shouldn’t “discriminate” against white people who want to create more racially diverse schools and companies or men who want to help advance “women’s rights/issues. This is not to say that these such processes shouldn’t be inclusive but one must ask how much space should one person or another be allowed to take and who has certain ownership over certain causes. For example, the argument that #BlackLivesMatter should be #AllLivesMatter is a cry for the inclusion of Whiteness™ because it is deemed frustrating to try to “help” and support a cause that isn’t “yours.”

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