The inequalities present in the United States public education system are a heart wrenching problem that needs to be confronted. Children in poorer districts are having half as much money spent on their education, when they should be receiving more in order to catch up. Yet the richer and more affluent people and the magazines they read keep saying that money won't make a difference. They want to blame the inequalities on the home life of these children all the while raising extra money so their kids school can buy a new computer or add yet another A.P. course. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum children are going to schools where all the students are black and where the funding is so low that they are filthy, falling apart, and do not have a capacity to hold all the children. Where most of the teachers have simply given up hope. How are these children supposed to receive an education equal with that of rich children when they have to overcome obstacles such as these? And how could they possibly feel motivated to if their teachers do not? These children are not stupid - they understand the disadvantages they are at. They know that things are not changing for the better, that the earnings of blue and white collar workers is constantly increasing(Social Work 533). If the richer people and the politicians keep these children side lined like they are, they are going to internalize feelings of inferiority. There are a lot of brilliant people dropping out of school because of this treatment. And as this is happening, we are not only denying these children, but society as a whole who could benefit from children who might not have dropped out of school had they received an equal education (Kozol).
There seems to be three major factors in the quality of a child's schooling - where they live, how much their parents make, and their race. These children are being forced into getting an inadequate education because of factors they have no control over. And rich children are being given state of the art education for what their parents gave. Is it fair to take privileges away from a child for something their parents could not give them? Don't we all start out the same innocent beings with the same potential to learn?
These rich people (the people who in fact run our country) are very ignorant. They want to blame the inequalities on the poor child's morals and values, but they know even their child could not learn in these poorly funded schools, that is why they are against desegregation. You see this ignorance through the actions of our very own federal government. They are continually reducing their role in equalizing education by cutting funds and giving more power to the states. In 1995 the U.S. House of Representatives cut $4 billion from education for 1996. And in 1996 the Senate approved a motion to cut $2.5 billion in education (Social Work 533). By handing so much power to the states in equalizing education they are sending out a message that it is not of federal importance. If this sort of attitude prevails in our country, it is going to be a long time before a solution is found.
So will equalization ever be reached? The teachers, students and administrators Jonathon Kozol talks to in his book, Savage Inequalities, do not seem to think so. They know that in order for desegregation to happen, that their schools well have to improve to the same level as the rich. But how can that happen when the rich are not willing to give up a little of what they have to help those who do not have anything at all. Kids in richer schools told Kozol that if they took money away from the richer schools and gave it to the poor ones, then everyone would receive just a mediocre education. A comforting argument when you are the one on top. These children made comments such as "Taxing the rich to help the poor - we'd be getting nothing out of it. I don't understand how it would make a better educational experience for me."(130) and "I don't see why we should do it. How could it be of benefit to us?"(126). These comments are so selfish. They are only thinking of themselves and what they would get out of it. The saddest part is that they have been taught this attitude by their parents. This is where you begin to see how wealth and power works, how inequality in education has become a self perpetuated cycle. The powerful and wealthy pass down not only these qualities but also a feeling of superiority.
The rich keep trying to tell the poor that money is not going to change anything. They keep saying that it is these kid's home lives that need to change - that they need to be taught better morals and values. But when they go to school where the toilets overflow and they do not have enough books they are being taught that they are not good enough. How can a rich person believe that money to buy books or to fix the ceiling will not help these children? There is no way that they can possibly think that a child in the seventh grade could learn from a fifth grade book they have to share with three other kids no matter what their values or morals are. And they do not believe it. One can see that they do not truly believe it when they refuse to let their children go to these schools. The rich seem to think they are instilling the right values in their children, so if they truly thought values were what influenced education, they would send their kids to these urban schools. But instead they fight desegregation. Their words tell one story, but their action are a completely different story (Kozol).
The people in corporate America know that they have the control and they know how to use it. When the state sets aside funds for equalization, the richer schools also get some of the money. So instead of equalizing, they are keeping the spending gap the same, just now there is more money for each school (Kozol). The people who are wealthy are those who decide where the money goes, so how can we ever achieve equality in out society? Instead the cycle continues with rich children being taught the ways of the rich while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Kozol, Jonathon. Savage Inequalities. New York: Harpercollins, 1991.
"The New Federal Role In Education and Family Services." Social Work 41.5(1996):8p. Online. EbscoHost. 18 April 1997.
This paper was prepared in 1997 for a colloquium facilitated by Stephen Wright, instructor for the Advocates for Children program, part of the College Park Scholars community at the University of Maryland, College Park.