Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty

The gap between social classes and wealth continues to grow wider with each passing year. The rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. This cycle is as certain as there is rain in the Fall in Portland. But what are the contributing factors to this? The bottom line is this: a lack of education perpetuates the cycle. Let me rephrase that. A lack of good education perpetuates the cycle. 

In a TEDtalk by Kandice Sumner, a teacher from Boston, Kandice very eloquently discusses exactly why she feels that public schools keep kids in poverty. One would think: "well, they're in school, so they're getting the education they need to improve their lives". That is sadly not the case for most kids located in inner city school districts. Schools located in inner city areas lack the tools and resources that richer, typically white, schools possess. Everything from new books, computers, lunches, to school supplies aid in a child's overall learning experience and ultimately, what they take away from school. The sad truth is that these schools are not equipped to teach the necessary skills needed to progress in society. Kandice tells a story about how anonymous donors sent hundreds of new books to her classroom via an online wishlist site created to assist teachers in need. When these books arrived, her students were overjoyed, yet suspicious of the new books because they had never had new books. With the simple addition of new reading books, the kids were excited to read. An occurrence that was not typical of her inner-city classroom. This story shows how much a simple addition of resources can do for a child's learning experience. 

Most inner-city schools are composed of mainly minority children. Kandice spoke of an instance when teaching her students about the desegregation of 1954 and a student asked: "if segregation ended in 1954, then why are there no white students here?". This hit home for me. It doesn't take an overtly observant person to see the same thing this student saw. 

If education is the key to success and the ladder to climb out of poverty, then why is there such a large achievement gap? The gap between the education white students receive and the education minority students receive is shockingly skewed. The lack of access to a decent education that these inner-city students lack enforces their place in the poverty cycle. Public education should be accessible to just that - the public. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the public as all people or the whole area of a nation. Or furthermore, accessible to or shared by all members of a community. 

In short, public education needs to adequate, equipped, and ready to tackle the achievement gap - for all students. 

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- Samantha Thomas