Inequalities Are Still The Bigger Issue
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that no one hates poverty more that those who live in it. So why is there such a stigma against poor people but not their circumstance? We’ve all been brainwashed to think that you’re successful if you can live affluently, are average if you can live comfortably, and if you can barely live day to day you’re a failure. While this isn’t necessarily inaccurate, it does leads me to question why anyone would want see someone else struggle through life?
We don’t want to (I would hope), but I think it’s that feeling of bittersweet relief that comes from knowing there is someone else worse off than you that makes it okay for us to ignore the situation altogether; you’re not living a fabulous life, but at least you’re not scraping by on nothing. And it’s that middle class complacency that is the biggest enemy in this fight. I’ve talked about this before with regards to inequalities in education, and how those of us who don’t have to deal with living in poverty tend to forget about those who do; not on purpose, but by circumstance and media influence. And in doing so we forget that not everyone starts out on the same level when it comes to working toward the future, and end up fighting against each other for the wrong reasons because we’re distracted from the bigger picture.
I admit I’m a sucker for click-bait articles – the ones with the catchy questions and the “you won’t believe what happened” titles that beg you to follow through to find the answer. I also know that this is a huge, if not the biggest, marketing strategy especially when it comes to writing (I do it, too). Nevertheless, I find myself clicking those articles all the time because they offer a distraction. And when it comes to education-related news, I’ve noticed a lot of the popular articles about issues that not only have no relevance, but distract from, and pretty much actively ignore, the bigger issues at hand.
We see articles about banning recess and competitive play in lieu of more classroom time and avoiding bullying, but we don’t hear a lot about how different schools are affected by these changes. Middle class and private schools can afford to forgo recess because they have gym equipment, but for some poorer districts recess is all some kids have for any type of positive physical outlet while still being kept safe (there are also social repercussions, which we’ve covered here). And we see articles about suspending kids for wearing the wrong color green for their uniforms (not kidding) because it was distracting, but hear less about exactly why they couldn’t find the right color. Not to downplay the ridiculousness of suspending someone for wearing forest green instead of hunter green, but what if one child couldn’t afford to shop at a certain store that sold that one specific color, would he be suspended too? Side note, out of school suspensions as a whole seem silly to me, but that’s a story for another day (school-to-prison pipeline, anyone?).
Fighting for a decent education for everyone is no easy task, as there are many different aspects to conquer and fix before we can move on to the next issue. But as I’ve said before, the biggest hurdle in the race is and probably will continue to be money. We can’t build better facilities because there’s no money. We can’t hire more teachers or pay our current ones because there’s not enough in the budget. We have to cut extracurricular courses because there’s not enough funding. We have to enforce more testing to show that our school is meeting some arbitrary government requirements so we can continue to get money to stay open (thanks NCLB). Meanwhile, those in higher district or administrative positions have no trouble at all doing their jobs regardless of funding, so the majority of them have no qualms with the way things are and have no reason to complain. We tend to forget that everyone at every level can be held accountable for the way things are in the world; well, almost everyone as children haven’t had enough time to make a bigger impact on the world, but they do have influence on how we respond to them.
Instead of a “that’s just the way the world works” mentality, we need to constantly question and bring attention to these inequalities so that everyone can see them, not just those who are most affected by them – especially those of us in the middle. When we allow ourselves to stay distracted from the plight of the rest of the world, we forget what it is we should really be fighting for/against.
Educational (and economic) privilege is still everyone’s responsibility.