On my trip home from work recently, I overheard a conversation that involved about five twenty-something’s. The conversation involved an EBT card(food stamps for those who don’t know) and the fact that the cardholder was having some issues using it recently. She was obviously upset, and she should have been. after all, from my perspective, she could not purchase food for herself nor anyone she was responsible for. But it was a statement she made later that upset me. She went on to say that she “earned’ her “stamps” and “how could they “screw her —- up”. the others around her, another young lady and three guys all lamented her situation and echoed her belief that she had earned her “stamps”. How could “they” do this to me. One guy even chimed in that he had recently experienced issues with his card. All of this sent my head a spinning. How does one “earn” an EBT card? I always thought “they” gave you an EBT card. After a few moments digesting what she had said, my thoughts turned to frustration. How dare she say she earned her card considering it was our tax dollars that provided the funds for the card. Then that thought went away quickly as I realized my frustration should be directed at the system that allows such attitudes to perpetuate themselves. I started to think about not what she said specifically, but what her statement meant for us as a society as a whole. What I gleaned from this group of young people was that they felt they were entitled to that card. They felt that just being alive entitled them to have that EBT card so they do not have to spend any money on a basic necessity. By the time I got to my stop, I had come to the same conclusion that many others before me had; we are producing a society of men and women, and by extension children, who feel they are entitled to things. Nothing has to be earned, but it should be given. It has become a popular notion that just being born entitles you to food, housing, insurance, and even a diploma. All at no cost to the individual. The prevailing belief among a large number of people is that you should not have to work to pay for food and shelter, and other necessities. When you work you should be able to use that money for leisure activities, or so it is believed. No need to study hard, because they are going to have to let me walk across that stage, because I was born and I have a right to walk across that stage whether I met the requirements to walk or not. Why should I take care of my children when the schools and the state can do it for me. By the time all my thoughts had finished swirling around in my head, I settled back and realized that what is wrong with South DeKalb and with our society in general is that we have become a nation that feels entitled to things as oppose to working for them. It is obvious from our schools to the streets to our prisons. Successful individuals do not feel entitled to anything. They work hard and reap the rewards of that hard work. It transcends social standing, economic status and racial identification. It is a learned behavior and until many of us unlearn that entitlement mentality we are surely never going to be successful at anything.
This is part of a NY Times Op-Ed. You can read the full thing here. Also read the comments, some are very enlightening.
Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled.
Breaking up these toxic concentrations of poverty would seem to be a logical and worthy goal. Long years of evidence show that poor kids of all ethnic backgrounds do better academically when they go to school with their more affluent — that is, middle class — peers. But when the poor kids are black or Hispanic, that means racial and ethnic integration in the schools. Despite all the babble about a postracial America, that has been off the table for a long time.
I am a pessimist at heart and after reading the above Op-Ed from the NY Times, it just hardens me even more to the fact that our society continues to drift into two opposing camps. Not by race so much as by class. Education was touted as the equalizer to poverty. With a decent education you could escape the ignorance and poverty of the previous generation. Today, it seems that door is slowly closing. Fact is schools with large populations of poor families are the schools that are failing to educate their citizens out of poverty. In fact, these schools are doing the exact opposite. These schools have teachers with far less experience and far less passion. Children come from homes where education is marginalized only to arrive at school where the same attitude affects a super majority of the students and a few of the staff as well. Coming from a poverty stricken family is not the fault of the child, but we place the burden of being poor on the child. Children who have the opportunity to escape these poverty stricken schools do far better than those who are stuck there. Concentrating poor and uneducated people in any situation is not good for them nor is it good for our society. It did not work in housing, and it is not working in our educational system.
This article was sent by a reader recently, and I just had to share it just in case people had not read the comments from my last post. Here are a few quotes from the article.
This year(2004) at Vanderlyn, in a quiet DeKalb County suburb northeast of Atlanta, the PTA raised an eye-popping $133,166 and is lavishing it on the kids: $12,000 for the library, $12,500 for the gym, $4,000 for landscaping, $2,250 for “student incentives.”
Then to be contrasted with this statement:
Toney boasts a successful “Treasure Chest” program that rewards kids and parents who read books. Read a book, take home a prize: toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, blankets, canned goods. “Everything that they may be too proud to ask for,”
Basic necessities are given as rewards! What’s worst, is that the reward system applies to parents as well as students. This an awful way to start life.
Addressing poverty and ignorance seems to be an elusive goal in education. Poverty is more entrenched and more dangerous than society wants to admit.
Experts say the effects of poverty fall squarely on minority students. John Logan, a demographic researcher at State University of New York-Albany, has found that the average black or Hispanic student attends an elementary school in which about two-thirds of classmates are poor; for whites, fewer than a third of classmates are poor.
Education is suppose to be the path out of poverty, but too many poor families are stuck in a cycle of poverty, poor education and a society unwilling to admit that poor students may need more resources.
Even middle-class minority students aren’t exempt: The average black family with an income of more than $60,000 lives in a neighborhood with a higher poverty rate than the average white family earning less than $30,000, he says.
This could explain why schools with solid middle class students are still suffering
Recent research also shows that poor students, who are least likely to find help at home, are least likely to find it at school. Poorly prepared, uncertified teachers are concentrated in urban and rural school districts, says Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. “It all adds up,” she says.
Resources that are most needed in urban classrooms are not there.
This article sums up not only what is wrong in DeKalb, but5 what is also wrong in our education system in general. The sad part is that This article could have been written in 2010 with the same schools, and the facts would remain absolutely the same.,
This is a scary story. Not because White kids are successful in school systems thought to be sub-standard. It is scary because of what it says very subtly. So what is wrong with the black students? Despite questionable leadership and despite less than qualified teachers, these kids succeed. With crumbling infrastructure the white students succeed. Add the black students to the equation, and the systems take a nose dive. The post mentioned nothing about the background of these students, who tested above the state average, other than their whiteness. I think we know what is being said, but PC will not even allow it to be touched.
You folks in South DeKalb can call me racist all you want, but I know that you folks do not vote for change, but for more of the same. I can’t believe you folks in the south part of DeKalb are happy with mediocre education and a crumbling infrastructure.
First of all I take umbrage at the “you folks”. Addressing someone as “you folks” is a slight in my opinion. It could have easily been “citizens” or “people”. I think the above comment over at DeKalb School Watch is typical of the beliefs held by so many people who live outside of South DeKalb. There is an image of people in South DeKalb striving for mediocrity and wanting nothing more than corrupt leadership and a government handout. That image is far from reality. Like most other misleading perceptions, the actions of a few dictate the image of the whole, especially when dealing with African-Americans. There are several under performing schools in South DeKalb, but there are plenty of schools that do quite well especially at the elementary level. I would be willing to go out on a limb and say most parents in South DeKalb want their children to succeed in school. They want them to be challenged and they want them to be safe. They want their children to achieve excellence in all aspects of their school career. There are a minority number of parents who either do not care about their children’s education, or are just plain ignorant as to what is happening with the school system in general. These parents can be found in school systems all over the country. It is not unique to South DeKalb. Further, South DeKalb is in a position that is unique among areas in the metro. We have well to do, very educated people who send their kids to DeKalb schools and we have citizens who live in excessive poverty and are less educated than the average Georgian. It is the concentration of this poverty and lack of education in South DeKalb that needs to be addressed by citizens and leaders throughout DeKalb. It has been proven through the ages that education is the eradicator of poverty and ignorance. It is a sure fire way to move from poverty to middle-class, and from middle-class to wealthy. It is easy to cast stones in the direction of people who do not have the ability to see the stone coming, or do not know what to do once it is thrown. Criticizing an entire population based on the actions of a few is counter-productive. It creates the very animosity that fuels this civil disagreement between Northern and Southern residents. I do not buy in to the belief that South DeKalb does not want change. District 7 sent the message it wants change with 61 percent of voters wanting Zepora Roberts out. I think part of Jay Cunningham’s and Sarah Copelin-Woods victory was in part due to the fact that many of their constituents are poor and less educated than residents in other districts. This is not a knock on the citizens living there, this is a fact. Copelin-Wood and Cunningham rode that tide of ignorance back into office. The concentration of poverty and low education standards played as much a role in those two keeping their seats as did a more educated and middle-class electorate in district 7 and district 1. treating ignorance is as easy as providing information and explaining it if necessary. Anger at South DeKalb is misplaced at best and misleading at worst. What is best for all is for people who have the knowledge to help spread it to those who do not. Media, bloggers, and activists did a poor job of that. If replacing the board members is what we want, then those in the know have to talk with those who are not. Talking amongst ourselves does not help anyone become a better and involved citizen. Instead of tossing barbs back and forth we should be tossing information back and forth.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Nooks following the candidate forum in Dunwoody on Tuesday evening which was poorly attended again. Dr. Nooks is attempting to replace Jay Cunningham to represent district 5 on the board. I believe that many of the problems that face the DeKalb school system are rooted in poverty and ignorance. A good predictor of a school systems performance is to look at the number of families in poverty or whose citizens have a minimal education. That is not to say that children from economically distressed situations do not exceed, it just that it is much harder to escape that black hole of poverty. Many struggling schools have students that come from homes that do not put a high priority on education. The parents who struggled in high school, or who did not complete high school find it hard to impart the urgency of a quality education to their children. So why do schools like Stephenson and MLK not meet the bar. According to county statistics, MLK has not made AYP since 2005. Stephenson has fallen short the last two years on AYP. Both Schools are below the state and national average on SAT scores. This is Ironic, since the zip codes surrounding both of these schools have adults whose educational attainment meets or exceeds the state average at all degree levels including Doctorate. In other words these are middle class people who have gone to college graduated and created a comfortable living standard for themselves and their families. These are schools that are not wracked with poverty. Why do write this? Well, because in my talk with Dr. Nooks, and later with Nancy Jester, I raised the issue of poverty, social ills and the environments at Stephenson and MLK that, from the outside, seem to be a recipe for success. My query to him was how can the board battle a social ill like poverty that has beaten every program, every idea, and every attempt to fix it for as long as time itself. Dr. Nooks admitted that poverty and the problems that children in similar situations bring with them to school cannot be ignored. It is fundamental for the board and the system to take into account the whole child when dealing with the various issues that the system is failing in. He also acknowledged the challenges facing a district that has seen its number of economically disadvantage citizen’s rise in the last 10 years. One idea Nooks thought was interesting was a system that is similar to our University system. Competitive institutions that would be attractive to students and parents and would give all students the opportunity to succeed in a fashion that is desirable to the parent and the student. Dr. Nooks acknowledged that reforming the system is easy to discuss but much harder to actually implement. I for one would like to see schools allow a certain number of seats, say 50 for example, for students outside the attendance zone. These fifty seats would be open to those who apply and are accepted based on a number of criteria. Each school could have a unique mission that provided students with a well-rounded education, but also have a concentration or specific area of expertise, and if a student wants to be a part of that school they could apply for one of the open seats. This allows a family to have a choice in what would be the start of a lifelong pursuit of education, and the costs would probably be minimal. I think the thing that impressed me the most about Dr. Nooks, and Nancy Jester was that they were not afraid to discuss solutions that challenge traditional thinking. This is what is needed not just on the school board, but throughout our society in general. The standard model of public schools needs to be reevaluated and updated so we can compete in today’s world and tomorrow’s world. A business model is updated in order to reflect the changes that have taken place or that is anticipated to happen. Public schools should not be an exception to that.
One thing is clear: African-Americans do not need another program carved out to address anything. When 70 percent of our males drop out of high school; when 30,000 black people show up for HUD voucher applications; when greed, graft and criminal attachments seem to travel with our best and brightest in politics and government; when robbery and murder of our community entrepreneurs is vogue; when our young people believe that exposing their underwear is fashionable; and when we believe that whored-out expensive autos with rented rims is the way to social salvation, another program is not the answer
Now thats how you shoot from the hip. I really like the whored-out autos line, that is too classic. This post was in Crossroads news recently, and it goes to the heart of the problem in too many black communities. Too many people put value into the wrong things. The things that should be valuable to most of us, has no value to many. Education has no value. Family has no value. Friendships, hard work, and spirituality and life have no value for too many people.