On Education (Part 2)

I went to a San Antonio Rampage hockey game once and they gave an award to a teacher and described her as helping to educate the workers of tomorrow. But we aren’t just educating workers in our schools. We’re educating citizens. With the exception of some international students whose family will leave the country before the kids can achieve citizenship, every child in those classrooms are future voters.

In my previous post, I defended general education requirements on the college level by saying that they can help broaden the horizons of kids. The friend who posted the meme said that high school should be the place for learning broader subjects and college should be for specialization.

The issue with this is that underage residents of the United States are too much at the mercy of the adults in their lives.

The way our schools are funded is through local property taxes. This means that the more expensive the homes are in the area near the school, the more money those schools get, and thus the better quality of equipment, the better extracurricular activities are available, the more courses can be held in each subject matter, and the more the teachers and administrators get paid.

So now we have at least two different educational system, educational systems for the kids from wealthy areas and educational systems for kids from poorer areas. Now, let’s add to that the stresses on the kids in the poorer areas.

People who are poor, at least in the United States, generally have no, or little, savings cushion. Because of their low income they often are charged more for, say, a car loan than a wealthier person. Frequently they end up in high-crime areas as well.

Poor parents are generally working harder, more stressful jobs and thus are not present for their kids in the way that wealthy parents can be and, additionally, even when the wealthy parents can’t be there, they’ll have an easier time finding people to take care of their kids (nannies, babysitters, etc.). Wealthier families can also afford more activities for their kids, some, if not most, of which will also include personal attention from an adult.

It is stressful to be poor. I’m not an economist. I don’t even play one on TV. One of the studies I read back in the day (I cannot find it right now), says that “bad” stress is the result of how much control you have over your life.

These harder, more stressful jobs are harder because have that bad, less-control-over-your-life stress. I mean, jobs that pay well can be stressful, too, but they also can be, say, done from home, or the stress takes the form of sitting in meetings rather than working, or the workers can keep their own schedules. If something comes up that keeps them from coming in until noon, they can stay later to get their work done. Or if they know that they’ll need to be somewhere in the afternoon, they can come in earlier.

Do you think that the licensed practical nurse who comes in to take your temperature when you’re in the hospital can do that? Or the person who brings your groceries out to your car at the supermarket? Or the person who empties the garbage cans in your local park?

And this stress communicates itself to the kids, both psychologically and physically. PTSD can be transmitted epigenetically. I cannot help but think that this may also account for at least part of generational poverty.

Then there’s child hunger in the United States. For a non-zero number of kids in the United States, the “free school meals” are the only food they’ll have on that day. And even the poor kids who get three meals frequently get at least one meal of fast food because their folks are too tired from cutting hair or driving school buses, or cleaning floors all day to cook. So they stop for McDonald’s or KFC or whatever instead.

I wonder how many words I’m up to now, because I hesitate to get into the scourge on our land that is known as achievement testing. For my lifetime at least, achievement testing has been the law of the land. As a result, teaching to the test has always been a problem. Teachers are so busy trying to make sure that their students pass their achievement tests that really allowing kids to flourish, both academically and psychologically, gets lost in the shuffle.

Where is the space for deep dives into the “why” when the state is breathing down your back regarding your achievement tests? Or, worse, the college boards?

You know who can get that? The kids in advanced placement classes (those are college-level courses given in high school), but I don’t want only kids who qualify for AP classes to know this information. I want every kid to know it.

But that would require us to completely restructure how education works in our country. We’d need to get rid of separate education systems for the rich and the poor. We’d need to strengthen our social safety net so that everyone can have a financial buffer. We’d need to make sure that every child gets at least three healthy meals a day so that no child is stuffing themselves with empty calories just in an effort to keep going. We’d need to accept that the jobs that became known as “essential workers” are just that — essential — and give those workers their due in both pay and respect. We’d need to retrain our police officers to accept that when they say “Protect” on the side of their police cars, it means everyone regardless of how much money they have or where they live.*

Do you think that’ll happen anytime soon in the US? For all of the “COVID was a big wake up call to how important grocery store stockers were” we heard, it sure seems that this is all talk and no action. And that’s just one of the things that would have to happen before American students could get the quality of education that they deserve.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time: I got distracted by the Giveaways at Goodreads. Okay. Now back to 2019. Oop. 2020. This is when I joined the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club, and today’s book is the first book we read for the club, Follow Me to Ground, by Sue Rainsford. Follow Me to Ground is . . . odd. Fascinating, wonderfully written, but odd. Apparently it’s magical realism, but it wasn’t that realistic from my perspective. It felt more like some kind of post-apocalyptic setting to me. Ada is not human. She was created by her “father” when he put branches and sticks into the “Ground” that is outside their house. The Ground is, like, quicksand, and Ada and her father stick the local villagers, whom they refer to as “Cures” in that ground when they are ill, and their illness will be healed when they emerge from the ground. All has apparently been fine in their lives until Ada falls in love with a “Cure” named Samson.

This is definitely not a book I would have chosen for myself, but I’m glad I read it.

*Oh, I have a whole thing about the police. Maybe I’ll go into it later.

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