Unequal Opportunities in Education

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Letter to the Editor

Subject: Unequal opportunities in education

Date Sent: October 2, 2012

To Editor:

            The racial issues in reference to education that W.E.B Du Bois addressed and fought for in the 20th century did not die with him. While other great black leaders during this time pushed for African Americans to accept their superior position and learn crafts, industrial skills, farming skills and other trades that mainstream society saw as inferior, Du Bois wanted equality for African Americans. However, blacks and whites did not have an equal opportunity to become doctors, lawyers, and nurses. Americans today like to believe that those days of inequality and discrimination are over. They are not. This fact is not more evident than in our educational system.

            Schools in America were segregated until as late as the 1960s in some areas. Although legal segregation no longer exists, there is still racial segregation in schools and there is a discrepancy in the quality of education received by students of color versus students who are white. When the schools were legally segregated, whites received the better teachers, facilities, and resources, while black schools received what was left over or what was simply not good enough for the whites. Black schools today still receive inferior teachers, facilities, and resources. Statistics show that black and Latino students are more segregated now than they were 20 years ago. The student’s ethnicities are 95% black 4% white 2% Hispanic. The majority of private schools are occupied by white children from wealthy families. It is no one’s fault that a particular child is given the advantage of going to a better school because they can afford a private school. However the public school system is supposed to provide everyone with an equal opportunity to a quality education and frankly it does not do this.

            Most of the time, the inferior schools are located in areas with families that hold low socio- economic status. However, a parent’s financial standing should not limit a child’s opportunity to success. Every child deserves the same opportunity to attain a successful future. No child is born superior. These kids suffer from: fewer and lower-quality books, curriculum materials, laboratories, and computers; significantly larger class sizes; less qualified and experienced teachers; and less access to high-quality curriculum. Some schools do not even provide the classes required for college admission. As a result these students do not have a chance to compete.

These issues are not limited to any particular grade level or any particular area in the United States. In Mobile, Al, at Scarborough middle school, in 2011 the average math scores 46.1. As unfortunate as this score is, it is a vast improvement, because it has risen from 31.3. Reading scores have dropped from 70.6 to 57.6. Statewide the Scarborough Wildcats are ranked 415th out of 440 middle schools. Not surprisingly, Scarborough is located in a predominately black neighborhood.

Limited school resources are a big issue. Scarborough middle school has been using outdated text books for years. I have personally experienced the disadvantages of going to Scarborough middle school. When I was enrolled at Scarborough in 2006, I was taking basic science in the 8th grade while students at other schools were taking biology. This placed me an entire year behind when I went to high school.

There is a positive correlation between race and class. Students that go to poverty stricken, racially segregated schools are not exposed to a curriculum as challenging as other students. The poverty stricken students need to be challenged just as much if not more than other student because they have to make up for what they lack in other areas. Predominately white schools are also twice as likely to offer more advanced placement classes. These classes challenge students to exceed what they think their limits are. In the 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection, statistics show that out of 7,000 sampled school districts, 3,000 do not offer algebra II classes to high school students, and more than 7,300 high schools serving 2 million students do not offer calculus courses.

Discipline is also an issue within the school systems. Black students are more likely to be harshly disciplined than white students. I recall paddling, spankings, and knuckling, all being enforced in my predominately black school. And the disturbing fact is that there is no evidence to prove the effectiveness of these violent methods. A study even found that black students are sanctioned for more subjectively determined infractions. The following statistics show how often students of different races/ nationalities have been suspended from grades 7-12: 14.6 whites, 38.2 Native Americans, 35.1 African Americans, and 19.6 Latinos.

It is fundamental to our entire society that these issues are recognized and addressed. The results of education disparities affect not only the victims and their families, but our society as a whole. It affects future employment prospects, poverty, and incarceration rates, as well as limited capacity to participate in the world community. There is not a single solution to our problem. Instead, there are a number of collective actions that have to be taken. The quality of our teachers has to improve. We do not need teachers who simply show up from 6-3 for a pay check. We need teachers who genuinely care about their students and the future of our society and who are rewarded appropriately for their diligence. Smaller class sizes are important as well. It is not enough to have someone who simply delivers information. Students also need attention and also to feel a certain level of comfort while in the classroom. Access to more after school programs would have a positive effect as well. Students need activities to deter them from the bad things. These things need to be easily accessed. Schools may argue that they have a variety of sports teams available, but that does not provide an outlet for students who aren’t athletic. Drugs, gangs, and violence are readily available for the kids. Positive outlets have to be easier to access than the negative ones. Students should not have to search. All schools should provide advanced curriculums Kids need a challenge. Some teachers assume that black kids are not capable of more challenging assignments. These assumptions are holding our students back. If kids aren’t challenged not only are they not reaching their full potential, but they are also more likely to venture into drugs, gangs, and other violence. Modern learning facilities and resources are also essential. Black schools often have outdated books that are sometimes ‘hand-me-downs’ from the white schools. It is significantly harder for students when they do not even have the adequate resources. Despite the progress we have made there is no denying the disparities in educational resources and opportunities that still exist.