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A Level Playing Field?

Hummingbird's picture

I think education has the ability to level the playing field, but very often it doesn't do this. Many of the students at my high school, for example, came from low-income households and were on what's called "Free or Reduced Lunch." These very same students went to amazing colleges and (after attending an economically diverse school like ours) were armed with much of the "cultural capital" needed to find their niches in higher education settings. But we were also lucky in that the interactions among teachers and students in our school focused on an overwhelming desire to learn more and succeed. Our playing field was leveled for us when we came in – all of us scoring above a minimum level on an aptitude test in order to even be accepted to the school. In schools where this isn't the case (zoned local high schools in areas with poorly scoring elementary schools), it's far more difficult for students to even make it out of the system – let alone level with students from schools which are far more highly funded and are fed by high performing elementary schools. In these cases, many students are barely at acceptable reading and math levels – so it's impossible to expect teachers and students to work together to break even with other schools.

I spoke about high performing elementary schools but this, again, is dependent on school funding and time. Teachers need the time to get to know their students – particularly on an elementary school level – and parents need the time to help their children with homework and encourage good study habits. Many parents who work for minimum wage simply do not have the time to offer their children the support needed when beginning schooling and this is why leveling the playing field doesn't work. I'm not sure how, from here, we could make changes to encourage learning other than keeping class sizes smaller, and even then, changes like this require money which many local governments cannot afford.