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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Essay

Teaching Kids to Remain Poor

November 04, 2000|MIKE GOMEZ | Mike Gomez has taught sixth, seventh and eighth grades at Wesley Gaines School in the Paramount School District for the last four years

In its most destructive form, inequality in education reduces children to poverty. As a fourth-year teacher in Los Angeles, I experience inequality every day. Administrators at my school seem to understand this, yet they ignore the fact that the majority of inner-city students stand on the brink of utter failure.

Many of my students come into the classroom with a plethora of disadvantages. Many of them don't have the support of both parents at home. Often mothers alone must shoulder the overwhelming responsibility of feeding, clothing and educating their children.

Academically speaking, a high percentage of my students are low readers who lack the necessary skills to do well on standardized tests.

In addition, most of them seldom get the opportunity to experience life outside of their neighborhood. These children are confined to the 'hood, as most of them call it. They are reduced to accepting poverty as their lifetime companion.

Certainly they thirst for success, but thirsting for success isn't enough to create it. What they need are resources, the basic technological tools that our modern world has possessed for well over a decade. When middle-grade children from a particular segment of society don't have adequate computer technology (or any computers, for that matter) in their classrooms, this places them in a less-privileged position than the rest of society.

Unfortunately, this is the scenario where I teach. I've visited other public schools where the school district had a better grasp on things, and their classrooms are brimming with the latest technology. Those children are receiving a sound education. They have access to laptops, personal computers, printers and Web sites, tools that should be allocated to all children. Not only my students, but thousands upon thousands of students within a five-mile radius of these technologically superior public schools are tragically being left behind in the Dark Ages. They are quickly falling toward the fringes of society. Poverty will mark their lives because they don't have the adequate education to become financially successful.

How do we even begin to deal with this overwhelming disparity? We need to look closer at the truth and acknowledge that inequality does exist. In all its ugly forms, inequality is pervasive in our public schools. The children who are receiving the finest educations, namely those who are being given vital information resources that can only be accessed via computers, stimulating and educational field trips, enthusiastic teachers and shrewd administrators, will be our future leaders. They will go forth into the world with confidence and knowledge. But those students who are neglected will simply perpetuate the poverty and misfortune that many of their parents inherited. Perhaps there might exist the few who somehow get through the jagged seams of their hopeless quagmire. But what about the other poor students, the girls who follow the footsteps of their 15-year-old mothers, or the boys who seek the demons that sent their fathers to jail? These are the same students who might very well be walking their own children to the same schools where they learned how to be poor.

Unless there is some serious overhauling of our feeble educational system, at least at the local level, the vast majority of these unfortunate children simply will be unable to partake in the economic prosperity our nation possesses. Ignorance and poverty will be an acceptable plateau for them.

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