Students’ American Dream
Imagine a five bedroom and three-bathroom home bricked dark brown with an attached three car garage with a red door with see through glass windows. This home is equipped with televisions in every room, Wi-Fi, computers, printers, two loving parents, three children, and enough food to feed the entire neighborhood that is situated with houses that have white picket fences aligning each perfectly cut yard with aesthetically pleasing square patterns. We have all seen this house in our American Dream. We all dream, but we have to wake up to reality each day. Each child’s home is a completely different situation than the next, but the one thing they have in common is that they both have an opportunity to gain an education by attending school. However, they do not have equal chances at excelling to the next level in their educational career because America’s education system is not systematically built for children who are disadvantaged; this disadvantage is centered around factors such as socioeconomic level, gender, and race. The only way to fix this problem is to have the students’ well-being in mind instead of the selfish nature of the politicians and the drive to profit off of policies set forth.
For some time, there have been numerous, imprudent changes that have been made to attempt to improve the education system: the addition of vertical penmanship to the curriculum, the elimination of recess, and the removal of correcting grammar and spelling mistakes to make school more enjoyable for children (Ravitch). We can tear a page out of this section of history and learn from it because it shows that all of these opinions and changes are for the sole purpose of distracting from the real problem that we need to deal with, and that is improving our schools.
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Even though college students do not apprehend the fact that we are ungrateful, we are. We complain about how much work we have to do for certain classes, how we are so tired because we stayed out so late the night before, and how we are ready for a break. The actuality that follows these complaints are that some people do not have the opportunity to fix their mouths to say these words because they could never cross the threshold to get to the next level, and gender bias is a contributing factor. Stated in the article “How Gender and Race Affect Education Today” by the Huffington Post, “According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, thirty-one million girls of primary school age do not attend school and seventeen million of these girls will probably never attend school in their lifetimes” (Huffington Post). Yet, education is generally conceived as the most effective path to empowerment. We are so used to seeing men in positions such as construction workers, plumbers, CEO’s of large companies, and doctors. We are also used to seeing women in positions such as stay at home mothers, babysitters, and nurses. The education system has to change the way it perceives the world. Just because society thinks that women should make less money than men, serve at their jobs as lower ranks than men, and not be the person to make decisions in the workplace does not mean the education system has to prepare women for failure.
In my experience, women feel like they have to hold the world on their shoulders, and we will sacrifice anything in order to make ends meet. When I was a junior in high school, I took an elective class to fill a void on my schedule, and when the teacher read off a list of names for the roll, he stopped on one name that caused chatter throughout the room. The students who knew the student’s name who was absent on the roster came to a consensus to tell the teacher that the student that was absent had a baby and would not be back for a couple of more weeks. I will never forget the look of disgust that appeared on his face. After a couple of weeks had passed, it was a coincidence that I was paired with her to complete a group project. Whenever we took breaks between doing certain tasks for the assignment, she shared with me that the counselors at the school were not going to work with her to graduate on time because she had a baby. How could they expect her to thrive in the discouragement and unsupportive energy that surrounded her as she was trying to finish school? Her boyfriend was able to miss a couple of weeks of school to help with the baby, and his teachers were more than willing to help him get caught up to the place where he needed to be. There is no amount of explanation or justification that can account for the explicit bias that females face in school more than males.
The problem of gender bias also transfers to higher education. When the U.S. Department of Education reviewed its data, it was found that women are less likely to be accepted into a prestigious college than a man. One of these colleges was Brown University; eleven percent of men were accepted compared to seven percent of women accepted in 2014 (Huffington Post). Surprisingly, they get more qualified female applicants than male applicants. Yet if they were to accept more female students in the future, most of the graduating class would be comprised of female students, which is something the no doubt majority male administration would not tolerate.
An additional problem in America’s educational world that I have observed during my time of serving as a student is that each school’s location and demographics dictate how well students perform in the classroom. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 Civil Rights Collection concluded that race and ethnicity affect learning in the school system. Some information they gathered was that primarily African American, Latino, and Native American schools are more likely to acquire novice teachers than schools that have primarily white kids (The Huffington Post). My last year of high school, we had an honors ceremony, and the conversation at each table centered around what everyone wanted to spend dedicating their life to and what kind of majors they were going to be. I had a friend across the table from me that talked about how she chose her major based off of the scholarship that was offered to her. She was offered a scholarship for majoring in elementary education that would pay back her student loans, allow her to go to college with having to pay little out of pocket, and consent to take the students who received the scholarship on a study abroad trip with all expenses paid. The only string attached to this scholarship would be that she would be placed in an area that had a scarcity of teachers and was underperforming. There is an overabundance of programs and grants being developed such as Fast-Track and Teach for America that offer college graduates without teaching degrees opportunities to enter the public education system. Even though the bursary is promising, it generally underserves the students who are forced to attend these schools. These students are not receiving the same education as another student in a more affluent area receives. The education system does not give students a chance to prove themselves of their intellectual ability; they would rather limit them by not having an adequate situation to foster the essential proficiencies to progress to the next level in life. This collection also included that black females and males were three times more likely to be suspended and black females were more likely than white females to get suspended (Huffington Post). Though this type of bias is perhaps most explicit when assessing the plight of the African-American community, many other minorities find themselves underserved by the arrangement.
Starting in the 1830s, the prejudice against Native Americans has since then taken place. First, there was the Indian Removal Act that was carried out by President Andrew Jackson to move Indians that did not willingly give up their land to Western Mississippi. Not only did the Removal Act strip Native Americans of their land, but it also oppressed and created a mass genocide of Indians as they were beaten and exposed to harsh winter conditions that left them with untreatable diseases. Most families started the journey with more members than they ended with. It was intended that once they were pushed so far west that they would not have anywhere to go, because the leaders of America thought that their priority was to provide land for the people expanding into the frontier states. In this case, the only idea leaders in America felt that was left to do was to strip the Indians from their culture and turn them into the people that were settling there. In the 19th century, the U.S. government forced thousands of Native Americans to attend these schools that would ultimately abandon their way of life as they knew it by giving them new names, making them change their hair and garments to match the look of the rest of the people who immigrated to America, and forcing them to speak English. U.S. Captain Richard Henry Pratt opened the first school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and students that attended these schools were exposed to deadly sicknesses such as tuberculosis and the flu that ended up leaving casualties. Between 1879 and 1918, there were about 200 children that were buried. Along with these children included Little Chief, Horse, and Little Plume, which the army disrespectfully dug up their graves on August 7, 2017. However, their bodies were returned by archaeologists a couple of weeks later (Little). The people in America take pride for the country being the land of the free, but everyone has their different version or perspective on what freedom includes. The only way that minorities are treated equally and freely is if they need something from them just like many schools today only take certain minorities to reach a quota or to get a certain amount of money. History can attest to this because they let African Americans stop being slaves to fight in the civil war, and there was a similar situation for Native Americans.
Later, the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the U.S. win World War II would reflect on the strange irony this forced assimilation had played in their lives “The code talkers found it perplexing that the same government that had tried to take away their languages in schools later gave them a critical role speaking their languages in military service,’ recounts the National Museum of the American Indian (Little).
American children have been the most adaptive through a plethora of changes that have been made to the school system in the past ten years or so. One of the most recent changes happened in 2017 when Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie in the Senate by pronouncing Betsy Devos as the nation’s Secretary of Education. Devos has never had any affiliation with public schools which includes never teaching, attending, or serving on the board of any public school in her lifetime. Her education agenda is comprised of creating more choices for parents to choose where their child will attend school; this includes expanding charter schools and public schools. The idea for charter schools was invented in 1988 for the purpose of wanting to give teachers a space where they could make a change. It was all started by the leader of the teacher’s union, Albert Shanker, and Minnesota was the first one to adapt the change in 1991. Now, there are about 6,500 public charter schools (Darling-Hammond 1620). One of the leading funders and founders for Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, Eli Broad, said something along the lines of, our focus needs to be extended to creating a superior public-school system, and the only way to do that is if we believe change can be possible. If we do not believe in public education and continue to create more charter schools and private schools, it speaks that the people in charge are ignoring and covering the problem up by. It also shows the kids that the people who make the decisions for them do not care as long as they make money; therefore, the people in charge will just place the children where there are open schools. We need more high-quality schools instead of more schools just to place the kids. This law claimed to do justice for its name; it claimed that no child would be left behind. However, the underlying meaning of this law is that each school in the state would have to have a certain test score for them not to close the school. They thought that they were doing something good by allowing more time for test preparation, but this was taking away time for important classes that could change a students mindset and make them more aware of these subjects for college such as history, arts, and extracurricular (Ravitch xxv). This also did not just affect the children, but it most importantly affected the teachers because they would have to work day and night to find a method that would attune to their kids’ needs which meant turning what school is meant to be which is a community-level environment to teach children what they need to know before facing the real world into a competition to where everyone has to cheat to get to where they want to be by only started to teach what was going to be on the test. Testing used to just be a goal that they reach for the end of the year, by teaching things that are useful, but now that is all they are worried about.
Some people may argue that some charter schools are excelling, and that is true. The one reason why is because they have the power to select and choose to accept the top performing students and deny the students who underperform. However, this is not getting them any closer to their goal. Instead of doing this, they are not helping the children who need help, and they are being placed in other schools that have lower test scores; they usually do not accept kids who have disabilities or are impoverished. They just want someone to make them look good instead of fulfilling their purpose of helping all children reach their goals. That is what is wrong with the system now: taking the easy way out. America needs to change to a growth mindset. Instead of denying the children who are not up to standards, they should just say that they are not where they need to be yet. The way that they will get there is for the school to give them the necessary tools they need. That is why the school system is falling short. The New York Performance Standards Consortium is an example of positive accountability that we can use an example to better the No Child Left Behind Act. This is a group of 28 schools that were granted the right to make their own assessments from the New York State Education Department in 1995. To prove and measure that the students are retaining the information they are taught, they are required to complete research projects, portfolios, and essays. Something that they do differently than other school is that they enroll the same number of students of color, students with disabilities, and students with English learning disabilities as the public-school system. The effect of these changes that they made is that they have higher graduation rates, higher percentages of students going to college, and lower suspension rates (Ravitch xxvii).
CONCLUSION TALKING ABOUT POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS NOT FINISHED
We need to have programs for mom and dads to get their GED and job placement so their kids won’t have to feel the need to compromise school. This may also have to do with depression since women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the depression, and women in lower poverty places are also more likely to get depression. We also need to make school a more inviting place. No one is going to go somewhere where they aren’t wanted. Also, girls have extenuating conditions no one ever accounts for like bleeding for an entire week of each month uncontrollably with pain throbbing in their abdomen. Most people like to make a case about how the gender bias problem cannot be solved. So, the proposal that would fix the problem is to perform an experiment. For every applicant to have a number in the application process, and the person reviewing the application would not be able to tell gender or race; they would only be able to tell whether the applicant is qualified to be admitted to the school. These results would be interesting and worthwhile to see.