I was concerned about sending my son to the local public school. The area where we live does not have a great reputation for the quality of its public school system and I was worried about the type of educational path we were placing before him.
A meeting with his teacher reassured me that my fears were largely unfounded. Relieved, I felt grateful that we live in a relatively good tax base area and that the school seems to be doing a good job at education. Not all parents are so fortunate.
Daniel Cubias recently discussed a worrisome theory: those who have fallen into poverty may find themselves stuck there. The increase in poverty is a national problem. The number of impoverished people is the highest in has been in 18 years, according to the Census Bureau. A report by the Brooking’s Institution (released November 4), outlines the changing “appearance” of poverty in the nation.We know that Latinos have lost jobs, wages, and household wealth. Is the poverty we now face, as a community, a big pit of quick sand that allows us no footing on which to climb out?
According to reports, the face of poverty and “ghetto-ization” has changed. No longer easily identifiable by concrete towers of urban plight, poverty is now in the suburbs, growing and dispersed. As poverty entrenches itself within these communities, the effects on the economy become like the gravitational pull of a black hole. As property values (tax base) decline in the community, so does access to good schools, municipal services such as police and fire fighters, hospitals, and healthy food; all creating widening islands of inequality within the fabric of U.S. society.
Focusing on the schools: as poor communities become further isolated, they not only lose revenue to fund the schools that are serving a population most in need of the benefits of a good education, but they are also becoming a type of cultural prison. One of the roles of education is to socialize students. In an ideal society, children in all segments of society would mingle and become socialized together. Bonds formed within the system would persist into adulthood.
However, when one disadvantaged population is the only segment represented within the school, children are not able to form bonds with any individual outside of their own culture of poverty. Access to a network of people across a broad range of the social spectrum is denied. Students become acculturated to a certain view of life and their role in it. Without exposure to different ways of thinking, of reacting to situations, and without a window into another section of society, impoverished students risk being trained to think within a narrow framework of expectations and possible life results.
One way to address the issue is to demand community integration; the melting pot theory of economic reform. Providing low-cost housing, interspersed within stable communities, would help eliminate the cultural isolation and disperse the poor into communities that can better absorb and thus buffer economic hardship.