Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Unfair education system

I have come to a point where I must begin to figure out where to take all the knowledge that I have gained thus far in my college career. I am an education major and am now faced with having to decide in what type of environment I want to teach. I have been given the incredible experience to see two completely different ends of the educational system. I have been in a poor, predominately African-American, inner-city school where I was the only white person in the classroom and I have been in a suburban school where I was just another one of the white majority that existed in the school. I have seen the rich school and I have seen the poor school.
What I cannot understand is how such a large discrepancy between the two schools is allowed to exist. It seems that we as a country have come so far in terms of racial equality, but how can I say this after what I have seen? How can I continue to claim this after I have seen the gap that exists between these two schools? At one school the children in the first grade are reading chapter books, in the other school the children in the first grade are struggling to read full sentences. I am sure that any person living in this country could guess which school contains which level of reading.
Do I walk into a classroom of children who are at the very core so different than I am and attempt to learn from them and give myself to help them gain the very things that people like me have been denying them for years? Or do I walk into a classroom where the children are the same as I am and bring them the knowledge that I received in a new way to help make them more sensitive to the issues that exist in the world around them? Do I even have the right to be a white teacher of a classroom full of African-American children? Will I be resented for not understanding where they are coming from? Or can I work to overcome those differences?
There are so many questions to which I have no answers. The things I have seen in these schools have kept me awake at night. Something has got to change. But how is that change to occur? I am overwhelmed with the things that have gone wrong. I am overwhelmed with the amount of people who have accepted the current situation. I am overwhelmed with the work ahead of us and I wonder if it is worth it. Is it more productive to do the best with what we have? Do I walk into one of the wealthy suburban schools and pretend that this is the way that things are for everyone? It is so much easier to pretend that the problem does not exist, to pretend that it is somebody else’s problem.
I can no longer live with my own ignorance. I refuse to go on pretending that we are a just society when all around me I see things that are unjust. I need to believe that it is possible to change and that there are things we can do. We have been taught that the only changes worth making are the ones that are worldwide and sweeping changes. But we must start with the smaller changes first; the changes we know we have the power to make. We can no longer afford to ignore the things we see as wrong and wait for someone else to come along and fix them.
As I write this I hear how idealistic it sounds, but I have come to realize that unless we force ourselves to make these idealistic dreams, nothing will ever change. I wonder if the people working for change in the 50’s and 60’s ever thought they would make as many changes as they did. Did they think their situation was hopeless as we do today? We were once able to change our world and we must continue to try and change it. We must keep working and getting frustrated and allowing ourselves to fail in order to someday have a country in which we can all truly take pride in. Please, continue to dream and to act on those dreams. Show the world that our generation will not accept the label of a slacker generation. We are more than that and it is time we take what we know and use it toward a productive end.

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