Poverty is a global problem that has many negative implications on the social structure as well as the lives of the individuals that find themselves within its life-destroying power. For many who are subjected to poverty the main focal point becomes survival. Living this type of existence can destroy hope and motivation while diminishing the reality of self-improvement and experiencing a better life escaping its power.
In today’s world we see that the middle class is shrinking as the upper class grows and the lower class grows. As this evolution of a local way of life becomes a more global way of life, it seems that society’s response increases the problem. The community is transitioning from a small centralized economy to a world economy. It seems that the overwhelming action to cope with this change has been to invest into certain institutions.
The penal system and the educational system seem to be the two industries that are growing as a result of this global shift. Both institutions are growing by leaps and bounds. There are many old doors of opportunity being closed as new doors of opportunity are being opened. Those in poverty are unable to keep up with the rapid pace of change; therefore, many are entering the penal system rather than the educational system.
There is a socially accepted formal path of education and there is a socially-unacceptable path of education. Individuals tend to gravitate toward educating themselves according to their worldview, which is dominated by their life experience and their immediate needs. Therefore, children need an education that is founded in high standards and high expectations that expand beyond test scores move the mind of a child beyond his low income neighborhood.
Children age 18 and under represent around 28 percent of the United States population and comprise nearly 40 percent of the poverty population. This number of children in poverty ranks number one in all industrialized nations. Overall, around 20 percent of Americans live in poverty, which has been constant for the past 40 years. Of these 20 percent, 60 percent are from the working class poor.
Poverty is an exceptionally complicated social phenomenon that creates a group of people who are viewed as negative, inferior, passive, hopeless, and powerless. Good education is often the only means of breaking the cycle of poverty for poor children. However, when there is little access to good education, bad education is the alternative. Unfortunately in the education system a belief is perpetrated among those who have not experienced poverty. This belief is that those who are poor choose to remain in poverty and they have no desire to change. These beliefs and perceptions affect how instruction is presented which creates interference in the learning process.
Let’s take a look at how poverty has affected the educational system: A large percentage of the student bodies in many of the public schools of America are poor. A simple working definition of poor is as follows: persons who lack what is needed by most Americans to live without their most basic needs being met because they earn less than half of the nation’s median income.
There are physiological, sociological and psychological issues such as single-parent households, maternal education, or child health problems that may contribute the child’s development. Children living in poverty tend to miss school more often because of illness. These children also have a much higher rate of accidents than do other children, and they are twice as likely to have impaired vision and hearing, iron deficiency anemia, and higher than normal levels of lead in the blood, which can impair brain function.
Poor children are twice as likely as non-poor children to have repeated a grade, to have been expelled or suspended from school, or to have dropped out of high school. They are also more likely to be identified as having a learning disability in elementary or high school than their non-poor counterparts.
These issues force schools to deal with issues other than education, which impacts the learning process. Many of the teachers have been socialized to believe that the poor cause their own poverty. They think that they can change instantly because this is possible in America. The teachers that do understand and care can become stressed and overwhelmed with all the roles they must fulfill to meet the needs of their students.
Additionally, instructional and classroom management techniques that work well with some students don’t necessarily work well with poor children. The myriad of issues take away from teaching and instruction time, which makes it difficult really challenge students to learn at their full potential. As a result the best teachers are attracted to more affluent schools where these issues don’t dominate the classroom. This leaves underachieving less-skilled teachers to educate the most difficult students.
Curriculum that reflects the culture of poverty to neutralize it should be rigorously aligned with the standards. There must be a belief instilled in teachers that poor children can learn and what occurs in the classroom has a significant impact on student achievement. However, the vigorous grind that teachers are subjected to creates a tremendous amount of stress and responsibility that can promote low morale among the faculty.
The curriculum should be challenging to prevent decreased opportunity for higher education. Because without it less opportunity in life is available for them. Content should be of high quality, not watered. But generally many schools are in survival mode.
Teachers are from another world which provides them with little knowledge of the cultures in which their students live. Therefore, it is difficult to plan effective and engaging lessons. The perspective and experiences of the children need to be considered in order to properly educate them at an effective level.
Poverty is impacting education by creating very challenging learning environments that are widening the achievement gap motivation. Readiness and parent/family involvement are common problems that complicate the school’s ability to teach students. In many cases effective teaching is a secondary responsibility.
Many of the students having little concern for because they are preoccupied with survive today. This “live for now mentality” can be misunderstood and be perceived as self-sabotaging behavior. Many of the educators mistakenly reinforce the belief of hopelessness in which nothing can be done to change their outcomes. In this type of educational environment the cycle is fueled more which help pass it from generation to generation.
The rise in the number of children in poverty has made the classrooms more difficult than ever before. This makes both teaching and learning more challenging. This issue is a big challenge for teachers; it is very easy to becoming a part of the problem because teachers’ priority is no longer teaching.
Many teachers are ignorant of poverty and lack sensitivity to the needs that children of poverty bring to the classroom. They lack understanding and skills to manage the effect poverty can have on the development of children. The teachers operate from a different set of values, morals, rules, or norms than the social world these children are a part of.
Poverty is forcing the educational system to become more culturally sensitive and more rounded to meet the needs of our students. In order to equip our students to lift themselves from poverty will require a commitment from all social, financial and governmental groups. We may never wipe out poverty but we can develop an education system that is inclusive of all our citizens. If we don’t, we will see poverty continue to grow as we fall behind in this competitive global world.