The Great Equalizer
Alexa Velasquez, Division 2, 10th grade #ws18e-s3d2

The United States of America was founded on the belief that all people should be treated equally. However, examples such as slavery, the gender pay gap, and lack of suffrage prove that our country has contradicted their morals. Likewise, education in America is supposed to serve as “the great equalizer” to ensure that all citizens are given equal opportunities to succeed. Hundreds of years later, it has been proven that not only is education not serving as “the great equalizer”, but as a contributor to injustice. According to education advocate Kati Haycock, “Some say we can’t fix education until we fix poverty. It’s exactly the opposite; we can’t fix poverty until we fix education.”

In poverty and low-income areas, many students are deprived of opportunities to achieve academically. As schools in these areas have limited resources, they are not capable of providing their students with many advanced classes that their wealthy peers have access to. Thus, their wealthy peers continue to thrive and increase their knowledge, while low-income students never get such chances to improve. Furthermore, as extracurricular activities are commonly not provided by low-income schools, their students have trouble feeling passionate about school, and don’t find a place for themselves to belong. It is difficult to go to school everyday when one doesn’t have anything to look forward to, or much of an incentive to go. Therefore, these students tend to dropout of school more often. Even the students that do graduate high school are still challenged, because high school diplomas don’t go very far in our country’s competitive job market. As a result, they are then plagued with the choice of attending college. For many low-income students, college isn’t even an option, due to the constant rise in tuition costs. Likewise, many need a job as soon as possible to increase their family’s income, and thus don’t attend college. This results in a constant cycle of poverty, as children are born into low-income families, are disadvantaged in education, struggle to find successful jobs, and fall back into the vicious poverty cycle.

However, there are some important things to note about this kind of situation. First, some schools in high poverty do perform at a high level. Likewise, wealthy students are not automatically guaranteed to become more successful than those in poverty. Lastly, some people born into poverty can and do rise above these challenges, and become successful. Despite this, it is obvious that those that are given more opportunities to succeed are more likely to prosper. Thus, an essential measure that must be taken to improve education is to ensure that students in poverty are given equal opportunities to thrive. Our government needs to give more attention to schools in poverty. Improving education may be the only way to break the poverty cycle.

The first step that should be taken to improve education is to encourage the government to become more flexible in their budgets. If schools in poverty were given more money to improve education, the.results would be extraordinary. This money would be used to make more specialised services for students, such as advanced classes, special education, and extracurricular activities. Students would finally be able to feel a sense of belonging, as they would be given education that actually caters to them. They could finally feel more like an individual that their government values.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that government intervention is not the only way to improve education in poverty areas. Even small change incited by teachers or students can create a whirlwind of a difference in their school. For instance, teachers and students can create a safe environment after school for students to study, complete homework, or get extra help. Since there is a correlation between areas of poverty and high levels of crime and violence, this would give students a place that could serve as a safe haven from brutality. It could protect them and their future, and help form a stronger bond between students and teachers. My district’s middle school- while it may not be plagued with poverty and crime- has an after-school program in which students that belong to National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) help struggling students with their homework for free. This after-school program gives students a peaceful place to work and receive help. A program like this in schools with poverty would dramatically help give their students more opportunities to succeed.

Also, teachers and students alike can form extracurriculars for their school. Obviously doing so would require some money, but this can be raised by fundraising. Even a small sum of money could help kickstart a club, and some clubs would require no money at all to form. As previously mentioned, these extracurriculars would serve as ways to help students find passion for school, and thus less likely to drop out. These activities could also serve as a safe place for students after school.

In other words, a problem that plagues America’s education system is the lack of equal education for all. Students in poverty tend to have less opportunities to succeed academically, and continue to suffer in poverty. However, this can be fixed by increasing government flexibility in education budgets, and creating more after-school and extracurricular activities for low-income students. While our country may never be completely free of poverty, our education system actually becoming “the great equalizer” may improve it. Poverty can’t be improved until education is fixed. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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