One of the most disturbing things that I have heard from a student was:
“Why should I try? I’ll only be working at McDonald’s.”
I was an Artist-in-Residence for a year for a large school district in Westchester County, NY. Still early in my profession, that statement was both a shock and a revelation of a point of view I had never considered before: low expectations given, and projected; leading this student to live that that is all they can do. The young lady who said that to me was in a ninth grade repeat class. Most of them, I was told much later, were on their THIRD repeat of ninth grade.
Yes: she was a third timer.
It was not that working at McDonald’s is such a negative job, but the expectation of that is all she could expect in life is. There are jobs that many would never consider ever doing in their lives as “beneath” them; there are people who feel that there are jobs that are forever out of their reach.
I worked at a private Prep school (the capital P is on purpose) for five years. They were a usual sort of kids, except for one basic thing: their parents had power (=Money). Money enough to afford the very high K-12 tuition. If I remember correctly, all of these students went on to Ivy League universities , or “back-packed” across Europe, before coming back to such schools.
Were they born smarter, more diligent? Driven, yes, by their parents status. Academically as well. They were not taught to pass a test as the NYC public schools are (and have been) but really had a well rounded curriculum.
What got me on this was reading Roy A Ackerman’s The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth… . Take a look.
I’ve already written, a number of times, about this inequality in teaching. If Bloomberg and other mayors really cared, they’d look at the educational platforms that these private schools use. Yes, money pushes those kids along. We can’t fight that, but…we can elevate the level of how students are taught, what the curriculum is, and the entire structures of schools. I wrote about some ideals of mine in What Constitutes Education? and also in Public vs. Private Schools (there is a comparison of NYC schools and the same private prep school mentioned above…hopefully, it’s eye opening).
The other part, and it is a huge part: The Parents.
Parents have to be involved. Not just in making sure that their kids do their reading/homework, but support them, encourage them, take the time to invest in what they are learning, get involved in outside of school learning (excursions outside of their neighborhood)…being parents, not just adults whose house the kids reside in.
So, the next time you see your lawyer go to a McDonald’s drive through (or his/her aide), think of who is doing the ordering, and who is serving.