Monday, December 27, 2010

Another reason to love homeschooling: Avoiding the culture of poverty

One of the greatest barriers to education is the culture of poverty. Much of the debate in education policy comes down to how to educate children who don’t come to school ready to learn and whose parents don’t value education. Inordinate amount of resources are misdirected in a vain attempt to entice disinterested students.

In a recent conversation with a public school teacher, Janine got a glimpse of just how wide the educational divide can be and how frustrating it is for teachers who fight this battle.

In a nearby school, children in a particular family were always late for school. Someone in the school asked a few questions and found out that the family did not have a refrigerator. As a result, the parents’ rush to get breakfast for themselves before going to work made the children late for school.

Once the lack of a refrigerator was known, the school took up a collection and purchased a modest refrigerator for the family. This solved the problem. For the next few weeks the children were on time. Then one week the children didn’t show up at all. Finally the children returned to school, but from that time on were habitually tardy again.

Again someone in the school did a little investigation and found out what had happened. (You might want to be sitting down for this.) The parents had sold the refrigerator and used the money to take the children to Disneyland. As one teacher succinctly put it, “This is the culture of poverty.” If the parents value entertainment more than the health and education of the children, what could the school do that would make any difference. And more than that, these unmotivated students are draining away resources that could have been used to educate children whose families actually value education. And thus we see the awful dilemma facing the public school system.

In the end, it won’t matter if the child can color in the right bubble on a standardize test if he values his entertainment about all else. As foster parents, we see that pattern often. Parents who blow chance after chance, lose job after job, ruin relationship after relationship because they never learned to discipline themselves. Unfortunately, that is not something even the best school can teach. It takes a parent to model it, day after day, especially in early childhood.

We’re glad that we are able to teach our children to have some self discipline, to delay gratification, and to have reasonable priorities.

11 comments:

Happy Elf Mom said...

Ok, but did they have fun at Disneyland? Hope they weren't late to get on the first rides of the day because they didn't have a refrigerator!

Good grief...

Carrie said...

However, you can't blame the *children* for their parents' ridiculous decision. I agree that public schooling is not what it should be, but for some children, it's far better than what they would otherwise get and may be the greatest blessing they will ever experience. For these kids, they needed to know that this decision was not a responsible one. I'm not saying that it *should* be the school's or the public's responsibility to teach that (obviously, the parents should have taught and done differently), but looking forward to future generations, if the parents aren't going to make wise decisions, hopefully these kids will be exposed to someone who will teach them to do so. Otherwise they're just a second generation of the same. Just my two cents.

Stephanie said...

I'm sorry to say that parents like these may be the reason so many children in public schools don't actually care about learning, especially when they get to middle and high school. It's all about socializing and being popular. The students who are trying to do well are held back by the others who are not (some of this may be due to lack of encouragement and support from their parents). This is one of the many reasons we started homeschooling 4 years ago. Final thought: Whether your child is homeschooled or not, it's the parents' responsibility to help them succeed.

Janine Cate said...

No matter what teachers do, rarely can they turn a student from the pattern set by the parents. I'm not suggesting we abandon children to the consequences of their parents' poor choices. However, as long as the public school system clings to the pretense that teachers can magically transform students, resources will be wasted and opportunities for real progress will be lost.

Marlis said...

How well put. My daughter went to public school for one year (Kindergarten) and the apathy among some of the parents was palpable. And we were supposed to be in one of the better schools of our town! Unless education is considered to be a priority by the parent the child cannot be expected to step up to the plate. But how does one convince parents, such as the ones written about here, of the absolute importance of education in their children's lives?

Conni said...

You know, I don't see it as a culture of poverty - I think the poverty issues is simply a symptom of the larger issue. Skewed values. People don't know or care about what is important anymore, and the un-education and poor living conditions are simply results of those skewed values. And unfortunately, as long as the government or anyone else will continue to bail out people like that (or enable them), they have no motivation to change. It is a sad situation...particularly when the next generation has that for an example.

Janelle said...

I know some homeschool parents that are like that, too. God has really been dealing with me about it is in everything we do. We are teaching our children, whether we realize it or not. "I am watching you!" It is not just a saying.... they are not only watching, but learning, too.

Crimson Wife said...

I agree with Conni that it isn't about poverty per se. Both my grandfathers grew up dirt poor but in families that valued learning. My great-grandparents had little formal education or financial resources but 10 out of the 12 children in the families earned bachelor's degrees back when hardly anyone (especially girls) went to college. And several earned graduate degrees including both my grandfathers.

It's not so much a lack of money but rather a devaluing of learning.

Henry Cate said...

Conni and Crimson Wife - You might find Mariage and Caste in America interesting. Kay Hymowitz, the author of the book, writes about how over the last fifty years there has been a lot less movement between classes.

Whereas it is true that fifty to a hundred years ago many people who started out poor were able to rise to a wealthier station in life, today this is much rarer.

Crimson Wife said...

I still think it's cultural. Many Asian immigrants to this country are poor but their children still do extremely well on average. The family who runs our local dry-cleaning & alterations shop are Laotian refugees and came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Their oldest daughter is currently a pre-med at UC Berkeley and hopes to be a neurosurgeon. Their motivation to see her succeed helped her overcome their modest financial circumstances.

Janine Cate said...

No matter how it starts or why, cultural poverty always leads economic poverty.