This I Believe

Taylor - Westport, Connecticut
Entered on June 13, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

In the United States, we are mandated by law to go to school until we are sixteen. Some people choose to stop going to school once they reach sixteen, and some people continue through high school and through college. I am expected by my parents to complete high school and go to college because they want me to be educated and have a good job in the future, but some other people who live in communities such as the South Bronx and Harlem, are not expected to get past high school. These people have no reason to internalize high expectations because there are a lot of examples of people in their communities who have finished high school and aren’t successful. I know that I am going to graduate high school and go to college because that is what my parents did, and they now live in a community that is very well-off. The poor communities are missing the support and set expectations, and I believe that if they had someone to set high standards for them, they would have a much more successful outcome. For example, Tim Rollins has developed a program called the “Art and Knowledge Workshop”, and in the program he teaches the self-dubbed “The Kids of Survival” (K.O.S.) through literacy and art in the South Bronx. In this program, he has expectations set in place for the students, and he tells them that they must go to school, they must graduate, and he sets up a college fund so that they will go to college. The students that participate in the K.O.S. program have all followed through will these requirements, which proves that if a student has the support and someone to set high expectations for them, they will persist and perhaps defy the lifestyle of the communities that they are forced to live in.

One reason that people who live in the South Bronx or Harlem will not receive a high quality education is because they do not have the same type of funding that communities such as Westport have. An excerpt from the book Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol, discusses how the South Bronx is struggling to give students the materials for an education. Wealthier students tend to receive more than poor students because their families and communities can provide more funding for their schools. On the other hand, the poorer districts do not have a lot of money to give to their school systems, and these communities are constantly written off as a result. In Westport, we have a very large budget for our school, and we are very lucky to receive such high quality education. In neighboring towns, such as Bridgeport, the total expenditures per pupil is $7,785, while in Westport, it is $11,941. Some officials of the New York Board of Education believed that there was no point in giving extra money to poorer districts because the new teachers would not remain in those schools, but the problems “largely disappeared” when the teachers salaries were raised by almost a half. When some of the poor districts are given even the slightest bit of funding, there is a large effect, it is just a matter of people willing to invest it. The wealthy are unwilling to give up a portion of what they have in order to give to those who need it and want it. The reason that families move to Westport is so their children can attend a high performing school in a high performing district. If we are going to make education equal by giving everyone equal funding, then we will have to change everything, and some people are just not willing to risk that or give up what they have. I wouldn’t want to go to school in the South Bronx because I wouldn’t want to give up what I have, but I would want kids from the South Bronx to come to Westport to get an education because our school systems offer much more. There always will be someone who gets the upper hand and therefore it should not be changed, even if it means that some people will be written off.