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Opinion: Better teachers and money can lead to failure

The American public school education system has always been segregated based on economic differences between students living in wealth and in poverty. In Jonathan Kozol’s book, “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools,” he highlights many problems that occur within low-income communities, such as segregation, toxic air and soil, and inadequate public education, all of which…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/an5rewwan9er/" target="_self">Andrew Wang</a>

Andrew Wang

February 19, 2020

The American public school education system has always been segregated based on economic differences between students living in wealth and in poverty. In Jonathan Kozol’s book, “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools,” he highlights many problems that occur within low-income communities, such as segregation, toxic air and soil, and inadequate public education, all of which are major disadvantages to the future of children in these communities. 

Throughout his book, Kozol focuses on persuading the readers that public education can be solved by providing money and skilled teachers to the schools. These methods of alleviating the segregation of students in the schools of rich and poor communities, as described in the book, are not a solution.

One of Kozol’s main solutions to solve the public education system problem of having poor schools is money, but Kozol writes that this solution is actually not effective, according to a 1989 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

“The investment hasn’t paid off,” the WSJ wrote.

Kozol writes that nationally, student achievement has remained stagnant while per-pupil spending increased by $1,800 over five years, adjusted for inflation. This means that even though the amount of money being spent on each pupil is increasing, public school education is still not significantly improving.

This evidence shows that spending more does not translate into better education.

The Wall Street Journal’s claim that parental influence counts more basically highlights the importance of adult role models in the lives of students. The parents’ presence as a role model for children is a potential solution because they often model the proper behaviors.

Conversely, an adult who is a bad role model can also greatly influence students, especially younger children. For instance, an interview Kozol does with a group of young children in a school in a lower-income community reveals that the actions portrayed and demonstrated to the children by the adults around them are harmful as many drug addicts and prostitutes are present within the community, poisoning their young brains with unethical acts.

People such as a neighborhood man mentioned by the children named Hollywood are examples of negative influences on children.

“‘When he’s drunk, he starts barkin’ like a dog. Go down on the ground and barks and then he’s eatin’ off this woman’s feet,’” one child said.

The presence of these people is a major factor that causes students to be exposed and familiar with these dangerous behaviors. Many children are lured to spend their money in inappropriate ways, such as buying drugs from drug dealers after school.

This just adds to the distractions children face every day that takes them further away from their goal of living a better life. 

It is clear that the surrounding environment of poor behavior and misuse of money the children are accustomed to is not healthy and beneficial to them as they are affected by it daily, which is detrimental to their future life. If instead, the adults in the community are better role models for young students, especially in terms of prioritizing and pursuing their education, then students would be able to improve their learning and education.

Throwing money at the problem does not help when what’s needed is social support for the community as a whole — in short, we can’t expect education in a community if we do nothing to help uplift the community that students live in. 

Another potential solution Kozol presents is to hire better teachers for these schools. Though this technique may be beneficial for the children to receive higher quality instruction, the drawbacks outweigh the advantages of this potential solution.

This method is clearly ineffective as many of the teachers who are hired to many of the neglected schools end up fleeing and accepting jobs at the wealthy districts because of higher pay and better facilities. 

The comfortable environment the wealthier schools provide is a major factor that attracts teachers because no one wants to work in a condition that is unpleasant.

Kozol interviewed Father Michael Doyle, a pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in North Camden, New Jersey. Doyle said 55 million gallons of the Camden County sewage enters the city daily.

“[The sewage is] processed at the treatment plant, a stone’s throw from my church,” Doyle said. “Five blocks south, on the other side, they’re finishing a new incinerator for the country.”

The experience and perspective of the pastor show that the overall environment that surrounds that school is very unpleasant. 

To decrease the chances of good teachers leaving, government officials need to incorporate ways to reduce the negative image of the poor community. The help from government officials would allow schools to renovate and improve themselves because it’s not just about the school and its campus but also the surrounding environment and community.

The government has the power to change the community for the better. This will beneficially improve the school system and will attract good teachers to teach there. So the notion of just hiring more and better teachers is not a reasonable plan as instructors will not want to stay and work in bad environments and communities. 

Furthermore, many of the teachers are not qualified in schools in low-income areas.

The lack of commitment and dedication to teaching the children well is prominent.

“We have teachers who only bother to come in three days a week. One of these teachers comes in usually around 9:30. You ask her how she can expect the kids to care about their education if the teacher doesn’t even come until 9:30. She answers you, ‘It makes no difference. Kids like these aren’t going anywhere,’” Corla Hawkins, a teacher at a Chicago school, said in an interview with Kozol.

The carelessness some instructors have toward the students demonstrates the education they are receiving is not as proficient as those in wealthy schools who are learning concepts they will utilize in the future. Based on the evidence and observations, hiring better teachers is not a solution to solve the crisis in public education as it will just result in more failures. Instead, the focus should be on a better work environment that will attract and keep the best teachers. 

Two of Jonathan Kozol’s solutions presented in “Savage Inequalities” were not effective and would not make any impact on the current public education system in America. Using money to solve the many problems in schools is not enough to transform the school into an institution where the students can excel. The funds can be easily spent, but if the community that students grow up in is still a bad environment, then that money will simply be wasted.

Furthermore, hiring better teachers is not effective as they will be convinced by the wealthier schools to move to their institutions for higher pay and more renovated facilities as well as nicer community environments. Throughout his book, the solutions to providing funding and hiring better teachers are ineffective because they will have minimal impact and only create more problems for the already underprivileged schools.

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