How the Education System Fails Underprivileged Students

Everyone is quick to jump on the poverty and broken home bandwagon; claiming them to be the sole reasons why underprivileged children find it hard to "come-up" in the school system. For example, I had a conversation with some very well-meaning colleagues of mine. Their comments went something like this, "I know we won't get homework back from our students because they have to take care of their brothers and sisters when they get home. So what is the point of assigning it? We are only punishing them more because they struggle and we give them consequences for failing to do the work." I was dumbfounded. Who could ever believe in the logic that making an excuse for a child, and giving them a break because of their circumstances, will "help" them out? Is there even logic tied to this line of thinking?

Overwhelmingly though, educators believe there is logic in giving a kid a break. They believe their students have hard knock lives, and holding them to higher expectations almost always ends in failure. In fact, this line of thinking has infected some administrators of schools who encourage educators not to issue assignments. In essence, this "logic" is killing the very fabric of the educational system.

Instead of meeting a student where he or she is and bettering them, the education system is stifling progress and aiding in maintaining the status quo. Schools and thus, educators, are not teaching students how to overcome their circumstances and strive for excellence; these entities are merely lowering the bar and making students unaccountable for their futures. After all, refusing to assign work, which could add value to a student, under the guise that they will fail before trying it, does nothing more than create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Underprivileged students are not benefitting from this trend. Instead, the education gap continues to widen; and economically advantaged and stable students continue thriving. Students, who are underprivileged, fail by default because they cannot compete with their more affluent peers. In reflecting on my colleagues' comments, one saying rings true. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions!"

Well-meaning educators are often the source for underprivileged student failures. These students fail, not because of their circumstances, but because of the circumstances educators have created for them. In giving underprivileged students excuses and passes, educators teach them that the world owes them something. The problem is that those students must be taught how to compete with their peers, despite their obstacles.

Educators simply cannot subscribe to the belief that life is hard for the underprivileged; let me give them a chance. Instead, they should teach underprivileged students how to recognize a chance and seize it by increasing expectations, teaching life skills and holding students accountable for their choices, not necessarily their circumstances.