This article was written by Kirah T., an Essex County, NJ Middle School Student.
The following article is a part of a new series, “Listening to Youth Voices in the New Year.” Each Sunday, articles written by Essex County Middle School students will be published, each week relating to a new topic. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the essays published this week are those that relate to racial justice.
Race and gender inequality, even though some may not want to believe it, still play a big role in students’ education, both in the United States and throughout the world. I myself am a Black/Latino student that believes that racism and sexism are alive in the education system globally. It’s not as bad in other schools, but I have noticed that more students of color have received suspensions rather than white students for committing the same act. Recent reports show that academic and disciplinary racial disparities continue to exist in K-12 education in the United States, and girls and young women in all parts of the globe are prevented from starting school at all, or not allowed to complete their education.
The U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection provides a comprehensive report that gives a clearer picture of how race and ethnicity affects the way students learn and are treated in all levels of education. The report states that “Black, Latino and Native Americans have a bigger chance of going to schools with a higher concentration of first year teachers than white students.” The same report states that Black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students, and observed that Black girls were suspended at higher rates than all other girls, and most boys. This report makes it clear that many young people are being marginalized because of their race, which is not acceptable. Education is essential in everyone’s life, no matter their race. Equality in educational settings is something that we need to work toward.
As with race, gender plays a large role in education. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 31 million girls of primary school age do not attend school and 17 million of these girls will probably never attend school in their lifetimes. We must continue to advocate for the right of girls to go to school, because when girls are educated, they are less likely to live in poverty. It can affect their future and the future of our world. Even further, the U.S. is not immune to gender inequality in the education system. According to a Washington Post article, getting into elite colleges is harder for women than for men. Additionally, the same article discusses how the US Department of Education Data found that 11 percent of men were accepted to Brown University versus 7 percent of women in 2014. In addition, at Vassar College the 34 percent acceptance rate for men was almost twice as high as the 19 percent rate for women in 2014.
This problem is not unsolvable though. Colleges and schools can do something about the gender and race inequality that exists. As stated in the Washington Post, “Colleges won’t say it, but this is happening because elite schools field applications from many more qualified women than men and thus are trying to hold the line against a 60:40 ratio of women to men. Were Brown to accept women and men at the same rate, its undergraduate population would be almost 60 percent women instead of 52 percent—three women for every two men.” Elite colleges are abusing their power by making it harder for women to get into college than men, instead of giving them the equal opportunity that they deserve. Schools can also decrease the discrimination and expulsions by having greater expectations to suspend a student. Schools are exploiting students, and they have to be liberated, so the inequality in schools can decrease.
Race and gender are significant factors in education. The Washington Post tells us that soon “gender blind admissions will be the new campus rallying cry.” Gender imbalance in schools is so senseless and has come to the point where some students are revolting, and want their admissions being looked at as genderless, just so they’ll have a better chance of being accepted. Racism in our nation’s public schools is just as bad. This type of racism affects where students will go for school, and performance in school as well. A recent study done by Northwestern University shows that “researchers found that the physiological response to race-based stressors—be it perceived racial prejudice, or the drive to outperform negative stereotypes—leads the body to pump out more stress hormones in adolescents from traditionally marginalized groups.” The effects of this discrimination are appalling. Not everyone has good schooling which is not a problem we can’t fix. I can’t imagine not having an equal opportunity as the student that sits across from me just because I’m a student of color and they’re not. Good opportunities should be evenly distributed between everyone, no matter someone’s race, gender, religion, or anything else.
The original writing assignment asked students to create their own essay prompt as long as it connected to our unit theme, “Uses and Abuses of Power,” and was about a topic they were passionate about. As a result, students submitted essays on racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, education reform, gender equality, and more. We are excited to share their work in this series.