I woke up this morning to my FB feed full of people discussing the proposed and/or incoming changes to the public school system. 1. Is the proposed bill to begin defunding public education and promoting school vouchers and 2. The seemingly unrelated move to end free/reduced cost wifi for low income families.
I've included a link to the Bill so that you can read the details for yourself, and so that you can see that it isn't "Fake".
I was accused recently of being "opposed to school vouchers because I must be against school choice because it means I might have to actually do my job instead of just taking a check from the government." Nothing is further from the truth. I believe in the right of parents to decide what is best for their children and that includes selecting the right school for them. But I don't believe vouchers are the answer -- at least not in the present form.
Let me break it down for you, on the surface vouchers seem like a way to allow MORE students to attend private school. But the very nature of private school is that people desire for it to be selective and exclusionary. Ask ANY private school parent and they will tell you, "We don't want our child exposed to certain types of people," or "We want to be thoughtful and protective about who are child spends their day with." Again, protecting your children is not something I am against. Ask my Offspring! They WHINE all the time about how much I care! The direct result of this, however, is that those vouchers will become meaningless. A voucher might cover tuition, but not all the FEES associated with private schools, and once those vouchers are enacted — don't kid yourselves those fees will suddenly increase.
The problem with school vouchers, and the moves currently being made in education is that it will lead to an income for the wealthy only. Those trapped in poverty will REMAIN trapped in poverty. There will be no out. "Well, they need to dig deep and pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work hard for their success. That's what I did!" And here's where the loss of internet connection come into play.
This isn't 1950. A kid living in poverty cannot enter the workforce on an even playing field with just a basic education. The world we are living in REQUIRES technical skills. The jobs of the future -- especially ones that are hiring at a rapid rate are IN technology. The "newest" gap in education is really the same gap we've always had; the haves vs. the have nots. However, we can sum up this gap beautifully in one phrase: The Digital Divide.
Let's say you have two students — both of the same intelligence level, age and attending the same school. One goes home at night to work on homework, and has access to the internet in every room in their house. They get stuck on fractions (doesn't every one). Frustrated with their homework assignment, they first ask for help from their parent who is most likely a college graduate. Frustrated with their parent's explanation, they now go to their computer where they have access to literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of resources to support they're understanding. They then move on to the research paper they've been assigned and AGAIN access the internet for not only resources but GUIDES that show them HOW to successfully write their paper.
The other student does not go home after school. Their parent, who is working three minimum wage jobs is forced to leave them in after school care. They move from a classroom with 30 people in it, to a gym with 45 or more. They go to homework club with 14 other students and wait their turn to be assisted by their tutor, who is most often NOT a credentialed teacher. Around 5:30 or 6:00 they go home with their siblings. They have NO internet access in their home, and though they or another family member may own a smart phone — it most likely has not data, no wifi, and is often shared amongst several family members. They COULD go to the public library and access free wifi, but their family possesses no car. They COULD go to the local Starbucks and access free wifi, but it is already growing dark, and their parent only has a few hours between their jobs. They MIGHT ask for help from their parent, but their parent is: 1. tired, 2. possibly not a college or even high school graduate 3. not a native English speaker 4. possibly illiterate. So, they struggle through the fractions ALONE and they attempt to write their research paper, alone. They can't type it though because they've got no laptop, no tablet, and a phone with a cracked screen.
The digital divide is cruel because it not only impacts students while they are in school — they are less familiar with digital devices and have less digital experience, it also impacts them at home. Think of all the resources you access every single day on your phone or computer. How many times have you said, "Ask Google?" These are NOT options for so many families.
There are some who would argue, "Well, those people made their choices and they have to pay for them." No, we pay for them. We pay for them whether we fund free wifi and other education support or NOT. We pay for it in unemployment, prisons, and welfare. Students who are unsuccessful in the classroom can grown up to be people who are unsuccessful in life. We pay no matter what, but more importantly, we are missing out on so many opportunities. How many great minds, innovative thinkers, inventors, and discovers have been lost to the trash heap of neglect, and rejection? How many poets, artists, and creators have been tossed aside because their income was too low to keep pace with their counterparts? It is as if we are yelling and screaming about our house being torn down, while we take it apart ourselves, brick by brick.
Money is not the answer to what fails our society, but our students will never, ever climb their way out of the massive, gaping hole of poverty without our support. The world has changed, and as a result we have gained so much; we live in a world of ease and convenience, but responsibility comes along with it. We cannot turn a blind eye to our neighbors because we don't like the language they speak, how they act, or their choice of lifestyle. They are OUR neighbors, and part of living in a global community is that we are all in this together. We can live together, or we can die alone. These are the only choices because with "great ability comes great responsibility," and it is not an act or compassion or kindness to care for your neighbor, it is the underpinning of humanity.