Dare to Ask: Is education valued less by the poor?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I teach in a low- to middle- class area and want to know why some parents
seem to put little value on their children's education. It kills me to see this
happening to kids before they know what they could be capable of.
Marita, 27, Athens, Ga.
My advice, as a psychologist, is find time for each parent outside the
school. The building itself is enough to spring instant walls for those who are
Jon, 33, Pepin, Wis.
I was raised by a single mother from a poor neighborhood. She emphasized the
importance of education, even though she never attended beyond high school.
SoulOnIce, 26, male, Philadelphia
A lot of parents look down on education because they don't see how exactly it
can help their kids be better off.
Ryan, 20, Dallas
Some lower-class parents may believe "What's good enough for me is good
enough for my kids."
J.F., 24, female, Houston
This is a tired question. What if every minority in the U.S. got an
education? Who would pick up the garbage or serve you your frappuccino at
Educated Latino, 26, male, Akron, Ohio
My parents came from Eastern Europe and valued education. Some North
Americans have a disrespect for achievement.
A. Urbonas, Canada
A couple of concepts to consider here, said Patrick Finn, associate professor
in the Department of Learning and Instruction at State University of New York at
Buffalo, who wrote Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children
in Their Own Self-Interest.
- Some people, whether minority or poor, develop "oppositional identity" - a
part of their identity forms in opposition to those they feel have basically
shafted them. They may not respect those in authority, such as a teacher, and
they may also act culturally opposite from the authority figure.
- Studies show that wealthier students are rewarded for being assertive and
inquisitive, while classrooms of working-class students are rewarded for being
docile and obedient. Using only traditional methods to reach lower-income
students might bore them or cause them to feel they are being ordered around or
"So the kid thinks, 'I'm tired of doing the 30th worksheet, I'm just tired of
it,' " Finn said.
Some teachers are condescending to lower-income parents, while parents may
feel they are being brought up to the school to be lectured - all at the same
school they themselves attended and where they may have had bad experiences.
One solution: get teachers on board with progressive methods, while also
bringing parents and teachers together to dialogue in workshops.
"With a frank conversation, the teacher may say, 'I never knew the parents
were that concerned about the kids,' and the parents may say, 'I never realized
the teachers were nice and doing the best they can.' "
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
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