Education – Introduction
By Education is meant that unique process by which people attain knowledge, skill, and moral values. An ideal education develops an acknowledgement of cultural heritage in people so that they might lead happier lives and also helps make them become productive citizens as well as members of society. Although proper and professional education is taught in schools colleges and universities, but it is said, and very rightly, that the first educational institute of a child is his or her mother’s lap.
Therefore parents too have very important role to play not only in the upbringing but also giving early education to their children. Both learning and teaching are included within the definition of education. Coming later is the most important role of teacher in imparting especially the professional education. The well-planned courses of study imparted with organized instructions within an educational education serve to provide mainly the formal education. (Lawrence, O. P. n.p.n.d.)
The United States Education Department
The US Congress created the Bureau of Education in 1867. The former renamed the bureau the Office of Education and moved it to the Federal Security Agency in 1953. Finally it was in 1979 when Congress had set up a proper and independent Department of Education which started functioning in 1980. Later this Department of Education absorbed the Education Division of HEW (United States Department of Health, Education & Welfare – 1953), making HEW becomes the Department of Health and Human Services. Since the elementary responsibility for public education in the United States lies with state governments and local school district, the Department of Education neither establishes schools nor governs educational institutions. The responsibilities of Federal Department of Education fall into the following cadres:
- Providing solution to serious issues in education
- Carrying out research, collecting data, and applying the research findings to schools within USA.
- Helping deserving students with educational funds.
- Giving training & preparing students for employment; and
- Working to ensure equal opportunities for the education for all.
The seal of the United States Department of Education
The department of education takes interest in schools at all levels as preschools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities. It also caters for technical training, adult education, and training and education for special children with disabilities. Besides, the department of education manages such programs which go to improve the skills of students who study English as second language. The head of the Department of Education is the secretary of education, a member of the president’s Cabinet. The US president appoints the secretary of education with the approval of the Senate. (Department of Education, n.d.)
Education Week in the United States
The motive behind ‘Education Week’ in the US is to introduce to the general public the various education programs taken up by the federal and local state government as well as the progress of work so far made in uplifting the cause of education in the context of their problems needs and achievements. The Education Week in America is jointly sponsored by the United States Department of Education; the National Congress of Teachers & Parents; the National Education Association and the American Legion. The Education Week, first observed in 1921 is now observed in the US in the Autumn season of each following year.
Following suit, the other nations of the world have also started the practice of observing Education Week under the auspices of the World Federation of Education Association. The traditional programs scheduled within the Education Week in America include:
- The Education Week Programs open with proclamation from district mayors and state governors.
- Programs stressing upon the importance of education
- Open House Programs
- Selected Television Programs
- Exhibits showing different Libraries, Schools and other related Businesses.
Note: The sponsors of choose a theme each year for American Education Week. These selected themes frequently include topics as; ‘America has a Good thing Going’; ‘Your Job’; ‘Invest in Learning’; ‘American Schools’ etc. (Education Week, American., n.p.n.d).
The Inner City – Definition of
The inner city, as it is called in the United States, refers to the usually older, central area or section of a major large city which is often characterized by crowded population and in which poorer and low-income people live. Majority of people inhabiting inner cities belong to minority groups and are mostly uneducated, impoverished and given to living the low-standard and criminal lives. (American Heritage Dictionary – 2003, ed. 4)
Reflection: Thus at a time especially when opportunity, resources and prosperity are growing very rapidly, it is very unfortunate rather tragic to witness a portion of our society being left behind just because of the US education system; a system that guarantees a big percentage of the blooming youth, who despite being equal citizens of the US cannot enjoy equal rights, will lag behind and fail for no fault of their own, and simply because they reside in the inner cities.
Current Education & Other Conditions within US Inner Cities
There’s been mixed success so far in efforts to urbanize the inner cities. In fact there has been an overall scattered progress in almost all ‘inner cities’ of America. Despite inner cities being pride of the nation, they also pose biggest social problem. Although planned and unplanned renewal programs in many areas, appear to be ongoing, yet they are confounding and lack in the dire direction. Still there is the racial profiling going on rapidly with incidents of the killing of black men by the police on the rise. Besides, the economic prosperity in inner cities of America is being greatly hampered by language barriers and race relations.
Commenting on inner cities, Howard Chudacoff, professor of American urban and social history at Brown University in Providence, R.I. said, “things are never as good as they appear, and never as bad as we think they are,” Even President George W. Bush, during his visit to South-Central Los Angeles in early January 2008, said that he cares about inner cities. Perhaps he saw that there is not a single state of urban America, with problems that are likely to be solved with simple solutions. Among many problems surrounding inner cities, the problems relating education, appears to stand out as most prominent. (Marrero, F., 2006)
A point to note before commenting on the overall impact of US education policy is that by virtue of the Tenth Amendment, it is the responsibility of each state in USA to decide about the state’s education policy at the local level. Therefore, the federal role in education in the US is fairly limited as compared to other countries. Thus to assess educational disparity between the modern urban towns and the rural inner cities, we shall have to critically analyze the educational policy of a particular state under review. We shall give example of a state of the US to support the point of view and essence of topic in this paper.
Example of Richmond State California
The experiences of Frank Marrero, a teacher in Richmond school Pleasant Hills California, which he expressed in his speech published in Motion Magazine April 25, 2006, and the gloomy picture he presented with regard to education in the inner city area of Richmond is hereby narrated: Frank Marrero (2006), observing what has gone past one year, calls Richmond as ‘ murder capital of California’ with poverty, drugs and death seen everywhere.
Talking about the crime rate in the inner city area, he quoted his students saying, “Did you know that if you get shot right in the head your brains goosh out?!” In another incident a man was seen beating a pregnant woman and when he was asked by another to stop beating; he simply pulled out a gun and shot the intervening man to death. He went along saying that almost all students engaged in writing assignment on the topic: What Setting Implies, produced horrifying stories and dreadful episodes involving shootings, killings, gunfire etc. just because they are accustomed to witnessing the deaths of either their family members or friends so frequently.
Talking about the facilities and furniture within educational institutions, he said that the school he teaches in appears like a solid block because there are no windows. How could windows be there he argued, when there no walls with the result that a din of noise, permeating the environment continues to disturbs the student in their learning process. Encircled by a chain link fence, his school, he said looks more of a prison. He added that there are no tissue papers and still no paper towels in the bathrooms for children. Relating his bitter experience, he said that for two long weeks he had to teach without a writing material as markers or even chalk sticks to write on the blackboard nor papers or pencils for correction. His wife, he said, brought some markers to him from school in the nearby districts.
The supply room of the school, he added, remains locked and neither the carpet nor the furniture has been changed over the years. Only for once, he said, he was supplied with a stock having a pencil for every child, two reams of lined paper and a roll of toilet paper. It was indeed very derogatory considering you going out, pausing at the rear of the room to unroll as much of the tissue paper that might need going out. This he asserted was very humiliating and it hurts peoples’ feelings.
The younger children who get enrolled as students in his school in the kindergarten classes are often two years behind even at the age of five. This is imaginable in homes devoid of literacy culture, hardly having newspapers, magazines or baby-sitter games, but most definitely having TV. Further commenting on the miserable plight of his school, Marrero said his school lacks proper funds for school library books, art supplies, electronic equipment or for that matter musical instruments.
Talking about the abject poverty conditions in his school system, he gave example of the repeated use of a single 50 cent protractor by many teachers. After its use by a teacher the same protractor is passed on to other teacher for its use in the next class. The quality of food for free lunch to students is even worse in quality to that provided in prison. The NCLB (No Child Left Behind) to which improvement program his school is entitled to thousands of dollars which the state allocates and which is meant to be spent in a certain way is never spent on highly paid consultants or on the teachers training programs that are meant to attain teaching standards through the State Test.
Instead narrow standards are thrusted upon poor schools belonging to the inner city and the low paid teachers are hired to take largest of classes, having most difficult students to handle and with least amount of industry’s support to combat the criminal environment these schools are bordering on. He said that in the previous year the salary package for teachers especially after a pay raise of 2%, was issued with cut in the medical and no retirement benefits whatsoever. The way teachers responded to this cut can be well imagined. (Marrero, F., 2006).
The Policy Effect & the Dropout Rate
The recent research on the US education have sent shockwaves across inner city’s poor and minority communities, where the accomplishment gap between the white and black students has yet widened to alarming proportions so also the dropout rates are always on the ever-increasing side. Vide a recent study report on education the “Students qualifying a high school diploma survive much too longer. Besides they generally have better health indicators, and are less likely to use publicly financed health-insurance programs than high school dropouts,” Also according to the Columbian University, “For many inner-city and minority kids, the battle against the education bureaucracy is a fight for their life”. The statistics collected in this survey report indicated:
- Approximately 1.2 million teenagers failed to earn a high school diploma in 2005. Among all public school students in the class of 2002-03, the average fresh graduation rate was 73.9 percent. The worst graduation rate belonged to Washington, D.C. (59 percent), but ten states had graduation rates below 70 percent: Alaska, Alabama Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mexico, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- The Manhattan Institute found that the national high school graduation rate for all public school students remained flat over the last decade, going from 72 % in 1991 to 71 % in 2002. The prospects are even grimmer for minority and inner-city students in the United States of America.
- While the graduation statistics are alarming for the entire nation, “the graduation rates are far worse for members of most minority groups. For the 2002-03 school year, the most recent year for which data are available, only 51.6 percent of black students, 47.4 percent of American Indian and Alaskan students, and 55.6 percent of Hispanic students graduated from high school on time with a standard diploma,” according to ‘Education Week’.
- The same ‘Manhattan Institute’ report also found a large difference among racial and ethnic groups in the percentage of public high school students who leave high school eligible for college admission: about 40% of white students, compared with 23 percent of African-American students, and 20 percent of Hispanic students.
- The “2002 National Opinion Poll on Education” found that African-Americans were far more critical of their local schools than other racial groups. In 2002, 35.2 percent of African-Americans rated their school as excellent compared to 53.7 percent of the general population.
- Nearly 50 percent of teachers in mainly minority schools – and 29 percent in mainly white schools – say a high school diploma is not a guarantee that a student has learned basic skills.
- International mathematics assessments in 2003 revealed better outcome with African-American test scores rising to 15 points. (The American Education Diet – 2006).
The Disparity between Rural & Modern Cities in US Education
It has been found from most research studies that students living in rural areas and inner cities of majority of the states of the USA frequently exhibit lower standards in educational and therefore lesser achievements. Such students are also at much higher risk rate in so far as dropouts are concerned. This dropout rate in case of inner city students is fairly higher to that of the suburban students.
While the results of research in the US education tend to overlook the inequalities between the two classes of students, these may also show that there are inner city and rural disadvantages in both school and family resources. The findings of the research use these inequalities to transfer them into important educational investments at many levels, and help explain shortfalls in the reliable accomplishment of the various achievements.
Vincent J. Roscigno (2006) Ohio State University, and Martha, L. Crowley, North Carolina State University contributing their respective ideas in a theses on ‘Education and the Inequalities of Place’ state that students living in rural areas and inner city belonging to various states of the USA demonstrate much lower educational laurels and having increased chances of dropping out of high school than the students belonging to suburban areas.
A research in US Educational policy has tended to neglect these inequalities or, at best, focus on one type but not the other. So the findings and outcome of this research do offer a framework in which resources influential for achievement/attainment are viewed as embedded within, and varying across, inner city, rural and suburban places. We draw inspirations from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey and take up chain of command linear and ladder-like pecking up logistic modeling skills to test the above point of view. Results have proved that the rural and the inner city has shortcomings in both school and family resources.
These resource inequalities translate into important educational investments at both family and school levels, and help explain losses in the consistent achievement. The discussion is thus concluded with emphases on the impact of our findings and approach for critically analyzing the educational strategy abounding with tremendous inequalities within the opposite sides i.e. the modern states versus the poverty-stricken and most under-developed inner states within the States of USA. (Vincent J. R., Donald -1957 & Martha, C. -1973, pp 2121-2145)
Conclusion – The Possible Solutions
Since the educational problem is very complex indeed, the educationists, the scientists together with government officials and high-ups in authority would have to sit together and make a joint-dedicated effort if they are sincere in uprooting this age-old evil, great sinful disparity and menace to society. The local government apathy and the very judicial narrowness have altogether caste a very gloomy shadow on the inner city educational system. Therefore the most reputed of the legislators are urged upon to step forward and address this issue which is unleashing much harm to the US society as a whole. Some of the points worthy of consideration to improve education conditions in inner city and rural areas include:
- Give the inner city schools a Marshall Plan, not just a set of standards they must be whipped and threatened into doing.
- Allocate the fresh and enhanced fund for especially the pre-school for all rural and inner city areas and lower class size in grades K-9.
- Sizeable aides for concentrated acceleration and accommodation, with extra tutors and resource for those who need extra help, particularly at the lower levels must be provided.
- Make a response with fervor and social support.
- Hire best teachers and give them incentives to work in the most low-lying and poverty-stricken areas.
Note: These suggestions and recommendations do not apply to lavish help everywhere, but are just apt for the most bleeding areas. This way the improvement programs will be feasible as they would be cheaper that way. The rewards thus reaped through this scrupulous selection of the deserving areas would be so great that these would be remembered and appreciated across the United States for generations to come. (Marrero, F., 2006).
Picus, Lawrence O. “Education.” Web.
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The Center for Education Reform. (Connecticut -Washington DC). “The American Education Diet.” (2006). Web.
Frank, Marrero. California. Motion Magazine (2006). “A Crisis in Inner City Education.” Web.
Definition. “Inner City.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, (4rth ed., 2003). Web.
Roscigno, Vincent J. Tomaskovic-Devey, Donald (1957), Crowley, Martha L., (1973) “Education and the Inequalities of Place.” Social Forces – V-84, 2006, pp. 2121-2145. Web.
“Education Week, American.” Web.