Josh Rahman | Class of ’17 | February 8, 2016
Though access to sufficient means of education has improved over the past half-century, a 20-point gap in graduation rates between African-American and White students still exists in the United States today. But the issue regarding educational inequality is not one of race, though from the outside it may appear to be. Still, White school districts are also cutting programs in the arts, physical education, and extracurricular activities just to keep their schools afloat financially. So it seems the issue is not one of white vs. black, but rather rich vs. poor. As the American wealth gap continues to widen, nearly 70 percent of graduating college seniors had student loan debt, averaging around $28,000 each. As a result, children from impoverished families may reject the thought of pursuing higher education on the grounds that their family can simply not afford to take on college debt, regardless of their child’s educational merit. The constant educational marginalization of our country’s impoverished can be cited as a major reason why countries with much lower GDP’s are outperforming us in all aspects of education. If we continue to let untapped potential go to waste, how can we expect to come up with creative solutions to solve the problems of a globalized world?
During my internship at the Fifth Ward Enrichment Program for middle and high school boys, I’ve witnessed the severe difference in educational quality in our country up close. Born and raised in Sugar Land, Texas, I had the great fortune of attending “TEA recognized” schools from kindergarten to the 12th-grade. My teachers were well paid, my classmates well behaved, and my textbooks came new. So it came as quite a surprise to learn one of my seventh-grade students from Houston’s Fifth Ward (we will call him Jon) was simply unable to solve the problem 22 divided by two by himself, or solve any simple division or multiplication problem for that matter. When asked, “two times what is equal to two?” Jon gave me answers such as “four” and “I don’t know”. Working with Jon on such simple math problems brought me back to the third-grade, where my whole class was given “mad-minutes” once a week. A mad minute consisted of solving as many simple multiplication and division problems on a sheet of paper as possible within a minute. There were usually 15-20 problems per sheet and failing to complete at least half of the problems in the allotted minute was severely frowned upon. Jon and I worked on the problem 22 divided by two for over a half hour. When he finally worked his way through the problem by himself, we successfully worked our way up to the problem 30 divided by two. Upon solving that problem by himself, Jon left the homework room elated with his notes on simple division in one hand, and his blank homework on complimentary and supplementary geometrical angles in the other. Jon’s inability to solve a simple math problem of which third-grade students from Sugar Land are taught to solve in bulk perfectly, demonstrates the educational inequality present in the United States.