It’s like were arguing right past each other.
The “Poverty is No Excuse” crowd seems to argue that every child can achieve; every child can achieve at high levels; every child can be college and career ready when they graduate from high school. When they hear, “What about poverty? What about violent neighborhood? What about children who are mal-nourished and come to school hungry every day?” they think that the ones raising these questions are looking for the okay to quit trying. They seem to think that teachers who are concern with the emotional, social, and physical health of children are actually making excuses as to why our neediest schools are failing to graduate college-ready kids.
On the other hand, when I (as a member of the Whole Child camp) hear, “Poverty is No Excuse” I start thinking that the ones who are saying this are tragically uninformed with the realities of many of the children I teach in Oakland.
I think that they are unconcerned that one of my students was shot and wounded this year, and missed a month of school while he healed.
I think that they are unconcerned that one of my students ran away from home and was living on the street doing who-knows-what to survive on her own.
I think that they are deaf to the cries of “I’m hungry,” from my students who show up each and every day wearing the exact same pants, shirt, and hoodie.
What if these two camps could become allies? Crazy thinking in our overly polarized world today, I know, but let’s dream for a minute…
What if the “Poverty is No Excuse” camp really meant, “We, as a community will not let poverty get in the way of our children’s healthy growth”? What if they were concerned about getting job investment into the ghetto? What if they were invested in getting local governments to provide extra services to communities that need extra support? What if they were committed to healthy school lunches (and healthy school breakfasts and healthy school suppers as well)?
What if we looked at communities and school in our neediest cities that were defying the statistics and helping their children to succeed, identifying the support that were helping them, and finding ways to get those same supports in our communities?
Perhaps these two camps can beat their political swords into political plow shears and take some time to envision a community of success. What kinds of job investment; adult education; violence prevention; conflict mediation; social support; AND GREAT SCHOOLS would be imagine to exist in every community?
Then we can work together to find a way to get from where we our to a better future.