In a recent HuffingtonPost article David Chura brings to light the affect that poverty, despair and hopelessness have on people, especially during the formative years. When individuals grow up in an environment within which such dark currents flow, they feel trapped and, as David Chura relates, a way out is likely imperceptible.
Under these circumstances it would take considerable care and attention on the part of parents/caregivers to share a vivifying vision and provide corresponding support that would enable their children to see a way out and to have a sense of purpose and meaning to their life. Needless to say parents/caregivers would have to embody this vision as well. Sadly, since a way out is not readily apparent, all that is left for some is to lash out; turning their negative feelings to anger and rage against those they believe have made them victims.
Accordingly an educational system aimed at filling people with facts with the expectation of them reporting the facts back at test time would not likely engender inspiration for learning. Hence the poorer performance of the education system in impoverished communities relative to the more mainstream communities. However what makes this even worse is that those who are not living in poor communities generally don’t find the educational experience meaningful and inspiring either—it’s just that they don’t feel as trapped in their life-situation.
Looking through the lens of the impoverished communities makes apparent the role of one’s life-situation as a key factor in education. So while the education system’s effectiveness within poor communities is generally awful, in point of fact it is not that performance is good in all other communities, it is just that it is not as bad.
What we are in fact seeing here is the influence of an egoistic economic system—income inequality adversely impacting progress—upon the education system in particular and people in society in general. Consequently, the system of education can’t be improved without understanding it as a system and its interdependence with other societal systems. The education system isn’t functioning in isolation of what else happens to people in society.
Thus improvement of quality won’t result from simply infusing more money into a community’s school, or adding more technology or from laying blame on teachers by turning the focus on results rewards and accountability. Improvement in quality can only come from a focus on the system itself, which includes understanding the influence of the larger socio-economic system.
If people believe that what the education system offers is of no benefit to them and their situation then whatever is provided will be irrelevant. As Yogi Berra said, if people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody is going to stop them. Learning can’t be forced, it requires the will of all those involved! More to the point, the Buddhist adage, when the student is ready the teacher will appear, informs us that the teacher is not a single person but it is the interplay among the entire set of factors/conditions/environment—the system—that teaches.