"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Poverty Crushes Education

High taxes plus a government so big that it controls almost every facet of life can surely stifle creativity, innovation and consequently, economic growth. A free market economy often brings out the motivation necessary for people to perform at their best. Unfortunately, a society driven solely by private enterprise without any government control assumes that each and every member of society is discerning enough to make the right choices. One additional assumption is that everyone has enough information and skills to become a successful entrepreneur.

There is a great photo blog about the Philippines by Sidney Snoeck. It is called "My Sarisari Store". I grew up in a neighborhood in Manila where one may find more than one store within a residential block. These stores were small and they were usually selling groceries in tiny portions. For example, one could buy a cigarette stick from any one of these stores. The "sarisari store" was certainly my introduction to Philipine entrepreneurship. It was a store that only sold what people in the neighborhood wanted and could buy. Sidney Snoeck's blog provides bits and pieces of the Philippines, allowing its readers to see what they ought to see about the country. In addition to the photos, Snoeck writes once in a while. In one set of photos called "The Lost Children of Manila", Snoeck writes, "Photographers are not (only) here to promote the Philippines. They also have a social responsibility." Snoeck's photographs do provide images that we all need to see so that we do not get lost in romanticizing poverty:


In the "Reign of Error", Diane Ravitch uses the word "toxic" to describe poverty. And her tenth solution addresses the fact that there are social realities that harm learning in the classrooms:
SOLUTION NO. 10 Devise actionable strategies and specific goals to reduce racial segregation and poverty.
There is segregation in the Philippines. It is not about race, however. It is based on socio-economic class. Thus, poverty deals a knock out combination on education. Poverty creates an achievement gap before formal schooling starts and schools that serve poor children are the ones often lacking in resources. Elite schools are limited to children of privileged families. Relying solely on market solutions to address poverty cannot succeed. An iron hand on markets is not advisable, but an obligation to protecting the poor, the most vulnerable of society, cannot be dropped. A free market economy as well as a healthy democracy requires an informed citizenry. Poor people often make bad choices. Their choices unfortunately have more severe consequences. Poverty does not allow for the right atmosphere required for proper choices and decisions to be made. Poverty crushes education. Basic education therefore must mitigate the harmful effects of poverty. Acknowledging that poverty harms education is a necessary first step in solving problems in basic education. The solutions are not cheap. Not taking actions, however, is more expensive. A healthy democracy is not possible with widespread poverty. And as Ravitch points out, addressing poverty is expensive, but is "not nearly as expensive as the social and economic costs of crime, illness, violence, despair, and wasted human talent."








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