The debate of whether or not Affirmative Action is morally right and applicable to our society is, I believe, a debate trying to reconcile the answers to two questions.
First, should acceptance into educational organizations and eventually the work force be based solely upon effort and merit?
Second, should all ethnicities, genders, and the various multitude of diverse backgrounds that exist within our society be represented within those same educational organizations and workforce?
I believe the majority of United States citizens would answer, “Yes,” to both of those questions, but how do we get there? I suggest we implement two reforms: Regulate our school systems on a state or federal level, and place a higher monetary importance on education as a society.
By following these two suggestions, I believe that we will solve both questions. By regulating the educational system, those who are willing to work hard will swing ahead naturally. These people will arise from all different ethnicities, genders and backgrounds, because we are not defined by any of these things.
1. Start from the ground up. – Regulate school systems.
If you want youth in the United States to have equal and fair opportunities, you need to give them the tools to utilize those opportunities. A listener on NPR pointed out that the lack of hispanic population in higher educations may be attributed to the fact that many underage hispanic students don’t graduate from high school, and cannot even apply for a college degree. I think this applies to all races, and is mostly an economic issue. Poorer communities do not have the economic support which allows them to create a viable and competitive educational system. Students from all economic backgrounds need this type funded education with full support in order to succeed in larger quantities. Students who live in economically thriving communities can generally receive this support while, students from low-income communities cannot find the tools, support system or coursework that they need.
Another common problem in low-income communities is familial support. Absent or working parents and parents whom have limited education themselves are not available to help with homework and make sure it is being given adequate attention. The students in these types of households, get minimal help at home when struggling with homework and give up more easily. Please remember that we cannot chose the families we are born to, and therefore cannot choose how much support we are given at home in regards to education.
The best way I can think to solve these problems, is to regulate the educational system on a state or federal level.
I don’t mean standardized tests. In my freshman year of high school, I spent more time preparing for standardized tests than I did learning actual subject matter.
I suggest creating a rubric for subjects taught at each level of education, and redistributing the public education funds.
Students who are forced to change districts often fall behind because subjects are taught differently and in a different order from district to district. I know first hand. I am a child of a single-parent family and we moved often. In fourth grade, Anderson Elementary decided I was so far above my fellow classmates that I was assigned to help out in the special education classes. I helped teach fellow students how to read, while my classmates studied the states and their capitals, which I studied the previous year. Next year, at Landels elementary, I was considered one of the at-risk students and frequently fell behind in class. At Anderson I would have learned Native American history in fifth grade. At Landels, I was expected to have been taught it the year before.
In 8th grade I studied Algebra I with the more advanced students. In 9th, after transferring districts again, I was assigned straight into “Integrated Math II,” which was designed to build upon the beginning blocks of geometry taught in “Integrated Math I.” Without this base knowledge, I floundered and failed the course. Transferring districts resulted in my fall from an advanced math track, to far behind. I ended up taking math courses at the local community college. What if my mother was not supportive of this decision however, or lacked the funds to support it?
Creating a standard not only ensures that students who are forced to move around do not fall behind, but creates a standard by which students can learn on an even playing field. It would ensure that students in every community have the opportunity to learn to their full potential, by ensuring that all topics and courses are available in all communities.
Redistributing education funds would support the creation of a fair system. Funds for public education should be collected into a statewide or federal fund instead of simply by district, then distributed to each school, based on the number of students enrolled in that school. This would prevent the vast dissonance of funding from neighborhood to neighborhood. With a little leveling of the monetary field, we could level the educational one.
With equal funding between school districts, students in Palo Alto, would stop receiving new computers every year, but maybe get them every 5 years, while students in East Palo Alto might actually acquire some.
Opponents might label these suggestions as socialist and criticize the increase of large government. However, our current system is obviously failing at giving United States citizens the equal opportunities our nation was founded to create. The point at which we as a nation should be the most socialist is when it comes to our youth. Everyone deserves an equal start. Where each student ends up can then be truly based upon the students individual abilities.
In addition I would suggest free after school programs or study hall periods to be made available to all students, however with priority given to those students whom have two full time working parents (or in single parent households, one full-time working parent) and to those students whose parents do not have a high school degree themselves.
2. Keep education funded.
The reason poorer members of the community are kept out of educational systems cannot be attributed to race or ethnicity alone. It CAN however be attributed to funding. We as a nation continue to under fund education programs and as such cannot sponsor students who excel academically but cannot afford to pay for their spot in a university. If we want to have enough spots available for those who have worked for and earned their spot, we have to fund the educational system.
The truth is that there are less spots for everyone. Lower budgets, create cutbacks for teachers and limit the amount of classes and space available. With an increased population, comes an increased need for class space. It’s that simple. We need to not only stop reducing the educational budget but to increase it. If we want our workforce to be better educated and for our youth to have a fair shot, we need to make education and that fair shot a priority. Period.
On a side note, I would like to propose we stop identifying ourselves and each other in a racial or ethnic way altogether. I want my government to stop asking me what ethnicity I identify as on every single form and application, because I don’t see why it should matter to my government. What should concern my government and fellow citizens is whether I am earning the breaks that I get. What should concern my government and fellow citizens is whether or not I am abiding by the law. What should concern my government and fellow citizens is whether my rights are being protected and whether I respect the rights of others. Neither my government nor my fellow citizens should care what color my skin is or what religion I belong to, while I do any of these things.