5 June 2008
Rags to Riches
Approximately one third of all public high school students fail to graduate. According to an article from ABC News by Pierre Thomas, “It is estimated that about 2,500 students drop out of U.S. high schools everyday.” Among these students 6 percent of Anglos had not completed high school compared to 23 percent of Hispanics. Lacking a high school diploma, these individuals will be far more likely to spend their lives periodically unemployed, live in poverty, or cycling in and out of the prison system. A majority of these individuals come from low-income families that do not have the same opportunities or resources middle and upper classes do. This makes it very difficult to be successful in life. Angela Whitiker is one of the few low class individuals that dropout during high school, but has moved up the economic ladder. She is a registered nurse that climbed out of deep urban poverty into the middle class. Whitiker overcame many obstacles to earn her high school equivalency diploma and later her Associates degree in nursing and was fortune enough in finding a stable man that was very helpful. How can we duplicate Angela’s success? Some believe that it is all up to the individual. I believe that we can duplicate Angela Whitiker’s success if we focus on early education, access to higher education and ambition.
I believe in order to duplicate Angela Whitiker’s success we need to focus on Early Education. We need to make sure that every child is on the path to success from the very beginning. Early education enhances school readiness, so that children can gain the full benefit of their learning experience and be more successful in life. According to Rand Researchers in Early Childhood Interventions, “The first few years of a child’s life are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development, laying a foundation in childhood and beyond for cognitive functioning; behavioral, social, and self-regulatory capacities.” The risk of not receiving early education includes working unskilled labor jobs at minimum wage and no way up the economic ladder. For example in the book Class Matters, Juan Peralta an illegal immigrant that came to the United States at the age of nineteen did not receive any education, spoke very little English, which has made it very difficult to succeed in life. Juan Peralta worked two jobs usually working ten-hour shifts just to feed and maintain his family.
Although Peralta came to the U.S. at an age that he clearly could not have had the opportunity of getting a primary education. We can see that the absence of an early education has affected his life greatly. Peralta may never move up class divisions, but his children do have the opportunity of being successful. Being in the low working class, Peralta’s children do not have all the resources and opportunities that middle and upper classes do. This is why it is imperative that the government provides early education programs like “East Yakima Early Learning Initiative,” (ready by five) which provides parents with education and support to help develop children’s potential and creativity, helping to ensure that all children in the community are ready to succeed in school and in life. Bill Gates said, “Providing high-quality, stimulating learning opportunities for young children is one of the smartest investments we can make in our state’s future.” Therefore, if we want to duplicate Angela Whitiker’s success we need to focus on early education and provide more programs like the East Yakima Early Learning initiative, so that students can continue to be successful and proceed into higher education institutions.
I also believe that the government needs to provide access to higher education for low income students to help duplicate Angela Whitiker’s success. Providing higher education will also help fill in the numbers gap. Dirty little secret #1 “The Number Gap” in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, states that there has been a decline in the number of students going into the science and mathematics fields. Friedman says, “In preparing Indicators 2004, the NSB said, we have observed a troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are training to become scientists and engineers, whereas the number of jobs requiring science and engineering training continues to grow,” (344). If students from low working classes are given a chance, they can help fill the growing demand for high-skilled workers. For example, according to the article Dream Act Becoming Major Mid-Term Battleground by Peter Eichstaedt, Brenda P. was valedictorian of her class at an East L.A. high school this year. She graduated at the top of her class with a GPA of 3.9 and won various awards. Eichstaedt states, “She was identified as a gifted student in mathematics, Student of the Year in Physics, and put on the Principals Honor Roll for maintaining perfect attendance and a 4.0 GPA for two consecutive years.” Graduating from high school was one of her greatest accomplishments especially because she was the fist person in her family to do so. She was accepted into the University of California, Berkeley (which is said to be the school of her dreams since eight grade). She wants major in Electrical Engineering because math and science are her passions. Brenda says, “Unfortunately, my dreams of becoming an Engineer have been shattered because in order to attend Berkeley, I would have to pay more than $27,000 a year. That is more than what my father makes a year. There is no way on earth that I could afford that much money for my education.” Many students from low-income families like Brenda are being deprived from enriching and contributing to the community. They are not being given the opportunity to become educated and live life to their full potential. Therefore, in order to duplicate Angela Whitiker’s success the government needs to provide education to low-income students because it will help them succeed in life and help fill in highly-skilled occupations.
I also believe a very important key in duplicating Angela’s success is ambition. Dirty little secret #3 “The Ambition Gap” in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, states that other countries such as India have workers who do the same job at lower wages as Americans, but are more motivated than workers in America. Friedman says, “The secret isn’t just lower wages. It’s also the attitude of workers who take pride and are willing to do what is necessary to succeed, even if it means outsourcing parts production or working on weekends or altering vacation schedules,” (359). This quote illustrates that it is the pride and determination of every individual to be successful in life. Although, due to numerous legal and financial obstacles undocumented students (which account for a great number of high school dropouts) are unable to apply to college. For example according to the article Dream Act Becoming Major Mid-Term Battleground Alex Chavira, an 18 year old high school graduate form neighboring Longmont, Colo., was born in Mexico but attended elementary, middle and high school in Colorado. He now wants to attend college, but says that without some financial help, “it’s like running into a brick wall.”Despite a solid academic background, he said his application to a local community college was denied because of his illegal status. So as you can see the government is decreasing the low income student’s ambition to succeed in life. These individuals work hard to excel through their education years to find out that their road to success has been deferred. If these students have no opportunity of receiving any higher education after high school, then they have no incentive to get a high school diploma. This explains why the Hispanic dropout rate is so high. According to the article Hispanic Dropout Number Soar, “In 2000, approximately 1.56 million U.S. residents were not high school graduates and not enrolled in school. Of the total, nearly 34 percent, or more than 528,000, were Hispanic.” This is why the government needs to provide programs like the Dream Act that would give these individuals the opportunity to continue their education at a college institution and help increase the student ambition to be successful in life.
Parents also play an important role in increasing ambition upon their children to help duplicate Angela Whitaker’s success. For example, Angela did her best to succeed and get her college diploma to prove that it could be done. So that her children could be proud of her and go on to make something of themselves too. Angela Whitiker also pushed and encouraged her children to get a higher education. She let her children know that getting a high school diploma was only the beginning. When her daughter Ishtar graduated Whitiker said, “I’m not going to say that’s good. No, that’s just the beginning. I want her to go to college and have a profession,” (227). So as you can see parents can also contribute a great amount in helping their children succeed in life by encouraging and pushing their children to their fullest potential.
Some people believe that it is all up to the individual and that the government should not provide free services to them. These people argue that with hard work the low working class can move up class divisions or also known as the “boot strapping method.” What these people don’t realize is that many were born in poverty; they didn’t get the same resources or opportunities that middle and upper classes did. They received a poorer education then the richer students. In The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, Dirty little secret #4 “The Education Gap at the Bottom,” talk’s about the public education system. It claims that the wealthiest school districts attract the best teachers, principals and the most demanding parents while the poorest districts attract the weakest teachers, principals and parents who have to work three jobs just to survive. So, wealthier students get an education that reinforces innovation and creativity, where as the poor student’s just get through the basics of education. There are fewer decent jobs for those that are not well educated. Freidman says, “So a poorly funded and staffed high school today is a pathway to a dead end. There is no future down there anymore. Therefore, we have to find a way to educate all of our young people to a very high standard,” (361). If we do not provide low income students with the opportunity to a higher education it will affect our society according to Friedman, “Otherwise, if you don’t upgrade their skills, the only way the low-skilled can compete is by driving down their ways,” (361). Therefore, it would be to our best interest to provide low working individuals with public services to be successful in life because it is impossible without them.
In conclusion, there are many students dropping out of high school from low income families due to the lack of opportunities and resources that they don’t have, but upper class divisions do. Whatever the causes, the nation can no longer afford to have a third of its students leaving school without a diploma. Not only do these individuals suffer but our society as a whole suffers from the dropout epidemic due to loss of productive workers and the higher costs associated with increased incarceration, health care and social services. High school graduates, on the other hand, provide both economic and social benefits to society by filling in the number gap and ambition gap. So, if we want to duplicate Angela’s Whitiker’s success we have to provide individuals with the opportunities that allow them to get back on track and on the road to success by focusing on early education, access to education, and ambition.
Eichstaedt, Peter. “Dream Act Becoming Major Mid-Term Battleground.” ProQuest. 21 Sept. 2006. 25 April. 2008 http://proquest.umi.com.libsrv.yvcc.edu/
Freidman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat. New York: Picador, 2005.
Thomas, Pierre. “Students Dropping Out of High School Reaches Epidemic Levels.” CNN/EDUCATION. 20 Nov. 2007. 19 May. 2008 http://abcnews.go.com/
Wilkerson, Isabel. “Angela Whitiker’s Climb.” Class Matters. New York: Times Books, 2005. 202-233.