Sunday, July 1, 2012

Unequal Access to Opportunities

There are two tracks at Apsen this year focusing on the Child and Education.  It is fascinating to hear leading thinkers talk about how to address the imbalances in educational opportunities and overall support for the neediest children.

When I founded Global Language Project, it was to help level the playing field through opening opportunities to underserved students traditionally reserved for the elite

The word “elite” has always been code word for White. However, in a values-based panel, Harvard Professor Robert Putman and author Charles Murray have framed the conversation about unequal opportunities and access to a good education as is fast becoming more about class than race.

I wholeheartedly agree. As an African-American women working with some of the neediest schools and children in Harlem and also living as a resident in Harlem, I sometimes I feel I am intertwined in a double reality.

As many of you know, I come from a corporate background.  I am fortunate to have a circle of friends who are diverse and do include African-Americans.  The overwhelming majority of these friends and associates, while living in Harlem, send their children to private schools in New York—schools that cost $40,000 a year.  These parents are in many ways following the best practices for raising children: they read to them; they involve them in the arts, theater and dance; and, yes, their children are learning a second language.

By contrast, when I work in schools like P.S. 368 in Hamilton Heights Harlem, I see that these students from similarly diverse backgrounds and even the same neighborhoods do not have the same access to opportunities and experiences.  It is not shocking that we don’t see the same outcomes.

How do we level the playing field?  Puttnam suggest that it will be expensive.  I would argue that expensive is relative especially in the days of New York City parents paying upwards of $35,000 a year for preschool and while the State of New York pays $36,000 to incarcerate an inmate.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more effective for the state to increase its investments in early childhood education, afterschool enrichment programs like the arts, and languages that have all been proven to be indicators for a successful child?

These are ideas worth considering as the discussion continues in Aspen.

No comments:

Post a Comment