So I’m on PowerSchool right now, as I’m sure most of you probably are quite frequently, and I’m not gonna lie- I’m pissed. And not for the reason you might expect. I just received my first A on a test in one of my classes. My first one, all year. Naturally that would make someone happy, elated even. But I know I only received the A because my parents got me a tutor, which costs them about $250 a month.
I’m angry because, despite the fact that I spent almost every other day in my teacher’s office during my free period last marking period, getting extra help, I was unable to preform well. And despite getting extra assistance from outside sources and putting in extreme amounts of work, I was unable to succeed. I’m angry because my parents are paying for me to be taught something that I’m supposed to be learning in school.
I happen to be lucky, because my parents can afford to drop a couple hundred every month to ensure that I do well in my classes. But for many people, that just isn’t feasible. It’s something which they cannot built into their budget and afford to do. For many people, $250 is grocery, gas or rent money.
Yet, in Princeton especially, it’s considered the norm to have a tutor. And if you’re not doing well in a class, it will be suggested that you get one. It appears to be the assumption in this town that people just have money to burn, and that would not only be inaccurate but also misguided.
It isn’t only the case for academics, but also for athletics. For example, one of the sports teams that I’m a member of is asking each family to donate $100 to the booster club. Why does the expectation of familial funding for a public school sports team even exist? Won’t a car wash suffice? Or another example, being how sports teams will so often make pieces of apparel mandatory for their varsity players to purchase. Like…what? People don’t just have it like that. If it’s between feeding the kids for the week, or buying a quarter zip, the food’s going to win out. As it should. Having these expectations of people displays a mentality which suggests that everyone can afford to just spend money aimlessly, when the fact of the matter is that they can’t. Not everyone in this town has the same socioeconomic status, yet they are treated as though they do.
This way of thinking creates a culture of exclusion. Because it’s believed that everyone has the means to pay for nonessential things, they become a staple in the participation of the sport. Of course people are told that if they can’t afford something there will be financial assistance offered. But knowing that these types of expenditures will be expected keeps people away, despite the support they may or may not receive. They choose not to place themselves in a position where they know that they won’t be able to afford to maintain the type of lifestyle the sport requires. This is reflected in racial and economic homogeneity within the sports. Do you see any other black kids playing field hockey? Didn’t think so.
Once again proof of this can be found in standardized testing. If your family can afford to do so, it’s possible to buy your score. You get the best tutor and see him or her as frequently as possible until you manage to get whatever score you’re looking for on the SAT and/or ACT. Yes, schools offer free SAT/ACT courses, but if they were as effective as a private tutor, don’t you think that more people would utilize the resource? Or, better yet, wouldn’t there be similar scores for these tests across the board, regardless of which method was used for preparation? They obviously are not of equal caliber, so of course the wealthier kids are going to get higher test scores on average- it’s because they have the resources to do so. In that case, the standardized test is no longer standard for all people, because one group has a distinct disadvantage.
In the United States, and in Princeton specifically, socioeconomic status is frequently tied to race. Generally, those of lower economic tiers are minoritiy groups, such as Hispanics and African-Americans. This is due to a lengthy past of racial oppression which hindered and continues to thwart their ability to rise through the economic structure of this country. As a result, of many of the Black and Hispanic kids being of lower socioeconomic status, in comparison to their Caucasian counterparts, often get lower test scores and have lower GPAs on average. This leads to the possibly subconscious, yet evident assumption of many, but not all, educators that these kids are less capable and therefore lack the ability to succeed. They then receive less attention in the classroom because it is predicted by their teachers that they are going to preform poorly.
The proof of what I’m saying lies in the gaping and rather embarrassing achievement gap Princeton Public Schools has. To put it simpily, white kids generally do better than kids of color. This is not because white students are smarter, but instead because they typically have advantages which the school doesn’t compensate for when it comes to the minority students. On top of that, the bias which exists against these kids from the moment they enter kindergarten, places then on educational tracks, many of which are not college bound.
I don’t think that anyone, white, Black, Asian, Hispanic or otherwise, should have to pay for their grades. I don’t think that one’s financial status should dictate whether they feel comfortable participating on a sports team. And I do not think that the intention is to discriminate against minority students, but I refuse to ignore the fact that it does happen. The first step in alleviating the problem is recognizing it exists.
That’s all for today, just me being bothered by the inequalities of the world. But hey, at least now they can bother you too. Maybe if enough people get irritated, someone will do something about it.
Until next time,