So I wanted to write about education today, and as I was thinking of ideas, I realized that most of my gripes and writings have dealt with the funding side of education. I don't want to sound like a broken record, so luckily in my search to find some fresh perspective, I seemed to have stumbled upon a little gem.
Now I want to preface this article with the warning that this is all just pure speculation, and I'm going to use my town--Columbus, OH--to illustrate a point I want to make.
I read this article today that says that about 45% of American children live in school districts that have poverty rates over 20%. "Shocking!" some might say. "This is outrageous!" others may exclaim, but I think this is a case where a statistic is taken completely out of context and used to further an asinine goal (go figure, right?).
Let's consider a few things before we start saying that there's not enough money going to schools, or that poverty is the reason our kids are coming out of school as complete dumbasses.
Firstly, let's consider where most children in America live. My guess is that most children in America live in or very near urban areas. Columbus is a city of 2 million people. It's a huge ass city, and there's a shit ton of children here whose residence is considered to be Columbus. Yes, there are some suburbs, but Columbus alone is home to 2 million people.
As of 2009, Columbus had a poverty rate of about 18%. There are some extremely poor neighborhoods closer to downtown and on the West Side. Don't go to the Hilltop area and expect a comfortable day. Be that as it may, there are still some really nice neighborhoods in Columbus. My friends joke and say that I live in the ghetto, but that's not true. Sure, my neighborhood might not be the most posh, but I live in a pretty good area on the North End, not far from where I grew up (which is a nice, quiet neighborhood).
So although my friends, family, and I all live very comfortable lives, we still live in a city where some pretty nasty poverty exists, and since things haven't improved much, our poverty rate is probably closer to 20%. But even with near 20% poverty, if you were to visit Columbus, you probably wouldn't think it's a complete shit hole like Detroit.
So what does this have to do with my argument? Well, part two of my argument has to do with school district size. Columbus City School district encompasses the entire damn city, poor neighborhoods and not-poor neighborhoods. So although my children live in a nicer part of Columbus, they're still part of the statistic that says half of American children are living in poverty stricken cities.
Although my children go to Catholic school, and are receiving a really good education, they're stuck in this statistic. From this we can speculate that the statistic itself is meaningless, because my guess is that many school districts follow this same pattern, lumping in poor, urban neighborhoods with more well-off neighborhoods.
Of course 45% of children live in school districts where poverty is 20%, because a majority of American children live in cities just like Columbus. So what? Why is Northland High School nestled in a fairly well-off neighborhood and fails miserably, while St. Francis De Sales high school is stuck in a slightly worse neighborhood yet churns out very well-educated students who generally go on to be successful in life?
It's not the money, because De Sales is a private Catholic school that is typically less funded than the adequately funded public schools, and where the teachers are paid a third less than their public school counterparts. If only 18% of Columbus is living in poverty, then why does Columbus City School district only have a 60% graduation rate?
Statistics can be used, twisted, and taken out of context to prove just about anything. That's why I tend not to take them all as gospel, because there are some factoids out there, like this one, that are complete bullshit once you apply a little thought to it. In spite of that, people will still use that statistic to prove their point that schools are underfunded, and that because of that our children are failing. Do you buy that? I don't.