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Schools Can’t Cure All of Society’s Ills

September 23, 2011

I was rummaging around on the Internet reading about, what to me is, the most interesting topic in this great country, the nexus of politics, money, and education in our society.  It is truly obscene what is ignored by the very wealthy in this country who send their children to private schools with tiny student/teacher ratios, up to date computers, loads of support, art, music, theatre, and PE each day while many of us educate students who went hungry last night and this morning, whose language and vocabulary skills are seriously lacking, who are witnesses of domestic violence and drug abuse in their homes.

This is reality, students who have real home-life difficulties are prevalent in schools all across this country.  Many of our kids view school as a sanctuary away from the craziness of their lives at home.  But, we are expected, as teachers, to close the gap between these underprivileged students and the students with all the advantages that money can afford them as mentioned above.  Enter this letter to the editor in the Clay Today, if you are a teacher I think you will like it:

Dear Editor:

To quote Diane Ravitch, well-known author, educational historian and education professor: “School alone cannot solve persistent social and economic inequalities. If we fail to change the conditions in which students and their families live, even our best educational efforts will fall short of our hopes of creating both equality and excellence.”

The “stats” are horrific: One in five children from birth to 18 years old has a diagnosable mental disorder. One in ten struggle with problems so severe as to disrupt functioning at home and in school. During a school year this youngster will miss as many as 22 days of school. Suspension and expulsion rates are three times higher than other students. There is a direct correlation between mental health issues and drop- out rates… at least 10 percent of drop- outs have mental health issues.

Differences noted in language development at age 3 are good predictors of language and vocabulary proficiencies at age 9/10. Children from environments with two well-educated parents possess twice the vocabulary of children from a welfare environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the number of children facing “food insecurity”… having enough or anything to eat, reached one in four (2009). Florida ranked 10th, with 1,116,000 children in “food insecure” households.

The Children’s Defense Fund the number of children living in poverty increased by four million since 2000; the number of homeless children in public education increased by 41 percent between 2006-07 and the 2008-09 school years… we have nearly 1,000 homeless children enrolled in the Clay County School system; in 2009 an average of 15.6 million children received monthly food stamp, an increase of 65 percent over 10 years. A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent of black and Hispanic students cannot read nor do math at grade level in the 4th, 8th and 12th grades. We are creating what Charles M. Blow (OP-ED New York Times 8/6/11) has labeled as The Decade of Lost Children.

Students account for just about 25 percent of the total population. They are 35 percent of the nation’s poor. Children under the age of 6 are the poorest demographic group in our country.

The “bottom line is hopefully and painfully evident. With all the dialog as to why children aren’t doing better in school ….. The simple answer, to a very large degree, is poverty and all of its implications…. Students arriving for the first day of school are bringing enormous problems with them. Society must accept and “buy into” the fact that a child’s success or lack thereof begins at birth. Lacking an adequate and comprehensive approach to these issues gives us a problem in hand…. The odds of compensating for deprived pre-school developmental experiences are slim to none!

Public awareness, support and demand for funding at the federal, sate and local levels are the answer. Work with your community groups/clubs; your church initiatives; your local school programs. Raise the issue with your elected representatives in both Tallahassee and Washington.

The imperatives are economic, political, philosophical, and very much relate to our national security, overall world standing, and flow directly from the bedrock of values on which this nation was founded.

We cannot forsake another generation of children.

Frank J. Farrell,


Clay County School Board


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