Truth be told, I really don’t remember learning to read. When I was three, I was given a book of fairy tales from my grandfather for Christmas. It’s one of my earliest memories, and I still have that book in my closet back at home. I loved reading the stories in that book, especially Hansel and Gretel, but it was never difficult for me to read, which means that I learned to read at a very early age. So early, in fact, that I don’t even remember the process.
For many others in this nation, the story is not the same. While many of my classmates and I came into school knowing how to read, many don’t learn until they get in school, which creates a huge disparity in what needs to be taught kids in kindergarten. Though neither of my parents went farther with their education than a high school diploma, nor did anyone else in my family, they know how to read and knew the importance of helping their children with reading and language before schooling would begin. But not only that, they also had the resources they needed to help me. There are so many families that know how important it is to read to their children, among many other things, but when a simple child’s book can run anywhere from $10-$20, how can those living under the poverty line be expected to purchase books to help teach their children to read?
This is just one of the many problems that can arise when it comes to schooling in America and the politics that come right along with it. I may not have loved reading in elementary school, but I knew how to do it and I had incentive to do well because of this expectation to eventually find my way to college. I’m not sure why it was so ingrained in me, but from the beginning I knew I would go to college, but not all of my classmates felt the same way. College was just an option for many of them, and probably an option that wasn’t considered with the highest priority. Was I so sure because of my parents? Did they drill it into me that I would go to college even though they never did and neither did my older sister? Or was it my school? If it was my school, why didn’t all of the other kids feel exactly the same way? Or maybe, it was a combination of the two. With my parents encouraging good grades and hoping that one day I would achieve more than them, and my schools helping me work towards a goal of honor roll and extracurricular participation, I was just exposed to a lot of expectation that wasn’t anything less than a future in college.
The difference between my educational experience compared to those of lower socioeconomic status, as well as those with a higher SES, varies quite a bit. It makes me and many other academics questions the fair and equal opportunity given within our school system. It makes me want to change the lack of opportunity that some children experience, because everyone deserves to feel smart enough to be expected to achieve any and every goal they have.
This is why I am interested in education, and it is also why I want to learn about policy within the education system and how it works (or doesn’t work) to create social justice for youth all over the country.