Exploring Poverty and Education
Education and poverty is a difficult subject to explore. Many views are held when it comes to the value of education for the underprivileged and whether or not it is the key to removing an individual from an impoverished condition. “The Social Animal”, a book by David Brooks, explores this subject of poverty and education through the life of one of his characters named Erica. Erica comes from an ethnic background, from a broken home, born from parents who did not receive higher educations, and can be considered an underprivileged child. Brooks focuses on the changes Erica goes through in her life from elementary school, all the way to adulthood, and highlights the fact that she was able to attend a prep school dedicated to giving impoverished children a chance at getting a college degree in hopes of changing the life of the student, as well as her families. People who come from low income families should be given the chance to receive a higher education so they can have a chance to break the poverty cycle by teaching them about self-control, discipline, organization and social communication.
Erica comes from an environment that generally has no hope for the future. Impoverished children tend to not have the same opportunities as children who grow up in middle class or upper class families. Research data shows (insert data from outside source eveidence). One could conclude that by not having a college degree can keep an individual away from upward mobility. The environment that a person comes from can play a major role in how an individual sees the world. If an individual comes from a positive home, full of attachment bonds, and social bonds developed through childhood, then that individual will tend to have a positive outlook on life. If a person comes from a broken home, with very few attachments to the world they grew up in, then in general a negative outlook on life is developed. Here is how the poverty cycle is able to entrap the poor. Without any real hopes to ever achieve success, a person will have no motivation to better their lives. Erica, from a young age, could see she did not want to continue her life in poverty. She longed for the stability in life that she knew could be found by obtaining a college degree.
Erica had a deep internal feeling, and unconscious feeling, that her surrounding environment would be a detriment to her life. Internally, as well as consciously, Erica longed for an environment that was positive, nurturing, organized, and socially motivating. Brooks brings this out in text by explain her thought process on this matter, “she could make one decision, to change her environment. And if she could change her environment, she would be subject to a whole different set of cues and unconscious cultural influence. It’s easier to change you environment than to change your insides.” Brooks quote about Erica is saying once negative unconscious norms are established, it can be very difficult to change a conscious minds attitude about the world. It is easier to change your conscious way of thinking by surrounding an individual with a positive environment that can nurture and change the unconscious mind through positive reinforcement models. Consciously Erica knew her only hope for a successful future was to remove herself from the poverty cycle, and immerse herself into a school that would help her get into college. This school was called “The Academy”. In today’s world, the Academy could be considered a charter school, or a prep school that was specifically dedicated to educating the underprivileged. One school such as this in the Bay Area is called East Palo Alto Prep. It has a mission statement that could be considered to be very similar to that of the Academies. “We are committed to opening doors for students historically underrepresented in higher education… Eastside students…are the first in their families to go to college create a ripple effect, changing their own lives, the lives of their families and the life of their community.”
These schools are trying to essentially break the poverty cycle that can grip an entire generation of families. The founders of the Academy could not pin point any one cause that resulted in the effect of poverty. “They figured it arose from a mixture of loss of manufacturing jobs, racial discrimination, globalization, cultural transmission, bad luck, bad government policies, and a thousand other factors.” Poverty could be considered an emergent system, many parts coming together to become an entity that was far greater than any of the individual parts. The founders of the Academy believed in this idea that poverty is an emergent system with no pin point answer as to what causes poverty. Furthermore, “they believed that it was futile to try to find one lever to lift kids out of poverty, because there was no one cause for it.” But they did know they could make a difference in the lives of individuals by providing an environment that would support the motivation and discipline necessary to get a college degree. The founders felt, “no specific intervention is going to turn around the life of a child or an adult in any consistent way.
But if you surround a person with a new culture, a different web of relationships, then they will absorb new habits of thoughts and behaviors in was you will never be able to measure or understand.” From here one can see that the founders were not only trying to give a poor kid a chance at education, they were trying to change the environment surrounding a kid to allow for a change in the conscious and unconscious minds. The Academy is exactly what Erica needed for a chance at success. She knew without acceptance into this school, her life would eventually lead to no where.