Teaching, once a noble and admirable profession, has been experiencing a decline in respect in recent years. Occasionally forced to deal with student’s discipline problems or act as babysitters, teachers are now typically expected to act as fulltime police for children. Not only that, but teachers are often held responsible for children’s disciplinary issues. Over the past several years the education system has seen declines such as this, as well as certain successes. Many are within urban areas of inner cities, where teaching can come with its own set of rewards and challenges for any teacher brave enough to apply.
The American education system was once known for its greatness. We were thought to be one of the greatest educational systems in the world. I, personally, thought at one time that we manufactured an educational system that was worth student’s time. However, in the past several years, the educational system has seen many downfalls that lead me, and the rest of the nation, to question its merit. According to authors Samuel Bowles and Herbert Grintis, in their book “Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life”, the economic decline of Baltimore’s inner city had a direct impact on the area’s education system (78). However, neither public officials, nor any school officials took notice. The inner city’s public education programs quickly became an educational system unto itself, where the same rules applied but were somehow not enforced. This was unfortunate because the impact was great. As the socioeconomic status of the inner city’s population declined, so did test scores, mirroring a bigger problem in the national education system (85). The better children do on standardized tests, the more funding a school receives. The funding can be distributed to buy new textbooks, equipment, or facilities. The schools with students who do poorly on standardized tests, who are clearly in more dire need of better equipment, are skipped over for funding, left to continue getting poor scores. The socioeconomic status of many students’ families makes moving to a better school district impossible, ensuring not only a cycle of ignorance, but a cycle of poverty (105). I believe that, perhaps without meaning to, the educational system has set up a perpetual cycle to keep disadvantaged individuals trapped.
Though this was a shortcoming, echoed in other inner city schools, there have been educational successes in recent years that have helped boost the country’s morale. Socioeconomic status, according to Bowles and Gintis, has been found sometimes to have a direct link to children who are special needs (134). What this means is sometimes at rates as high as 25%, children who are born to impoverished families with have learning disabilities, which can range from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder to being a Non-Verbal Autistic with Pervasive Developmental Delays and Sensory Disorders. There are many different learning disabilities a child can have. In 2002, the educational system took notice of the high volume of students with learning disabilities living with the inner city of Washington D.C. and decided to do something to help. They used funding to build two separate schools specifically for the learning disabled, in order to help these individuals with the specific learning disabilities that they experience (138). I think this was a very good idea. Many of these students probably did not benefit from traditional teaching methods and needed more eccentric methods, as well as more direct attention. Other school districts began to follow Washington D.C.’s example, and within the next several years schools for the learning disabled began to appear in inner city school districts and other places as well.
Teaching is a difficult profession to begin with, but teaching in the inner city can come with its own specific set of challenges. According to William Wilson, author of “The Truly Disadvantages: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy” teaching in inner city school districts can be one of the most stressful jobs a person can attempt (45). Wilson candidly compares it to being a prison guard depending on the area the teacher works (72). The average school teacher, working in a “regular” school district, makes $55,000. Teachers at inner city schools make between $25,000 and $36,000, depending on the incentive and the need for teachers (51). Many of the teachers deal with unsafe working conditions, as well. In one year, in one inner city school in Detroit, 102 documented cases of violence and assault were recorded, all committed by students. Some of the crimes were committed against teachers. If teachers are not physically harassed they have the potentially to be verbally assaulted, as well as anonymously threatened on a daily basis (55). The areas surrounding the schools are also not safe. Though the teacher may live in a safe area themselves, they are in an unsafe area all day long, driving back and forth in neighborhoods full of crime and violence. Minneapolis saw three teachers, who did not live in the school district, murdered or assaulted in a ten year period, proving a teacher does not have to live in the neighborhood to be in danger . Ignoring the chance of losing one’s life, job security is good in these areas, because school districts in inner cities have trouble finding teachers and almost never fire them.
Despite the deplorable conditions inner city teachers work in just to teach, there are several rewards to teaching in the inner city. I actually had trouble believing that there were any rewards at first but after reading the article, “A Qualitative Study of the Sources and Impact of Stress Among Urban Teachers” it was reasonable to see how some teachers could grow to love their jobs. Though the conditions are unsafe, and the salary is often bad, many teachers began teaching for the right reasons: to mold America’s youth and ready them for adulthood. They wake each day, ready to try reaching at least one student. These teachers seek out the inner city, because these students that need the most help (60). Through their optimism and hope for the future of their students, these teachers are able to see the positivity in all of the stress around them. Though it does get to them at times, many teachers cited that reaching just one student makes the difficulties worth it, because they know that they managed to change one young mind for the better (62). Another success for some urban teachers comes later, if they choose to leave inner city teaching. The high stress environment of inner city teaching makes the teaching lifestyle of rural or city teaching very easy. This makes them effective educators in situations that are not as stressful, if they have not become jaded or lost their love for the profession (68). I can see this being true because after the intensity of teaching inner city students, some of which are already falling into a life of crime, dealing with students who only whine about too much homework must be almost relaxing.
In sum, the American education system is more complex than more people think. It is not as great as it once was. Many holes within the system, dealing with funding, test scores, and children have been forgotten in the inner cities need to be plugged. If these gaps continue to grow, it will only breed more ignorance. Despite these holes, the inner city school districts have tried to look out for those who need it most, such as children with learning disabilities, by setting up schools that will cater to their specific needs. Teaching in inner city schools can be very difficult for a teacher. It is unsafe, teachers not usually paid well, and the work can make a person very jaded. However, many teachers of inner city students argue that reaching at least one young, troubled youth is enough to make up for all of the stress that comes with such an intense job.
Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis. Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. Boston: Haymarket Books, 2014. Print.
Shernoff, Elisa S., et al. "A Qualitative Study of the Sources and Impact of Stress Among Urban Teachers." School Mental Health (2011): 59-69. Print.
Wilson, William. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Print.