Solution? A Strategy for Social Change

“A Nation has a fundamental right to… build it future by providing and appropriate education for the younger generation.” (CSDC 157) This is an understanding among nations, and among peoples; but the problem with the “Missing Class” is not a failure to provide appropriate education, but a failure of that education to give a true education in the personhood and dignity of each child. The Massachusetts Department of Education researched dropout statistics in Massachusetts in 2006, and in 1994, the U.S. Department of Education conducted Research on the education issues of the United States. They found a solution that outlines eight goals of education that begins to outline a solution for educational problems in low-income schools.

The National Education goals for bettering the education system are as follows: “School readiness; school completion; student achievement and citizenship; mathematics and science; adult literacy and lifelong learning; safe, disciplined, and alcohol- and drug- free schools… teacher education and professional development; and parental participation.” (ERIC ix) The goals touch on the many of the theological issues presented in the school systems of poorer communities. This 10-year plan focuses on the schools alone, yet the problems in the “Missing Class” stem from a economic situation that incorporates the entire family beyond simply school aged individuals.

The goals of School readiness, school completion and most especially parental participation are goals which incorporate factors outside of the school environment while permeating the educational experience. A solution to the problems of the “Missing Class:” The inability of parents to devote the time necessary for proper child development; the failure of schools to develop children in multiple dimensions; the inability of the “Missing Class” to rise above their station; and the ability of the government to ignore the problems of this class, hovering just above poverty.
A solution to the plight of the “Missing Class” is not impossible, but it is not simple. It involves addressing each of the issues the class faces, while remembering that each member of the class faces different problems. It is like tackling a beast that one cannot see or understand without examining the smallest components and working to change the small parts first and hoping that through changing the lives of individuals slowly, change will be affected.

The largest problem of the “Missing Class” is the failure to acknowledge that they need assistance. The government has instituted programs to aid the poor, there are hundreds of books written about the plight of the impoverished, and journalists write about poor urban schools while politicians advocate for health care and better working conditions for the poor. The “Missing Class” do not see such heroics; they work in mundane jobs, wake every morning to a chilly home, carpool to work, and save frugally to buy a small Turkey for Thanksgiving or a special gift for Christmas. They have no one to fight a battle for them, and have little time to organize or fight for themselves. The “Missing Class” is stranded in the plight of silence. The first solution to the problems of the poor would be for the government to conduct better research into the cost of living and to adjust the minimalistic line of poverty so that those who do exist in economic difficulty, though not destitute, can receive governmental aid. These are individuals that the government should seek to help because they are willing and capable of helping themselves, most of the way. Recognition of the true level of poverty, of the true conditions that dictate poverty, and of the necessity of assistance to so many people whom the government fails to help would be a first goal of overcoming this problem. Realization of the true level at which an individual, without assistance, can support his family, and beneath that level offer economic support so that families can begin to rise beyond their nearly impoverished conditions.

Families need economic support. Valuable economic support would begin to solve the other problems from which these families suffer. The elimination of economic precariousness, would allow parents to offer the other means of support necessary for the development of children. Rather than holding two jobs, or working double shifts, a parent can work a decent number of hours and devote time to their children, as is his mission. In this first step, the elimination of economic uncertainty, the availability of a security net, the first education of children could be achieved. The proper education and formation of children could be begun at an appropriate age. The small children of the 203 families, in which both parents work while young children are left to the education of others, would begin to develop through the parents’ true education, and goal one of ERIC’s plan would be met: School readiness in which “every parent in the U.S. will be a child’s first teacher and devote time each day to helping such parent’s preschool child learn.” (ERIC 1)

This familial security would also begin to reduce the dropout rates, of which 46% of Massachusetts’ school districts cited personal or family issues as the reason for students discontinuing education. ERIC’s second goal, school completion, is vital to the elimination of the problems of the “Missing Class”. While government aid helps individuals caught in the cycle of near-poverty, education provides the escape from this cycle. Completion of education moves individuals beyond the reaches of near poverty in providing opportunities available to the educated, alone. A thorough examination, then, of the causes and effects of student dropouts is necessary so that the forces driving students to this drastic measure can be eliminated. The Massachusetts board of Education conducted the beginning of such a study, but their measures were generalizations based upon observation and circumstantial evidence. The percentages are not based upon student responses but upon the trends in each district.

Responses to trends can be helpful in reducing the number of dropout, but the key to success in school parallels the key to success in schools. Student attention is necessary for student motivation. Teachers and parents with vested interests in their students’ success produce greater rates of success. Similarly, individualized attention to the reasons and signs of student dropouts within each school would greatly reduce, if not eliminate, student dropouts. Private schools often have the resources and interest for their students that provide outlets and opportunities to students with all interests and talents that keep students involved and allow for specialized attention. This attention to students creates a sense of the necessity of education, a sense of the opportunities that education can offer, and a sense of the duty that each student fulfills to the good of all in the completion of his education.

Individualized attention promotes the personal dignity of the individual, while the understanding of school systems of the importance of each student promotes the common good of the entire educational system. It is the recognition of the dignity of the individual, both by the entire government system and the individual schools, that should drive the decisions of the system that is American society. The two solutions: government aid to those who are trapped and to those who can climb out, both monetarily and intellectually, work hand in hand. The monetary support provides a security in which education can be pursued. Yet, upon the achievement of education and a full integration into the affluence society contains, governmental monetary assistance will no longer be needed and the “Missing Class” will disappear as the poor rise to take its place, working to climb out of poverty, poverty perpetuated by the inability to find a moment’s security in an economically demanding society.

Drop Out Prevention Report by the Massachusetts Department of Education