When the hand that feeds you bites back

Recently, I was surveying 5th graders in a local elementary school. As I parallel parked in the side street, I felt a sense of relief for having found the school. Considering that I am new to the city, I decided that if I had not found the school, because it was taking me much longer than expected, that I would just keep going and not stop to ask for directions... I was in a very hard side of town.

As I walked down the sidewalk separating the side street and the front yards of the homes next to the school with lounging bull pits and no fence.. I noted that next time, I should downplay my accessories.. no need for my Dooney & Burke bag to accompany my next visit to this school...

Finally I was at the front door of the school and I pushed the button/doorbell for the office to unlock the doors to let me in... greeted with a grunt and directions to where I needed to go, I braced myself for the anticipation of stares from the students I was about to survey... designer bag, designer sunglasses and shoes... what was I thinking?

To my surprise, the students in the classroom were in the middle of their social studies class.. working on their State assignment.. with the assistance of the mobile computer lab.. they were all pounding on the keys of their Mac Books. I stared dumbfounded; it was me gwaking at the laptops, not the students at my accessories.

All I could think was: now wait a minute, how do students in a low income school district have undeniable access to Mac Books? Don't they know how much those cost?

Ironic how I was self-conscious about what they would think of me, and there I was jealous of their tricked out tech toys. So what does this say about consumerism? First it says that we all believe we deserve the same amount of luxury. Secondly it says that even low income schools are tech savvy. But what about when the students go home, turn on the TV or flip through a magazine and see things they want? Where is the rationale and the knowledge that to get those 'things' they must work hard to earn an education and financial status via a successful career.... rather than, the school you attend was awarded a grant to purchase these things to help erase the apparent disadvantages you already have based off of class stereotypes...

How high are their expectations of people giving them things, and not learning how to earn them for themselves? What new disadvantages does this create when the hand that feeds these kids, bites them later when they are denied their continuance of living in the bubble of deserving everything to be handed to them?

4 comments about "When the hand that feeds you bites back".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 5, 2008 at 9:40 a.m.

    I wonder whether you, as a college student, concerned about whether your Dooney & Bourke bag will survive this trip to a low-income school, along with your designer sunglasses and designer shoes, truly understands who has the false sense of entitlement?

    Perhaps these students were granted the computers because they demonstrated a burning desire to succeed, and their school district or government recognized how technology can help overcome economic disadvantages and barriers. The students saw beyond the accessories and tech toys. Did you?

    Are you going to come into the work force prepared to do what is necessary to earn the knowledge that will enable you to have a successful career? Or, are you going to come into the work force expecting a "life balance" and rewards right out of the gate because that is what you are entitled to?

  2. Matthew Maginley, May 5, 2008 at 9:43 a.m.

    If you want to reform the educational system in the United States, you have to begin with the most disadvantaged. Remember, we spend the most per student in the world and have high schools that rank only ahead of Cypress and South Africa on the world's stage.

    It has nothing to do with consumerism, it has to do with setting priorities. The computer is merely a tool - as are surveys.

    I would rather raise a child's expectiations than lower them, and not assume that social norms relative to academic performance can be replaced by the utility of market norms.

  3. Andrew Sherry, May 5, 2008 at 9:52 a.m.

    Is this post really saying that kids in low-income school districts shouldn't get computer lab equipment because it will turn them into slackers who expect everything to be handed to them?

    How about the possibility that it will show them there's a bigger world out there and start giving them the tools to attain it?

    What about kids in wealthy school districts -- is it okay to give them Macbooks because their parents can too, so it's not a false expectation?

    Were any survey skills used to test the assumption that no one was telling these kids they had to work hard for success, and that we're raising a new generation of welfare princes and princess on a diet of free Apples in school?

    I'm sure Shannon worked hard for her Dooney & Burke bag, and that she would never have an unfenced "bull pit," but it seems a shame that the only thing she appears to have brought back from a foray into a poorer part of town is surprise that the schoolchildren are allowed access to 21st century tools.

  4. james haft, May 5, 2008 at 11:34 a.m.

    This post is really disturbing. Why not deny the students good food, because their parents can't afford decent food at home?

    What happened to the American dream of learning about the possibilities in front of us and having the opportunity to earn a better life than our parents?


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