I've been reading A Hope in the Unseen, as recommended by Melissa. I'm not quite finished with it, and I'll do a review of the book later, but I wanted to write about some of the issues brought up in this book. It is about Cedric Jennings, an urban black teenager who is able to go to an Ivy League University.
There were several things that hit close to home for me with this book. First Cedric is my age. We were doing the same things at the same time- but in totally different settings. Cedric was recruited by the university I went to. It has been interesting to compare our experiences.
The second thing was that I've lived in Trenton, New Jersey. Cedric was raised in Washington DC, but so many of the things he experienced are the same. The drugs, the awful schools, the absolute lack of opportunity for these kids are all in Trenton. There was nothing for most of those kids. There were basically two choices- work in some menial, low-paying job for the rest of your life, or start dealing drugs and make some decent money. No wonder drugs were such a problem. My husband was assigned to home teach more than one person in jail. It is not easy to visit teach someone who's on drugs.
To me, the root problem goes down to education. If you're poor, you're almost certainly going to end up in a bad school. There is no way to get out of that school- the only two alternatives are private schools or homeschooling, and the parents can't afford either. It's a cycle of low wages and low education and no opportunities.
Why don't we have vouchers? Many of the parents pushing for vouchers are not people who want their kids to go to religious schools. What they want is for their kids to go to a decent school- one where they can learn the things they need to.
I don't think vouchers are the only way to help. We have got to change the system- the current one is clearly not working for many kids. When Cedric got to Brown, he didn't know who Freud was. He didn't know what Ellis Island is. He didn't know anything about Winston Churchill. He hadn't even heard of them.
This book was published 7 years ago, while we were living in Trenton. I doubt there have been any big changes there. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the kids we knew in Trenton are just repeating what has been going on there for years- nothing.