U.S. Education Policy Keeps Poor People in Poverty

U.S. Education Policy Keeps Poor People in Poverty

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

The United States has a national policy of keeping poor people poor. This policy isn’t a sinister capitalist plot. It is, however, a purposeful ongoing national policy that has the effect of keeping people poor. We know people living in poverty in America are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic-American. Thus, the inaction of policymakers to rectify this policy must be seen as racist. Since women are also disproportionately represented in poverty, this policy is sexist as well.

What is this policy and where was it written? It exists in almost every part of our country. It is, however, a hidden policy. No one comes out and admits that we are supporting a racist and misogynist policy. Quite the opposite, this policy is trumpeted as an idea that will help everyone. We have schools of sociology that study poverty and provide all kinds of data on our poor. They cite teenage pregnancy, crime, prostitution and domestic abuse as representations of poverty. Their documentation about poverty is quite extensive, however, they do not explain the government policy that causes poverty in America.

The key to solving poverty is to resolve it at its root cause. Poor people are not inherently lazy or stupid. Poverty is not caused by any fundamental problem with poor people at all. The cause is a national policy that sustains poverty in the richest country in the world. The policy that causes poverty in America is the instigation of a college prep curriculum in our high schools. This well-meaning policy has had the unintended consequence of decimating the country’s career technical education program. The college prep courses crowd out career technical education courses. When low-achieving youngsters fail college prep courses, they are forced to repeat them, leaving them with no job preparation.

Thirty percent of high school students, almost a million a year, drop out of our high schools. Seventy percent of America’s high school students will not graduate from college. Only 23 percent of the jobs in America require a college degree. Career technical education should be the default high school curriculum, not the college prep curriculum. And no, we cannot expect community colleges to take on this responsibility. The great majority of high school students never see, much less complete, a community college program. Job preparation must be required for young people when we have them in a captive setting — the high school. We must prevent poverty from ever occurring by providing job preparation for our youth. We are the only civilized country that does not require career technical education for its lower achieving high school kids. Western Europe, Canada and Japan all require career technical education for all but its highest achieving youngsters. The reason that we have allowed this decimation of high school career technical education goes to the heart of this national policy that causes poverty. In our American history, there was a racist educational practice called tracking. This discriminatory practice placed African-American high school students into lower level courses regardless of their ability. This racist practice was immoral, but has been eradicated for decades. The ghost of tracking must be buried and we must reconstruct our high school career technical education programs. The groups of people meant to be protected by requiring a college prep curriculum are the same groups that have suffered the most from this mistaken policy.

Today’s high schools must be reconstructed into career academies. Career academies graduate 95 percent of students, all with employable skills. Career academies send just as many of their graduates to college. Our high schools fail to provide another piece in the puzzle of helping low-achieving kids. They do not help their graduates find jobs. Every college has a placement service that helps find jobs for their grads. Career academies are committed to finding employment for their graduates. Employment must not be seen as an afterthought in our schools.

Over time, career academies can alter the hidden education policy that has caused poverty in America. Career academies can provide a young American workforce that is highly skilled and deserving of a high level of pay. Career academies can create a future America with essentially no poverty or crime.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
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