SOCY 327 Blog #10: 4/8-4/14

Introduction

Dear Dr. Noguera,

My name is Amari Easter and I am a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Sociology with a minor in Psychology. I am currently enrolled in an urban sociology course, learning about several cities in the United States and issues that they face. While I have been in this course, I have been learning about several topics such as environmental racism, housing inequality, and most recently education reform. These topics have been very interesting to me and I they have increased my interest in better understanding the effects of these in many cities. Recently, I have been volunteering in my community in schools and programs that serve an underprivileged population in Richmond, Virginia. Enrolling in urban sociology and volunteering have helped me realize that I would love to work with you through the summer internship and I hope that I can convince you that I have the qualities necessary to handle the responsibilities of this job.

Context

In 2016, the ACS reported that 14 percent of the U.S. population lived under the poverty line. Although this is a small decrease from 2015 (14.7%), this decrease is not significant and this means that more work must be done to keep this rate from increasing. Contrary to popular belief, poverty is not an issue specific to inner-city populations, as poverty has only been increasing in suburban areas in the United States. In 2016, it was found that people living in suburban areas had higher poverty rates, these rates increasing drastically since the 90s. Understanding poverty and addressing these rates are crucial to residents’ livelihood and improving the policies in place in our country.

Urban Education

There are many problems with urban education in the United States. Many schools in urban cities have several problems throughout, a good but scary example being Detroit Public Schools. These schools have hazardous conditions for children, shortage of teachers, and low pay for the teachers already there. These schools lack adequate funding to provide the education necessary and are not able to provide the same level of education that children in wealthy areas receive. Schools in urban areas also take extreme measures to ensure safety of students such as constant police presence throughout and metal detectors when students walk inside. Because of these measures, violence is a problem throughout and this causes the suspension and expulsion of primarily minorities, as they are more commonly known to occupy urban schools in low income areas. You make a very good point in your talk with Bigthink.com when saying that schools without metal detectors “create a positive culture where kids are connected to learning and have clear goals,” I completely agree that this is the case and I think that it is very important for students and teachers to have this positive relationship as well. You are very intersectional in your discussions of poverty in terms of race and class.

Analysis

This problem runs deeper than urban schools, with social stratification playing a large role in understanding poverty in U.S. cities. Social stratification is based on attributes such as educational level, employment, and wealth. Our textbook discusses how sociologists best understand social stratification based on the beliefs of Karl Marx. Marx believed that inequality in society based on wealth created conflict between people who have prestige and those who do not. Another sociologist, Max Weber believed that inequality in power and wealth gave some people advantages, while others were left with little to no resources or prestige. Weber believed that inequality in this way would lead to class conflict.

San Francisco Detroit New Orleans New York
 

School Segregation

 

0.32

 

0.53

 

0.42

 

0.30

 

Residential Segregation

 

0.18

 

0.50

 

0.43

 

0.47

 

 

San Francisco Detroit New Orleans New York
Children in Poverty – 100% 11% 48% 42% 25%
Children in Poverty – 150% 18% 65% 57% 39%
Children in Poverty – 200% 22% 41% 67% 49%
Children Under 6 With no Working Parents 5% 22% 13% 11%

Final Reflections

To end, I would like to discuss a few things that I have learned from readings in my urban sociology class. In a Ted Talk by Kandice Sumner, she discusses how public schools in America keeps children in poverty in several ways. One quote from her talk that resonated a lot with me is below:

“If we really, as a country, believe that education is the “great equalizer,” then it should be that: equal and equitable. Until then, there’s no democracy in our democratic education.”

This quote resonated with me because it is very true of our education system. In order to have an efficient education system where everyone is learning, education should be equal for everyone. Sumner discusses several ways to help in creating this equality by doing things such as donating money, or even time, to schools in low income populations and engaging in conversations that closes this divide in our education system.

Furthermore, based on other readings in my urban sociology class, I have learned that although poverty rates have been decreasing, poverty in metro areas such as Washington D.C. and El Paso, Texas have been experiencing increased poverty levels throughout the years. Although segregation has been ruled unconstitutional several years ago, schools still have subtle ways of presenting segregation in schools legally, this shows that it is even more important to have equality in our education system. As we think about this, it is also important to understand that dropout rates are very high, currently being at 50% in major cities. Not only do we have to create an environment where everyone can learn, we have to retain the people in this environment in order to truly have an equal education system. If I have the pleasure of working with you, I hope to be able to change our current educational system in order to provide all children with the opportunities that they deserve, as children are truly our future. Thank you for reading and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Amari Easter

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