The educational opportunities and scholarships our society currently offers are out there, serving the nation’s overachievers. What about the rest?
A wise, occasionally Sharpie-covered man – one of my favorite authors – once said: “The reason I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world.” (John Green, if you’re wondering.)
This is true – all of us benefit from investing in the future by way of new technology, groundbreaking medical advances, beautiful artwork, enchanting movies and books, and much, much, much more. Public education not only allows for progress, it drives it.
In the same vein, we as a society provide a number of wonderful educational opportunities to those with the potential and without the resources to flourish. Scholarship programs offered by the government, including the Pell Grant, various organizations – the likes of which include Questbridge, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and the Gates Millennium Scholarship – and by colleges and universities, covering tuition, room and board, and even living expenses, are plentiful, if you have the knowledge and the resume to justify such an investment. As it should be – there are far too many high-achieving students from underprivileged backgrounds who would likely find it nearly impossible to succeed in a society where money means power. Just look at our president.
But necessary as it is, it is not enough. Yes, we are doing one part of our duty in offering these educational programs to those talented individuals who might need a little extra help financially. But it is not enough.
Before I go any further, I feel that it is necessary to note that I am in no way, shape, or form condemning or criticizing the measures we currently have in place. They allow us to tap otherwise underutilized potential, to help individuals who could help us in the future. But it is only the first step.
As a society, we should go beyond serving our own selfish interests – because that’s what it is, at the core of it all. The educational opportunities and scholarships our society currently offers are out there, serving those who need it, because later on in life they will serve us, in their future careers and accomplishments. In the end, we are investing in humans and their potential the way we invest in profitable ideas, the way we invest in stocks and bonds, hoping that one day it will benefit us.
What about the rest? What about the ones not labeled as “high-achieving?”
We’re taking care of the students who are fighting a winning battle against cruel reality, but what about the ones on the losing side of the war? What about the ones we like to forget about, “bottom-feeders,” the low-achievers, the underachievers? We invest resources in the ones who could obviously contribute to society, the ones who could obviously benefit us, but what about the rest? We leave them behind, provide the bare minimum, and then let cruel fate do its work. Sure, one could say that “That’s just how the world works. To get what you want, you have to have something to offer.” But is that how it should be?
We are a privileged society, with the money and the power and the ability to do more than the bare minimum, to provide only for those who can provide for us further down the line. In our daily lives, we generally value compassion and selfless benevolence. So why is it as a society that we forget this?
We can provide more and better education programs that specifically target the “forgotten,” the underachievers, the ones who seem to be “not worth the effort.” But that’s the precisely the point – there’s no such thing as a person, a human being, that isn’t worth the effort. We’ve managed to take steps in the right direction, helping the ones with clear potential, so now it’s time to go further. We can innovate, create new programs that target the “bottom-feeders.”
There are so many testimonials describing how one persistent teacher, mentor, coach, set someone back on the right track – who’s to say that we can’t institutionalize the phenomenon? Why aren’t there more programs to inspire and motivate those students who aren’t doing well on their own?
We have more than enough resources to go beyond our current policies and educational opportunities. And besides, it’s not about how we as individuals or as a society can benefit, but rather about our shared humanity. Most of us share the conviction that we all have a duty to try to help those in need, so isn’t it about time that our educational programs reflect that?