Tag Archives: Poverty Level

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Knowledge is Power

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

In the Unites States, we have an antiquated education system. It is another great disqualifier for far too many students. Our current system is still based on the outdated calendar cycle of when crops were planted and harvested. This is because in the past children were needed to harvest crops alongside their parents. The school calendar was created with this in mind. Children would be available to plant crops in the late summer months, and then be available again at the beginning of the next summer to harvest them. As a result, generally speaking the school calendar starts in September and ends in June. Today, although there are plenty of farmers who may still benefit from this setup, the overwhelming majority of American parents do not require their kids to harvest crops. It takes away from the time some students need just to avoid being disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.

In theory, American children could go to school for an extra month during the summer, or the school calendar could be adjusted throughout the year to allow for an extra month for education. Adding an extra month to the school calendar seems like a radical idea because we have all been conditioned to accept the current setup. However, when we look at the steady decline of our educational system as a whole, most people agree that something must be done. Studies show American students are slowly falling behind their counterparts in other countries around the world. This can be traced to the amount of time spent in the classroom. Some countries like Japan require their students to attend school longer than we do in our country. The result is the students in these countries outpace American students in various educational disciplines.

When we look closer at the demographic studies about the American education system, we see that rural and suburban schools generally have better results than urban and inner-city schools. This is called the education (or achievement) gap. Think about it, students who are in urban and inner-city schools are more likely to be behind their counterparts in rural and suburban schools. Because the world is now a global marketplace, this means urban and inner-city schools produce students who are even farther behind their counterparts in many foreign countries. This disparity becomes another great disqualifier, both at home, and in competition against students around the world.

For the sake of analysis, we want to focus on the education gap that exists in America and how it becomes a great disqualifier. If you go to an overcrowded school with limited resources and funding, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to a lower-rated school with underachieving students and teachers, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to an underperforming school with discipline and behavioral issues, you are at an educational disadvantage. The amazing thing about all of these situations is that many students overcome these challenges. However, far too many students do not. They are disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.

Now let’s look at higher education. Competition for slots at colleges and universities across the nation is fierce. The difference between getting accepted and getting passed over still boils down to academic performance. If a student from an urban or inner-city school does not perform as well as their suburban counterparts, the probability increases that they will be left behind when it is time to apply for college. The inferior education disadvantaged students receive can disqualify them for college, or at least hinder their chances to go to an elite school. Their education also hampers their ability to keep pace should they get accepted into a college or university. Once, again, education can serve as a disqualifier for these students.

We, not government leaders, educators, or school officials must ask why we allow our educational system to disqualify so many students. It is up to the people, not the school bureaucracy or elected officials to ask these questions and start to find solutions. While I am on a roll, I believe we must ask the following questions about the education most of our children receive…

Why was home economics taken out of the curriculum?

Why isn’t a mandatory personal finance and credit course taught in every high school?

Why are schools taking the arts and music out of their course electives?

Why do we make kids take higher level mathematics when few of us ever use those concepts in real life?

Why don’t we add civics back into the curriculum for all students so they can understand how government SHOULD work?

As a final thought, at no point in this post did I mention race. For those who see race in everything, you can rest assured that this is more about education as a disqualifier based on class, not race. Poor people who are educationally disadvantaged come in all colors and ethnicities. Therefore, they are all in the same boat. When they realize this, I think they can come together and influence change. Maybe this change will be at the ballot box. Perhaps it will occur at the PTA meeting. Either way, top-down solutions from our government and educational leaders have not helped enough.I believe that the change our educational system needs will have to come from the bottom-up; parents and students must lead the charge.

Education should not be another one of the remaining great disqualifiers…

 

 

This is a follow-up to my original post: Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

 

Be on the lookout for my next post… Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

 Burning Card

Throughout the course of my life, I have learned that there are still a few disqualifiers that make it difficult for many people to live the lives they want. A quick history lesson can set up the concept of disqualifiers. In the past (not today of course), disqualifiers were gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and economic status, just to name a few. If you were on the wrong side of one or more of these things, you could have been disqualified from something our society had to offer. That was then, not now!

At this point, one must ask why were disqualifiers set up and used in the first place. Didn’t the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution clearly spell out the rights of all American citizens? The obvious conclusion is there has always been a reason to disqualify people. There has always been a reason to separate people. There has always been a reason to exclude people. There has always been a reason to disqualify people. Eventually the legality of many of these disqualifiers came into question. In time, most of these disqualifiers became illegal so people could not be so easily excluded.

Now you would think that with all of the barriers that disqualified so many taken away, more people would be able to make progress toward their dreams and goals. Yet there is a growing segment of people in our society who are just as far away from their goals as ever. Why is that? I believe it is because disqualifiers still exist today. These disqualifiers are more subtle, and much harder to try and overturn in our courts of law. One of these disqualifiers that need to be revealed is credit (personal finance).

By adulthood, most people have discovered that credit “makes the world go round”. If that discovery happens after mistakes with credit, people quickly learn that our credit is one of the remaining great disqualifiers. Simply put, once you make mistakes with your credit, it is very hard to erase the effects of those mistakes. If you do not understand the nature of the problem and continue to make credit mistakes, you can easily dig a hole that will take years to overcome. Unfortunately, many never overcome their credit issues. For them, credit becomes a lifelong disqualifier.

Think about it, if you have poor credit you are disqualified from a lot of things. You probably pay higher for your insurance, because poor credit HAS TO MEAN you are a risky person. If you have credit cards, you are being charged a higher interest rate, because poor credit HAS TO MEAN you are irresponsible. Did you buy a car or house? If so, you are paying more than someone with good credit, because poor credit HAS TO MEAN you need to pay more just to prove your worthy of receiving the loan you got. With more jobs requiring credit checks, there is a possibility that you missed out on one, because poor credit HAS TO MEAN you would not make a good employee.

These are just a few examples of how poor credit can disqualify you for low rates, and in some cases, prevent you from consideration at all. The sad part about it is so many people are blind to this issue until it is too late. Most of the time, the people who are oblivious to how credit works are the SAME people who were disqualified for so many years in our society: the poor, minorities, women, and immigrants. Let that sink in for a second. Now think about this: many of the reasons why these people were previously disqualified have been ruled illegal, thanks to our undeniable rights and the court systems that uphold them. Now, these same people are being disqualified for things that ARE LEGAL and hard to fight against in our courts of law. Credit is one of these remaining disqualifiers.

The question I have is why is this allowed to happen?  I believe that is the real issue: people are not taught about credit and personal finance. Without guidance, too many people are doomed to make mistakes with their credit. which will disqualify them at different stages of their lives. It drives me crazy because there is a simple fix to the problem. Why do we allow a lack of knowledge to disqualify people? Why don’t we teach our ALL OF OUR CHILDREN about credit during their formal education?

I know there are hundreds of schools that do teach about credit, or some level of financial literacy. Maybe they teach about balancing a checkbook. Maybe they teach about interest rates. Maybe they teach about personal finance. However, I know for a fact, that hundreds of schools DO NOT teach our students about these things. To me, personal finance and credit management should be mandatory classes in both grade school and high school. I went to decent schools, but I only received minimal (if any) information about personal finance and credit.

I am not one to neither throw out conspiracy theories nor pull the victim card out of my pocket, but this issue makes me wonder. Millions of people struggle with their credit, and poor credit disqualifies so many of them. Everyone is entitled to free public education, yet credit and personal finance is not a part of that education in many schools. It seems like a no-brainer: teach students how to use credit properly, and less adult will make mistakes with their credit, which will disqualify them from things our great society has to offer. Yet this is not being done during the formal educational process!

Here is my conspiracy theory: the system of finance and credit HAS TO HAVE a certain amount of people who mismanage their credit. If everyone knows how to manage their credit AND more people did it right, it would cause our financial systems to collapse. I know it sounds crazy, but to me it also sounds crazy to try to disqualify people because of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and ECONOMIC STATUS. Wait a minute, poor credit leads to poor economic status for millions of people!

So I want to know, why is credit one of the remaining great disqualifiers?

 

Be on the lookout for my next post… Education: One of the Great Disqualifiers

Good Times Teaches Lessons Learned Yesterday from the Headlines of Today

Good Times

I have learned valuable lessons from the 1970s hit television show Good Times (1974-1979). The show followed the lives of the Evans family as they tried to survive through hard times. Good Times is regarded as a classic sitcom because issues covered by the show still exist today. Unemployment, bullying, and gun safety are a few of the many subjects in Good Times that are in the headlines today.

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with unemployment in our communities.

James Evans was the hard-working father who worked tirelessly to provide for his family. It was the only way of life he knew. James dropped out of school to work and support his family. Since then, he had a hard time finding and keeping stable employment due to his lack education and the shortage of available jobs. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with bullying in our schools.

In “The Lunch Money Ripoff” (1975) episode, youngest son Michael Evans was the victim of a bully at school. He had to give up his lunch and money every day, or face punishment from the bully. Michael invited the bully to spend the weekend with the Evans family to solve the problem. It was one of the few times the bully saw a loving family led by both parents. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with gun safety in our homes.

In “The Family Gun” (1975) episode, the community is rocked by crime due to unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, and poverty. The family needs protection, so they keep an unsecured gun in a closet. The gun is supposedly hidden, just like many homeowners claim today. Everything appears to be alright until the gun is missing. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with violence and gangs in our communities.

In “The Gang- Part One” (1974) episode, oldest son JJ Evans was being forced into joining a gang. He was needed to help win a fight with a rival gang. JJ realized that gang life was not for him, so decided he would do anything not to get involved. He was shot when he refused to go to fight with the gang. Sound familiar?

Lesson learned: we are still dealing with the need for two-income households.

Florida Evans was the strong-willed mother and backbone of the Evans family. She spent the majority of her life being a housewife. Florida realized she had to do more to supplement the family income, so she went back to school. Later she entered the workforce too, even though it meant less time to spend with the family. Sound familiar?

Good Times covered lessons from the past still in headlines we see today. The show taught me a lot about families and the ties that keep them together. If you have not watched this iconic sitcom lately, I suggest you find Good Times to learn some valuable lessons too!

The Minimum Wage Debate

Money

The Minimum Wage Debate

The debate over increasing the minimum wage is being argued by government officials, businesses like Walmart and McDonald’s, and workers all across America. I believe that the minimum wage should be higher than the current poverty level so that workers can earn a living wage. Let me simplify the minimum wage debate with a very basic example to get started. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty guideline in 2013 for a family of four was $23,550 (not including Alaska and Hawaii). In order for one parent in this household to make enough money to be above this poverty guideline, one full-time job would have to pay $11.78 dollars an hour (assuming a 40-hour work week for 50 weeks out of the year or $23,560). This simple calculation does not even include taxes and healthcare, so the numbers actually need to be reworked just to find the “correct” minimum wage.

My point here is not to get tangled up in figuring out what the correct amount the minimum wage should be. It is an exercise in futility because so many families are falling short of the American Dream: a married couple with two kids, a house with a white picket fence, one pet, and a car parked in the driveway. The current minimum wage would not support this family today, unless they live off of basic necessities and grow their own food for the family and the dog! We know the costs of heating the home, putting gas in the car, and feeding the family put a strain on many households struggling to make ends meet. So I think most people would agree that the minimum wage is too low, but the question remains: how much is should the minimum wage be to meet our basic needs so that American families can survive?

However, this is not the question that I want to address because I believe there is something missing in the minimum wage debate. The question is: how do we PREVENT so many people from ending up in minimum wage jobs so that they can at least cover their basic living expenses? My answer to this question is to offer free financial education for all people, especially children and young adults. In my opinion, every school in America should be teaching students about the minimum wage, the poverty level, taxation, inflation, and other computations of real-world financial scenarios that affect millions of American today. I don’t mean to get on my soapbox here, but why do most kids need mathematics beyond algebra anyway? Instead, they need to learn about money and finance to have a basic understanding about how their choices can lead to either financial rewards or financial hardships.

The financial hardships so many Americans currently face are based upon their inability to make a living wage, so the debate to raise the minimum wage continues to gain momentum. However, in my opinion raising the minimum wage would be like putting a band aid on an open wound. It definitely needs to be done to temporarily cover the injury, but the real “fix” is prevention before the injury occurs. In other words, providing a minimum wage increase would temporarily “fix” the problem, but we need to help people get out of poverty and avoid getting caught in a minimum wage trap. Even with financial education, there is no guarantee that people will make better choices, but hopefully it will increase our awareness and improve our decision-making abilities.

Improving financial education well before the struggle begins is only one of the cures for the minimum wage problem going forward. Once this is accomplished, it becomes an issue of personal choice of how to manage finances. With education, we have the power to avoid being caught in the trap of needing a minimum wage increase just to survive. I know this debate has a lot more layers, but this simple treatment of the issue should serve only as a starting point and a different way to examine the minimum wage debate. I am an advocate of additional help and resources and education to reduce the problem. This is not an attempt to disparage or criticize anyone fighting for a minimum wage increase to survive.

Let the debate continue…