A recent New York Times Article highlights the growing achievement gap between rich and poor families. For a long time, race was a key factor in determine the educational success of children, but as you can see in the article, the more important factor seems to be parent’s income.
The article cites that “one reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources.”
The facts are hard to ignore, but correlation does not equal causation. In fact, the article does make a good case (one that I agree with) “that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.”
My Own Story
As stated in my own personal story, I grew up in a low middle class household. My parents both worked full-time jobs. I don’t remember them reading to me a whole lot as a child. I watched A LOT of television growing up, particularly in the summertime while they were working. I rarely picked up a book. I didn’t play sports. I didn’t have a tutor. In high school, I got by on Cliff’s Notes. I never went to summer camp. We didn’t go to museums. I went to public school. I took free music lessons offered at the school.
My parents emigrated from another country for the opportunities that America offered…to everyone…regardless of income. They stressed this opportunity to me and constantly told me that I can be anything I want to be, but that I would have to work hard for it.
My take on this article is that income alone is not a factor in educational success. I did not have any advantages over and above other children in my income-class, but I did have parents who stressed hard work and discipline. They stressed education as a key to success in this country and that hard work in school would lead to educational, and subsequently, financial success.
If we conclude that income is the only factor, we are missing out on an opportunity to educate parents on their role in their children’s educational success. As the article states, “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”
A big mistake.