Expert: Opportunity gap widening in America

The economic status of the parents of today’s P-20 students determines the long-term economic quality of the children’s lives more today than in previous generations. In other words, children living in poverty conditions are more likely to stay in them throughout adulthood than in previous generations, according to  new information from Robert Putnam, author of ““Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis”  which examines how kids experience inequality the most and also its devastating long-term effects. Putnam reveals to Mind/Shift that the opportunity gap is making it impossible for a third of kids to gain access to the right steps to achieve the American Dream.

This “opportunity gap” is a result of many factors, including the lack of equality in resources and treatment of students in America’s school systems, starting as young as preschool.

I think that the only way to truly close the opportunity gap is in our P-20 education system. As a society, we cannot go into homes and change what takes place there, at least not on the mass scale that is needed. We can, however, educate our nation’s children and give them the tools to elevate their quality of life. Schools are certainly places where social services, like free and reduced-price lunch programs, are appropriate but to really facilitate long term change, we need to give students the educational access to rise above issues like poverty as they grow up. This is only possible with targeted programs in at-risk areas that take specific backgrounds and life situations into account and employ teachers who come from similar backgrounds so students have relateable role models.

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