Individual Behaviors and Attitudes
- Individuals’ behaviors, attitudes, and life choices are all influenced by their environment and what resources their environment can provide for them. If we look into socioeconomic backgrounds and significantly known areas of low-income populations, it is very evident in these environments. One of the notable sources that affect this relationship, is the power of education and the advantage of favorable experiences. The assigned podcast for this week talks about the story and higher educational journey of Melanie, Raquelle, and Jonathan. In Melanie’s experience of visiting a well-funded privileged school nearby and comparing it to hers, she didn’t realize the significant difference in terms of the resources that these schools can provide for students while her “poorer” school lacked this for their students. Her exposure to this type of environment shocked her and started to feel overwhelmed and out of place because she had already sensed that her presence was not meant to be at the school’s property. This overwhelming feeling became unbearable and disappointed her further which ultimately held her back from pursuing higher education because her fate to live her life working in service jobs, was already set for her based on her economic background; and that there was no point for her to pursue anything more. In Raquelle and Jonathan’s experience, they went forth with pursuing higher education after high school through the help of scholarships, yet both of them always felt out of place within their respective institution. In Jonathan’s experience, upper-middle-class advantage plays a role in how he received more educational advantages than Melanie. Although he felt overwhelmed in his college and never felt a sense of belonging, he wouldn’t have been able to attain this level of exposure if it weren’t for the advantage of money allowing him to pursue higher education. He also benefited from social connections through a scholarship program that allowed him to be accepted to a university. However, this all came to an end when he constantly felt alone and embarrassed that this overwhelming feeling ultimately led him to drop out of the university. Hearing these real-life stories, I don’t think being exposed to the fruits of the American Dream is as effective as we may assume to be. Considering how Melanie’s exposure immediately changed the trajectory of how she perceived education, socioeconomic background, and attainable resources; this can ultimately shake up an individual more personally in a negative way rather than do good. If I was a policymaker, my approach to this situation would acknowledge gifted and intelligent students that come from predominately low-income areas and families, and offer them more resources within their schools and their area in general. Sure taking these students to see a more well-funded school will expose them to what could possibly be attainable in the future if they work hard, but it’s not the most effective way that will help motivate the students to pursue bigger and greater things, because this exposure can do more harm than good. Recognizing the education inequality now and helping students while they’re young, can result in more long-term effective results for their future. 2.I think that being exposed to the fruits of the American dream can both have its respective advantages and drawbacks. For one, this exposure can broaden the perspective of people who previously did not believe that there were bright futures they could look forward to. In the case of the students in the podcast, the exchange trip exposed them to a bright future that they can pursue, something that they previously did not think was possible. However, at the same time, mere exposure to this wonderful American dream can cause the underprivileged to think that they have to know their place in life, that this dream is not for them but for everyone else. Instead of inspiring them to reach for this dream, they may instead feel hopeless and desolated that their dreams are a distant reality. For Melanie, Raquelle, and Jonathan, it was evident that the school trip opened their minds to the possibility of a great college life after high school, one where they could freely enjoy their time studying, utilize the services and resources of the school, or simply make good memories with their fellow students. However, it was also evident that the school trip was a pain point for these three individuals. More than inspiring them, they found themselves comparing themselves to the students of this campus and as time went on, the more they felt like outsiders who did not belong there. One of them recounted going to college and being the only Black student there, which was especially isolating and was a point of insecurity. As for Melanie, she still finds herself feeling shameful about her present now as she works in a grocery store. She felt as if she was simply fulfilling her destiny that her future was to serve other people. While there are scholarships for underprivileged students, competition was tough and only a handful of students made it in. Even though Melanie was regarded by everyone as being one of the best and brightest, she still failed to make the cut. I believe that the feeling of hopelessness felt by these students also stems from the fact that statistically, they know that only a few of them will be given the privilege to fulfill their dream. If I were a policymaker in Washington, DC., I would try to create even more programs that would specifically focus on funding the college tuition of underprivileged youth. While there are already existing programs such as the Posse scholarship, the number of students they accept is so little compared to the number of students who want to get in. There is no doubt that so many students want to pursue further studies but lack the funding to do so. Therefore, I would try to create a program that not only exposes students to the possibility of a bright university life, but also a program that provides students with concrete steps they can take in order to realize that dream. One step of which would be to provide a greater number of scholarships. As a policymaker, I would also require public schools to have a designated career coach and guidance counsellor who would serve as some sort of parental or guidance figure for these underprivileged youth so that they have someone to talk to about their plans and map out concrete steps to achieve their goal. There could also be a designated person to help kids out with possible scholarships and connect them with opportunities they did not know existed. It is through these programs that the gap between the wealthy and poor can be bridged, and so that everyone is given a chance to pursue the future they so desperately desire.3. Being exposed to the fruits of the American Dream doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to end up achieving the American Dream because there are still barriers that these people still undergo. In the podcast, it is clear that most of the students who were originally used to the “poor” environment felt out of place in the rich school. However, by being exposed to this new environment, they’re able to realize the potential of their economic success and understand the inequality that they’re experiencing. While different for everyone, some kids may get inspired by the students in the rich school while others may feel discouraged by how much of an economic gap they have compared to the rich kids. Even though it is disheartening to see people who’ve reached the American Dream when you yourself haven’t, I think it’s important to be aware of the possibilities in the world while attempting to achieve the American Dream. The trip to the rich school inspired Raquelle to achieve the American Dream since she was able to receive a scholarship and she utilized the resources provided to her. Being in a rich school may have inspired her to achieve the American Dream (graduating college and getting a high income job). Melanie, on the other hand, got discouraged from going to the rich school because of how she realized that it was going to be nearly impossible for her to reach that state of success. On top of that, the high expectations she received from other people prevented her from performing her best as she was constantly pressured to perform well to meet other people’s expectations of her. For Jonathan’s case, he felt out of place and didn’t see himself as capable of being able to achieve the American Dream. Instead, he understood the middle class advantage (favorable expectations, advantages of money, cultural capital, etc.) that propelled some people towards success more than others. If I were an inspired policymaker in Washington, DC, I would provide educational opportunities to students who don’t have access to these resources that allow them to show their full potential. I will also make sure to pay more to the underfunded teachers as an incentive for them to teach more effectively and efficiently to the low-income kids.4. Being exposed to the fruits of the American Dream and people who “made it” does not necessarily work. Rather than “helping people connect across a growing divide”, the program that introduced public and private school children in the Bronx highlighted the stark differences in the students’ daily lives — their access to resources, the atmosphere of safety, and much more. Melanie is a primary example of someone exposed to the poster children for the American Dream and becoming bombarded with feelings of frustration, self-loathing, and anxiety. When Melanie saw the private school and its students for the first time, she felt as if she entered into a utopian reality and saw what she had hoped her high school experience was going to be like. Melanie saw the opportunity these private school children had and reasoned that this opportunity is not free, not available to kids of color, and only available to the privileged and elite. Melanie’s viewpoints embody the middle class advantage — these children could afford to have the highest educational services, they had teachers who held high expectations for them other then simply educating them to prepare them to flip burgers at McDonalds, and they had the advantage of being able to ask for what they need and feeling entitled to higher degrees of success. Melanie’s exposure to the private school ultimately led her to fall victim to the ideal that those opportunities do not exist for her. Internalizing these feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing, Melanie gave up and “accepted her fate”. Jaquelle agreed with these sentiments that the program experience made her realize how little she truly had in comparison to others, however, she still viewed the experience as a revelation to what she could achieve. Even though Raquelle seemed to achieve the American Dream, she still struggled with feeling like she deserved it and does not feel like she has reached her full potential — just like in college when she got B’s and C’s after having been an A+ student in high school (despite the fact that even attending and graduating college is a high achievement in itself). Jonathan’s exposure was different in that he already felt lowly of himself and attending college only enforced and heightened those feelings, making him feel as though he was an outsider and ultimately manifesting his own failure. For both the young men in LA and the former high schoolers, going outside of their own community made them come to the painful realization that there is not innate difference between them and a kid born into wealth, yet the path to success and the American Dream was vastly different and not influenced by their abilities or intellect. The young men in LA, like Jonathan, witnessed the full effect of the middle class advantage — people, mainly white, who were more “pre-determined to succeed” because of money, support from teachers, and cultural capital like strategies of entitlement (“I deserve this position”; “I deserve this raise”). Jonathan struggled to purchase textbooks and did not recognize that he was entitled to take advantage of school resources like the library or the Posse Scholarship foundation to seek out help.