Saturday, March 23, 2013

Upward Mobility, Right

Minneapolis teacher Eva Lockhart had an op-ed in Saturday's Star Tribune that everyone should read.

She described a pseudonymous student named Malik, who has done everything society would expect from a poor student. He's got a 3.75 GPA, takes International Baccalaureate classes, plays football, does community service projects with the Honor Society, and works two jobs 30 hours a week. (One of which is an hour away by bus. He must do homework on the way.)

Yet as he approaches the end of his time in high school,  he has applied for almost 20 scholarships and has not gotten one.

Reading Lockhart's story made me angry, but also a bit skeptical, I have to admit. Like most people, I thought there was money available for kids who really can't afford to go to college. But, assuming Lockhart hasn't fictionalized or composited the stories of different students, that is clearly not the case for Malik, at least not yet. One thing at work here, I think, is that he's applying for free-standing scholarships that he could take to any college, rather than for aid through specific colleges. But few colleges are set up to provide full aid, including living expenses, to even the neediest students.

I made the mistake of peeking at the comments on Lockhart's story. Almost everyone is skeptical except the teachers, who all confirmed that they see similar situations all the time. The trolls suggested Malik clearly isn't good at math since he thinks people will give him money for free, or that he should join the military to pay for school (at the same time that educational benefits for the huge number of veterans returning from the Middle East are being cut -- good suggestions, troll!). The world of Strib comments is a sad, sad place.

What I bet will happen now is that someone will step forward to contact Lockhart with money for Malik to go to school, and that will be a great thing. But it's like the problem with the cute endangered animals getting funding when the homely ones go wanting -- it doesn't address the larger problem.

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I used to read Strib and Pioneer Press comments once in a while just to see how people were reacting to an issue. I gave it up as too depressing. A system of more flexible grants independent of a college choice would require a well funded foundation, or a group of them. With counselors to help students make and sustain their choices. If I win the lottery....