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Chastity Ferguson
English 114B
Professor Malvin
Education is Key
While reading Always Running by Luis J. Rodriquez, the theme that stuck out the most during
the time Rodriquez connected with gangs and joined Mi Vida Loco was the lack of education
being distributed toward minorities and in addition, no support from family, faculty and peers.
Going to school is a way of improving ones self, to become knowledgeable, and to find a career
that best suits you. Being able to find a well qualified job can better one’s life tremendously as
well as society. But when the dream to improve falls short because of the public school system,
most individuals can not get the help needed from teachers and faculty who do not care. No
student should be left behind based on their ethnicity, race, religion, or gender. Everyone
deserves the right to learn and in an appropriate setting with the right supplies, materials, and
teachers. Education is key to advance society because it is not the city who fails the kids, it is the
school.
America, to say the least, is not educationally caught up with other countries. We are well
diverse, established, and popularly brought up but have dropped in the education department.
Our system is primarily based on test and the scores that have nothing to do with what truly
matters, which is to teach in a critical way that will stay with children for years to come. In a
documentary called, “Waiting for Superman” it demonstrates how American students differ from
other countries and stated that students here, when asked how well one did on their test, scored
the highest among the others to say they did good on an exam when in fact they did not. We
scored the most in confidence but lack to improve that outcome.

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Schools in the United States would rather have students take a test that determines how smart
they are rather then how knowledgeable. Elementary and high schools should primarily focus on
teaching children the wonders of the world and how to properly focus and figure out how to
critically think a problem out, whatever that may be, and not just on how to take a test. Having
appreciable teachers, good and hard working, are needed to better educate students and, in turn,
society.
When Rodriquez attended grade school, he did not know how to speak the english language
but understood it to a great extent. In the book he foreshadows his schooling experience, “The
first day of school said a lot about my scholastic life to come” (26). Rodriquez then said, “I just
stayed in the back of the class, building blocks. It got so every morning I would put my lunch
and coat away, and walk to my corner where I stayed the whole day long. It forced me to be
more withdrawn”(26). How is one suppose to learn and feel free to explore when there is
discrimination and the notion of not being welcomed. To learn any social or language skills, one
must participate with others and communicate through trial and error because that is how we all
learned at some point. Practice makes perfect because no one can magically learn a language
over night, one must constantly stay communicating, as they should, with teachers and peers
throughout schooling. Now, there are programs that teach students who would only know
Spanish, English so they could adapt to their new environment and communicate efficiently. But
what about teaching students who’s first language is English, Spanish. Sure one can take Spanish
classes for three years in high school, but what about learning the language in elementary school
where it would provide a positive view on knowing both languages dominantly. Sun-A Lee from
Ethnic Minority Youth in Youth Programs states, “When individuals want to be a part of a certain

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group, they are likely to act as through they are highly motivated to adopt the group’s social
norms, behaviors, and values. This is especially true in early adolescence, as it is regarded as the
period when adolescents seek their group identities as a part of their own identities (Newman &
Newman, 2001)” (250). Since the environment one lives in can greatly influence one’s decisions,
views, and beliefs, the group one chooses to spend their time and social life with can greatly
effect how they preform in society and school. When we feel close to others, our thoughts
change such that a cognitive merging effect occurs. One will not stop and think about the aspect
being taught to them, but rather figure it as a social norm. Educating students earlier into one or
more languages can improve the out look on society and cities because it teaches skills and
habits to want to learn more by helping them acquire thinking and learning strategies. Schools
are to be more then just an institution that only reveal what knowledge a student is able to
display on a particular day – usually after considerable revision. They don’t assess the skills,
habits and attitudes needed for success in life. Every student can get better at learning and
thinking and know how to generate their knowledge to the world.
Another way to refine the public school system is to stop the one size fits all teaching style.
Gifted or honored students may have classes that are mixed with others who need more help and
may have students who are in a different grade levels. It’s normal for one to need more help and
attention in areas they’re not reaching yet but by putting them together does not help anyone, not
even the teachers, reach a higher academic goal. The reason being is teachers can not help the
proficient students who are able to meet the known criteria and then go back some steps to help
the ones who are behind. Also, good teachers aren’t given the chance to expand on logical
thinking since they have to follow a plan that increases test scores not knowledgable skills. And

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as the demands for higher standards peaks, it is confused with harder problems rather then better
solutions to figuring out. Difficult tests and assignments are to represent an improvement in the
school system, which is not happening, and many schools in low income neighborhoods have
been altered into test-prep centers. As scores go up the quality goes down. And at the end of the
day, it is the children and our society that suffers from the one size fits all teaching style because
everyone learns differently and teaching should help students be confident in improving their
ability at reaching their goal.
Now growing up, one might have had a favorite teacher through out the years that pushed and
supported students to do better. And one might also think of a teacher who was the absolute
worst and walked out the class becoming more confused then when walking in. Regardless, if a
teacher is good at his or her job, what saves them from their bad or good performance is tenure.
It means a guaranteed job for an individual who cannot be fired after proving their skills from a
period of two to seven years. The purpose of tenure was to give teachers freedom to pursue
research and teach as they see fit but we can safely say that may not be the case anymore. Going
back to the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, the film displayed a scene of the "rubber
room" in New York City, where dozens of teachers are paid to sit, read the newspaper, sleep and
not teach because they're protected in their job. This apparently costs $100 million per year.
And yet they can't be fired. The film also claims that if only the bottom 1/5 of teachers in the
United States were fired or replaced by only average teachers, our national test scores would
reach those of Finland, more than a dozen places higher on international exam scores. In order
for a teacher to be fired a misconduct must be proved. In a journal article called “Dance of the
Lemons” states, “Firing bad ones is nightmarishly hard, partly because teachers may appeal to a
three-person panel on which two other teachers sit; one teacher accused of sexually abusing 23

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students was paid $40,000 to leave because he could not be sacked immediately. Bad teachers
often simply perform the "dance of the lemons", being moved from district to district.” The
lemon dance involves schools swapping their worst-performing teachers after the school year to
better their chances of receiving less then worse teacher then before. And many students after
their middle school year will be transferred to a school in their district that could be know as a
dropout factory. One may ask, well what is that? It means a high school where no more than 60
percent of freshmen make it to their Senior Year. Factors such as these can lead students to do
poorly in classroom setting but have no choice but to continue to go because that is their only
option. There will be no success in society if we down grade the level of education being brought
to the students.
Now, one might say that those who deserve better education fit the criteria of continuing on to
the next academic level. But that is not true, given that fact that most schools do not have the
correct material or lack it and the books need to supply the kids with. Others may very well not
have time for school because they need help supporting their family. This is where school
consolers should come in and help students manage their time wisely enough to do both or put
them in a program, if they have fallen behind, that brings the students up to speed on where they
need to be. Others might say that America is already as great as it could be. Honestly, America is
in deep trouble — economic, political, cultural, moral. Yet few public figures are speaking
honestly to us about our fallen state. California in general, is based upon status and the way one
is perceived. Los Angeles is highly populated and in ruins to certain areas and are well known for
the movie industry. But the way L.A. is able to communicate the things they want the people to
see could be greatly used for positive influence and not just purposely making money. America
can be so much more if we all see each other through.

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To simply state, we must take up the challenge to provide every child with a qualified public
education. Not one student is expendable. The amount of work and effort we put in can give us a
greater outcome in the present and future. We are always learning, whether it be socially or
educationally. And utilizing the two to make connections with others should be taught to promote
healthier views on life and others. In general, it is easier to blame individuals than to change the
system. However, if we are to confront the fundamental problems of public education, we must
be willing to acknowledge and understand that there is a problem and fix it step by step.

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Work Cited
"Dance of the Lemons; Education in California." The Economist, 410.8878 (2014): 32.
Lee, Sun-A, Lynne Borden, Joyce Serido, and Daniel Perkins. "Ethnic Minority Youth in Youth
Programs: Feelings of Safety, Relationships with Adult Staff, and Perceptions of
Learning

Social Skills." Youth & Society, 41.2 (2009): 234-255.

Norcross, Eileen. "“Dropout Factories” and “The Lemon Dance” in Waiting for Superman."
Neighborhood Effects RSS. STATE POLICY, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 01 May 2016.
Rodriguez, Luis J. Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. Willimantic, CT:
Curbstone, 1993. Print.
Waiting for Superman. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. By Billy Kimball. Perf. Students. Paramount
Pictures, 2010. DVD.

Letter Evaluation
I enjoyed writing this essay because I had recently discussed this issue with a professor in class
how there are just so many obstacles when going to a public school. When I was reading Always
Running, I noticed this was a major area he lacked to make a connection to others with. When he
started school, no one wanted anything to do with him and that made him feel isolated and the
school did nothing to support them. My strength when writing this paper was stating my opinion
on the matter and how the public system has not done it’s part on education the students further
in other area on juts test taking. And after revising I noticed I had paragraphs that were not
necessary to have and went off topic.