Education: The Great Equalizer

Several weeks ago, while watching a television program about the plight of the polar bears, I saw a strange similarity between the polar bears at the North Pole and young people here in North Philadelphia, especially in regards to education.  According to various experts featured on the program, the rising sea levels caused by global warming will have catastrophic consequences for the polar bear. Their home, as well as their food supply, is slowly but surely deteriorating. The program also stated that if the polar bears are to survive, they will have to move just a few short kilometers away from their current hunting grounds, but they do not. For thousands of years, the Polar bear has lived and thrived in one of the harshest environments on Earth, but yet changes which have occurred in the last 50 years now threaten their very existence. If the polar bears are to survive, not only must we as a society must evolve in order to understand the problems and challenges that polar bears face, but the polar bears themselves may have to evolve. The gloomy story of the polar bears runs parallel to what I see on the streets of Philadelphia every day. Every day I watch boys barely old enough to drive make the decision to drop out of school and join the local drug trade, and end up destroying their lives before they are even old enough to vote. Every night, while watching the evening news I hear about how and why our local and national economy is failing, and whose fault it is. I simply see Philadelphia as a city which is having a hard time evolving-to say the least. Many of the people within the city are unable or unwilling to adapt to the changing world around them, just like the polar bears from the special that I saw on television. Currently, the drop put rate in Philadelphia’s public schools stands at around 50 percent. To many people, this number is (and should be) alarming, but too many young people see this as the norm. Not too long ago, Philadelphia was once a city where someone with limited education could survive. Before the 1970’s, a young man or woman living in poverty may have had to drop out of school in order to support themselves or their families. Many people were still able to make a decent living without a High School Diploma in those days. Today, in 2014, this is untrue. Philadelphia does not have a thriving textile and manufacturing industries that it once had. In addition to this, Philadelphia is transforming into a place where some form of higher education is crucial. Philadelphia is slowly evolving from a blue-collared industrial city to a multi-faceted and globalized metropolis.  The plight of many of the young people in Philadelphia is evident every day, from underperforming schools, to senseless violence that seems to imbrue our city’s image every few years.

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