The school system will have taken its shots, tallied its misses, and closed its files, relinquishing any further claim. The corner will have them all. Ed Burns, The Corner
Many believe that as the margin of social stratification and inequality in our nation widens, the most effective way to battle our society's social illness is to better the education of our nation's youth. Although improved education has the potential to be a key contributor in the eradication of social inequality, the main flaw of this hypothesis in an empirical sense is that many of the social problems that are consistently associated with the lower class, namely drug use, drug dealing and the ubiquitous drug culture, have distorted and obstructed the ability of our school systems to effectively educate those of our nation's youth who most desperately need guidance. Essentially, in urban areas, the strains of low social status and reduces socioeconomic opportunities creates pressures that motivate criminal participation, which most often entails involvement in the drug trade (Little and Steinberg 2006, 363).
[...] Instead of presenting my own findings after having conducted a sociological study, I seek to link social trends related to dropout rates and drug activity in schools to show how the powerful drug culture warps educational incentives for students, and finally to illustrate how and why these problems manifest themselves largely for the lower socioeconomic classes, thereby handicapping the educational experience of those who need it the most. To provide a more focused study of this subject, my original data synthesis will concern only data collected from school districts in Massachusetts. [...]
[...] Drug Sales and Use Among Students in High School and Colleges in the District of Columbia. District of Columbia House of Representatives. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office Joseph, Janice, and Patricia G. Pearson. "Black Youths and Illegal Drugs." Journal of Black Studies 32 (2002). JSTOR. Little, Michelle, and Laurence Steinberg. "Psychosocial Correlates of Adolescent Drug Dealing in the Inner City: Potential Roles of Opportunity, Conventional Commitments, and Maturity." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency (2006).
[...] Original Contribution Although there is a formidable amount of literature which studies youth involvement in the drug trade and the manners in which these illegal activities interfere with adolescent education, I did not encounter any such literature that focused its studies on the Massachusetts school systems. In this section I will seek to examine trends in dropout and expulsion rates in Massachusetts schools as well as drug-related crime rates for youths in the state to determine how the working and lower class youth of Massachusetts compare to the inner city youths of other cities like Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Tucson, Arizona, all of which have been examined in the studies previously mentioned in this essay. [...]
[...] Joseph and Pearson write that the inner cities, the drug business is one of the biggest employers and pays more in a day than working at a fast food restaurant in a month” (2002, 425). It is not difficult to see, then, why a student who has no immediate role models who benefited from attending school would choose the path that offered the most money the fastest, rather than working a grinding minimum-wage job. In short, staying in school and working a low-skilled job on the side is as attractive to an inner-city youth who can make much more money from selling drugs” (Joseph and Pearson 2002, 425). [...]
[...] The inner city counter culture that focuses on immediate gratification has no room for the potential for the indirect and prolonged payoff of an education, as noted by little and Steinberg. Schools cannot offer immediate economic incentives like the drug market do, and for this reason, inner city schools have consistently lost students to drug-related expulsions and dropouts over the years. Little and Steinberg write that with little direct incentive to continue with school and the acknowledgement that local markets could no longer offer what was considered a living wage, adolescents' favorable view of drug sales as a means to profit rose considerably” (2006, 361). [...]
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