Children and Poverty: How American Higher Education Must Respond for the 21st Century

By Stevenson, Joseph M. | Education, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Children and Poverty: How American Higher Education Must Respond for the 21st Century


Stevenson, Joseph M., Education


Nearly three decades ago, Fantini and Weinstein (1968) in The Disadvantaged Challenge to Education cited a colleague commenting on the 1965 Higher Education Bill as stating, "historians may write of this cycle as the opening phase of an educational revolution ... powerful, purposeful reshaping of our educational institution" (pg. 418). The authors earlier advocated that, "education is called upon to solve such problems a social mobility, work force, and employment, poverty, social injustice and segregation" (pg. 156). That same year, Feathersone (1968) of Michigan State University cited a colleague as projecting in Urban Schooling that "by 1999 our urban population will be much higher, even in today's purchasing power. To build that growth, 3,500 billion must find ... (pg. 286). He later cites another colleague as concluding, "the university comes closest to being able to identify itself with the whole of the urban scene ... respective disciplines can all touch every aspect of circumstances of the nation's poor inspired both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to earlier declare, in 1963 and 1964 respectfully, the historic "War on Poverty." As reflected later by Church (1976) in Education in the United States: An Interpretive History, "children of poverty came to school nutritionally deprived, in poor health, and with aspirations already circumscribed." (pg. 432)

In 1990, the Washington, DC.-based Business -- Higher Education Forum of the American Council on Education (ACE) provided a synopsis of the present condition of urban life in the preface of their widely disseminated publication. Three Realities: Minority Life in the United States. The Forum writes in the [next] half hour, about 250 new Americans will join us. Nearly 220 will be born here.. some will be wealthy; some comfortable; too many will be poor ... in that same 30 minutes, more than 160 young people in the U.S. will make personal decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives ... and after each succeeding half hour, another 160 young people will repeat the same mistakes ... and a disproportionate number of them are members of minority groups..(pg. 1 & 2). The ACE reports further warns, "severe minority poverty in the U.S. remains a paradox in a just and compassionate society." The report culminates with some recommendations relative to out-of-wedlock births, public education employment, and public assistance reform. Nationally, Jargowsky (1997) in Poverty and Places: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City, speculates between 1970 and 1990, neighborhood poverty in U.S. metro areas, considered collectively, grew along virtually every dimension. Ghettos, barrios, and other slum neighborhoods expanded in size, number of residents, number of poor residents, and the proportion of the metro population within them". Globally, Peil (1997) in the Urbanization of Poverty Worldwide, shares "by 2015, their [poor cities] populations will have increased by another two billion ... [and] poor cities will hold three-quarters of the urban population of the world." One could speculate that the recommendations, primarily developed by ACE for higher education and corporate audience, probably did not reach readers of professional journals like Education or other academic publications commonly circulated among many community-based groups. Moreover, frequently, reports prepared by academicians and corporate leaders lack, "theory into practice" application with action plans designating resources, responsibility, time frames, anticipated outcomes and methods for assessing expected results. This could frustrate practitioners in the workplace, activists in the field, and both students and faculty in the college classroom.

The ACE recommendations were proposed on the birth of a new decade, when according to Davis an McCaul (1990) in At Risk Children and Youth:

* 1 million students drop out of school each year.

* 1. …

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