See image in full-size: http://visual.ly/education-vs-incarceration
Are we surprised?
It is not as if we are unaware of education-funding disparities or America’s obsession with incarceration. This is not a new discussion, and it’s not a discussion uncommon in today’s harsh economic reality. As our pockets get lighter and our budgets get tighter, perhaps the desire to know where our tax dollars are going has grown. We realize the importance of an education, as the unemployment rate remains a high 8.2%. We realize our brothers and sisters are given a jail sentence before many of them have learned to parse a written sentence from a book read in a high-school English class (see the statistic of the graphic: 1/10 high-school dropouts are incarcerated). What are we missing? A sense of urgency.
While scrolling through comments of this picture posted on Facebook, many asked a variation of the question, ‘why is this kid black?’ Some pointed out his skin color, others commented on his hairstyle. His skin is the color of a paper bag, and his hair resembles an afro popularized by African Americans. Some responded with statistics on how black men are disproportionately affected by this incarceration phenomenon, but others found it unnecessary for him to have been given a color. This does not seem to be the point of the graphic. It deliberately compares education rates to incarceration rates, focusing on funding and poverty levels of Philadelphia. Seeing the cold hard facts side by side brings more of a reality to the situation. I ask, what next? Though I find it important to learn something from this visual, I find it more important todo something about it. We are often given visuals meant to ‘shock’ us into change; we are to question our government, question our laws and policies, and get upset. But there’s a sense of entitlement in which we expect someone else to actually do something about it. We sit and click through to the next photo after leaving a comment similar to ‘wow this is awful. *sad face*’. ‘Slactivism,’ it’s unofficially called.
Out of all those upset at or moved by this visual, how many decided to do something about it? Who donated money, books, or even their own time to their local schools? Who wrote to their representatives demanding change? These statistics are disturbing and yes need to be discussed, but now what? We cannot save our youth from incarceration by passing along a visual. Turn your online comments of frustration into in-person activism. Learn from the visual, discuss the arguments from its interpretation, and share it with friends. Know more, then do more.
To help y’all out, I’m sharing a few organizations that positively affect our youth:
(before anything, visit www.ed.gov to better be informed on budgets and the education system in the U.S as a whole)
- a non-profit organization started by teachers in need of funding. you can donate money to specific public school projects in your area
- alliance for quality education of NY. write a letter to Governor Cuomo letting him know what’s up, or directly donate to change NY policy (for you locals)
- sign up to volunteer at a local school, or give funding
- public policy and education fund of NY. Support new and improved policy through donations