The other day a friend and I were having a discussion about college. She was expressing her envy that I had just finished my bachelor's in 4 years, and was, in her mind, ready to "be an adult," while she, on the other hand, had never finished high school. Allow me to explain our two life stories.
I come from a family that has always had "enough." Enough money, enough space, enough time for each other. My parents have been (more or less) happily married for 25 years. I was always givin the tools to succeed; my family encouraged and supported me in anything I chose to do. They coached my softball team, helped out with Girl Scouts, pushed me to study hard, and imposed strict guidelines for my behaviour throughout high school. I graduated high school with a high GPA, took advanced courses, joined Academic Decathalon, and had my pick of colleges. As a reward for my hard work, my parents agreed to pay for up to four years of college. They both made good money in their occupations, and while it may have strained finances, it was never a burden. I graduated in 4 years with my degree.
On the other hand, my friend's life has not followed the same plan. Her parents were never married, and her dad was never a part of her life in any positive way. Her mom worked as hard as she could, but as she had never had a proper education herself, money was always extremely tight and a parental presence was largely missing. My friend dropped of high school and later dropped out of continuation school, got a job, and began working to help her mom pay the bills. Years later, she has still never returned to school, and is beginning to feel the impact and she watches her friends complete goals she has never imagined having.
I am not sharing these two life stories to brag about how my life was "better." I do not believe that one person's life path can be better than anothers- there is only differences in the choices we make and the options we are given. I graduated in 4 years. So what. This was my life path and it does not make it any better. My friend is constantly feeling as though she failed in some way. Why? Because the system forgot her. She didn't come equipped with parents that could help her to study, to pay for school, or to even set proper examples. And instead of being embraced by the system and urged forward, she is forgotten, abused, and looked down upon.
How can pride ourselves in education when the very people that need the most from the system are given the least?