Dietrich College News
2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards
Prose: High School
11th grade, Winchester Thurston
Imagine waking up at 6:00 in the morning in order to get ready
for your long day at school. Once taking 45 minutes to pick out your
outfit, worrying that somebody will judge you or better yet beat you up
because of what you have on, getting to your bus stop and waiting for
the bus to come, constantly checking the time on your phone because
the bus is running late. Then once the bus gets there 15 minutes late,
you have to find a seat with only one other person because the rules
were two to a seat. Arriving at your school you only see shell casings
on the ground and a playground set rusting and falling apart piece
by piece. Then you walk to your locker that you have to share with
another person because the school doesnít have enough money to
have a locker for every student. Getting to class you find there are
at least 29 other people sitting in their seats talking loudly over the
teacher and throwing things back and forth while the teacher tries to
gain control over the whole class.
These are only some of the problems that kids in the Pittsburgh
Public School system have to face due to the social injustices in the
school systems. These are the problems that contribute to the cycle
of the decline of our school systems. The system starts when these
students are placed into classrooms with a minimum of 25 students
with only one teacher and often no aide. This one teacher only has
these kids for 50 minutes a day and gives them assignments expecting
them to do the work but not really caring if they actually do it or not.
This causes students to not do their work and not learn the necessary
material, which is something that the teacher canít realize because
they canít give the students individual attention due to the time, and
also they probably have 100 other students they have to pay attention
to. At times the teachers also donít care about these kids because
they often look at their job as a high paying babysitting job. Due to
lack of personal attention these students receive, they perform poorly
on the standardized test which then causes the schools to lose their
federal funding. This then leads to the schools not being able to buy
the necessary class materials for the students, as well as maintain
the school building, which then causes the city to close the school.
Once the school is closed, students from the newly closed school and
another open school are merged together. This often doesnít work
because the students donít have a choice to go to a school where they
arenít comfortable, and now they really arenít able to focus because
they have to worry about their safety around the new students. More
times than not there are more fights due to the fact that these kids
from different conflicting areas are put into one place with limited
security. So once again we are at the beginning of the cycle, with
too many students in a small, barely maintained building with limited
resources and teachers.
Imagine having to go through this during your childhood, being
judged on your academic history or lack thereof because of issues
that you or your parents donít have control over. Due to the fact that
the issue at hand is one that is often brushed under the rug and not
talked about but now is the time to talk about it. A lot of kids fall
victim to this system and yet they are being judged on what the city
is doing to them. Not only are they failing them in the school system,
they are failing their parents by not further educating them. These
parents 9 times out of 10 went through this system and they also
fell victim to the system which means that they werenít able to get a
career that would allow them a nice income each year causing them to
stay stuck in the same area and the kids are swept back into it. Itís not
that the cities are discriminating against people of different races. Itís
that they are discriminating against the people who are in low-income
areas in which it just happens that the majority is minority.
I had the personal experience that some of these students have
had. I used to go to a school which was located in a low income area
because my parents didnít like my home school. At the school I wasnít
really challenged to do more, I made straight Aís and I wanted to do
more and get involved in higher classes but due to location of the
school I couldnít. They didnít have the resources or offer the classes
that would provide me what I wanted. The best that they could do
was send me along with a couple of others to the gifted program and
that wasnít much help because it was something that was only once a
week. There were times when we would get textbooks that were used
from years before with missing pages, and drawings all over the pages
because they couldnít afford to buy new ones or ones that were in
I feel as if Dr. King would be strongly against this because people
are being discriminated against, something that they donít know how
to break or something that they arenít being educated about, and
he would like to fix it. I feel as if a way we can fix these problems or
at least attempt to fix them is by informing the parents because the
longer that they stay quiet about it the longer it will continue and the
cycle wonít ever end unless we speak up.
View the complete list of the 2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Award winners.
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