Another look at poverty, achievement


The Sept. 17 paper devoted a lot of space to an analysis of poverty and academic performance, claiming a “straight-line correlation” and “a clear link between their performance and their economic status.” I believe jumping to these conclusions is ill-advised since there could be a common factor that causes both, rather than a direct cause and effect between the two factors.

Consider the possibility that family attitudes toward education could result in both low family economic status and low student performance. Parents who value education will themselves seek to gain greater knowledge and skills and climb the economic ladder while demanding hard work in school by their children and effective schools.

This is not just idle speculation on my part — it is the story of my life. When I was 10 years old, my father left our family, plunging my stay-at-home mother and me into poverty. My mother found entry-level secretarial work and started studying bookkeeping and accounting. My mother and all my relatives stressed to me that I had to do well in school.

By the time I was 18, my mother had advanced to being an office manager and I graduated from high school with a 4.0 average and received a scholarship to college. Our family income, when I applied to college, had grown all the way to $3,000 per year ($23,466 in 2013 dollars). We received no taxpayer-funded assistance at any time and zero child support from my dad. I started work at minimum wage when I was 14 and have worked the rest of my life.

A real look at statistics shows that more people advance out of poverty than stay below that “magic” poverty line, indicating that, generally speaking, poverty is not a permanent condition. Most people who are, as Benjamin Franklin said, “uncomfortable in their poverty” become motivated to obtain the education and skills to advance economically.

Oakwood and Springboro are cited in your article as examples. I lived in Oakwood for 30 years and my kids graduated from Oakwood schools. I now live in Springboro. I have talked to a lot of fellow parents in both places. All of them value education and push their children to excel at academics. They are financially successful because they exerted effort to become well-educated and develop the skills that lead to financial security.

I believe that a student who is encouraged by a parent or parents to excel will do well. I have had one-on-one contact, through my Rotary Club, with Dayton public school seniors, tutoring them to pass the state proficiency test in math after multiple failures. I talked with them about their situations in addition to tutoring. This confirmed to me that adult encouragement is the key factor, not economic status.

Parents who value education demand good schools and hard work by their children. FRED ABRAMS, SPRINGBORO

Speak Up

The White House has decided to waste taxpayer dollars, suing North Carolina over its voter registration law, even though the Supreme Court decision supports the right of states to enact these laws. This is nothing more than Chicago-style politics from Barack Obama to support the Democratic voting machine. The money this administration has spent for White House lawyers to sue states would pay for food and shelter for millions. …

Re “Mental illness and the death penalty,” Sept. 30: Persons with mental illness are the most neglected people in our society. One of the worst symptoms they endure is hearing voices telling them what they should do – often bad things. They should not be given the death penalty but, instead, proper treatment.

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