For so many in our country, the future is like an open cone. From the first day of kindergarten, opportunities are before us, so much so that by the time we reach college age, the stressor that is front and center is simply, “What am I gonna do? Do I want to be a journalist? A lawyer? Do I want to follow my father or mother and teach or sell insurance? Go into medicine or pursue a science?”
It is stressful… but hopeful, as well. And these questions are in the minds of so many of us, with that very first part played over and over again, “What am I gonna do?”
It is the cone opened up – wide – and so many opportunities, so many paths possible.
For those born and raised in poverty, it is the same question with a different tone, “What am I gonna do? Minimum wage job? Gang? Should I get pregnant?” Starting so far behind, sometimes 20,000 words behind by age 5, school represents nothing but failure and misunderstanding. Each passing year removes the joy. Each passing year snuffs the light.
Do we wonder hard enough why low-income neighborhoods, crime, drugs, drop out rates, etc., all overlap on any map that contains them?
Do we wonder hard enough? Because that cone is upside down for these kids – their opportunities shrink as others grow. When they reach the age where the cone is wide open for so many, theirs seems all but closed. What are they gonna do?