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Seton Hill University

Vocation and Justice in Society

Gabrielle Giovenco

Faith, Religion and Society SLA 150 05

Kevin Storer

December 2, 2014
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Society is faced with many injustices. Injustices fall into all areas of work. It is the

peoples responsibility to think of ways to aide in these issues, to work to solve these problems.

Humanity has to be the change it wants to see. Humans are responsible for their actions and

sometimes are faced with other peoples problems.

A major issue faced today is students who come from economically challenged

backgrounds. The problem lies within the education the students may receive, if they receive

one. Educators play a key role in the development of students; a students background also plays

a key role too though. Racial segregation was once a huge problem; today society faces another

type of discrimination, especially in schools the discrimination of economic standards. In the

article Poor Kids Count by Anne C. Lewis the author states, An even faster rate of segregation,

however, is occurring on an economic basis. Discerning the fact that kids coming to school

from an impoverished background are facing a new challenge in schools, not only with

segregation but also with grades. In some stages, kids that are receiving free and reduced lunch

are scoring lower than kids who are not on the plan according to Mike Marder in Toni Feders

article What Determines How Well Kids Do in School. The free and reduced lunch plan is a

reflection of students coming from economically challenged homes. The evidence that shows

these students are testing lower identifies that there is a common problem between students that

come from this background and the application to school. Feder goes on to explain Marders

observation that students need highly qualified teachers to prosper, but that income also

influences how the students react to the education. The idea is presented that the problem, the

discrimination and lack of success among low income students is due to the lack of educational

chances according to Hani Morgan in the article Poverty Stricken Schools: What We can Learn
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from the Rest of the World and from Successful Schools in Economically Disadvantaged Areas in

the US. Students coming from poverty stricken families or areas are prone to facing inequalities

by their peers they may be viewed as smaller less important. Along with facing human scrutiny

in schools, low-income students are faced with less educational opportunities, especially if the

school itself is recognized as economically challenged. High rates of poverty, violence, and

single parent households are less likely to meet academic standards as quoted in the article

Who Said These Kids Dont Want to Learn by Rosemary Murray and Rebecca Harlin identifies

that there are many distinguishable factors that can contribute to a low- income student. These

factors may cause the students living through them to preform poorly due to the environment

they are surrounded by. Nonetheless economically challenged students are faced with

inequalities in the classroom because of their class and because of the school itself. It is not

that these students cannot learn, but they may not be afforded the opportunity to. In more ways

than one it can be theorized that children in the U.S. have the job of going to school and

succeeding in school. That is an American childs duty. But think about it this way, if someone is

an artist and their job is to create but they cannot because they do not have the supplies they

need, and then they cannot do their jobs. They cannot succeed. The same goes for students that

come from economically challenged backgrounds. These children are expected to go to school

and learn, to get good grades, to succeed. They cannot do so often times though because on their

standing in society. If the students cannot afford to buy books and school supplies then those

students will struggle to succeed in school, just like the painter without paint. Some would say

poor children are also the clients of schools, and they are uniquely handicapped for education

because of their poverty producing the idea that schools and the education system are just as

responsible (Payne and Biddle). Schools are like the work place; the school has to be responsible
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for the child being responsible for himself. Homes are crucial to success homes of poor

children provide little access to the books, writing materials, computers, and other supports for

education that are normally present in middle class or affluent homes in America (Payne and

Biddle). It is an obvious perception that economically challenged students are capable of doing

well in school; the problem though is creating the means for them to do so. With that said there

are many factors that are and can be implemented into society to aide in this divide in the school

system.

The students and children of the United States are the future of the country. Economic

standards should not hamper students in succeeding. If this keeps happening then America might

as well just stand still, because there is brilliance in everyone. That brilliance just needs the

means to be brought out. As an educator there is no doubt that this problem is something I will

have to work with. As a teacher, I will feel I have failed as an educator, if not every single one of

my students succeed. In more ways than recognizable the education system contributes to the

problem of hampering poor students. Whether it is through teachers picking favorites, or because

teachers do not feel the need to put effort forth to actually educate the students. Teachers

contribute to the problem in a very influential way; many times the teachers in urban areas are

unprepared, ineffective, and transitory (Jarrett and Stenhouse). People for a long time have had

the ability to become teachers, but teachers who lack the ability to educate because of the factors

stated above. Areas that are suffering from poverty are the schools and students who are not

excelling, who are not furthering the growth of knowledge and the fact is teachers and their

qualification add to the lack of success. By implementing people as educators, but who are not

really qualified to educate further influences the idea of failure because these kids in these areas,

coming from these backgrounds are not being afforded the opportunity to have highly qualified
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teachers. They are not being afforded the opportunity to be properly educated because their

teachers themselves lack the knowledge themselves, or motivation. Certain laws have been

enacted to try and solve this problem, laws like the reauthorization of the Elementary and

Secondary Education Act which brought to the surface the importance of employing highly

qualified teachers which required a look into credentials and more of these educators. The

process to hiring and finding qualified teachers though has lost a lot of value because of

immense diversity of certification pathways the problem is still occurring; at least it is

recognized now (Jarrett and Stenhouse).

Every teacher, every educator, has the opportunity to be the problem, or to be the item

that solves the problem. Teachers are meant to guide students towards knowledge, common

sense, to help them develop morals. Teachers are some of the most influential people in the

world, whether this is recognized or not. Educators, if highly qualified and motivated have the

capacity to change the world. This is how teachers can help students growing up in struggling

areas, students suffering economically and thus suffering in education. Teachers who make the

choice to take up the reigns and go to these students not because it is easy, but because they want

to make a difference will be the ones to get through to these students and to provide them with

what they need to succeed. There are many philosophies that can be implemented into education

to appeal to the different goals and aspirations of students. There are different theorist groups that

focus on specific ideas for example Multicultural educationists base school reforms on an

understanding of education as antiracist, comprehensive, pervasive, and rooted in social justice.

Goal theorists base school reforms on an understanding, and equipping children to become life

long learners (Kumar and Hammer).


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Both of these theories propose different ideas. When combined though, the two

become a powerhouse for salvaging and pushing economically challenged students. In this way

if educators work to embrace these two ideas they may see results and progression in these low-

income areas. The multicultural educationists focus on the elimination of discrimination and

schools while goal theorist work to advance these students that are affected by the

discrimination.

Economically challenged students are faced with many challenges when it comes to

succeeding in school. Teachers are a present problem, but there is more to it than just that.

Students that come from urban backgrounds are posed with issues revolving around inequalities

and discriminations. Economically challenged students from urban areas grow up in densely

populated areas serving significantly more students which often times reflects on the

productivity of students (Ahram and Stembridge). With the fact that schools in urban areas are

serving more students, kids are often left hanging due to the lack of one on one teaching or even

just a more cherished setting for learning. Along with the serving of large amounts of students

often times these kids are faced with racial issues caused by other students, violence, and are often

times see as lacking the chance of graduation due to graduation and drop out rates. The students

are posed with other responsibilities that sometimes require more attention than an education.

Like making money, some students are required to support their families so they have to get a job

or find another way to make money. The economic challenges they face in their adolescence take

away from the importance of getting an education. Certain movies and books are a good

representation of this issue. Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell is a great example of the struggles

economically challenged students face in schools. The book is based on Erin Gruwells experience

as a teacher with a group of economically challenged students in a struggling school. Erin


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Gruwell possessed the moral and educational properties to be a great teacher and get through to

her students who faced many issues growing up in an urban area. Her students were often times

seen as lacking drive, meaning they were not given much thought to be teachers. Her students

were once written off as dropouts but with her help and motivation the students progressed

educationally and were given a second chance at life (Jacobs). The students were once seen as

dead beats, and likely to drop out. Erin Gruwell was able to show her students peace and

tolerance, she gave the students what they needed to succeed. A safe place to learn, full of

diversity and eventually tolerance and understanding, most of the students graduated high school

and went off to college with assistance (Jacobs). Many issues are posed in regards to these

students, from teachers, to their environments; many things affect their success.

Many people from differing viewpoints on education and poverty that is apparent in the

world today. The United Methodist Church has a certain view. In their article The Right of All to

Quality Education it is stated by them that children have a right to education, and parents and

governments have an obligation to provide them with the access to an adequate education

justifying the idea that even if someone is coming from a economically challenged background

they still have the right to an education as part of human dignity and rights (The United Methodist

Church, The Right of All to Quality Education).The article goes on to say remarkable progress

has been made in the last en years toward achieving education for all, the right to education

remains one of the most widely and systematically violated of all human rights. This statement is

very true, as mentioned earlier, NCLB and The Reauthorization of ESEA have made great strides

towards closing the social gap among students, but the problem still exists. The problem exists

universally, or across the world, not just in the U.S. The fact that a first world country like the

United States is plagued with this problem as well, really illustrates the extremities of the
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problem. If this educational problem is bad in the U.S. imagine the extent else where in the world.

The Vatican website states in a letter from Pope Francis in your schools you take part in various

activities that accustom you to not retreating into yourselves or into your own small world, but

rather to being open to others, especially the poorest and neediest this was perceived to mean

that the Vatican endorses diversity and in the case of economically challenged students, diversity

is very apparent in the schools they attend (The Vatican, Address of Pope Francis To the Students

of the Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania). Not only that, but the quote states being open to

others this provides the idea that whether a students peer is poor, different, disabled, that all

human beings should be welcome. In the same letter from the Vatican writing to students in Italy

and Albania states education is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being; in order to

educate it is necessary to step out of ourselves and be among young people to accompany them in

the stages of their growth and to set ourselves beside them. This quote fit thoroughly into the

idea of having highly qualified teachers. Not only do teachers need to have the credentials, but

they need to be enthusiastic, unbiased and motivated. An educator is not really an educator unless

their heart is in it. It is like asking a soldier to defend something they do not believe in. If

someone is educating a class because it was their back up plan or something, it is not the same as

a teacher educating because it is part of their soul, their being. It really makes a difference in the

education of students; speaking from personal experience it makes the students feel as if they are

at school for a reason, a reason that provides meaning. Often times in underprivileged schools

kids are not afforded this opportunity to have teachers like this because of the environment and

diversity among teacher certifications. Along with not having acceptable teachers, the reason

economically challenged students struggle in the school system according to The United

Methodist Church is because of the government. In The United Methodist Churches article
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Statement of Concern on Poverty the author proposes the idea that social structures make

poverty worse. The author states governments in poor countries not prioritizing education in

their budget allocation, thus limiting the access of poor people to quality education and thus

depriving poor people of chances to get high-paying jobs this idea restates the problem that

economically challenged students face. On top of that this quote poses the future problems

children in the education system face when arising from poverty. Students are the future of every

country; children are the future of every country. The government may be harming themselves

through their processes as well as humanity. By not prioritizing education to all subgroups, the

government limits those who can succeed, thus making a small pool for the future (The united

Methodist Church, Statement of Concern). It may not just be poor countries either that do not

advocate for education. The United States strives for a greater education system through laws and

mandates like NCLB or The reauthorization of ESEA but like the article states there are poor

people living in miserable conditions while a small segment of the population is living in

affluence and controlling the majority of resources. The acts try to equalize things and close

social gaps, but inequalities will always be present and be an influence in society, life is like a

competition, someone will always be creating standards and goals, with that though competition

means someone is going to lose. It is not fair for the economically challenged to be disregarded

and that is why education in poor areas should be even more prevalent, even in first world

countries like the U.S. No one wants to see a child waking up in a shelter in the morning, going

out to beg for money or food instead of going to school. Prioritizing education creates a new level

of competition, one where the standards are higher for everyone, advancing all people in

someway rather than not enhancing them at all.


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The government plays a great role in the development of education and how education is

applied to poverty-stricken areas. The United Methodist Church though speaks in regard toward

poverty in the article The Economic Community saying, in order to provide basic needs such as

food, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare, and other necessities, ways must be found to share

more equitably the resources of the world declaring that changes need to be made. The article

proposes that the support of certain policies will lead to success in relief of poverty, one being the

support of quality education. By supporting quality education, The United Methodist Church is

supporting the increase of people getting higher paying jobs, higher paying jobs means less

poverty (The United Methodist Church, The Economic Community).A quality education means

students from all subgroups are getting a good education rather than a mediocre one. Students are

receiving the supplies and support they need to do well in school giving them the skills and

mindset for more advanced jobs. Poor education may sometimes result in minimum wage jobs

because the kids or adults being hired have only minimum skills sometimes. Quality education

sets students up to have better skills, leading to higher positions in work places.

The success of the students may often times be determined by the funds a school may

receive, more times than not, schools are a reflection of the areas they are in. some have different

advantages, whether its academically or not. In the article Public Education and the Church

provided by The United Methodist Church the author states the schools our children attend can

be described in contradictory terms. Some are academically excellent; others are a virtual

disgrace these successes or failures may be determined through environment. The author goes on

to say the wide disparities among public schools exist largely because schools reflect the

affluence and/or the political power of the communities in which they are found if the area is not

dedicated to providing a just and equal education for all, poverty stricken or not, this is going to
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show in the schools academics (The United Methodist Church, Public Education and the Church).

Just like with most aspects of life, a person gets ot what they put in. If effort is not put towards

aiding the poor in education then no advancements will be made, but if efforts are made then

possibility of success is provided. The author continues and states, The schools that offer the

least to their students are those serving poor children. This idea is sad; it is every humans right to

get an education. Everyone deserves that chance and students economic standings should not

disable him or her. The fact that these are the kids struggling in the school should just be a

motivator to help them. The poor are humans, the rich are humans, and all deserve a quality

education.

In terms of taking sides, taking a stance, I side with students. I have grown up and struggled as

one. My major focuses on the development and encouragement of economically challenged

students in school with the hope of academic success. Instead of being part of the problem,

disabling economically challenged students, as a teacher I am taking the side of my students. I am

taking the side of fixing or aiding in triumphs of disadvantaged students rather than harming

them. There are many ways I can do this in my career choice. The first step to being a great

teacher is by becoming a qualified teacher. Stated earlier in my paper, being a competent teacher

plays a role in a teachers influence and skills. Being a qualified teacher is great number of

attributes but part of the problem economically challenged students face is the fact that they may

be being taught by teachers who are not truly qualified, or are skilled in a lesser manner. In the

article Teacher Sorting and the Plight of Urban Schools: A Descriptive Analysis the authors state

urban schools, in particular have lesser-qualified teachers identifying that there is a problem

(Lankford, Loeb & Wyckoff 38). If a lesser skilled person is teaching it may be more likely that

the students in urban areas may suffer academically because the educator is not prepared enough
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to have a greater influence. This is not fair; I would like to change it by going to these

economically challenged areas and teaching. Children, students in general should not be denied an

education because of their standing or their homes economic struggles. Highly qualified teachers

versus lesser qualified is a problem partly because of fast-track certifications but certain groups

are making it an effort to define qualified teachers. Particularly the National Board of Professional

Teaching Standards, the Academy of education, the National Commission on Teaching and

Americas Future are working to develop guidelines of professionalism for educators (Fischman,

DiBara, & Gardener 385). Catholic social thought focuses partly on the idea of solidarity stating

that humanity relies on each other in the sense of community and society. As an educator my first

step towards being a qualified teacher will also be to embrace this idea of solidarity. My students

will need me to help guide and educate them, no matter where they come from, as a class we will

be a community and a community supports one another. The second step to me taking the side of

my students is to be responsible. This step means that I am taking the side of my students well

being by being responsible for them and their victory, not only in school but also in their lives. In

this case I am taking responsibility of these students, their success relies partly on my effort in

their lives. People are influenced by everything around them, in the article Creating Good

Education Against the Odds the authors state teachers believe that with the deterioration of

family, emphasis on material objects, and the increasing pace of society, they feel more

responsibility for students lives (Fischman, DiBara & Gardener 386). This is not a bad thing at

all, it means more teachers are stepping forward realizing they have the chance to impact

someones life for the better. In the case of economically challenged students, this step could be

crucial because a responsible teacher may lead to the success of a student. A responsible teacher

means knowing that you have the duty to serve students for their benefit. The authors go on to
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state teachers respond to the perceived increase of student problems by broadening their

responsibilities to meet the academic, social, developmental, and emotional needs of their

students not as a burden but because by addressing these factors, an educator is fulfilling their

professional and moral obligations to their students (Fischman, DiBara & Gardener 386). Taking

the side of my students means I am responsible for making the strides to give them a chance when

a chance else where may not always be present. As an educator I can be responsible for my

students well being by aiding them in their work and life. I can also do it by pushing them

towards excellence. Part of being a responsible teacher is to be an understanding teacher, a non-

limiting educator. I can work to observe and understand individuals needs, in this way I can

provide accommodations to their education when necessary.

The third step to taking the side of my students is ensuring that I am a passionate teacher.

Being passionate about ones career choice makes a difference in that persons life and the people

around them. In the article Twelve Characteristics of Effective Early Childhood Teachers by Laura

J. Colker she states, if you feel that what you are doing makes a difference, that sense of

accomplishment can sustain and motivate you. That idea is passion, and what Colker calls

drive. Passion is so important to being an effective educator because it is not always easy to be

a teacher (Colker 3). Being passionate about education not only makes the teacher feel

accomplished but it may in turn make the students feel like there is a reason to go to school for

themselves. Passionate teachers are important to urban, underprivileged areas because they ignite

motivation into the community, in their classroom, just like Erin Gruwell did with her freedom

writers. To achieve this step I will make it apparent to my students that I am full of passion and

drive to be there. I will show it through my efforts to engage my students and create bonds with
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my classes. Passion is something like faith that has to be acted on and shared because other wise it

may not be as strong as it was hypothesized to be.

There are so many steps towards taking the steps for taking the side of my students. The fourth

step is the idea of bravery. A teacher needs to be brave in an underprivileged area sometimes just

to gain the respect of the students, but also to engage the students in the lesson. Stephanie Kay

Sachs wrote the article Evaluation of Teacher Attributes as Predictors of Success in Urban

Schools that speaks of qualities teachers might need to succeed in an urban classroom. One of

those qualities is risk taking which goes along with bravery. Sachs states effective urban teachers

who are risk takers are seen as pioneers and trailblazers, change agents, and challenge-oriented

individuals meaning these pioneers have the chance to change the way the system functions.

Taking the step to be brave means I will do everything in my power to provide my students with

chances, challenges and eventually change the way the school system functions around urban

areas for the better. To do this I will have to be brave and think outside of the box. Brave by trying

new and innovative ways to teach, maybe by having a student teach a lesson or by posing students

with the idea of a motivation. A good example of this trailblazing motif is the Sister Act II movie

that stars Whoopi Goldberg as Sister Mary Clarice. Sister Mary Clarice works with a group of

unruly high school students to achieve the goal of maintaining the school. This action required the

Sister to think outside of the box and be brave because she had to pose the students with some sort

of interest but also while incorporating learning. At one point she sees the classes intrigued

towards singing and she then decides to turn them into a choir. This was a brave action but it got

the students to behave and focus on a goal which is what school can often times be about. All

though this movie is fictional it does illustrate how bravery is used in the classroom. Bravery is

something I will strive to achieve in my classroom because it makes for a more enjoyable
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experience across the board, plus it allows for different applications to different students. I will be

brave by being flexible and by being a strongly motivated person like Sister Mary Clarence. A

similarly inspiring but true story is that of Stacey Bess, a new teacher who went to her first job

only to find out the school she is teaching in is actually a homeless shelter. Bess had to be brave to

succeed in this school and to get through to her students, she faced many challenges from poor

conditions to violence and theft. Bess did not give up though and helped her struggling students

get the education they deserved. Bravery gets people far in life; Bess took the risk of being

uncomfortable to work for the greater good of her students. I hope to one day to be able to be this

brave whether it is in my own sacrifice like Stacey Bess and Erin Gruwell presented society or

just with my teaching skills (Jim Heinrich). To be brave means I know the risk, I acknowledge the

risk and I still want to do it because it is the right thing to do. No student should be denied the

opportunity to have a teacher who is brave. Economically challenged students especially deserve

the chance to have someone fighting for them and their community.

Economically challenged students face many disadvantages and discriminations. Going into

the education field I will be faced with many challenges, one being how to get economically

challenged students to succeed. No student should be limited to what they can and cannot learn.

This justice issue is something I as an educator will try to fix because it is the morally right thing

to do. It is every human beings right to a quality education, I want to be the one to provide that

education and aide to students, no matter what their background is. It is my duty as an educator to

work towards the common good and work to embrace the idea of human dignity outlined in in

Catholic Social Thought. To me my faith is put in my students, like Christians put faith in Christ, I

will sacrifice my all for the betterment of my students no matter their background. Human life is

sacred, education and knowledge is sacred to me. Students are the key to future, but because of
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economic struggles students are at a disadvantage in some cases. This is not fair that is why I will

strive to fix and aide in the education of the vulnerable. As part of being a human being it is my

duty to work towards the common good and human dignity and rights of all, money should not

play a role in students success.


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Sister Act 2 Back in the Habit. Dir. Bill Duke. Perf. Whoopi Goldberg. Touchstone, 1993. Film.