While a disproportionate share of youth in the inner city come from low-income families, our educational system has been geared to middle-income children. Our curriculum, textbooks and recognized teaching methods are all aimed at the experiences and values of middle-class children. But the instructional program that is good for middle-income children is not necessarily good for children whose background is one of poverty.
Children living in poverty have not had many of the simple experiences we assume are common to all youngsters. They likely have not been taught at home to place a high value on education, and to think of education as the key to success because their parents likely may not have finished high school or received post-secondary education from a technical or four-year college, or a trade training program. Instead of being prepared for school with a home full of books, magazines, and newspapers their childhood experiences are often filled with illness, hunger, threats of eviction, instability and danger. Because of the low status society has accorded them and their families, these children are likely to have a low self-image, and lack the motivation to succeed—at least in terms of what is considered success in middle-class terms. The most severe handicap these children face is their lack of verbal communication skills achieved by reading and writing. Without these skills it is difficult to think critically, and use more advanced software (digital design, modeling and simulation) to visually express creativity and analysis.