Today has been a workshop day. At one of our sessions this morning, our principal talked a lot about poverty and the brain, citing works from Eric Jensen and others. There were many staggering facts brought up during this presentation, many of which I had heard before. Students who come into school having lived with chronic or severe stress - termed distress - have brains that are literally smaller than those of their peers, and in many cases have weakened, atrophied brain cells. Other writers, including Malcom Gladwell, have written about IQ and races, and what studies have shown are some of the effects of growing up in stressful, cognitively-poor environments.
As educators, we are left with two options of looking at this situation: a. this is a crisis, and b. this is an opening for opportunity. In truth, it is both. I don't think it can or should be underscored just how much this is a crisis facing our children, schools, and country. On the flip side, this definitely presents us with a chance to make some wrongs right, and help our students catch-up as best they can, so they may experience success.
No doubt this will take a ton of work, not to mention flexibility, encouragement, and tough love on our part. While this all can seem daunting, what are the alternatives?