Saturday, May 2, 2009

Money Matters

I recently transitioned with four of my students with emotional/behavioral disabilities into a general education social studies class that has started a unit on economics and life skills as they relate to growing up and living independently. Some of what we're currently working on includes vocabulary.

Yesterday, a female student who comes from an affluent home raised her hand and innocently asked, "What are food stamps?" and it just struck me as poignant, because three out of four of my students know what food stamps are from personal experience.

I found it a powerful example of the disparity in our school district. We are a mostly-white, rural community, and the district covers more than 175 square miles, but our (only) middle school has around 900 students. We have many students who get free or reduced breakfast and lunch (their only meals of the day) and recycle the same two outfits day after day. We also have students who have tennis lessons after school and have "AE" embroidered from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes. We have some students who live on farms, and some who live on golf courses.

So, it shouldn't have struck me as so odd when the young lady asked what food stamps are; any more than it surprised me that while my students knew something about "food stamps," "bankruptcy," "housing projects," and "Medicaid," they knew nothing of "assets," or "mortgages."

On a lighter note, everyone knew what a credit card was.

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