A person whom I will not name wrote in Muhammad Yunus’s Google+ discussion
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, I’m afraid. One of the reasons there is poverty in North America is that so many children drop out of high school, which is free here. Drop-outs run in gangs, commit crimes, and have teenage, unwed pregnancies. They go on Welfare and they go to prison, which has become a tradition in some subcultures here. I think we need to create social programs that underline the responsibilities as well as the rights of individuals.
It becomes a vicious circle, passed from generation to generation. If children grow up witnessing how their single mothers and grandmothers work the system instead of seeing married parents go to work everyday (or at least trying to find work), how are they going to imagine themselves as doctors and shopkeepers when they grow up? I understand something similar is happening in the refugee camps in Africa, where children grow up in a situation that seems safe on the surface, but does not prepare them for a world of possibilities. When people have a safety net they make different choices than when they have to rely only on themselves and their families.
I replied to the issue of high-school dropouts. Sometime I should explain about refugee camps where the refugees are not allowed out into the societies of the countries that grudgingly gave them refuge, but not today.
Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that he said in school that he wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up. The schoolteacher who was applauding all of the choices of the white children in his class told him in the “kindest” possible way that it wasn’t possible, basically letting him know that white society wouldn’t let him become anything significant. Is it then any wonder that he dropped out to become a burglar and drug dealer?
I have been a student in classrooms where this was being done to all of the black children present except one, our only Advanced Placement Black student. All of the information I have tells me that teachers rarely say these things out loud any more in US classrooms, but they still think them, and the children can tell. Teachers tend to think that all underperforming students are lazy and/or stupid at the least. They are unable to imagine that “even” white children’s performance in school can be affected by a divorce or other family disaster, much less the effects of poverty and racism.
It also turns out that in the US, a large fraction of teenage first offenders have learning disabilities that the schools have not recognized, and that the few judges who order them to be diagnosed and treated, and then sentence them to probation as long as they stay in the program, have very low recidivism rates among those who come before them. This was certainly the case with my cousin with ADHD who fell afoul of the law through total inattention. See also the documentary Heart of Stone, about the fall into the abyss and subsequent rescue of my former high school, Weequahic High School, Newark, New Jersey.
There are, on the other hand, racists in the US who are only too happy to see Blacks and other minorities imprisoned in vastly disproportionate numbers, and would like to defund all social programs set up to help them in any way, or to provide real aid to the poor anywhere in the world. Fortunately, it is not money that the poor mostly need, but education and the ability to connect with each other, both of which are being provided, using extremely inexpensive ICT4D, to millions of children. We just have to expand that by a factor of 500 to reach a billion children at a time. ^_^ Since the computers are cheaper than the textbooks they will replace, this is unavoidable, unstoppable, inevitable regardless of any current opinion or policy, except possibly in North Korea. For a time.