The relationship between education and the community is a rather complex one. Most people agree that education is necessary in order for people to be productive citizens who contribute to the community’s welfare and growth. The larger the community, the more important it is for education to be an integral part of it. But therein lies the problem: The larger the community the more difficult it is to have quality education across all segments of the community. Consequently, some areas of the community prosper while other areas lag behind and enjoy fewer of the fruits of having a quality education. In fact, these areas will eventually be beset by higher levels of unemployment and crime, which often spreads throughout the entire community. One of the keys to correcting this imbalance in education and equality is to try to ensure quality education across all segments of the community.
In many communities, private schools often have stronger schools that attract students who would normally attend a public school. Parents, many of whom live in areas with lower quality schools, want to send their children to these schools, but the expense is often prohibitive. Some communities have develop a voucher system that lets students apply to these private schools and the community pays the private school what it would cost to educate the student in a public school. While this has been touted as a method to increase the quality of education for many students in the community, it really only serves to reinforce the existing inequality of education. The good schools use the community resources to strengthen their efforts while the public schools lose those resources and fall farther behind, and many students drop out of school and get involved in activities that lead to trouble. There is also the issue of using tax dollars meant to enhance the public schools being used to fund private schools. In reality, vouchers will not solve the problem.
Some communities are also developing schools with specialized curricula to improve the quality of education for their students. Often these schools are pitted against each other in a sort of academic competition. These can deteriorate into efforts to prove that one curriculum is better than another, which does a disservice to the students. The emphasis should be on quality of education and student learning rather than dominance of one curriculum over another. These specialized schools may also be sacrificing a well-rounded education for an emphasis on subject matter. What often gets lost in the competition over subject matter is the student’s need to have an education that prepares them for real world work or higher education. The emphasis should be on the students rather than the subject matter.
Either of these options have tended to prove the critics correct when they suggest that they create disparities in education rather than improve the overall quality. Some students enjoy the benefits of higher quality, while other students continue to fall behind. Those who fall behind tend to become discouraged and often drop out of school because they are not getting any sound benefits from their education. These students also look at the other schools and feel as though they are second class citizens because their facilities and resources are not as good. Once these students drop out of school, they may lose hope concerning their future and turn to criminal behavior. The lack of a quality, usable education is often tied to the increase in crime in a community or in certain areas of a community, and it is in these areas that we will often find the poorer schools that put forth a lower quality education. This is not productive for anyone.