Much of what goes on in society leaks into the school system, impacting students and their learning experience. Resolving and avoiding such problems begins with identification and awareness. School systems should recognize what types of social issues are of primary concern, and educate students and parents about ways to fight them. Teachers and parents can collaborate on strategies for minimizing social problems in schools.
Racism is a social problem that exists in all facets of society, from business environments to schools. That this issue has worked its way into classrooms is evidenced by prejudiced peers full of discriminatory remarks toward classmates of minority backgrounds. While teachers can ban language wars at school, racism might continue to exist if parents do not also help to correct the prejudice behaviors of their children in the home. However, if students are learning their racist beliefs and remarks from their parents, teachers will not be able to rely on parents to help resolve the issue.
Within the realm of discrimination is the social issue of unequal educational opportunities for individuals who come from low-income, minority backgrounds. Students who belong to this demographic risk missing out on the same level of educational quality as middle- to upper-class students of non-minority backgrounds. The big social problem here is that the education system has inequities and offers disproportionate opportunities based on cultural affiliation and income level, when, ideally, all children should have exposure to an equal education.
The economy plays a significant part in social problems that affect students and schools. As children get older, they begin to notice the financial pressures that their parents and families experience. In a hard economy, it can be difficult for families—especially single-parent families—to make ends meet. Consequently, some high schoolers drop out of school so that they can help support the family financially. According to a 2004 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, income is a primary issue involved in a student's decision to drop out of school, and studies show that children from low-income families are six times as likely to drop out than children from high-income families. Schools and parents can work together to help resist students' decisions to drop out.
Substance abuse and addictions have become an epidemic. Many children—even at early ages—have access to addictive substances, illegal drugs and alcohol. The use of such substances leads to problems in the form of violence, criminal behaviors, teen pregnancies and a diminishing interest in education. Severe substance abusers may drop out of school altogether, or have difficulty maintaining a high level of performance. This social problem can be better controlled through structured and supportive environments for students, both at home and in the schools.
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