We have to level the playing field before children get into the classroom.
That was the message delivered by Kevin Lamoureux at the Association’s Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Conference, held in Edmonton on April 12.
“Poverty reduces a child’s brainpower for learning. It takes away choice.”
— Kevin Lamoureux
The University of Winnipeg faculty member and education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation spoke about how child poverty affects students on a fundamental level, before they even get into a classroom. Poverty, he says, is like living permanently without a good night’s sleep.
“For many kids, you’re not even starting at the starting line,” he said. “All of their internal resources are focused on survival.”
Lamoureux cited a study that found similar outcomes between children growing up in poverty and children born addicted to crack cocaine.
“Poverty reduces a child’s brainpower for learning. It takes away choice,” he said.
Even motivational concepts like high school graduation and future employment aren’t processed the same way when a child is living in poverty, Lamoureux said.
“You’re trying to dangle this carrot in front of these kids, and it’s nothing but an insult. ‘Get a job? Nobody in my family has a job.’”
Rather than focusing on test scores, Lamoureux said, education needs to focus on levelling the playing field before curriculum even comes into the equation.
“What’s standing in the way of some of those test scores right now is not lack of ability. You’ve been saddled with the responsibility of responding to a society where not everyone starts off in the same place.” ❚