Monday, April 27, 2015
Editor's note: During Education on Air, Google’s free online conference May 8-9, we'll be discussing how we can help prepare students for their future. One member of our opening panel is Jaime Casap, Google’s Global Education Evangelist. In advance of the conference, we asked Jaime to share some of his personal views about the power of high expectations to inspire students. For related resources, check out Reach Higher, the First Lady's effort to inspire all students to take charge of their future by completing their education beyond high school. Resources include a toolkit to host a College Signing Day, which many schools are doing May 1st.
I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in the 1970s and ‘80s; it was a tough neighborhood that visitors avoided. I wanted out, and while I was the captain of my high school basketball team, I was way too short and slow to make it in the NBA. Despite the challenges of being a first-generation American raised by a single mother on welfare, I had help and support from amazing teachers like Ms. Riddick who encouraged me to work hard to develop the skills I needed to finish high school, attend college and graduate.
Research indicates that low-income minorities are less likely to finish high school, attend college and get a degree. Only 15 to 19 percent of minorities attend college and fewer than nine percent graduate with a Bachelor's degree. There’s a direct correlation between the level of education attained and income level. In other words, education disrupts poverty. While many issues are embedded into the conversation about poverty and education, I can personally relate to something called “Low Expectation Syndrome.” Low Expectation Syndrome is fed by the conditions surrounding low-income minority students. They see failure all around them. They see their childhood friends drop out of high school, and they see more of their friends go to jail than college.
What’s my response to Low Expectation Syndrome? As part of my role I talk to as many students and educators as possible. I don’t ask students what they want to be when they grow up. Instead I ask students to think about what problem they want to solve. I then challenge them to think about the knowledge, skills and abilities they’ll need to solve that problem. What classes can they take? What blogs and journals should they read? Who should they meet and collaborate with? What educational path will prepare them to solve that problem?
I tell students they have amazing capacity and potential. I tell them to ignore the negative and disregard the impossible. I tell them to use stereotypes and statistics as motivation. I tell them not to be ashamed of who they are and where they come from. I tell them they’ll one day be the person in a meeting who has a different and valuable perspective. To put themselves in that position, they need to work hard and get the education to solve the problem that motivates them.
I wouldn’t be writing this post if not for my experience with higher education, which is why I support the First Lady’s Reach Higher effort & hope many schools will consider hosting College Signing Days to celebrate students. As First Lady Michelle Obama says: “Education is the key to success for so many kids. And my goal specifically is to reach out directly to young people and encourage them to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school.” As I tell students every day, the antidote for Low Expectation Syndrome is to have impossibly high expectations for themselves and each other — and then reach even higher.