It is of course understandable if low-income parents think 'education is supposed to be free, and we cannot afford to pay anything for our children's education.' But it need cost a very little, and finding that few pence will not be regretted. It is really annoying that it is mostly parents earning good incomes who help most with their children's learning, as they appreciate how much education helps.
Poor parents mostly do not see that and so help their children less if at all. But even the poorest parent can help motivate their children's learning - and easily and enjoyably ! Schools can do the teaching if children really want to learn, but are mostly awful at advising parents on exactly what they should be doing - and indeed often badly misadvise as part of protecting their jobs. Schools too often say your kids are doing fine when they are doing little or nothing.
School and home learning.
School-set homework can be unhelpful for children under 10 and should only slowly build-up after that. Most parents don't understand such school homework, and don't help with it, and much of it is poorly marked or not marked by the school. Such homework is schoolwork that children should be able to do themselves, though parents can reasonably try helping if children ask. If your child's school gives too much homework, ask them to keep it down as you are doing your own daily school-type work that YOU set and mark with your children -- 5-minute math sheet a day is easy and good. Or maybe the school can give YOU some of the homework, with answers, for you to set and mark with your child.
3. A black-and-white world.
The children of some honest poor families in developed countries like the UK are often limited to cheaper black-and-white TV with no cartoon or movie channels - which can help to drive these children to the streets and to crime. Other poor families, some of whom may be dishonest, will manage colour TV.
Public television can waste vast resources trying to provide middle-class television when it would be much more socially useful for it to provide better television for poor families. For the privilege of having their black-and-white TV with inadequate channels, the UK honest poor are required to pay a mandatory annual license fee, and being late buying that brings criminal prosecution (for being poor and not being dishonest ?). I do myself have a copy of a 2003 UK prosecution, of a 40 year old poor woman who died a few months later of pneumonia, for non-possession of a monochrome TV license. And even having bought such license these poor are still harassed with investigation visits 'as possible-evaders of the dearer colour TV license'. Very few now having black-and-white TVs, the license on that (for the honest poor only) brings in negligible revenue, no doubt greatly exceeded by their anti-evasion costs. It certainly needs urgent abolishing, and there should be free cartoon and movie channels, but this issue is ignored and the honest poor's black-and-white TV license will no doubt remain as long as there are any TV licenses.
In the UK, public television is a big social exclusion issue with the poor paying more in real terms and getting less - the opposite of the progressive taxation principle - with its BBC famous for concentrating on making more expensive middle-class programmes. A public TV programming geared more to the poor could give their kids more indoors, and schools encouraging parents specifically to do some family learning as with math sheets could also help this.
Many problems like this afflicting especially the poorest in developed countries are easily solved at little or no cost, but it is not enough for a democratic government to set up bodies like the UK Social Exclusion Unit unless their staffing explicitly includes at least one or two who are street-wise and are listened to.
PS. This site has received two UK government statements, from the Department for Education and Skills on the secondary schooling issue and from the United Kingdom Passport Service on the passports issue - and all such feedback is much appreciated and can help to improve this site.
(UKPS confirm the passport price increases for the poor. DFES currently allow only arbitrary attendance reward schemes that some schools have, and cost money, mostly schools having bad attendance. Latest OFSTED estimates of school aged children not even registered with any education authority is a minimum 10,000 for 14-15 year olds only.)
UK poor who managed to save the high price of a passport used to have their doctor countersign it, but recently the UK government disallowed that - and as the employers of most other professions on the UKPS passport counter-signer list also disallow their employees from doing it, the poor can't get a passport at any price now. The Republic of Ireland now has free passports for the over-65's, unfortunately of little use to their elderly poor and no use to their poor children - it was introduced because Irish government being generous to the elderly is seen as a vote-winner while being generous to the poor is not. The UK has free passports only for the over-77's.
4. Excluded from sport.
In November 2007 one British football (or soccer) team manager, Portsmouth's Harry Redknapp, has lamented the lack of poor kids entering British football. He saw better-off kids as lacking the aggression needed for good passionately competitive footballers, and lamented 'where are the estate kids ?' The answer of course is that they are on the estates.
I lived for years on a big London estate that had a small concrete football pitch on which the poor tenants kids played good aggressive football every day (it was actually designed for basketball but was very rarely used for that). But never once did I or anybody else see a scout from any football team there. Team scouts visit games at schools where poor kids are often excluded, and visit football trials or academies that need parents that can pay for them.
Harry Redknapp is right that the poorest British kids do include the best aggressive footballers, but they are effectively excluded from football through no fault of their own. Many middle-class run British football teams instead pay millions to get poor kids from South America or Africa. So rich-country sport scouts, you really should try to scout your own poor better !
NOTE. Recently Britain's Health Secretary John Reid tried to point out the danger of the country being run by a middle-class with no understanding of the poor, which this website strongly supports as being a major problem. He was immediately vilified, but not for trying to make that point which was entirely IGNORED.
He was vilified instead for including criticism of the middle-class anti-smoking lobby (who are proposing a new piece of social exclusion policy 'banning packs of 10 cigarettes so the poor who can only afford 10 cannot smoke') ! Meanwhile the UK government has spent £885million since 1997 on sticks to cut truancy with little effect. And new counter-productive UK policies directed at punishing the poor and their children for being anti-social or anti-government seem to be produced annually. A major concern with such a policy approach is that it might well push increasing numbers of the socially excluded into supporting extremist groups.
And those expensive fire-fighting policies to deal with child criminals, because the baseline child policies are inadequate ? Governments tend to treating older children like adults for school attendance, bad behaviour and crime - but treating them completely as babies for state money. Older children act adult whatever governments want, and poor children often take over the streets and most schools - and they increasingly teach successfully a pro-crime anti-learning anti-government lifestyle that will threaten democracy if not properly addressed soon. Older children need a much more consistent set of policies from governments, treating secondary school children more like adults for everything and one MUST is some pay for school attendance. When kids reach the age of 11 THEY should be paid their Child Benefit dependant on attendance like a wage for work (and they could pay mother half for their keep). Feedback has been received from some secondary school governors, pupils and others in support of this website's position. Others do favour government compulsory education to 16 (soon to 18, later to 21 with compulsory adult retraining programmes ?) having NO sweeteners for any - and more and more government sticks with no real balancing carrots.
This while the media has been increasingly promoting Kid Power with stuff from Power Rangers and Powerpuff Girls to Harry Potter and Hannah Montana.
And the media and advertising constantly presenting 'the normal family' as richer than the average family actually is creates 'virtual poverty' and 'virtual exclusion', showing in the UK in a recent Children’s Society and University of York study of children aged 8 to 15 giving their views on social exclusion. UK 21st century children feel 'deprived' if their family does not have most of the popular 'normal possessions' including in importance order 'some pocket money', 'some family holidays', 'some iPods', 'some good clothes', 'a family car' and 'good TV'.
Yet governments and schools policies show no progress and so get more and more unrealistic with handling poor children, and it is parents who are blamed for what is government failure to adopt the needed policies that we promote here on this website.
Policing of the poor is also often unhelpful to them rearing their children to become honest citizens, with a real need for police to greatly increase catch-rates for the main crimes of their young children - street vandalism and shoplifting. Even a big improvement in one of those would be a great help. Of course street vandalism chiefly needs many more police on the streets. And shoplifting chiefly needs an extensive police-run shop CCTV system for smaller stores. Kids normally spend some time in one shop stealing, and then move on to a nearby shop to steal again, so if police can react quickly to their CCTV system then they will catch kids quickly and often. Now kids steal from a hundred shops before hitting any problem and that only proves to them that the police are useless. It is catching child crimes early that needs big improvement and can help them, not necessarily jailing them.
Many non-street-wise middle-class professional 'experts' may claim that poverty is fine for children as long as they have love - but poverty and social exclusion always do some damage and good government should try to help minimise it if possible. The UK may well soon make parents smacking children illegal. It is largely poor parents who smack their children for misbehaving mostly over having no money to buy food or treats ?! Increasing sticks for poor parents on parenting, looks like a plan to take away all their children and put them in government 'care' - a disaster tried and failed before in many countries ! But middle-class run governments just cannot understand how to best deal with the poor.
Those expected to produce anti-poverty and social inclusion policies will generally be educated professionals with little or no experience of poverty, and they may commonly have correct general theories but often be missing the correct practical detail needed. Consultation with the less educated poor themselves is likely to help only to a limited extent, with only middle-class questions raised and with the poor not knowing what of their problems government systems could more easily resolve - like the 3 issues above. Issues like these help cause anti-social behaviour, and are commonly being ignored. The tiny handful of street-wise professionals who do happen to have substantial experience of poverty and of what social exclusion really is, as from themselves living in social housing, need to be listened to - or maybe this website closely studied ? see Affluent Poverty
And here is a poem we can sympathise with ;
The Silently Screaming Majority.
The silently screaming majority no government listens to,
Are fed up telling those 'experts' what they really should do.
Those desk-bound middle-class know-alls
Who know nothing of me or of you.
Our democracy gives them the power to tell us all to go screw.
Nice jobs, nice homes, nice schools, nice kids,
An alien world to me and you.
We are the poor silently screaming majority
No government ever will listen to.