In terms of national geography, every state that composes the mystifying, incredible and unprecedented civilizational experiment known as the United States of America has its defining characteristics and qualities.
More than just a state flower, more than just their representative flags, more than their pristine mottos, every state, if not most comes with its own “it factor.” The thing that it makes it stand out.
For California, it’s Hollywood, the beaches, and the stereotypes of the “rad”, “chill” surfer dudes that was popularized in the 70s. For New York, there are a lot of great outdoor parks and natural scenery upstate, but the bedazzling emerald at the core really is the Big Apple. The place where you can get a bacon, egg and cheese with an Arizona drink for 2.75. The place where you can make your dreams as an actor on Broadway or working in the advertising industry come true, the place to make it big.
For states down south like Georgia and Louisiana, the deep-rooted soul food, the ear-sweeping jazz played, and the rapturous vibrancy created from the bustling black culture are the clear-cut highlights in those areas.
For Texas, its guns, cowboys, barbecue, and being known for being the home state of some of the U.S.’s most attention-grabbing and infamous politicians.
Every state has a reputation. For many, that reputation is negative, whether justified or not.
Florida, known as the “Sunshine State” is a perfect example.
America’s Hanging “Johnson”
Florida is known for the great weather. That’s why thrill-seeking college students, looking to soak up some sun, get a few pictures for Instagram, and have a good time save up some money (or go into debt) in order to fly out to Miami.
Every average middle-class family that’s never traveled outside the country makes it a goal in mind, intentionally or not, to travel to the coveted DisneyWorld. To enjoy the rides, to meet Mickey Mouse and the whole cast of characters from Disney classics the kids adore, to go on the rides and get lost in the fantasy of the commercial spectacle.
In addition, Fort Lauderdale is lauded as one of the premier spacious and comfortable places for the elderly to retire at in their old age.
On the downside, Florida can be less than the sum of its parts. In some regards, Florida is the ultimate bud of the joke when it comes to states to make fun of. At one point, assumedly around some time in the aftermath of Trump’s shocking presidential victory, there was a meme circulating in some corner of the Internet for a while that Florida is the “anchor” that’s dragging America down, and if it was cut off, the social, political and economic sanctity of the nation would be restored to the highest optimal level.
The mindset presumably is that if Puerto Rico can’t be granted statehood, then a spot has to be opened up somehow.
Education in Florida
For as much as Florida is a laughingstock for being peak hillbilly and redneck country, especially the further south you go, Florida is a big reflector of numerous trends that have been sprawling throughout America.
America, the most powerful nation in just about every marker of success, has gradually become rotten from the inside. The rising cost of living in major urban areas, the bubble attached to the student loan debt crisis ballooning, soon about to pop. Political polarization has hit a maximum, and tensions are boiling over like the world hasn’t seen in America in a minute. America has basically become a “cluster-fuck” of epidemics.
Let’s add to this Bible-sized catalogue the obesity epidemic, the opioid epidemic, the job market being increasingly over-saturated, with plenty of Americans being unemployed or under-employed. No matter what is mentioned, the sins of the father are distributed to all his children. A laughingstock like Florida isn’t exempt.
Inequality in Schooling
Beyond the student loan debt crisis, Florida has a concerning education problem that sinks its claws into sensitive waters, like race and ethnicity; waters that have been toxic, muddy, stifling, and divisive eve since the country’s inception.
Like reflected across every other state, certain groups of children obtain more opportunities and access to a high-quality education at a disproportionate rate than others. And even in the cases and specific locales where all students are receiving the same education, some children are getting left behind and not achieving their full potential.
Many politicians and educators have brought awareness to how Florida schools are slacking off at hitting the benchmarks for educational prosperity set the No Child Left Behind Act that was passed in 2001 at the turn of the century.
As statistics hold, only thirty-eighth percent of black students are capable of reading at their respective grade level. For Hispanics, that number is 53%. For Whites, it’s 69% and for Asians at the top, it’s 76%.
This is obviously troubling, and the Florida Board of Education has been on the forefront trying to conceive of tangible solutions. This is partially motivated by requirement, as Florida is required to classify achievement along the lines of race/ethnicity.
On that note, target goals were set for 2018 in order to try to close the hotly-debated achievement gap, with ideal proficiency ratings set for both reading and mathematics. With African Americans, that number came up to seventy-four percent. Some brought up in counter-response the idea that setting different target goals based upon the category of race can lead to unfair grading policies that differ upon the same qualifiers.
In 2023, the plan in motion is to have all students, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status reading at grade level. Hopefully, that initiative is met. Historically, the various attempts to erase the achievement gap have fell in vain. Education officials seem to be in general agreement on the cause; from poor infrastructure in schools to class sizes to quality textbooks/materials to contrasting parenting practices and environmental circumstances, outside of school particularly. The gap in equal funding isn’t as much of an issue as it once was, because currently in the ten largest school districts in Florida, schools with more non-white students receive more funding per student than schools with more white students. It may seem like it, but you can’t just throw more money at a mess and expect enough band-aids to be applied. All the factors that hold even the slightest of significance must be scrutinized under the spotlight.
The informative Coleman Report, a quintessential study that’s driven a huge chunk of modern public policy for education, published about sixty years ago got the ball rolling on this stinging matter. Education officials in Florida, like the rest of the nation, are trying to get a hole in one.
That will require compassion, empathy and patience as much as it is about remaining on track to clear certain quotas. What also must be a priority is that sensational politics remain firmly out of the picture. One would assume that the disparity would’ve faded away as soon as segregation was canceled as official public policy throughout American civil discourse and life. Same textbooks, same teachers, same classroom and voila!, Martin Luther King’s iconic dream would be fully realized.
But every problem has nuances that aren’t apparent to the naked eye. Preparing and sharing enough free lunches is not going to nurture the mind the way we need it to.
There isn’t even conclusive evidence to determine whether or not intelligence is heritable. There’s certainly an argument to be made on either side, negating the racial undertones that permeates in that discussion. Maybe what education officials need to come to a realization on is the fact that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach that’ll work here.
All students have disparate strengths and weaknesses. The best way possibly to ensure all students are making the most out of their education is to reach outward towards where they’re at individually, and bring them forward. If you fix the individual, then you might be able to fix the collective.