“Three Miles” was an investigation into an experiment arranged by two teachers; Lisa Greenbaum of University Heights High School (UHHS) and Angela Vassos of Fieldston High School. The experiment was to bring their respective classes to each other’s very different schools in the hopes of showing their students the differences between their two worlds despite being only three miles away. This radio article made the experiment out to be more of a failure than a success, for many University Heights High School students found the gap between their environment and that of the Fieldston students to be much larger than three miles.
One of the students that was a part of this first experiment was Melanie. Joffe-Walt thoroughly investigated Melanie, for she was described as intellectually brilliant by her peers, but finished at UHHS early and was never heard from again. She ceased contact with her UHHS peers and teachers shortly after the trip to Fieldston and losing a full-ride scholarship to Middlebury College. Her classmates remembered her being deeply disturbed by how equipped Fieldston was compared to UHHS, brought to the point of tears at how unfair she realised education to be. After being located by Joffe-Walt through a rigorous search and numerous phone calls, Melanie decided to speak with Joffe-Walt about why she didn’t pursue a higher education after finishing high school early. She admitted that after seeing how differently Fieldston functioned and losing in the final round of the Posse Scholarship selection process, she was basically burnt out on. She was fed-up with getting the short end of the stick when attempting to educate herself especially after being teased with a full Posse scholarship, then being denied at the final stage. Melanie’s story shows us how mentally harmful education inequality can be to those who are left with the least amount of resources to work with. One Fieldston student remembered a class of hers during UHHS’s visit in which Melanie was answering questions so thoroughly that she was clearly the smartest person in the room. There should be a greater effort towards evening out the money behind our public schools in this country, for every person deserve a fair shot at at least a basic education. Regardless of whether Melanie was brilliant or even if she wasn’t, she deserved more support behind her school.
Jonathan Gonzalez was a student from Melanie’s neighborhood in the South Bronx selected for the Fieldston scholarship program. Jonathan actually won the Posse Scholarship to attend Wheaton College on a full-ride, which he accepted. After getting to Wheaton though, Jonathan’s academics declined and he ended up failing out of Wheaton and the Posse Scholarship. Even though he was granted a full scholarship to Wheaton, he was thrust into a foreign environment, in which there were few minorities like himself and nobody he knew for support around him, which all lead to him giving up on his schooling and eventually being expelled. Only 1/5 of poor students graduate college in six years according to Joffe-Walt, which shows that the problem might be more than just a lack of effort when in school. Although we like to think that anything can be overcome with the right amount of effort, 4/5 of poor students are dropping out of college. Schools and education in general don’t seem to be cared for by those administering it through a person’s high school years, that person might have a hard time matching a college’s rigorous track when they are suddenly thrown into it.
Raquel Hardy was the 1/5 of that statistic, graduating from Bard College in 4 years. She attributes her success to just being inquisitive when she wasn’t doing as well as she knew she could at Bard. Searching out the college’s student center and being redirected to the library and all the help offered through it. Most people that she knew from the Bronx were also failing out as Jonathan had, and she mentions a certain mentality that aided the demise of many college careers. She says that she always, through out high school, college, had to keep telling herself that she deserved better, something that she noticed her colleagues at Bard did automatically. This mentality affects many poor people, which I believe contributes to the cycle of generational poverty.
Do you believe that if more money was behind education (high school or college) for low-income students they would be more successful?
Joffe-Walt, Chana. “550: Three Miles.” Soundcloud. WBEZ, 13 March 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016
Joffe-Walt, Chana. “550: Three Miles Transcript.” This American Life. WBEZ, 13 March, 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016