Horace Mann famously called public education, "the great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance wheel of the social machinery." No matter where you come from, the thinking goes, your local public school will give you the same opportunities as everyone else. But is it really so? For children growing up in inner cities, education is essential to escaping generational poverty. But poor kids face many obstacles on the road to a diploma.
WBEZ education reporter Linda Lutton spent a year with fourth-graders at William Penn Elementary in North Lawndale, one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods, to figure out if public education is living up to its promise. In North Lawndale, on the city's west side, close to 40 percent of households are below the poverty level — double the rate in the city of Chicago as a whole. Thirty percent of North Lawndale adults never got a high school diploma.
Lutton's documentary, The View From Room 205, shines a light on the troubling ways the decks are stacked against the fourth-graders at William Penn and their teachers. We're featuring the documentary on the podcast this week. In two weeks, APM Reports senior correspondent Emily Hanford will interview Lutton about her reporting.