Last month the BBC published an article entitled ‘ Would $4000 make poor children cleverer?’. The article discussed how a US economist had won a grant from a charity which supports improving the lives of children. The question that his research project will posit is by giving poorer families more money, can we improve the brain development of children in those families?
As a single mother barely making end meet the article threw up a lot of questions for me. Am I in this situation because of my upbringing? Is my son less smart than his ‘richer’ class mates? Will my son continue the cycle or break free? How exactly are we measuring success here?
I cannot speak from any other point of view except my own on this matter. Perhaps I am a single mother because of my own poor upbringing. My family had a brief period of wealth but that all soon dissolved when my parents separated. As young parents themselves I have heard from my grandparents how they worked endless jobs to make ends meet in the early days. There was a period of wealth, as I mentioned before when we moved to Dubai for my fathers job but then my parents divorced and our worlds changed drastically. Looking back now I know that my father was careful and not poor as such. He didn’t splurge on anything because he was busy saving up for his dream of owning his own business. My mother on the other hand spent her money like water and there were often periods in my early and late teens were we would have no heating, electricity or food. Has this had an effect on how I am today? Of course it has!! I recognise my own frivolous nature with money as I saw in my mother, but I also paradoxically have a complete fear of not paying my bills and always ensure they are paid first and foremost. Did this upbringing stunt my development intellectually? Who knows. The one thing it did do was limit my options and opportunities, and perhaps this is turn has limited my abilities and more importantly confidence.
Personally for me the one difference between lower and upper or middle class families is a sense of security. Security in the sense of having more opportunities available to you and being confident that you can try things and be financially supported by your parents. But then perhaps there is a hunger in children of lower class families to aspire to more and break free of their environments. Are rags to riches stories possible? Or are they just an urban myth fed to us from Hollywood?
There are so many social and economical factors involved in a debate such as this that I know I am only touching the absolute tip of the iceberg here. Perhaps I am too romantic in my notions of life as well but I believe and know that although money can bring freedom it cannot necessarily make children cleverer. That is down to the parent’s attitudes to education, their social beliefs and aspirations. I am poor and my son is one of the top in his class. Perhaps we do need money to break some barriers in this society and to reach the very top but I also believe that hard work, passion and pure determination can go a long way to changing people’s lives. Perhaps I won’t be the next CEO of Google because I am a single mother, but if I can provide my son with a happy life, a fulfilled life, a life with opportunities and choices then maybe I have done enough to break free of my cycle so that he may keep going up and up.