DR. MARK PORTERIE — Extreme weather and inequality are here (Part 1 of 2)

Published 12:14 am Saturday, November 4, 2023

I come from a conservative home that valued responsibility, accountability and a strong work ethic. I grew up believing in the American Dream, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each, according to one’s ability or drive,” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.

Today, I believe in the American Dream more than ever. As an educator, I have witnessed students that have come from meager beginnings; and due to prayer, a sense of pride and focusing on the goal of achieving something better, they became successful citizens.

I have come to the realization that there will always be social inequalities – mainly because that is what some people seem to actually want.

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It is disappointing to me that we have not opened our minds to the fact that every ethnic group has unique qualities that, if utilized correctly within the team concept, can benefit everyone. Personally, I do believe we have a system that has created a liberalism that may have hurt us. However, I firmly believe that hard work, experiencing disappointment and a helping hand – versus a hand out – will generate stronger contributors in our society.

I appreciate the fact there are resources in our country that will step in and assist those who are in need; but I think those resources need to be followed up with training on ways to get back on the path of self-sufficiency.

When looking at the minimum wage rate in Texas at $7.25 an hour, without an increase since 2009, it is a realistic thought that the payment from a minimum wage job will not meet my needs when it comes to taking care of myself or my dependents, buying groceries, medication, housing, transportation, etc. So I can understand the argument that government assistance may be the best path for some.

But one perspective is that we created a cycle of dependency that is difficult to break or that some citizens have no desire to break. Sometimes, this becomes a generational curse because if I grew up watching my parents get by on resources other than old-fashioned hard work, then I, too, may feel I can do the same with my family. And the cycle can continue.

As we move forward with educating our children, we have to find ways in which to try and insert into the minds of each student that education is one of the most important tools to assist in rising out of poverty. Most individuals who are uneducated have greater limits than others do who have some type of formal education.

When we think of education, we have to think deeper than learning how to read for comprehension; we must be able to read math problems that do not contain actual numbers and still be able to understand how to set up the problem to be worked out and reach a solution.

Education is more than knowing Christopher Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492. Yes, facts are important; but there are other facets of education that are just as important. Such as, a pre-K student learning the responsibility of removing their coat and hanging it up.

A student who learns how to complete an assignment before the due date and not trying to hurry up and put something together the night before the deadline. A student that participates in UIL activities and learns how to be a member of a team, and understands that his/her place on the team is important for the entire team to be successful.

It is not a team of I’s, but a united front of individuals that work together for the good of the masses. All of the above learning types are important for our students to learn in order to be positive contributors in our society.

But what happens when Mother Nature becomes a savage and a rainstorm approaches?

What happens when water nearly drowns a city without warning?

When all you can see for miles around is water that has covered the streets, grass, cars, trucks and even flooded the majority of the homes in a city and in surrounding areas?

What happens to the Haves and the Have Nots when everyone is now in need of all of the above, plus food, clothes and utilities?

What happens to those without resources such as saved money for incidents like these, the proper insurance policies to cover all that has been lost?

How do we move forward with nothing?

We have experienced these types of extreme weather conditions and we see where there is inequality in the path that groups of individuals must take to recover from catastrophic events.

During the last major hurricane in the city of Port Arthur, the Port Arthur Independent School District opened the doors of one of our middle school gymnasiums to our community for shelter.

Part 2 of 2 will publish online at panews.com and in the print edition of the Port Arthur News on Wednesday/Nov. 8. Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.