Recently, I came across this really interesting game, Spent. It was posted on a site that my partner and I love to check out, called feministing.org. I really encourage you to take a few minutes to sit down and try to play this game. The most important part of it is to be honest with your answers and make it as realistic as possible.
The premise of the game is remarkably simple - it's a flash-based interface that asks you some challenging questions about how to avoid running out of money. You are a single parent who has just lost their job. You have to take a job working in either the service industry, a factory, or as a temp, all for minimum wage, while trying to stay afloat.
Poverty in North America is a tough road. I really can't explain in text how awful it is, and I'm exceptionally lucky to be where I am in life, a professional student of eight years, and still not be in debt. But the reality for a growing number of Americans and Canadians is that they cannot make ends meet.
The corrosion of great public programmes for basics (such as social housing) is devastating to the collective well-being of our society. When combined with more competition for lower waged work, particularly in the wake of the recession, life becomes unlivable for many. As the game highlights, those in poverty are more likely to be unhealthy, depressed, unable to access medical care or legal help, living in fear of losing their homes or their jobs, using illegal substances or alcohol, and often suffering alone or in silence.
Fighting poverty is one of the most basic social justice needs out there. It's a straightforward cause in and of itself, but what's more: it's intimately connected to a variety of other social issues. Poverty is far more likely to strike ethnic minorities, women, single parents, people with disabilities, people with poor mental health, or LGBTQ North Americans.
As such, combating poverty requires some reeducation on how unjust our modern capitalist society is. Again, since I'm a teacher and a strong advocate of publicly owned and operated infrastructure, I see this as the prerogative and the great responsibility of the state. Ontario, and many other provinces, have curricula that emphasise social justice and critical analysis of modern society. However, it is always up to the discretion of the individual teacher - many of whom don't have the skills needed to be fair and critical. It's time for some change here....
Something that has been in the news a lot in the Ontario Election was the issue of teacher training being extended to become a two-year programme. I wholeheartedly support the shift to spending more of an effort preparing our future teachers to be able to be effective in the classroom. But the issue is not having teachers get more experience, it's about spending more of an effort training them how to think critically. As a graduate of York University, I am fully aware of just how central the inclusive teaching practices are to being a great teacher. It's what education needs to be to keep Ontario at the top of the best education systems in North America.
I find it hard to find a better purpose in life than to make the word a fairer, greener, and more prosperous place. Let's put people before profits and fight for a tomorrow worth living in. Fight inequality by opening your mind and realising that living in poverty is not a choice or that people deserve it. Poverty happens because our system is designed to make it happen. That needs to change.