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Tuesday, July 9. 2013
Underclass schools, more: "the cruelty of the system"
A pal of mine who is deeply committed to, and involved with, urban education and to Amistad Academy (a charter school in New Haven, CT) in particular, emailed me this thoughtful comment:
I recently visited the Achievement First elementary school in
When I say “the school” has done this or that, I really mean the team
My experience with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound was even more
Of course, taking 16 kids, many of whom came from troubled homes and
When I visited the crews, they were already well into their program,
The Graduation Ceremony for the course was held in Prospect Park,
So I have two criticisms of the piece by the anonymous teacher.
Human beings can express the most wonderful and the most horrible
Unfortunately, the anonymous teacher let the adults off the hook and the kids hanging out to dry.
It’s terrible how badly the politicians, who have the power and
Posted by Bird Dog in Education, Our Essays at 13:39 | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (0)
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Thank you for posting. I really got angry after reading the anon. teacher rant. I think people were blaming race for failed social engineering.
Kids behaving the way they're expected to behave what a concept. Agree the school/workplace environment is set at the top, yet the trend in schools seems to be to point fingers instead of looking inward.
This article offers a useful counter to the perspective of the earlier. I find it odd that one can fault the school culture for behaviors without acknowledging the obvious influence of the culture engendered at home. The latter tends to beget the former.
There is certainly a culture within many black communities that resembles that described by the anon teacher; largely a ghetto culture although, in my experience, it is not exclusively limited to true ghettos (although largely connected to lower economic classes). Much of it is learned from their parents or, all too often, their mothers as they are raised in single parent homes.
I know far too many black kids who don't want to be caught "acting white" by their peers. They are trapped in their culture, as politically correct as it may be to state it that way.
That being said I think your colleague is correct that there are programs that can overcome that (for those willing to be reached). Most of the boys in our youth program at church are black kids raised in that culture; we have successfully taught them proper behavior when in church and on most activities, although they often revert back when back on the "street."
The trick is to teach a culture of responsibility and self control. Anyone can learn that -- it is not driven by race or skin color. Hopefully they'll be willing to live within the rules of that culture, at least part of the time.
There is a conference in Chicago July 11-14 called the Education for Liberation Network that exemplifies why the urban schools have been broken deliberately. Low-income youth and youth of color can then be more easily be organized via the schools and classrooms to "understand and challenge the injustices their communities face."
There's even a name for it--Justice-oriented citizenship. I am not guessing on the rationales. I am getting ready to write about it again but I first explained it about a year ago using the docs from the Alinsky-inspired Alliance Network in Texas.
http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/keep-urban-schools-weak-to-force-economic-and-social-justice-then-make-the-suburbs-close-the-gap/ explains the dynamic. The extent of the documentation that all this is deliberate has only increased in the last year.
It's not just race but class. I see single white moms w kids by multiple fathers in NH who are raising loud, undisciplined brats....the issues include the lack of jobs for non-intellectual males (which destroys lower class family structure as females do not have desirable mates to settle down with). Also, blaming schools for parental neglect. Also denial about the intellectual limits of many children, of whatever color, who could have been taught something useful to do as apprentices, if this didn't fly in the face of our American delusion that everyone can be a chief.
Also, the issues are different for girls. And different in lower class cultures, which viciously degrade women. I worked w impoverished minority kids, whom i loved, for years. Heartbreaking. It turns. you into a rabid feminist fast, even if you believe, as I do,in traditional marriage and moms staying home w kids.
The sheer fatalism by the girls about becoming an out of wedlock parent, living off the State because "men are no damn good, never work, won't stick around".
Attitudes towards exercise are appalling. Boys would run and climb and shoot hoops, girls would overeat and watch crappy TV and lust after designer bags . As a marathon running female w two Ivy degrees I was a bizarre freak to them. Tho our Christian faith bridged the gulf better than any PC warm fizzles could have. They would cheer when We read passages about God loving the poor and hating the wicked rich man. And they knew God was with them, loved all of us equally despite the social and economic inequality so glaringly obvious all around us.
When I got married and we started a family, the Adolescent girls would giggle "yo, there be the pregnant sister!" (I worked for a Catholic agency and taught them religion so they thought me a nun)
I worked w abused and neglected kids, removed from their homes. Hundreds of them. These kids are just casualties of the worst parenting, but working with them helped me see that a huge percentage of the kids having trouble in schools (black, white or purple) are doing so because of severe mental illness, parental substance issues, or trouble at home.
Charter schools, scholarships to prep schools and Outward Bound tend to cream off the best kids from a poor school, leaving behind the Special Ed kids, worst delinquents, lazy or timid girls, etc. Devil take the hindmost.
While I believe in rewarding hard work and good character, many poor children do badly in school because they have been badly brought up, badly fed, if not outright abused. While I have known plenty of abused and neglected rich kids, their parents usually pay for shrinks, nannies and better schools to substitute for their own time and effort ("a wonderful invention called boarding school")
I see. It is 'the system's' fault. I am enlightened.
Funny, but I seem to have heard that excuse somwhere before.
Yup, been the systems fault since the mid 60's. Now what changed, as in, before and after mid 60's? When the politics changed the entire social order changed. But nobody wants to talk about the enabling and disabling of the politics of the day. And all it cost was trillions in dollars and thousands in lives. And no end in sight.
The difference is clear to me: "public" schools [ie: government schools] are seen by parents as a free babysitting service. Parents do not see their money going to pay for schools [even though it is, indirectly, through the property taxes they pay as a renter or as a homeowner].
When there is a dispute in a government school, parents almost invariably take the side of their child over the teacher and the school. But in private schools, parents tend to take the side of the school and the teacher [because the parent is paying out of pocket for their child's education — so their kids are expected to learn].
I have seen it from both sides. My wife is a retired [government schools] Middle School and High School Principal of 30 years. The priorities are: teahchers' salaries and benefits, union politics, and school district politics [90% of which is grant-seeking behavior].
The kids are such a low priority that they do not matter. Attendance at the start of the day is all that counts, because that is what the disctrict's income is predicated upon. But once attendance is counted for the day, it does not matter if a child disappears afterward.
Currently, my wife is a substitute teacher in a private school. A night and day difference! The kids are polite and deferential — and the parents take the side of the teachers and the school, over the kids' [self-serving] version of events. Maybe that's due to the $20,000 annual tuition paid by the parents, huh?
So long as the government runs schools, the kids will be a low priority. That's just the way it is, when votes control budgets and when union bargaining amounts to bargaining over how much more the taxpayers are expected to pay for babysitting services.
Schools used to be a very local affair. But now, ".edu" is a federal special interest group. Get the government out of the education industry, and things would improve 1,000%.
Your comment covers a response, from a close 2nd person perspective, that deals with both last week's op-ed and the one posted above.
While I can't speak for either public or private schools, in the US, I suspect we'd both be surprised as to the similarities between the two.
My 2 sons (21 & 20) were schooled in the Public System. I supported the school and its teachers and my sons had to learn "the ropes". I gained the respect of the teachers by respecting them. But, as did my sons, they had to answer to me, in the end, until they were able/old enough to answer for themselves. I'm very blessed with these 2 young men and they are going to have successful lives.
IMO, we are products of our environment(s) and that will shape our lives, to a great extent. A friend once told me that he'd yet to meet a parent who started out to raise a bad child. But he had seen many who had bad parenting skills. I've seen teachers who had bad teaching skills and those who just hadn't learned those special skills, that evolve over time, which make educators so important to our society.
But, the sad truth is there are schools, out there on both sides of the fence, that are dysfunctional. I only hope there are very few of them.
I agree with a lot oif your comments above. But this is the basic problem, and it comes directly from the way government schools are funded:
That is an alarming graph. I assume you are looking at the value for money spent as the main focal point.
I'm thinking that any Public Education Cost/Value graph would have a similar divergence due to the numbers (of students) involved vs the charter/private education graphs. Wouldn't that be inevitable and not 100% controllable?
When there is a dispute in a government school, parents almost invariably take the side of their child over the teacher.
This was not the case 50 years ago. For the last 20 years, this has been more and more the case- and not just in poverty schools- but in schools across the board.
I agree. The common denominator, in a good school, is parent involvement...not interference. As you know "education" does not only happen in school but is a 24/7 project. An inquisitive, skeptical mind becomes a sponge.
You are 110% correct on parent invovlement. I had one child start school in an elementary school located in one of the best Districts in our area (metro Denver) where we purchased our first starter house. Our neighbors, however, were lower socio-economic working class parents. Back-to-school nights were poorly attended, 5-6 parents per class of 25 students.
We later moved to a professional class neighborhood in the same District and Back-to-School nights were so crowded, the Fire Dept. limited the number of attendees, with an average of 25-35 parents per class of 25! Those teachers were under intense scrutiny to ensure their quality of teaching. It made a huge difference.
Those teachers were under intense scrutiny to ensure their quality of teaching. It made a huge difference.
Can I assume you were in a public system? True educators love their work and want to do their best but are limited by both the student and the parent (and the educrats). We had large turnouts as well. There were some parents who interfered but most "kept their noses holstered".
My professional shift (5 on 4 off) allowed me to be available as a monitor for school field trips (zoo, science center etc) and I helped out. I had as much fun as the kids. I don't believe the teachers gave my sons any special treatment they just knew their work was appreciated and that may have helped "kick them up a notch" for their classroom. But they knew who they were answerable to. Professionals, of any vocation, always enjoy being recognized for what they do (myself included).
Good luck with your "scribes".
TC (The Canuck)
#188.8.131.52.1 Garry on 2013-07-10 19:47 (Reply)
The earlier piece, known as the 'rant', at a minimum opened a hard-to-open debate. Real talk is hard to do in the language of euphemism, but if that language is dropped, then there's nothing left but the rant --or silence.
There's a lot to be said for silence --it can prevent a war, for starters.
Unless it just postpones it, until the pressure explodes and kills two percent of the population --which in the 1860s was a tenth of today's. Today, the Civil War's 700,000 dead would be 7,000,000 --about the population of Virginia, or Massachusetts.
Did you hear about the big DC Democrat Senator who was driving home when he saw a black couple running from that direction, carrying two big-screen TVs?
He said, "I thought they were mine, but when I got home, mine were still there, he was mowing the yard and she was cooking dinner."
"The System": Educrats and unionized teachers, for whom it ain't "all about the children". I thought that was obvious.
We have again everyone bringing their favorite cultural explanation to the table again, without regard to the actual science. Liberals say it's the culture of racism, conservatives say it's the culture of no discipline, blah, blah, blah.
Retriever comes closest to the bad news that no one wants to hear. It's a function of IQ. The white or hispanic underclass acts just the same, and higher-IQ black kids in charter schools don't show the same pathologies.
IQ is not that great a predictor of individual life outcomes. It's not terrible, but too many other factors come into play. But as a predictor of group outcomes, nothing comes close to its predictive value. Nothing. Not discipline, not books in the home, not presence of a dad, not school curriculum, nothing.
As long as we refuse to know this, preferring instead to like some other solution that doesn't work, we will continue to have the same problems. African-Americans score 1SD less on IQ tests, and that has not budged for 80 years. 80. With all the integration, busing, Head Start, charter schools, connecting classrooms to the internet, wearing uniforms, that has not changed. It's unfortunate. Deal with it.
White kids at that level show the same behaviors.
Or you can have another generation like this one.
Not to disagree with you (which I rarely do), but just to emphasize that there are many character traits besides IQ which can lead a person do a dignified, self-sufficient, and honorable life.
I was told that my IQ was off the charts, but I am no expert at the game of life at all.
I focus on integrity, honor, and loyalty. And Jesus. That's the best I can do.
And humble too....I deal with people daily who have a quarter of our BD's brainpower but who throw their weight around like Pashas...
Not to be irreverent about our Diligent Editor, but this reminds me of the sign above Wilbur the Pig in "Charlotte's Web" that says "Humble, Some Pig, Radiant, Terrific" where, of course, the effort is to convince hungry people that something intangible other than quantifiable calories in the form of yummy bacon make up the value of a critter...Here's a deft post on "Charlotte's Web" as a hero myth for you...http:
You are speaking about individuals, who are of course highly variable. By dint of good character traits, such as perseverance, cooperation - I've listed more before - individuals can and do succeed despite a lesser "native intelligence." So too, many with high IQ's do not succeed because they lack such qualities.
But these even out over a population, which is why group IQ is highly meaningful (and correlates with some other qualities such as charm and ability to delay gratification, BTW). A person with an 85 IQ has to have some special ability, or have most everything else going for him, to do more than get by in school. None, repeat none, are going on to graduate degrees no matter how hard they work.
We brutalise such a person, we kick him when he's down, when we pretend that he could be anything he wants if he just tried harder. Now the poor kid thinks he's not only stupid, but lazy. It's not true, but it makes people with more IQ points feel good, because they can congratulate themselves on their virtue of being really hard workers, not like those others. When we do this to kids, we are not installing hope, but hopelessness. It is like telling 5-footers they could dunk if they really tried. Why shouldn't they hate us when we treat them that way?
I go too long. I should do my own post.
--note those numbers in the little black book of communism (which includes the nazi regime). The millions killed by 20th Century Democide --that is, by their own governments --are exclusively from the far right side of the IQ Bell Curve.
"Regression toward the mean" i guess. Here's Nyquist on the notion:
Maybe it's the fear of such a breakout of inhumanity that keeps us trying to find the key.
My experience as a sub teacher 15 years ago in a kind of exurban/rural county in northern IL was illuminating. First, they didn't care what your major was, just that you had a college degree. Every morning I could expect the phone to ring and be asked, "Can you cover ___ in [school] today?"
It didn't matter who was missing, so mostly we were indeed babysitting.
I especially noticed the difference in the two middle schools in one district. One was calm and the kids were learning. The other was a madhouse and not much learning was going on. After a while I saw what was causing the difference.
One school had a principal who had about a dozen rules, aimed at letting learning happen, and they were rigorously and quickly enforced. The teachers were supported. I had a lesson plan for the day [or more] waiting at the desk with all that I'd need.
The principal was omni-present. He met the buses arriving and leaving and seem to know all 300 or so students by name. I never went more than a few minutes in the hallways without seeing him.
The other school principal had what seemed to be a million rules that were haphazardly enforced if at all. Teachers, especially subs, were left to hang on their own. I never saw the principal. Heck, I don't know whether it was male or female.
So. One place dedicated to learning with the expectations set for clearly. On place dedicated it would seem to being a place to be for a few hours and no one seemed to know why.
I don't think this should be hard to decipher.
And I live near Detroit. The next time the Education Establishment cares about students learning will be the first time since around 1967.
You have brought up a very good point. A dysfunctional school is nearly always the responsibility of the school's administration and of the school district. There is usually very little ONE TEACHER can do in a dysfunctional school. The change needs to come at the top.
The teacher whose rant was featured in the original posting was most likely teaching at a dysfunctional school.
The change needs to come at the top
...and the bottom (ie the parents).
"It’s terrible how ... the politicians ... have screwed up public schooling in America ---"
Can it be reformed? I say not Then it is time for Horace Mann's idea to be thrown on the ash heap of history. Public schooling is obsolete. We must wrest the education of our children away from the Ruling Party, and look to ourselves.
A simple change to the States' Constitutions: "The Right to educate children is exclusively reserved to the People. The State shall have no powers to regulate or fund educational activities or facilities." Since the Tenth Amendment already denies the Federal control of education, that should pretty much put the education of our children beyond reach of our feckless and malevolent overnments.
The reason the charter school had fewer disciplinary problems is because charter schools--and I suspect the one depicted here is not an exception--face a much lower procedural bar for expelling students for bad behavior.
In the typical public school, occupying the seat is a Divine Right that can only be revoked for felonies, it seems. Attendance at a charter school is a privilege, and is treated as such by everyone whose decision counts.
It doesn't matter how many good Germans there are when Nazis are elected.
S'truth --the fearsome, ferocious truth. Once they get into office, once they've driven a nation far along the road to serfdom, does anybody really believe they will leave if/when they be voted out?
We want to think that a Reichstag Fire pretext to 'not changing horses in mid-stream' would be so obvious a national socialist ploy that they'd never use it again. But the whole point of the Beria doctrine was, LET them know it was you --let them see that they can't do anything about it (cough --Holder cough Benghazi cough, IRS cough oh what the hell, fill in the dozens more, fill in the prosecutions that weren't, fill in the Corzines beating the criminal rap even while he still has hold of the missing billion).
There's way too much schooling in our society, in my opinion. I have a degree from a very high end college (Stanford), and a difficult, responsible job, and what do I use? Math through about the sixth grade (percentages etc). Good writing skills, which I had down by tenth grade, due to a very tough ninth grade English teacher. Lots of charm and persistance and hard work, which I learned in the proverbial school of hard knocks. I never use anything I learned from school past the tenth grade.
Bring back apprenticeships!!! It is so obvious to me. What an incredible waste of our society's time and money it is to keep the dumb in school through 12th grade and the smart through college. I just cannot understand how we got off on such a wrong track.
which I learned in the proverbial school of hard knocks
The "Concrete College still provides the best classroom.
Bring back apprenticeships!!!
I'm in total agreement.
--so true --young folks REALLY go to school, unless of course they go to school.
(I've got a spare set of "" but dunno whether to put them around the first or the second "go to school")
...up 'ere it's called (by the students)..." the 'Victory' Lap ". Kinda like when 'they' changed UI (Unemployment Insurance) to EI (Employment Insurance) jus' so self esteem wasn't affected...gotta love progressive Libs!