Occupy The Schools

Occupy the public schools. That’s this week’s School of Thought column at TIME:

It’s easy to get angry at banks and CEOs, especially as more Americans slip below the poverty line while the rich keep getting richer. But if the goal of Occupy Wall Street is improving social mobility in this country, then the movement really needs to focus as much on educational inequality as it does on income inequality. There is perhaps no better example of how the system is rigged against millions of Americans than the education our children receive.

You can occupy the entire column by clicking here.

72 thoughts on “Occupy The Schools

  1. Jason

    The above argument is retarded. If we can quickly increase student performance by 20% by winnowing out ineffective teachers and cleaning up failing schools, thereby allowing more attention to be focused cultural causes, which we all agree are a huge factor, are LaborLawyer and Attorney DC seriously suggesting that is not a goal worth pursuing?

  2. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    “In practice this will mean higher turnover as districts have to work harder to winnow out ineffective teachers.”

    This depends totally on the economy. If it continues as it is, districts will no longer grant tenure to almost every teacher and label 95% of veterans as “effective.” Instead, highly qualified people will apply for increasingly few openings in school districts and administrators will be able to retain only the most effective. This is what happened during the Great Depression. Of course, as soon as the economy improved many of these people (mainly men) left their teaching positions for more lucrative employment.

    However, if the economy does improve, the picture will be entirely different. A few minutes ago there was an ad on CNN reminding viewers that the baby boomer teachers are retiring in record numbers leaving many openings for Americans who want to serve the nation’s children. The Department of Labor is predicting a huge teacher shortage in the next ten years. My guess is that Michelle, Jason, Andrew, Joel, Eva and other “reformers” will not want these jobs. Who will take them? The captive women with the college degrees will no longer be there. Maybe a few young women will accept positions in their affluent neighborhoods but who will accept the job in inner-city DC, where they will be judged by the students’ test scores? Would you? Even I, who taught mainly poor kids for 42 years and loved every minute of it, would not do it today.

    Who of us is right? Only time will tell.

  3. phillipmarowe

    If we could improve student achievement by 33 1/3% by separating students based upon their behaviour, the support of their parents/guardians/caregivers and the current level of ability, would LaborLawyer and Attorney DC suggest these are not goals worth pursuing?

  4. LaborLawyer

    phillipmarowe —

    Re your 11/27/11 comment — not sure if your comment is a question or a cryptic argument.

    Tracking students based on student behavior/parent support is a way of describing the credible-threat-of-expulsion/skim-the-cream advantages that charters enjoy relative to neighborhood schools. Charters might help their students, but intensify the student-behavior/reading-below-grade-level problems in the neighborhood schools. Better to attack the student-behavior and reading-below-grade-level problems for all the students in the neighborhood schools and forget about the charters.

    Tracking students based on current level of ability sounds like a good idea to me (much easier to teach a class were the students were mostly performing at the same academic level) — again, assuming you mean to do this in the neighborhood public school rather than by sending the higher-performing students to a charter.

  5. Jason

    I agree with more use of tracking, but hasn’t that fallen out of vogue in public schools in the name of the lefty religion of inclusivity?

  6. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    “the lefty religion of inclusivity”

    Thanks for giving us background on who you are and what you stand for. And to think I thought “inclusivity” was a core American value.

    Once we see all the nation’s children as “our children” we’ll begin to see the educational improvements that we all supposedly covet.

  7. phillipmarowe

    LaborLawyer
    I am thinking of ability tracking in the public school, or, perhaps we ought to refer to it as performance tracking, as that designation puts the responsibility on the child and hopefully will encourage them to take responsibility for their learning.

    Jason, you seem to have forgotten that special education was the dumping ground for black kids, before the days of “lefty religion of inclusivity.”
    I see autistic kids included with “regular ed” kids and there’s no problem , nor drag on the “regular kids.” They tune out the autistic child who wails in the class and help the one who gets very agitated when corrected.

    Also, Laborlawyer, I was poking Jason, using the Biblical example of Lot’s pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah.

  8. Jason

    Phillip, I admit I don’t know what you’re talking about. In inner-city Memphis where I live, the students are 100% black, so there is no dumping them! Wouldn’t tracking by performance facilitate educating those black kids that actually WANT an education but are trapped in crappy urban schools (with the associated culture of poverty) because their parents can’t afford to escape to the suburbs? Otherwise, they are trapped in classes where behavior problems are so severe, and the cultural bias against education and “acting white” are so powerful, that no learning is taking place. I thought that is what you were alluding to in your earlier post.

  9. Jason

    “If we could improve student achievement by 33 1/3% by separating students based upon their behaviour, the support of their parents/guardians/caregivers and the current level of ability, would LaborLawyer and Attorney DC suggest these are not goals worth pursuing?”

    Poking me? I thought that was a serious argument for school choice! If allowing school choice could boost achievement by 1/3 then I would say HELL YES! It would be insane and cruel to deny children a 1/3 performance boost. Unless you are wedded to some kind of social engineering religion that requires that kids at all levels must occupy the same classroom? More likely you are wedded to maintaining union benefits for public school teachers. At what cost our children? Our future?

  10. Jason

    “Once we see all the nation’s children as “our children” we’ll begin to see the educational improvements that we all supposedly covet.”

    Linda, if you have kids that actually have the ability and the desire to learn, but you dump them into the same classrooms that are riddled by gangs, drug-dealing, violence, pregnancies, with a 55% graduation rate, and graduates that are functionally illiterate, then how is anyone being served? Is it really preferable to keep everyone equal by ensuring that no one excels? Sounds like a Communistic religion to me.

  11. Jason

    “I thought “inclusivity” was a core American value.”

    I thought “meritocracy” was a core American value. Or has that concept been abandoned with the loss of a hardier grade of Americans?

  12. phillipmarowe

    Jason:” Otherwise, they are trapped in classes where behavior problems are so severe,”

    And what will you do for those kids.
    Consign them to the dustbins of history?

  13. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Jason, I never said anything about dumping kids together. I certainly was particular about where I placed my children. Weren’t you?

    By “our children” I meant that if each of us had the same concern for other’s people’s children as we do for our own, then maybe we’d get somewhere. I mean ALL children and not just the one-third in poor schools who are lucky enough to have good health, good parents and other basics. Teachers are concerned with the other two-thirds. People who have no experience in schools often have the mistaken notion that all poor kids are educationally disadvantaged. They are not.

    Inclusivity and achievement through merit are both strong American values. You must have us confused with North Korea.

  14. Jason

    I never said anything about writing any children off. I just want every student to get the best opportunity that is commensurate with his or her ability and willingness to achieve. I think putting students in classrooms with others of similar aptitude and willingness to work can make a critical difference. There is no reason to be so terrified of meritocracy in education. It will better prepare them for the real world! NOT EVERYBODY CAN BE A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER WHERE WE GO ON PRETENDING THEY ARE ALL EQUAL!

    Phillip, to answer your question about how to attack the culture of poverty among the bottom ranks, there is no easy answer, but the most obvious place to start would be a national “War on Illegitimacy,” starting with an educational campaign about the link between marriage/illegitimacy and poverty and a long, hard look at how our welfare programs and tax laws discourage marriage. Illegitimacy among blacks in urban Memphis is close to 80% and is the most obvious causal factor to the pervasive culture of poverty with near universal dependence of public assistance.

  15. Jason

    Understanding how Leftist pedagogy that predominates in ED programs and our schools is reinforcing and exacerbating the culture of poverty that is decimating our underclasses:

    http://www.amazon.com/Life-Bottom-Worldview-Makes-Underclass/dp/1566635055/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322663952&sr=8-1

    [something very strange is happening in our schools. … Pettifogging attention to details of syntax and orthography is said to inhibit children’s creativity and powers of self-expression. … to assert that there is a correct way of speaking or writing is to indulge in a kind of bourgeois cultural imperialism; and to tell children that they have got something wrong is necessarily to saddle them with a debilitating sense of inferiority form which they will never recover.

    There is no blackboard and no rote learning. Perhaps the method of teaching by turning everything into a game can work when the teacher is talented and the children are already socialized to learn; but when, as is usually the case, neither of these conditions obtains, the results are disastrous

    Of the generations of children who grew up with these pedagogical methods … they have no interests outside themselves, that their world is as small as the day they entered it, and their horizons have not expanded in the least. … For to develop an interest requires powers of concentration and an ability to tolerate a degree of boredom while the elements of a skill are learned for the sake of a worthwhile end. … it is the plain duty of adults, from the standpoint of their superior knowledge and experience of the world, to impart to children what they need to know so that later they may exercise genuine choice.

    teachers and the teachers of the teachers in the training colleges are deeply imbued with the kinds of educational ideas that have brought us to this pass … a considerable proportion of the [population] is simply unaware of the need for education. … if there are no jobs to employ their unskilled (and it must be said, rather reluctant) labor, it is the fault of the government in league with the plutocrats

    the unemployed young person considers the number of jobs in an economy as a fixed quantity. Just as the national income is a cake to be doled out in equal or unequal slices, so the number of jobs in an economy has nothing to do with the conduct of the people who live in it but is immutably fixed. This is a concept of the way the world works that has been assiduously peddled [in our schools]

    one great psychological advantage to the [underclass] in their disdain for education: it enables them to maintain the fiction that the society around them is grossly, even grotesquely, unjust, and that they themselves are the victims of this injustice … If [education] were seen by them as a means available to all to rise in the world … their whole viewpoint would naturally have to change. Instead of attributing their misfortune to others, they would have to look inward, which is always a painful process. Here we see the reason why scholastic success is violently discouraged, and those who pursue it persecuted, in the underclass schools: for it is perceived, inchoately not doubt, as a threat to an entire Weltanschauung. The success of one is a reproach to all. … The sour satisfaction of being dependent on [welfare] resides in its automatic conferral of the status of Victim, which in itself simultaneously explains one’s failure and absolves one of the obligation to make something of oneself, ex hypothesi, impossible because of the unjust nature of society which made one a victim in the first place. The redemptive value of education blows that whole affecting scene apart…

    the underclass has been victimized, or perhaps betrayed is a better word. The educational absurdities foisted on the lower orders were the idea not of the lower orders themselves but of those who were in a position to avoid their baleful effects: that is to say, middle-class intellectuals]

  16. Jason

    I would point out that Dalrymple observes the identical underclass phenomena in whites in England, undercutting the significance of race and IQ as discussed above. It’s primarily a cultural phenomena.

    The undercutting of meritocracy and incentives/pressures to excel, both in absolute terms and relative to others, in the administration of teachers and in the classroom, feeds the culture of poverty, which in turn is a primary factor in failing schools. As Dalryple observes, it is part of a complex worldview that encompasses philosophical, educational, economic, and political beliefs. Sacrificing the opportunity for excellence in those that are able to obtain it in the name of equalitarianism of result. The profession is hamstrung by ideology as much as it is by union abuses of power.

  17. phillipmarowe

    Jason Says:
    November 30th, 2011 at 1:22 pm
    Understanding how Leftist pedagogy that predominates in ED programs and our schools is reinforcing and exacerbating the culture of poverty that is decimating our underclasses:

    Funny, but according to Jesus, we will always have the poor with us.

    I wonder how leftist pedagogy or idelogy reinforced the culture of poverty 2000 years ago or during the Dark Ages of Europe.
    It was undoubtably due to leftist pedagogy that the Native Americans never built castles like the English pilgrims.

    Jason sounds like the clown and Fenty/Johnson supporter Ron Moten:

    Moten describes himself as a Civil Rights Republican like Carter G. Woodson. Borrowing from Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro,” Moten notes in his campaign material that blacks need to be self reliant “not depend on others to do for us what we should do for ourselves.”

    His campaign flyer reads: “Those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others, never obtain any more rights and privileges in the end than they had in the beginning. Woodson continues, when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will not have to find his proper place. You will not have to tell him to go to the back door he will go on his own.”

    “I Ron Moten ask you the question, “Is this not what we have seen in ward 7 for the past 12 years?”

    The answer is yes this is what Democrat lawmakers have done in DC for decades: brainwash black people. Ward 7 residents have suffered economically from Democrats pursuing policies which keep them oppressed. In DC Wards 7 and 8 have the highest unemployment rate, teen pregnancy, poverty in DC and the highest number of households headed by single women.

    According to the Urban Institute, about 67 percent of children in Ward 7 are living in single-parent homes. President Johnson’s Great Society began this train wreck of social policies which Democrats continue to pursue relentlessly at all levels of government and which continue to drive blacks into further economic decline.

    It sound be noted that Moten didn’t mind sucking on the teat of the government as Fenty directed District of Columbia money to Moten and his peace alcoholics.

  18. Jason

    “Funny, but according to Jesus, we will always have the poor with us.
    I wonder how leftist pedagogy or idelogy reinforced the culture of poverty 2000 years ago or during the Dark Ages of Europe.
    It was undoubtably due to leftist pedagogy that the Native Americans never built castles like the English pilgrims.”

    If you define poverty as the bottom 47% (the percentage of Americans that are not required to pay income taxes), then yes we will always have poor.

    If poverty is defined in absolute terms, then I believe that statement is false. The evidence is clear that in America where economic opportunity is relatively plentiful, that chronic poverty would be almost completely eliminated if everyone would do three simple things: (1) graduate high school, (2) not make babies outside of marriage, and (3) get up and work a job, even the most menial job, for 40 hours per week. There is no meaningful lack of availability of food, clothing, and shelter in America. Our poor suffer from high rates of obesity, cable television and ownership of expensive videogame consoles.

    If you don’t believe that poverty in America is cultural, then explain how so many Asians, impoverished in their home countries, come here with strong education, family, and work ethics and excel. Explain why we have to import poor Mexicans to work because Americans refuse to work physically demanding jobs.

    As for your historical references, you are making false analogies to times and places where such economic opportunity was not available. If you want to understand the negative effects of leftist ideology and education, an appropriate comparison is modern day Cuba. I would also invite you to study China’s “Great Leap Forward” or the experience of the U.S.S.R.

    Funny that you would bring up Native Americans. In a land of plenty, they suffer terribly on their reservations as a result of their communal style of living and government dependency. Go figure.

  19. Jason

    “Woodson continues, when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will not have to find his proper place. You will not have to tell him to go to the back door he will go on his own.”

    Wow, that is so true, and so powerful, and such an indictment of what is being conveyed in much of our public education. Why not teach people to be strong and self-reliant instead of victims at the whim of forces beyond their control? Victimology or “Grievance Studies” are the backbone of public education here in our city schools, and in almost all universities.

  20. Chris Smyr

    What happened to the discussion? Is it just a busy week back at work for everyone? Hopefully we all can pick this very thread for bucking the trend and continuing an education discussion until completion, meaning a reply is necessary from:

    Cal:

    eduwonk.com/2011/11/occupy-the-schools.html#comment-231629

    LaborLawyer:

    eduwonk.com/2011/11/occupy-the-schools.html#comment-231442

    and AttorneyDC:

    eduwonk.com/2011/11/occupy-the-schools.html#comment-231558

  21. Jason

    Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington, among others, claims that “non-school factors”, such as family income, etc, account for only 60% of a child’s performance in school. That leaves poor instruction and misguided pedagogy/curriculum 40% responsible for our failing schools.

    I would argue strongly, however, that there is a powerful feedback loop and synthesis between “non-school” and “in-school” factors.” Shoddy education, high dropout rates, misguided pedagogy, grievance studies, all reinforce and exacerbate the culture of poverty in failing schools.

    Then there is the 500 pound gorilla: illegitimacy.

  22. Jason

    http://www.thecartelmovie.com/

    Hey, Eduwonk, why don’t you do a review of this movie for your next piece. It is every bit as good if not better than Waiting for Superman. It should be mandatory viewing for anyone interested in education reform. And it is now free for Netflix subscribers.

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