Zeitgeist Watch

Strong op-ed from Joel Klein (NYC DOE), Michael Lomax (United Negro College Fund), and Janet Murguía (La Raza) from Friday’s WaPo:

Apologists for our educational failure say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty. They have it exactly backward: We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education. The question is whether we have the political courage to take on those who defend a status quo that serves many adults but fails many children.

And Michael Jonas talks to Deb Gist about what’s happening in Rhode Island.

6 Replies to “Zeitgeist Watch”

  1. “We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education.” Truer words were never written. We’ve known for many years how to provide a quality education for each child but many of our citizens do not want to pay for it. Of course, education begins at birth. We need to:

    Make certain every pregnant woman has prenatal care;

    Provide well-baby checks for all infants;

    Provide health care for all children;

    Make available parent education for all new parents;

    Provide high-quality preschool for impoverished children;

    Start full-service community education centers in low-income urban and rural areas;

    Find a way to attract and retain highly-qualified teachers for our most challenging schools (Yes, we might have to pay them and offer professional autonomy.);

    Offer low-achieving children enrichment experiences after school and during vacations, and so on.

    Basically we need to study the lives of high-achieving children and do our best to spread all that good stuff around.

    There are no shortcuts to a good education and it isn’t cheap.

  2. It’s also important to challenge cultural norms in many low-income minority communities that “school isn’t cool.” As a former teacher, I saw many junior high and high school students who treated education very carelessly (came late to class, didn’t pay attention, disrupted class lessons, skipped school). It’s important to realize that without family and cultural support of education, teachers will be fighting an uphill battle to educate many of the nation’s at-risk children.

  3. “You have it wrong.” “No, you have it wrong.” “NO, you have it wrong…”

    What a cheap rhetorical tool. And what a vapid argument. Why can’t the two happen simultaneously?

    A problem occurs when a focus on teachers becomes an argument to ignore the issue of poverty. That’s an argument for the status quo on all things other than school.

  4. Regarding Attorney DC’s comment,
    I wonder when did low-income minority communities stop valuing education?
    Why did they stop valuing it?

  5. Ed Harris: In answer to your question, in my opinion the lack of interest in formal education seems to be a relatively recent (e.g., last 25 years or so) phenomenon. I suggest reading one of John McWhorter’s books on the subject: Losing the Race (1999) or Winning the Race (2006), which review the emotional detachment from school often evident in modern African-American (as distinct from black immigrant) students. McWhorter (who himself is African-American) writes from his perspective as a former professor at esteemed universities in the 1990’s.

    In my experience, working as a teacher in southern California, I saw many Mexican-American students saying that “there’s no reason to care about school in the U.S., b/c we’ll go back to Mexico soon anyway.”

    My point is that we can’t simply look at “poverty” as the problem without looking at cultural factors as well. Evidence shows that black and Hispanic students tend to do more poorly in school even controlling for income levels. From my experience as a former teacher, that difference is not due to lack of natural ability, but simply lack of effort and motivation. Point being that “poverty” isn’t always the culprit, especially when low-income Asian and black immigrant students often do quite well in school.

  6. The concrete proposals offered by Klein et al were not bad, if not entirely earth-shattering, but framing their EEC critics as “apologists for our educational failure [who] say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty” is unnecessarily nasty. What people like Richard Rothstein actually say is that more resources are required to overcome the effects of poverty. This position is not far away from what Geoffrey Canada is doing. Likewise, KIPP achieves its results by pouring in greater resources (namely teacher’s time).

    It is also a tad ironic that Lomax and Murguia would sign onto anything with Klein, considering how badly blacks and Hispanics have done under his reign: no closure of the black-white achievement gap on NAEP, fewer black students getting into highly selective high schools, and Hispanics going backwards on NAEP math.

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