Thursday, April 14, 2005

Common Sense on Public Education

There is a very fine post raised by Ken over at Common Sense regarding the status of public education. As usual, I had to reply and the comment makes a fine post on its own. I am pasting it here, but you may want to visit Ken's location to read his tretise laden with some very fine questions about public education:

My two cents - for what its worth:

Fine post and many challenges, Ken. The nub of it is that the trouble with public education involves the whole of society.

Where steroid laden ball players are paid exhorbinent salarys to swing a bat or toss a ball, teachers can't afford to live in the cities within which they serve. On the other hand, paying teachers more is not often on the docket for politicians, local, sate or federal because that usually involves an increase in taxation. It is mystifying why people are willing to pay more to keep prisoners and build new state of the art prisons, but can't seem to muster a few bucks per student to improve the schools. It costs more than 30K a year to house and feed and keep a prisoner. Students, on the other hand are substantially cheeper - less than 10K. Schools, good ones, keep people out of prison. go figure.

On another front, when Sun Micro Systems put up their new, brand spanking campus up in East Palo Alto, the local middle school was litterally falling down around the kids, teachers, administrators and parents. We have to ask ourselves, why is it that corporate folks wouldn't think of going into a building that they couldn't see out of the windows (as they were designed), but are willing to have the local kids founder in the dimly lit, moldy rooms that are a sad exuse for shools. What we need is capitalism with a conscience. If it is good enough for Sun, then it is good enough for the school five blocks away from the palacial spread of a campus that capitalism built.

When I was teaching Mathematics in a high school in Connecticut, and I dared to fail some students, the parents would go over my head and see if they could fudge the numbers up so little jonny or sally could at least pass out of learning fractions. I had parents outright lie for their kids and I had kids who did so many drugs over the weekend that they fell asleep in my classroom. Who's fault is that?

As you hit the nail on the head, the solution lies in the whole of the society. We need a bigger hammer, and we need everybody swinging. Unfortunately, the federal government is so distracted by politicing that we end up with poorly funded new programs (no child left behind) and underfunded programs that actually work (head start). That, my friend, is twisted. In the end, the kids suffer, and our society needs to figure out what to do with unproductive, poorly educated work force.

As you can tell, the argument is cyclical. Like the chicken and the egg questions, you have to start with one or the other, but it is best if we work on all the fronts by talking about educational reform not from the stance as a school problem, but one that is a burden on the whole of society.

Our schools are only as good as the communities within which they are embedded. If the community doesn't care, change won't happen. And, indeed it does need fixing.


Anonymous said...

''Our schools are only as good as the communities within which they are embedded.''

Then blame the victim: If parents don't care enough about their kids to bust their asses to get out of an area with poor schools, that is, to get out of the community that only provides poor schools, then Why is it the concern of anyone outside the community?

Things are bad at home? This is the motivating factor behind immigration. Immigrants are smart enough to leave a bad situation, ''Ain't nothing changing here, folks, time to ramble.''

This is the USofA, no passport or green card required to relocate.

Ken Grandlund said...

A rather simplistic approach, don't you think? Get up and move is easy to say, but until you've done it (as I have- 7 states in my life so far, all by my choice) you don't realize how expensive it can be.

You think only local communities are hurt by uneducated or undereducated kids? Wrong again- from an economic standpoint, low education translates to low wages, lower tax revenue, and less public services when you want or need them. Further, low education levels leading to low employment can lead to crime, which can and does travel all over, again effecting more than just a locality.

True, no one is forced to stay somewhere, but kids can't up and leave on their own. But the effects of poor education are felt everywhere.

Anonymous said...

''[K]ids can't up and leave on their own.'' - Ken Grandlund

At what point does one become responsible for one's own education?

If your education ends when school ends, at 8th grade, high school, college or grad school, you will forever be ignorant. At some point you're the problem, not the schools, not teachers, not the community, not ''the system'' or any other name you want to give all that that is not-you.

If you grow up in an area with bad schools, and you stay there to raise your children?

The child is father to the man but at what point was the initiative drained out of him that things could be better for his children. I don't think that happened at school. Blame the community if you will. But don't blame school.

As for leaving the community being a simplistic approach, only simple approaches work. No one person can raise the standard of his community by himself. His choice is to endure and inflict his present situation on his children - or leave.

Parents can get the f* out. Leave nation-building to G. W. Bush. Do you want to be there when he comes in to redevelop your neighborhood? Why is nation-building such a problem? because all the smart people realized the local situation was impossible and bailed long ago.

windspike said...

Dear Anon,

Not all parents have the wearwithall to "get the F* out." Some are stuck where they are. Smart people is a euphamism for folks with the cash to move or to send their kids to some upscale private school.

Folks with no cash to even pay the rent, stuck in low pay for hard work jobs, and may even work three jobs to put food on the table, don't have the same options as the folks in line to get their Estate Tax Cut.

Remember, just because you have the capital doesn't mean you are so special...nor that you should always get what you want. In fact, you have a larger burden to care for your community (and I am speaking about all of our fellow Americans, not just the one's you want to think about).

Anonymous said...

To the contrary

He who travels light travels fast.

Having nothing makes it easier to move. You cross the river with the clothes on your back.

Having capital is an impediment to moving. You're a prisoner of your possessions. All it takes to move is a ticket out of town, and the willingness to ask for shelter where you land. Ask an immigrant.