Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is there something wrong with our schools?

Recently the St. Louis Beacon asked people to contribute their opinions on what is wrong with our schools. I found the assumption they started out with interesting. Children in the US are poorly educated therefore the problem must lie with the schools. Starting form that assumption we have the following areas to tweak curriculum, administration or teachers. Each of these has the benefit of holding none of us responsible.

Lets try to avoid this assumption. Now what do we have? Schools in wealthy areas produce better learning results with the same and even fewer resources than low income schools. It is true. It is even acknowledged. Lets take this even further. Students who are enrolled in parochial schools perform better than students in low schools in low income areas. Its also true it is acknowledged.

Where do these tow pieces of data lead us? The children in privileged areas are superior? we reject this both politically and genetically. So then it must be the schools. The conclusion is understandable but incorrect. Thousands of schools tens of thousands of educators all trying different things and yet coming to the same result tell us that the problem lies not with the schools, not with the educators but with the common factor the students.

Having rejected race and genectics what do these students have in common? Poverty? Yes,but results for students in poverty can be shown to vary greatly. Most of the students share a culture,black culture, and that is a culture of despair.

According to the Sentencing Project. One in three black ten year olds expect to go to prison. How can a teacher motivate a student who expects to go to prison? Why does he have this expectation? Because he is rational. 32% of black men are felons. Those men experience a lifetime of economic penalties which result in poverty and even more criminal acts. Thus the child who has grown in an environment where in order to survive most people engage in some criminality and all expect to eventually be caught is rational in anticipating life as a felon.

"Teacher no one uses algebra in C Block" I made that up but one gets the gist.

So how do we improve our schools. Step one end the War on Drugs that has done so much to destroy American and especially black family structure. Step two provide felons with a path back to citizenship so the can provide a better life to their families and a vision of hope to their children. Step three do all the things we need to do as a nation for everyone's economic well being like investments in technology because if we improve education these folks are going to need jobs.


  1. Well, while I understand your logic, basic experience with the system can teach you otherwise. My husband just made a career change from law to teaching. He has met more people in administration that want to do the opposite of educate and empower than those that want to help. It seems in our experience that the administrations of the schools, public in this case are at the route of the problem.

  2. Brenda your husband has discovered that one administration performs in a sub par manner. I have no reason to doubt that. I very much doubt that all or even most administrations have performed poorly for the last twenty years. Those who attack our school systems claim that we have bad administrations or bad teachers.

    Lets begin with bad teachers. May we use your husband as one example. Your husband left a high prestige and highly paid profession to teach. I suspect he did so because of a sincere desire to contribute. Teachers do not pursue their profession because they are greedy.Yet listen to GW and even Obama "we are going to hold teachers accountable.We are going to force them to be transferred and treated in any manner that the administration feels will better serve the mission." It is so easy to blame the teachers and so damned illogical.

    Now lets address the admin.These managers come from a background which leads me to believe they thought out this industry for the same reason as your husband. Have they become jaded? No doubt some have but universally?

    No the universal aspect is the children. No matter how dedicated the teacher he cannot educate a person who is preparing for a life as a felon and an early death. The teacher cannot educate the child who's parents are in prison and is being raised by his grandmother, who also works and leaves him in the care of teenagers.Often the teenagers introduce him to drugs.The teacher cannot teach a child who's mother is so indigent that she moves at least once every six months to avoid paying rent in arrears. The teacher cannot even teach the child who grew up eating paint chips.

    To judge the schools as failing without addressing the other factors that affect children is unfair to educators.

  3. I am an urban teacher and you nailed it. Congratulations! I only have one minor disagreement - this is NOT exclusive to black kids, but to kids who live in poverty and high crime areas. They aren't all black. In fact, more and more of them are Hispanic.