stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘social policy’ Category

Title IX is 40 years old…when and how do we teach about that in schools?

In anti-bias teaching, democracy, Education Policy, feminist work, gender and education, NCLB, social policy, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

(Image from the Sports and Entertainment Law Blog)

Have we come a long way baby? Given the fact that Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, was banned this week from speaking on the House floor because she said “vagina” during her compelling argument against restricting women’s reproductive rights – I think we’ve fallen a long way back in time, way before the 70’s when radical policy changes were made to improve the lives of girls and women in the United States.

One of those radical policy changes occurred forty years ago when Title IX was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon, and has faced many legal challenges over the years. Most people familiar with the phrase “Title IX” would immediately connect the law to girls’ and young women’s rights to play sports in any school receiving federal funding, but sports weren’t even mentioned in the legislation. The legislation prohibits sex discrimination in “all” of an institutions programs and activities, including sports, but extending well beyond sports. In fact, even sexual harassment of students is prohibited under Title IX, and if sex “bias” includes the way we teach and what we teach, I’m surprised that we haven’t heard about anyone using Title IX as a reason to include pro-women curriculum in schools at any level.

But a pro-women approach to education seems nearly impossible given the current war against women being waged in the U.S. (Even if it’s not just against women, but the pursuit of social control writ large). The attack on women and the persistent questioning of any attention to girls and women in education was gaining steam in 2001, just as the No Child Left Behind Act was being written and enacted. For example, The Heritage Foundation (formed in 1973, just one year after Title IX…coincidence?) describes itself as:

“Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

And within its “think tank” The Heritage Foundation determined that the Women’s Educational Equity Act was a “waste of money,” an opinion argued in this article, apparently written by a woman but written against girls and women. This article, like many others hitting newspapers and journals throughout the 2000s, highlights girls’ academic achievements in test scores relative to boys’ test scores. The article, of course, doesn’t mention that most girls and women still don’t know their basic rights, don’t know about the history of women’s rights in the U.S. or across the world, can’t recall any woman who is serving in a leadership role in the U.S. government, and have no idea that even in 2012 women still only make .77 for every one dollar earned by a man in the same job. A lot of folks may not even know that the “Paycheck Fairness Act” was voted on in 2012 and defeated. This Act would have made it easier for women to determine whether they were being paid fairly as compared to their counterparts who are men, but that right has been denied.

So where is Title IX in education? I can’t say I have ever heard about or observed any classroom at any level discussing the significance of this legislation in the daily lives and education of girls and women, and I definitely haven’t heard about or observed anyone teaching about women from an anti-discrimination perspective that would reflect the goals of Title IX. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the sex discrimination of our K-12 curriculum, and there are plenty of materials out there to help us all get started, including lots of links in the text above.

Do you teach high school? Check out this syllabus for teaching women’s rights. And NCSS standards are already included.

Don’t teach high school? Well, look over the syllabus to check your own knowledge about women’s fight for basic rights and adapt the material and activities to align with the age of your students.

And be sure to include current events in your teaching. Lucky us, the news is saturated with evidence that there is indeed a war against women being waged, and we get to teach it all, including the awesome performance of the Vagina Monologues in Lansing, Michigan on the Capitol steps , and the op-ed written by Representative Lisa Brown – two big news events this week alone.

We’ve gone a long way back in time baby – but it looks like women just might be waking up and deciding that the battles won in the 1970s, including Title IX among others eroding away, don’t guarantee anything when 40 years have passed.

**Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled has a good overview of Title IX and, as you will see, anti-women rhetoric is commonplace in the comments – a testament to today’s sexist climate.

Occupy Wall Street Continues – Some Comments on Economic Inequality

In democracy, economics and economies, politics, social class, social policy on October 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Occupy Wall Street (now with its own wikipedia entry that is pretty informative) continues and catches fire across the country and the globe. Working people are sick of being trampled on – and privileged people with a conscience are sick of seeing the most economically and socially vulnerable get squashed under unethical policies and practices.

 

The average CEO in America makes about 200 times more than the average workers in their companies.

Some say, “they’ve earned it – they’ve worked hard.”

I say those people must never have worked low-wage jobs and have no idea how “hard” workers work – many much harder than the often isolated, pampered, and (even if stressed out) incredibly privileged highly-paid CEOs.

It wasn’t always like this – in the 1970s, for example, the “gap” in pay between workers and CEOs was much smaller, and guess what? The rate of what economists and others call “social mobility” – that is, the rate at which real people were able to move into more secure and stable economic lives – was much much greater then than it is today in 2011.

In fact, the U.S. has almost zero social mobility today. That means that (most likely) the social class of a child’s parents will also be the social class of the child as an adult. No upward movement is expected.

While CEO salaries are higher than ever and have skyrocketed in the past 30 years to unimaginable rates, real wages for workers have stagnated and even fallen. That means the average male wage worker in the 1970’s is essentially making less money today than he made back in the good ol’ days. (My mom tells me this all the time – that she lived a much higher quality of life because of her wages in the 70s than she can today. She’s a working-class gal who worked in many different working-class jobs my entire life. She is a living economic barometer and is making less today than she did in the 70s).

How did this happen?

A simplified answer might go something like this:

1. “Trickle Down Economics” (Reagan, Thatcher, etc.) came into play. That is, keep as much money as possible in the pockets of the wealthy and they will support the economy through their spending and create more jobs – it will “trickle down” to the poor suckers at the bottom. These economic decisions essentially created Class Warfare in the 70s (apparently some folks weren’t so happy about the “social mobility” happening with more equitable treatment and pay that resulted from the Civil Rights movement). It was Class Warfare – get the money back into the hands of the nation’s richest and let them decide what to do with the economy and the fate of the common folks. The nation’s wealthiest 1% were fighting against everyone one else – and they won.

2. The emphasis on stock prices on Wall Street exploded. Fewer companies offered “pension plans” and more companies offered middle-class folks the “wonderful opportunity” to take some of the money that would have gone into a pension plan and make their “own investment decisions in the stock market.” Brilliant, right? Now the top 1% wouldn’t be the only Americans concerned about stock market prices, but millions of middle-class folks (who don’t usually know enough about the stock market to be making these kinds of decisions, and who don’t usually have enough money to be playing such high-stakes gambling games with what they do have) will want higher stock prices too.

3. Higher stock prices mean higher profits for corporations which means lower costs which means fewer and lower paid workers. (And higher salaries for CEOs who prove they can make this happen).

4. And, higher stock prices mean higher profits for corporations which means locating more and more unexplored “markets” which means for-profit corporations moving aggressively into foreign markets and often crush local small businesses that are more sustainable, treat their workers better, and care more about the local community.

5. And, higher stock prices mean an eventual “saturation” of all possible markets where there is no more possible “growth” outside so the profits have to be buttressed by inside cuts. Again, fewer and lower wage jobs (and higher salaries for CEOs who prove they can do this).

6. So then average joes (on the losing end of Class Warfare) find themselves stressing out over their stock investments just as they lose their own jobs because corporations are doing what they can do increase their profits.

7. NAFTA and other free trade agreements have exacerbated the process listed above.

8. Working wages are then at best stagnant, at worst lower or non-existent.

9. The top 1% not only increases their salaries exponentially, but benefits exponentially from increased stock prices in their companies and in companies they invest their personal retirement in.

10. When repeated over and over again – you see where this has landed us and where it might go from here if something isn’t done.

11. During this whole time (70s until now) this increase in expecting individuals to take care of themselves (re: moving from collective pensions to individual investment options with 401k, etc.) and a focus on “autonomy” and “privatization,” has also decimated policies and practices put in place for the common good: state welfare for low income families, public education that can support social mobility, foodstamp programs, and many other programs that serve as safety nets for the most vulnerable. If the mantra in the Civil Rights Movement was one of collectivity and “we are in this together,” the mantra today is, “everyone for him or herself.” And it only benefits the top 1% of our country.

 

FABULOUS speech by Linda Darling-Hammond!

In democracy, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, poverty, prison, social action, social policy, teacher education resources on August 4, 2011 at 2:35 am

Thanks to JB for sending this via email…

From the Washington Post:

Posted at 07:30 PM ET, 08/01/2011

Darling-Hammond: The mess we are in

Stanford University Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond helped Barack Obama draft his educational plan when he was a presidential candidate, and advised him on education issues during the transition between Obama’s 2008 election and 2009 inauguration. Since then, she has opposed the standardized test-based school reform policies of the Obama administration. Her speech at last Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington D.C. explains the extent of the trouble public education is in. Here it is.

Darling-Hammond directs the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and was founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. A former president of the American Educational Research Association, Darling-Hammond focuses her research, teaching, and policy work on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity.

Darling-Hammond’s speech:

Many people are asking: Why are we here? We are here because we are committed to a strong public education system that works for ALL our children. We are here because we want to prepare children for the 21st century world they are entering, not for an endless series of multiple-choice tests that increasingly deflect us from our mission to teach them well. We are here to protest the policies that produce the increasingly segregated and underfunded schools so many of our children attend, and we are here to represent the parents, educators and community members who fight for educational opportunity for them against the odds every day.

We are here to say it is not acceptable for the wealthiest country in the world to be cutting millions of dollars from schools serving our neediest students; to be cutting teachers by the tens of thousands, to be eliminating art, music, PE, counselors, nurses, librarians, and libraries (where they weren’t already gone, as in California); to be increasing class sizes to 40 or 50 in Los Angeles and Detroit.

It is not acceptable to have schools in our cities and poor rural districts staffed by a revolving door of beginning and often untrained teachers, many of whom see this as charity work they do on the way to a real job. And it is not acceptable that the major emphasis of educational reform is on bubbling in Scantron test booklets, the results of which will be used to rank and sort schools and teachers, so that those at the bottom can be fired or closed – not so that we will invest the resources needed actually to provide good education in these schools.

We are here to challenge the aggressive neglect of our children. With 1 out of 4 living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized country (nearly double what it was 30 years ago); a more tattered safety net – more who are homeless, without health care, and without food security; a more segregated and inequitable system of public education, in which the top schools spend 10 times more than the lowest spending; we nonetheless have a defense budget larger than that of the next 20 countries combined and greater disparities in wealth than any other leading country.

We have produced a larger and more costly prison system than any country in the world — we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its inmates — populated primarily by high school dropouts on whom we would not spend $10,000 a year when they were in school, but we will spend more than $40,000 a year when they are in prison – a prison system that is now directly devouring the money we should be spending on education.

But our leaders do not talk about these things. They say there is no money for schools – and of poor children, they say: “Let them eat tests.”

And while many politicians talk of international test score comparisons, they rarely talk about what high-performing countries like Finland, Singapore, and Canada actually do: They ensure that all children have housing, health care, and food security. They fund their schools equitably. They invest in the highest-quality preparation, mentoring and professional development for teachers and school leaders, completely at government expense. They organize their curriculum around problem-solving and critical thinking skills. And they test students rarely (in Finland, not at all) – and almost never with multiple-choice tests.

Many of the top-performing nations rely increasingly on assessments that include research projects, scientific investigation, and other intellectually challenging work – developed and scored by teachers – just as progressive educators here have been urging for years.

None of these countries uses test scores to rank and sort teachers – indeed the Singaporean minister of education made a point of noting at the recent international summit on teaching that they believe such a practice would be counterproductive – and none of them rank and punish schools – indeed several countries forbid this practice. They invest in their people and build schools’ capacity to educate all their students.

Meanwhile, our leaders advocate for teachers with little training – who will come and go quickly, without costing much money, without vesting in the pension system, and without raising questions about an increasingly prescriptive system of testing and teaching that lines the pockets of private entrepreneurs (who provide teacher-proofed materials deemed necessary because there are so many underprepared novices who leave before they learn to teach).

Our leaders seek to solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepeninglevels of poverty an ‘excuse,’ rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without health care and without food. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don’t look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for their schools, or investments in professional learning. Don’t worry about the fact that the next schools are – as researchers have documented — likely to do no better. If the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers. [And whatever you do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.]

But public education has a secret weapon: the members of communities and the profession like yourselves who are committed first and foremost to our children and who have the courage to speak out against injustice.

This takes considerable courage – of the kind that has caused each of you to be here today. Remember, as Robert F. Kennedy said:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

Thank you for each ripple of hope you create – for each and every time you do what is right for children. Thank you for your courage and your commitment. It is that courage and commitment that will, ultimately, bring our country to its senses and save our schools. Keep your hand on the plow. Hold on!

or…should it be economies?

In economics and economies, environmental issues, institutions, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, social class, social policy on March 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Gibson-Graham, renowned feminist geographers and social theorists, suggest that all our talk about “The Economy” and “Capitalism” distracts us from seeing and naming multiple economies that are at work and flourishing. These include capitalist economies for sure, but also non-capitalist economies. Paying attention to non-capitalist cooperative economies (artist co-ops; farm co-ops; school co-ops; camp co-ops; etc.), non-capitalist communal economies, non-capitalist household economies, green capitalist economies, capitalist state enterprise economies, capitalist socially responsible economies, non-capitalist independent economies (bartering and otherwise), non-capitalist feudal economies, and non-capitalist slave economies can remind us that even though we live in a time where everyone talks as if there is ONE ECONOMY and ONE KIND OF ECONOMIC PRACTICE, we know that on the ground there are diverse practices taking place.

Look up “time bank” or “grocery cooperative” or “child care cooperative” or “local currency” or “farmers market” in your community and what do you find?

And those are only the ones who have decided to create an online presence. Start asking folks what’s going on in your community…and if you’re working with kids, teach them that there are spaces and places where maximizing profit without regard to human beings and the environment is not the priority, that there are spaces and places where one’s talents and skills can be exchanged for other goods and services with no “money” in the interaction.

These are more “flat” economic practices and economies. And they are alive, well, and a persistent challenge to the dominant notion that everyone has to have a “job” within a capitalist market.

 

 

 

What a fun time to be teaching about work, workers, and government!

In critical literacy, democracy, Education Policy, government, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, social action, social class, social policy, teacher education resources on February 24, 2011 at 1:45 am

What an incredible time!!! It’s all so exciting, and scary, and…wow.

Get to work teaching this stuff! Teach your elementary students what’s going on; teach your high schoolers; teach your graduate students; teacher your children and neighbors. Just dig in and go for it.

Cool YouTube site and contact information for We The People Wisconsin:

http://www.youtube.com/wethepeoplewisconsin

Email We The People Wisconsin at  wethepeoplewisconsin@gmail.com – and check out this video that folks are hoping can 1) talk back to the media narratives that we feel are misleading or inaccurate, 2) create an archive for people to store/share their experiences, and 3) provide space for people involved to show their support for each other, wherever they are.

12 things you should know about the protests in Wisconsin!
http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/479560/12_things_you_need_to_know_about_the_uprising_in_wisconsin/

Gooooooo Wisconsin! And Ohio…

In democracy, discourse, Education Policy, gender and education, institutions, justice, politics, professional development resources, social action, social class, social policy on February 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Great post from Diane Ravitch on Bridging Differences – I’m lovin’ Diane!

 

Posted: 22 Feb 2011 06:31 AM PST

Dear Deborah,
As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin. Others stand with them, including the Green Bay Packers, other public-sector workers, and even public-sector workers who are not affected by the proposed legislation, namely, firefighters and police. The teachers and other public-sector employees are speaking out against Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to destroy their collective-bargaining rights. Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.
I wrote an article about this contretemps for CNN.com, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor’s demands on money issues. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice. Monday’s New York Times made clear, both in a column by Paul Krugman and in its news coverage, that the union is fighting for its survival, not benefits.
It’s time to ask: Why should teachers have unions? I am not a member of a union, and I have never belonged to a union, but here is what I see. From the individual teacher’s point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society’s point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers. I recently visited Arizona, a right-to-work state, and parents there complained to me about classes of 30 for children in 1st and 2nd grades, and even larger numbers for older students; they complained that the starting salary for teachers was only $26,000 and that it is hard to find strong college graduates to enter teaching when wages are so low.
I have often heard union critics complain that contracts are too long, too detailed, too prescriptive. I have noticed that unions don’t write their own contracts. There are always two sides that negotiate a contract and sign it. If an administration is so weak that it signs a contract that is bad for kids, bad for the district’s finances, or bad for education, then shame on them.
The fight in Wisconsin now is whether public-sector unions should have any power to bargain at all. The fight is not restricted to Wisconsin; it is taking place in many other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois. The battle has already been lost in other states.
I have been wondering if advocates of corporate school reform, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee will come to the aid of the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who were quick to applaud the firing of teachers in Central Falls, R.I., will now step forward to support the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if Secretary Duncan, who only a few days earlier had led a much-publicized national conversation in Denver about the importance of collaboration between unions and management, will weigh in to support the teachers. I am ever hopeful, but will take care not to hold my breath.
If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do, too.
Diane

Classism Exposed blog is fabulous…

In American Dream, classism, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, family-school relations, government, politics, poverty, social action, social class, social policy, teacher education resources on November 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Check out Paul Gorski’s blog called Classism Exposed.

On Daddy Warbucks Duncan, the growing underclass, and other urgent concerns

In American Dream, classism, democracy, Education Policy, family-school relations, politics, poverty, prison, social action, social policy, teacher education resources on November 10, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Thanks to J.E. for sending this!

 

From Teacher Magazine Living in Dialogue
15629Schools in a Banana Republic
Anthony Cody
November 08, 2010
Nicholas Kristof this week described the economic state of the nation in rather stark terms. Due to the accelerated concentration of wealth, this country is in danger of becoming what is derisively termed a “banana republic.” This term has been used to describe the Central American dictatorships such as Nicaragua and the Honduras, where a handful of families control the wealth, land and economy, while the poor barely get by. Kristof shared statistics that reveal the US has pretty much arrived at a similar situation.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
And the tax cuts from the Bush era continue to put billions in their pockets.
How is today’s economy affecting our students?
Rising inequality also led to more divorces, presumably a byproduct of the strains of financial distress.
Mounting evidence suggests that losing a job or a home can rock our identity and savage our self-esteem. Forced moves wrench families from their schools and support networks
Yes, unemployment causes divorce. Unemployment causes tremendous stress. Stress that bubbles over in the homes of those in poverty, unable to keep the lights on, to buy adequate food, to feel safe and secure. These stresses are terrible for children, and for their ability to concentrate and learn in school. In many of our schools we have more than 90% of the children on free and reduced lunch. We have unemployment in excess of 15%, and much higher for African Americans and Latinos. The transfer of wealth we are experiencing will be felt by a whole generation of children, and affect school performance for years to come.
As Stephen Krashen pointed out here recently,
American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore all or nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. The US has the second highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (22.4%, compared to Sweden’s 2.6%) which of course pulls down our overall average. The success of American children who are not in poverty shows that our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.
When the problem of poverty is solved, all children will have the advantages that right now only middle-class children have. This will close the “achievement gap” between children from high and low-income families.
And how will our public institutions be able to respond? All indications are that we are entering a new era of economic austerity. Newly elected congressional representatives believe they have a mandate to “pay as you go,” and cut way back on “discretionary” spending. Most of these policymakers, unfortunately, do not think they have any say over the half of the federal budget that is devoted to military spending, so that is off the table for cuts. And they can’t touch Medicare or Social Security – so actually 85% of the budget will not be touched. But things in that 15% that are considered discretionary are vulnerable, and that includes federal education spending.
This will have a mixed effect. On the one hand, the reduction of discretionary spending will mean the days of Daddy Warbucks Duncan dangling tempting billions before state policy makers to get them to race to adopt his policies may be numbered. This could be a healthy thing, since many of the reforms he has promoted have been bad ideas. On the other hand, Federal dollars provide crucial support to many low-income schools, and if these funds are cut now, at the same time state dollars are dwindling, the results will be devastating. We should be clear that when taxes are cut for the wealthy, and education is cut for the poor, dollars have, in effect, been transferred upwards.
There is one other area of spending that has, up to this point, been immune from cuts – our prison system. As James Carroll pointed out yesterday,
In 1975, there were fewer than 400,000 people locked up in the United States. By 2000, that had grown to 2 million, and by this year to nearly 2.5 million. As the social scientist Glenn C. Loury points out, with 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States imprisons 25 percent of all humans behind bars. This effectively created a vibrant shadow economy: American spending on the criminal justice system went from $33 billion in 1980 to $216 billion in 2010 — an increase of 660 percent. Criminal justice is the third largest employer in the country.
In the 1990s, as federal corrections budgets increased by $19 billion, money for housing was cut by $17 billion, “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the poor.’
Most of those 2.5 million Americans lived in poverty, and many of them have children enrolled in our schools. If poverty has a devastating effect, imagine the effect incarceration of a parent has on a child.
The war on poverty has been replaced by a war against the poor.
In states across the nation, there has been a call for more local control of schools. This is a healthy direction when coupled with real democratic control by parents and educators, but there is one big problem with this. Resources are not spread evenly, and some areas are much wealthier than others. Local control cannot always generate the resources the schools need. The ideal of high quality public schools for all has also been greatly undermined by the drive to standardize everyone and punish those with low scores.
How does the extreme concentration of wealth affect our schools? The middle class is being squeezed out of existence. The result is that voters are more reluctant than ever to sacrifice their money to pay for services – and so they want their taxes cut. People in wealthier communities contribute directly to their schools to make sure they have the resources that are needed – as I described in this post last year. Or they simply abandon the public schools and send their children to private schools that charge up to $30,000 a year. Oddly enough, many of these people are willing to spend this sum for their own brains, but balk at such largesse when other people’s children are involved, insisting “money will not improve the schools.” Private schools across the country have class sizes roughly half that of public schools, and per pupil costs that are roughly double, as shown by the School Finance 101 blog.

What sorts of schools exist in banana republics? Highly stratified, just like the society. The very wealthy send their children to private schools of privilege, just as is becoming the norm here. The poor go to schools where they are daily reminded of their inferiority. How many ways do we have to remind our students of their academic inferiority? Could this be an unconscious or sub-rosa part of the high stakes we now attach to test scores? Is this perhaps part of the reason schools, teachers and communities are stigmatized when schools are condemned as failures and dropout factories? Our schools are inevitably mirrors of the society in which they function.
I must add here, lest I be accused of adopting a fatalistic stance, that I believe schools have a powerful role to play in cushioning the blows of poverty, of lifting the aspirations of our students beyond their circumstances. But everywhere in school reform these days we hear of the need for “urgency,” as if the reason that previous generations of educators failed to eliminate the achievement gap was a lackadaisical attitude, or persistent low expectations. Not so. Unfortunately, although schools can make a difference, poverty and a genuine lack of opportunity usually trumps our efforts.
The intense discomfort the “school reformers” have with our low-performing schools may reflect our unwillingness to recognize that yes, we have a growing underclass in the United States. Yes, we have a burgeoning strata of society that no longer can even grasp the bottom rung of the economic ladder. We can blame the schools for this, but the schools did not create this situation, and getting everyone ready for college and careers will not fix it. Only when we get our economy back onto firm ground and restore some balance, so the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes, and the middle class can survive and prosper, and the poor can truly access the ladder to success, only then will we see hope return to our students and see the gaps in achievement really begin to close.
Special thanks to teacherken for highlighting these issues in his blogs.

New York Times Magazine junkie…that’s me;)

In democracy, Education Policy, environmental issues, family-school relations, high-stakes tests, inquiry, justice, politics, social action, social policy, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, Teaching Work on October 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

It may be the single most pleasurable thing I do each and every week (well, almost every week…I occasionally blink my eyes and the weekend is gone only to find Letters in the current Magazine that refer to an issue I had not read – which annoys me to no end).

That pleasurable thing involves making myself an iced mocha, skimming and reading through my local Sunday paper and the NY Times until I feel sufficiently caught up, and then slowly pulling out the week’s NYT Magazine. If I began reading the Magazine first, I would never make it through the paper…

I read the issue title.

Sometimes I smile (like today – great cover).

Sometimes I raise my eyebrows and say “Hmm.”

Sometimes I read the title out loud to Casey or Hayden and add my anticipated opinion about the issue. “Oh God!” or “It’s about time!” or “Oooh. This one looks interesting.” have all been yelled across the room or the deck or the house at one time or another.

Today’s Food Issue is terrific and has everything to do with how we live, how our economy works, how we can be better borrowers of the earth, and how we might better educate youth and ourselves and other adults about learning to do things ourselves. Cooking being one of those things; Growing food another; Collaboratively growing food another; Trading and bartering another; Eating together another; Developing local economies that are sustainable and provide decent incomes and a happier lifestyle another.

Shockingly, none of this has to do with the national rhetoric of getting every child into college. If we were to take to heart the lessons learned from this one issue of the Magazine, we would fundamentally change the paper/pencil/bubbling in focus in schools and ensure that children know how to take care of themselves and others. You simply don’t learn these incredibly important personal, social, political, scientific,  historical, and economic lessons from the state-required standards that produce canned lessons that are as far removed from local contexts and lived realities as might be possible.

Speak with an Accent? No teaching English Language Learners…

In American Dream, critical literacy, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, family-school relations, language, literacy, politics, professional development resources, racism, social policy, teacher education resources on May 11, 2010 at 4:03 am

Well, that puts us all out of work.

Here’s a great commentary that was on NPR today that everyone should listen to…

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