Monday, April 17, 2006

Educating the Haves & Have Nots Plus the Tools

With perhaps a little too much emphasis on the wealthy, Brendan Casey, a writer living in Sandy Spring, gives us via the AJC “The cult of the child : They're the elite; they're spoiled; they run the show . . . and ruin it”. The work resonates with me in seeing how a great nephew behaved just yesterday. “What part of no don’t you understand.” My ten year old is hardly perfect but damned if he will ignore me. I’ve failed in several ways as a parent but my boy knows to behave with some measure of decorum. He knows I will remind him when he needs it. I will also offer that many middle class and poorer people lack skills or class. Some are working so hard to pay the bills and keep up with the consumption that that hurts their kids. However, I personally can usually deal with a poor or regular kid far more effectively than a prince or princess. Do you think these kewl kids are going to grow up to be solid citizens?

Jim Wooten of the AJC writes “Give education an overhaul — after election” where he almost gets it. Love the realization that educators have reaped but can seldom change societal choices (read the opinion for some good language … and Jim I’d love you to experience the real world in the schools for a few days) even if maybe you and I would differ on some of the causes. But then the AJC’s Conservative Tool heads in the wrong direction. He’s either on the payroll or his politics are one of the many legacies of the late Mr. Joyce? However you’ve been blinded by the right, your “key” is just small “tax credits” and/or “business scholarships”. Break the model indeed but then organize publicly funded schools where they can work. First of all we can quit using an industrial model designed for a hundred years ago. It will cost some money Jim! And tap into the natural desire of humans to learn. It is messy. You can’t always measure and methodize for canned curriculums hawked by the big money textbook companies. You’ll want to accuse the lefty class of wanting to have the kids just sit around and do “whatever”. So I’m not real optimistic that you’ll buy in to this solution. But I think the bottom line is that there’s money to be made in your beloved market.

Cynthia Tucker of the AJC gives us “Idle black men, tragically, aren't just a stereotype” but she seems to contradict your prior support for higher wages. Ms. Tucker could surely afford to pay more than $6.00 an hour, and even if it is your mother’s money and house, the right thing to do is pay a living wage.

I watched you yesterday on the Chris “Tweety” Matthews Show and you are talking of your young relative going to Brown and openly admitting that you are part of the elite. You seemed to agree that hyper-competitive students are generally from the top of the food chain.

You make Auburn University proud often but please walk the talk, even in Monroeville, and certainly in The ATL. The lack of drive and initiative in these men/boys is perhaps related in part to our school problems. All but the most dreadful can learn both academics and social graces and morality and … But even low skilled and lazy kids and men might not want to work for those wages. It is a shame that this is reality in America and I am frustrated as well that we can’t seem to get a handle on things. I of course find it easy to blame those with the power yet know these guys have to do their part as well.

“Permanent underclass” might be true but that accepts that we can’t change. The thing is that you can maybe help with the fixing at your high position at the AJC. Don’t excuse globalization. Recognize it is here, even embracing certain facets at times, but fight the abuses it sometimes exacerbates. Be careful and crafty but always write with courage. Write and talk about education and other Progressive ideals. Justice!

Friday’s B’ham News Op-Ed “Bearing the torch for poor children” creates a huge problem for school reform with their writing. The News wrote in part, with my emphasis supplied, the following:

The schools, including Birmingham City’s Councill Elementary School, destroy the long-held assumption by some that because so many of their students live in poverty, they aren't capable of learning as well or as much as other, better off students. Sadly, many of the people who believe such a thing teach at, or have children attending, poor schools. They have allowed themselves to be strangled by what former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus called the "tyranny of low expectations."
It is ironic that the Mabus quote was seemingly given as his view that these low expectation were as a chain around his and our state. Malbus is or at least was a Democrat, yet a child of privilege, who was out of office after one term when he dared just slightly raise taxes for better schools. Of course private family issues might not have helped him any as well. I feel your pain. I’ve also heard a version of the quote, dropped by Bu$hCo rather often, in the form of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. Regular readers know my own “low expectations” of anything from the Bu$hCo cabal.

The serious damage by the editorial is done by outright stating that poverty does not have a role. Any responsible editorial should have used alternative language. Poor children have significant barriers that influence their learning. Certainly poor kids can learn, often despite our industrial and increasingly conservative models. “Destroy the long-held assumptions” my A##! It is long-proven research and foundational fact! To have you shilling these right wing talking points really disappoints me. Maybe you’ve been influenced by what ails poor Jim Wooten above? He’s been doing his part regularly in the ATL. Maybe you got sloppy? Maybe …? But there is no “maybe” that poverty/class influences the attitudes and habits and exposure to stimulations and diet and … and that these barriers then will continue to impact a child’s learning.

Principal Steve Brown at this elementary school talked of a seven year effort to change attitudes of staff and parents and likely the whole community. To celebrate what these kids/parents/educators have achieved is grand yet you’ve placed the torch in the hands of kids and those adults that care enough to be involved in their lives. They have enough to do meeting the requirements to disaggregate the data required by Bu$hCo’s NDOBLB (No Data Obsessed Bureaucrat Left Behind) which is the final intrusion of corporatism into public education. Many people reading your editorial are going to focus on this false information. You are either shilling or being sloppy but the certainty is that this will make it all the harder for Alabama Progressives to create real reforms.

Tying all of this together has been work plus I probably took longer than I needed. Could have been grading papers or working in the flowerbeds or … but I took time to do this as it makes me feel like I’m doing something positive. If I can do my little part to help create a community where learning and engagement is sought as the ideal then I’ve done something worthy. These journalists and pundits are paid for providing reasoned reporting to our region and beyond.
Progressives have to speak more and work harder since we have so few funded entities helping us work the refs.

The first link to Casey’s work discourages me in that wealthy folks were described as addled and not raising the kind of kids that will care once they are grown. Chasing the dollar and their kewl kids. Wooten is and will remain a conservative tool I fear. Ms. Tucker could have approached her writing in another way. I know it is hers and that she might not always need to come with an agenda but this was an opinion. Shame on The B’ham News! It is hard enough to do Progressive work and we don’t need major media outlets for our region carrying the water of the Conservatives.

I’ve tried to silence The Mighty Wurlitzer enough for now. Peace … or War!