Archive for October, 2012

Mother’s Love in the First Three Years

October 30, 2012 Comments off

The pictures of brain scans in this article from the Medical Daily are worth more than a thousand words: they show how a mother’s neglect during the first 2-3 years of a child’s life can stunt the growth of the child’s brain. If we know this is true, and if we also know:

….the child with the smaller brain… will be more likely to become addicted to drugs, be involved in violent crimes, be unemployed and dependent on government benefits in the future.

Furthermore, the child with the shrunken brain is significantly more likely to develop mental and other serious health-related problems.

And if we also know:

Researchers said the process of childhood neglect is a vicious cycle because the parents of neglected children were also neglected by their parents and do not have fully developed brain.

However, past research has shown that the cycle can be broken if there is early intervention and families are supported.

Why aren’t we doing SOMETHING to intervene? The answer is that intervention is initially costly, potentially cast as “government interference”, and fraught with ethical questions.

But NOT intervening is clearly costly— compensatory education programs, Special Education, drug interventions, and incarceration and/or medical treatment for mental illness are all costly.

And NOT intervening doesn’t limit “government intervention”. Placing a child on an IEP is arguably “government intervention”… and the last time I looked prisons were overseen by the government (though they, too, are being privatized— another sad story). Whenever someone runs afoul of the law, the government will intervene. Isn’t it better to intervene EARLY that to wait for a predictable adverse consequence?

And NOT intervening poses ethical dilemmas as well. If one witnesses a mother striking a child inappropriately at a store is there an ethical responsibility to do something? If a doctor is aware that a child is being neglected, do they have an ethical responsibility to do something? Now the tough question: if we neglect the way children are being reared knowing that many appear at their first day of school lacking the emotional nurturance required to learn effectively, doesn’t THAT pose an ethical dilemma as well?

We know that early neglect and abuse results in serious cognitive, emotional, and mental problems in the future. Shouldn’t we do SOMETHING?



Charter Corruption

October 30, 2012 Comments off

Diane Ravitch is relentless in her reporting of corruption in charter schools… and while the posts seem redundant they illustrate a reality that many pro-private sector apologists gloss over: if you are motivated by money you will often do whatever it takes to make that money…. and if you are motivated by greed, you will feel free to steal so long as it is within the law. As noted in earlier posts, many political conservatives have eyed public education as a potential cash cow for decades, recognizing the potential to turn a large profit by opening on-line schools in a de-regulated market. (See this link for one example)

So it’s not surprising to find that out of state billionaires are donating millions of dollars to support an initiative to expand charter schools in Georgia… or that a multi-millionaire who operates a charter school in Chester PA (and is the largest individual donor to the Governor) is claiming that the financial records for that school are not a public record while he builds a  20,000 square foot mansion in FLA to go with his 30,000 square foot mansion in PA… or that the individuals who are making the largest contributions to pro-for-profit-charter schools are also touting investments in charter schools… or that the Wall Street Journal touts for-profit charters as the next big thing while billionaires make sure it IS the next big thing by investing as much as $630,000 in a local school board election in Colorado…. or that a “miracle charter” school in LA turned out to be a cheating charter school

I try not to be a paranoid alarmist… and Diane Ravitch is hardly a socialist left-wing radical… but I am old enough to recall Woodward and Bernstein’s mantra: follow the money. And the money that is flowing into Board elections from the private sector is not being invested based on the idealistic notion of providing an equal opportunity for all children to experience success in school… it is being invested to expand the opportunity for making a profit in operating schools. If standardized tests are the metric for school success, it is relatively easy to maintain the level of performance in a school that operates at less than half the cost… especially if those pesky regulations are eliminated… you know, the regulations that require students to attend classes with other children or participate in PE, Art, and Music….

As noted in an earlier post, both Presidential candidates and most Governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, seem OK with the privatization movement. After all, it saves money for them and doesn’t alter the student performance as measured by test scores— so where’s the problem? The problem is that we have equated school success with standardized test scores and refused to acknowledge the effects of poverty on children and, in doing so, we have limited the scope of schooling and limited the opportunities for economic advancement.

The Drip-Drip-Drip of Erosion in Trust

October 29, 2012 Comments off

I was appalled to read this excerpt from an interview with Ann Romney (AR) in Good Housekeeping magazine that was brought to my attention by Diane Ravitch’s post this morning:

GH: Can you tell me, what campaign issue is closest to your heart?

AR: I’ve been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers’ unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.

To paraphrase some of the questions posed by Diane Ravitch:

“WE know the answers to that”???? Who is “we”???….

And what makes it a “given” that the teacher’s union is preventing a “proper education” to take place???

And where is the evidence that “charter schools have provided the answers”???

This article reinforces the idea that public schools are NOT providing “a proper” education and that the whole reason they are failing is because of bad teaching. This idea works for politicians because it allows them to avoid tackling the REAL problem with public education which is the effects of poverty on children. As noted repeatedly in this blog and those of many other educators, our well funded schools that serve children who are NOT raised in poverty do as well as any schools on earth. We CLAIM that we want to provide an equal opportunity for all children but our actions show otherwise.

This article keeps up the “schools are failing” drumbeat… the drip… drip… drip you hear is the erosion of trust in its public schools.