Archive for September, 2015

Two Articles Draw One Conclusion: Being Born Poor is a HUGE Obstacle

September 30, 2015 Comments off

Over the past month I’ve read several articles describing the deep hole those born into poverty must dig out of in order to improve there economic standing… and increasingly African Americans are experiencing far more poverty than their white counterparts.

In early September Bloomberg Business published a short article by Victoria Stilwell titled “Here’s How Growing Up in Poverty Hurts American Adults” that offered three factors that described three “…things that tend to happen to Americans who grow up poor“:

  1. They have a harder time finishing high school or college
  2. They struggle to keep jobs as young adults
  3. They have higher rates of teen pregnancy

All three of these factors lead to poverty in adulthood… and citing research from the Urban Institute, the article notes that while 15% of children are in poverty during any one year,

Some 39 percent of children are poor for at least one year before they reach their 18th birthday, according to Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow and economist at Urban. For black children, that statistic is 75 percent, compared with 30 percent of whites.

Michelle Chen, a staff writer for The Nation, wrote an equally gloomy assessment of the effects of poverty in an article that appeared earlier this week titled “In America, the Poorer You Are the Poorer Your Children Will Be”. Drawing on information from a new book “Too Many Children Left Behind,” by Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook, Chen describes how 

…poor children in the US are “doubly disadvantaged relative to their peers in the other three countries (the UK, Australia, and Canada)” because the government’s “social safety net and supports for working families do the least among the four countries to combat inequality”—particularly our national lack of guaranteed paid time off and vacation.

Compounding the lack of a safety net is the increase in expenditures on “enrichment activities” by affluent parents, which is having the effect of widening the gap between rich and poor kids in our country. Looking at this situation, Chen writes:

So poor parents struggling just to cover basic food and shelter face both massive income inequality in their day-to-day lives, plus a seven-fold gap in the amount they can “invest” to help their children thrive in the futureGiven that social mobility is already suppressed at all income levels—with children’s future earnings highly correlated with the earnings of their parents—the Herculean amount of “catch up” poor parents must undertake just to get on the same footing as their higher-earning peers makes the great American wealth gap seem even more devastating, for both today’s working households and generations to come.

The solutions to this situation are familiar to readers of this blog and any writings on social justice: better pay, more flexibility in the workplace, universal prekindergarten, access to quality daycare… in short providing the children of low wage workers with the same baseline of services and education that the children raised in affluence receive.

We could make this happen if we lent a helping hand to those children raised in poverty… but to do so would require helping their parents and that seems less and less likely in today’s world of social Darwinism.

Rank-and-File Teachers Object As Nation’s Biggest Union Weighs Early Clinton Endorsement

September 30, 2015 Comments off

Source: Rank-and-File Teachers Object As Nation’s Biggest Union Weighs Early Clinton Endorsement

Several years ago Thomas Frank wrote a book titled What’s the Matter with Kansas which described how voters in that state consistently voted against their self-interest. The NEA and AFT members might want to look at Hillary’s willingness to support anti-democratic for- profit charter schools and her silence when some of her neo-liberal friends like the POTUS, Arne Duncan, and Governor Cuomo tout the value of using standardized tests to measure school and teacher performance. When unions turn a deaf ear to their members they can’t be too upset when their members are unwilling to pay dues.

Categories: Uncategorized

Washington Posts Concludes That Americans Can’t Write… and Blames Teachers!

September 29, 2015 Comments off

I just read a maddening article by Natalie Wexler from the September 24 Washington Post titled “Why American’s Can’t Write”. Ms. Wexler’s reason for this situation?

Surely one reason so many Americans lack writing skills is that, for decades, most U.S. schools haven’t taught them. In 2011, a nationwide test found that only 24 percent of students in eighth and 12th grades were proficient in writing, and just 3 percent were advanced.

Ms. Wexler writes a well thought out explanation of how writing could be taught in schools, noting that the punctuation and grammar skills need to be developed incrementally and hierarchically and that teachers need to spend time reading and correcting increasingly lengthy pies of writing. She notes that the common core delineates the skills needed but implies that teachers might lack the capability to deliver instruction on those skills.

What Ms. Wexler fails to note is that writing is not tested effectively… and when it IS tested creativity and flow are far less important than consistency and format… because computers cannot “measure” creativity and flow nor can “readers” who must scan “essays” quickly in order to get tests graded quickly.

We are reaping bad writing because grading writing is complicated, slow, and expensive and we want to measure our students with standardized tests that are easy, fast, and cheap… We won’t get good writing until we are willing to provide the time needed to teach it effectively and the time needed to grade it well.