Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

Startling Data Points SHOULD Serve as Impetus for Investment in Human Capital

May 2, 2021 Leave a comment

Nick Kristof’s essay in today’s NYTIMES offers two startling data points in it’s penultimate paragraph: we have as many citizens with criminal records as college graduates; and 10 counties in Mississippi have higher infant mortality rates than Bangladesh. Given that reality, how can we put more money into law enforcement while starving public schools? How can we not insist that every state provide prenatal health care? While the GOP tries desperately to shift the focus away from these unseemly facts, the Democrats fail to share them widely. Invest in children now if you want law and order in the future. Arguing about terminology won’t solve our problems… making voters face these kinds of facts might.

South Carolina Proposes Unseating Locally Elected School Board Members in “Failing” School Districts… With No Evidence that State Takeover Improves Things

April 18, 2021 Comments off

As readers of this blog realize, I am mystified that State Departments of Education believe that they can takeover and turnaround a low performing district given that there is no evidence anywhere that this works. Blog posts on the Chester Upland schools are exhibit A and a look at the history of Baltimore City’s many and varied governance structures and takeovers would be Exhibit B. Moreover, I know of no examples where a State takeover has resulted in any improvement in the “performance” of schools nor any case where a State has done this repeatedly and consistently.

With this context, readers will not be surprised to know that I am simultaneously amused and befuddled by the wide appeal for South Carolina’s latest solution to fixing failing schools. As described by Zak Koeske in the State, a South Carolina newspaper, here is South Carolina’s the latest gambit:

Local school board members whose districts are underperforming could find themselves out of a job if the South Carolina Department of Education succeeds in its yearslong push to gain greater control over the district takeover process.

Legislation that appears to have broad support in both the House and Senate would authorize the state superintendent, with the state Board of Education’s consent, to dissolve local, elected school boards and assume control of struggling districts indefinitely.

The proposal marks the latest turn in a decades-long debate over how to improve South Carolina’s public schools and who shares in the blame for chronically low-performing schools, which are typically in high poverty areas.

Mr. Koeske describes the painstaking and lengthy dissolution process in his article, noting that the problem of persistently underperforming schools has existed “for decades” and also noting that even though there is broad support for the bill at least one legislator made a very cogent point: :

Meanwhile, critics accuse the state of a power grab and of ignoring longstanding inequities between districts that its own school funding formula has exacerbated.

“We’re making a punitive decision against the school districts and the school boards when we have not in this body addressed the inequities that exist for these school districts, particularly rural school districts and Black school districts,” Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-Richland, told Felder.

The article also implies that the SC legislators are at the end of their rope, looking to do SOMETHING to show they are trying to help (as long as it doesn’t cost them money) and are, consequently engaging in magical thinking… like this from one of the legislators:

Brown said he supported accountability for the state schools chief, but couldn’t envision a scenario in which the state’s turnaround efforts would not succeed.

“Failure would be inexcusable,” he said. “I don’t know how you would fail when you have people who know what needs to be done and have the tools and resources to do it.

Truer words have never been spoken… but Mr. Brown should talk to the Board members, administrators, teachers and parents in the “underperforming” districts and ask them if they think they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. If the answer is NO for them and the YES when the state takes over, the failure might not be because of Board mismanagement, teacher incompetence, or parental indifference. It just might be that they all need the tools and resources to do what needs to be done.

Can We Just Say No to Facial Recognition Software… or Has That Train Left the Station?

April 15, 2021 Comments off

Common Dreams staffer Jake Johnson posted an article yesterday titled “Too Dangerous To Exist” which describes the recommendation of a coalition of privacy rights advocates who want to stop the development of facial recognition software on the grounds that it is far too invasive of privacy and, in the wrong hands, could lead to horrific consequences. Lest anyone believe that the collection and use of biometric data could have chilling consequences, one only needs to look at how that data is being collected and used now in the private sector. Mr.
Johnson cites a letter written by 20 privacy rights organizations:

“In a world where private companies are already collecting our data, analyzing it, and using it to manipulate us to make a profit, we can’t afford to naively believe that private entities can be trusted with our biometric information,” the letter reads. “We call on all local, state, and federal elected officials, as well as corporate leaders, to ban the use of facial recognition surveillance by private entities.”

The groups cite several examples of corporations using facial recognition in ways that threaten workers’ rights, including Amazon’s requirement that delivery drivers consent to allowing the company’s artificial intelligence-equipped cameras to collect their biometric data and surveil their activity on the job. The coalition also points to Apple’s facial recognition scans of its factory employees.

“These cases clearly show how private use of facial recognition by corporations, institutions, and even individuals poses just as much of a threat to marginalized communities as government use,” the letter reads. “Corporations are already using facial recognition on workers in hiring, to replace traditional timecards, and to monitorworkers’ movements and ‘productivity’—all of which particularly harm frontline workers and make them susceptible to harassment, exploitation, and put their personal information at risk.”

I am writing this post on my MacBook Air which now opens when I press my index finger though if I were more competent at typing with my thumbs I could have used my iPhone which opens when I look at it and can be found by asking my robotic friend Siri to help me find it. These examples of biometrics are all “time saving” in the cyberworld time frames we are now accustomed to. I mean who wants to log onto a laptop or iPhone using keystrokes when a touch of the finger or glance will accomplish the same thing.

The letter, which can be found in the post, references misuse and abuse of biometric data in the corporate, medical, and law enforcement fields but makes no mention of the data collected involuntarily by schools…. data that has the same far reaching impact on the well-being of students as it has on the well-being of adults and employees. And what makes it even worse is that, as noted in an earlier post, the schools who serve children raised in poverty and children of color are far more likely to have cameras collecting this data than schools serving affluent children.

Here’s hoping that the genie is not already out of the bottle on this issue!

Categories: Essays Tags: ,