Archive

Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

Introducing a Valuable Skill for All the Wrong Reasons: When Economic Development Trumps Child Development

August 18, 2019 Leave a comment

I read with interest a recent NYTimes article by Dana Goldstein about the effort underway in Wyoming to move away from an economy based on diminishing low skill jobs related to extraction toward an economy based more on technology. The rationale for preparing students for a high tech world, though, seems flawed on two scores.

First, by making “economic development” the basis for mandating a course the State Education Department is explicitly linking schools to jobs– which is a fools errand in an age where jobs change far more rapidly than school curricula. Had the schools in the early 1960s tried to adapt their curricula to the emerging technology markets they would have never thought that computers would be available in the homes of the children they were teaching when they became adults and could not have possibly taught a computer language that would be applicable today. When I taught computers in the early 1970s we taught BASIC and used punch cards, the “state of the art” technology at the time— a language that is now as useless as Olde English and a process that seems prehistoric in an era of cloud data collections.

Second is the reality that the skills students need now to succeed in life are the same as the skills needed when I was in school— and they are the “soft skills” that schools avoid because they are not easy to define, harder yet to teach, and do not lend themselves to the “rigorous” (i.e. standardized test-based) measurement that provides a means of sorting students into groups. These life skills are also ones that cannot be replaced by a robot: they cannot be reduced to algorithms for they rely on human interactions.

And the idea of compelling schools to shoe-horn these new subjects into an already stuffed curriculum faces one other daunting challenge: money. As Ms. Goldstein reports:

…low taxes are an orthodoxy in Wyoming, and the Legislature did not dedicate any new dollars to the plan. That has left schools reliant on limited state, federal and philanthropic funds — and on individual educators… to bear the burden of introducing an entirely new subject.

Predictably, affluent schools, schools with wealthy benefactors looking out for them, and schools who obtain grants from philanthropists are doing well at meeting this fiscal challenge and, consequently, presumably preparing their children for a better world.

And just as predictably, the hopes of politicians to attack jobs that will entice students to remain in their home state seem likely to be dashed as well:

Wyoming educators say that despite the rhetoric of politicians and tech giants, they are teaching computer science to enrich their students, not to enrich the state.

“Our job is not to contain our kids in Wyoming,” said Craig Dougherty, the Sheridan superintendent. “They need to compete globally.”

And those who stay? They might benefit more from learning some of those soft skills and using their creative and interpersonal talents to develop businesses that cannot be outsourced. But since those skills are taught to measure… the kids are learning nothing of value.

Advertisements

Redistributing WEALTH v. Redistributing OPPORTUNITY

August 17, 2019 Leave a comment

A friend on Facebook who published a book recently offered this editorial he wrote for his local paper as a “tease” to entice people to buy his book:

WEALTH INEQUALITY IN AMERICA – DANGER AHEAD

Who owns most of the wealth in America? Evidence from Income Tax data shows that the top 10% of American families owned 77% of our nation’s wealth. The remaining 90% owned only 23%. The nation’s richest wealth holders, the top 1% alone owned 42% of the nation’s wealth. Their share of wealth has steadily grown since the late 1970s.

And get this, most of this increase in wealth happened in the top 0.1%, which includes about 160,000 households. This chart, which appears in my book “Freedom Denied – How ‘Big Government’ and America’s Elites Enslave Minorities,” shows how the top 0.1% share of wealth grew from 7% in 1978 to 22% in 2012, a level comparable to the 25% reached in 1929 just prior to the stock market crash and the beginning of the great depression. That’s when many millionaires became paupers almost overnight. If we project that steep rise from 2012 to 2019, we may have already gone beyond that 25% point. Is another great depression looming?

What has caused the “Rich” top 1% and the “Super Rich” top 0.1% to gain so much wealth while the rest of America has seen their wealth decline? Tax loopholes continue to favor the rich, while among the working class, wage stagnation and falling ‘real’ wages, not keeping up with inflation, are major factors. Mortgage debt, consumer credit debt, and student debt has contributed to falling wealth among the middle class.

A politician’s answer to wealth inequality might be to throw massive amounts of Government money at the problem and even advocate a major redistribution of wealth by taking money (through taxation) from the wealthiest and giving it to those who are less fortunate. However, a much better approach is to determine how we got ourselves into this mess to begin with and then correct those misdirected Government policies that have caused all the damage.

I take an in depth look at how the welfare state, although beginning with good intentions in the mid-1960s, has caused many able-bodied men and women to lose incentive to climb out of poverty. And how an over-supply of cheap illegal immigrant labor, sanctioned by sanctuary cities and states, has caused a massive decline in wages for the working class. Unfortunately, minorities have suffered the most by this downturn in wages. And sad to say Vermont, being a sanctuary State, has done nothing to stop business owners, both Democrat and Republican, from increasing their profits on the backs of illegal immigrant workers.

I was interested to see a conservative identify wealth inequality as a major problem in our country, and also interested to see how he linked it to the government programs in the “welfare state”. One of his friends pushed back softly with this rejoinder:

From about 1950-1970 income and wealth grew evenly at all levels. This was largely caused by two factors: the GI bill and investment in infrastructure (e.g. the Eisenhower interstate highway system).

To which I added:

And the last time I looked these were government programs… it’s no accident that the money is trickling upwards. The plutocrats are paying good money to get those loopholes written in to the tax laws to starve the government programs that COULD restore the mechanisms that were in place in 1950-1970 to provide opportunity redistribution.

To the best of my knowledge, OPPORTUNITY redistribution has never been used as a response to the conservative/libertarian argument that “WEALTH redistribution” is a losing proposition… and it is the lack of opportunity that discourages people from entering the workforce… especially if the entry into the work force results in the total loss of health care and limits the access to many of the services they receive if they are “on welfare”. It isn’t easy to enter the workforce if you are a single parent whose job was eliminated by offshoring or the advent of robots. The best way to get able bodied workers off of welfare is to offer them OPPORTUNITY instead of money: past them into jobs that pay a living wage and offer them an opportunity for stability or advancement and they will gladly work instead of doing nothing. How to do that? It seems to be that a stronger government-funded safety net of vocational services in needed. But maybe I’ll need to buy my Facebook friend’s book to see how free enterprise can solve the problem better.

University of Kentucky Study Shows Charter Schools More Segregated than Public Schools

August 15, 2019 Leave a comment

In a study that illustrates the Law of Unintended Consequences, Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean and professor of educational policy studies and evaluation at the University of Kentucky College of Education, found that “charter school students are more likely to attend racially isolated schools than their public school counterparts.” In carefully examining the publicly available school-level common core data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Mr. Vasquez Heilig and his co-authors T. Jameson Brewer, of the University of North Georgia College of Education, and Yohuru Williams, of the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences found that “...all schools — both charter and public — have become increasingly segregated by race and class in the past two decades.” But, contrary to their avowed purpose, charter schools are adding to the resegregation of schools:

Across the United States, 43% of public schools are majority non-white, compared to 65% of charter schools. Even in neighborhoods with a more balanced ethnoracial mix among residents, the researchers found charter schools were more likely to be comprised of more non-white students than the public schools in the area.

“While geography and residential segregation patterns contribute to segregation, we found local demography does not explain why charter schools feature more racial isolation than public schools,” Vasquez Heilig said. “In other words, when looking at the same zip code, charters are not more segregated than public schools because of their location.”

So… why ARE charters more segregated? Is it because segregation is desirable to children of color or is it because integration is undesirable to white parents? Mr. Vasquez Heilig sees it as an extension of white flight:

“In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to abolish the practice of separate educational facilities. However, our nation has allowed practices in the ensuing years that result in segregation of schools. As white flight has occurred, schools have been increasingly segregated by race and class. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in the nation’s charter schools,” Vasquez Heilig said.

“Charter schools have been seen as a means of providing equity through offering greater choice to low-income and minority students. However, we must carefully consider the impact these choices have on students. It is important to examine the data and work toward policies that improve the ethonoracial and economic diversity of all schools our nation’s children attend. The benefits of schooling in a diverse environment cannot be overlooked.”

The solution to this thorny dilemma is not easy… but one set of data offers a stopgap solution:

Students attending schools with predominantly poor students of color face reduced resources, less academic rigor in the form of limited access to advanced coursework, and largely untrained or inexperienced teachers.

We already know that the federal government will not intervene to compel racial balance despite the Brown decision. At the very least, though, they should intervene to ensure that the resources, teaching quality, and opportunities are equal. Brown ended “separate but equal” schools… and in its wake we now have separate and unequal schools. I’m certain that was not the endgame Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP was seeking… but that’s where we are today.

Four Student Presidents at Prestigious Colleges Identify the REAL Admissions Scandal: Inequitably Funded Public Schools

August 13, 2019 Leave a comment

Robert Blake Watson, president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA, Trenton Stone, president of the Undergraduate Student Government at USC, Erica Scott, president of the Associated Students of Stanford University, and Kahlil Greene, president of the Yale College Council co-authored an op ed article that was widely published in newspapers across the nation over the past few days. In our local newspaper, the Valley News, it was titled “This is the Real College Admissions Scandal” while the Chicago Tribune titled it “What’s Legal in College Admissions is the Real Scandal“. Both headlines underscore the reality that the general sense that college admissions are based on “merit” is deeply flawed. When one strips away all of the external— test scores, essays, visits, resume-building— college admissions comes down to one factor: money. And when these four student body presidents peel the onion all the way down to the core, they find that money matters most when it comes to funding public schools, and that the property-based funding of public schools is the true scandal in college admissions.

…one of the main mechanisms through which our public schools are funded — property taxes from their local neighborhoods — disadvantages students from low-income areas. High school students at underfunded public schools do not receive the same access to high-quality college prep resources as do their peers at public and private schools in wealthier ZIP codes — resources that are necessary to navigate the increasingly daunting landscape of college admissions.

As students at selective universities, we acknowledge the many ways in which we have personally benefited from this system of privilege. Many of us come from well-resourced parts of the country and were surrounded by people familiar with the college admissions process. As students at selective universities, we acknowledge the many ways in which we have personally benefited from this system of privilege. Many of us come from well-resourced parts of the country and were surrounded by people familiar with the college admissions process. We would not be where we are today without certain opportunities provided to us that other students could not afford, and we want to make sure that this significant injustice is not lost in the sensational headlines about Operation Varsity Blues.

The real scandal is about the millions of kids who will never have an equitable chance in an extremely complex, competitive and costly process.

The college admissions scandal is not confined to a handful of privileged families and institutions. It is embedded in the fabric of the U.S. education system. In a 2017 article for Stanford Politics, “The Aristocracy That Let Me In,” Andrew Granato, a Stanford student, reflected on the ways in which the U.S. has developed a modern-day aristocracy based on the myth of a meritocratic education system. Instead of passing down social status through inherited titles or land holdings, today’s elites are able to provide their children with special resources to prepare them for admission into selective universities, thereby ensuring that they too will enter into America’s top economic tier.

This “secret” is now out in the open thanks to a group of egregiously greedy and manipulative parents who went so far as to photoshop their children’s faces onto pictures of rowers to “prove” they were participants in crew at their high school. Those parents showed the public that the admissions system could be gamed if someone had enough money and, in so doing, enabled writers like the four student body presidents to dig just a little bit deeper, find that they “would not be where we are today without certain opportunities provided to us that other students could not afford“, and bring that core injustice to the attention of as many people as possible.

Their op ed commentary offers several solutions for college admissions offices, solutions that would encourage elite colleges to identify students who are likely to succeed in their programs despite the disadvantages they faced in their high school. And they offer one paragraph on what I have long believed is the primary problem facing public education:

Making our education system a true meritocracy will also require fundamental political and cultural changes outside of individual universities. The way we finance public school districts has to change — using property taxes only serves to reinforce geographic, racial and socioeconomic disparities in education quality. These disparities affect students’ chances of success before they reach middleschool, much less college.

Will anyone listen to four accomplished college students? My answer: they MIGHT if someone running for President echoed this message and amplified it in the months ahead; they MIGHT if anyone running for Governor in a state with inequitable funding (i.e. virtually all the states in the nation) echoed this message and amplified it in the months ahead; they MIGHT if parents and voters in those towns suffering “…geographic, racial and socioeconomic disparities in education quality” echoed this message and amplified it in the months ahead. Absent a groundswell, however, the truth of this article will be forgotten and the myth of the meritocracy will persist. 

Professionalism, High Cost Killing Team Sports for Kids

August 11, 2019 Leave a comment

It is distressing to read this article from ESPN about the lower participation rates for kids participation in team sports… but not surprising given that each child pays over $1800 per sport per year… a daunting fee for all but the affluent. When this factor is combined with the deteriorating athletic field in cities and communities it becomes clear that more public funding is needed to address this issue.

apple.news/AtGp6Y77JQjaerfI5cbActA

As STATES Tackle Desegregation, Sausalito Marin City (CA) Schools Illustrate How Aggressive AGs Can Effect Change

August 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes reports that the Sausalito Marin City School District’s decision to open a charter school two decades ago resulted in separate but equal schools, violating the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Dana Goldstein and Anemoma Harticollis open their article about the State’s edict to desegregate schools with this:

A California school district outside of San Francisco agreed to desegregate its schools on Friday, after a two-year state investigation found that the district had “knowingly and intentionally maintained and exacerbated” racial segregation and even established an intentionally segregated school.

The intentionally segregated school with an imbalance of white students in the district, a charter school created 20 years ago by parents “…who said they were frustrated by poor test scores in the district“, IS more integrated than most schools across the country. It’s student body is 41 percent white, 11 percent African-American, 25 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian. The other school in the district, though, has an enrollment that is 7 percent white, 3 percent Asian, 49 percent African-American and 30 percent Latino. But where the district fell far short of the mark was in the way it funded and staffed the two schools:

It reneged on a promise to create a gifted program and cut music, art, physical education and counseling services, according to court papers (in the district-run school, Bayside-M.L.K). By 2015, the Bayside-M.L.K. principal, assistant principal and about half of the teaching staff had left, the court papers say.

The district-run school did not have a qualified math teacher, while the charter school did. The district school had only a part-time counselor, while the charter school had a full-time one.

And the district was harsher in disciplining black and Hispanic students compared with white students than any other public school district in the state, the attorney general said.

It is imponderable what the State’s findings would have been had the DISTRICT school been as well resourced as the CHARTER school… but if Brown v. Board of Education’s conclusions were applied even a separate and equal school would be illegal.

The real takeaway from the article, and the most distressing to read, is that for all intents and purposes the Federal government is no longer doing anything to address desegregation, which means it will now fall to STATES to address the issue of inequality. As Ms. Goldstein and Harticollis note, this is a reversal of roles:

State attorneys general typically defend school systems against desegregation claims, not pursue them. In the decades after the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the vast majority of desegregation agreements resulted from federal, not state, action — but in recent years, federal courts have done little to integrate schools.

In the long run this will mean that children of color in states with aggressive (i.e. liberal) AGs will eventually be offered the same opportunities as their white counterparts. But… it also means that children of color in most states will remain in second tier underfunded schools while their white counterparts attend well funded districts. In short, Brown v. Board of Education is no longer the law of the entire nation.

Mass Killings at El Paso and Dayton Elicit Call from President for Mental Health Services, A Call that is Chilling

August 5, 2019 Leave a comment

This past weekend 29 people were killed in mass murders perpetrated by two white nationalists operating independent of each other: on in El Paso, TX and one in Dayton, OH. The murderer in El Paso issued a manifesto full of language that mirrored the xenophobic exhortations of President Trump at his campaign rallies. The murderer in Dayton had a history of developing “hit lists” of classmates he wanted to kill.

The President’s reaction to the killings was that we have “a mental illness problem” in our country and he urged bi-partisan support for increased background checks prior to the purchase of guns.

I am concerned that Mr. Trump’s focus— and that of all NRA-owned legislators— seems to be on “mental health”. I am concerned because we have a POTUS who’s record on truth-telling is horrible, who holds science in low regard, and whose admiration for totalitarian leaders is high. It is not implausible that Mr. Trump might well define those who oppose him as “mentally ill”. That seems to be the method used by the world leaders he admires.

I am also concerned because as a retired public school administrator I can only imagine how the FBI might use information gathered by high school disciplinarians to identify “potential shooters” and how much money might be spend to incarcerate those who pose some kind of risk…. money that does not seem to be available to help young children who current face adversity related to poverty.

Until we are willing to spend as much to prevent violence as we are willing to impose it we will not get out of the spiral we find ourselves in today. Ceasing the sale of military style weapons, armor, and bullets is an important and necessary step. Proving help to those in need, however, reinforces our hopes for the future instead of our fears about the present. It would be money well spent.