Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poverty Is America's #1 Education Problem

From AlterNet:

As I've reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system's problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America's K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do. 

More here.

We don't have an education problem.  We've got a poverty problem.  

It's as simple as that, and I've been saying so for a while.  Of course, nobody cares what I say--I'm just some dude on the internet.  So the "education debate" continues apace, despite most of its assumptions being wildly unfounded and misguided.  That is, we don't need charter schools.  We don't need more standardized testing; in fact, we need less standardized testing.  And we don't need to get rid of teachers unions.  Indeed, we need more unionization of our educators, and more bargaining strength for their unions, in order to assure that some of the most important people in our nation, the people who teach our young, don't have to wait tables in order to send their own kids to college.  It's all wrong.  The entire "education debate" is self-destructive and foolish.

Anyone who engages in that "discussion" on its own terms is an enemy to knowledge and inquiry, and an enemy to a strong and thriving America.  Yeah, that's right.  If you're a charter advocate, one of those voucher people, someone who wants to unleash the power of "competition," someone who thinks the "market" can "save" our schools, I'm calling you a traitor.  All those ideas are about destroying the public school system and replacing it with stuff that just doesn't do what its defenders say it will.  Destroy America's schools, and you destroy America.  That makes you a traitor.  And I'm not joking.  You're the enemy, as sure as Al Qaeda is the enemy.

As the linked article observes, well-to-do schools have test scores that are similar to what we see in some of the best public school systems around the world.  All the so-called "failing" schools in this country, all of them, are in poverty stricken areas.  End poverty, and all the pathologies that go with it, and you fix the schools.  It's that simple.  Because the schools aren't really broken.  Rather, they are absurdly expected to cure deeply entrenched economic, social, and cultural problems all by themselves, without the resources or organizational depth to do so.  It's a big sick joke.  Because it's an impossible task.

Indeed, this shouldn't even be the schools' responsibility in the first place.  It's only a problem because the fabulously wealthy elite who own and operate our nation have so successfully pushed their "job creator" nonsense for so long that we can't even imagine such a thing as LBJ's "War on Poverty" anymore.  But that's what we need.  I mean, for its own sake, but also if we're serious about education, equal opportunity, a thriving economy, and everything else associated with it.

In the meantime, we are condemning millions to a dim life of totally unrealized potential, which is nothing short of obscene.