Re: The First Thing We Do, We Kill All The Teachers

1

You know, I'm not generally a fan of homeschooling, but between crap like this and 'your parents will be assigned homework', I think I have to consider it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 4:58 PM
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A version of item no. 1 happened to me, when I was in 11th grade. I can still remember the page number of the textbook that proved I was right and the teacher wrong. But it availed me naught.

I guarantee you this kid is a smart-aleck, just like I was.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:02 PM
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See? Fascists.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:03 PM
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It's no pacing day at Unfogged!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:05 PM
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Cutting edge investigative journalism (read: calling the school) suggests the scan is forged:
http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2007/12/17/student-given-detent.html#comment-93736


Posted by: pigsfly | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:06 PM
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Avid home-schoolers and highly-educated liberals hate much the same aspects of American culture and society, for somewhat different reasons.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:07 PM
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The first one may be a hoax, not that it makes the general point of the post any less true. I hate school more than any of you, and I have the anecdotes and forged diploma to prove it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:07 PM
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Zero tolerance, for fun and profit! Take judgement out of the hands of those closest to the situation, so that a bureaucrat can check off a box. Show them who's boss, and you will never have trouble again.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:10 PM
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But my story is true!


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:11 PM
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A version of item no. 1 happened to me, when I was in 11th grade. I can still remember the page number of the textbook that proved I was right and the teacher wrong.

During the spring break of my first year at college I was assisting at the CA high school latin convention, which was being held at my HS, and my assistance took the form of helping out some guy who was running the latin quiz team competition thing. There's an answer sheet so the teachers running things don't have to be totally up on the material, but it's compiled by mere mortals, after all, and for one question the recorded correct answer was wrong, as I knew because I had just taken a latin prose class. (Something to do with a double accusative.) One of the students answered correctly, but at variance with the answer sheet, and I tried to insist to the teacher that he had gotten it right, had just learned this myself, etc., went to a different classroom to retrieve a dictionary which demonstrated that he had gotten right, etc.. Totally bootless.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:11 PM
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w-lfs-n, it goes without saying, is totally a smart-aleck.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:14 PM
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In college I took a biology exam that was intended to be hard and to test our knowledge of genetics by asking non-rote questions. The question was something about how such a condition could have come about; my answer was marked wrong because it wasn't what the prof had in mind. I managed to get half credit by demonstrating that statistically, my answer was more likely, but I should have received full credit. Half a boot.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:15 PM
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Etc., etc.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:16 PM
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Gee, I wonder what kind of a school Sunrise Elementary School is.

Built in 1990, Sunrise has expanded its physical plant to now include 36 portables in addition to the 32 brick and mortar classrooms. As the largest elementary school in Marion County, Sunrise serves over 1,300 students. Our population is among the most diverse in the county with a minority population of 70%. The 2007 poverty rate for our school is 75%.

The goal is to teach them at a very young age that they're criminals.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:21 PM
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Kevin Christian, spokesman for Marion County Public Schools...said the girl may have to go to an alternative school, but it is up to the School Board to make that decision.

Some things are just unforgivable, kid.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:23 PM
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Our population is among the most diverse in the county with a minority population of 70%.

I take it that "diverse" here means "not diverse".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:25 PM
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I was assisting at the CA high school latin convention

Duly noted.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:29 PM
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I have, or had, a trophy or two from my state Latin (ahem) Forum. Go on, try to outnerd me now.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:30 PM
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Avid home-schoolers and highly-educated liberals are not mutually exclusive groups.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:34 PM
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18: I have more than two.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:37 PM
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Well, I did too, but my girlfriend took some when we broke up.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:38 PM
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Then you can't have been much of a nerd.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:40 PM
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That should have read, "my girlfriend took some to Canada when we broke up."


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:41 PM
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23: Reaction a) You used to date B?

Reaction b) What, was she afraid they'd get drafted?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:44 PM
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I take it that "diverse" here means "not diverse".

It's a grab bag. Also, since the girl's uncle is reported to be one Ke/nneth Th/omas, she's probably not Hispanic.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:45 PM
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You should be thinking more along the lines of Audrey de Trudeau, Josh.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 5:52 PM
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Are there any high (middle? elementary? pre?) school readers of the site? Imagine the irony of someone opening the page at school, the top entry is this one, and they're busted for it.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 6:19 PM
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Humorless pro-education girl wiwshes to point out that school districts are caught between a rock and a hard place where "weapons" and "drugs" are concerned. Everyone loves to make fun of the zero tolerance policies, but no one wants to pay for the student-teacher ratios that would provide enough adults to make "reasonable person" decisions about which pills are okay and which are the junior drug dealer kit, which knives are innocuous and which ones are the Sign of the Next Columbine, etc. And god fucking forbid a teacher make the wrong call.

Obviously the firefox thing is kinda dumb.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 6:56 PM
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I agree with humorless pro-education girl.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 6:57 PM
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Perhaps a zero tolerance policy would be more appropriate for a prison than an elementary school.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 6:58 PM
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You know, I'm not generally a fan of homeschooling, but between crap like this and 'your parents will be assigned homework', I think I have to consider it.

Not that I would seriously consider it, but boy, do I hear you.

Last week, my 6-year old son had a detention (for not completing his homework, of which he gets way too much). So I had to go pick him up after the detention, and watching the kids stream out of the building, the scene struck me as too absurd: first came all these big kids, 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders (his fellow detainees), and then, straggling behind, a little guy with his mittens on backwards. He called it "kid jail" and "school prison".

And, you know, it really changes a man to do hard time. He now says he wants to be a drifter when he grows up.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:03 PM
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30: Yeah, try to explain that to the parents and legislators who fucking love the "Proud to be Drug Free!" programs, and who are utterly terrified about the possibility of violence on campus.

But hey, sure, go ahead and blame the teachers for having to follow the laws and regulations they're saddled with.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:04 PM
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33

B makes a good point in 28, but just now I just want to be cranky.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:04 PM
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34

It's almost as if there should be choices for primary education. Institutions with an incentive to be more responsive to the wishes of parents, perhaps.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:11 PM
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Oh, I've been cranky about school shit plenty myself. I just want people to keep in mind that by and large teachers bust their asses (and are usually pretty amenable to reasonable parental concerns). The stuff that sucks is mostly some kind of externally-mandated bullshit or financial necessity or the same kind of crap that makes university life frustrating, and I assume none of us would say that we hate higher ed.

Well, okay, maybe in some of our more frustrated moments. But ykwim.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:12 PM
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28: Humorless respondent might point out that we got by for years before zero tolerance policies being able to distinguish between a kid cutting up meat and a kid threatening someone with a knife without a corresponding increase in Columbines and that we haven't evolved to be incapable of recognizing danger from lunch that quickly.

Zero tolerance policies that result in kids getting charged with felonies for what are nonviolent nonoffenses are dumb policies. I don't blame the teachers for having to enforce a dumb policy but that doesn't make the policy actually good any more than a mandatory minimum becomes good for not being the fault of the judge.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:17 PM
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32: Nobody blamed the teachers. They blamed the policy, same as you.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:19 PM
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No one's arguing that the policy's good. Some of us are just a little perturbed by the way all the blame seems to immediately get put onto the teachers when stuff like this happens, when it's not really their fault at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:21 PM
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It's almost as if there should be choices for primary education. Institutions with an incentive to be more responsive to the wishes of parents, perhaps.

But B's point - which seems to be true - is that the zero-tolerance policies come from the parents. I doubt you could get a charter/private school big enough to actually operate drawing from a base of "families who are fairly mellow about weapons and drugs in elementary schools."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:21 PM
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37: See the post title.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:21 PM
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I think my reaction is stronger because the 'zero tolerance' didn't just result in a suspension but in a felony charge. Bad policy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:21 PM
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34: No.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:23 PM
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34: There already are. Some families can't afford them.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:24 PM
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To what wishes of what parents was the school in question unresponsive here?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:27 PM
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Teachers: the administration's willing executioners. Plenty of teachers are petty tyrants. Kill 'em all.

baa, that's as close as you've come to trolling.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:28 PM
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Hey, I know! Let's spend the rest of the threat coming up with nuanced responses to baa's smug right-wing spin on this situation! Good use of everyone's time.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:29 PM
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"Threat" was obviously a Freudian slip.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:29 PM
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baa, that's as close as you've come to trolling

You've missed trolltasia, now playing over in the other thread.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:33 PM
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I don't think there's any trolling in the other thread.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:35 PM
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34: And in good districts with some money and enough involved parents, there are; look at Seattle, for instance. The public schools here, too, offer a pretty broad variety of educational programs. There's the Open Classroom, which PK is in; there's a bilingual immersion program; there's a homeschooling support co-op type thingie; there's a technology high school; and probably a couple other things I'm not thinking of.

It isn't a question of "institutions with an incentive." And it isn't about being *more* responsive to the wishes of parents--after all, some parents don't want their kids taught about evolution. Good teachers (and even the half-decent ones) recognize that kids learn in really different ways and have really different personalities. The problem is that neither the public nor the legislatures trust teachers.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:36 PM
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36: Yes; I'm not saying that zero-tolerance policies are a *good* thing. But the years in which we got by without them were mostly the pre-Columbine years. And if the fucking legislature has defined "carrying a weapon on a school campus" as a felony, then yes: the kid is going to get charged. With any fucking luck the case will get thrown out and the well-meaning tough-on-crime we-must-protect-the-children legislators will be forced to yank the stupid ass law. It isn't the fault of public education, or of educators.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:39 PM
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Is it a matter of waiting for the panic to subside? How might Columbine, not the event but the reaction, have been headed off? Moore thought it was about manufactured fear, which seems as good a guess as any.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:43 PM
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My district instituted a zero-tolerance policy in 1995 or so. Columbine was 1999, and I'm flat-out rejecting any but-for that implies that Columbine would have been stopped if only the high school had had a zero tolerance policy. And if parents and the legislature overreact because of Columbine, they're wrong to do so especially when they do so in directions that don't actually prevent massacres. Just like people are wrong to take VA Tech as a reason that we need to allow students to carry weapons on campus so that we might stop the next Cho.

This may be deeper than a problem with the legislature. It may be that we just have a stupid electorate.

I like public education as I'm a product of it and it served me well, but if the legislature ruins it, I wouldn't have much of a problem opting out.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:47 PM
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The problem is that neither the public nor the legislatures trust teachers.

This, like all monocausal explanations of the failings of public schools, can be at most 20% correct.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:47 PM
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54: Fair enough, but it's certainly a problem.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:51 PM
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I think my reaction is stronger because the 'zero tolerance' didn't just result in a suspension but in a felony charge. Bad policy.

Of course, felony charges aren't a question of school policies but of prosecutorial discretion. I'd like to say I'd be shocked if any prosecutor would really charge a 10 year old with a felony for packing inappropriate sack lunch utensils, but generally whenever I say "that could never happen," iI'm wrong.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:51 PM
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My district instituted a zero-tolerance policy in 1995 or so.

In fairness, Cala, your district was a hellhole that could only be compared with Phnom Penh ca. '77 and Baghdad '06 for violence and inhumanity. Robespierre himself would have thrown up his hands in despair at attempting to control you heathens.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:51 PM
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I know! The senior pranks caused hearts to flutter and our football team grounds the dreams of many under their feet. I think the incident that sparked the zero-tolerance policy was an orange rubber dart gun.

The funny thing is that the district developed a heroin problem about seven years after I graduated and man did the parents bitch. Drug-sniffing dogs? Quelles horreurs! We're not in the inner city!!!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:57 PM
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I'm flat-out rejecting any but-for that implies that Columbine would have been stopped if only the high school had had a zero tolerance policy.

So do I. My point is that public education is far from ruined, for all the scare stories you hear about stupid teachers, stupid policies, blah blah. Stuff happens that's annoying, just like in any enormous institution that serves millions of people. But by and large the schools are doing good jobs despite all the nonsense mandates they get saddled with. The schools that are really failing are doing so because of extreme poverty--the same reasons that the neighborhoods they're in are failing, that the families they're serving are failing, the kids they're trying to teach are failing, etc.

This, like all monocausal explanations of the failings of public schools, can be at most 20% correct.

What about the argument that public schools are not, in fact, failing?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:57 PM
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56: It's the district policy that requires bringing in the police over this. With luck the prosecutor will have a brain but maybe she doesn't have any discretion either.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 7:58 PM
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The problem is that neither the public nor the legislatures trust teachers.

Why, having escaped public schools by the skin of my teeth, would I trust teachers? If they want to be trusted, much less respected, perhaps they ought to start acting like professionals rather than busybodies and thwarted martinets.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:03 PM
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Okay, NOW someone is blaming the teachers.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:03 PM
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Told ya.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:05 PM
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64

Heh.

Well, given that the person who really truly has the most impact on a kid *is* the teacher, crappy-ass policies and such really matter a lot less to the quality of a kids' education than the person standing at the front of the room.

I admit I get very reactive to comments about homeschooling and omg public schools are so awful.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:06 PM
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What about the argument that public schools are not, in fact, failing?

I might agree, but suspect we'd disagree about what they're succeeding in doing. The phrase "brutalizing the innocent and ignorant, employing the unemployable, supporting the candidacies of the undependable" comes to mind.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:09 PM
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66

Homeschooling: safe, available, and rare.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:10 PM
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67

Flippanter's comments are a perfect illustration of why it's impossible to have a productive conversation about education policy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:11 PM
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What about the argument that public schools are not, in fact, failing?

Did I claim they were? I said they have "failings", which is incontrovertibly true.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:11 PM
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In fairness, Flippanter's comments aren't really about education policy. It's hard to tell what they are, in fact, about. I'm guessing Flippanter is angry about something?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:13 PM
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69: That's what I mean. People's opinions about education are shaped almost entirely by their experiences in school, which vary so widely that no single experience is generalizable to the educational system as a whole, and they tend to hold those opinions so strongly that it becomes impossible to abstract away from them to a discussion of the overall system.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:14 PM
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What about the argument that public schools are not, in fact, failing?

This reminds me of an old cartoon. "The problem of the ghettoes? My dear, the ghettoes are the solution, not the problem."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:15 PM
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Now 65 is really the raving of a diseased mind. I say t this for the edification of those, like one ben w-lfs-n, who would apply that extreme term to a very measured observation about the Dirty Projectors.

NOTE: I only wrote "measured" because I couldn't figure out what the adjective form of "equinimity" is.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:16 PM
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"equanimitous"?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:16 PM
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Equanimitous.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:17 PM
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baa, that's as close as you've come to trolling.

True, but honestly, how close is that? I do think -- for serious, like -- that when a school system does obviously crazy things it's at least possible to note that private schools are, at least, differently crazy. Even to voice this heretical concept may count as unbearable smugness to Kotsko, but I can't be blamed for that: his troll detector is routinely set off by stray motes of dust.

Over in the other thread Ned has me exactly right: I'm just speaking The Truth (as it appears to me, natch) with like 3% extra frivolity.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:18 PM
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It's "equanimous."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:19 PM
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67: Sorry. Still nursing some old wounds.

One might ask, though, what "a productive conversation about education policy" might look like. Liberals aren't normally averse to questioning the stated and real motivations of actors in the public sphere; assuming the apolitical good will of America's "educators" (I'm not smiling when I type that) will make asses out of both you and -umption.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:19 PM
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64: It depends on what you can afford. I am unlikely to be able to put my kids in a district like the one I went to. And if I have to spend four hours a night on homework anyway.... I'm not saying public school is awful, just that homeschooling looks more and more attractive.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:19 PM
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I'm not saying baa is a woman from Mongolia, but it does seem odd that he is having all this trouble leaving a name in the "Name" box.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:19 PM
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I think, regarding these elementary school Nazis, Jonah Goldberg put it best:

The quintessential liberal fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

I especially love that Goldberg picked up on the fact that the really evil teachers are the females.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:20 PM
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Liberals aren't normally averse to questioning the stated and real motivations of actors in the public sphere; assuming the apolitical good will of America's "educators" (I'm not smiling when I type that) will make asses out of both you and -umption.

True enough, but (unlike conservatives) we're not inclined to think the worst of them a priori either. But my point is that this problem doesn't affect only the anti-teacher contingent (which is quite large, even among liberals), but also people like me, who are instinctively pro-public education because of good experiences with our own educations and/or the fact that close relatives of ours are teachers. Thus is an unbridgeable gap created.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:23 PM
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See, if we staffed the army with Swarthmore Ed Grads and made sure every public school principal was a Hauptsturmführer things would be much better run all round.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:23 PM
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zero-tolerance policies come from the parents.

They come from fear -- fear of violence, fear of litigation, fear of people with the wrong skin color. Which is certainly strongly influenced by (a subset of) parents.

I would have a lot more sympathy for zero-tolerance policies if they were fine-grained judgment policies. The schools I'm most familiar with these days are incapable of keeping students physically safe during the school day, but on the rare occasion that an authority figure actually witnesses a student with an identifiable weapon, it is treated Very Seriously Indeed. Talk about the worst of both words (getting tranferred for having a pair of scissors?).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:23 PM
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I can quit anytime I want.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:24 PM
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The female of the species is more fascist than the male.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:24 PM
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The schools I'm most familiar with these days are incapable of keeping students physically safe during the school day, but on the rare occasion that an authority figure actually witnesses a student with an identifiable weapon, it is treated Very Seriously Indeed.

Some questions answer themselves.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:27 PM
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79
would you do not call on me without need, please?
thank you


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:36 PM
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What about the argument that public schools are not, in fact, failing?

Universally successful.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:43 PM
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See the post title

Maybe it would have been less contentious if Ogged had used the quotation in its original wording.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:44 PM
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90

Yes, much.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:44 PM
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private schools are, at least, differently crazy

Yes, and if all the educated parents whose support matters a lot to their kids' schools--the folks whose kids are going to do well academically *regardless*--bail out of the public sphere because, after all, they can afford to!, then the public schools are going to suffer. We are the people with the education and abilities to help supplement what's going on in public schools; for fuck's sake, I'm writing curricula for PK's teacher (who is great, but it's his first f-t job, he got hired part way into the year and thus didn't have the summer to plan, and the school frowns on pre-packaged textbook curricula). Sure, I could probably homeschool him just fine, but then the kids in his class wouldn't have the lessons about newspapers and art, the teacher wouldn't have an experienced "class mom" who can really help him out and talk about pedagogy, and I'd have zero direct incentive to pay attention to what's going on with the school board and the district.

And since my kid is going to learn the stuff I have to teach him no matter what school he's in, I'd be depriving the public sphere of the skills I have to offer, without really giving PK much benefit other than teaching him implicitly to turn into a junior libertarian. No thanks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:49 PM
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The female of the species is more fascist

True. This is why many are called feminazis.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:51 PM
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Weirdly, applying a "free market" solution to education produces unequal results, wherein those who are already in an advantageous position get further advantages. This happens so often that I'm starting to wonder if it might be an inherent feature of the "free market," and if maybe we shouldn't fucking base everything in society on business practices!!! Because I don't know if you've ever met a really successful businessman, but those people are generally total sociopaths.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:54 PM
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91: Yeah, yeah. Next you're going to be telling us that it takes a village ...


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:55 PM
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teaching him implicitly to turn into a junior libertarian.

Don't be silly. If he becomes a junior libertarian, it'll be through his own efforts, and his own bootstraps!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:55 PM
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It doesn't take a village. It takes people who are interested in the public good and won't let themselves be suckered by the (admittedly major) pressure to drink the "your children are your own responsibility" kool-aid.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:57 PM
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I think it is wonderful that you are such an asset to PK's school; but I think it is a sign of a failing system that something like curriculum design is outsourced to a mom that does it for free. It works in a wealthy area with educated stay-at-home parents, but much below that you get a curriculum that doesn't work and people shaking their heads about how the parents in that district just aren't preparing their kids properly.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 8:58 PM
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teaching him implicitly to turn into a junior libertarian.

Teach not him implicitly but rather try--I'm sorry. Wrong thread.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:01 PM
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but I think it is a sign of a failing system that something like curriculum design is outsourced to a mom that does it for free.

Yes. This is not a good situation, though it's great that you're helping out.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:02 PM
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97: It wouldn't be outsourced if I didn't offer. And the school PK is in isn't wealthy--a lot of the kids have single moms, actually. I pulled him out of the rich school with stay-home moms because it was too regimented, too hung up on test scores, and too normative in a way that really was going to be increasingly problematic for my long-haired freaky little boy (who just tonight asked me to paint his fingernails red).

Anyway, the class wouldn't be failing without me. But I do think it's better for my presence. I don't think it's a sign of a failing educational system that parent involvement in education helps a lot.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:05 PM
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Well, great help though it might be, I don't think I am ever going to be that involved in my child's classroom.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:08 PM
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It's not an *ideal* situation. But it's not at all a bad one. In fact, the school requires parental volunteer time. There's a lot of pressure for parents to volunteer *during class time*, which I think is a mistake, since parents do, after all, usually have 9-5 type jobs, and it is a public school. But the impulse--that parents should be invested in their kid's schooling, and that good schools are better when the parents are--is a good one, and from what I know about education, is really just acknowledging the facts.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:09 PM
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Weirdly, applying a "free market" solution to education produces unequal results

Yeah, it's weird, isn't it? how the untrammeled freedom of the few at the expense of the basic liberties of the many has oft-times been known to produce some remarkably unequal results? Well, who knew, and who could have predicted?... and shouldn't someone or other do a study? wherein the exact parameters (height and length and breadth and depth and etc.) are carefully measured and faithfully recorded, of that level playing field on which we are all supposed to imagine ourselves to be playing...


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:10 PM
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I think requiring parental volunteer time is kind of creepy, too. I think it oversimplifies what it does and should mean to be "invested in [one's] kid's schooling". This kind of thing, like the stuff someone here recently was saying about sports practice requiring every kid to have a parent present, really makes me feel weird about the prospect of having kids.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:14 PM
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In fact, the school requires parental volunteer time

Can't really have a good feeling about this.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:17 PM
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104: Some special NYC charter schools were admitting students on the basis of their parents' ability/time to fundraise and help teach in the classroom. In practice, this meant the exclusion of the children of recent immigrants.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:19 PM
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The class I TAed this quarter had a guest lecture by a professor in the polisci dept and school of education, who said that after his kid joined whatever school s/he attends, he got a letter from some school official welcoming him and his kid to the district, and informing him that his noncompulsory but expected donation for the year was x hundred dollars.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:20 PM
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In fact, the school requires parental volunteer time. There's a lot of pressure for parents to volunteer *during class time*

This kind of stuff makes me angry. A lot of daycare places do it, too. It basically caters to families where one of the parents doesn't have a time-demanding job. It's annoying when public schools do it, and it's annoying when daycares do it because, you know, the reason my kid is in daycare is that both parents are working during the day.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:20 PM
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informing him that his noncompulsory but expected donation for the year was x hundred dollars.

Yep, I got the equivalent notice once. I told them to fuck off.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:21 PM
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Luckily, no one is required to attend this school. You have to request it.

All I'm saying is, if/when you have kids, don't chicken out on the public schools until you see what's actually going on in them. There's a lot of bitching about "the system," but most people are satisfied with their own schools. Really and truly, I suspect that the bitching is a right-wing plot to get us all to abandon public ed entirely.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:22 PM
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Ugh!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:22 PM
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It basically caters to families where one of the parents doesn't have a time-demanding job.

Again, many of the parents at this school are single parents. Stay-home moms like me are a minority.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:23 PM
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Another common thing is a "volunteer requirement" [sic] that turns into a bill @ x dollars per hour if you don't complete your required voluntary work.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:24 PM
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107: Yes, that was what happened at PK's school last year.

OTOH, you do realize that private school would cost more, right? The PTO at that school paid for a library, a librarian, and a music teacher.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:26 PM
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110: Yes, but it seems that some folks who do request that their children attend particular sorts of schools are turned down because they, say, lack the language skills to help teach, flexible job schedule to be there during school hours, or the macher status to raise cash.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:26 PM
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111 was regarding the expected donation stuff.

Luckily, no one is required to attend this school. You have to request it.

Yes, but (and I think we've had this conversation before) this means the school excludes people who don't feel they can manage the volunteer time, or, to put it another way, demands a "payment" of parent time, which is not the same as being a completely tuition-free public school. I also find the increasing normalization of the idea that "involved" parents volunteer in the classroom to be icky.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:26 PM
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The fact that our public school systems often don't work without extra resources (money, time, etc.) from parents is sad. Similar to a health care system where Health Insurance Counselors are necessary to get prescriptions and other care.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:26 PM
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The flip side of co-op daycare is that it enables a parent who works sporadically to put in a certain amount of volunteer time in exchange for less expensive tuition. Friends of mine who were struggling financially before their kids went to public school benefited greatly from this.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:27 PM
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Right, but the point is it's a public school: they can't *make* you pay the bill.

115: Not the case at this school. And one reason for my being so involved is that I want to push them *away* from the "four hours in class" requirement toward something that's more flexible for parents with 9-5 jobs.

Can we maybe give me credit for actually *having* a kid in public school here when I say that public schools don't suck?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:28 PM
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the school excludes people who don't feel they can manage the volunteer time

It doesn't seem to work that way. It's a small program because most people think that it's too chaotic and hippie dippie, not because people are scared off by the volunteer thing. Admittedly, it tends to attract parents who *want* to be really involved in their kids education, but it also attracts parents whose own experiences of school were godawful; folks who were bullied, who had disabilities, who were poor, and who do *not* want their kids going to a "regular" public school that doesn't emphasize cooperating and egalitarianism the way this one does.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:31 PM
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I think Cala's 97 is exactly right. Bphd is being great, but it's a sign of trouble that this effort is so beneficial

Weirdly, applying a "free market" solution to education produces unequal results, wherein those who are already in an advantageous position get further advantage

This is correct. The question is: when is equality the most important value? Is the most important thing that everyone gets the same quality of education, or that more people get a better education. If you think equality trumps, you will, of necessity oppose some situations in which no one is worse off but some are better off. That's the limit case, of course, but the basic principle is instructive. Seeking equal education isn't the same as seeking to maximize the amount of "good education" provided.

Now, as it happens, I think educational equality is more or less torched from the get go. Some parents read their kids T.H White, some pay for violin lessons, some talk at the dinner table about art and science. Those kids are already starting the race ahead. Even if all kids went to public schools of the same quality (which they don't), no education system is ever going give the kid from a terrible family situation and the same probability of favorable life outcomes as the kid of two ivy league professionals. Equality -- even the approximation of it -- is chimerical. As we know, even under a system of public provision there are massive inequalities between the public schools in rich suburbs and in poor districts. With this imperfect background, you can then ask: what's the approach that gives most people the best chance?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:32 PM
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Can we maybe give me credit for actually *having* a kid in public school here when I say that public schools don't suck?

I seriously don't think anyone has disagreed with anything you've said in the last fifty posts. People are just complaining about the schools being so underfunded that they have to pawn off "voluntary but strongly encouraged" tuition and time requirements on the teachers.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:32 PM
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As we know, even under a system of public provision there are massive inequalities between the public schools in rich suburbs and in poor districts. With this imperfect background, you can then ask: what's the approach that gives most people the best chance?

It would be the system we have, in which there are private and parochial schools everywhere, and students whose parents can't afford them or don't see them as necessary have the public schools to fall back on, wouldn't it? Except without so much of the "higher property taxes = more money for schools".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:34 PM
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There's a tension between whether the onus of educating the next generation is on society as a whole, with some help from parents, or parents as a whole, with some help from society.

The good side of schools like B is describing includes the fact that it's kind of like the Habitat for Humanity concept of sweat equity -- it really can be a way for people who are short on cash but longer on time to contribute. The bad side includs the coercive, de-facto-discriminatory tactics also described above.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:36 PM
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The idea of a public school that requires parental involvement, during class time or otherwise, is so foreign to my own experience that I literally have no idea how to react to it.

(Which, again, just shows how difficult it is to have these discussions productively.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:39 PM
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but it's a sign of trouble that this effort is so beneficial

No, it's not. My wife teaches in a well-funded district in an affluent suburb, and parental involvement is as welcome and beneficial there as it is in the considerably less well-funded school where our daughters go. The kind of required or nearly-required parental involvement under discussion here is the exception, not the rule.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:40 PM
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It would be the system we have, in which there are private and parochial schools everywhere, and students whose parents can't afford them or don't see them as necessary have the public schools to fall back on, wouldn't it? Except without so much of the "higher property taxes = more money for schools".

And with more money overall, which would probably have to come from the federal government to ensure a sufficient amount (and, fine, to ensure uniform and equitable standards for what schools do with the money as well).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:40 PM
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Same here, 125.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:40 PM
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113: Don't even get me started. They should just call it "statutory labour", to be fulfilled by X number of shillings, or by X number of hours of roadwork, whether impressed or freely donated, and at least be honest about it.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:40 PM
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The idea of a public school that requires parental involvement, during class time or otherwise, is so foreign to my own experience that I literally have no idea how to react to it.

I have something like this experience a couple of times month dealing with some new bizarro-world aspect of the U.S. education system that an immigrant rube like me can't possibly be expected to make sense of.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:42 PM
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In any case. I like this school because it focuses on project-based learning rather than textbooks and worksheets, actually tries to teach conflict resolution, mixes grade levels, and really practices student-centered learning. Because they're not given the funds for teachers' assistants, they have to rely on parents to make the "project-based" and "student-centered" stuff work, but I think it's pedagogically beneficial. I didn't sign up because I wanted to spend a ton of time in the classroom; that actually put me off a bit. But because I thought the pedagogical goals were sound, I bit the bullet and am finding that I really enjoy it. There's stuff that drives me nuts, of course, but by and large it's a good school. And if PK went to private school, no doubt I'd be spending four hours a week working to pay for it.

I realize, of course, that in Hirshmanian terms, that's a problematic argument, and I'm not really happy with the idea that "the system" requires parents to work for free. OTOH, you might be surprised at how many people do *not* work 9-5 jobs, especially folks who are kind of marginalized. And I'm equally unhappy with a system that requires people to pay for a basic education; of the two, I'd rather suck it up and support the one that's working to continue to provide good pedagogy to anyone who's willing to help out, rather than the one that's only going to give it to folks who are rich enough to pay for it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:44 PM
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Time for a break for a happy song. Happy happy happy happy. Happy happy happy. Although it appears from the reviews that most of her album is a giant clusterfuck of awfulness.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:44 PM
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I don't doubt 130, but my wife has spent her entire career in public education, we know a jillion people with kids, and this thread is the first time I've ever heard of a public school with a parental involvement requirement.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:46 PM
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I certainly applaud b for her dedication to the school, and her district in for springing for an unusual type of school like that in the first place. I'm just so agog at the idea that the system that is apparently necessary to support such a school exists in the first place that I'm not sure what, if any, lessons can be drawn from this situation that would apply more generally.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:48 PM
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when is equality the most important value? Is the most important thing that everyone gets the same quality of education, or that more people get a better education.

Those aren't the only two choices. The most important thing is that everyone has the *opportunity* to get a good basic education. Which requires social support. Since at this moment in history no one's willing to pay jack shit to fund public schools, that social support means my volunteer time, which I'm willing to provide because I think that opportunity matters.

And as I say, my kid's education isn't suffering at this school. So I'm actually *not* choosing between "equality" and "better education." I'm sure I could find a private school that would, for instance, teach him Latin, but he's learning *plenty* and he can learn Latin later if he wants to. Learning to not care about whether people's clothes are shabby or whether they have trouble walking, and *to* care about being fair, however, are much more difficult to consciously acquire later in life.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:48 PM
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It would be the system we have, in which there are private and parochial schools everywhere, and students whose parents can't afford them or don't see them as necessary have the public schools to fall back on, wouldn't it? Except without so much of the "higher property taxes = more money for schools".

I would support more equalization of funding between rich and poor districts, or more equalized access between school districts. But this is an absolute non-starter politically. Millions of families have made massive financial commitments buy buying houses based on the current system. Getting rid of the real estate-schooling link is like eliminating the mortgage tax deduction: great in theory, but in practice it would inflict massive financial hardship in a more-or-less random fashion. I'd make out like a bandit, having bought a nice place in a bad school district. But all the people who suffer through a 1 hour commute in order to enjoy good suburban schools would descend with pitchforks and torches.

Also, I have some skepticism of whether the key variable in the quality of education provision is really money. My guess is that institutions matter enormously. My fear is that where the education system is really not working, it's not for lack of money, but because the institutions, for whatever reasons, aren't meeting the needs of those particular students. If so, the solution is likely to be a system with more experimentation and more feedback. Obviously, this could happen within the public system -- this is the idea behind charters.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:48 PM
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I've only ever been to public school, and look at me!

(*belch*, *undergrad-ize*)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:49 PM
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My fear is that where the education system is really not working, it's not for lack of money, but because the institutions, for whatever reasons, aren't meeting the needs of those particular students.

This may well be true, but more money certainly wouldn't hurt, and it would be a lot easier than changing the institutions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:50 PM
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I'd make out like a bandit, having bought a nice place in a bad school district.

Gay.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:51 PM
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The most important thing is that everyone has the *opportunity* to get a good basic education

Not much I'd disagree with there. Although again, I think this leaves open what type of system best accomplishes this. If your involvement is *required* for anyone in PK's class to have this opportunity, that's a broken system. If you're just the marachino cherry on the sundae of learning, then there's no concern. You'd be an ornament to any classroom, private or public (seriously!)


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:53 PM
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Gay.

For Pedroia, maybe.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:53 PM
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OTOH, you do realize that private school would cost more, right? The PTO at that school paid for a library, a librarian, and a music teacher.

Yes, a private school would cost more. But people shouldn't have to pay more to go to particular public schools. If the school can't afford a library, librarian, and music teacher, then maybe they should get more public money so they can stock and maintain a library and hire a librarian and music teacher. It shouldn't be on the parents of the students. (Directly, obviously they'll be taxed.)

The question is: when is equality the most important value? Is the most important thing that everyone gets the same quality of education, or that more people get a better education. If you think equality trumps, you will, of necessity oppose some situations in which no one is worse off but some are better off. That's the limit case, of course, but the basic principle is instructive. Seeking equal education isn't the same as seeking to maximize the amount of "good education" provided.

Now, as it happens, I think educational equality is more or less torched from the get go. Some parents read their kids T.H White, some pay for violin lessons, some talk at the dinner table about art and science. Those kids are already starting the race ahead.

Baa, did you read the article I linked in 88? If you did, do you really think that the inequalities we're facing are those that come from some students have parents who read to their kids, and others having parents who (say) don't know how to read English or are apathetic or whatever? Because it seems as if you pick the case where any levelling efforts would be obviously wrongheaded, even if they could be made effective, and simultaneously not the business of the education system itself. Someone seeking to improve the quality of education a student receives in public schools isn't going to (or shouldn't) be focused on dinner table conversation at home, because, guess what, that's not part of the public school system, nor should the impossibility of getting the same outcomes from the same system, because of different familial backgrounds, mean we should throw up our hands at equalizing what we can.

It is also far from clear that one actually need compromise between maintaining the high level of education in the public schools of Palo Alto or Irvine and improving the public schools in South Central, despite the intimation in the first paragraph I've quoted that that's the choice with which we're faced and that if we value that former, we're stuck with the latter (in a sort of reverse difference principle: every woe with which the least advantaged students are afflicted is there to prop up the most advantaged). The basic principle is only "instructive" if it's actually relevant to the discussion.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:54 PM
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You'd be an ornament to any classroom, private or public (seriously!)

Sexist!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:54 PM
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this is an absolute non-starter politically

I'm talking out my hat here, and I am about to go to bed and am not going to look for a citation. But when I heard Myron Orfield talk about these issues, my sense was that the last 5 years has seen a big shift (perceptual as well as practical) in making public education funded more at the state level than at the county/district level. I think he cited Alabama -- or maybe it was Arkansas -- as one of a half-dozen or so states that have passed new legislation to facilitate this.

Shorter me: It's apparently not a non-starter, because some states have done it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:55 PM
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where the education system is really not working, it's not for lack of money, but because the institutions, for whatever reasons, aren't meeting the needs of those particular students.

meet

The schools that are really failing are doing so because of extreme poverty--the same reasons that the neighborhoods they're in are failing, that the families they're serving are failing, the kids they're trying to teach are failing, etc.

It's about money, but it's not all about money.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:57 PM
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But this is an absolute non-starter politically.

Not exactly. Vermont's Act 60 is still controversial, but the legislature voted down a repeal earlier this year.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 9:58 PM
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Pwned, but with link.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:00 PM
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New Mexico schools are funded primarily at the state level, and the state's funding system is widely considered a model for equitable funding. There isn't a whole lot of money to start with, though, so funding remains an issue.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:00 PM
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OT: Emerson's sister-in-law's pies are as advertised.

Way back up upthread somewhere:

But B's point - which seems to be true - is that the zero-tolerance policies come from the parents. I doubt you could get a charter/private school big enough to actually operate drawing from a base of "families who are fairly mellow about weapons and drugs in elementary schools."

I'm one of those horrible parents who sends his kid to a private school because it's easier for me to generate the necessary income than it would be to drive myself nuts dealing with a school district bureaucracy that seems to have been designed to outlast parents. The biggest difference between the current school and the public school he started out in is just basic competent management and good judgment. The reaction if someone suggested an idiot no-tolerance policy would start with bemusement and move rapidly to tar and feathers.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:02 PM
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Yay Jesus and teo, for actual links with actual empirical evidence.

'Night, all.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:03 PM
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IIRC Washington was one of the first states in which state courts held that the state constitution required a degree of equality in school funding statewide. My (mostly ignorant) impression is that it hasn't made nearly as much difference as one might hope.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:05 PM
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133: Me too, and both my folks and my sister were/are public school teachers.

134: I think the main lesson is that the district is, admirably, willing to accommodate/provide parents who really want x or y emphasis in their schools. (And that this kind of willingness depends on a critical mass of parents who are willing to ask for/send their kids to those schools.) In Seattle they didn't have a school like this, but they did have an African-American academy, a languages school, and a couple of other cool things.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:06 PM
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149 -- As annoying as my son's public school can be -- it's very low grade annoyance, as it's a very good school -- in this regard it pales in comparison to my daughter's private school.

Ideology-based generalizations concerning education are even shoddier than most ideology-based generalizations.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:08 PM
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I didn't read the Kozol, Ben W. And although I come to Kozol with enormous skepticism, if you recommend it, I will read it.

On the merits, yes, I really do believe that enormous amounts of inequality we face has to done with family factors that are beyond the scope of the education system. I also think that education isn't primarily zero-sum, it's primarily a positive-sum game. For both these reasons (1: the education system is a poor tool for redressing inequality, and 2: education is primarily positive sum) I feel that focus on equality as the or a primary metric of an education system is misguided. It's better, in my view to try to ensure that as large a proportion as possible get some a basic level of "good education," or that as many people get the best education possible.

To that end, I quite agree that we can improve south central without harming palo alto. But the specific concern I was responding to was more the contrary claim: that if a free market system makes palo alto better off, it must make south central worse off. That's not true. I suspect that the more people can choose, the better schooling the rich will get (indeed, that's why even within a public system, they get better education now). But I also think the more people can choose, the better schooling everyone will get. If the rich get more of a benefit, that's not a show-stopper in my view.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:08 PM
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where the education system is really not working, it's not for lack of money, but because the institutions, for whatever reasons, aren't meeting the needs of those particular students.

And to meet the needs of "those particular students", one might need ... money!

It is hard to believe that decreasing budgets (partially driven by white flightpeople looking for good schools) has just randomly been accompanied by everyone forgetting how to teach.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:09 PM
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Ben you're on the side of the angels. Why did these intractable problems with public schools only appear in the sixties and seventies, anyhoo?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:13 PM
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It's better, in my view to try to ensure that as large a proportion as possible get some a basic level of "good education," or that as many people get the best education possible.

I agree, and I think you may be up against a bit of a strawman if you think "equality" is the primary liberal goal here. And I would argue that increasing funding levels all around (or even just for the currently struggling schools) is likely to be a better or at least easier way to reach your goal than "choice."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:13 PM
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My kids went to a Ca. K-8 charter school we helped found with a parental volunteer commitment as a part of the charter vision. I hated the school we were in before -- we were treated like clients, in the sense of helpless, ignorant and dependent pawns. And the district was wealthy. At the prior school parental involvement was a PTA run by a clique of stay-at-home moms, and bringing brownies to a bake sale.

But at our charter the kinds of involvement ran from participating at a clean up day twice a year, building a loft in the day care area so the kids would have a quiet place to read, running seminars (half the classes had one of these alternating four week periods on wed. mornings to give the teachers added prep time. One year many of the seminars allowed kids to write the script, make costumes, make props etc. for the all school play which was an adaptation of The Hobbit. The tech team maintained the computers. Etc.

These were not all daytime activities by any means. And we based this aspect of the vision of our school on research that shows kids learn better when parents are involved in their schooling. We parents knew all the kids. Kids were not anonymous. I am a working mom, but I managed to participate as did my husband. This was not a defect in the school it was a huge benefit.


Posted by: bemused | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:13 PM
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153: Yeah, I don't think you can generalize very far. Our particular private school is well-run and our particular public school district isn't particularly. That's about as far as I take it.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:15 PM
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On the merits, yes, I really do believe that enormous amounts of inequality we face has to done with family factors that are beyond the scope of the education system.

Frankly, I find that extremely hard to believe, and would love to know why you think it. And while this might not be the case with you, a bad-district-dweller, the fact that the already-wealthy schools like to ask for more money from the wealthy parents of their pupils suggests that they think otherwise, and the fact that those wealthy parents like to move to places with good school districts, which drives up property values, which means property taxes funding ... those very schools, hmm, interesting ... are higher, rather than stay in merely average, but more affordable, areas, where, I assume, they will remain the same families, suggests that they think otherwise too.

For both these reasons (1: the education system is a poor tool for redressing inequality, and 2: education is primarily positive sum) I feel that focus on equality as the or a primary metric of an education system is misguided. It's better, in my view to try to ensure that as large a proportion as possible get some a basic level of "good education," or that as many people get the best education possible.

Of course, by any of those metrics, the current state of things is a failure.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:16 PM
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good suburban schools

Meaning "white/middle class" suburban schools. Which of course is one reason why private schools tend not to have no-tolerance type policies--after all, *those* kids don't "need" them.

140: It's sort of a cross between. The teacher would do okay, but he'd be scrambling a lot more than he is without me helping him out. But as I said, that's a temporary situation, based on his being hired part way into the school year, and his being green.

If the school can't afford a library, librarian, and music teacher, then maybe they should get more public money so they can stock and maintain a library and hire a librarian and music teacher. It shouldn't be on the parents of the students. (Directly, obviously they'll be taxed.)

Right, but in the meantime, if the parents want that stuff, then they form a PTO to get it. And then other (educated, upper middle class type) parents say that the PTO's trying to get these things is a reason for keeping their own kids out of public education? Rather than sending their kids to public schools, thereby making funding public schools an immediate issue to the very voters who legislators are most likely to listen to?

Of course, the problem with PTOs going out and getting these things is that their doing so can actually backfire, and lead to complacency--"*my* kid's school has x, y, and z because we work our butts off, I'm not going to pay more for those lazy parents over on the other side of town. " And to a large extent, the fact that the "good" school in town has the hyperactive PTO is as much a symptom of the "I'm taking care of my kid, you look to your own" attitude as people sending their kids to private schools (without trying their local public schools first) is. I'm not saying that there are no problems. I'm saying that the problems are less about "the schools" and more about the me-first thing.

Which isn't to say that anyone here is selfish. I also think that part of the me-first thing is the result of the income gap, the death of the 40-hour work week, blah blah. But damn, you know? You gotta push back, and kids' education is a really important thing to push back about.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:17 PM
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Hey, great for Vermont. My recollection (very dim) was that this bill was intensely controversial and I am skeptical that it would be salable in other states. But as I said, I'd support it. Does anyone have a knowledge or a link to a) what level of resource equalization Act 60 achieved, or b) what actually happened (to enrollment, to test scores, to availability of music, to student satisfaction) post passage?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:20 PM
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My recollection (very dim) was that this bill was intensely controversial and I am skeptical that it would be salable in other states.

I don't know about Vermont, but NM's had this sort of system for a long time (see the link in my 148). I don't know when it was first instituted, but the percentage of funding coming from the state was increased in 1997 from 74% to 84% without much controversy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:27 PM
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Thanks teo. Maybe I was too quick to assume that particular fix is going nowhere politically. I am still fairly skeptical. It wouldn't fly in MA for an Everett resident to have an equal chance to send their kids to Brookline schools, that's for sure.

Ben W:
Of course, by any of those metrics, the current state of things is a failure.

I so agree! The question is how to fix it. I'd support more equalized funding in the public system. But I suspect that's unlikely to be the most useful fix, or the one most likely to be implemented, or if implemented, done in a good way (the danger, just to be explicit, is that people just lower or freeze local taxes they don't benefit from).

On the inequality issue, let me distinguish two questions:
1) Do I think school quality matters? Yes, absolutely. And I think a single axis of quality is almost certainly a mistake, a great school for one kid can be a terrible school for another, just because of ethos, structure, what have you. But even so, school quality can be unequal, and can exacerbate overall inequality in educational outcomes.
2) Do I think that inequality we see in educational outcomes largely stems from non-school system factors? Again, yes. Schools matter -- rich people will seek better schools, and more funding, etc -- but schools don't globally have as much impact as family background/culture/etc. To put it another way, a large part of the "success" of the Palo Alto schools is having kids who are likely to succeed in the first place. There is alway a Jaime Escalante who shows what inspired teaching can do, but in general, you can't blame or credit the teachers or the school system for the majority of the educational outcomes. If you gave the "worst" high school in New York the kids from Stuyvesant, those teachers would look a lot better.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:45 PM
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Right, but if we *really* cared about educating the kids in the ghettos, we'd fund all sorts of social and support services that would get funneled through the schools. Since that's where you have contact with the kids.

But we don't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:54 PM
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It is hard to believe that decreasing budgets (partially driven by white flightpeople looking for good schools) has just randomly been accompanied by everyone forgetting how to teach.

And funny that the solutions just happen to involve breaking the backs of the teachers' unions and transferring public assets to private hands.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 10:59 PM
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166: Yeah. Odd, isn't that?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 11:05 PM
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if we *really* cared about educating the kids in the ghettos, we'd fund all sorts of social and support services that would get funneled through the schools.

I'll agree with this much: if we really cared, we'd do things that worked, and stop doing things that didn't work. We are all of course convinced that our preferred politics is "what works." This is so obviously a partisan issue -- teachers being a major democratic block, and hence a major republican bugbear -- that it's hard to approach the issue without that coloration.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 11:12 PM
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Well, given that we all agree that poverty itself is a major problem, no matter what's going on in the classroom, it seems reasonable to think that addressing the known problems poverty causes might help.

Of course, if you'd rather just give all poor people $40k/year cash, that's cool with me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 11:15 PM
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though not saying much that hasn't been said here,
DeLong generally writes well.
[1]


Posted by: BA | Link to this comment | 12-17-07 11:17 PM
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110

"All I'm saying is, if/when you have kids, don't chicken out on the public schools until you see what's actually going on in them. There's a lot of bitching about "the system," but most people are satisfied with their own schools. Really and truly, I suspect that the bitching is a right-wing plot to get us all to abandon public ed entirely."

That's only half the bitching. The other half is a left-wing plot to get us to waste a lot of money "fixing" the schools.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:20 AM
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Last week, my 6-year old son had a detention (for not completing his homework

Ex fucking squeeze me? See, this is where I fail to be able to credit these teachers-union arguments that these things are all forced on us by the terrible legislations and you can't blame the teachers. Yes you can. No fucking funding crisis forced anyone to give a detention to a six year old.

In related news, in leafy North London where there are no zero-tolerance laws and schools are well-funded, guess what? There are still a lot of teachers who are authoritarian fuckheads and they still do things not at all unlike those described here, and then try to blame it on unspecified "regulations" when called.

There are some teachers who care about children and do their best, but I would not be at all sure that they're a majority, not compared to small-minded bullies who just like telling people what to do. After all, teachers are always telling us that they're professionals - I would in general trust them about as much as a lawyer or an accountant, particularly in cases where they're trying to explain that something which appears on the face of it to be monstrous is actually unfortunately made necessary by an arbitrary system of rules. I mean for fuck's sake. Detention for a six year old for not doing his homework? Can I get some outrage, please? And presumably if you object to this idiotic piece of bullshit, you become the title character in the latest anecdote of Awful Parents Who Undermine The Teacher's Authoritie. FFFFFFS.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:07 AM
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Having thought just a little more, let me say how totrally impressed I am with my son's public middle school teachers. To a person, they go the extra mile and then some.

We sent my daughter to private school K-12, but this didn't have anything to do with the quality of public education. Except for not having German immersion. Which, you know, I wouldn't want them to have anyway.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:20 AM
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Keegan, currently in the 5th grade, has had really stellar public school teachers.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:35 AM
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We've spent a lot of our energy the last dozen years in being involved in our local public schools; I feel we know this issue.

Our personal outcomes, how our children have learned, has been good, but I'm not able to decide if our involvement has been more "pushing back" or enabling current trends.

We have done what we've done with a fundamentally liberal purpose and lived with and gloried in a level of diversity found few other places. And we count the other parents and educators we've worked with among our closest friends.

Nonetheless, what baa has said about the system and what d2 said as a coda at the end of last night's exchanges resonate with me, and are part of the reality.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:46 AM
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segregation is that deep. how disheartening
racism here is something ugly
when i grew up we did not have this issue at all
there were only chinese and us and russians
chinese we learned to hate a priori, russians were tolerable and not considerated a threat
so when you go outside and meet racism at its ugliest
it's shocking, in person i do not meet it from white people who are always polite and withdrawn, but in media it's everywhere,
surprise was the black people who seem to hate asians
and all the chinese i met were polite and nice people, so it's confusing and troublesome
about donations and parents volunteering, it's same everywhere i think, it's like one's social duty
if you really want equality may be should ban private schools and other privileges, very socialistically :), but anything involving banishment is wrong
there are problems everywhere, for example the japanese system seem equal and harmonious, but their school bullying is something i can not get, too widespread, too normal, too a matter of fact


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:05 AM
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Couple thoughts:
1) There seem to be a couple threads intertwined that could be separated. The first is whether requiring high levels of parental involvement is a sign of a healthy district. The second is whether high levels of parental involvement is a good response to a need in a public district. I think it is possible to say that the latter is laudable while the former is a sign of a serious problem.
1a) It's become a great blame-shifting thing, hasn't it? We get a study that says the best predictor of the child's success is the parents, and that becomes either a reason to justify requiring parental involvement or to blame parents when the schools are underfunded.
2) B, honest question: if your district hadn't offered a separate, non-traditional elementary school for PK, would you have kept him in the richer school that you didn't like? I ask because it seems like there was already an element of school choice involved in your experiences.
3) There's a tendency in these discussions, already noted, to talk as if the only public schools there are are either rich districts with lots of choices, or ghettoes where we can blame the lack of success on the fact that the kids are underprivileged inner city kids. There's a whole ground in the middle that isn't competitive in math or science internationally, where the grads are going to State instead of Harvard, that are underserved by public schools, too, who could actually benefit from increased funding.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:09 AM
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Humorless pro-education girl wiwshes to point out that school districts are caught between a rock and a hard place where "weapons" and "drugs" are concerned. Everyone loves to make fun of the zero tolerance policies, but no one wants to pay for the student-teacher ratios that would provide enough adults to make "reasonable person" decisions about which pills are okay and which are the junior drug dealer kit, which knives are innocuous and which ones are the Sign of the Next Columbine, etc. And god fucking forbid a teacher make the wrong call.

This is just crap.

This is the same problem with the Sentencing Guidelines.

You take the discretion out of it.

Why punish everyone the same for broad categories of offenses?

Is it really that complex to have a system where you make the punishment fit the crime?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:12 AM
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I hope nobody missed what I put earlier in the thread, that Sunrise Elementary "School" consists of 36 trailers and 32 rooms in a building. What is going wrong in Florida where they don't even have half of the infrastructure that they need? And meanwhile, they're spending money on security guards to identify pre-teens to arrest on trumped-up felony charges? And the teachers are devoting all of their time to teaching the students how to take the standardized tests that are now the sole measure of success?


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:23 AM
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Personally, I would rather them focus their time and energy on helping kids than busting them for smoking pot.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:29 AM
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178 -- The problem with discretion is that it gets applied in a human system, with all the flaws that entails (including, not incidentally, a history of racism). I agree that zero tolerance is nonsense, but we don't want to have a system where for conduct X the black kid gets arrested and the white kid gets a stern talking-to from the principal.

Unless, you know, the white kid is my kid.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:41 AM
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181:

Of course you do not want that. But the answer is improving the application, not it making all punishments the same.

What is the saying about Justice applied equally is injustice?

I'll have to search for it.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:44 AM
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re: 172

Yeah, detention for a 6 year old seems unforgivable. Actually, for that matter, I'm not overly keen on homework for 6 year olds at all.

I used to live with a teacher. For years a large number of the people in my social circle were teachers. It is fair to say that there were a few 'small-minded bullies' in among them [and I was seeing the young, idealistic, hard-working end of the profession, before cynicism set in].

To be fair, some of them were teaching in really shitty areas where I'd imagine a 'do what I say, or else' mentality is easy to develop.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:46 AM
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181: That would be a bad system, but surely as you've presented it those are false choices. A racist principal is a reason to discipline the principal, or have a system for redress, not a reason to arrest ten-year-olds.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:47 AM
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A racist principal is a reason to discipline the principal

Would you like a pony with that?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:54 AM
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In addition, what happens is that the white kid doesnt get arrested or charged because the school resource officer knows he/she will get kicked out, but the black kid gets arrested.

The focus should be on insuring appropriate punishments. The system can always be gamed by those who want to game it. Everyone arrested for DUI goes to jail? So you stop a fellow officer, do you arrest him? No, you drive him home because he does not deserve to go to jail. Only other people deserve jail.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:54 AM
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Would you like a pony with that?

Old man, Cala probably doesnt even understand that reference. You have to ask her if she wants a cool new phone with that.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:55 AM
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I think the zero-tolerance system has the prospect to be every bit as racist. The teacher who sees the black kid eating with a knife has her arrested (or ignores it and lets the security guard have her arrested), while the teacher who sees the white kid eating with a knife runs over to her and says "Don't let anybody see with you that!"


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:57 AM
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Learning to not care about whether people's clothes are shabby or whether they have trouble walking, and *to* care about being fair, however, are much more difficult to consciously acquire later in life.

My parents taught me those things. The public schools taught me where to buy guns.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 7:07 AM
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I suspect that we could guess which commenters went to private schools.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 7:10 AM
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185: What 188 said. To think that implementing zero tolerance is a solution to racism is a whole herd of ponies. All we've ensured is that now the 'good teacher' is the one who lets the security guards deal with the threat of Lunch, and the 'bad teacher' is one who exercises any kind of common sense discretion.

Odd two strains here: first we need zero tolerance policies because the teachers can't be trusted with discretion, and then an insistence that criticizing public school teachers is wrong because they're sainted professionals working in a bad system. Make up my mind? Which is it?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 7:20 AM
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that Sunrise Elementary "School" consists of 36 trailers and 32 rooms in a building.

Every time I visit my parents, my impression is that more of the field playgrounds of the nearby schools have been converted to classroom trailers. (Not like "the playground" where you hold recess, but like the big field next to it where you play kickball or flag football.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:06 AM
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To think that implementing zero tolerance is a solution to racism is a whole herd of ponies.

And how.

Back to baa in 164: It wouldn't fly in MA for an Everett resident to have an equal chance to send their kids to Brookline schools, that's for sure.

Whoa, I think we might be talking at cross purposes. Equalizing school funding means that instead of each local district funding its own schools, money goes into a state pot and is distributed more equally to districts across the state. That is completely disconnected from whether parents have the option to send their children to different schools within the state.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:08 AM
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That is completely disconnected from whether parents have the option to send their children to different schools within the state.

Although that's actually a pretty good idea. It's very hard to enforce the provision of equal resources -- if anyone can enroll in any school, it doesn't matter nearly as much that all the schools are equally funded.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:11 AM
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What is going wrong in Florida where they don't even have half of the infrastructure that they need?

The same thing that's going wrong all over the country: people have swallowed the GOP line that taxes should only ever be cut and never under any circumstances raised, no matter what the demographic situation. Population doubled over the past twenty years? CUT TAXES! Schools have three times as many kids as they did a decade ago? CUT TAXES! Why are our kids making do with overcrowded, crumbling buildings? EVIL TEACHERS' UNIONS!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:11 AM
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An idea that has been tried, not least in the Brookline Public Schools, in the form of the Metco program, and worked by all accounts extremely well (I'm certainly a fan). Of course people are fighting it in the courts, but for the moment it remains a popular and long-standing example of how to increase equality in education.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:12 AM
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196 to 194; crumbling school buildings is an idea that's been tried to somewhat less widespread acclaim.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:13 AM
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That is completely disconnected from whether parents have the option to send their children to different schools within the state.

Fair enough. I am skeptical 1) that equalized funding would be implemented broadly, 2) that if it were it wouldn't lead to a race to the bottom in funding (as I understand happened in California -- people just lowered taxes), and 3) that if it were implemented, and there were not a race to the bottom, it would be particualrly effective in equalizing quality absent real educational portability. But as I say, I'd be willing to support it if it came up to a vote in my state.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:13 AM
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Man, the past seven years have turned me into an increasingly bitter, angry man. I used to be Mr. HappySunshineGuy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:15 AM
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I although thought that Ocala may have experienced a post-Katrina population surge that turned an already-overcrowded school into a school that's less than half the size it needs to be. Either way it sure looks like a sign of a country in dramatic decline to me.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:16 AM
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What took place in Ocala? Ocala is pretty wealthy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:19 AM
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Also.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:21 AM
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Ocala may have experienced a post-Katrina population surge

IIRC, a few weeks after Katrina, Ocala sent letters to all its residents reminding them that no more than three unrelated people can share a domicile zoned for whatever for more than a few weeks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:24 AM
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if anyone can enroll in any school, it doesn't matter nearly as much that all the schools are equally funded.

From the British experience, this doesn't work, simply because schools have finite capacity. If a school has a good reputation so that everybody wants to send their kids there, it starts applying all sorts of overt and covert selection procedures to ensure that it gets the kids it wants. It will come as no surprise to you that these are the nice middle class lads and lasses with loads of money behind them.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:26 AM
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it starts applying all sorts of overt and covert selection procedures to ensure that it gets the kids it wants.

Yeah, you'd have to be very conscious about that as a problem. But lottery admission for oversubscribed schools would solve that -- if you don't let the schools pick their students at all, they can't cherrypick them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:29 AM
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It starts applying all sorts of overt and covert selection procedures to ensure that it gets the kids it wants

Tell me more about the British experience. What's the incentive from the school's point of view to select for wealth? Is the suspicion a kick-back mechanism of some kind? Or are they just selecting for children who are low hassle/easy to educate?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:33 AM
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One factor baa doesn't seem to have considered -- the people who paid a premium to live in the suburbs would still have a school district that was relatively free of black people. Given that white flight was what caused the development of suburbs in the first place, people out there seem to regard that as a pretty decent benefit in itself.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:34 AM
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My guess would be not kickbacks: partially selecting for low-hassle kids, and partially whatever mechanism they have for selection being susceptible to pressure from better-connected parents. Exchanging favors, rather than monetary corruption.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:36 AM
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207: I dunno. There are a lot of residentially/educationally segregated areas where the distances involved aren't that great; a mostly white town right next to a town with a much greater minority population. Allowing students to move freely between schools could do a lot in the way of racially and economically integrating schools even in the suburbs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:41 AM
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Or are they just selecting for children who are low hassle/easy to educate?

Mainly that - the assumption being that middle class kids will be better supported academically > better supported kids get better grades > better grades maintain the school's reputation. Also, wealthier parents can be solicited more often for contributions to anything from a school play to a new library.

LB, the problem with admission by lottery is that it ends up with people complaining because little Susie got into Poshville High, but her baby brother didn't, and had to go to the Other School with all the brown kids.

In practice, most schools still pay most attention to their catchment areas, which of course means that house prices can be 50% higher in one street that's in the Poshville High area than in the next street that isn't. This is a nice, self-reinforcing loop, because only the middle class parents can afford to live in the areas with the good schools.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:44 AM
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the problem with X is that it ends up with people complaining

This is probably one of the most universal sentence structures ever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:46 AM
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LB, the problem with admission by lottery is that it ends up with people complaining because little Susie got into Poshville High, but her baby brother didn't, and had to go to the Other School with all the brown kids.

Easy on the white guilt, Reverend. Maybe the Other School just sucks.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:48 AM
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Maybe the Other School just sucks.

Often it does. But then the feedback goes in the other direction. Because people people pay a premium to live in the area feeding the fashionable school, people from less wealthy backgrounds tend to have to live in the areas with the less desirable schools because they can't afford not to.

I'm sure you will be shocked, shocked to learn that there is a correlation between race and poverty in Britain.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:52 AM
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I did think of that, but of course you could incorporate sibling preference into a lottery -- students who'd been enrolled the prior year would be in automatically, then their siblings, and then lottery admission for new students. I can't think (although I may just be insufficiently imaginative) of a way to use sibling preferences to game the system.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:53 AM
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Does anyone know if a money-for-hassle program has ever been tried? E.g., pay schools $X per pupil for a kid with high SES, and $1.5X for a low SES kid, and make sure some of that delta gets to school employees? That seems like a good way to mitigate the adverse selection problem.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:54 AM
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I'm sure you will be shocked, shocked to learn that there is a correlation between race and poverty in Britain.

Dude, I'm an American. The correlation of race and poverty is our bread and butter.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:58 AM
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Measuring SES objectively under circumstances where it's in people's advantage to mess with how rich they look is a bitch and a half. I'm betting that would turn into mostly a subsidy for children of highly educated professionals in public interest jobs -- little Suzy whose parents are both Public Defenders is going to show up as low SES, but she's still the kind of kid a school will cherrypick.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:58 AM
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214. People are thinking about this sort of approach, but there's a lot of mistrust. I doubt either of our main parties would run with it.

215. Damned if I know. Certainly not been tried here. Might be something to it, but it'd be a bureaucratic nightmare to administer.

I'm going home now, fascinating though this is, and you'll all be talking about something else by the time I get there.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:59 AM
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re: 215

That's apparently how it's done in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands I gather it's quite tightly tied to individual students, so that schools have an incentive not to select against students from poorer backgrounds.

In Scotland there's variable levels of funding, and schools in low-SES areas get more money through a scheme where their catchment area is designated an APT [area of priority treatment] and get extra funding, more teachers, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:03 AM
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I'm not an advocate of zero tolerance, and believe in discretion, and, especially, application of common sense.

That said, the chances that a school principal would face discipline for doling out lesser punishments to more privileged kids in the society we are living in are less than my getting a pony.

Tell people in my neighborhood that their kids can't go to the neighborhood school because they lost some kind of lottery, and expect to be voted out of office. Apply this kind of thing city/county-wide, and expect to stop all progress on civil rights for a generation. (You don't have to guess on this, we already tried it.)


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:04 AM
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little Suzy whose parents are both Public Defenders is going to show up as low SES, but she's still the kind of kid a school will cherrypick.

Cultural capital's a Bitch Ph.D, baby.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:04 AM
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Tell people in my neighborhood that their kids can't go to the neighborhood school because they lost some kind of lottery, and expect to be voted out of office. Apply this kind of thing city/county-wide, and expect to stop all progress on civil rights for a generation. (You don't have to guess on this, we already tried it.)

Doesn't this just come down to saying that we can't have a meaningfully equal school system, because people with political power won't tolerate it? Which may be true, but damn if I'm going to accept it as a starting point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:08 AM
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Perhaps the solution is a return to strictly neighborhood schools, but every family in the county gets assigned housing based on a lottery.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:11 AM
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mostly a subsidy for children of highly educated professionals in public interest jobs

That's doubtless true, but my guess is that there simply aren't enough people like that to shift the system. This sounds like something they should have tried in Denmark or something...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:12 AM
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D'oh, missed Matt's 219!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:13 AM
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Tell people in my neighborhood that their kids can't go to the neighborhood school because they lost some kind of lottery, and expect to be voted out of office.

The way it works here, as I understand it (our daughters are not quite 5, so we've only just entered the system), is that kids get to go to their neighborhood school if they want, and the lottery applies only to transfers. I have no idea about lottery systems elsewhere.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:16 AM
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is that kids get to go to their neighborhood school if they want

Yeah, that wouldn't work to equalize the schools much at all -- if you can get the school you want by buying a house in the catchment area, then we're still in rich-school/poor-school territory.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:18 AM
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I have a feeling we'll still be on topic when OFE gets home.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:22 AM
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Is the education problem in America really soluble as something independent of the poverty problem? I hate to throw up my hands on this, but it seems like there are no workable solutions absent a higher baseline standard of living for the most poor.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:23 AM
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re: 227

Just introduce radical weighting in favour of poor kids at university level.

Let the middle classes buy all the nice houses they want, it'll be shame when they need 5 A's at A level to get into Uni when Bob Hussein from some shite-hole in greater Manchester can get in with 1 D in woodwork.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:24 AM
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I can't think (although I may just be insufficiently imaginative) of a way to use sibling preferences to game the system.

It's not exactly gaming the system, but if each kid is a lottery ticket you'd end up with more larger families in the preferred schools. If Kid 1 gets into Poshville, you're set; if not, you try again with Kid 2 and, if successful, bring Kid 1 over with the sibling preference; etc.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:25 AM
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Can a really equal provision of educational opportunity wipe out the educational effects of different socioeconomic statuses? I'm sure it can't, not completely. But what we've got now intensifies inequality, rather than ameliorating it, and that could be fixed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:26 AM
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227: But if you combine a lottery system with a system of schools with magnet programs such as we have, it makes a bigger difference. It's far from equalizing, but it creates a fair bit of mobility.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:26 AM
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230: That's no good, because Bob Hussein really is going to have a very hard time at university with his D in woodwork.

231: Yeah, but I figure there aren't enough really big families to make the difference.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:27 AM
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re: 232

Yeah, the problem we have is that there seems very little will [in your country or in mine] to take the steps that would lead to a more egalitarian outcome. Genuine equality of opportunity* would be fought tooth and nail by those doing OK already.

* and, crucially, of outcome ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:29 AM
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re: 234

I was kidding re: Bob Hussein. Although I would, seriously, support much heavier weighting than we have at the moment. However, again, that runs headlong into a wall of middle-class indignation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:31 AM
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234.2: OK, fine, everybody hates the only children anyway. (I'm joking, but your two would have twice the chance of my one, and Apo's three half again the chance of your two. That would be a significant effect even for perfectly common family sizes.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:33 AM
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237: Oh, all right, I'll fix it. Sibling preference only flows downhill -- an older sibling can pull a younger sibling behind her, but not vice versa. How's that? Fair to only children, but still allows all kids in a family to attend the same school.

I'm getting really attached to this idea. (not that it's new or anything, I just like it more the more i think about it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:36 AM
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How about we just make stronger efforts to insure adequate funding and some attempt to measure what value a particular school adds to the child's education?

Straight testing doesn't account for a baseline.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:42 AM
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re: 239

some attempt to measure what value a particular school adds to the child's education?

The UK does this. I'm not sure that it makes much difference, though.

I think we're in a bit of a vicious cycle, at the moment, tbh.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:45 AM
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240:

And you are still inserting all of those pesky u's everywhere.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:46 AM
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Is the education problem in America really soluble as something independent of the poverty problem?

No. Though, yeah, solving the poverty problem would leave other things still to be addressed, chiefly the widespread societal devaluation of education. It seems now to be viewed instrumentally (at both the primary and secondary school levels): people hand their kids over to the institution, and want/need the kid to come out a money-maker with a certain highly constricted skill set. It's the school's *job* to achieve this end, and parents and the community at large feel increasingly little call to be involved in it. Hence the stunning increase lately in the application of school performance metrics.

I blame capitalism, of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:51 AM
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re: 241

In words like 'colour'? Where they are supposed to be?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:51 AM
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Is the education problem in America really soluble as something independent of the poverty problem? I hate to throw up my hands on this, but it seems like there are no workable solutions absent a higher baseline standard of living for the most poor.

This is undeniably true, except that improving education is often a means of solving the poverty problem, and you have to start somewhere.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:52 AM
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238: Yeah, that's the obvious solution, except that I think it would suffer from an even worse "no faaaiiirr" problem with parents than a straight lottery would.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:53 AM
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Oh, the whole system would piss parents off no end.

My mother has a theory, I have no idea how well supported, that the draft lottery is what ended Vietnam, because it was harder to evade, and so the wrong people's kids were getting drafted.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:56 AM
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Oh, the whole system would piss parents off no end.

I'm generally in favour of stuff that pisses of the middle-classes for no other reason than it pisses off the middle-class, it has to be said. But this is probably a minority view.

'Ooh, little Joshua is marginally less advantaged than he was before? Poor you ... '


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:59 AM
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On homeschooling (from way way upthread): don't do it, really. There are plenty of other ways to get your kids to hate you for life.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:04 AM
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I have a feeling we'll still be on topic when OFE gets home.

240. The only thing the UK (or the US, as I understand it) measures in assessing schools is academic achievement. Arguably because it's a lot easier to quantify than whether the place is turning out solid little citizens. But the great unspeakable is that many kids are never going to be high academic achievers, but that only hinders them living fine, productive lives in a society which is as beset by credentialism as ours.

Who is going to be the brave HR director who first says, "Fuck all these graduates, let's hire us some eighteen year olds who can learn on the job, and build a dedicated workforce who don't believe you can get everything out of a damn textbook"?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:04 AM
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Is the education problem in America really soluble as something independent of the poverty problem?

I think it depends which education problem. One problem is selected areas where really bad quality education is provided to some (largely poor) students. If the school is falling apart or chaotic, that's a problem money and organization can solve. These improvements seems like they could proceed independently of what we do in richer communities, or how we address the the question of inequality generally. Of course, this type of reform may not even touch the kids most deeply disadvantaged by poverty and family situation.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:07 AM
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244: except that improving education is often a means of solving the poverty problem, and you have to start somewhere.

I'm beginning to think this is outdated wisdom. We're set up in such a way now that there will always be poor (or, say, disenfranchised), and more and more of them. A decent education increases your chance of rising to the top, but at the expense of others. Those others, the rising number of members of the underclass, if you will, have to live very unstably, increasingly wind up incarcerated (or in the military) -- and our society is set up to funnel them there. It's our preferred means of addressing the question, and educational reform isn't going to solve it, nor do we seem to feel any incentive to do so.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:22 AM
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Solve it? That's pretty ambitious, but there are some things we could do right now that would help greatly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:26 AM
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Is the education problem in America really soluble as something independent of the poverty problem?

A good start would be ensuring that one doesn't have to take a vow of poverty to teach public school. I went through a lot of college thinking I was going to teach high school social studies, until I realized the ratio of pay to amount of work involved and thought, "No effin' way."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:30 AM
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As a former teacher of emotionally disturbed kids, I want to point out that the steak knife can in certain contexts be a very dangerous thing. If one of my kids had one there's an excellent chance that I would have waited for security before trying to take it. And my kids were in self contained classes in a regular school setting. So they were in the cafeteria with other kids. If I saw one of them with it while on lunch duty, I'd definitely have called security.

We can do a better job than we are in the public schools. But there's a limit on what schools alone can do to ameliorate the affect of poverty. And much of what schools can do in that regard isn't "instructional" per se, at least in the cotext of NCLB. It's custodial, nutrional, medical, cultural (i.e. exposure to the arts).

ANd the real problem with policies that piss off the middle class is that you end up with Prop 13, no matter how good it might feel or just on first blush.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:30 AM
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253: I am not sure that an overwhelming problem with bad schools are bad instructors, as even a good instructor in isolation would have a bitch of a time getting anything done in some schools. But it is interesting that no one who did well in high school considered primary or secondary education as a career; as a society we don't seem to value it in the way that counts, i.e., with dollars.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:34 AM
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Piss off the middle class, get voted out of office. I can see why some people might not want to live in a country (county, really) where such things happen, but I'm not hearing any viable alternatives. Well, OK, I suppose there are places where elected bodies can piss of the middle class with impunity. No one should expect middle class people to want to live in them. And there you are.

The only viable road to equality is improvement of schools that need to be improved. Of course this has to be funded (and accountability has to follow funding), but it should come from the Feds (my preference) or the State (more platable these days) to de-sever the link between rich counties and rich schools.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:38 AM
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255 gets it exactly right. Reduce class sizes, and you'll find that many underperforming teachers are actually very competent.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:38 AM
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With more teachers, you might also give administators better options to find a teacher whose skills meet particular a particular student's needs.

I had this issue this last year.

My daughter's teacher was not fitting her needs. It was horrible for the teacher. Horrible for my daughter.

I got the principal to step in (with the assistance of showing up at a meeting with a court reporter). We switched teachers. My daughter's new teacher is fabulous. I love, love, love her.

If there were fewer teachers, we wouldnt have that option.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:42 AM
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re: 256

The problem is, that in a society structured in the way ours [UK/US] is, there's little will on the part of those benefiting from a system with built in structural inequities to accede to changes that will, in the long run, possibly benefit everyone if those changes might lead to a short-term lowering of their own advantage.

And this, like it or not, means that if we are serious about dealing with social inequity, then we are always going to be in danger of pissing those people off.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:45 AM
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until I realized the ratio of pay to amount of work involved and thought, "No effin' way."

Yeah, a good friend of mine has been an inner city school teacher for 12 years or so, and has been close to burn-out/breakdown a couple of times. His salary would be livable, at least, were it not for the fact that he spends thousands of his own dollars on supplies for his students, and hours of additional time each week offering them a chess club and finding out-of-school opportunities for them. The parents can't/won't help. It's heartbreaking.

i.e. what Benton said: "much of what schools can do in that regard isn't "instructional" per se, at least in the cotext of NCLB. It's custodial, nutrional, medical, cultural (i.e. exposure to the arts)."

Woot, Edwards!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:47 AM
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And this, like it or not, means that if we are serious about dealing with social inequity, then we are always going to be in danger of pissing those people off.

Right. It makes sense to consider ways of remedying inequity that will piss powerful people off less, but at some point you just have to go ahead and push for whatever will work, rather than for something that won't piss people off but won't work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:52 AM
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thousands of his own dollars on supplies for his students

This makes me so angry -- that the schools don't provide enough supplies and teachers end up making up the difference out of their own pockets. We slip Staples gift-cards to Sally and Newt's teachers, but they shouldn't have to rely on the odd generous parent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:54 AM
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255 isn't disagreeing with 253. The problem isn't incompetent teachers (though they exist). It's that it's such an underpaid, overworked profession that there is a massive shortage of teachers and support staff for them, and the attrition rate is accordingly quite high.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:55 AM
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I'm beginning to think this is outdated wisdom. We're set up in such a way now that there will always be poor (or, say, disenfranchised), and more and more of them. A decent education increases your chance of rising to the top, but at the expense of others.

I see where you're coming from, although I find it a bit too cynical for my taste. I think there are plenty of good options for the poor and disenfranchised apart from "rising to the top."

Also, this:

educational reform isn't going to solve it, nor do we seem to feel any incentive to do so

identifies the problem. I don't think it's an argument against fixing the educational system, it just point out that it would be hard. Some things are hard.

Sometimes I'm tempted to go into ed policy because I think I'd get to do a lot more shouting than I would in any other area.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:57 AM
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I think I'd get to do a lot more shouting than I would in any other area

You could be a heavy metal roadie, or one of the guys who waves in airplanes to the gates.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:58 AM
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What we do in the US is take everything that a modern welfare state should be doing and shove it onto the schools. Then we "hold them accountable" for their inevitable failure by giving them less money to do their intrinsically impossible jobs.

In my mind, the "education ==> economic equality" thing is bullshit. The way to increase equality is to forcibly redistribute wealth through sharply progressive taxation and then invest that money on social goods -- like we did during that nightmarish period when Americans were routinely shipped off to Gulags, etc. (i.e., the 1950s and 60s).


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 10:59 AM
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The way to increase equality is to forcibly redistribute wealth through sharply progressive taxation and then invest that money on social goods

... like education?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:00 AM
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259 -- It's pretty hard to convince people that worsening their kids' schools will be in their long term advantage.

It's hard to tell just exactly what people are proposing that might be relevant in the US, especially multi-jurisdictional areas like DC and NY. (Hell, I suppose the the Portland schools are too messed up, people will move to Vancouver WA). People who work in my office live in, what, 12 different counties (including county-like entities), in 3 different states (including a state-like entity). Many are migrants to the area, and can easily move across jurisdictional lines, if doing so would improve their lot.

But I don't think there's any perceived advantage to my county from the substandard education given in some other county. Sure kids are competing to get into Duke, or College Park. But that's already enough people, and the marginal increase in competition from improved DC schools (for example) isn't going to be felt.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:01 AM
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The way to increase equality is to forcibly redistribute wealth through sharply progressive taxation and then invest that money on social goods -- like we did during that nightmarish period when Americans were routinely shipped off to Gulags, etc. (i.e., the 1950s and 60s).

Yes, this too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:01 AM
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re: 268

I didn't say anything about 'worsening' their schools.

But, if, to take one possible course of action, admitting more people from poor backgrounds into schools that have hitherto been relatively isolated from those of a lower socio-economic status counts as 'worsening' then I say 'tough shit'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:02 AM
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261 -- Pissing people off doesn't work. It's worse than ineffective, because you lose ground.

I'm not arguing for a heckler's veto, but when you want to mess with fundamentals, you'd better have a system that is definitely going to work, and you'd better have an enforcement mechanism to back it up. In sum, you'd better to ready to make Mr. Goldberg's point for him. (Ugh, I can't believe I said it.)


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:05 AM
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But that's already enough people, and the marginal increase in competition from improved DC schools (for example) isn't going to be felt.

You honestly don't think so? That a large part of the value from sending your kids to a 'good' school isn't just that the education is absolutely better, but that it's relatively better than most other schools, so that your kids can outcompete theirs for scarce college spaces? I strongly disagree -- I think lots of people, given the choice between a perfectly equal system where all kids got the same excellent education, or a system where the schools were unequal and fairly bad, but their kids went to the best of the bad schools, would pick the latter.

And that sort of preference shouldn't be catered to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:06 AM
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What are the goals of our public schools? Is it to educate the populace to be functionaly literate, prepare the little ones for the great struggle of life, to track those who will go to college and those who will be auto mechanics? I think that in some measure we have no idea what we want schools to do, or rather mandate competing agendas, so we end up with a muddle.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:08 AM
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I think there are plenty of good options for the poor and disenfranchised apart from "rising to the top."

Quite agree, but staying poor and disenfranchised isn't one of them.

270 is correct in every respect.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:09 AM
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re: 271

That's just wrong. Every progressive, egalitarian move made in politics, whether in the UK or the US, has usually been made in the face of massive opposition from those who currently [relatively] benefit from the status quo. Consensus driven politics that doesn't annoy the middle-classes is going to get us precisely nowhere if we take seriously reducing economic inequity. That's not to say that gratuitously punitive policies make any sense either, but no-one seriously proposes anything of the sort anyway.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, fuck Goldberg.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:09 AM
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I say 'tough shit'.

A fine campaign slogan. I look forward to seeing how well it works.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:10 AM
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re: 276

I am minded of Michael Foot's tremendous comment that:

'We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer, To hell with them. The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.'

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:13 AM
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264: I see where you're coming from, although I find it a bit too cynical for my taste. I think there are plenty of good options for the poor and disenfranchised apart from "rising to the top."

I'm not sure what this means. I did double-think the "rising to the top" phrasing: call it merely rising above the struggle for very limited resources that is the underclass experience. I don't know what else these "good options" you refer to are.

Also, what Adam said in 266.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:16 AM
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277. At this point Napi, being a keen student of British political history, will remind us that when Foot was leader, the "top" persuaded the country that Labour was unelectable.

Very well, but there are ways and ways. This is why that curious specimen Josh Trevino once nominated Clem Attlee as one of the 10 worst men of the 20th century.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:19 AM
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re: 279

Yeah, I'm not endorsing the entire Labour Party 1983 platform! But I do generally agree with him about where our priorities [when thinking in legislative/social-planning mode] should be.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:27 AM
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Napi trumps me in cynicism, or call it realism.

Nay, throw not up thine hands! Nuanced argument, an appeal to the greater in us, can work wonders.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:36 AM
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267: I don't think Adam would disagree with you there, mrh, but there's more social goods than education alone.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:38 AM
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Nuanced argument, an appeal to the greater in us, can work wonders.

It had better. Or if things go on much further as at present we can always try an appeal to peace, land and bread.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:40 AM
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some attempt to measure what value a particular school adds to the child's education?

The UK does this. I'm not sure that it makes much difference, though.

ttaM, my sister spent two years in a public school in Dor/set. We liked the Headmaster very much, and I was good friends with his mother, the widow of an Oxford don adn Rec/tor of Ex/eter College, but we were kind of disgusted by how much the headmaster went on about these numbers. I think that it was more important for boys or something. My father seemed to think that it was excessive quantification, because it was all about getting value for money. My father, I think, thought that only people who didn't actually care about education (as an end in itself) could care about these things.

baa--do you understand what pilot schools are. I heard a program on WBUR about them, but I still don't get it. They appear to be public schools with union teachers, but without regular union work rules. The conversation made me want to throw up my hands and make sure that my kid could get into Boston Latin.

I did listen to to the head of the Boston teacher's union, and I was kind of disgusted that he was able to graduate from highschool. His command of the English language was not as bad as Bush's but not what I thought an educator ought to have.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:40 AM
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My father, I think, thought that only people who didn't actually care about education (as an end in itself) could care about these things.

That may be true. This level of quantification does have its roots in New Labour after all.

I should actually have said England does this, btw. The Scottish education system is separate and different.

re: 283

OFE, I'm fairly to quite understand the target of your snark.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:47 AM
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In my state, the salaries of high school teachers and administrators used to be visible on a website. Couldn't tell you where it is these days, but I remember being struck by the large salaries some folks were pulling down. From the ages of the teachers I knew on the list, it was pretty clear that seniority pay drove the high numbers.

I fully support paying teachers more, but we can't have a similar seniority pay scale if that's the case. Once you have a salary high enough to lure in a first-year teacher, now double it for the people who've been around 20 years, and you're dealing with unbelievable expense.

I guess what I want to know from people who know public school teachers is how hard is it to be hired or fired compared to working for a private company? Is merit pay becoming common, and why not if it isn't? Is it common for other school districts to have senior teachers earning so much more than newer hires, even if they are teaching similar classes?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:51 AM
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285. No snark intended. Merely expressing the feeling that the time left for us to improve the world by reasonable discourse is severely limited, and there is always an opening for a Lenin if things get bad enough.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:52 AM
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This level of quantification does have its roots in New Labour after all.

Do you think it might go back to Thatcher? She didn't seem to care much for intellectual achievement either.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:52 AM
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fairly to quite?

'failing to quite' I mean.

[In my defense I have a stinking cold and my brain feels like someone has replaced the front third of it with glue.]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:54 AM
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In my defense I have a stinking cold and my brain feels like someone has replaced the front third of it with glue

Oh, so it's you I caught it off, then.

BG, IIRC Thatcher increased central control over schools a good deal, but the obsession with quantification and targets is characteristically Blairite.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 11:58 AM
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re: 288

OFE is right in 290. That aping of quantitative methods used in business and obsessed with a sort of technocratic micro-surveillance at all levels is characteristically New Labour.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:00 PM
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That aping of quantitative methods used in business and obsessed with a sort of technocratic micro-surveillance at all levels is characteristically New Labour

I'm wondering what it's going to feel like to be blogging through the inevitable failings and shortcomings of a Democratic administration. This is an experience our British cousins have had and we haven't. Political blogging as we know it was just getting off the ground in the closing days of the Clinton Administration, the impeachment crisis and so on, so that the cycle of disenchantment and policy weariness was long behind us then.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:17 PM
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Oh, I'm going into this one pre-disillusioned. I'm hoping for a period with slightly less in the way of wholesale slaughter, but not a whole lot beyond that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:18 PM
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This is an experience our British cousins have had and we haven't.

Broadcast and print media performed the same critical function during the Clinton administration. I can't see how there will be much difference.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:22 PM
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287: Merely expressing the feeling that the time left for us to improve the world by reasonable discourse is severely limited

Is it worth saying this? My

Nuanced argument, an appeal to the greater in us, can work wonders

Was really not snarky itself. The discussion had reached the point, via Napi, that the very real question of whether the possibility of pissing off the privileged was a dealkiller was on the table.

I suggest that the relatively privileged might still have an ear for the notion of the greater societal good, even if their own suffer slightly. A nuanced argument, and could benefit from some targeted case studies -- yes, guilt, yes, look those underprivileged people in the face -- but I seem to think it's not an entirely lost cause.

The term "relatively" (privileged) is pivotal there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:22 PM
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292. Let me tell you then. What you get, assuming the Dems win next year, is about 72 hours schadenfreude. Make the most of it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:26 PM
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Broadcast and print media performed the same critical function during the Clinton administration. I can't see how there will be much difference.

Clinton was raked over the coals in alternative print media then, but the political blogosphere engages in a great deal more meaningless, untargeted mockery, I'm afraid.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:28 PM
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Bostoniangirl: I actually don't know what counts as a pilot in the Boston system. Here's a brief FAQ from the Boston Teacher's Union.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:44 PM
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I say 'tough shit'.

A fine campaign slogan. I look forward to seeing how well it works.

Look back a few years to Mario Cuomo's last campaign for governor of New York and see what happened to the man who, confronted with complaints that the state government was doing too little to help the middle class, objected that, with public universities, etc., he had created a "middle-class paradise." People don't like to be told that you won't do anything more for them, much less take things away.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 12:51 PM
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I am not advocating the throwing up of hands. Not by any means. There's a big difference, though, between policies that would tend to harm the top 5% (on whatever scale) and policies that would harm (or be thought to harm) the top 70%. Pretending there isn't leads to very bad results.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 1:00 PM
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People, if any, with the attitude described in 272 never admit it to me.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 1:04 PM
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You might be doing me a favor, ogged, and putting me out of my feverish misery. . . (day 10! WTF? Can't we kill the doctors instead?) . .

I'm a product of those hated private schools. It's a long complicated story, but in public school I was beaten up a lot--usually for race, often for being "too smart", sometimes for religion. After I failed to properly hide all the bloody noses and bruises, my parents realized something had to change. They are ludicrously well educated and were also dead broke for all of my school years and most of college. But they did everything they could and got me into private schools. The arrival of the scholarship letter every year was a huge event.

And now I teach at my al/ma ma/ter, which is one strange place. It's less weird than it was when I was a student, and less weird than it was before that, which is sort of a shame, but that's to be expected. It's always had a huge financial aid program, and it is increasingly running into a big problem---when you budget for a financial aid student who went to disadvantaged schools, you have to build in extra money to help them thrive, because they are often badly prepared for the school and will need extra help. The problem is, the amount of extra help that the disadvantaged students need is growing much faster than all the other costs. It's staggering, really. In the classroom I see a fairly mild spread in talent but huge, enormous, gigantic disparities in skills and background. The school is beating its head about this now. It wants to maintain the same large fraction of financial aid students, but it doesn't have the resources to co-allocate---and is it fair to let them in if they won't thrive? And believe me, money would solve all our problems. Money buys tutors, it buys special books, it buys summer programs, it buys support staff, it buys learning specialists. I doubt very much that this doesn't apply to most public schools as well.

It's also an international boarding school with exchanges and ties to schools around the world, including some developing countries, where our students sponsor some of their students. Thus we are constantly reminded that the world is filled with students and parents (and teachers) who work enormously hard, and do not whine about it. The contrast in the sense of entitlement is often painful. The contrast in how seriously people take the endeavor of education is also often painful. Poverty has broken education in this country but I think culture is also breaking it.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 1:34 PM
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There's a big difference, though, between policies that would tend to harm the top 5% (on whatever scale) and policies that would harm (or be thought to harm) the top 70%. Pretending there isn't leads to very bad results.

The top 70%? Okay, given very limited resources, maybe so.

There's also a difference between policies that would harm, and those that would be thought to harm.

272 was LB's:

I think lots of people, given the choice between a perfectly equal system where all kids got the same excellent education, or a system where the schools were unequal and fairly bad, but their kids went to the best of the bad schools, would pick the latter.

The latter is a weird construction: a preference for an unequal and educationally mediocre system, as long as it privileges your own?

I don't know what to say.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 1:53 PM
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a weird construction

The sentence structure is weird and you're not sure you understand it? Or the idea that some people are more interested in the relative than the absolute value of their kids' education is weird to you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 1:58 PM
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303: The anti-equality sentiment in the US tends to fly under the radar, but a lot of people deeply believe in a class hierarchy as part of the order of nature. (Almost the whole world believed in that up until about 400 years ago). People who believe this might be amenable to meritocracy or to the recruitment of the "talented tenth", but for them equality is neither possible nor desirable. I've seen signs that Bill Buckley and George Will think something like that, and according to Michael Lind ("Made in Texas") Bush's Texas supporters think that too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:02 PM
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304: The latter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:09 PM
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Huh. It doesn't seem odd to me at all. Wrong, but not odd.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:11 PM
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"Why should I pay extra taxes so someone else's kid can compete better with my kid?" A not-uncommon sentiment. This is more the libertarian type version of classism, as opposed to the old-money type, though they overlap.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:16 PM
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Further to 306: I mean to say, given your construction of the case: that the quality of education is worth less than the relative advantage offered.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:17 PM
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307 -- It's totally foreign to my experience. Really.

Now I can see someone saying about a less than perfect situation 'at least it's better than Shelbyville' but that's not a wish to be better than Shelbyville so much as the need for a silver lining somewhere.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:18 PM
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308 -- Also foreign. Now 'any extra money on those people is simply wasted -- no matter how much you spend on them, you just get bad results' is quite common.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:21 PM
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OMG, I don't have time to get caught up. Couple things

1. Detention for six-year-old homework. First: homework is *required* by NCLB. Yes, even for six year olds. We're used to thinking of "detention" as "for bad kids or misbehavior," but it's *possible* that the school's thinking, you know, is that if the kid stays after for a little while he'll get the homework done. I agree that homework for kids that age is stupid, and that they sit long enough as is during the regular school day, but I don't *know* that this is assholish teacher crap rather than a teacher struggling to get her students' parents up to speed on what public schools expect these days. And I say this as a parent who had a *lot* of that kind of kvetching last year about the teacher piling on "unfinished" work sheets to the regular homework assignments every fucking day, which yes was crappy and created anxiety for PK, but she was, in fact, an *excellent* teacher. The pace that the "good" school expected of its kids, however, was ridiculous. And it was entirely driven by their need to not only maintain but improve their test scores every year.

2. Would I have kept PK in that school if the open classroom program hadn't existed? I would probably have put him in the dual-language immersion program, actually--which would have meant moving him to a "bad" school with shitty test scores because, duh, it serves the poor migrant kids. I hear good things about what goes on in the classrooms, though, and even if the academics were shitty, I figure Spanish is something I can't teach him (adequately), whereas most of your elementary school academics, I can.

The spirit of the question, though, was "what if there were no other options?" Yes, I would have kept him at the high-pressure public elementary school. And I would have done what I did last year, which is to volunteer to spend an hour or two in the class every week so I could see what was going on, try to develop a relationship with the teacher, put my foot down (politely) if/when I thought something was inappropriate for PK (parents really can do that in public schools, you know), and try to help PK learn a little perspective and manage some of the things that bothered him there.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:26 PM
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The sentiments articulated by 307 and 308 are the products of a society with very limited resources, in a state of internecine warfare.

Yep.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:27 PM
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(In short, it was not a bad school; it was, in fact, quite a good one, the "best" in the district, a "blue ribbon school," blah blah. The one that poor parents who want their kids to go to "better" schools try to get intradistrict transfers for. And PK learned quite a lot there, and did some really awesome things. It wasn't exactly what I want for him, but if the only other option had been private school, it would have been good enough.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:29 PM
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Again, huh. I don't mean to be saying anything terribly surprising. I may have put it badly.

Let me try it another way. The benefit a kid gets from a high school education in the US is twofold. First, the kid learns things -- can calculate a definite integral or write a grammatical paper. Second, the kid amasses evidence of academic achievement (grades, test scores) that allows them to compete for scarce resources that are handed out on the basis of academic merit (college admissions, eventually and indirectly jobs).

At the margin, the second, relative, benefit is likely to have a larger effect on the kids' life. If every kid has the opportunity to take calculus in high school, then my daughter benefits from taking calculus. But if no one can take calculus, and I have the option of sending her to the only school in the country that teaches algebra (every other school stops at arithmetic), she's better off in terms of college admissions, in terms of competing for grades in college, and eventually in terms of getting jobs. While she learns less in high school in the second world, she really is better off -- the competitive advantage would more than make up for having to spend some college time learning calculus.

I think someone who wants to live in that world is morally wrong, but it's a perfectly sensible desire. And lots of people don't worry too much about ethics when they're thinking about their kids.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:32 PM
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Homework for 1st graders is stupid. Detention for failing to do the homework is even stupider.

San Francisco does have a school lottery system that gives preference to siblings.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:33 PM
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I can't come up with explicit examples of 307, I've never heard anyone express it, but like LB I've assumed it was true. And now I'm wondering if it's my "dark side."

Anybody have any examples?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:34 PM
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315 crossed with 313, to which: Yeah, that's the attitude. I think it's a fairly common one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:35 PM
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Anybody have any examples?

The fact that people are attached to local funding for schools?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:35 PM
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Oh, and re. "no tolerance policies, an anecdote.

I carpool with a single mom who has two kids. Her oldest son got a two-day suspension about a month ago for bringing some (fake) explosives to school. He'd found it in the garage, thought it was 'cool," put it in his backpack, brought it to school. I got dragged into it because I'd driven that day and "he could have put you and your own child in danger." The cops were called. It was a big fucking deal. All because of a piece of wood wrapped with red paper that said "TNT" on it.

So, his mom took a two-pronged approach of one, bitching about how fucking stupid the policy is, and two, getting on her kid (who is 11) about what a fucking stupid thing that was to do. Which is a pretty normal reaction. The next time I drove all the kids to school, here is what I said:

Look, yes, it's a little silly. But the teachers have twenty kids in their class, and your teacher didn't *know* that it was fake. Plus you've heard the news stories about bad things happening at schools. So they have to be careful. We know that you're not a bad, dangerous kid, and your teacher probably knows that too, but it's just a risk she can't take. What you *really* did wrong was just putting her in an awkward position, where she has to enforce what's probably a kind of overly broad rule, but it's there for a good reason.

The kids are aged 7, 8 and 11. They all understood what I said, and the culprit felt better.

This is, of course, separate from the issue of prosecuting kids like this, which is asinine, or the inconvenience to his mother, which was considerable (and a considerable part of her anger about it). Yes, it sucks that some of these school rules (my personal favorite is that you *can't send your kids to school with over-the-counter drugs unless you also have a fucking doctor's note*) are overly broad. But the *main* reason we object to these overly broad rules, frankly, is that they're fucking inconvenient *for us*. Who wants to take a kid to the doctor because he's got the sniffles or a headache? Who wants to scramble for childcare because their kid took a water pistol to school to show his friends? It fucking sucks. But the real problem is that schools and parents are stretched so tight that we end up squabbling over who has to be responsible for the kids, which is a sorry-ass situation. And if we're lucky enough to be able to *see* how that game works, it would be really nice if we could resist being drawn into it.


Posted by: phd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:42 PM
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The whole residential segregation around "good schools" thing is about giving your own kid a leg up. Parents in "good districts" are extremely reluctant to see any of their taxes diverted to other districts. the long run effect is to make a policy of disadvantaging some and advantaging others.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:43 PM
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Heh, "phd" was me. Goddamn fucking default to the "name" field.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:44 PM
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Parents in "good districts" are extremely reluctant to see any of their taxes diverted to other districts.

I actually don't think this is true. I don't think the problem is parents with kids in "good" public schools. I think the problem is everyone who doesn't have kids and everyone who drinks the libertarian koolaid and sends their kid to private school because, fuck you if you "'had kids you can't afford."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:47 PM
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What are parents without health insurance supposed to do if their kid has a cold?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:50 PM
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Yeah, that's the attitude. I think it's a fairly common one.

To wit (sorry, I'm going to repeat it):

the products of a society with very limited resources, in a state of internecine warfare

I'm becoming impatient. Limits on resources in education are imposed at this point not out of necessity. If people are going to war with each other to provide their children with competitive advantage, to the horrible detriment of increasing numbers of children, while I grant that this is understandable, I would hope we could get off the question of how common it is, and move on to its unacceptability.

Thus concludes your conversational tangent.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:51 PM
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323: B, come to Massachusetts to see it. Massachusetts has a very strong town form of government compared to other parts of the country even compared to Maine, the only other New England state I know well.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:52 PM
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324: Send to school without over-the-counter meds or teach and expect the kid to take them surreptitiously,


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:53 PM
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325: Well, yeah. Of course it's unacceptable, I said that back in 272 when I brought it up. And whether or not it's common is important, if we're trying to change things.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:54 PM
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324: Well, the schools push SCHIP for parents without health insurance--thank the Bush administration for refusing to expand it to cover more folks who aren't technically poor, but are effectively poor if they live in expensive areas.

Basically you send your kid to school without the drugs and let him sniffle all day, or you keep him home. Or you dose him yourself just before taking him to school, then run over on your lunch break to dose him again. Or, if he's old enough, you send him to school with the drugs and tell him to take them in a bathroom stall and for fuck's sake, don't get caught. Turns out PK's not old enough for me to do that: when I tried, last year, it freaked him out and he didn't want to break the rules, so he went to school without cold medicine.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:56 PM
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315

"At the margin, the second, relative, benefit is likely to have a larger effect on the kids' life. If every kid has the opportunity to take calculus in high school, then my daughter benefits from taking calculus. But if no one can take calculus, and I have the option of sending her to the only school in the country that teaches algebra (every other school stops at arithmetic), she's better off in terms of college admissions, in terms of competing for grades in college, and eventually in terms of getting jobs. While she learns less in high school in the second world, she really is better off -- the competitive advantage would more than make up for having to spend some college time learning calculus."

This is silly, parents don't compete in this country by trying to sabotage the education of other people's children, they compete by trying to enhance the education of their own children.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:58 PM
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326: Ah. Am I allowed to use the example of Massachussetts citizens being unwilling to have "their" taxes fund "those people's" schools in future discussions about why the west coast is superior?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:58 PM
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I am always surprised at how much focus on relative position there is in discussions of education. Sure, there's a status competition in education, but that's not where the numbers are. According to the last census, only about 33% of employed civilians (25-64) have a bachelors degree or better and I assume many of those BAs come from non-selective colleges. The positional race in education then is really a phenomenon of the top quartile or decile. No one else is a part of this competition. So even if we stipulate that the difference between going to U Mass vs. going to Amherst drives enormous amounts of inequality, it's realistically only inequality in the top quarter of Americans. For the majority of Americans just getting into any college, or getting valuable skills out of high school, represents an increase in human capital that is going to positively effect their lives. This is (just to harp on it one more time) another reason why thinking of education as a zero sum game is a mistake.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 2:59 PM
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330: People get a lot more excited and oppositional about moves to equalize school funding than they do about changes to the curriculum, don't you think? I don't have data on this, but it really doesn't seem off the wall to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:01 PM
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This is (just to harp on it one more time) another reason why thinking of education as a zero sum game is a mistake.

I can agree with this wholeheartedly if you're talking normatively, and population-wide. But for the top quarter of the SES distribution, I think that descriptively, plenty of people do see education as a zero sum game, and they're not insane to do so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:04 PM
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So even if we stipulate that the difference between going to U Mass vs. going to Amherst drives enormous amounts of inequality, it's realistically only inequality in the top quarter of Americans

and it's only in certain fields. this may be a humanities/academia vs. engineering thing, but it's pretty clear to most techies that there is a very strong positive feedback loop at work in terms of the number of people getting good educations in the field making each person's education more valuable.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:06 PM
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332: It's more like 65% in the younger demographic isn't it?

If I ran a big company I think I'd seriously consider hiring bright high school students as the best way to stick it to college ed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:07 PM
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333

Not wanting to pay large amounts of money to educate other people's children is a different issue.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:08 PM
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330: People get a lot more excited and oppositional about moves to equalize school funding than they do about changes to the curriculum, don't you think? I don't have data on this, but it really doesn't seem off the wall to me

moves to equalize school funding affect everyone who pays taxes; changes to the curriculum only affect those with children in school at the time. even if you assume people are completely indifferent to the education that other people's children get, you'd expect much more opposition to the former.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:10 PM
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337: If you'll pay more for schooling if the benefits go unequally to your kid, you're demonstrating that you actively value an unequal school system. That's a perfectly comprehensible position, but not a particularly good one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:11 PM
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331: 326: Ah. Am I allowed to use the example of Massachussetts citizens being unwilling to have "their" taxes fund "those people's" schools in future discussions about why the west coast is superior?

I'm not sure. I think that in a lot of areas Massachusetts is more communitarian than California. It's just that people want to be able to show up at town meetings and vote on things.

When I lived in Davis, I was always struck by the fact that the water was so crappy and that the town couldn't come up with some kind of treatment system at the town level. Instead everyone bought bottled water or went to the supermarket to fill up their gallon jugs at a quarter a piece.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:11 PM
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315 This is silly, parents don't compete in this country by trying to sabotage the education of other people's children, they compete by trying to enhance the education of their own children.

That's just an assertion, and I think its a false one. (Look at the history of education in the South: the planters educated their own kids, but not the black and trash kids). People compete both ways, and I've heard people explicitly make the argument I cited in 308, though I think that the opposition to the education of competing children tends to be expressed in veiled terms.

323: IIRC, New Hampshire had an enormous controversy about equalizing education spending, and it's been an issue in Oregon too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:13 PM
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333: Equalizing school funding could mean your child's school gets less, and that by itself could get you upset. It doesn't seem necessary to invoke changes in your child's relative status is a motivation for this opposition.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:16 PM
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336

"If I ran a big company I think I'd seriously consider hiring bright high school students as the best way to stick it to college ed."

If you give IQ tests to your applicants you are likely to get in trouble with the left. So companies require educational credentials instead.

And many bright kids would rather spend 4 years in college having fun than take a full time job. Especially if their lack of an educational credential is likely to hamper them in later life.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:16 PM
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B, I wish Mother Flippanter had been half as interested in the education of my brother and me as you are in the education of PK.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:17 PM
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I don't *know* that this is assholish teacher crap rather than a teacher struggling to get her students' parents up to speed on what public schools expect these days

No, zero tolerance here. Detention for a six year old. Anyone who thinks that's a solution to anything is simply not thinking, to a culpable degree. Anyone choosing to interpret the law as requiring them to give detention to six year olds is basically doing so because they like pushing people around.

But the *main* reason we object to these overly broad rules, frankly, is that they're fucking inconvenient *for us*.

No, the main reason is that they're inconvenient to us in an utterly arbitrary and capricious way, and they're imposed on us with zero consultation and zero respect for us. Rather as the rules imposed on us by teachers when we were at school annoyed us, and the common factor is the little-Hitler element of the teaching profession.

As I say, over here in leafy North London in one of the best funded education authorities there is, seven years into a Labour government that's put huge amounts of money into education, in a really quite thoroughly different cultural and political environment and guess what? There are still plenty of these stupid bloody little rules plaguing one's life because fundamentally, it isn't the system. Ogged is right on this one. You have no idea how much it kills me to say that.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:17 PM
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I'll sleep well tonight.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:19 PM
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Anyway, baa, somewhere along the line we were talking about grammar and high school, not college.

So this:

The positional race in education then is really a phenomenon of the top quartile or decile. No one else is a part of this competition. So even if we stipulate that the difference between going to U Mass vs. going to Amherst drives enormous amounts of inequality, it's realistically only inequality in the top quarter of Americans

is a non-starter. It's equality of education at non-college level. You don't want to say that the 67% of Americans without BAs had equal educations.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:19 PM
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Rather as the rules imposed on us by teachers when we were at school annoyed us, and the common factor is the little-Hitler element of the teaching profession.

In one of the Patrick O'Brian novels, Dr. Maturin advises another landlubbing fellow to shun the job of schoolmaster, for fear of the deformation of character that follows authority over weak and ignorant victims.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:21 PM
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Yup, New Hampshire is very town-oriented.

The thing is that people are willing to raise taxes for their town's kids--even once their own kids are past school age, but in California the anti-tax people seem to have been able to impose their views on everyone else.

John, what's Minnesota like? I'd guess that its Lutheran heritage makes it pretty communitarian too. Probably more than Massachusetts.

On one of my AP US History tests we looked at documents describing the Puritan emigrants by income. It's pretty clear that the Puritans didn't want anyone to be too rich or too poor, but that they wanted to maintain class distinctions. There were, for example, laws about not wearing certain types of fine clothes if you weren't a member of the appropriate class. Massachusetts still has a strong sense that hierarchy is important but that nobody should be allowed to fall too far down.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:22 PM
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339

"337: If you'll pay more for schooling if the benefits go unequally to your kid, you're demonstrating that you actively value an unequal school system. That's a perfectly comprehensible position, but not a particularly good one."

This is no different than volunteering at your kid's school but not at some other kid's school. Is B demonstrating that she actively values an unequal school system?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:22 PM
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337: Not really. I can't think of any reasons for your claim, especially since I actually cited an actual person who argued that he didn't want to give

We're in the kabuki zone now. All Americans want to give their own kids only the best, and this means fighting for fairness up to the point when their kid is getting an average education, and fighting for advantages after that. As long as the dynamic is putting more resources into the kids' educations, it's a good thing, but the other dynamic (freezing out other kids) is very real too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:23 PM
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Where we live, and LB too, performance in middle school is critical to entrance to a top selective high school, which in turn is very important for the educational progress and skills that will affect which college our top-decile kids go to.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:24 PM
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"That's just an assertion, and I think its a false one. (Look at the history of education in the South: the planters educated their own kids, but not the black and trash kids). People compete both ways, and I've heard people explicitly make the argument I cited in 308, though I think that the opposition to the education of competing children tends to be expressed in veiled terms."

It has been a long time since it was illegal to teach black kids to read.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:26 PM
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You're being silly, James. In Alabama and Mississippi almost all of the white kids go to private schools, and the public schools are underfunded. But there are many other example.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:28 PM
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It has been a long time since it was illegal to teach black kids to read.

But not long since people decided it was too expensive to bother.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:29 PM
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If 352 was to 347: Yes, of course. I am not concerned about the top-decile kids.

But maybe it wasn't to 347.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:32 PM
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This is no different than volunteering at your kid's school but not at some other kid's school.

Money is fungible, services aren't. B's tax money can be shared equally among all schools in the state. Her services can't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:33 PM
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Ile's 302 is really, really important and insightful. Especially this:

-when you budget for a financial aid student who went to disadvantaged schools, you have to build in extra money to help them thrive, because they are often badly prepared for the school and will need extra help.

I know a couple of young people who were able to transfer from a lousy public high school to a better (magnet) public high school. They're doing terrifically well, and have made it out. Their former classmates, with no hope of transferring out, are trying to keep their heads above water in a system in which even a terrifically good instructor cannot possibly hope to provide all of the social capital and support that they need.

Also, I'm glad to see the discussion in the last few comments is getting to race. I hear a great deal of comment from people whose stated rationale is that they don't want to give any more money to poor districts because they'll just misspend it. Underlying that (often, not always) is racism, toward students and administrators alike.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:40 PM
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If you give IQ tests to your applicants you are likely to get in trouble with the left. So companies require educational credentials instead.

IME it is resoundingly true that companies rely on educational credentials as proxy for determination, motivation, sometimes obedience, ability to follow rules and jump through hoops. Apply for a low-wage job these days and you're often filling out an online application, and if you even put GED rather than h.s. diploma (heaven forbid you failed to graduate), your application is moot. And I'm talking supermarket jobs, hotel housekeeping jobs, food service jobs at Boston Market or wherever. Jobs where you're going to be making $7-8/hour.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:44 PM
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But for the top quarter of the SES distribution, I think that descriptively, plenty of people do see education as a zero sum game, and they're not insane to do so.

Yeah, absolutely. But in terms of the US education system, it seems like not where most of the action is.

If you'll pay more for schooling if the benefits go unequally to your kid, you're demonstrating that you actively value an unequal school system.

I think this is too strong, and James Shearer's thought experiment about volunteering time is on point. Sure, you can't spread your volunteering over 20 schools. But you could spread it over two schools, or do it at a school that wasn't your kid's school. People could also pay for other people's children's piano lessons in addition to their own kid's. In practice, neither of these things ever happens. Maybe we want to characterize this behavior as valuing an unequal school system or unequal educational system. But if so, basically anyone who spends efforts on their children's education they don't try to spread broadly falls under that description.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 3:55 PM
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In practice, neither of these things ever happens.

I hope this was over-the-top rhetoric for emphasis, because it's factually not true.

Is also not worth it to spend time making dinner for your own family, while giving cash to a food bank to help other hungry families?

(I'm banned for violating the analogy ban, I know.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:00 PM
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I think that in the top Ivies and grad schools, a high proportion of the students realize that they're lucky to be in that particular school, and thus better off than some equally talented, equally hard-working student in a lower-rated school. Connections, insider information, a snazzy credential. This is a zero sum game.

I read something be a Harvard (etc.) admissions officer saying that 90% of the applicants were qualified, and that a small proportion were sure things (superkids). So 90% of the places were filled by kids who needed some luck.

Approximately, 10,000 kids applied for 1000 places, 100 were accepted automatically, 1,000 were rejected automatically, and 8900 kids competed for 900 places.

Apocryphal urban legend, though the real numbers are out there somewhere. But it's very zero-sum.I think that in the top Ivies and grad schools, a high proportion of the students realize that they're lucky to be in that particular school, and thus better off than some equally talented, equally hard-working student in a lower-rated school. Connections, insider information, a snazzy credential. This is a zero sum game.

I read something be a Harvard (etc.) admissions officer saying that 90% of the applicants were qualified, and that a small proportion were sure things (superkids). So 90% of the places were filled by kids who needed some luck.

Approximately, 10,000 kids applied for 1000 places, 100 were accepted automatically, 1,000 were rejected automatically, and 8900 kids competed for 900 places.

Apocryphal urban legend, though the real numbers are out there somewhere. But it's very zero-sum.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:07 PM
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Sorry


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:08 PM
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But if so, basically anyone who spends efforts on their children's education they don't try to spread broadly falls under that description.

Not really. For one thing, you can, practically, buy piano lessons for your own kid -- by yourself, there's no effective way to spread out that money over all the kids in the state or country. Fractions of a cent per kid don't do anything toward music lessons. You need the tax system, and the public education system, to turn individual inputs into broad public benefit.

So what someone does for their own kid doesn't tell you anything about what they think they, as citizens, are responsible for providing for children generally. Only their views on tax policy and education spending tell you that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:10 PM
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We're talking about actively using the political process and school funding as a way to produce inequality though, advantaging some and disadvantaging other. For a-la-carte cash-n-carry government (the libertarian model) that's a good thing. But most of us are assuming a different model of government.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:14 PM
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"You're being silly, James. In Alabama and Mississippi almost all of the white kids go to private schools, and the public schools are underfunded. But there are many other example."

The figures on these sites Public School Review and Private School Review are inconsistent with this assertion. In Alabama 444388 white kids go to public schools as opposed to 58218 white kids going to private schools. And in Mississippi 235432 white kids go to public schools as opposed to 42360 white kids going to private schools. These figures may be a bit dated but I doubt the ratios have changed drastically. Do you have some reference to the contrary?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:14 PM
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Like I said, it's the white trash and the black kids who don't get educated. It was you, not me, who focussed the question on race. And schools there are underfunded. The South has always educated only the elite, if anyone.

I do admit that I had my facts wrong.

ZFor me, parents who use their own money and time to advance their own children's education are fine, even if they don't give to everyone. It's the ones who try to use the political process and school funding to do that whom I object to. Like I said, philosophy of government.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:20 PM
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360: Yeah, absolutely. But in terms of the US education system, it seems like not where most of the action is.

Well, parsimon's point in 347 is a good one. The top quartile of the SES has disproportionate political power, and sees education as a zero-sum game -- they're the ones competing to get into Harvard. And partially due to the fact that the primary and secondary school systems are unequal, they don't need to worry about competing with kids from outside that top quartile. That's a benefit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:22 PM
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JE, I agree that admission to Ivies is zero sum. Thing is, my kids are competing with suburban Minnesotans, etc., for those spots, and even if the DC public schools improve a tremendous amount, the competitive balance for those Ivy slots isn't going to change materially. Failing schools have so far to go before it puts kids in my area in competitive jeopardy, that it would SFAIC only occur to the kind of people who overthink everything to death that it might make a difference. I mean really: they're graduating people who can't read, and someone is worried that improvements will mean their kid can't go to Harvard?

It's all pretty alien to me. I'm not from around here, and didn't grow up in this kind of environment. As an undergrad, I only attended public colleges, and my degree is from as non-exclusive a place as exists. I don't feel like this has hindered me in life, but then I am pretty extraordinarily lucky, as a general proposition.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:25 PM
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I mean really: they're graduating people who can't read, and someone is worried that improvements will mean their kid can't go to Harvard?

I think you're overthinking here. If you've got someone who's thinking competitively about their kids' education, it's not far from that to wanting their kids' school to be comparatively 'the best' rather than being focused on how absolutely good it is. At which point wanting the system to maintain differentials in school quality is a natural next step. You don't need to have someone explicitly thinking that there's a real risk that the DC kids will crowd their kids out of Harvard for them to want to preserve a system where the DC schools are worse than the ones their own kids attend.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:32 PM
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Napi, it's not just the "failing schools". Suburban schools are as good as they can be made, and all other schools are at a disadvantage. So you have best, good, OK, poor, and terrible schools, and everyone at every level wants to get as much as they can for their own kids. So it's at the immediate level below yours that these pactors go into play for you. (What if the entire MPLS-STP metro area funded every school equally?)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:33 PM
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What LB said, in 370.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:41 PM
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I don't see how this statement:

So what someone does for their own kid doesn't tell you anything about what they think they, as citizens, are responsible for providing for children generally. Only their views on tax policy and education spending tell you that.

can be reconciled with this one:

If you'll pay more for schooling if the benefits go unequally to your kid, you're demonstrating that you actively value an unequal school system.

Let's say someone decides to pay for private school, or supports a local tax levy on the condition that it goes to local schools, or decides to pay for extra tutoring for their kid. In all these this person is saying "I want more of my money to go to educating my kid." (and by implication: I am OK if kids who do not have this money are unable to pay for the same education). Whether the mechanism of inequality is a private school, nominally through the public process, or avoids the school system entirely, the motivation and effect seems the same. Right? This person still in some way "values" inequality in education.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:49 PM
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362

"I think that in the top Ivies and grad schools, a high proportion of the students realize that they're lucky to be in that particular school, and thus better off than some equally talented, equally hard-working student in a lower-rated school. ..."

I doubt it. I expect most of them think they deserve it.

"I read something be a Harvard (etc.) admissions officer saying that 90% of the applicants were qualified, and that a small proportion were sure things (superkids). So 90% of the places were filled by kids who needed some luck."

Qualified in that they wouldn't flunk out maybe. As qualified as the top 1000 no way.

"Approximately, 10,000 kids applied for 1000 places, 100 were accepted automatically, 1,000 were rejected automatically, and 8900 kids competed for 900 places."

I expect the 500th kid is clearly better than the 1000th and the 1000th is clearly better than the 2000th so the uncertainty is mainly between the bottom 500 admitted and the top 1000 not admitted.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:56 PM
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If you value equality in education for all children, you can only get that through the tax and public education system, right? There is no private, individual action you can take that will act to provide an equal educational opportunity for children generally.

So what you do on an individual level (as in buying your kid piano lessons) doesn't say much about your attitude toward equality -- that's not a realm where equality is an available option. What you advocate in terms of tax and education policy is what determines your attitude toward equality. (Advocating low taxes and shitty public schools while sending your kid to a private school so they won't suffer from it? Pro-inequality. Advocating taxes sufficient to support good public schools for all children, and policies that would actually provide such schools, while also trying to place your own kid in a good school so they don't suffer from the inequalities that currently exist? Pro-equality, but not a martyr. I'm not going to call people hypocrites because they aren't martyrs.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 4:58 PM
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As I say, this is alien to me. The only concern I see is people wanting to preserve and expand the education at our school. There's an arms race of sorts, I guess, but this really has nothing to do with the schools people are talking about when they worry about educational equality. It's only within a very narrow top tier -- and I'm not seeing people in our district oppose funding to keep the richer schools from improving themselves. And that's who our competition is.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:01 PM
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this all sounds a bit "objectively pro-terrorist" to me. out here, we have people in marin county (notorious libertarian stronghold that it is) who make it impossible to get what most consider adequate funding for public schools because hey, their kids are all in their thirties now. we've also got people who are struggling to make 6k/mo mortgage payments so their kid can go to palo alto public schools, and are going to be up shit creek if it turns out that they can't sell their house to someone else who really wants their kid to go to palo alto public schools. pro-inequality, or more-pro-their-own-family-than-the-rest-of-the-country?

i'm also perfectly happy to have the people who can't see any better way to get their kids ahead than sending them to harvard fight over who can spend the most money sending their kids on volunteer missions to central america or whatever, leaving the stanfords and the berkeleys and the carnegie-mellons and the ewe-dubs and such for the rest of us.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:08 PM
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375 -- I personally think adequacy is way more important than equality at this point. Not because I'm worried about competition, but because I think equality schemes divert energy to an effort that fails both equality or adequacy.

I'm also not certain how equality is supposed to work. Must every school teach Latin? If some schools don't want to offer Latin, may no schools teach Latin?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:09 PM
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pro-inequality, or more-pro-their-own-family-than-the-rest-of-the-country?

As I said, it depends on how you're voting and what policies you're advocating. What you do individually to navigate the unequal system we've got now doesn't have a whole lot to do with your position on inequality generally. But if it's true that effective action to really equalize educational opportunity for all children would be prohibitively unpopular among the people who are now doing well under our unequal system, those people value the inequalities in the system.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:12 PM
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Money is part of the problem. this article suggests good principals with budget authority are as important as good teachers.
http://economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=526356&story_id=10251324


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:14 PM
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I'm also not certain how equality is supposed to work. Must every school teach Latin? If some schools don't want to offer Latin, may no schools teach Latin?

Seriously, lottery admissions to public schools solve this. They can be as different as they like, and you can apply to go to whichever ones appeal to you -- either because they do teach Latin, or because they're geographically convenient. But if you've got kids of your own, or any kids you care about, in public schools, you're going to be very interested in assuring that they are all at least adequate. That's one way of getting to meaningful equality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:15 PM
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381

Would "lottery admissions to public schools" be similar to the unpopular phenomenon that I believe was known as "busing"?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:17 PM
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But if it's true that effective action to really equalize educational opportunity for all children would be prohibitively unpopular among the people who are now doing well under our unequal system, those people value the inequalities in the system.

No. If the inequalities are an unintended consequence of other, valued features of the system, and if your equality-busting idea would seriously erode those other, valued features, this doesn't say anything at all about the value of inequality.

You say that value of inequality is significant among your circle. OK, I can't argue with that. In my experience, though, it's practically non-existent. In my circle.

Presuming bad faith on the part of policy opponents isn't always wrong on the facts. It is frequently bad politics.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:19 PM
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381 -- And I'm telling you that a government that sends my kid to a school 10 miles away, instead of one he can walk to, is going to face a revolt.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:21 PM
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Not in areas where the schools were of pretty uniform quality. In areas where they weren't, I suppose you'd see a lot of people going to geographically inconvenient schools, either because the inconvenient school was more desirable than the neighborhood school, or because the neighborhood school was desirable and therefore oversubscribed.

To the extent that all that travel was unpopular, it'd be a heck of an incentive to make all the schools of adequate and fairly uniform quality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:21 PM
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You say that value of inequality is significant among your circle. OK, I can't argue with that. In my experience, though, it's practically non-existent. In my circle.

Oh, snap.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:22 PM
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and 385 to 381.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:24 PM
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Wait. Adequacy is equality?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:26 PM
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To the extent that all that travel was unpopular, it'd be a heck of an incentive to make all the schools of adequate and fairly uniform quality.

But the factor that makes schools of a uniformly high quality is a relatively even distribution of the various SES groups throughout the different schools. I looked up the numbers for my own school system a while back when we were having a related discussion, and the per-student expenditures for every school were nearly identical, despite their being rather drastic differences in academic performance. You can't get around this without shipping a lot of students relatively far from home for school.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:27 PM
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MattF, which high school did you go to, if I may ask?

You're from Montgomery County, right?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:29 PM
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388: I'm not sure what you mean by that. But your kid is only going to have to go to school ten miles away if your local school is so much better than the average that it's worthwhile for people who live ten miles away to go there. If all the schools are good enough that the people who live nearby are content with them, both absolutely and comparatively, then people will generally want to go to their neighborhood schools, and no one has to travel.

It's a heck of an incentive for working towards making all the schools of at least acceptable quality, and smoothing out the huge inequities in the system, while not requiring that all schools be identical.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:30 PM
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Oh, snap.

well, if it turns out that one group of parents is deathly concerned about their kids not being able to get into harvard if the schools on the wrong side of the track start sucking less, and another group of parents doesn't even consider the possibility of their kids going to harvard at all, this could be an insight into something that keeps schools the way they are, and open up a plan of attack for changing things.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:31 PM
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Would "lottery admissions to public schools" be similar to the unpopular phenomenon that I believe was known as "busing"?

Not really. Students here can go to their neighborhood schools or enter lotteries to go to schools with a variety of magnet programs &mdash arts, languages, sciences, TAG, alternative educational models, that kind of thing. The system seems to be pretty popular.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:31 PM
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Yep. Went to Quince Orchard.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:33 PM
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389: Well, that's not entirely false. But patterns of residential segregation coincide with district boundaries in a lot of places -- you could integrate schools in the New York area a lot more without moving kids much further.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:34 PM
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393 -- I don't have any objection to lotteries for magnet programs, so long as anyone can go to the neighborhood school. That's not what LB is talking about. She's talking about intentionally spreading the pain of inadequate education as a way to motivate people not currently feeling pain to work towards a cure.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:34 PM
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That sounds so negative, compared to 'making the best schools equally available to all children'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:36 PM
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NYC is sui generis.

If the county sent my kid to MattF's school, which is several miles upcounty, in order to motivate me to care more about the quality of instruction there, I'd probably send him to private school. It's not just the difference between Quince Orchard and B-CC -- here's a chart for which I do not vouch at all -- but the distance, which cuts off extracurriculars, complicates friendships, and is inconvenient if he gets sick during the school day.

Ask me to pay taxes to support more teachers at QO, and I'm absolutely on board.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:44 PM
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QO is absolutely adequate, of course.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:46 PM
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364: Unfortunately I don't have a source, but what the guy was saying was the opposite of what you said. He said that after the first small number of must-admits, it was very hard to choose from within the next very large group. Grades, classes, and test scores pretty close, extracurricular activities pretty close, intangibles unknown. This school (probably Harvard) got applications from the best students nationwide. Admissions had to decide what kind of student body they wanted, and then afyter that decide how each student contributed to the mix.

They could have written an algorithm combined grades, scores, and everything quantifiable, thus making the choice mechanical and automatic, but what he was trying to say was that they had decided that that method wouldn't have much merit except making their jobs easy. The whole bunch of them were 3.75+ GPA / 1300+ SAT, and he didn't think that going by small numerical differences was the way to go.

Straight A was common. 1600 SAT was not uncommon.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:53 PM
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Napi, we've mentioned other cases -- education in the South, disputes in Mass and NH and Oregon, things individuals have said to me. Your immediate experience wouldn't necessarily give you more examples.

Though perhaps if you looked at what was happening in MN and Twin Cities politics, you'd see evidence. Strong support for local schools can be correlated with the desire for exclusiveness. (One elite district in Portland finagled a tiny independent elite high school in the richest area of Portland. They are tremendously generous to their own school but limit their involvement with the rest of the city. Jesus might be able to tell you more).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 5:59 PM
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A recent speech by an admissions director of a highly competetive college just given to my daughter's high school basically confirms what JE says above. But quite frankly preparing all high school kids for college is a waste of resources. One problem is how to make the choice of allocation of scarce resources without prejudice or overly relying on tests or recommendations of "guidance" counselors.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:02 PM
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John, I'm distinguishing between policy choices motivated by race, and those motivated by envy/greed/fear (and not race). To what extent are the examples in 401 the former and not the latter?

I have tried to avoid universalizing my experience in the conversation. I don't think I'm wrong, though, when I say that messing with local schooling is politically dicey at best. If even a place like Portland is headed in the wrong direction, why on earth would anyone have much hope for Baltimore (to pick a place at near random)?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:11 PM
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LizardBreath is just on fire in this thread.

Semiserious question: why not lottery admissions to colleges?

The answer, I think, is that smart kids benefit more from being with other smart kids than do less smart kids. But I wonder how much of that is just class talking. Anyway, what's the fundamental difference between high schools and colleges that would make a lottery good for one and not the other?


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:15 PM
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400: A potential source for JE's argument. (NB: Have not read the book.)

There was another book published around the same time -- I think by a woman, and I think about a thinly-disguised elite college -- that focused on the same themes.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:20 PM
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403: The South was mostly but not only race. Elsewhere it might or might not be race. In OR and NH I doubt that race was much of a factor. I much more interested in the class-sorting effects residency and of education at every level than in the racial aspects (which are a version of class-sorting). In general the positive efforts (making my school better) is explicit and public, whereas the negative aspect (not caring about schools not mine) is more passive, tacit, and sneaky. And I'm mostly interested in the use of governmental process to attain class-sorting, rather than parents volunteering time or spending their own money.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:23 PM
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what's the fundamental difference between high schools and colleges that would make a lottery good for one and not the other?

Since WWII we've made the argument, as a country, that everyone should aspire to finish high school. We aren't nearly there -- and many would argue we should never be there -- with regard to college.

I wish we had a number of other respected non-college routes to good jobs that guidance counselors were aware of and understood. As it stands -- military, a few kinds of vo-tech, or various flavors of college. Not nearly enough choices, considering the big wide adult world out there.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:25 PM
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Further to 407: A college lottery, absent other changes, would encourage a whole lot of folks who aren't well-prepared for or necessarily interested in college, to pursue it. Kind of like how the stupid US News rankings encourage colleges to solicit applications from a whole lot of unqualified kids because that way they can have a high rejection rate.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:26 PM
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One elite district in Portland finagled a tiny independent elite high school in the richest area of Portland

Riverdale, in Dunthorpe. When the state legislature decreed that school districts had to have both primary and secondary schools, the district bought and renovated a school for use as a high school rather than merge with the nearby very affluent suburban district where my wife teaches. Out-of-district students (maybe 2/3 of the student body of 250 or so) have to pay tuition. It's an ultra-exclusive, first-up-against-the-wall neighborhood; Linus Torvalds lives there, as well as some of the Trailblazers.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:29 PM
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407. But the fact remains that we as a society are prolonging adolescence by having too many kids go to college when they really don't need to in any meaningful sense. And the trades are suffering for apprentices because of this college worship. Become a plumber instead of a midmarket associate manager.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:30 PM
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If even a place like Portland is headed in the wrong direction

Portland is a different situation. Dunthorpe is proudly and defiantly not Portland, but it's reachable from the city by both artillery and small-arms fire.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:35 PM
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410: Yes, I think we're in strong agreement. Am I misunderstanding the "But" in your comment?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 6:36 PM
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398: I'm seriously just curious about this. There's a specific private school you're happy with closer than the next closest public school? I'd be surprised if that were generally true -- that is, if making decisions mostly on length of commute would put a lot of kids in private school rather than a public school they got into by lottery.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 7:31 PM
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making decisions mostly on length of commute

Bethesda to Gaithersburg is a long-ass drive during morning rush hour. And long drives are a lot longer when you have to be in class at 7:15. I chose not to go to a pretty well-regarded magnet program in the county because I didn't want to drive half an hour to get there (plus I didn't want to leave my established social group). I think it would be much more disruptive than you're giving it credit for--the rest of the country isn't New York.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 7:56 PM
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But the increased disruptiveness from longer distances cuts both ways, making people from different areas less likely to apply to a faraway school. I'm figuring people would probably stick with their local schools where they were tolerable, really bad schools would just disappear, with the students scattering to all the nearby less awful schools, and spots where you had great schools conveniently close to not great schools, they'd end up with the student bodies mixed.

This isn't a panacea for exactly the reason it wouldn't be all that disruptive -- there's a limit to how far anyone will want their kid to commute even to a great school.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:06 PM
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Also, this?

I think it would be much more disruptive than you're giving it credit for--the rest of the country isn't New York.

Lot of NY kids spend 40 min to an hour on the subway to get to high school. I did. Didn't kill me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:07 PM
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413 -- All the other high schools close by on the Maryland side are at least as desirable as ours, so if we're lotterying our way out of inequality, they'd be just as oversubscribed. There are private schools that are just fine nearby, on both sides of the line. (I live 100 feet from the state line).


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:43 PM
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I think it would be much more disruptive than you're giving it credit for

Yes. Several times over, yes.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 8:54 PM
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getting used to the fact that teh people with teh power and the people with the knowlege are rarely the same, and that treating the people with power like babies is imporant is an important lesson.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 12-18-07 9:16 PM
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I wish we had a number of other respected non-college routes to good jobs that guidance counselors were aware of and understood

There is a sort of Godwin's Law which describes the gravitational pull of this suggestion on any debate about education. I'm not saying it's even a bad idea, but apprenticeships did die out for a reason.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 1:38 AM
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420. This results from the widespread perception of generic management as a form of sheltered employment for middle class morons. Somewhere in the world there may be a person with an MBA who understands the business they're in either strategically or procedurally. Have you ever met them?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:40 AM
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420: I guess I was unclear. I meant that IME those paths do exist, but high school guidance counselors are largely ignorant of what they are, how they work, and whether they are a good solution for a particular student.

I wasn't necessarily thinking of apprenticeships, either, although the trades are certainly an option. Phlebotomists, lab technicians, mechanics, sign language interpreters...there are a lot of jobs out there that pay decently and don't require a college degree.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:37 AM
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341

""315 This is silly, parents don't compete in this country by trying to sabotage the education of other people's children, they compete by trying to enhance the education of their own children."

That's just an assertion, and I think its a false one. ... "

You are correct, as this thread has reminded me there are people who want to sabotage the education of other people's children by limiting the amount rich communities can spend on their own schools.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:05 AM
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402

"A recent speech by an admissions director of a highly competetive college just given to my daughter's high school basically confirms what JE says above. ..."

College admissions directors are notorious liars and nothing they say can be trusted.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:07 AM
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Lot of NY kids spend 40 min to an hour on the subway to get to high school. I did. Didn't kill me.

Most people in my school district spent that long on the school bus after being picked up to go to the local school. Of course, if the school buses had to flit from district to district to pick up people who had had their schools randomly assigned, it would have taken about three times as long, or they would have needed ten times as many buses.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:08 AM
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to sabotage the education of other people's children by limiting the amount rich communities can spend on their own schools.

But James, I thought that educational spending was irrelevant to outcomes? How could such a limit, whoever's proposed it, be regarded as sabotage?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:09 AM
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426: I believe the money acts as a placebo, thus having a positive effect even though money cannot, logically accomplish anything.

The reason this doesn't work when money is given to poor school districts is because of layers of bureaucracy and lack of transparency, so the people don't realize when it has been given to them.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:13 AM
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425: Who said randomly assigned? You'd apply for the schools you wanted, presumably the local ones, and would only get bounced to a school lower on your list if your first choices were oversubscribed. Depending on the area, that might be logistically difficult, but it doesn't sound a priori insoluble.

Anyway, obviously I'm not in power to institute this system by fiat nationwide. But the point is that there's a real value to making it impossible for people to protect a tiered structure of quasi-public education, where opportunity is systematically available to the richer kids and withheld from the poorer kids. The opportunities provided in a public school system should be available to all the children in a society, not to a selected few.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:14 AM
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370

"... You don't need to have someone explicitly thinking that there's a real risk that the DC kids will crowd their kids out of Harvard for them to want to preserve a system where the DC schools are worse than the ones their own kids attend. "

Let me just point out that the DC schools spend more per pupil by quite a bit than any state. See Table 5 .


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:30 AM
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426

I said "want to sabotage". You are correct that such efforts are likely to be ineffective as the extra spending doesn't buy much. Doesn't change the fact that the motives are bad and this in itself is enough to enrage people. So you are mobilizing people against you without actually accomplishing anything.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:37 AM
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I'm just interested in opening the best schools to any students that want to attend. Leaving the logistical commuting issues to one side (not saying they're not important, but if that's all we're talking about, I'm sure something could be worked out), what on earth makes you call that sabotage?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 9:39 AM
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431

Good schools are good because of their students. You let anybody attend MIT and it isn't MIT anymore.

And this is different than limiting spending in rich districts.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 10:11 AM
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Good schools are good because of their students.

So, you're saying that the kids at the school Napi sends his kids all deserve to be there based on academic merit, and that schools that appear to be worse are simply accidental agglomerations of bad students? The correlation of academic merit with the ability to buya house in a good school district is really that strong?

That's beyond idiotic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 10:15 AM
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433

I am not saying there is no overlap. But students in rich districts will average better and schools are generally ranked on average performance which is largely determined by the average quality of their students.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 10:49 AM
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You appear to be making the argument (and I'm really not trying to be unfair, I think you're intending to make it explicitly. Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding you) that economically integrated schools, where students from richer and poorer backgrounds attend the same schools, are inherently injurious and unjust to the richer students, because the presence of the poorer and therefore less academically talented students will damage the educational environment for the richer students.

Am I doing your position justice there? Because if not, then we're talking at cross-purposes, and I need to understand you better before going on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 10:54 AM
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re: 435

That does tend to be the argument I hear made by people who are essentially advocating inequity. They are just being mealy-mouthed about it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:06 AM
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To 214 : (Yes, I'm slow):

I used sibling preference to game the system. I moved into the PS 87 catchment area (Upper West Side, Manhattan, about 8 blocks from the park to the river). After my divorce, I moved first to Harlem and then to Washington Heights (and I don't mean Inwood), but my second and third children got into PS 87 because an older sibling was attending at the time they applied for kindergarten.

They just got rid of this because they noticed it tended to benefit the children of white, educated parents.


Posted by: Shamhat | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:23 AM
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435

I believe something like that but I don't think it is what I am mainly arguing here.

I believe it is difficult to have students of widely varying academic abilities in the same class without going too fast for the stupid students and/or too slow for the smart students. So mixing in stupid students is likely to cause classes to be taught at slower levels hurting the brighter students.

I also think that students to some extent pick up good habits from students with good habits and bad habits from students with bad habits. Here I am talking about things like obeying the rules, working hard, planning ahead, general good citizenship. So an influx of students with bad habits will damage a school.

This doesn't have anything to do directly with being rich or poor but there is sufficient correlation that a random influx of poor students will predictably reduce the average quality of students in a rich school and hurt the superior students for the above reasons. This doesn't apply to a selective influx of the better students from poorer areas.

I am not saying anything about what is just or unjust above.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:28 AM
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So mixing in stupid students is likely to cause classes to be taught at slower levels hurting the brighter students.

It is generally possible for schools to have different classes in different subjects for kids of different ability levels. Or to teach in ability-streamed groups in single-classroom teaching environments. Just sayin'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:36 AM
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I am not saying anything about what is just or unjust above.

You kind of have to if you're going to talk about policy, don't you? I'd agree that there's going to be some peer effect on other students -- well-behaved, academically competent students produce positive externalities for the other students, and badly behaved, academically incompetent students produce negative externalities. That really doesn't get you to saying that it's right, or even acceptable, for high-SES families to use the public school system as a sorting mechanism to insure that their children benefit from those positive externalities and are insulated from the negative externalities.

If the schools are economically integrated, the higher SES students will probably be in schools with a larger percentage of students who are disruptive to some extent than they are now. And they'll be fine anyway. The lower SES students will be in schools with a larger percentage of students who are academically competent and expecting to be successful. And they'll benefit from that.

The schools should be reducing, not perpetuating, existing class inequities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:42 AM
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What 440 says.

Not to get overly Rawlsian, but we really ought to be dealing with maximin behaviour here. Our aim ought to be to maximize outcomes for those worst off. Those at the top of the heap are going to be fine, either way.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:49 AM
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439

"It is generally possible for schools to have different classes in different subjects for kids of different ability levels. Or to teach in ability-streamed groups in single-classroom teaching environments. Just sayin'"

It is possible but not universally practiced. And even where it is practiced the fast track at a bad school will be at a lower level than the fast track at a good school.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:15 PM
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440

"If the schools are economically integrated, the higher SES students will probably be in schools with a larger percentage of students who are disruptive to some extent than they are now. And they'll be fine anyway. The lower SES students will be in schools with a larger percentage of students who are academically competent and expecting to be successful. And they'll benefit from that."

If you have any convincing evidence that the benefit to the bad kids outweighs the harm done to the good kids I would like to see it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:23 PM
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441

"Not to get overly Rawlsian, but we really ought to be dealing with maximin behaviour here. Our aim ought to be to maximize outcomes for those worst off. Those at the top of the heap are going to be fine, either way."

Rawls and the maxmin criteria has never made any sense at all to me. I would optimize the overall benefit to society.

And why would you want to maximize the academic performance of the worst students anyway? This won't help them much in life, you need to create places for them that don't require them to perform well academically.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:28 PM
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the benefit to the bad kids

Begging the question, aren't you, by putting it this way? Not all low-SES kids are disruptive, and not all high-SES kids are spreading sweetness and light in their path. The interesting benefits are those to lower-SES kids who aren't "bad" kids, but who are now stuck in schools which are functioning poorly because the percentage of disruptive kids is too high, and the political will to manage the schools properly (given the fact that the people who send their kids there have very little clout) is absent. Those kids are now screwed, despite having as much intellectual potential as plenty of the "good" kids who get to go to better functioning schools because their parents can afford houses in nice school districts.

Have you got convincing evidence of the reverse?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:37 PM
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I would optimize the overall benefit to society.

You need to do a lot more work spelling out what that means. Particularly if you want to argue for not working to benefit the worst off.

However, your further comments suggest you are basically trolling.

And why would you want to maximize the academic performance of the worst students anyway?

I'd reverse the question. Why worry that much about those who are at the top of the performance ladder?

Also, re: 439 -- it is universally practiced where I am from. Which suggests it's not, you know, impossible.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:40 PM
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Begging the question, aren't you, by putting it this way?

Indeed.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:44 PM
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"Bad kids" is an appalling term, especially in debates about education.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:45 PM
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445

"Have you got convincing evidence of the reverse?"

No, but I am not advocating a massive and disruptive change to the status quo.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:46 PM
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"I'd reverse the question. Why worry that much about those who are at the top of the performance ladder?"

Because it is the kids at the top of the performance ladder who drive scientific and technical progress. Getting the best of out of the top kids is very important to society


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:57 PM
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Right. You're taking the position that our current educational system is functional and just -- kids in ill-functioning schools are the sole cause of those schools' failure to function, and can't practically be helped by putting them in better schools.

At which point I can't imagine how I'd convince you of anything. But it's been interesting, and I do thank you for providing a counterexample to Napi's belief that people who think like you do are rare or nonexistent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 12:58 PM
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446

"Also, re: 439 -- it is universally practiced where I am from. Which suggests it's not, you know, impossible."

Ability tracking is far from universally practiced in the US and is generally opposed by the same sorts of people who want economically integrated schools. After all ability tracking will tend to reproduce economically (and racially) segregated classes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 1:00 PM
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After all ability tracking will tend to reproduce economically (and racially) segregated classes.

Not necessarily, but I would bet next year's take home pay that if little Jason Middleclass is tracked to be a pipefitter his college educated parents will be in the principal's office demanding change.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 1:05 PM
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I would bet next year's take home pay that if little Jason Middleclass is tracked to be a pipefitter his college educated parents will be in the principal's office demanding change.

There isn't a "pipefitter" track. It's not like the poor kids all get shunted into metal shop; everyone takes the same subjects, more or less, but are divided into "regular", "honors", or (when available) "AP" classes, mostly based on one's prior year performance in that subject (this worked in both directions--my lily-white, middle-class ass got demoted to regular chemistry junior year because I was slacking off).

So the top resources were available to everybody, and my school was pretty damn diverse. However, it still worked out that, among the 125 or so people from a total class of 450 who were in the AP track, there were only two black students, one of whom was an African immigrant. There was still a large disparity in performance, except we all happened to be in the same building during the day. It's not just the school you go to.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 1:37 PM
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Yeah, that goes into the category of 'no one reform will fix everything.' There's a lot to be done at the elementary school level, and the preschool level. But for those kids in an academic position to take advantage of it, being in a school that offers advanced classes is a benefit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 1:43 PM
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450 is such absurd bullshit it's not even worth dignifying with much of a response.

There's zero evidence that technological or scientific change is driven in that sort of way. In fact, given that our current educational system isn't that old* I'm not even really sure how you could confidently claim that, say, segregation by class and income is a prerequisite for innovation.

It's also transparently false that the existing system serves to benefit the very bright. It serves, primarily, to benefit the wealthy. You're [perniciously, and annoyingly] conflating the two. Under the existing system, poor but very bright kids are essentially condemned to fail, while wealthy but not so bright kids are not. Now, I don't personally fetishize intelligence in the way that you want to, but, nevertheless, it's transparently false that the existing system even does what you seem to believe it does: provide a purely meritocratic system in which those with the highest aptitude succeed. But then, you must know that.

* although for what it's worth, universal education has been going a lot longer in my country than yours, and my country per capita has a pretty good** record on scientific and technological innovation.

** understatement


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:19 PM
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451

"Right. You're taking the position that our current educational system is functional and just -- kids in ill-functioning schools are the sole cause of those schools' failure to function, and can't practically be helped by putting them in better schools."

This is not an accurate summary of my position. I believe that our current system is doing better than it is given credit for, that both the left and the right (for different reasons) have an interest in bad mouthing it.

I have never said schools make no difference at all. My position is that schools (within the range commonly found in the United States) make little difference to academic performance compared to natural ability and family background. And that to the extent that schools do matter the most important reason is peer effects. And finally that things like teacher pay are lost in the noise.

Nor have I claimed that kids can't benefit from being moved to better to schools just that the improvement on average will be minor.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:19 PM
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re: 453

Are you being deliberately obtuse? Ability tracking, in countries which do it, doesn't work that way. It's done on a subject by subject basis, and usually only for those subjects where there's a clear benefit from doing so. It's not done using a simplistic one-step classification of pupils.

So, for example, little Johnny might be in the top-stream for maths, second-stream for english, and take geography with everyone else as there is no streaming for that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:21 PM
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My position is that schools ... make little difference to academic performance compared to natural ability and family background.

You're running against the tide of, oh, decades of educational research you know.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:22 PM
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458: Yes, but if it were done in an unfair and inappropriate way, it would be unfair and inappropriate.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:22 PM
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458: Actually, that and Matt's 454 are a pretty accurate way of how ability tracking tends to actually work in the US -- the results (anecdotally) end up very much as class sorting, and mostly kids are uniformly in all honors or no honors classes. You end up with effectively economically segregated schools in the same building.

I think that's a separate problem that's a result of difficult to eliminate bad practices at the individual school level, but I admit I'm really unclear on how to fix it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:25 PM
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451

"At which point I can't imagine how I'd convince you of anything. But it's been interesting, and I do thank you for providing a counterexample to Napi's belief that people who think like you do are rare or nonexistent."

This is silly. Being indifferent to the education of other people's children is not the same thing as being actively hostile.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:25 PM
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Referring to equalizing the peer effects, which you've identified as the greatest effect schools have on children, by economically integrating schools as 'sabotaging' the schools that now serve the higher SES kids seems like active hostility to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:30 PM
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re: 461

It's not how it works where I am from. There is obviously a fair bit of clustering. It would be rare for someone to be in the top track for one subject and the bottom for another. But not unusual for some kids to be in different tracks for maths and english, say.

My brother [bright but not academically inclined], who just sat his exams, was in the lower streams for some things and the higher ones for other.

re: 462

If you are actively opposed to reforms that would benefit those other people's children, of course you are. You can't have your 'segregationist' cake and eat it. You've already said you care only about high-SES kids.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:31 PM
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Under the existing system, poor but very bright kids are essentially condemned to fail

I think fail here is roughly equivalent to "have far fewer options open to them for what to do later in life, and more likely to be in a job that either doesn't pay adequately, is dangerous, is not respected, is not enjoyable, or some combination of the preciding" and then want to ask what poor means in a somewhat more precise way. Very bright children from families in the poorest X% of families are essentially condemned to fail? I have no idea what the answer is, or if anyone knows what the answer is, but I'd certainly be interested.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:37 PM
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or kids from poor families are denied the opportunity to reach their full brightness potential. which is true, but i think also part of the definition of what it means to be poor.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:39 PM
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I don't have solid data, but I'd take the relevant sense of 'poor' there to be a combination of family income below some number (200% of the poverty line maybe?), parental occupations and education lacking upper-middleclass markers (to knock out the 'children of public defenders'), residing in a community consisting primarily of similarly 'poor' people, and attending school in a school also consisting primarily of similarly 'poor' students. That, in the US, I'd say is very difficult to overcome regardless of your intellectual capacity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:42 PM
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solid s/b 'any'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:45 PM
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Being indifferent to the education of other people's children is not the same thing as being actively hostile.

James, indifference to a cooperative endeavor like public education actually is a form of hostility to that endeavor - though I grant that there's a normative line to be drawn here, and you and I just disagree about where that line is drawn.

I must say, I am going to use your line the next time my wife accuses me of being a slob. "I'm just indifferent to tidiness," I will tell her, "not hostile to it." Think she'll let me off the hook?



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:45 PM
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An interesting column on the topic.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 2:50 PM
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Given that Obama needed to appeal to the nearly two-thirds of African Americans who support reparations, as well as the 96 percent of white Americans who oppose them...

Wow, now there's a wedge issue.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:03 PM
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re: 465 and 466

I'm not quite sure what you are asking here. If you're offering some sort of tautological claim that 'of course poor people have less opportunities, that's what poor means', I'm not sure what to say to you.

There are lots of people with low income and social status. Many of the routes out of poverty are closed not because of lack of 'raw ability' but because our societies are structured in ways that make escaping from poverty very difficult. Our societies are deeply unfair, and unfair in ways that advantage certain people. A more equitable society would look hard at ways of reducing that sort of structural unfairness.

We're deep into 'basic facts about life 101' here.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:06 PM
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but i think also part of the definition of what it means to be poor.

To add to s'ttaM observation, being sicker is also part of the definition of what it is to be poor. Definitions of this sort aren't immutable, though, despite Jesus's wiseass crack to Judas.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:15 PM
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our societies are structured in ways that make escaping from poverty very difficult

Difficult, but not impossible. The "rags to riches" meme is still quite popular. Exceptionally talented people manage to break out all the time. But it is certainly not the way to bet.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:18 PM
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Our societies are deeply unfair, and unfair in ways that advantage certain people. A more equitable society would look hard at ways of reducing that sort of structural unfairness.

well, yes. but if the populace is broadly content with how fair society is, but has some angst about failing school systems, turning a discussion about how to improve schools into a broader "we must make society dramatically more fair" tends to be politically counterproductive.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:19 PM
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So, step one is talking the populace into sharing my outrage at the dramatic unfairness of our society. I think highly of the populace -- I figure if properly approached (see Roosevelt, F.D.) they'll see things my way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:23 PM
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472: Elbie's comment was responsive to 465 and is the kind of thing that I'm looking for; I was also curious if anyone did have data.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:28 PM
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Those of us who grew up on the New Deal, and have longed all our lives, as our parents did before us, for a leader to strike that note again, cannot be sure whether the circumstances of 1933, with the economy flattened, and the money interests scared and momentarily completely discredited, would be necessary for that kind of change.

I'd like to see it tried anyway, and believe much can be done. I'm voting for the candidate who seems to have the most political talent, despite my misgivings often stated here.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:31 PM
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""My position is that schools ... make little difference to academic performance compared to natural ability and family background."

You're running against the tide of, oh, decades of educational research you know."

See Inequality (Jencks) quoted here :

"The character of a school's output depends largely on a single input, namely the characteristics of the entering children. Everything else-the school budget, its policies, the characteristics of the teachers-is either secondary or completely irrelevant" (p. 256).

See also the Coleman report summarized here as follows:

"... First, the disparities in funding between schools attended by blacks and whites were far smaller than anticipated. Second, funding was not closely related to achievement; fam ily economic status was far more predictive. Third, a different kind of resource-peers-mattered a great deal. Going to school with middle-class peers was an advantage, while going to school with lower-class peers was a disadvantage, above and beyond an individual's family circumstances."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:37 PM
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"we must make society dramatically more fair" tends to be politically counterproductive.

I'm being a bit redundant with IDP and LB, but I'll add that Roosevelt was far from the only egalitarian in recent U.S. history. Teddy R., Truman and LBJ each made significant contributions in this regard. And Nixon, Ike and others existed in a political climate in which justice was a crucial value.

Not only is political defeatism not supported historically, it's even wrongheaded in the short run. Please note that all of the top Democrats have run on solid pro-equality platforms. And the consensus today at least is that one of them will likely be president.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:44 PM
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"Referring to equalizing the peer effects, which you've identified as the greatest effect schools have on children, by economically integrating schools as 'sabotaging' the schools that now serve the higher SES kids seems like active hostility to me."

I didn't do that, I referenced attempts to prevent rich districts from spending on their own schools.

However in any case I don't accept a failure to donate to the poor as the same as active hostilty to the poor.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:44 PM
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"I must say, I am going to use your line the next time my wife accuses me of being a slob. "I'm just indifferent to tidiness," I will tell her, "not hostile to it." Think she'll let me off the hook?"

Is your wife asking you to clean your neighbor's house?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:46 PM
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"There's zero evidence that technological or scientific change is driven in that sort of way. In fact, given that our current educational system isn't that old* I'm not even really sure how you could confidently claim that, say, segregation by class and income is a prerequisite for innovation."

There is plenty of evidence that scientific advances are primarily due to a small number of the very top people and that the rest don't matter much.

" It's also transparently false that the existing system serves to benefit the very bright. It serves, primarily, to benefit the wealthy. You're [perniciously, and annoyingly] conflating the two. Under the existing system, poor but very bright kids are essentially condemned to fail, while wealthy but not so bright kids are not. Now, I don't personally fetishize intelligence in the way that you want to, but, nevertheless, it's transparently false that the existing system even does what you seem to believe it does: provide a purely meritocratic system in which those with the highest aptitude succeed. But then, you must know that."

I am making no such claim of perfection, just that worrying exclusively about the worst students is unlikely to improve things for the best students and that the performance of the best students matters more to society as a whole.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:54 PM
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James, now you're arguing for dismantling the public school system entirely. If you're paying for schools, you're paying to educate other people's kids. The question is are you going to be equitable or not about which kids other than your own you're willing to share with?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 3:54 PM
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There is plenty of evidence that scientific advances are primarily due to a small number of the very top people and that the rest don't matter much.

You're conflating two things again. If we're defining 'top' as 'capable of scientific innovation' then it's tautologically true but vacuous. On any other account of 'top' it's false.

I am making no such claim of perfection, just that worrying exclusively about the worst students is unlikely to improve things for the best students and that the performance of the best students matters more to society as a whole.

Again, you're conflating poor with worst and best with rich. It's been pointed out repeatedly but you keep making the same 'mistake'.

Now, of you believe the poor are poor because they are less 'able' than the rich then there's a consistency to your view. It's factually false, and morally offensive, but if that's your view, it at least has the benefit of consistency.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:05 PM
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Is your wife asking you to clean your neighbor's house?

Like I said, there's a normative question here where we disagree. I think of public education as something that takes place in your and my country.


Posted by: 5 | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:19 PM
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451 -- A statement of position by Mr. Shearer does not rebut a contention, even if one has been made, that the position is rare.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:19 PM
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486 was, of course, me. I have no explanation for how I turned into a numeral.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:21 PM
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487: Admittedly so. But when an example showed up in the thread, I couldn't be expected to disregard it, could I? (And honestly, I think what's really unusual there is the candor with which Shearer stands by his views. While I didn't mean 435 to be unfair, and Shearer accepted it as not too far off his views, I'd expect most people who'd been talking like Shearer, and agreed with Shearer, to reject 435 as a strawman. It's an unappealing position, stated baldly like that.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:31 PM
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James, now you're arguing for dismantling the public school system entirely.

This is ultimately the point, isn't it?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:31 PM
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I'd like to see an FDR as much as the next guy/gal.

Failing that, though, I'm afraid that my agenda of pouring money into low income neighborhoods -- including schools -- will be seriously derailed by LB's agenda of making rich people suffer, so that everyone will feel the same pain.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:35 PM
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And with that I disappear again. Sorry to be such a drive-by.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:37 PM
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re: 491

Don't be fucking ridiculous. She's said nothing of the sort. The closest anyone has come to saying anything like that is me, and that's emphatically not what I was arguing for either.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:40 PM
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Again, you're conflating poor with worst and best with rich. It's been pointed out repeatedly but you keep making the same 'mistake'.

You talk like all the great minds haven't come from the upper classes. Clearly these are the ravings of an unhinged working class brain.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:40 PM
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"James, now you're arguing for dismantling the public school system entirely. If you're paying for schools, you're paying to educate other people's kids. The question is are you going to be equitable or not about which kids other than your own you're willing to share with?"

I am willing to share public money equally (possibly with some sort of cost of living adjustment) among all students in the relevant jurisdiction. IE federal money equally throughout the country, state money equally throughout the state and so on. My indifference is to how people in other jurisdictions choose to run their schools.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:51 PM
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You have no policy preference about which jurisdiction primarily funds the schools? Great. I say federal, 100%.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:56 PM
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""James, now you're arguing for dismantling the public school system entirely."

This is ultimately the point, isn't it?"

Not my point. See 171 in which I agree with B in 110 about unjustified criticism of public schools from the right.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 4:59 PM
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Great. I say federal, 100%.

You realize that the end result of this proposal would be NCLB on steroids.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:14 PM
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498: You don't think there can 100% be federally funded programs which are largely locally managed, or you think something about Education in particular means that it can't be federally funded and locally managed?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:23 PM
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I am afraid that in practise 100% federal funding would take the form of block grants, with school districts applying for funds. The pork potential and chicanery that would follow would make our current system look tame. It is the same fear I harbor about UHC.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:30 PM
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I don't even know what 498 means. Like, it's impossible to run a school system in a large country that doesn't have a federal structure? Or what?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:30 PM
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How does federal funding automatically mean more chicanery than local funding? Man, we'd like to fund all the schools equally, but if we tried everyone would just steal all the money, so we can't?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:36 PM
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The article about coleman in 479 is real interesting:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0377/is_2001_Summer/ai_76812255

The author's theory is that "Cultural dominance of middle-class norms prevail in middle-class schools with a teacher teaching toward those standards and with students striving to maintain those standards." and that schools need about a threshold of about 60 percent middle class kids to maintain a such a middle-class norm. As long as the middle class norm is met by a school, the lower class kids do better and middle class kids do just as well.

The author goes on to criticize current voucher plans as just leading to cream skimming. He suggests that transferring lower class kids into predominantly middle class schools is the answer.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:39 PM
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It really is. Everyone interested enough to be reading this far down should read the whole thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:44 PM
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502. Federal funding is controlled by the 535 ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate. Local funding is controlled by over 16,000 school districts or equivalents. Even if a law was passed ensured equal funding per student, per district I would bet that the practical application didn't work out that way. Unintended consequenses and all that.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:45 PM
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You have no policy preference about which jurisdiction primarily funds the schools? Great. I say federal, 100%.

I am completely in agreement, and will sign whatever petition you put in front of me and donate $100 to whatever politician plans to run on those grounds. This may change if/when I buy a house in an expensive school district, but I don't see that happening any time real soon.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 5:45 PM
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Well, yeah. As I said somewhere above, I don't judge anyone for participating in the unequal system we've got, mostly (that is, there's stuff I would judge, but moving to a good school district isn't it).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 6:01 PM
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"You have no policy preference about which jurisdiction primarily funds the schools? Great. I say federal, 100%."

I expect I have preferences but since I have no big problem with the status quo I haven't thought about it a lot. I would oppose 100% federal funding as this would mean prohibiting state and local spending on education which I think is crazy.

As a policy matter I guess I would prefer state and local control of the schools. In theory this could be combined with largely federal funding but in practice I doubt it would work out that way. So I don't favor a shift towards federal funding.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:13 PM
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503 504

I would also recommend the book Inequality by Jencks (and others?). I read it soon after it was first published (early 70s?) and liked it a lot. It influenced my thinking on these issues.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 12-19-07 11:31 PM
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