Public Education: The Saga Continues

14 Dec

Yesterday morning while reading the Dayton Daily News—I am in Ohio for the holidays and to support my mother who is having some minor surgery, I ran across an article that reported that in a recent survey 68% of the respondents indicated that they thought the major problem with public education and the achievement gap is some deficiency on the part of the parents. In other words almost 70% of the people polled in a poll sponsored by Stanford and the Associated press, children who are not doing well are not doing well because of their parents, it is their fault.


Can you say Social Darwinism? Those who do well do well because they are superior. Those who do poorly do poorly because they are inferior. There is nothing that society or educators or politicians or anyone can do about it folks, it is just the way it is. We can feel sorry for those children unfortunate enough to be born to inferior parents, but really what can we expect to do about it? The kids are doomed, true and we can feel sorry for them, but it is the luck of the draw, the way of the world, the circle of life. Besides we need someone to do the menial jobs, right??


If it is the parent’s fault that children do poorly in school I wonder why we are bothering to fund public education. After all, if the smart kids are smart because they have superior parents then let these paragons of virtue home school them. The rest of the kids, having inferior parents cannot learn anyway so why bother? Sounds like a waste of taxpayer money to me, and heaven knows we do not want to pay any more money for taxes than we have to. (See Teaparty supporters for the logic behind this one).


Alternately we can just send the ones with good parents to pubic schools. Give a test to the parents before enrolling the kids and see if they pass, if they do not, no school for their kid. That way we can make sure the underclass grows and grows. After all, there is money in poverty. All those good folks, government and private that work with the poor generally get paid to do so.  At least someone is making money out of our poor school systems. God bless the child that’s got his own.


I was at a reception recently, given by one of my campus groups. Since I am the chair of the Festivities Committee ( you have to love that name!) I had to be there the entire time, having planned it along with my committee, of course. Late in the evening about time for it to be over an older white woman came in and was introduced to me as a professor in a School of Education at a local college, she was also a former assistant superintendent in a local district. I told her my discipline was educational leadership and my dissertation was on the achievement gap. She waxed mournful over the fact that the rather wealthy local district was having trouble “with the black kids achievement level.” She went on to report that she had been talking with some of the teachers and they had decided that since the white kids in the district were generally wealthy and very good at standardized tests the black kids simply got discouraged and gave up.  (These teachers evidently decided to ignore the fact that some of the black kids in the district come from the same economic class as their white peers.)


I was nearly speechless. Here is a woman charged with teaching principals and superintendents to be educational leaders who was suggesting that black kids lag in scores on standardized tests because those superior white kids’ achievements are so far above what they can do, they figure why try? Being the de facto hostess of the event I did not want to filet her verbally as I was longing to do. I asked her if she was familiar with the research that suggests that teacher expectation has a very large impact on student success. Perhaps, I said, it is possible if the teachers have decided the black kids have simply admitted their inferiority  ( I did not put it like that) and given up, the teachers have likewise lowered their expectations.


“Oh”, she told me with a sigh, “we have been working on teacher expectations and understanding of racial differences for 25 years.” I resisted asking her what I wanted to, “ How’s that working for you? Any change in scores? Ever consider you are doing it wrong by continuing to concentrate on what is wrong with the students and/or their parents instead of what is wrong with the school and its methodology?”


I am going to say this one more time—no doubt not the last time either—unless and until American adopts a Critical Race Theory approach to education research and looks at what is going on in those classrooms that put black and other minority children (including in many cases poor white kids btw), at a disadvantage the achievement gap will continue. It is not the parents nor is it the students who are at fault. Neither of those groups gets paid to teach, or support teachers, and neither of those groups is supposedly schooled in pedagogy. If the parent sends the kid to school they have done their job.  Should they send polite, clean, well fed, already prepared children who love learning? Oh yeah, but then I should probably stop eating sweets too, not going to happen!


Giving up on children because their parents are not skilled at preparing them for school or at helping them succeed is like participating in their misfortune. Their parents let them down so now it is your turn?


Make all the excuses you want educators. I do not care if you are a superintendent, a principal, a teacher or a teacher’s aide. If your students are failing the person responsible and the only person who can change it is the one you are looking at when you are brushing your teeth in the morning. If you continue to spend more time affixing blame and dodging responsibility than you do seeking ways to ameliorate problems and actually accomplish what you are getting paid to do (Do not whine about your pay, if it is not enough find another job. And, if you are implying you could do better for the kids if they paid you more then you are a morally bankrupt individual. ), then you will continue to get what you have always gotten, failure.


When I was teaching high school or college I considered every failing grade I had to record a failure on MY part. I was the teacher, the expert, the sage. If I could not engage and inspire my students I was none of those, I was a ward of the state, collecting money for getting dressed and showing up.


The great educator Horace Mann, first president of Antioch College, said “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind.” There are a lot of educators walking around who should be very ashamed indeed if they start feeling poorly.








Posted by on December 14, 2010 in Education, Race


2 responses to “Public Education: The Saga Continues

  1. richard

    December 15, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Wow , cousin cookie an outstanding piece worthy of higher publication.

  2. Yolanda

    December 15, 2010 at 5:19 am

    I am surely hoping that someone else is reading this! I personally think that the issues you presented in this blog are so true and so many more! When people start to realize the issues, the better off these students will be. I am a first generation college student and like more students whose parents didn’t go to college, I was often overlooked until my mom and myself starting doing things on our own for my progress through the system. There were a few people I encountered early on in secondary school, (black teachers) who constantly did not bother to try to educate myself or classmates about the opportunities that we had. Luckily, I made it out and I do plan on helping those behind me by doing whatever I can to educate about college access to whatever communities I am in. Hopefully, I will find more like me who will be willing to work toward making sure our young minorities are getting the same opportunities that the majority does. I commend you for speaking up about the problem. Most people don’t have the guts to do so


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