Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Confronting Poverty

In the New York Times Opinion Pages, Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske conclude their op-ed Class Matters. Why Won't We Admit It?
Other countries already pursue such strategies. In Finland, with its famously high-performing schools, schools provide food and free health care for students. Developmental needs are addressed early. Counseling services are abundant. 
But in the United States over the past decade, it became fashionable among supporters of the “no excuses” approach to school improvement to accuse anyone raising the poverty issue of letting schools off the hook — or what Mr. Bush famously called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” 
Such accusations may afford the illusion of a moral high ground, but they stand in the way of serious efforts to improve education and, for that matter, go a long way toward explaining why No Child Left Behind has not worked. 
Yes, we need to make sure that all children, and particularly disadvantaged children, have access to good schools, as defined by the quality of teachers and principals and of internal policies and practices. 
But let’s not pretend that family background does not matter and can be overlooked. Let’s agree that we know a lot about how to address the ways in which poverty undermines student learning. Whether we choose to face up to that reality is ultimately a moral question.
To say that poverty is not an excuse for why children have trouble learning is to make excuses for not doing something about poverty. A "no excuses" attitude towards poverty is ultimately nothing more than a lack of commitment towards making things more equitable for children.

However, what good does it do to care about children, if we no longer give a shit about them when they become adults?

Diane Ravitch has a brilliant post here and Helen Ladd's paper Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence here.


  1. Joe, nice post. As a Chicago teacher this is a reality for many in my city. More support for students in poverty situations is definitely needed, education, especially early childhood, is key to economic growth. I fear that our short sightedness is part of the problem, it is a long term strategy. See the research of a brillant economist from University of Chicago, love that an economist can see the investment in education as a good strategy

  2. First of all, we are talking about children, so let's leave the profanity out of it. Secondly, our school system no longer focuses on teaching students to be able to reason, we talk about feelings. Our school system was stronger and more effective when teachers were permitted to address moral issues, such as discussing abstinence as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancy or STDs;treating young men as men, and young women as women, according of encouraging them to examine of what they "feel" like, which may damage their sexual identity, and may actually shorten their life; to present two sides of an issue, i.e. creationism vs evilution; when students are given a true picture of the Christian heritage of our nation, and when Christians were free to profess their faith in school without persecution; and when freedom of speech included prayer before school events and graduation ceremonies. Also, I believe in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, especially noting that we are one nation under God. The loss of these rights have resulted in immoral, disrespectful, and unmotivated young people who are not prepared to enter the adult world. Those in authority should care enough about individuals to prepare them for a healthy entrance into the world with good values, the ability to reason, and a good work ethic.
    Thank you for taking time to read this.


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