March 09, 2007

The rigging of the game

Well, I'm hanging in there and learning a few things.

The answer [to the gross inequalities] is found, at least in part, in the arcane machinery by which we finance public education. Most public schools in the US depend for their initial funding on a tax on local property. (p 54)

I didn't know that.

There are wonderful teachers such as Corla Hawkins almost everywhere in urban schools, and sometimes a number of such teachers in a single school. It is tempting to focus on these teachers and, by doing this, to paint a hopeful portrait of the good things that go on under adverse condition. There is, indeed, a growing body of such writing; and these books are sometimes very popular, because they are consoling. (p 51)

This is what I dislike about those "uplifting" movies about schools that the US seems to produce in such quantities, although I have enjoyed some of those movies as movies: Stand & Deliver, Dead Poets Society, etc. These movies focus on individuals and help propagate the myth that the solution is individuals with character and determination; at the same time, they mask the economic, political, and racial factors which underpin the school environment, but are much harder to see and therefore less exciting to make a movie about. Kozol continues,

The rationale behind much of this writing is that pedagogic problems in our cities are not chiefly matters of injustice, inequality or segregation, but of insufficient information about teaching strategies: If we could simply learn "what works" in Corla Hawkins's room, we'd then be in a position to repeat this all over Chicago and in every other system. But what is unique in Mrs. Hawkins's classroom is not what she does but who she is. Warmth and humor and contagious energy cannot be replicated and cannot be written into any standardized curriculum. If they could, it would have happened long ago... (p 51)

It took an extraordinary combination of greed, racism, political cowardice and public apathy," writes James D. Squires, the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, "to let the public schools in Chicago get so bad." (p 72)
"Equal opportunity across the board" will not automatically "produce equality" in school performance. Still, "one doesn't force a losing baseball team to play with seven men." Not surprisingly, when parents of poor children or their advocates raise their voices to protest the rigging of the game, they ask initially for things that seem like fairly obvious improvements: larger library collections, a reduction in the size of classes, or a better ratio of children to school counselors. (p 77)

Chapter 2 is entitled "Other People's Children" which reminded me of this book . I wonder which came first, or if the phrase is an echo of something older?


aaron said...

Sounds like a good call for homeschool networks.

Marco Polo said...

It does, doesn't it? Unless the home is a worse environment than the school...