Can School Choice Really Impact the School to Prison Pipeline?

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school-prison-pipelineEarlier this week, Gloria Romero, a former majority leader in the California Senate and director of the California Center for Parent Empowerment, and RiShawn Biddle, editor of Dropout Nation, described as an “online outlet of education reform” put out the provocative idea in a Sacramento Bee op-ed that California can end the school-to-prison pipeline with more choice.

They write, “Too many policymakers have failed to draw the incontrovertible link education plays in fostering the school-to-prison and welfare pipeline. The United States spends $228 billion on criminal justice because we badly spend $595 billion on our abysmal schools. In California, 70 percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma.”

They argue there is a need to alter the discussion in order to direct address how both public education and the criminal justice system impact poor and minority youths.

“Too many traditional public schools funnel too many children into our criminal justice system, accounting for 3 of every 10 cases referred to juvenile courts in 2011 – the second-highest source of referrals after law enforcement,” they write. “Yet juvenile court judges are ill-equipped to deal with matters that should be handled by schools.”

“Traditional school discipline policies exacerbate this. Poor, black and Latino children are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than white and middle-class peers,” they argue. “Overusing suspensions enables districts to obscure underlying reasons for misbehavior, including struggles with literacy.”

They cite a 2006 Stanford study that found that “a third-grader who is functionally illiterate is more likely to engage in behaviors leading to suspension and expulsion.”

Moreover, the average inmate scores about 18 to 22 points lower on literacy tests than the average non-incarcerated adult. And further, “According to national data, 74 percent of high school seniors are not proficient in math and 62 percent not proficient in reading. The result is staggering: 42 percent of students at two-year colleges and 39 percent at four-year colleges take remedial courses to learn what they didn’t in high school.”

“For school reformers, we must speak out on the injustices that curtail our children surviving into adulthood,” they write. “Alongside our advocacy for expanding choice, we must also support reforming laws on police use of deadly force, eyewitness testimony and prison conditions.”

However, they argue that those who wish to reform the criminal justice system “should picket failing schools, protesting their failure to educate poor and minority kids who are the most vulnerable to being fast-tracked to prison.”

They write, “Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was arrested protesting Eric Garner’s death in New York, but remains opposed to vouchers enabling kids to escape the city’s failing schools. Her symbolic arrest generates news, but folks also must stand up for parent trigger laws empowering families to transform failing schools and expand school choice.”

“Reformers should support providing parents with real choices to escape failing schools,” they continue. “Undoubtedly, school choice options are on the rise and public support for educational opportunity continues to increase.”

In conclusion they argue: “Today, a monolithic education delivery system is being shaken, giving parents more choices to meet their children’s schooling needs. Twenty-four states offer parents state-funded opportunity scholarships, refundable tax credits, education savings accounts or corporate-funded scholarships for private schools. School and criminal justice reformers should unite to address prisons and schools as flip sides of the same coin. Our children desperately need an overhaul of both. Until then, none of us can breathe.”

While undoubtedly there are many that will disagree with Ms. Romero and Mr. Biddle, there are a few key points to keep in mind. First, while many of the criticisms of school establishment have come from the right, as we saw last fall in the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race, there is an emerging split in the left on educational issues.

While Tom Torlakson was able to defeat Marshall Tuck narrowly in a tightly fought contest, 53-47, the race drew attention for the massive $20 million in outside spending.

But more interestingly, pre-election polling showed that while Mr. Tuck, a Democrat, had backing from Republicans and conservatives, he also held a lead among non-white groups that are traditional Democratic strongholds, including a 33-20 percent lead among Latinos.

The criticism here that Ms. Romero and Mr. Biddle present is unquestionably coming from the left – citing educational issues and concerns about police misconduct and mass incarceration.

Many will undoubtedly disagree with the proposed solution – more school choice, but this is clearly a discussion that is long overdue.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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81 thoughts on “Can School Choice Really Impact the School to Prison Pipeline?”

  1. South of Davis

    In a the most recent Minimum wage comment section wdf1 wrote:

    > Blaming it on a “crappy education system” is a way to
    > avoid addressing the root issue of child poverty.

    Kind if like blaming the problem on “poverty” is a way to avoid addressing the root issues of why so many poor kids don’t learn much (before they drop out)

    > We have an education system that works pretty
    > well, given what it deals with

    Our current “educational system” does a decent job teaching upper middle class kids that are going to college, but since all the teachers in CA have gone to college very few are good at relating to guys and girls that might be happier not going to college (and make more money than all the teachers) working in a trade like plumbing or HVAC repair.

    When I want to get poor young males to focus on school I will get them to focus on how the skills I am teaching them will help them to make money down the road.

    Not that there is anything wrong with white female liberal arts grads who grew up in upper middle class homes, but if we want to increase the number of poor males learning at school we need to make some changes in how we teach poor males.

    It is really sad to see the mostly white upper middle class female teachers union fight almost any changes to the way they teach (like ROTC programs, Military charter schools, etc.) poor male students and year after year watching these kids drop out and get involved with gangs before going to prison.

    1. wdf1

      SoD:  Kind if like blaming the problem on “poverty” is a way to avoid addressing the root issues of why so many poor kids don’t learn much (before they drop out)

      Because poverty is often connected with parents who have lower educational levels, resources, which means that they’re less likely to read to their kid at home, or structure their kids’ lives so as to be able to do homework and be ready for school, and have social capital to know how to navigate the options that are available to them.

      It’s easier to blame teachers than it is to address what is a more complicated issue.

  2. Tia Will

    if we want to increase the number of poor males learning at school we need to make some changes in how we teach poor males.”

    like ROTC programs, Military charter schools,”

    I agree whole heartedly with the first statement. And disagree just as strongly with the second. We already have enough emphasis on violence in our society, whether that violence is outside the law ( crime and prison) or sanctioned by our laws in the form of the military where we simply cannot see the violence since it is occurring in someone else’s neighborhood ( Iraq for example) under the cover of protecting the US and our “interests”. What the second statement leaves out is what happens to the young men ( and women) who return from our overseas military adventures ( as portrayed in military recruiting ads to the young and gullible) with irreparable damage to both their bodies and their minds. These young people have been sold a lie ( this I know from personal experience) and then are not offered even close to enough support when they return home, and are then too often reviled for their inability to fit neatly back into our nice, safe, sanitized, “why isn’t everyone just like me ” form of life.  No, I don’t want our young poor men funneled into military like activities in order to save them from prison.

    1. Barack Palin

      No, I don’t want our young poor men funneled into military like activities in order to save them from prison.

      You’ve got to be kidding.  Joining one of our military branches can open up many avenues in one’s life from a decent paying job to further education.  At the least, they will learn to be respectful and have some semblance to their lives.  Not every person who joins the military automatically ends up in Iraq.  If the other choice is most likely prison then joining the military is by far the better outcome.

    2. South of Davis

      I am not a fan of the military for many reasons and if anyone asks I will tell them that I don’t think that joining the military is a good idea.  I also think that we should never gone to Vietnam or Iraq.

      With that said I have a lot of respect for the well trained members of our military and military discipline.

      It is not just me, even Jerry Brown thinks military discipline can help kids (and after years fighting the unions he was able to open a school in Oakland):

      http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB960153639996565671

      You don’t have to be a big fan of the military to agree that a former military drill instructor (of any race or sex) will probably do a better job controlling a class of poor hard to teach kids (of any race or sex) than a typical upper middle class teacher (of any race or sex) that went to undergrad at a small liberal arts school and was active in the poetry and climate justice clubs…

      1. Frankly

        SOD – I think what you might be missing is the benefit of discipline, personal struggle, comrade… in fact, you can map the tendency for young men to join gangs in pursuit of these very things.   US military service is not for everyone, but the practice and process of making boys (and now more girls) into soldiers and well-functioning adults is well-honed and has a tremendous success rate that exceeds every other youth development organization one can think of… including higher learning.

        If I had big money and could retire, I would work to open a private alternative high school academy modeled after the US military.  I would need big money to fight off the well-heeled liberals, the teachers union and the lawyers.  The employees would all be ex-military.  The students would work and live on the campus during session and be paid for their work.  They would also have to pay for certain things with their earning, but would be able to save too.  They would be taught about money and money management.  They would achieve rank and responsibility.  They would be physically and mentally challenged constantly.  They would develop skills that they would use to earn a living or go to college. They would be disciplined for breaking rules.  They would be broken down by commanding officers and taught to understand teamwork and caring for something bigger than themselves.    They would be made to feel special, but humble… learn a firm handshake and good eye contact and to address everyone by “sir” or “mam”… to honor the country and the flag and God.   They would learn the strong values of a moral and just people.

        ROTC program provide some of this.

        Thoughts?

    3. zaqzaq

      It is nice to know that you prefer that or youth spend quality time in prison instead of serving in the military.  What an extreme viewpoint.   SOD also mentioned plumbing and HVAC repair as potential occupations.  Would you also oppose serving in the Coast Guard?

      1. South of Davis

        zqzaq wrote:

        > It is nice to know that you prefer that or youth

        > spend quality time in prison instead of serving

        >in the military. 

        Did I say that?  I don’t have any problem with anyone joining the military, I just think that most (but not all) people that like to decided what they want to do and where they want to live will be better off not joining the military (my sister in law is married to a guy in the Army and it sucks for her when they tell her husband he needs to leave his family for 6 months because they need him in Iraq or Afghanistan or that the whole family needs to move to an Army base in another country for a few years).

    4. Topcat

      No, I don’t want our young poor men funneled into military like activities in order to save them from prison.

      I disagree with this statement.

      Military training can provide excellent benefits for many young people. It teaches discipline, ability to follow directions, ability to be punctual and responsible, ability to work in a team, and the ability to communicate in a productive way.

      I know many people who have been in the military and all of them speak about the life experience they found there.  Many gained skills that have formed their path in life. Many have gained lifelong friends in the military.  Some found spouses while in the military.

      My nephew is currently in the Navy and is learning excellent technical and interpersonal skills that will assure him a good future in the civilian world.

    5. Don Shor

      The military is an outstanding educational and job-training option for young people. It is actually one of the best options for an 18-year-old for the opportunities it opens. My daughter left her 5 years in the USMC with extremely marketable job skills. The training she received allowed her to enter college as a sophomore. The GI Bill paid for the rest of her undergraduate studies as well as her graduate program (Columbia), and provided a reasonable housing allowance for her. The housing allowance is based on the regional housing cost, so it covered her modest residence in New York City. And now she has a very good job.
      There is no rational reason to foreclose this outstanding career option to young men and women. It is a ticket right out of poverty.
      We certainly need more, and better-managed, resources for returning veterans. And if you don’t like wars, you should vote against people who might start them. But even in peacetime, we need a standing army of more than a million active duty, as well as reserves. Those are all important and useful jobs. And the number who actually see combat is a small percentage.

      1. Topcat

        There is no rational reason to foreclose this outstanding career option to young men and women. It is a ticket right out of poverty.

        Yes, the military can and does provide a path out of poverty for many people.

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        The military is an outstanding educational and job-training option for young people. It is actually one of the best options for an 18-year-old for the opportunities it opens. 

        When I go to swim laps at Hickey Gym, as I did this morning, one of the great things to see before the break of dawn is the UC Davis ROTC cadets training. Not only is ROTC a great scholarship program and great preparation for their future careers, but these young people are incredibly impressive as individuals. Much like intercollegiate athletes, they have a full time job as students and a huge job with a lot of time commitments learning to be Army officers. … And just as impressive are the career enlisted men and women who train the cadets. They are tough and caring–just like good coaches and mentors. … The only downside to ROTC today, compared with when I was an undergraduate, is it is very competitive to get into. I am sure some highly capable students who would like to be in ROTC get left out.

        … Not that it matters, but another thing of note with the UCD ROTC program is that it appears to be quite diverse racially. It’s probably a little less “Asian” than the student body as a whole. But I see a healthy mix of whites, blacks, browns, yellows, biracials and males and females out there training.

    6. Frankly

      Fascinating display of ignorant stereotyping from one of the most sensitive people I know.

      All things being equal in terms of education and work experience… two candidates for a job… one with military experience and one without… I hire the one with in a heartbeat and I increase the probability that I hire a fantastic employee.

      But one really awesome thing about the people that serve, they generally come out graciously acknowledging that they did so primarily to protect the ability of people like Tia to express her opinion freely without fear of repercussion.   We should all applaud that if nothing else.

      1. justme

        Well said Frankly!!!  The other thing I can say about my husband who is a Veteran..  DO NOT not stand and remove your cap during the Star Spangled Banner…  It sets him off!!!!

    7. justme

      To Tia…  As a wife of a Desert Storm Veteran and a mother of a recently honorably discharged Veteran, I CANNOT disagree with you anymore!!!  My son spent 5 years on the navy and now has many opportunities awaiting him…  He has VA home loans he can use, College funds to use, the list goes on and on…  I am extremely proud of both my Veteran husband AND son!!!!!!

      1. Tia Will

        justme

        I completely agree with your pride in those who choose to serve. Please note that I said nothing derogatory about those who choose to serve. However, I will stand by my criticisms of the inaccurate portrayal of an exclusively positive nature of the military to youth. I agree that the military provides discipline and sometimes good educational skills. There is also a downside, including being lied to about your opportunities and work conditions. I was in the military and this was my actual albeit anecdotal experience. A number of posters have commented anecdotally about the positive experiences of their loved ones in the military. For each of these stories, I could share with you a story from my experiences during the time of the Viet Nam war and subsequently from working at the VA of those whose lives were shattered by their experience in the military.

        I also do not believe that we need to foster military training as the only means to obtain these skill sets. Why don’t we provide the same living standards to those performing needed work in other venues than the military. Why can’t we pay living stipends to people training to be teachers, or nurses, or you name it …..any job. We pay living wages to those in the military while in training, why not other job categories ? If we provided incentives to stay in school as opposed to turning it into a sentence, we would probably find many more youth would be inclined to stay in.

         

        1. zaqzaq

          Tia,

          Comparing the military of today to that of the Vietnam era is like comparing apples to oranges.  Today’s military is all volunteer.  Due to combat operations there are considerable risks and rewards from service.  The military is one option that all high school students should investigate.

        2. justme

          Tia…  You do realize that while you talk about paying the Military Personel a “living wage”, they get well below minimum wage, right?  The teenager working at McDonalds gets paid more than a lot of Military….

  3. Davis Progressive

    south of davis just feeds into a racist/ sexist view of the world where poor minority males can only make it in the military and being taught by incompetent upper middle class presumably white and female teachers.

    1. Barack Palin

      That’s not what SOD is saying.  He just put out joining the military as a viable option over ending up in prison.  How many times have liberals on the Vanguard stated that minority students need to have minority role models as teachers?

       

    2. South of Davis

      DP wrote:

      > south of davis just feeds into a racist/ sexist view of the world

      What is the deal with people calling me “racist”.  What did I say today that was “racist”?  I specifically wrote “poor male students” without mentioning ANY race since ALL races are in prison and MOST people in prison in America (just like MOST HS dropouts) are white…

      1. hpierce

        Sometimes (quite frequently with some of the “frequent flyers” on this blog) folks use inflammatory adjectives to label/denigrate [as denigrate a racist word?  if so, I apologize in advance] the individuals who have opinions/lifestyles that they take issue with and/or are different from their conception of how every one should act/believe/think.

        [moderator] post edited for language.

    3. sisterhood

      I agree. When my son was struggling, academically, the military recruiters were constantly trying to get him to sign up. I had signed a form that did not allow the recruiters to speak with him on the campus at Davis High. He did not enlist. He is working at a job he really likes in San Francisco, supporting himself,  and is doing just fine. My daughter went to DaVinci and was not bothered by recruiters.

      I agree that this discussion should remain focused on how to improve the schools, not how to dump poor performing students into the military system.

      I also agree with what Tia said about PTSD. I used to work for a Veterans’ organization and also with folks with disabilities. I worked with many veterans who suffered from PTSD, which even today is not getting the attention it deserves. I’m glad my son didn’t enlist when he was doing poorly in school. I’m glad he has overcome his obstacles, which include a learning disability that not one teacher at North Davis, Holmes, or Davis High recognized. yet a one day evaluation at Sylvan learning Center pointed it out immediately!

  4. zaqzaq

    The excessive  use of suspensions and expulsions harm students.  Students who are suspended are not in the classroom learning.  They fall behind.  I am still upset with the school district for suspending the soccer players for the incident with the referee.  Members of the school district participated in a restorative practices class hosted by the Yolo County Superior Court.  Restorative options such as a facilitated conference between the students and referee, letter of apology, and a research paper on topics such as good sportsmanship or on poor sportsmanship where referees have been injured or killed by angry players.  This is just one more example of how our school district has failed us.  How many other students have been suspended this academic year when better alternatives were available.

  5. Topcat

    Last year CBS News ran a series of programs looking at a the Youth ChalleNGe Academy which is geared towards helping troubled youth who dropped out of high school to turn their lives around.  This program is run by the National Guard.  While I don’t know much about the program, I was impressed by the results that were reported by CBS.

    Perhaps this type of quasi-military training program is one piece of the solution to the problems of troubled youth and the cycle of poverty?

    1. hpierce

      There are many program that can build self-esteem, provide skills, foster good citizenship, develop leadership skills, encourage creative problem solving, etc.  Military, Peace Corps, VISTA [does that still exist?], Scouting, YMCA/YWCA, etc.  I’d even include many youth sports organizations in that list.  Of course the best source should be family, and/or faith communities, but that doesn’t always work out either.

    2. MrsW

      Northern California’s National Guard academy is Grizzly Youth Academy, in San Luis Obispo.  It’s my understanding that student has to be extremely credit deficient to enroll.  http://www.grizzlyyouthacademy.org/

       

  6. Anon

    They cite a 2006 Stanford study that found that “a third-grader who is functionally illiterate is more likely to engage in behaviors leading to suspension and expulsion.”

    What all of us need to concede is that if a student is functionally illiterate, comes from a home that is not supportive of eduction, there are serious problems at home, and/or the student is “incorrigible”, the regular school system is not equipped to handle that sort of child.  When I was a teacher, I had a few students that were never going to succeed in the classroom because of the overwhelming problems at home or because they were a handful for whatever reason.  One student I had was saddled with an alcoholic father.  His older brother beat the alcoholic father regularly.  The student was an emotional mess, and there was no way I could deal with this student’s disruptive behavior in the classroom.  Another student I had was arrested by police as the student carried a stolen television over his head walking down the middle of a road.  Another student pulled a knife on his fellow student.  A particularly challenging student held a portable classroom hostage for about an hour with three other fellow students, then beat up a student who went for help.

    Certain students need to be taken out of the normal classroom, and be given a more structured setting with trained teachers who can deal with these sorts of abnormal problems.  However, our current trend is to mainstream all sorts of students together, and insist each teacher deal with whatever cards they are dealt in the way of students, and without the teacher having the proper tools or training or resources to deal with these sorts of disruptive children.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      I strongly agree with all you say here. There used to be something called “reform school” for children who were in need of it. I don’t know if such schools were great for the “reformed” kids. However, I am sure getting them away from the mainstream kids had to have been a positive for everyone else.

      our current trend is to mainstream all sorts of students together, and insist each teacher deal with whatever cards they are dealt in the way of students, and without the teacher having the proper tools or training or resources to deal with these sorts of disruptive children.

      A friend of mine who taught at an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, where the student body was about 90% black and 10% Latino and 0% white, told me that he was prohibited from kicking disruptive black kids out of his classes because doing so was “racially insensitive.” So all the non-disruptive kids just had to get a worse education as a consequence. (He left that job about 1995. So I don’t know if it is still the same story.)

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I’ve long been confused by “continuation school.” I am not sure it really serves the best interests of its non-college bound students.

          Unlike reform school, I don’t think continuation school is mandatory. I think kids who drop out–including some pregnant girls who leave to become teenage moms–choose continuation school when they are ready to return.

          From what I understand continuation school is just a general education leading to a high school diploma with no job training and no specialized skills education. In effect, it prepares kids who won’t go on to a university to have a degree which readies them to go on to a university. Yes, there are some unskilled jobs which require applicants to have a G.E.D. or a high school diploma, and continuation programs get them that far. But for many that leads to a dead-end in the workplace.

          What I think would make a lot more sense–for kids who (for whatever reason) felt they did not fit in well with the regular high school program and who will not be going on to a university–would be to get these kids into a vocational education program of their choosing and try to tie it to an apprenticeship of some sort. If a drop out, for example, has artistic skills and is uninterested in academics, I think she would be better off training vocationally to be a graphic artist or some other marketable position as an artist; and while she is in voc-ed, she should go to work part-time as an apprentice for someone now in the field. The most important thing for children who don’t like school is to find what they do like and help steer them into a career in that field. The worst thing is to have a kid finish school (or drop out of school) and have no skills that are marketable.

        2. hpierce

          Rich… going to King High (a continuation school) is not equal to not going on to college.  DP talks out of ignorance/stupidity/arrogance.  King High does meet many, but not all, of their students’ needs.  DP, you really should consider changing your “handle”.  You state a lot of things contrary to the concept of “progressive”.

          Sorry, all for being “personal”, but DP’s “persona” vs. his/her words are incongruent. Sometimes, people need to be “called”.

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Rich… going to King High (a continuation school) is not equal to not going on to college. 

          I did not mean to imply it was in all cases. Just most cases. Do you know the percentage of continuation high school matriculants who go on to a university? And what percent finish a bachelor’s degree or higher? My concern, as noted, is many are just reaching a dead end. Some will have initiative and make their way in life. I just don’t understand why these schools don’t try to really help all of their students prepare for the work world in some direct way.

          This was the conclusion of a 2008 study of California’s continuation schools:

          “The most prominent finding from this investigation is variation. Continuation high schools vary dramatically in mission, design, program, philosophy, resources, and challenges. For some students, continuation high school is a route from academic futility and frustration to graduation and post-secondary education and/or career success. For others, it is a road with a dead end at graduation, because students have acquired credits, without necessarily acquiring knowledge and usable skills. For others, continuation high school is little more than a pothole in the steep downhill drive toward dropping out of school.

          That same study has a good recommendation in my opinion:

          “Continuation high schools should have the explicit purpose of helping students in at-risk situations acquire the knowledge and skills that will allow them to graduate and successfully continue their education in a four-year college, community college, technical school, or other post-secondary setting and/or prepare them to succeed in a career that is likely to offer a livable wage. Programs and services must be designed in a manner consistent with this purpose.

          Just leading kids to a worthless high school diploma is not consistent with that purpose.

  7. Frankly

    Ken Blanchard markets a management discipline called Situational Leadership.   It is one I adopted years ago with great results.  The basic premise is that every subordinate is different and even within that consideration, every situation is different.   And because there is this almost infinite state of uniqueness, the leadership approach tends to either flail about in too many directions, or to create constraining standards… both that result in sub-optimized performance results.

    The Blanchard model strikes a practical middle-ground by categorizing the subordinate development level for an inventory of situations and then prescribing a corresponding leadership level/model.

    Unfortunately, what the education system has tended to do is gravitate toward standardization.   It does this for three reasons:

    1. Since public money is spent, “fairness” of allocation of services and methods is demanded.

    2. Public education employees gravitate toward standards because it makes their jobs easier than the alternative given there are no consequences for crappy outcomes.

    3. Lack of education system accountability for outcomes cause political solutions which are generally bone-headed grand designs of new books of rules.

    Getting back to the Blanchard Model… basically, the matrix of situations is larger for young students than it is for employees.  For example, a student coming from an abusive and broken family situation is going to need both discipline and psychological counseling as part of his education  A child that is not fed well enough at home, is going to need sustenance.  However, I think a finite matrix/model can be developed to help cover all but the most screwed up kids.  Assess that the kid’s needs and provide for them to the extent possible.

    But public education as we know it will probably never be able to do this because of the 3 points above.  We need vouchers and charter schools to start developing modern models that achieve excellence in outcomes… no matter what problems little Johnny brings with him.  And for those kids that have serious behavior problems that make it dangerous or too disruptive for other kids… well they still need to be educated… and maybe an ROTC program is what they need.

    1. wdf1

      Frankly: Unfortunately, what the education system has tended to do is gravitate toward standardization.   It does this for three reasons:

      1. Since public money is spent, “fairness” of allocation of services and methods is demanded.

      “Fairness” also means different things that actually move away from standardization.  One of those is special ed services and access for those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

      Frankly:  2. Public education employees gravitate toward standards because it makes their jobs easier than the alternative given there are no consequences for crappy outcomes.

      I disagree.  Standardization leads to job frustration, and I think there is a lot of that.  In the current environment, the Obama administration has been pushing for using standardized test scores to measure teacher performance.  There are too many variables that a teacher cannot control (Anon highlights some of them).  There are many instances in which teachers and principals would like to pursue some worthwhile activities, such as field trips, assemblies, school plays, etc., but are disincentivized from doing so because standardized test scores need to come up.

      Frankly: 3. Lack of education system accountability for outcomes cause political solutions which are generally bone-headed grand designs of new books of rules.

      An additional influence is certain kinds of “free market” and business influences trying to put a business template on a field where a business template does not work according to the model promised.  (Many of your published thoughts on solutions for education on this blog fall into this category.)  One example of this come from education publishing companies.  They produce textbooks, curricular material, and standardized tests that end up being the default standardized curriculum and tested standards for public schools.  It is easier and more efficient to market to a large “standardized” population.

      Teachers likely see better opportunities to introduce their own approaches and outcomes but are often not given the opportunity to do so.  There are often “blue ribbon committees” that include influential businessmen and politicians but not educators.  One example of this is Common Core.  Common Core was initially developed by a blue ribbon group that did not include educators.

      1. Mark West

        “Common Core was initially developed by a blue ribbon group that did not include educators.”

        Which raises the question of why this was so?  Perhaps because historically the education ‘establishment’ has refused to reform itself?

        The pressure from outside groups to change the education system comes about because the education system fails to improve in the face of obvious failure. I am not saying that our current system fails everyone, but there are significant areas of failure that have continued for years (decades) without change. I suspect that the main reason for leaving teachers out of the discussion on Common Core was simply because teachers (through their union) had previously refused to actively engage in serious reform discussions. Who’s fault is that?

        1. Frankly

          I think that wdf1 and others in defense of public education would say it is the parent’s fault, and poverty’s fault and the fault of standardized testing…  and not the union’s fault and not the fault of the number of crappy teachers and not the fault of low performance accountability of the system.

        2. wdf1

          Mark West:  Which raises the question of why this was so?  Perhaps because historically the education ‘establishment’ has refused to reform itself?

          I liken this kind of response to the classic mislogic statement of, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

          You make the assumption that whatever ills there are should be solved by education reform, especially as suggested by non-teachers.  Is the medical profession pathetic because it hasn’t cured cancer yet?  Shall you and I (who I assume are both not medical professionals) get together and make recommendations on how the medical profession should cure cancer?

          One mandate of Common Core is that kids achieve a certain level of reading ability by the end of kindergarten (source).  There is a lot of pushback from educators and child development specialists questioning if it is developmentally appropriate to demand that.  The response by non-educators is that “we’re doing it for the kids.”  That’s one example of what happens when you don’t involve professional educators in the discussion in the first place.

           

  8. Frankly

    “Fairness” also means different things that actually move away from standardization.  One of those is special ed services and access for those with physical and cognitive disabilities

    Clearly there are groups that can be easily singled out for service customization… but what about the other 95%?

    Standardization leads to job frustration, and I think there is a lot of that.

    Being frustrated and being motivated and capable to make changes that resolve frustration are mutually exclusive.  You do understand why there are few examples of employees successfully managing themselves to performance excellence?  Unionized public labor is primarily employees management themselves.  It leads to standardization as apposed to individualized customer service because the former is easier and the latter is more difficult.  But unlike private sector business, there is no consequence for crappy customer service.

    1. wdf1

      Frankly:  You do understand why there are few examples of employees successfully managing themselves to performance excellence? 

      Yes, because in higher pressure districts (= higher poverty) the only thing that matters is getting standardized test scores high enough.  There is little to no support for anything that doesn’t contribute to that objective.  Unfortunately it’s a very narrow-minded objective.  There is too much top down management to allow personal agency and autonomy to respond to ground level situations.

      Frankly: Unionized public labor is primarily employees management themselves.  It leads to standardization as apposed to individualized customer service because the former is easier and the latter is more difficult.  But unlike private sector business, there is no consequence for crappy customer service.

      In this environment, all that matters are standardized test scores, not customer service.

      Read this, from last month, a significant comment by Margaret Raymond, an education researcher at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, also married to Eric Hanushek:

      Major charter researcher causes stir with comments about market-based school reform

      This is one of the big insights for me. I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. 

      1. Frankly

        http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1670063,00.html

        Education experts seem to concur on almost nothing. Research in the field is so politicized and contradictory that you can find almost any study to support your view.

        You and I have been debating this subject long enough for you to know that I agree that standardization testing leads to sub-optimization of education quality.   But what you continue to fail to acknowledge is that standardization testing has been pushed on the education system only because it failed to perform prior to there being any standardization testing.    The education system failed and politicians derived their bone-head solution of standardization testing to make it better.  There is some evidence that it has made it better… but it had been so terribly inadequate to begin with, and the academic bar has been raised so far with the growth of the information economy…. that is sucks even more by comparison of what we really need.

        So now you and others in constant defense of public education conveniently forget about the past and only want to argue the present.   As if magically the system has learned its lesson and if only we remove the standardization tests it will wonderfully transform into this marvelous efficient and effective deliverer of education services to meet the needs of all the kids.   That is BS and I think you know it.   The main reason the education system is pushing back on standardization is the employees of the system work harder and there are at least some consequences for failure to perform.

        I support standardization testing only because the alternative is worse… not because it is a general good thing.

        1. wdf1

          The quote from Margaret Raymond seems to be lost on you.  If there is one person in the field of education research who might defend a “free market” model of education with some credibility, she’d be one.  She’s saying that she’s not seeing it work.

          Frankly:   There is some evidence that it has made it better…

          Please share.

          Frankly:   I support standardization testing only because the alternative is worse… not because it is a general good thing.

          When standardized testing reduce the variety of courses and experiences that students can take, I see that as a problem.

          “Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.”

          –Diane Ravitch

           

  9. Miwok

    “Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was arrested protesting Eric Garner’s death in New York, but remains opposed to vouchers enabling kids to escape the city’s failing schools.

    Why was this part of the article, except to show this person may not be qualified or have the judgement to represent that organization?

    What a good topic, except the comments have digressed a bit, as usual.

  10. wdf1

    NPR, Jan. 15, 2015: A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools

    The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.

    It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won’t have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.

    But an intriguing new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans suggests that parent choice doesn’t always work that way. Parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars — preferences that can outweigh academics.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      I’m not surprised by that study and suspect its results are accurate. Very often we ascribe to schools and teachers the blame when students don’t learn much in school. The reality is that parents are usually the main problem when their kids fail. So it is no wonder that those same parents make misguided decisions with regard to choosing charter schools and so on.

      Yet, at the same time, it is important to point out that a good teacher, especially with an at-risk child, can make a great difference. And a bad teacher with the same kid can ruin his long-term prospects in school. It is for that reason, despite the woeful parenting so many children get, that we should not let teachers’ unions keep bad teachers in classrooms, as teachers’ unions always want to do in all cases everywhere, and we should not let teachers’ unions remove all incentives for good teachers to perform at the highest level, as teachers’ unions always want to do in all cases everywhere.

      Education is just too important in a child’s life to let these syndicates–that sadly WDF1 spends his time speaking on behalf of–ruin it. And when you have bad parents, that is pretty much all the unions accomplish–destroying education for the underprivileged so bad teachers get paid to teach badly and good teachers don’t get paid for teaching well.

      http://www.npri.org/publications/protecting-bad-teachers-job-no-1-for-nsea

      1. wdf1

        Rifkin:  The results actually make sense to me, that lower income families would actually favor extra-curricular activities over academics.  Lower income families are less likely to be able to afford extra-curricular activities outside of school than more affluent families.

        As a parent, one thing that has been very important to me is to see that my kids have a stable social environment, and extracurricular activities are one way to gain that.  Once there is a stable social environment, then it’s easier to focus on academics.  In recent decades education policy has been all about focusing on the academics (math and reading in particular) to the exclusion of extra-curriculars.  You can see evidence of this in the last recession when school districts were likelier to cut athletics, performing arts, yearbook, and journalism as opposed to English and math.  If you want to see how a school community might react to budget cuts, cutting music or athletics will often send families packing to the next school board meeting.  Extra-curricular activities and the teachers who run them can also make a great difference in the life of an at-risk child.  I’ve seen this.

        The focus on standardized test scores as a presumably valid measure of quality education does not directly measure the value of these extra-curricular activities.

        Do your comments about how others should parent come from your own personal experience as a parent?  If so, I’d appreciate hearing more personal perspective in that regard.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          In recent decades education policy has been all about focusing on the academics (math and reading in particular) to the exclusion of extra-curriculars.  You can see evidence of this in the last recession when school districts were likelier to cut athletics, performing arts, yearbook, and journalism as opposed to English and math. 

          WDF, what you point out is NOT demonstrative of a new-found preference for academics over extra-curiculars. It is a byproduct of the teachers’ unions (which you speak for at every turn) prioritizing their most senior members’  pay and benefits during economic downturns over the best interests of students. (Before unions took over our schools in the 1990s, this was not the case.) Rather than cutting back the compensation of all school employees (including overpaid administrators), school districts now tend to fire people with the least tenure or they fail to fill open positions, harming the educational product for all children. And the consequence of that route, which your unions have made clear they prefer, is to damage or kill non-core subjects like music, drama, arts, shop, sports, etc. while tenured teachers don’t take a dime less for not teaching well.

          (Note: This is clearly the case in California. It may be different in schools in other states where unions have less power.)

          An obvious contrast with the horrors of public school education policy under the thumb of your unions can be seen when looking at the era immediately after Prop 13 was passed. Yes, cuts in programs had to be made. The revenues into the schools in Davis dropped a lot. However, the cuts were largely shared. Teachers lost 100% of their recent pay increases and at the junior highs and the high school teachers had to work longer hours without a pay raise. Administrative salaries were frozen. Sports programs were retained by cutting the pay given to coaches. The only long-term program elimination was getting rid of the DJUSD buses. And part of the reason for doing that was, back then, it was presumed kids could ride their bikes to school, which all of us, save the handicapped, did. Sadly, with Unitrans and with chauffeur driven SUVs, far fewer children now ride bikes to school. And kids today probably weigh 25% more than they did back in 1978.

        2. hpierce

          Rich, although I agree with almost all of your post, particularly related to school buses and bicycle mode share, your comment about unions, CTA, and the national equivalents (was it NEA and ?) didn’t ring quite true.  You said 1990’s.  What I recall is late 70’s, early 80’s.  I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that the teachers’ union(s) were the first “professional” groups to force “union shop” (later, due to judicial decisions, “agency shops”).  I came to Davis in early 70’s, so I’m just a “newbie” but I recall your local observations are spot on, except as noted above.

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          HP,  I realize that teachers in California began to unionize in the 1970s, and that picked up steam in the 1980s. My view is that it took some years before the teachers unions (here in Davis and in the rest of the state) held serious political power. Probably the turning point was their effective passage of Prop 98 in 1988.

          They are clearly, without any question at all, the most important faction now within the Democratic Party (the only party which counts), and that was not the case for the first 20-25 years of having teachers unions. A Democrat, before the ’90s, could run statewide with no donations from the CTA. … Consequentially, teacher pay (in inflation adjusted terms) went up substantially in the 1990s and the 2000s. (I should add that teacher income inflation did not keep up with the income growth in local California governments, in large part because K-14 schools take up such a huge share of state revenues that, other than the universities, there was hardly anyone left to steal from.)

          The shame is not, in my view, that we now pay teachers much more than we used to*. They were historically underpaid, in large part because so many teachers were women who, once they started having kids, would retire early to become homemakers. The shame is that we don’t incentivize our best teachers to stay in that profession; and we protect bad teachers who harm the prospects of our most vulnerable kids.

          *It’s often stated that experienced teachers “only” make $78,413 per year on average in our state. But that number is misleading in several respects. First, it does not count their medical benefits. It also does not count their retirement benefits (which includes a pension which needs a huge augmentation from state taxpayers to finance). And most importantly, it ignores that teachers’ annual hours of work is far, far less than almost all other professionals. If the average classroom teacher worked 50 weeks a year at 40 hours per week, the average California teacher income would be about $145,000, including pension and medical benefits.

        4. wdf1

          I’m still curious to have you explain more why you think where parents decide to send their kids to school in the New Orleans area is so awful and irresponsible.

          Rifkin:  WDF, what you point out is NOT demonstrative of a new-found preference for academics over extra-curiculars.

          I agree with you that this trend has existed at least into the 1970’s, but is exacerbated with each budget cutting cycle.

          Rifkin:  It is a byproduct of the teachers’ unions (which you speak for at every turn) prioritizing their most senior members’  pay and benefits during economic downturns over the best interests of students. 

          This statement is a non sequitor for me.  Are you saying that teachers of extra-curricular class (music, drama) have less seniority than teachers of traditional core academic classes?

          I am completely unaware of teachers’ unions calling the shots on which subjects should be kept or cut.  I understand that to be a decision that is ultimately determined by the school board.  If you understand otherwise, please explain.

          Rifkin: (Before unions took over our schools in the 1990s, this was not the case.)

          DTA has been around since the mid-1950’s.  Collective bargaining in California came about in the mid-1970’s, the Rodda Act, I think.  I’m not aware of what happened in the 1990’s that the DTA took over the Davis schools.  I don’t have the sense that the DTA calls the shots in any convincing way in the present.  If you see otherwise, please explain.

          Rifkin: The only long-term program elimination was getting rid of the DJUSD buses.

          …and elementary art, elementary general music, and elementary choir.  I understand that all of those programs were delivered by credentialed teachers with a specialty in those subjects up until the mid-70’s. By the early 80’s I think elementary choir was eliminated in one of the last budget cuts following Prop 13’s passage.

          From the early 1980’s onward, the Nation at Risk report set the agenda for what schools should teach, and that agenda did not include the arts, athletics, or CTE programs.  Everything that has come since then has built on that mindset.

          I think that report overhyped problems with the public schools in a big way.  But it has influenced the nature of conversation about public education in the U.S. ever since.  It is taken as gospel that the public education system nationwide is awful, even as residents tend to high marks to their own local school districts (Don Shor has posted the link to this study from time to time).  It’s not that different from how we think of Congress and the state legislature — we usually like our representatives (after all we elected them) but hate the larger body.

          Your comments treat the teachers’ unions as a whipping boy for all that is wrong in a way that goes beyond what is rational.  Your published columns make very good points about the fire fighters’ union, and the sense of quid pro quo endorsement of CC candidates vs. the amount in salary increases that they were awarded. I don’t see the same thing for the DTA.  If CTA has any equivalent influence statewide, then I think they’ve done a sh*tty job with salaries.  I think I’d make a pretty good K-12 teacher, but the salary isn’t high enough to allow us to live in Davis, so I’m not.

          The CTA also really hasn’t done a very good job talking to the voting public about their issues.  They let folks like you criticize them publicly and let you go relatively unchallenged.  Instead their conversations are directed at school board trustees and at the state legislature behind closed doors.  In the process they become targets of nefarious rumor (yes, I concede some of it is probably deserved).  I think there are a lot of very good and valid points they could raise.

          Prop. 13 and Serrano v. Priest shifted public school funding in California from mostly local revenue raised by the school board and the community to being heavily reliant on state funds, and with it all the attached strings of state regulation.  In many ways the shift was justified, but it has changed the thinking about our schools from a tone in which there was more sense of local ownership to one in which we are told what to do by the state, and districts are left only to pray that they might get enough money.

        5. South of Davis

          wdf1 wrote:

          > DTA has been around since the mid-1950’s.  Collective

          > bargaining in California came about in the mid-1970’s

          We all know this, but do you agree with Rich even a little bit that unions have gained a lot more power since the 70’s when at my public grammar school  (and the other public schools in town) most of the teachers were cute young single white women waiting to get married so they could quit and buy a nice $35K home in town and stay home with their own kids.

          > I think elementary choir was eliminated in one of the last

          > budget cuts following Prop 13’s passage.

          All the homes in CA have not gone up in price from ~$35K in the early 70’s when the Serrano Priest decision came down to ~$1.35 Million today like they have in the town where I went to public elementary school but we have had a lot of home price appreciation throughout the state.  I saw something from my old district (that I can’t find a link to) around the top of the last real estate bubble ~2006 that showed that despite the (never ending) complaining about Prop 13  teachers and about how teachers keep telling us that since Serrano Priest the poor districts get more than they deserve my old district (counting all the parcel tax revenue) had WAY more than it did in the early 70’s per kid adjusting for inflation.

          Does anyone know a way to get the Davis School District spending per kid in 1970 so we could compare it with the per kid spending last year?

  11. Don Shor

    Many will undoubtedly disagree with the proposed solution – more school choice, but this is clearly a discussion that is long overdue.

    I suppose it depends on what is meant by ‘more school choice’. I’m all for more choices within the school district. Having varied options made a big difference in the outcomes for my children in DJUSD. DaVinci is, I believe, run as a charter school, and charter status in a school district allows different administration and more flexibility. I thought the charter proposal for Valley Oak had great potential.

    But if school choice means vouchers to attend private schools, that has numerous problems. And I don’t see evidence that private charter schools have better outcomes that would hold up if they were required to accept all applicants from within their school district boundaries, as public schools must.

    Expanding extracurricular activities is clearly in everyone’s best interest. We have clear evidence that keeping kids busy outside of school hours reduces crime and gang affiliation. We should significantly increase funding for arts, sports, and other youth activities. That would be a very good investment.

    1. hpierce

      Don… it appears your have some biases… you make, at first blush, a generalization with your comment, “But if school choice means vouchers to attend private schools, that has numerous problems. And I don’t see evidence that private charter schools have better outcomes that would hold up if they were required to accept all applicants from within their school district boundaries, as public schools must.”   Not  all “private schools” are the same.  My spouse worked in the Catholic parochial school system for years.  Both schools they worked at (one, even more than the other), had much higher minority, very low income student populations than DJUSD.  The teachers earned ~ 60% of the salaries, and 50% of the benefits. Higher percentage of ESL students than DJUSD.

      Students weren’t turned away for financial, religious, or ‘academic’ reasons, dependent on how much the Diocese had available in student aid (which could be “vouchers”, which could then have included more students).

      Those schools’ results, weighted for where the students started, were definitely as good, to significantly better than, the public school systems as far as results.

      There are private, for profit schools, and there I’d agree with your quoted comment.

      1. Don Shor

        I agree that Catholic schools have always been shown to have good records as to educational outcomes. As it happens, I also don’t have problems with the curriculum issues that arise with some other private schools. I don’t really know how the distinction could be made in developing a voucher program for private school students.
        I do not know for what reasons they can decline to accept a child. Public schools have to accept all students that live within the district boundaries. That is one of the things that makes it very difficult to compare public and private school outcomes.

        1. South of Davis

          Don wrote:

          > Public schools have to accept all students that live within the district

          > boundaries. That is one of the things that makes it very difficult to

          > compare public and private school outcomes.

          The biggest difference is public and private school outcomes is due to having parents that care about their kids education.  Even with free charter schools having a parents that cares enough to seek out a place where there kids will do better usually means that they will make an extra effort to see that their kid learns.

  12. wdf1

    The Nation, Jan. 19, 2015: Black Lives Matter—at School, Too

    A since “school to prison pipeline” is the theme, there’s a lot to digest in this article (excerpts):

    Like most majority black school districts in America, the school districts of Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia regularly suffer school closures, high teacher attrition, understaffed schools and increasingly crowded classrooms. But while these deprivations are often written off as the inevitable result of urban white flight and depreciating tax bases, the reality is not so simple. In the neoliberal era, urban school districts’ financial woes have been aggravated by state takeovers, gratuitous budget cuts and wasteful privatization efforts. As black student activists nationwide have made clear in these recent demonstrations, public school austerity, like police brutality, is another form of racist state violence. Public school austerity, driven in part by the much-celebrated school reform movement, assaults these students’ central community institutions, crams them into over-policed schools, and reduces their education to preparation for the low wage workforce rather than democratic self-determination.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    Last December, for example, the  ACLU sued the Ferguson-Florissant school district, where Michael Brown was once  a student, charging that its at-large school board elections violate the 1963 Voting Rights Act. The Ferguson-Florissant school district’s at-large voting system, which makes every school board seat election district-wide, has historically allowed the majority white population to dominate the school board, despite the fact that black students make up 77 percent of the district’s student body. Currently, there is only one black member on the seven member school board,  an improvement from the last three years in which the board was all-white.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    As assistant professor of education Beth Sondel and education researcher Joseph L. Boselovic detailed in a Jacobin Magazine investigation,the “No Excuses” disciplinary approach, promoted by KIPP, the largest charter school chain in America, has transformed schools into totalizing carceral environments. Sondel and Boselovic write:

    “There were, for example, specific expectations about where students should put their hands, which direction they should turn their heads, how they should stand, and how they should sit.… Silence seemed to be especially important in the hallways. At the sound of each bell at the middle school, students were expected to line up at “level zero” with their faces forward and hands behind their backs and, when given permission, step into the hallway and onto strips of black duct tape. There they waited for the command of an administrator: ‘Duke, you can move to your next class! Tulane, you can walk when you show me that you are ready!’ Students then marched until they reached the STOP sign on the floor, where their teacher checked them for hallway position before giving them permission to continue around the corner. Throughout this process, students moved counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the hallway (even if they were going to a classroom one door to the left).”

    This extreme control over the movements of black students teaches them that they neither have, nor deserve control over their own bodies—a disturbing message to send in a country still shaped by the legacy of slavery. Furthermore, it perpetuates the normalization of surveillance and domination that law enforcement authorities inflict on black communities every day. Indeed, as the education writer Owen Davis points out, this “no excuses” disciplinary approach is a direct adaption by schools of the “broken windows” policing theory.

    1. Tia Will

      I see this “No Excuses” approach as virtually the antithesis of what we should be teaching young people. This kind of regimentation, lack of individual thought and choice is exactly what we do not need for students who will then go out into a workforce in which flexibility and independence of thought and innovation will be expected of them. Unless of course our plan is then to send them all off to the military where doing what you are told to do without questioning is the desired goal, at least for the rank and file. 

      While this, or a similar conduit to the military instead of to prison may be seen as preferable by some, I would say that depends upon what we then direct our military to do. If they are being directed to provide positive services here at home, such as the Coast Guard, this may not be such a bad thought. If we are sending them on oversees invasions such as Viet Nam and Iraq, then I do not see that we have greatly improved the lot of those who return damaged for life.

      1. Frankly

        Holy cow Tia, your thought processes really don’t travel very far do they… seem to get to a place of feeling something and then stop.

        Do you really not understand the need for the most wealthy and powerful nation on the planet to have a strong national defense.   And what about the US military helping other places when there are national disasters.   You know that the US helped rebuilt the countries we fought in WWII?

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Unless of course our plan is then to send them all off to the military where doing what you are told to do without questioning is the desired goal, at least for the rank and file. 

          Tia, this is just silly. Aside from some job-specific skills that an enlistee can learn in the military–say, for example, to be an air-traffic controller or a helicopter pilot–what soldiers, Marines, sailors and so on get out of being in the armed forces is desirable: things like teamwork, hard work, resilience, showing up on time, leadership, organization, interpersonal skills and dealing with people of very different backgrounds. Additionally, some learn foreign languages and other communications skills, like writing and speaking in a clear and understandable fashion. These sorts of things are valuable in the post-military work world.

          Granted, some are not able to transition as well into the private sector. But that is not mostly due to a lack of marketable skills learned from their military service. If you were to take 1,000 young men at random who did not enlist and 1,000 with the same socioeconomic and racial backgrounds as another 1,000 who did, I bet the veterans over time would do much better in life than their non-veteran equivalents.

      2. hpierce

        And, Tia… we obviously should take a pacifist, “everyone should get along” approach.  After all, Hitler, his party, and the carnage they inflicted on Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, etc., either didn’t happen or was a once in a millenium aberration.  We deserved 911, and had we had no military in the 30 years previous, that wouldn’t have occurred.  Even if it had, we could have “made nice” with Al-quida and those governments that supported/condoned them.  Such wisdom.  We should all listen.

        And once we eliminate the military, we should eliminate police.  Their organization is inherently militaristic in organisation and often, tactics.  We just need more mental health workers, eliminate silly laws, etc. and we can save the world.

         

         

      3. Topcat

        If we are sending them on oversees invasions such as Viet Nam and Iraq, then I do not see that we have greatly improved the lot of those who return damaged for life.

        The American military can be thought of as a giant training, health care and retirement system that just happens to fight a war once in a while.

        The vast majority of people in the military will never see combat. Many will learn valuable career skills. The military utilizes a vast array of occupations. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have gone through the US military and gained vocational and life skills that have served them well in their lives.

        I have a nephew who is in the Navy.  He is learning important skills on how to safely operate nuclear reactors. These skills will be very important for the future as there are still many operating reactors around the country. I feel very confident that Navy trained personnel will keep these facilities safe for many years into the future.

        There are many other careers that the military trains people for.  Whenever you travel by airplane, there is a good chance that your pilot and co-pilot were trained in the military. The air traffic controller who gets you safely to your destination may have been trained in the military. The mechanic who worked on your airplane may have learned his/her skills in the military.  I have known doctors who were trained in the military.  I could go on with many examples, but you probably get the idea.

        1. Tia Will

          The American military can be thought of as a giant training, health care and retirement system that just happens to fight a war once in a while.”

          And so if we can spend as much as we do on a giant training, health care and retirement system, then why cannot we create a similar system whose mission is not to kill those who are less powerful than we are and whom we go to attack so as to maintain our hegemony. Why not create and maintain a similar system around peaceful purposes such as rebuilding our infrastructure or feeding, housing, clothing, and oh my gosh, educating those in need ?

        2. Topcat

          Tia wrote: Why not create and maintain a similar system around peaceful purposes such as rebuilding our infrastructure or feeding, housing, clothing, and oh my gosh, educating those in need ?

          One branch of the military is doing exactly what you are suggesting.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approximately 37,000 dedicated Civilians and Soldiers delivering engineering services to customers in more than 130 countries worldwide.

          With environmental sustainability as a guiding principle, the Corps team is working to strengthen our Nation’s security by building and maintaining America’s infrastructure and providing military facilities where service members train, work and live.

          The Corps is helping the economy by dredging America’s waterways to support the movement of critical commodities and providing recreation opportunities at our campgrounds, lakes and marinas.

          And by devising hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure, the Corps is reducing risks from disasters.

          The Corps is protecting and restoring the Nation’s environment including critical efforts in the Everglades, the Louisiana coast, and along many of our Nation’s major waterways.  The Corps is also cleaning sites contaminated with hazardous, toxic or radioactive waste and material in an effort to sustain the environment.

    2. South of Davis

      wdf1 wrote:

      > This extreme control over the movements of black students teaches them that

      > they neither have, nor deserve control over their own bodies

      In the early 90’s a fraternity brother of mine was working in Southern California with “at risk” kids and had me read a book about the gang culture (that I found below for $0.01 used on Amazon if anyone else wants to read it).  Early in the book there is a room full of “kids” who have all been “convicted” of murder that were still saying it was OK to KILL someone if they “look at you funny” or “flash a gang sign”.  The convicted killers in the book were made to walk with their hands in their pockets.  It seems to me that someone might have figured out if we have “at risk” kids walk with their hands in their pockets BEFORE they flash a gang sign and someone kills them we will have less dead poor “kids” and less “kids” locked up for murder.

      http://www.amazon.com/Do-Die-Leon-Bing/dp/0060922915

       

  13. MrsW

    I agree that school can influence the pipeline. I am wary of applying capitalist concepts, like market choice, to social services.  What factors exactly, would the educational system be required to differentiate, so that parents would have choice?  test scores? demographics? gender? teachers who took a child psychology course?   counselors who have the authority to exercise discretion?  witchcraft training?

    I think the Gloria Romero has it wrong.    I think our educational establishment has a Human Resources issue.   The best minds for creating environments that develop youth in spite of or because of or whatever of  are either not on-site or advised by their lawyers or unions not to do their job.  If our society was really serious about education, they would start with basic concepts and values, like  human motivation, training people to have good habits, and training people to have good manners and making sure the legal and union establishments are helping and not hindering those objectives.  These values apply to all people, adults and children.  All of the choice, money and energy is undone daily by adults’ decisions to not hold themselves or children to basic levels of kindness and respect.  If a child isn’t getting it at home AND at school, it’s more tragic than if he isn’t getting at home OR at school.  With respect to school, as I write this, the example I’m thinking of is the delegation of playground lunch supervision to people who do not know the children, do not know their names, do not have any training in conflict resolution, and so forth.  The PTA pays for a bullying assembly once a year.  The children are on the playground 175 days a year.  Yes, they “work it out” but those who could benefit from real time instruction, correcting and training don’t get it–something that Dr. Sophia Yin’s research found that all MAMMALS need. [Dr. Yin was a UC Davis behavioral scientist and dog trainer.]

     

  14. Frankly

    I am wary of applying capitalist concepts, like market choice, to social services.

    It would be imperfect, but 100% better than the unionized, politicized, public school no-choice system we have now.

    If private schools are no better then why do the wealthiest families send their kids to private schools?

    The solution needs to be public-private partnerships where end-user education services are provided by the private sector… both non-profit and for-profit with different compliance requirements for each.  The public sector should get out of end user services except where weapons are involved, and in some unique circumstances… and instead focus on compliance governance and oversight of the providers of end-user services.   The public sector cannot innovate and adjust fast enough.  Public sector “business” is destined to always be less inefficient, less effective and more costly.

  15. MrsW

    If private schools are no better then why do the wealthiest families send their kids to private schools?

    Generally speaking, wealthy people are as diverse as any group.  Many spend their money on real estate, so their kids can attend public schools.

    Of the people I know who have sent their kids to private schools, both wealthy and non-wealthy, they sent their kids to private school because they felt their children needed nurturing and guidance, which either is not provided in public school or isn’t consistently provided in public school.  People I know are homeschooling for the same reason.

    1. South of Davis

      MrsW wrote:

      > Generally speaking, wealthy people are as diverse as any group

      Not quite as diverse as most other groups if you define “wealthy” as having a fair amount of “wealth” at say $10 million (not just “doing OK like the guy making $100K who still owes $500K on his $700K home).

      > Of the people I know who have sent their kids to

      > private schools, both wealthy and non-wealthy

      With A list private schools in the Bay Area charging over $25K/year K-8 and over $30K/year for High School there are not a lot of “non-wealthy” kids in these schools (other than a few scholarship kids so they can say they are more “diverse”)…

  16. wdf1

    This is what zero tolerance looks like:

    Parent: Fourth-grader suspended after using magic from ‘The Hobbit’

    A Kermit parent said his fourth-grade student was suspended Friday for allegedly making a terroristic threat.

    His father, Jason Steward, said the family had been to see “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” last weekend. His son brought a ring to his class at Kermit Elementary School and told another boy his magic ring could make the boy disappear.

    Steward said the principal said threats to another child’s safety would not be tolerated – whether magical or not. Principal Roxanne Greer declined to comment on the matter.

     

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