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Income Inequality Goes to School

Posted on Feb 24, 2012
AP / Gerald Herbert

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, talks to students before delivering a speech on education at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 8, 2009.

By Bill Boyarsky

Countering the efforts of educational reformers—including President Obama and his Race to the Top crew—to blame teachers for student failures, researchers are finding that the growing gap between the affluent and the poor is the real villain.

“As the children of the rich do better in school, and those who do better in school are more likely to become rich, we risk producing an even more unequal and economically polarized society,” wrote Sean Reardon, a Stanford University professor of education and sociology.

Louis Freedberg, executive director of the respected public education research organization EdSource, called Reardon’s research a “dramatic illustration of the impact of inequality on how children do in school.” The findings were included in a story in The New York Times on Feb. 9 on the academic achievement gap between rich and poor. The story brought to wide public attention an important part of the income inequality debate that has been generally overlooked.

Race to the Top was unveiled by Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2009. It is a $4 billion program of awards to states whose schools improve performance. At the heart of Race to the Top is the philosophy that teachers’ value can be measured statistically. If a kid gets bad grades or doesn’t improve, the teacher is to blame.

Duncan, joined by self-styled reformers such as Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., school superintendent, embraced an evaluation system known as value-added assessment. A student whose test scores are average one year would be predicted to have average scores the next. If the student rises above average, the teacher is given a good evaluation. If the student drops below average, the evaluation is bad. This strictly by-the-numbers approach is beloved not only by Duncan but by business people and politicians leading the school reform movement.


Square, Site wide

Statistical flaws in this system have been recognized for some time. They include such factors as students changing classes and those who have trouble at home. Now, a study has dug deeper into the value-added system. Professors Xiaoxia Newton of UC Berkeley and Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel and Ewart Thomas of Stanford have analyzed how ethnicity, English language ability, poverty and parental educational levels impact students’ classroom performance. The four researchers rejected the defense, saying, “… This assumption is not consistent with reality.”

Their analysis is relevant to the issue of income inequality impacting education.

Reardon, in his study, noted that most research and journalism on educational performance have focused on the achievement gap among black, Latino and white students. But he found the situation has changed, and the gap between affluent and poor is now greater.

“The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30-40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier,” Reardon wrote. At the same time, he said, “the gap between the rich and the poor has widened significantly, particularly among families with children.” He added, “Not only do the poor have less money than they did before, they have fewer social support systems as well.”

It’s more complicated than income. Parents with money tend to be better educated. This group includes more two-parent homes. They have time, energy and money to give their children lessons, read to them, take them to sports practice and games, movies, museums, the library, as well as hire tutors and coaches.

The New York Times story cited a study by professor Meredith Phillips of UCLA showing that by the time affluent children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literary activities. All told, affluent children before the age of 6 have spent 1,300 more hours than poor children in places away from home, day care center or school. These places include shopping malls and museums.

The so-called reformers don’t want to talk about these complexities. It’s easier to rank teachers by a flawed statistical method and then invite the public to view the results. If the teacher is to blame, then class size, inadequate funding, unsafe buildings, filthy bathrooms, turmoil in overcrowded homes, unemployed parents, disruptive classmates and school or class transfers can all be ignored.

In the presidential campaign, the discussion over affluent and poor has been expressed in economic terms. The unfairness of our economic system is a central point of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Obama undoubtedly will capitalize on resentment of the gulf between rich and poor in his campaign.

But as researchers are learning, the harm done by an economic system increasingly tilted toward the rich is much more than a pocketbook issue.

It reaches into every public school classroom, shaping the future lives of every student. Obama and his allies tell the teachers to fix it while they simplistically promote their flawed “Race to the Top.”

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, February 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

I only used him as an example of a common occurrence in our
/  What evidence are you offering to back up this claim
of common occurrence?  Your conjecture does not convince.  The wiki
link you provided does not work.  Wikip – education and Wikip - home
schooling would give the articles I think you were offering.  I checked
out the Home School Legal Defense Association’ report and found its
findings specious. 

Night-Gaunt, there are some statistics but they are provided by
proponents of home schooling.  For instance the one I just cited,
their first comparison was between homeschooled for one year and
homeschooled for two years.  They do not say what tests of the brick
and mortar schools were being used in comparison with homeschooled. 
It would seem that this organization has a vested interest in presenting
a report that showed their education preference in a superior light.  I
would be more impressed with comparisons presented by a detached
objective assessment organization.

The concerns I have with home schooling I have pretty much stated.  I
can’t really add much more.  The categories of my apprehension include
poor academic quality, religious or social extremism, and minimize it as
much as you want, I think lack of socialization with others is an
important factor of building healthy relations between individuals at
young ages and then through a decade or so of confronting others in a
school ambience.  At this time, and I think it is good, over half of states
have some oversight requirement into monitoring and measuring the
academic progress of home schooled students.  But what of those states
that don’t?  Also I worry about the profit motive of the many home-
schooling materials companies that have sprung up.  I’ve seen some of
that material and they were not high quality.  I’ve worked at editing and
assessing textbooks so I have some familiarity with quality curriculum
books.  Course now we have to be even more alert with electronic media
emerging as educational materials.

Most parents can hardly teach their children social, disciplinary and
behavioral skills and would be hard pressed to teach math, science, art,
writing, history, geography, and to think for themselves among other
subjects.  Most of the home schooled I’ve known often gave the learning
materials to the kids and the kids had to study on their own.  That is
called autodidacticism. 

You have the choice in this country to home school or public school your
children, or private school them if you have the wherewithal.  I’ve given
my preferences and why.  You’ve given yours and that is where we are at. 
I will continue to do my best to increase the quality of education for that
segment of the population that will be educated through public funded

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, February 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment

One major problem I see is that there are no statistics for home schools. I do know that 75% of them are Christian based. (I haven’t seen the break down on that over sectarian demarcations.)

On a personal note, I am one of those few individuals who do not like the way information is taught. I don’t like structure so if you would see my report cards they were erratic. The things I liked I got A’s an B’s in all others poor to Fail. I would be in a statistical graph one of the outliers that exist. Not part of the general whole. Just to mention that there are exceptions but I haven’t seen anything yet to say such exceptions are in fact the rule in education.

How many of those Christian home schoolers go to accredited, or not, Christian based colleges? Just a question to lay some more information into the mix if anyone has that data.

I found the discussion of interest. Please continue.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Re: She

To correct my first post, this sentence: “The students who don’t comply will be required to retake the course, one in which they have already proven themselves proficient by their own accepted measures.”

Should read: “The students who don’t comply will be required to retake the course, one in which they have already proven themselves proficient by schools/teacher’s own accepted measures.”

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

Re: She

Education is a complex issue if one is to sit and parse it all out. But learning is a natural process, one we all use without conscience thought regularly. Assume that a student reaches only a remedial level of writing. This happens with home schoolers as well as their public school counterparts. I consider that “no harm, no foul” realistically. Could both have done better?  Possibly, but there are as many factors for this to be the case in the one instance as there are in the other.

To claim that in either instance this is a measure of the failure of the whole, is without merit. It may not be a failure at all, it depends. Given the wide range of intellectual capacity, either instance could in fact also be considered a success. And this is the misunderstanding(sometimes purposefully) that is lobbed back and forth regarding home v public schools, or teachers v parents.

This “misunderstanding” is used frequently as a political football to undermine our public schools. Of course, at this point all the finger pointing begins, politically that is; such as it’s society’s fault, it’s the parents’ fault, it’s the teachers’ fault….etc.

Aside from that, do some home schoolers fail their children or abuse the system? Yes. But this same condition is present in our public schools. As a society, we condemn both and rightfully so, but this shouldn’t be interpreted as all inclusive. In this same vein, outstanding students are highlighted by each as a measure of the whole’s success.

I agree that it could absolutely be the case that for a particular child a public school would be better than a home school but again the reverse is also true. Some children do much better in the home school environment. For others the point is simply moot.

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By Outraged, February 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment

Re: She

Quote:“you are judging an entire population of home schooled instructed intelligence by your own child.”

No. I only used him as an example of a common occurrence in our schools.  My son is by no means alone. Let’s assume that any student did the same thing and got “C’s” on all the exams and tested proficient on assessments. Again, did none(or very little) of the seat work. This student would also fail. This failure will be compounded, again and again as this child moves through the system. Some argue that for the second child, since they’re not an “A” student, that the condition is more serious somehow. I would argue that it’s the same thing.

Let’s assume another scenario, that which the student get’s all “C’s” on tests, passes assessments with proficiency and does the seat work. This child will pass. All student’s in this scenario will pass no matter their level unless of course they do not grasp the material at all. What is the lesson learned especially from the perspective of a young person?

Compliance is rewarded, non-compliance is punished regardless of level of proficiency. So this begs the question, what does this teach our children and why are we doing it? This places compliance over proficiency. The students who don’t comply will be required to retake the course, one in which they have already proven themselves proficient by their own accepted measures.

Regarding my fourth paragraph, imo misconceptions abound regarding home schooling.  Each one is as different as the next, this doesn’t sit well with many people, educators included. Yet, schools can be as different as night and day, so I don’t understand the concern. I can only give you my sense of it, but it seems the concern is over lack of uniformity and not following the standards used by schools. This is, at least most times, precisely the philosophy of why the home school environment is enhanced, it’s free “space”.  This is why I think that some feel there’s not sufficient “regulation”. This is the term you’ve used also, but please… correct me if I’m misinterpreting your meaning.

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By Shenonymous, February 28, 2012 at 4:48 am Link to this comment

We either have to talk about populations or individual experiences. 
It would be a predictable fact that in every student’s education there
would be at least one incompetent teacher, and even more than one. 
If they were all paragons of teaching virtue there would not be any
criticisms today, but we do have it.  And there are mitigating
circumstances that among which really are incompetents, but on the
whole teachers are remarkably competent.  The main problem as I see
it is the age old problem of decrying an entire domain on account of a
few bad apples.  You know the old barrel canard.

And you are judging an entire population of homeschooled instructed
intelligence by your own child.  Again, there are exceptions and I gave
a perfect example of one.  But as much as I thoroughly applaud and
appreciate my young woman illustration, I do not judge the entire
population of homeschooled educated.  There are all kinds of statistics
out there that anyone can clutch to depending on which side one wants
to align oneself.  I already admitted it.  I choose the side of public (or
private schools).  Then each school can be assessed and then each
teacher as well.  This is being done constantly.  I am saying that on the
whole for a large population home schooling is not a viable alternative. 
Your third paragraph of your second part comment makes my point.

Having been in education for more than thirty years, and still am, I do
not find the situation you describe in paragraph four of the same second
part comment.  You, plainly, are wrong.  But we certainly can continue to
talk about it.  For now, I have to get ready to go to one of these
institutions that hone the minds of human beings.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 28, 2012 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Re: She

Quote: “to learn firsthand that people develop differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, learn in different ways, and communicate in different ways.”

I’m just not sure why you think that home schoolers wouldn’t experience this?  Why would they not have first hand experiences in dealing with others? As to plays or sports or other extras, this depends upon whether they’re are active in home school groups (if available), or programs some attend (swimming, dancing, singing…etc), more and more there are public schools who allow participation.  As for having a certain grade point average to participate in extras at the public schools… I don’t see why that matters.  Why should a student have to maintain a grade point average of any kind to participate in an extra. Is that punishment for unscholarly behavior or something?  I find the very idea revolting.  I would never deny any student any offering at school because of their grades. I also think it would put an additional negative effect upon a students grades, a happier person is more likely to be congenial regarding issues they don’t particularly care for.

How far extras or group activities are used in a home schooling situation varies. Some do it extensively while others not so much.  The reasons for this vary just as widely, but again… I’d have to say this is just as true at a brick and mortar school. Otoh, home schoolers are not confined to clocks, walls or deadlines so the opportunities are endless and they include vacations, dance lessons, swimming, sports, cooking, painting, church groups, woodworking, museums….whatever there’s an interest in, whatever one can imagine really.

At this point you need to understand that some use what is referred to as unschooling. Imo, it has it’s merits but depends upon all involved. Some of unschooling’s criticisms I partially agree with, some of its criticisms I definitely disagree with, but I find that most people who home school(at least around these parts) have a quasi unschooling/homeschooling type of environment. If you have an interest, Wiki has a cursory explanation of it.

One of the issues that traditional school adherents seem to find hard to grasp is the concept that home schoolers aren’t always sitting there with a book and following the clock. They also seem to feel that for the whole traditional school day that public/private school children are learning every minute of the school day. I also find that educators seem to endorse this idea.

But at schools there are tons of (what I call)“hurry up and wait” time, this is time that all students must hurry to get to on time but when they arrive they are told to patiently wait endlessly so that rote routines can be employed. It’s a waste of their time but this is never acknowledged. We’re not listening to them, there’s this kind of “that’s the way it is” acceptance instead of acknowledging the situation and saying “yeah, how can we change that?”

I’ll try to catch some of your other points tommorrow. Gotta go.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 28, 2012 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Re: She

Good points. Your comment: “I find home schooling for the most part not as adequate to give developing human beings the best opportunity to be prepared for the optimum that life can give them.

This is a common misunderstanding, mainly because it makes the presupposition that in fact children receive this in school. For the most part they don’t. There are children that do, but the majority don’t and this is a common complaint from students, parents and adults who’ve been schooled. If we were to assume that school did this then we would have to assume that by the time students are ready for college that they would be at this optimum preparedness for life spot (if we could even make the assertion that we would know what that optimum would be). Traditional education falls short because they train some for college (but that is the only goal) and the others are merely there, just trying to get the hell out of high school. Just because you put them in the box does not ensure that they are educated. Nor does a grade, as this only ensures that they have done what was asked of them but no more.

For example when I had my son in the local school (much to his dismay…lol), he became more and more irate at his science teacher. Long story, but the gist is that he decided he was not going to do any of the note taking and question answering at the end of the chapter since he could get an “A” on the test anyway. So, that’s what he did. He took the WKCE (a WI assessment test) and scored off the chart in science, got “A’s” on his in class tests and proceeded to flunk the class because he adamantly refused to “waste his time” with “stupid crap”

His teacher was irate too. She literally could not understand why he would do that. I tried to explain he doing it for the very reason he says he’s doing it, and frankly I agree. The bigger issue was that she wanted compliance and he simply said no. It had nothing to do with learning or education, what she (which of course later became “they” as “we” addressed the situation) wanted was compliance. Had there been some quantifiable reason for the seat work, some attaining knowledge or learning aspect, possibly I could have reasoned with him. But no, “they” wanted compliance for the sake of seeing him act exactly as they’d requested. I think this is a terrible thing to be inculcating kids with and I think it is anathema to creating a thinking, discerning society.

Quote:“Problems I see with home schooling have to do with the purpose of education in a school.”

I agree with both these purposes and more, but I would not choose between the two you’ve described but rather incorporate both to the extent possible but also dependent upon the child’s interests and talents. Overall, home schoolers don’t specifically separate purposes specifically nor do they care to. It’s more of an all encompassing broad spectrum view of the world, in a sort of synergistic macro and micro way. There are those that are strictly traditional and very authoritarian, but it isn’t that common.

Quote:“Not to minimize it because it has become almost a cliché, the school environment, public or private, is an important way for children to develop their social skills.”

I see this as a complete fallacy. Again if this were the case then we should see a socially well adjusted society by and large.  But that is not what we see.  My experience and you’ll find almost all home schoolers will agree that the exact opposite is the case. Home schooled children react much better socially, especially by the time they reach high school. More often they are less negative than their counterparts, have a better self image, are quite comfortable in their own skin and have no trouble dealing with their peers, but even more strikingly they deal with various ages markedly better than their counterparts.

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By Shenonymous, February 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment

Taking your challenge in earnest, Outraged, and I think it is a good
one, not necessarily because it was directed at me, but because it
applies to the entire idea of home schooling, and with that in mind
while at work today, I gave it much thought, then now at home I tried
to put my thoughts in some cogent form. Not an easy subject to try to
cover comprehensively I gave it a try. If I’ve left anything out, I’m sure
there are those eagle eyes out there in TD-land who will chime in, and
with utmost welcome. Because it became more lengthy than I had
anticipated, the subject is not the most patently evident, this had to
be written in two parts. 

Yes, gerard, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughtful remarks.

There certainly might be some good arguments for homeschooling, and I
have read some of them.  But I would say for the good of the society, the
arguments against it, except for special cases where a child cannot
participate in a classroom because of some physical problem (and I’ve
seen many children in special ed classes where inclusion even of the
most severely handicapped has been found to be of utmost benefit to
the young individual), I find home schooling for the most part not as
adequate to give developing human beings the best opportunity to be
prepared for the optimum that life can give them. 

Educator, John Dewey said, “Life is a self-renewing process through
action upon the environment.”  If this is wrong then someone who thinks
so, needs to say why it is.  And I think he was right about education
when he said, “Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this
social continuity of life. Every one of the constituent elements of a social
group, in a modern city as in a savage tribe, is born immature, helpless,
without language, beliefs, ideas, or social standards. Each individual,
each unit who is the carrier of the life-experience of his group, in time
passes away. Yet the life of the group goes on.”

Problems I see with home schooling have to do with the purpose of
education in a school. There are two opposing views:  Some politicians
and business leaders believe that the primary purpose of schools should
be to create workers who have skills and personal styles to fill and
perform available jobs. Others, sociologists,... believe this aim is too
narrow.  For them, schools should seek to develop active citizens,
helping children develop their own capacity for personal achievement
and contributing to society as an active citizen for democracy.  Either
view, and each requires different ways to achieve their goals, sets the
quality of education wherever it is delivered.

I see specific problems with home schooling: Not to minimize it because
it has become almost a cliché, the school environment, public or private,
is an important way for children to develop their social skills.  School
increases the chances for children to make lasting friendships and if kept
at home, developing social relationships can be very much diminished. 
With a number of students from different families and of different ages,
schools provide an environment with at least some diversity of age and
background.  Depending on the region, the diversity could be fairly
minimal such as in small homogenous rural towns, or as it is found in
urban cities, it could be extremely diverse.

Being with others doesn’t only provide opportunities for large-group
discussions, putting on plays, and other outstanding activities, schools
also provide opportunities to learn firsthand that people develop
differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, learn in different
ways, and communicate in different ways. This will not be found in the
curriculum, but it’s an essential part of education since people who live
in a world with others need to learn to get along with them.  How
extensive would this be addressed in a particular home school situation?

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By Shenonymous, February 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment

The child will notsufficiently be prepared for further education.
When children are home schooled through high school then want to
go to a traditional college or university find often they are not used
to a classroom setting and have trouble adjusting to college life. Or
they are shy of certain areas of knowledge such as the young woman
I know, they need further education to fill in their gaps. Yes, it is a
matter of becoming an adult but it can be unnecessarily stymied
because of the lack of world experiences (meaning outside of the

There is a distraction factor. They naturally do not like the discipline
of study. If they are schooled at home, children frequently don’t really
take their studies seriously, this is especially true when a parent is their
teacher and the behavior, while not necessarily, could result in poor
grades.  But the parent might fudge because it would reflect on their
teaching ability, thus shortchanging a good education for their children. 
More often than not parents are not as well equipped pedagogically as
a teacher. In order to be properly prepared to teach a child, home
schooling parents who act as teachers should get a certification in
education. Also, it has to be considered there are adherents of
“attachment parenting,” the perennially controversial ideology defined
by practices such as co-sleeping with one’s child and breast-feeding
for far longer than typical, sometimes well beyond toddlerhood.

Skills of parenting and instructing are not exactly the same. Aside from
the fact that teachers usually have some subject area of expertise,
knowledge of child development, and special learning styles of students,
they also have training in assisting children with special needs, such as
learning disabilities. Furthermore, teachers are required to undergo
continuing education, that is, professional development in their fields,
even after they receive a teaching license.

Up-to-date subject area information available in schools are not always
what parents arm themselves with. Maybe a vintage copy of a Beatrix
Potter story doesn’t change, but understanding currency in physics does.

If a child wants to play team sports, or compete in individual sports,
where would the child go? To a public school? Kids who go to public
school must maintain a certain grade point average and that would be
next to impossible to verify for a home schooled child, unless
independent academic achievement testing were required. Grades for
home schooled children presents a problem of verification. 

Homeschooling is so unevenly regulated from state to state that it is
impossible to know exactly how many homeschoolers there are. 
Furthermore, one article of faith unites all homeschoolers: that
homeschooling should be unregulated,” political scientist Robert Reich
writes. “Homeschoolers of all stripes believe that they alone should
decide how their children are educated.” Since we are a democratic
nation, we have to ask if homeschooling serves the interests not just of
those who are doing it, but of the entire society?

There is a bias in home schooling that is bound in class privilege, in
distrust of the public sphere, and in the dated presumption that children
live in two-parent families. This resides in the belief that at least one
parent can afford, and actually wants to take a large chunk of time away
from paid work in order to manage the education of their children that
most parents entrust to the community in which they live. Thus, in many
families both parents work and home schooling is not a feasible option. 
If there is an argument for home-schooling, what is to be done when this
is the problem? And there is the economic factpr of free public school.

Please, anyone, if you disagree, don’t hesitate to join in and maybe we as
a group can work our way through to some common consensus about
this issue?

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By JBC, February 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The growth in the number of children being born to unmarried women since 1970 is as much to blame for the educational gaps as anything mentioned in one of these academic studies(what to blame for this growth is another issue). I know there are exceptions of children who have thrived in school being raised by single mothers. They have beat the odds.

Dysfunctional family life is not conducive to a child’s academic success. More spending on education will not fix this issue.

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By gerard, February 27, 2012 at 11:51 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous:  Your comments on home-schooling are impressive and I encourage you to continue this vitally important “fight.”  Home-schooling sickens me! I have an example in my family which I consider tragic. Enough said.
  The truth is, in my opinion, that self-starters are rare birds. Everyone is conditioned to either be open-minded or closed-minded fairly early in childhood, by family influences and methods of procedure in daily life—thousands of subtle indicators about what “we” do and what “we” avoid doing.
  Some of it, but not all, I think, comes from religious fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism of all kinds seems to me to come from deeper, pre-verbal information regarding ingrained beliefs about “crime and punishment” etc. If a child is prevented from exploring at an early age, and/or punished for innovation and experiment, s/he is very likely to adapt to environments in the direction of following directions. Eventlually s/he becomes a victim of authoritarianisms of all kinds.
  Innovators are all too rare—almost “flukes” in human societies—to our universal sorrow. Strange how experiment is so lauded in some areas of thought and so impermissable in others!

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By gerard, February 27, 2012 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

Maria Saez:  Nice to have a new contributor.  But—I must respectfully disagree with your last very general thought:  ” without authority there is no teaching.”  It has been my long experience as a woman, a mother, a writer (of sorts) and a geacher (also of sorts), that authority plays a dangerous role in teaching, depending on what is meant by “authority.”  I prefer to use the word “respect” and hope that is what you meant. “Authority” tends to mean some degree of force, coercion, necessity to conform to ... and, in my opinion, is contradictory to learning in many cases. Authority sets up goals already achieved by others as standards.  Real learning (in my experience) occurs as self-learning, motivated by a desire to discover, to open, to innovate, to search beyond, etc. etc.
  Of course like everything else I don’t say it’s an either/or situation. But the reason I answer you here, is that “authority” gets far too much attention in all education—private and public—at the expense of freedom of experiment, research and innovation. That’s why it takes so long to get rid of prejudices and outright lies such as “war is inevitable” or “it is immoral not to believe in God.”

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By Shenonymous, February 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Outraged - I just reviewed this article and forum and caught your
remarks.  I’ve been very ill for about three weeks but I am completely
well now.  Your challenge is most provocative.  I will reread your post
and take it seriously and give a response soon.  Now that I am well I
must return to work (in academia), such are the vicissitudes of life. If
I said I abhor home schooling I should have qualified it.  I might be
guilty of what I often complain about others.

About homeschooling I do know cases first hand of home schooled
and in one case the student was not educated enough to avoid reme-
dial courses (missed in her home schooling experiences) in order to
be accepted in college.  But she is extraordinary and took courses
to fill in the gaps and studied on her own and was able to pass the entry
exam into a college where she wanted to go.  She went on to graduate
with honors and was accepted into a graduate program where again she
graduated with honors.  She is now about to start a doctorate program! 
So horrayyy for her! I have the highest admiration for her. The others I
know, were home schooled but not very well.  Unfortunately unless they
are independent starters they will not be college material. 

I will have to find the other article and review what I said and take that
into account.  I wish I had not been so dogmatic about it, if I was!  But
serendipity!  My misspeak might give us food for thought?

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By sanda1sculptorNYC, February 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Don’t leave out racism as a factor via government policies, etc.  And, it’s my birthday midweek: my 18th@72 birthday…“sanda aronson”

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By Anna B, February 26, 2012 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


As a Muslim American, who has long been subject and aware of “moles”
within my community, which has even led to the wrongful detention of
fellow Muslims—this is nothing new, nor, will I frankly say, is it
very constructive.
To capitalize and sensationalize on the myth of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is
mimicking the very xenophobic tendencies of those who abuse their
power and those of whom we set to change.

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By El_Pinguino, February 26, 2012 at 12:07 am Link to this comment

@mrfreeze…. the cliff notes version might help someone pass the test. reading the full version might help someone get an education.

my take would only be an uneducated interpretation.

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By mrfreeze, February 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm Link to this comment

El_Pinguino - At the risk of seeming a little lazy, please do give us your “Cliff’s Notes” version of the report you refer to. I know many of us know that our educational system is fundamentally right-minded (at its core). What do you think has gone wrong/right?

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By El_Pinguino, February 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

My father was a professor of Education in Curriculum and Foundations at Ohio State Univ. Way back in the 70s he told me the only constant factor known for a high SAT or ACT score was family income. Gender, race, ethnicity etc were not. He had lots of little sayings that today become quite revealing. Like: When the public education system fails, so will the democracy.

If you want to know more about where we *used to be* and maybe draw your own conclusions as to where we might have gone wrong (or right) read this:

Look for the *Frymier transcript pdf* and download it. 110 pages of public education history. From when the USA was at the top of the game in public education to about the year 2000.

While my father is named in this interview, this interview was not with him. Frymier was one of his colleges.

Along with health care, auto industry, guns and capitalism… Michael Moore should be doing a documentary on public education before all of the historic figures are gone.

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By Maria E. Sáez, February 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Authority is a bad word in our “culture”, linked to male-power, and without authority there is no teaching

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By gerard, February 25, 2012 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

Is it possible?...
  1. That most of our current national problems are due to what passes for “educaton”—private or public? 
  2. That our “elite” 1% probably had private education at some point, during which they lost (if they ever had) all sense of public responsibility. Hence the 1% is squeezing the life out of the 99%.
  3. Our “common citizen” 99% probably had mostly public education, during which they lost (if they ever had) a sense of their own personal abilities and responsibility to improve public institutions.  Hence public institutions tend not to innovate, and to conform to the elites’ demands. They do not trust themselves and prefer to follow others. 
  4. When the class gap becomes too “out of control” fear and/or scorn of “the other” becomes “normal.”
That fear stymies intelligent change and the entire
society degrades toward violence.
  5. The only way out is to work toward mutual understanding, resilience and cooperation.

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By balkas, February 25, 2012 at 9:45 am Link to this comment

so many have proved to me that they are educated writers but almost
none of such people have shown let alone proved to me or to any
humanist that they became educated thinkers. and there is a cause for
that: schooling.
and that’s why schooling is mandatory. and the harvest of foolish people
is enormous! 
i am a very uneducated person and i am very proud of that—the crooks
never got me! thanks, bozhidar b., planet moon

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By balkas, February 25, 2012 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

evaluating, grading any human, and children especially so, robs people
of their inheritance never to be judged, rated, graded by another human.
in short, this represents crime against humanities.
the actors are well known; stickouts appear clergy, ‘nobility’ in this
criminal behavior and the dehumanization of humans. shame on them!

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By PatrickHenry, February 25, 2012 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

The money is there, just being used for neferious purposes by greedy bastards.

I’m sure we will hear more of this as time progresses.

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By Nonnie Augustine, February 25, 2012 at 6:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The truth will out. Excellent article. Thank you. I haven’t taught
in the public schools for ten years, but I still dream about it. I
woke up from just such a dream this morning with the same
old sense of helplessness I felt day after day when I tried to
help poor children who had nothing in common with students
from middle class or affluent neighborhoods except their
chronological age. I used the verb “help,” rather than “teach,”
because I rarely felt like my time was spent doing the latter, at
least not in the way I’d been trained in college. Politicians can
blame poor test scores on “bad” teachers all they want. But as
long as they do, nothing will change, except for the worse.

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By Outraged, February 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

Quote:“Countering the efforts of educational reformers—including President Obama and his Race to the Top crew—to blame teachers for student failures, researchers are finding that the growing gap between the affluent and the poor is the real villain.”

While I can engage this premise broadly, otoh I could refute it just as easily(this is dangerous) . Oh… what a conundrum. But let me specifically thank Mr. Boyarski for addressing the topic.

Education is a complex issue. So many false and misleading ideals are thrown out regarding education it is difficult for the “man on the ground” to decipher it, or even to ascertain an opinion. Yet, at the same time it is apparent to even the least educated that something has gone awry.

I endorse educators’ unions. I endorse public schools. I see the right wingers are attempting to, and have in many instances lobbed some almost fatal blows against our schools.

Poverty is absolutely a factor. My question to others is, why is that? I was a straight “A” student for many years….. and yeah, I kicked many asses(including my more “well to do” counterparts) academically, so why is it I’m still in poverty. I was then, and I am now.

Did I at some point become less intelligent?  It doesn’t appear to be the case…. at least as far as I can ascertain. I see no evidence of it. But hey… show me the “error of my ways” if you have it. I’m game.

But yes… something has gone horribly awry in our educational system, in my opinion much of it politically driven. For this reason I would like to challenge Shenonymous specifically regarding it. Why?  One, it’d be a worthy opponent, and let’s face it, if you only challenge your lessors what have you really said for your position.

For a backdrop, I would like Shenonymous to know, if she doesn’t already know…. I was a fundamentalist, now an atheist, am academically although commonsense driven, have several children, come from a large family, have home-schooled my children (although not specifically so), and support Obama.

I’d like to challenge “She” mainly to play devil’s advocate regarding education yet at the same time challenge social educational norms and fallacies and additionally strengthen the argument for public education yet allow for more free thinking more open schools inclusive of the children of fundamentalists, even as they are at odds with “accepted” educational institutions.

(Btw “She”, I did notice your comment on the other thread that you “abhor home schoolers”..... lol, I don’t specifically take it personally nor all inclusive, yet at the same time I disagree with your comment and think that we could challenge each other rationally regarding the matter)

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By Night-Gaunt, February 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment

The New York Times story cited a study by professor Meredith Phillips of UCLA showing that by the time affluent children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literary activities. All told, affluent children before the age of 6 have spent 1,300 more hours than poor children in places away from home, day care center or school. These places include shopping malls and museums.

Such complexities that the president an his backers don’t wish to dive into. Neither do the Republicans beyond simply pushing home schools an their version of a Christian based life style are the cures in their minds. Bodhi‘s point is dead on. Privatization won’t only put business men an corporations into every facet of a child’s life but dedicate them to be either lobe slaves or on assembly lines for the rest of their miserable an short lives. To live just long enough to produce the next batch or generation to do the same. Wholly owned by their business/church somewhat like the old days but the same general out come for the people.

A healthy mix of controlled Capitalism an Socialism have shown to work the best an what many of the wealthiest an healthiest societies have an use. We need to put Capitalism an its degenerate version we have called Extractionism back in the trash. We need to get back to income equality an proper taxation of the ultra rich who have had laws written to fatten them up way more about 257% over the last 32 years. That must end.

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By erichwwk, February 24, 2012 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

another alternative to capitalism:

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By Uncle Rocco, February 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So the thing everyone, including the authors, miss is who built the public schools and why they built them. Google John Taylor Gatto if you are interested in throwing off the chains of the 1%. Otherwise, fight like cats in the gutter over scraps.

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By erichwwk, February 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment

Samuel Bowles, one of the Amherst U Mass economists, and an original MLK advisor has also written extensively on how and why income inequality becomes hardcoated.
an excerpt from “Born Poor?”

“So, much of what Americans tell their children is wrong. It doesn’t really matter how long you go to school or even necessarily how hard you work. The single most important factor to success in America is “one’s choice of parents,” as a contributor to Unequal Chances wryly put it.”

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By John Steinsvold, February 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew
about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed:
“There is no alternative”. She was referring to
capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism
for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:


John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and
expecting a different result.”
~ Albert Einstein

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By Maria E. Sáez, February 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

so many crazies comment here that it demerits the article & Truthdig

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By Wayne Gersen, February 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A couple of realities:

Money matters: If it didn’t private pre-schools in NYC wouldn’t cost $40,000+ per
year and college tuitions would be the same in public and private institutions…
housing projects would be located in affluent suburbs… and students in the Bronx
could choose to attend schools in Bronxville… and teacher pay would be the same
in all school districts…

What gets measured gets done: and what we are measuring is what is easy to
measure instead of what is important to measure… as long as the public and
USDOE define “quality” as high scores on standardized tests we will continue to
“prove” that poor kids can’t succeed in school…

There is a lot of money to be made in public education: the privatization of public
education has been in the crosshairs of “education reformers” for decades, as this
1993 article from Wired magazine illustrates:

Adlai Stevenson wrote: “Americans are suckers for good news. Given the choice
between disagreeable fact and agreeable fantasy they will choose the fantasy every time”. Income inequality is a disagreeable fact; believing that teachers can overcome the obstacles posed by income inequality is an agreeable fantasy.

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By Devon J. Noll, MPA, February 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When President Obama appointed Arne Duncan as his Sec. of Education, I knew that our educational system was in just as deep a ditch as when Bush was President.  The embracing of charter schools, which have been shown to do better in rich neighborhoods and the same or worse elsewhere, and the divergence of public school funds to voucher programs for these charter schools has exacerbated a failing educational system.  It is time we went back to treating our teachers with respect,encouraging our students to be community involved leaders as well as excelling because of such things as self-worth and knowledge, having parents being willing to support public schools, and stop teaching to the test.  We need money invested in our educational system, not be the first thing cut by the GOP and Tea Party crowd.

On my website I put forth a curriculum for education in this country.  I want teachers to teach such things as critical thinking, leadership skills, nature-based, community-involved principles, and to be the ones determining whether a child has learned the material being presented, not some skewed test.  I want students to feel empowered to learn and lead, to live in the real world and address real problems like oil depletion and climate change and how to live in a world unlike ours today.  I want parents to invest in school repairs and books and teacher salaries, not seek out vouchers so that a small percentage of the children get a decent education (maybe), abandoning their peers in to the point where they can no longer interact.  I want our children to have a future where they can make wise decisions using facts and scientific knowledge to solve the world’s problems.  I want us to have a strong workforce that can be effective in manufacturing, retail/commercial, medicine, science, law, agriculture, education, and a variety of other fields that will be needed to create a sustainable world.  AND THE POLICIES OF GEORGE W. BUSH AND BARACK OBAMA ARE NOT PROVIDING THIS!

Children are not cars or widgets.  Education is not a business, it is a public good and service.  When we start treating our children like statistics and inanimate objects, we need to get new leadership in education.  Children, Mr. Duncan, are not military toys or corporate drones - they are human beings with inquisitive minds.  When you allow yourself to stop considering the good of the public in favor of the bottom line for your corporate education cronies or the DeVos family values, you sacrifice our nation’s children on the altar of corporate greed - AND, SIR, YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT RIGHT!  You were considered one of the worst superintendents of public education in Chicago history, and yet you were promoted because you had a good PR crowd in the Obama administration. 

Please go to and read about Every Child Wins.  Consider using it for your school system in your hometowns.  Many Transition Initiative towns are taking back control of their school systems.  And when President Obama comes to your town to campaign, confront him in his appearances and demand that Arne Duncan be removed from office before we completely lose the current generation of students to this perverted form of educational policy.  Our nation’s future depends on how well we educate ALL our students, not just 1% of them!

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By Rixar13, February 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

“Professors Xiaoxia Newton of UC Berkeley and Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel and Ewart Thomas of Stanford have analyzed how ethnicity, English language ability, poverty and parental educational levels impact students’ classroom performance.”

Finance and available funds matter a great deal..

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By Rixar13, February 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

“Professors Xiaoxia Newton of UC Berkeley and Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel and Ewart Thomas of Stanford have analyzed how ethnicity, English language ability, poverty and parental educational levels impact students’ classroom performance.”

Finance and available funds matter a great deal..

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By Rixar13, February 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

“Professors Xiaoxia Newton of UC Berkeley and Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel and Ewart Thomas of Stanford have analyzed how ethnicity, English language ability, poverty and parental educational levels impact students’ classroom performance.”

Finance and available funds matter a great deal..

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By chuckwagoncharlie, February 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment

My family is full of Educators. All were glad to retire. One stated she had 18 new programs to use in 20 years. Income inequality is a buzz word for more taxes to suppliment a failed Education Department. It is not the teachers fault nor the students it is the system.
Our own Government has created the problem by encouraging single parenthood and entitlements to those who reproduce disportionally to their ability to support their children. Naturally educated people will have fewer kids and can educaste them better than a single mom with 5 kids.
So the failure goes back to Politicians not the teachers or the kids who are the victims.

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By Peter, February 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think this article brings up some excellent points but I don’t like the implication that creating better teachers is the wrong thing to do. Maybe ‘Race to the Top’ doesn’t accomplish the goals we really want it to, i.e. making kids smarter, and it’s good to know that so that we can try something else. But it’s still important to have decent teachers and have incentives in place for them to be decent.

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By gerard, February 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

Everything in this article has been known for years.

It doesn’t cost a cent to bash teachers and teachers’

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By ACT I, February 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What so many discussions going on in our society (including ones of education) ignore is the threat of global warming.  Per British scientist James Lovelock (“Gaia”), this will utterly decimate the world’s population by the end of this century, making survival the only issue of importance.  The wise will recognize this, recognize that their only option is to develop an adaptation strategy, and then begin acting on that strategy.  Even then, there will be no guarantees of survival for our children and grandchildren.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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By Bohdi, February 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

School Reform. It’s code for Education Privatization. Of course that will wipe out the income disparity/school performance issue because only rich kids will be able to get an education when schools are for profit. It will happen because the American fools, I mean people, will believe the lies. You know like these:

Privatizing our public utilities will make them work more effeciently and save taxpayers’ money - Think Enron and huge eastern brownout, as well as what your electric/gas/water bills are now compared to what they were before your services were being provided by companies who’s CEO’s take millions (and try to blame labor for bad financials - hey you gotta blame someone when you give yourself a raise from 20 times what the average worker makes to 250 or 2500 times) that should be going to infrastructure maintenance and improvement.

Privatizing our Public Healthcare System will make it work more effeciently and provide better care at lower cost for everyone. - Yeah, Right, We’ve seen how huge that lie is. Just watched Sicko last night so will refrain from tirade that is trying to come out.

Privatizing our public communications system will give you better programming. Went from free over the air to cable/sat. Remember when cable said “If you buy cable you’ll never have to put up with commercials again”. Well here we are we pay atrocious amounts for cable “service” and now have just as many commercials and worse crap for programming than free TV.

So, you see, our public education system is the last untapped profit center for corporate predators to exploit. May it rest in peace.

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By mrfreeze, February 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

felicity - The 10,000 elephant in the room is that the U.S. is simply not committed to the education system any longer or, more specifically, there is no commitment to nurturing an educated citizenry.

I can propose a solution: Start calling all classes “sports!” Money and resources would cascade into the schools. Imagine calling basic algebra “grid-iron measurements” or U.S. History could go by “Throwing long bombs in WWII,” or language arts might go by the title “proper cussing in the stadium!”

I believe the public school system will be completely co-opted by private interests in the next decade and that schools will be completely under the supervision of corporate curricula.

Oh, and forget about the poor. They’ll all simply home-school their children because they won’t have the money to pay for a “regular” education.

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By felicity, February 24, 2012 at 11:46 am Link to this comment

Where are our priorities.  Building schools, fore
instance in Iraq, is on a credit card while building
schools say in Missouri, must be a cash deal. 

That said, to assume that children are impervious to
what’s happening in their home environment is beyond
fallacious.  I say this as a retired teacher.

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