We Don’t Know What To Do

In an daily report from the Hoover Institution published seven years ago, Paul T. Hill makes a profound statement on education reform.

The case for innovation is simple: less than half the schools in low-income areas of our big cities can meet the minimum state performance standards. Educators say, “We know how to make inner-city schools effective, but we can’t do it until we get [fill in the blank: more money, more political will, a higher class of parents].” Don’t let them kid you. We really don’t know how to educate millions of children whose preschool preparation and home supports are far different from the American middle-class norm. [emphasis in the original]

The students “whose preschool preparation and home supports are far different from the American middle-class norm” are a major challenge in education. To add to what Dr. Hill stated, their failure is often overdetermined:

  • In social psychological terms, these students often come from families with low socio-economic-status (SES), with few books in the home, few beneficial expert or peer models, poor nutrition, and so on.
  • In cognitive psychological terms, these students offer lack general intelligence, creativity, and future time orientation, which place them at a disadvantage in an increasingly mentally-oriented economy
  • In Marxist terms, these students often come from the lower proletariat or lumpenproletariat, minimally productive or even criminal class origins with a high degree of alienation of productive roles in the greater proletariat or bourgeoisie.
  • In ethnic or racial terms, these students often come from Non-Asian Minority (NAM) (black or hispanic) backgrounds, which are often ill prepared for scholarly activities.

Different types of students face different troubles. It is the students for whom failure is overdetermined — low SES, low intelligence, low creativity, low future time orientation, lower proletariat or lumpenproletariet, non-Asian minority — that we have let down the most.

We don’t know what to do.

We need to experiment, try, and innovate.