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.

6 thoughts on “We Don’t Know What To Do”

  1. My sister is a CD special ed HS teacher in Milwaukee. While many of her mild CD students students can read and write, many of her non-CD homeroom students can’t.

    They arrive at high school with 2nd grade levels of reading/writing/math.

    That isn’t the HS teacher’s faults.

    What is the fault of the teachers and unions is that that they use none of the political clout to do anything about it. The seem to be actually against any positive reform action.

    It seems to me as a backseat school superintendent, that at the early graded levels kids should be test early often (reading / writing / math / behavior).

    Those who are advanced should get specialized schooling to get the most of their potental. They need to be put into an advanced track.

    For those who are failing/falling behind in reading/writing/math/behavior at the young grade school levels of the current system, we must admit the system doesn’t work for them. They need to put into specialized/customized alternative tracks to 1) Prevent them from bringing down the kids the system is working for; and 2) Try them out in different systems/methods to realize their human capital potential.

    The other approaches should be measured and researched to see what works and what doesn’t per different student profiles.

    Frankly, the US Dept of Ed can be abolished. The feds could add a new section to NIST as a clearing house for documentation and stats regarding the teaching methods vs student profiles and make it available for all.

  2. Oddly enough, we might take lesson from our British friends: http://tinyurl.com/d3lo4lb

    “Mothers in large problem families should be “ashamed” of the damage they are doing to society and stop having children, a senior government adviser warns today. “

  3. For example, the WIC program should include not only nutritional subsidies but also contraception.

  4. Purpleslog,

    I generally agree, so I’ll focus on that:

    “Frankly, the US Dept of Ed can be abolished. The feds could add a new section to NIST as a clearing house for documentation and stats regarding the teaching methods vs student profiles and make it available for all.”

    The Dept of Ed has two functions: to fund the research needed to change the system, and to buy off the teachers unions while doing so. Given that the unions are short-term-focused and not too insightful, it seems to be a cheap peace.

    Jay,

    “For example, the WIC program should include not only nutritional subsidies but also contraception.”

    Agreed!

  5. I would be really supportive of seeing these problems addressed by State funded boarding schools. They’d be more expensive to run obviously, but could have a potentially high return on investment from getting these kids out of not just the schools that are failing them, but also the situation

  6. Jay & Dan,
    “For example, the WIC program should include not only nutritional subsidies but also contraception.”’

    I see no reason why we cannot have TANF(food stamps) recipients (a much larger group than WIC or welfare recipients) utilize contraception. As far as welfare recipients (a smallish group at 4.3 mil- much less than the 16-17 mil it was in the 90’s before reform) female recipients should be required to have an IUD inserted. If they do not want the IUD, that is fine, but they cannot receive welfare.

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