Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deborah Meier, says why don't we fix poverty in the distraction of "fixing schools"

Why Don't We 'Fix' Poverty While We're at It? By Deborah Meier on June 14, 2013 10:16 AM at Education Week

Early in the article, she argues:
But looking to schools to "fix" the world's problems is flattering—and we sometimes fall for it—but essentially a distraction. We've tried—and come up with some good ideas as my colleague Todd Sutler will describe in next Tuesday's blog post. But every time the Big Boys (forgive the sexism) try to "scale it up" fast they abandon what we've learned and fall back on the ideas for schooling that they wouldn't want for their own children combined with a totally inappropriate approach to governance—the who decides what question. There is another way.

And she points out the lack of marriageable men as a factor in out-of-wedlock births. This relates to the William Julius Wilson's hypothesis that inner cities lacking in good job opportunities for young men leads to a deficit in economically attractive men.)
She also lances the moralistic double standards of pundits who criticize poor women for accepting public assistance, while ignoring parental assistance among the middle class:
Why do the children of my rich friends seem unharmed when they accept the financial support of their parents? What evidence do we have that such largess leads, as you suggest, to "reducing their incentive to work" or "infantilizes" them?
I suspect we fundamentally disagree about the effect of having more tax money; more money could effect everything I've described about poor vs. rich people's children's odds. No amount of character training, or even the best of schooling, can change the odds for most. Growing up in communities of deep poverty has an impact. There's no inoculation for the damage it does—even in terms of death and dying. In addition, many reformers underestimate the price young people pay intellectually and socially because of their daily encounters with racism. The price of having to be ever vigilant—alert at all times in case one's dignity (one's honor) is under attack is substantial. Even what might seem an advantage—their greater self-reliance and independence—is turned into a disadvantage in kindergarten. We ask too many vulnerable kids to leave their real selves and their real life experience (and language) at the doorstep before entering the schoolhouse. A recipe for failure.
Why are we closing Head Start centers this year rather than opening more? Money. Why don't we respond, as you suggest, with more prenatal care, home visits, the eradication of lead poisoning, and the reform of the justice and prison systems? Money. And the will to spend money on the poor.

Click here to the rest of the article at Education Week.