A recent (July 9) column by Brink Lindsey, VP for Research at the Cato Institute, in the WSJ titled “The Culture Gap” produced a number of letters to the editors. Most notable was from Glenn Pope, a 15 year teaching veteran in the southern suburbs of Sacramento working with a racially diverse, low income student body. Mr. Pope writes, “Virtually all my students saw college as the way to realize their life dreams, yet most of my students did not have the study skills to successfully graduate from high school let alone earn a college degree. Most of their parents did not know what study-skills were essential for academic success; as a result approximately one half of the incoming freshman did not graduate. Most of my colleagues seemed to assume their students knew how to acquire knowledge while some led an underground movement to teach study skills.
Success in school begins at home. When support is not available at home, the role of education should be to pick up a lot of the slack. This begins by schools helping the student acquire study-skills, since the acquisition of knowledge begins with knowing how to acquire it. There is a culture gap and education is in neglect of that fact.”
Lindsey also wrote “Poverty in America today is thus largely about failing to get a job and hold it. The problem is not about the lack of opportunity. If it were, this country would not be a magnet for illegal immigrants. The problem is a lack of elementary self-discipline: failing to stay in school, failing to get and stay married to the mother or father of your children and failing to live within the law. The core of the problem with most poverty kids are the differences in the values, skills and habits taught at home. Our productive capacity is now outstripping our cultural capacity.
There is no silver bullet for closing the cultural gap. Those interested in reducing meaningful economic inequality would be well advised to focus on education reform. And forget about adding new layers of bureaucracy and top-down controls. Real improvement will come from challenging the moribund state-school monopolies with greater competition.”
Dr. Jessica Cannon of Wilmington, N.C. wrote “Very few middle or upper income Americans know what it is like to live in true poverty with all its encumbrances. These emotionally crippled children can not be fixed in the public schools – thus society pays a steep price.”
Many problems can be “fixed” by the public school systems. Since it is a well publicized fact that a large number of students are not capable of making even thru the first 12 grades with the totally outdated agrarian system, we are still struggling along creating a larger welfare class, overloading our court systems, increasingly spending money for security and building new jails, prisons, ( we should be creating more mental health facilities; there are signs we may be waking up) and in general embarrassing and disappointing ourselves and others in the process.
Dr. Paul E. Peterson of Harvard writes on 7/24/07 in the WSJ, about school choice, “Charter Schools serve a higher percentage by far of minorities than traditional public schools. The well to do who have their kids involved and over involved in school and after school activities are not crowding out the poor.
Those with better means are preparing their kids for life in the real world however hectic these moms and pops are with their daily lives. The results of their stressful efforts, (both parents and kids) will be better rounded kids prepared to cope with an increasingly hectic future.”
It is one thing to have equal opportunity for everyone but we do not have enough political and social courage to guide those not interested or unable to be promoted up the stairs to “Chief” jobs as garrison Keillor calls them. We must LEAD them to other opportunities to help them develops skills knowing that all jobs require verbal/manual skills of some sort. Anyone who can read and write with a willingness to learn, has a work ethic and a good attitude will eventually be able to secure and hold a job that will pay the living wages for which most all aspire.
George C. Leef, V-P for Research of the John Pope Center for Higher Education Policy writes, “The United States has been saturated with college graduates who often end up taking up jobs that don’t call for ANY higher academic qualifications. Part of the problem of economic inequality is that credential inflation has closed off more and more of the job world to people who have only high school diplomas.” Self-esteem diplomas and trophies for all who sometimes attend will only lead to more populism and a further slide to socialism.
As I continue to talk to teachers (and visit some classes and observe social programs) some hesitant for fear of retaliation, I believe that the administration of #150 will continue to disappoint the community. Complaints of too much bureaucracy, promotions by race and tenure rather than by merit, not enough competition to the strong teachers union, failure to enforce discipline, the need for more counselors, lack of merit pay and pressure to socially promote, more trained special education teachers, the erroneous belief that new schools will make better and smarter students, all add up to an inability to maintain even the status quo.
Should we expect more results in Peoria Public School District #150 in 2007-8? Do we see a lot of positive results? We do, but that is what we expect for a yearly investment of $150,000,000.00.
I will optimistically look forward to #150’s academic year ‘07 and ‘08 as I do every year. Maybe changes touted will bring more desired effects. But don’t count on new schools or libraries to bridge the culture gaps and bring some of the “politically correct” elite out of their “ivory towers”.