t was a bit odd to see Charles Blow (of the New York Times) take out after Newt Gingrich for saying that “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works.” I had just returned from an inner city school where teachers and administrators and parents were saying the same things as Gingrich. In fact, I’ve been hearing these complaints from teachers – and business leaders – for years. Teaching children the “habits of working” is a growing part of the school reform movement.
For the last couple of weeks Gingrich has been tossing read meat to the liberal wolves in ways that only the Grinch who stole Christmas can. He has also suggested that poor kids do janitorial work in school – and earn money doing it. According to politico.com, the former West Georgia State College history professor told a Kennedy School of Government audience that. It’s worth an extended quote, because Gingrich needs context to make up for the lightning-bolt phrases he drops in throughout:
This is something that no liberal wants to deal with… Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of
Reading Thomas Friedman in this morning’s New York Times, I couldn’t help but think of the Shel Silverstein classic, “Clarence Lee from Tennessee,” a 1993 poem suggesting that kids could trade in their parents for new ones.
Clarence Lee from Tennessee
Loved the commercials he saw on TV.
He watched with wide believing eyes
And bought everything they advertised
I used to read this to the kids whom I tutored in reading and also brought it with me to classrooms, to share with whole groups of students. The poem introduced these youngsters to narrative rhyme — and the ubiquity and charms of advertising:
Powder for his doggie’s fleas,
Toothpaste for his cavities,
Stylish jeans that fit much tighter.
Bleach to make his white things whiter
Spray to make his hair look wetter
Cream to make his skin feel better
It was a set-up, of course, to the punchline: parents were just like toothpaste: trade ‘em in for better ones. And, of course, it was funny because the kids Silverstein addressed actually loved their parents, despite the fact that they made them do things they didn’t want to do, such as go to school, read, do homework, take the garbage out.
But I eventually stopped reading the poem in my school, as I realized that its punch line — that the kids could trade their parents in for “’A brand-new Maw, a better Paw!” — didn’t work for kids who really did have
The headline in the Daily News was a shocker: ?New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl? Tisch blasts Mayor Bloomberg's school reforms: Calls some schools `warehouses' for poor-performing students.?
It's too early to know whether Tisch's visit to Automotive High School in Brooklyn, where, says the News report, ?just 1 % of students graduated ready for college last year,? will lead to anything.
But the Times gave the story a slightly different twist: ?Regents Chief Says No to a Run for Mayor.?? Interesting.
Times reporter Fernanda Santos says that ?the buzz? about the outspoken (and rich) chancellor running for NYC mayor had been around for weeks.? The last time Tisch was asked about rumors of? an education shakeup in the Empire State, last summer, on an Albany radio show, she dropped the bomb that David Steiner was resigning as commissioner of education. (See my Ed Next story from this summer.) ?Not this time.? Tisch ?categorically denied? the rumors, says the Times.
More interesting, perhaps, is the story of Tisch's visit to Automotive High, during which she was accompanied by the state's new commissioner of education, John King. The visit actually took place a couple of weeks ago. ?And Tisch remarked:
Where do you think these kids are going? They have no education and they aren't getting one?? I'm not saying they're going to be college- and career-ready; I'm not a fool. So put a G.E.D. program in there; teach them skills.
Feeling worried for me after reading my post suggesting that Mark Zuckerberg hand out his $100 million to Newark parents, a friend alerted me to a study about a similarly ?crazy idea? ? by none other than University of Chicago economist John List.? (Full disclosure: I have a masters in history from UC and my son is now a student there.)
According to last February's Bloomberg news report on List's idea, it's ?one of the largest field experiments ever conducted in economics.?? List ?? with the help of fellow economists Roland Fryer of Harvard and Steven Levitt, also of the UC -- is following more than 600 students in several Chicago schools to ?find out whether investing in teachers or, alternatively, in parents, leads to more gains in kids' educational performance.? (See also here.) The experiment includes a ?parenting academy? and scholarships worth up to $7,000 a year.? (A control group of 300 kids receive nothing.) ?Local families with kids 3 to 5 years old were encouraged to enter a lottery and were randomly sorted into three groups.
Whether the List research will help in Newark, I'm not sure, but according to the Bloomberg report, ?List says that his experiments will give policy makers, executives and investors much greater certainty about why students, donors and shoppers make the decisions they do? and ?may show that the U.S. doesn't spend enough on helping parents.?
?We have too many
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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