Progress and The Power of a Plan

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Inherent within each of us is conflict.  Generally speaking, we think growth is good.  Progress is a sign of achievement.  As George Bernard Shaw so aptly articulated, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Indeed, politically, at one time or another, persons within each Party have embraced the label, “Progressives.”  Even the most entrepreneurial embolden the idea of Progress. Goldman-Sachs boldly bolsters, Progress is everyone’s business.”  However, while we glorify growth, we disdain it.  Most of us look back and think, “Those were the days.”

The good ole days are commonly defined as “when we were young.” It might have been the 1930s, 1940s; the fifties were fine!  In earlier eras, schools were vehicles for success.  Now, these same institutions are seen and scored as failures.  Teachers were principled. Today, throughout the news we read, educators are perverse.  Our children come home and tell tales that affirm what adults have come to believe is true; teachers are bad! Public education is worse.  Students and parents surmise, home schools or private learning centers would better serve their needs. Cyber classes too must be an option.  Online learning tailors a lesson, much more so than a unionized teacher would. The people want Choice!

There is one consensus; tests are good. Accountability is the gold standard.  Current conventional wisdom counters what was thought to be exceptional, in the nineteen sixties.  Decades ago, those under thirty and even their elders changed the world for the “greater good.”  The baby boomers were beautiful or were they bad…bad for the country and worse for businesses?  

Whatever the point of view, it is clear the revolutionaries transformed the conversation in ways that irrevocably challenged conventions.  Even our nation’s President, in those years pursued policies that reeked of progress. “The Great Society” brought with it the Elementary and Secondary Act.  There was a War on Poverty” underway.  However, some at the top thought such a battle might topple Free Enterprise.

Big Businesses did not necessarily embrace the evolution.  People in power particularly, took note.  Tycoons and their corporate attorneys saw the “60s revolution” as a threat.  One brave company soldier devised a plan to take the country back.  His name? Lewis F. Powell. His resolve, Infiltrate America’s campuses.  

The man soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court saw the dichotomy that exists within us all.  Change?  Is growth good or bad? Is “Progress everyone’s business” or is advancement only favorable when it serves the few?  Do we characterize change in innocuous ways, and simply say, “The times they are a changin'” or do we take action?  Lewis F. Powell put pen to paper; he presented what he envisioned as a better plan, and perhaps it was.  If better is defined by policy and principles that endure and become deeply ingrained in the fabric of society, then The Powell Memo is phenomenal. Justice Powell found the keys that open all hearts, “freedom and choice.”

As Lewis Powell observed, few among us could argue against the right to choose. Prominent Democrats, disconnected from the damage done to public education, advocate for Charter schools. Vociferous Republicans vote for vouchers.  Independents invest in home schools.  Parents persuaded by corporate campaigns frequently succumb.  Moms and Dads pull the parent-trigger.  Only belatedly do people learn that Charters, which pass for public schools, are not.  Vouchers validate separate, but equal. While several do, some home-schools may not satisfy a child’s need for socialization.  Most significantly, regardless of which of these paths we choose, there is a chance that democratization will be lost.  

The question we each must ask ourselves is which is more important to us, personal freedom or the freedom we share as a nation?  When we think only of our own offspring what do we reap and what will society sow? Thomas Jefferson offered his assessment…

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Might freedom and choice present another conundrum, an inner conflict of sorts?  America’s foundation is found in freedom.  The three most significant documents in our history are often referred to as the “Freedom Documents -the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  The question is what freedoms we choose, or how we choose to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Is our personal freedom more important to us than the freedoms we share as a nation?  

Not surprisingly, in the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson thought it best to provide freedoms for the common good, the commonweal, and common citizens, rich and poor.  With his entrance into the Oval Office the vision of “The Great Society” was born. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as part of the “War on Poverty” brought together what can be a conflict within us, our love for the past and desire to progress. As President Johnson reflected as he signed the Bill into law, “I felt a very strong desire to go back to the beginnings of my own education-to be reminded and to remind others of that magic time when the world of learning began to open before our eyes.

The assertion was an affirmation. Growth is good.  We can progress and still preserve what we loved in the past.  Problem arises when powerful people, Philanthropists, people with the ear of politicians, policymakers, and pundits disagree with this declaration.

That is what occurred in 1971.  Industrialist and Attorney,Powell was outraged.  He thought the laws and the logic as liberal poppycock. More so, the Barrister saw the changes as an attack, an affront. An assault on Free enterprise. Lewis Powell communicated his concerns and composed his clarion call, a blueprint for marketers.  He titled it, A Confidential Memorandum, Attack on Free Enterprise System.  Powell purported…

Dimensions of Attack

“…what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack


The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.”

Chief Executive Officers, and the esteemed fellows within the United States Chamber of Commerce, all agreed.  Each Entrepreneur saw the source of our evolutionary evils as respectable, but wrong.  

Academics teach. Clergy preach.  Intellectuals invoke.  Artists, Journalists, and Scientist evoke.  The Media is the Message. These influential individuals whom, according to the then corporate Attorney, Powell changed the conversation for the worse, needed to be stopped.  To convert the perceived Attack on Free Enterprise; images needed to be changed.

An honorable profession, teaching, needed to be seen as subversive, if the marketers were to be successful.  To convert the conversation, Conservatives had to be seen as intellectuals. Traditional theories need to be floated and substantiated.  Research would be done in the College of Right Thought.  The clergy and cultural elite too must see the light.  Conservative dictums must dominate.  After all, Powell proclaimed.

“…Those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in…

‘We, the US Chamber of Commerce, companies and corporations  must make believers out of detractors, convert our critics, win over naysayers and we will’  Tycoons had the power to move masses. Powell only told them that they needed to use what was at their disposal.  US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Columbia Broadcasting Services (CBS) had easily access to the people.  Moms, Dads, and the young ones invited these industries in daily..indeed, in every minute of the day.

We turn on  “Televisions.” Tune into the radio. Read periodicals. “The Scholarly Journals.” “Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets.” “Paid Advertisements.” Lewis Powell explained, these are our tools.  Our techniques need only be honed.  Professional public relations firms were already employed by the agencies.  Change emphasis within a message and audiences will be moved.

Repeat the results of partisan reseacrh often enough and the pubic too will recite the claims.  Teachers are bad. Public schools are failures.  Intellectusls comprise a “socialist cadre.” “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries…would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed.”  Revolutionaries are educated in public schools.

Thus it is so.  For four plus decades now, the American people see no conflict.  We, the people were changed as was the way in which we speak.  Growth for  Free Enterprise is good.  Public Education and Educators are perverse. Progress is a sign of achievement. Businesses and Lewis F. Powell proved this.  If we have a plan and plod away patiently, we can realize a success that lasts longer than a decade.  Perhaps, we, the people can revive The Great Society, Rebuild the American Dream, Restore the principles within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Today, the question is, do we, each one of us feel the strong desire Lyndon B. Johnson did…“to go back to the beginnings of [our]  own education-to be reminded and to remind others of that magic time when the world of learning began to open before our eyes.”

Please let us Save Our Schools!  Let us be On the March to preserve and Transform Public Education.

The Good School; Principals or Principles



copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

The Good School; Principals or Principles



A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

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  • The Good School; Principals or Principles



    copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   Every  association offers guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

    Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

    There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

    Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

    “It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

    We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

    The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

    However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

    In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

    No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

    Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

    The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

    Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

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  • Why We Say Save Our Schools





    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

    Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

    The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

    Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

    For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

    Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

    The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

    Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

    Students Struggle to Survive…

    Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

    Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

    Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

    Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

    Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

    Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

    Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

    “Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

    Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

    “Teach to the Tests.”

    Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

    While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

    Race To The Top Myths.

    • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
    • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
    • Rigor is “right.”
    • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

    Race To The Top Truths.

    “Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

    Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

    Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

    National Standards. Low Expectations.

    Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

    More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

    The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

    Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

    This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

    Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

    Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

    Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

    References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .

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    Corporate Sponsors in Schools



    Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

    copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    “The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers”

    ~ Jean Piaget [Swiss Psychologist. Pioneer in the study of child intelligence. 1896-1980]

    “The purpose of education is to enable us to develop to the fullest that which is inside us”

    ~ Norman Cousins [Essayist, Editor associated with Saturday Evening Post 1912-1990]

    “America’s noble experiment, universal education for all” may have become but an idealized theory.  In practice it long seemed the impossible dream. However, for the hopeful this statement was a reverie, although the veracity was virtually unrecognizable at best. Still the notion lived on.  The powerful prose marveled many. That is all but believers in a for-profit privatized educational system. Today, corporate aficionados have conquered.  Commerce controls School District Administrators. It shapes decisions made. Countless elementary and secondary school campuses are transformed in accordance.  Big business buys and sells city classrooms.  Our forefathers would have thought present-day headlines could only appear in fictional accounts.  Nonetheless banners blare, “This Class Is Brought to You By. [fill in the corporate enterprise of your choice]”  

    A formidable future has found novel ways to weave itself into our city schools.  In  Los Angeles the Unified District Approved Corporate Sponsors in their Schools.

    The advantage, or what was posited as such, is shorter summers. “District officials said the plan would benefit students, who will be on a calendar that is more in tune with testing schedules and that mimics the college calendar.” Surely, the public is assured, every pupil prefers to synchronize his or her personal lives with assessment agendas. What child would not wish to coordinate his or her datebook with the desires of school Administrators?

    After all, a little learner has nothing better to do than to take a standardized test at the behest of statisticians, test publishers, school staffers, and those policy brokers who sit in stuffy offices. This is the mindset of a society who has forgotten its mission.

    Might we consider what occurs when we rely on the rote, the scores, and the easily observable gains? Some social scientists have.  Pedagogues comprehend the corporate world’s involvement in our schools has already influenced or impaired our children’s creativity.  The effect of our belief in efficiency, as extolled by a free enterprise system, has had a huge taken a huge toll on education.  For decades, curriculums have been changed in order to conform to a company culture.  Prospectus and pupil guidelines parallel what is evident in an industrialized economy.  Every effort is examined, rated, and ranked; even originality is observed as though it too can be accurately calculated.

    A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative  

    By Sue Shellenbarger

    Wall Street Journal.

    December 15, 2010

    “Americans’ scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group, says Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans’ scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardized test that’s considered a benchmark for creative thinking . . .

    Might it be true that an increased industrial presence portends further deterioration?  Even creativity has become but a measure.  Lest we forget as countless adults have; as children many were frustrated by a grade that assessed how we performed on a multiple-choice visual examination.  [I know as an abundantly analytical audio-learner, I was.  Indeed, I still am.]  Nonetheless, as a society we insist that the invisible progression known as learning can be calculated in the details of single appraisal.

    In our current educational system, stimulated synapses, or the electrical currents that race through the brain as we process information, are read as if they were currency.  Count the change or experience it through an Educator’s personal transition.  A Scholar, who studied with Theodore R. Sizer, a prominent education-reformer, Shael Polakow-Suransky once affirmed, “Until we start seeing assessments that ask kids to write research papers, ask them to solve unfamiliar problems, ask them to defend their ideas, ask them to engage with both fiction and nonfiction texts; until those kinds of assessments are our state assessments, all we’re measuring are basic skills.”  . . if that. The soon to be second-in-command of New York City Schools in the past understood that what occurs in a young person’s life each day effects his or her performance on a standardized test.

    Yet, as The New York Times reports, this same sage now thinks More and “Better” Testing is needed.  Journalist Fernanda Santos writes after a lengthy investigation, “In his evolution from an idealist teacher to a data-mining administrator, Mr. Polakow-Suransky, personifies the seismic changes in education that were beginning to take shape just as he was drawing up his first lesson plans.”

    Shael Polakow-Suransky had been an advocate for more authentic, observable, classroom performance and portfolio assessments.  Today, as Chief Accountability Officer of the New York City Department of Education, Polakow-Suransky prepares for another supremely institutionalized position.  As he steps on stage as second-in-command for the New York City School Chancellorship Shael Polakow-Suransky acknowledges that while tests are imperfect, standardized examinations are an essential measurement tool. “To put it very simply,” he said, “how do you know that the kids are learning?”

    Perchance, lost in time and space, as is the idea [ideal] of a “universal education for all,” this Administrator, and America, has forgotten how creativity is born and articulated.  Thankfully, there are a few who think imagination is invaluable.  The construct is invisible. Then mind’s eye cannot be captured and  scored, nay measured a stressful testing moment.  Nonetheless, these experts fear that what was once considered fiction, corporate control of curriculums,  is now the folly experienced as everyday life.

    Researchers believe growth in the time kids spend on computers and watching TV, plus a trend in schools toward rote learning and standardized testing, are crowding out the less structured activities that foster creativity. Mark Runco, a professor of creative studies and gifted education at the University of Georgia, says students have as much creative potential as ever, but he would give U.S. elementary, middle and high schools “a ‘D’ at best” on encouraging them. “We’re doing a very poor job, especially before college, with recognizing and supporting creativity,” he says.”

    In an earlier era, creativity was what we craved.  In America, ingenuity and inventiveness were venerated.  Innovations were highly valued.  Instruction was intended to inspire.  Education was a gift granted by the goodness of our fellow man.   Long before we were an established nation, people in this territory thought it vital; government must “fulfill its responsibility to educate citizens.”  However, over time, this notion has been altered.

    Possibly, what was the worse of our educational practices has become the norm.  In truth, equitable access to educational resources has never been veracity in the States.  Now, it is not only thought to be other than viable, it is no longer envisioned as essential.

    Privatization has become our newfound instructional priority.  On every street corner people posit, schools cannot, must not, be “controlled” by the State. Innumerable legal residents of the country claim that only their child’s needs matter.  Even these can come at a cost that countless people without children are unwilling to pay. “No new taxes.”  “Cut all tariffs;” these are common cries amongst American citizenry.  Teach the children?

    Others believe the price is worth the rewards.  These individuals think if we do not serve our children well, the commonweal will suffer as a whole.  Those who endorse a hundreds years legacy feel certain that privatization would be the death of what delivers creativity and breeds curiosity.  The destruction or deconstruction is already apparent. It has been verified as well as felt.

    Education endorsed and encouraged can nurture the future.  Privatization skeptics believe that the more powerful corporations become, the more commerce and calculations will dominate our school system.  Indeed, it has.  Yet, apparently, the Los Angeles Unified School District worries not.  Therefore, Los Angeles Schools Sought Sponsors.  Subsides were found.

    What has been a common fear since the first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock is the newer truth in Southern California, in Wisconsin too.  Indeed, in many ways the drift to corporate sponsorship in schools has been slow, subtle; yet, long present.

    Some may recall a time when sports stadiums and arenas were named after a team.  Long ago, highways were maintained by government agencies.  At present, fields and portions of freeways are sponsored by for-profit businesses.  So too are our schools.  The times, they have changed.

    Much of the public believes this newer reality is better.  For them, the government is just too big.  We must take the State out of our every endeavor. After all, in the United States, free enterprise is the way. An open market is trusted by most to be wiser than any other system.  Businesses, it is said, balance books.  The statistics a company gathers guarantee greater productivity and proof of greater success. Numbers rule.  That is why people currently trust the federal, state, and local budgetary concerns must be our priority.  We, as a nation have no dollars and near nil cents [sense.]

    Creativity? Curiosity?  Critical thinking?  These are trends of the past.  Progress?  Only you can decide for yourself.  We might all wonder; what will the children conclude.

    References and Realities Realized . . .

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    Bullies; The Mystery





    Teaching Tolerance

    copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    Since I was a child he hounded me.  She stalked me.  I was bullied, intimidated, tormented not by a single person, but by a throng of thoughts.  Why did another child, adolescent, nay adult ever bully me.  What was it about me that kept me safe from harm or a persecutor’s pointed proclamations?  

    I was a chubby child, a tubby teen. As I aged I gained greater girth.   Yet, no one, friend, family, or foe, if I even had one, said a word.  I was not cool.  Nor was I part of a clique.  Never was I the Teacher’s pet.  I worked to be invisible.  Yet, the “in crowd,” the “geeks,” and the “goons,” all gravitated towards me in a manner that said I was accepted.  I know not why.  Popularity escaped me, perchance, because I ran from fame and fortune.  Facades were and are far from my favorites.  

    I was genuinely fond of many of my peers; I did engage in intimate interchanges.  Mostly, I spent my time with my Mom and Dad.  That alone might have made me an object of ridicule.  It did not.  Consistently, I was told I was different.  Yet, this was never stated with disdain.  In truth, peers seemed quite appreciative.  The words were offered with infinite appreciation; which I never understood.

    Being different, in my life was not easily defined.  True, I was not the conventional characterization of “unique,” another word often ascribed to me.   I was not a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, nor Trans-Gender,.  That alone, I trust saved me from bullying that is sadly, more likely. Still, I never fit in, not as a child.  Nor, as an adolescent or an adult.  I was never among the thirty percent (30%) that are harassed in offices.

    It seems being out of the norm is enough to spur a bully.  I am that, or at least that is what other think.  I was not a person who sought attention.  If anything, I shied away from it.  I was not out-there, an extravert; nay an introvert.  I was just I, me, myself.  Fascinating to me, innumerable individuals told me, tell me, I am outgoing.  I feel that I maybe I am effusive in one-on-one exchanges.  However, I am extremely reserved.  I am extraordinary reflective. I prefer not to be noticed.  To be thought unusual has never been my desire.

    Thus, I ask, as is the topic, “bullying”. What is the reason for it?  Why are some singled out?  The theme is discussed and debated ad nausea, as it needs to be.  Yet, each time I hear another story I think, why was I left out?  

    As a younger person I did as the population does today, daily.  Virtually everyone voices disgust.  Typically, the thought is, bullying occurs in schools.  Granted, we see it on the playground, in classrooms, and amongst young persons in cyberspace.  On any avenue and on city streets children are victims of other children.  Young men and women are beaten down or beaten up by a bully or a gaggle of gangsters.  Adults are also abused.  At times an oppositional oppressor can be called husband or wife.

    There is reason for infinite concern.  What are we as a culture to do?  Schools stress the importance of Building a Bully-Free Zone.  Teachers attend in-services.  Moms and Dads lament.  Relatives work to reason with the abused or the abuser.  

    Moms might muse; what will occur to my child when he or she is out of my sight?  Dad’s deliberate.  Will my little one be taken down, taken out, taunted, or will people talk until Max or Maxine can take it no more?  Experts say, if you have grounds for concern, at least there are Clues that your child is bullied. A caregiver can know what to do.

    Scared that a sibling, a son or a daughter might decide, suicide is painless, parents and their progeny suffer.  Pupils too.  Even persons no longer in school, depressed dropouts and profound professionals harassed in an office place go through what they believe they can no longer endure.  Lest we forget the cyber bullied.  Individuals whose home life is unbearable can choose to take their lives, as well.  

    When an Earthly existence is cut short. the scars reach far and wide.  Society, as a whole is affected.  In anticipation of one more life taken, the public proclaims, “We must find a solution.”  

    Schools sponsor programs.  Communities offer classes..  Some companies place harassment in the workplace. As a high priority  Television channels and cinematographers promote educational action plans.  Documentaries “deal” with the issue.  You may wish to witness or watch either of two presentations. Bullied is a Teaching Tolerance documentary film.  Cable News Network offers How To Stop Bullying.

    While these wondrous productions inform us as a society, just as has occurred for centuries, the problem persists.  Might the reason for repeated offenses be right in front of our eyes?  I know not.  I only surmise.

    As I reflect on my own childhood and transition from a teen to today, I see one vital thread.   I think this string saved me.  It was a gift my parents gave me, and the reason those who I encountered thought my world “weird.”  It is the relationship we have, or I have, with self, security, safety, and sanity.  (An aside; Even when people used the word to reference my truth, they reassured me; it was a good thing.)  I had doubts.

    Yes. I was never sure of my self.  Self-confident was not a term that described me .  My ego strength is near nil.  Nonetheless, I was bequeathed the right to be me.  I had no need to worry about what Mommy or Daddy thought of what I said, did, felt, imagined, or was.  My parents practiced as they preached.  “No one has the right to tell you what you should think, say, do feel, or be!”

    Revenge was not a reality in my world for I was taught to embrace empathy.  Even now, the words whirl in my head.  I was taught to think of how my choices might hurt another, and thus, harm me.  “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt any one.  I always wondered if my Berenice and Herman had realized at an earlier age as I later did.  When we cause another sorrow, we will experience the pain in-kind, sooner, if not later.

    Yet, as much as I was encouraged to have compassion for others, I was taught to take good care of myself.  Never was I expected to be silent.  Question authority and all else that exists, is the standard in my family.  Silence is not golden  When we stifle ourselves, stuff it, or shut down, scars build.  

    Caring conversation built character and created a strong, sincere connection.  Be it in a classroom, a crowd, a city boulevard, or an office cubicle, I was persuaded to be passionate in my prose.  My parents certainly were.  Each was my example.  Perchance, my classmates considered me, theirs.  I know not.

    I am only certain that many expressed a wish for the authentic closeness, the ease of conversation, the openness that existed between my parents and me.

    Hence, I theorize.  Might we best teach the children when we teach ourselves to be benevolent, boisterous, and big enough to be ourselves and to allow our offspring to be who they authentically are?

    Rather than work to reason with a bully or offer rationalizations to the one being oppressed. Could we instead instill a sense of self in everyone, regardless of age.  Perchance then, all persons in our society will be as I am.  Befuddled by the lack of bullies in my life.




    Bullied is a Teaching Tolerance documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.

    References for a reality realized daily .  .

    Dropout Nation; Communities Can Cure The Silent Student Epidemic

    DrpOtNtn

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Eva was young, full of life, eager to learn.  She was enthusiastic.  These traits were attractive to all the youthful men in her High School class.  Many courted the vibrant lass.  Eric won her attention.  Each was looking for love.  Throughout their lives, these adolescents felt less than connected to their respective families.  School was a social forum, a place where it was possible to relate to peers, if not the curriculum.  Perhaps, that is why, at such a tender age Eric and Eva mistakenly thought lust, the chemical energy experienced during their every exchange, was deeper than a mere physical desire.  The two embraced and baby made three.  

    At fifteen years-of- age, Eva felt forced to dropout of school.  As a committed Mom, she decided she must attend to her baby.  With the birth of a child, Eric too concluded he had a greater mission than school.  He must devote his life to his offspring.  In a moment of lovemaking, the lives of many changed.  Eva and Eric started a family; that entity became their future.  

    The couple is among the seven thousand [7,000] High School students who drop out each day.  Every year the silent epidemic expands.  The number of students that leave the school system is equivalent to the population of Philadelphia.  The large number of dropouts affects our nation’s neighborhoods.  If we are to slow, or stop the cycle, we must drastically change what we do in our schools.  As an individual and as a community, we must show we care.  

    Some organizations have already become involved.  Communities In Schools works to help our youth stay in school and prepare for life.  However, one alliance cannot go it alone.  We must share resources.  However, first, we need to recognize the crisis, evaluate what seems endemic.  The tale of Eva and Eric is telling.

    Early adult responsibilities. An individual’s nonschool experiences also have been found to impact dropout.  When adolescents are forced to take on adult responsibilities, it decreases their likelihood of staying in school until graduation.  Possible responsibilities range from becoming a teen parent (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002; Rumberger, 2001), having to take a job to help out his or her family (Jordan, Lara, & McPartland, 1994), or having to care for siblings (Rosenthal, 1998).  Combining school with working at a job more than 20 hours a week significantly increases the likelihood that a student will leave school before graduating (Barro & Kolstad, 1987; Goldschmidt & Wang, 1999; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    Josh was a strapping young man.  He was bright; however, not brilliant.  His parents provided for him as best they could.  Nonetheless, Josh felt overwhelmed.  He often thought his Mom needed him too much.  Dad was emotionally detached.  Physically, the father tried to be there for his son Joshua.  However, he did not know how to be a good parent.  He had never seen one; nor had he experienced the unconditional love of his own mother or father.  

    While Josh felt close to his parents, he also desperately wanted to get away from their clutches.  At school, recruiters filled the halls.  These military men and women were friendly.  They strolled about campus with grace and refinement.  For such young folks, these uniformed soldiers were truly quite sophisticated.  The smiles of these servicemen and women gleamed, just as brass buttons on their gear did.  The troops that circulated throughout the school grounds wore patent leather shoes that reflected the sunlight.  Each time Josh saw the glow from the footwear dance in the air, he felt the force of fate touch him.  

    Josh looked up to the troops he knew.  They treated him a as brother, a friend.  Josh felt these fellows and gals genuinely cared.

    Ultimately, Josh was drawn in, or he was released from the obligations, the resignation, he experienced at home.  The young man saw the military as a way out and a way into a family different from his own.  Josh wanted to belong, to be a part of something, not needed, but wanted.  He joined the Armed forces before he graduated from High School.  

    Joshua believed he could not stand one more moment in his parents’ home.  He never really liked school.  He was bored, detached, and looking for something.  The Marines, Army, or Navy would surely provide the expectant adolescent lad with adventure, a sense of belonging, a job, and funds for a college education, if later, he determined that was what he wanted.  Once in the military, Josh was certain his mother and father could no longer decide what was right for him.  Josh is as one of three adolescents that do not graduate from High School.

    Family dynamics. Some studies have found a link between family processes and relationships and graduation.  The quality of early caregiving and mother-child relationships was found in one study to be significantly linked to dropout (Jimerson et al., 2000).

    Grace was a giving girl.  She was the child of immigrant parents.  Her mother and father worked multiple low-wage jobs for as long as she could remember.  Without adequate language skills, it was difficult for her parents to secure a professional position.  The family, much as they tried, was never truly stable.  They appeared solvent.  However, the cost of this façade was great.  The youthful Grace sacrificed herself daily.  She was mother to her less mature siblings.  She was father as well.  Grace was the family caretaker; yet, no one seemed interested; nor was anyone available to care for Grace.

    Grace rose each morning before dawn.  She scrambled around the house, prepared breakfast for the other brood; then, made the beds, and helped her brothers and sisters dress.  Before Grace scooted the children out the door, she forged signatures on school permission slips.  After, the children were off to class, Grace gathered her own books together, threw some snacks into a backpack, and hustled herself off to the bus.  She too attended classes.  Grace was a student.

    As Grace aged, she tired.  By the time she reached her sophomore year in High School, she was exhausted.  Grace hoped that soon this cycle would end.  Her sisters and brothers were getting older.  Perchance they would be able to care for themselves, and Grace could dedicate herself to her studies.  However, that was not her parents’ plan.

    As Grace entered her junior year her parents proposed, now that she was of age, she could help financially support the family.  

    Years of sweat and toil paid off.  Mamma and Papa were able to purchase a small business.  The demands of entrepreneurship were vast.  The store must be manned.  Supplies purchased.  Books must be kept.  Community and customer relations were a priority if the shop was to succeed.  Grace was now expected to watch over the younger siblings, continue with her schooling, care for her personal needs, and take on the responsibilities of a job.  Her family depended on her.  Grace, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually was drained.  Something had to go.  It would be Grace herself.  The teenage girl dropped out of High School.  If she could not have an education, at least she had family.

    Background characteristics. A student’s family background and home experience exert a powerful influence over educational outcomes, including dropping out of school.  One of the most consistent family background factors found to impact dropout has been socioeconomic status (SES), whether measured through parental education, income, or occupational level (Alexander et al. 2001; Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Cairns et al., 1989; Lehr et al., 2004; Rumberger, 2001; Schargel, 2004; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).  Youth in non-English-speaking homes have been found to be more likely to drop out (Rosenthal, 1998; Rumberger, 2001).

    “High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed than those who graduate.”  Many  of those that leave a formal education behind will never have a job.  Fortunately, Grace will not be among those.  For every four state prison inmates nationwide three failed to earn a high school diploma.  High school dropouts are three times more likely than high school graduates to become poor in the span of a year.  Eddy might find himself in one or all of these categories.  

    Eddy is a passionate young man, since birth, he wanted to experience everything.  He had a thirst for knowledge.  Eddy is likable.  He is fun.  This chap is animated and he desired to do it all.  At the age of five Eddy began to imbibe with his Dad.  His father may or may not have been classified as an alcoholic, for he could and did hold his liquor.  Eddy learned to handle his booze as well; he had to.  Time with Daddy was important to the youngster.  To be with his father physically [and emotionally] he needed to do as Papa had done.  

    By the age of twelve, Eddy found drugs . . . in Dad’s car.  The father, for all his life, felt the pressure of being a Black man in America.  No matter the job, this dark skinned man, was met with discrimination.  Eddy’s male role model never felt as though others could get past the color of his skin; therefore, he believed he would never be able to succeed as he yearned to do.  The pressure was great.  The desire to escape was greater.  

    Eddy admired his Dad.  He did not fully grasp the elder man’s struggles.  Eddy only wished to do as his father did.  Not long after his first “high” Eddy realized he was hooked.  His habit was costly; attendance in school and failing grades were among the debts Eddy incurred.  The teen faltered in school.  He was a slave to his drugs and to his supplier.  

    John, a gent from a good family resided in an affluent neighborhood, was of quality stock.  Jonathon’s parents were professionals, respected in the community.  John’s Dad had connections in the corporate world; his mother was a physician.  The two met in law school.  Generations of Jonathon’s family were high achievers.  The progeny of such prominent persons was expected to do no less than the dynasty that preceded them.  

    A casual observer would never know that Jonathan was out of control.  He wore elegant clothing, drove a new and sporty car; cash fell from his pockets.  John, just as Eddy did drugs.  Unlike Eddy, this wealthy wheeler-dealer sold medications, legal, illegal, and lethal quantities of narcotics.  His “business” was profitable.  John had no reason to attend school.  He was doing well without an education.  Jonathon never imagined that he might be corporally caged.  Only opiates, pills, uppers, downers, and dope incarcerated John and perhaps Eddy.  Substance abuse and attitudes associated with these activities are common among potential dropouts.

    High-risk attitudes, values, and behaviors.

    Children and adolescents may also have general attitudes and behaviors that increase the likelihood that they will not graduate.  Early antisocial behavior, such as violence, substance use, or trouble with the law, has been linked in a number of studies to dropping out of school (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    A life of crime is common among High School dropouts.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, In 1997, more than 64 percent of inmates housed in state and federal prisons, as well as in local jails, had not graduated from high school.  Drugs were not the only reason for criminal activity.  Poverty exasperates all situations.  Burglary, robbery, assault, battery, looting, loitering, each is likely when a person is poor, out of sorts and without hope.  If America were to invest in its children’s education, authentically, the juvenile would become an autonomous adult and 1.92 billion dollars would be saved for every 50 thousand children rescued from the streets.

    Much as we might marvel at the woes of High Schoolers, we must accept that the problems begin long before our young enter secondary school.  If a young person is left behind, or held back a grade, one time, an estimated 72 percent will inevitably drop out before they complete their High School education.  If held back twice, 100 percent will drop out.

    Dropping out of school is related to a variety of factors that can be classified in four areas or domains: individual, family, school, and community factors . . .
    • There is no single risk factor that can be used to accurately predict who is at risk of dropping out.
    • The accuracy of dropout predictions increases when combinations of multiple risk factors are considered.
    • Dropouts are not a homogeneous group.  Many subgroups of students can be identified based on when risk factors emerge, the combinations of risk factors experienced, and how the factors influence them.
    • Students who drop out often cite factors across multiple domains and there are complex interactions among risk factors.
    • Dropping out of school is often the result of a long process of disengagement that may begin before a child enters school.
    • Dropping out is often described as a process, not an event, with factors building and compounding over time.

    No matter the person, or the occurrence, nothing happens in an isolation.  The decision to dropout of school does not materialize in a moment.  A student does not exit the educational system on a whim.  As we assess the supposed facts and the figures as they pertain to High School dropouts, we must accept and acknowledge the reason students leave school cannot be simply stated.  The truth is dropout rates are high regardless of socio-economic status.

    In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly 1 out of 3 public high school students won’t graduate, not just in [chose a “pleasantly unremarkable” town] but around the nation.  For Latinos and African Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50%.  Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.

    There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels.  They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15% to 20%.  The dispute is difficult to referee, particularly in the wake of decades of lax accounting by states and schools.

    But the majority of analysts and lawmakers have come to this consensus: the numbers have remained unchecked at approximately 30% through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored.

    In a nation known to be the world’s superpower, children suffer and have for  scores of years.  Millions endure in families that do not meet their needs.  Then they enter a school system inadequate to prepare them for a life better than the one  their parents had.

    That’s starting to change.  During his most recent State of the Union address, President George W. Bush promised more resources to help children stay in school, and Democrats promptly attacked him for lacking a specific plan.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has trained its moneyed eye on the problem, funding “The Silent Epidemic,” a study issued in March that has gained widespread attention both in Washington and in statehouses around the country.

    The attention comes against a backdrop of rising peril for dropouts.  If their grandparents’ generation could find a blue-collar niche and prosper, the latest group is immediately relegated to the most punishing sector of the economy, where whatever low-wage jobs haven’t yet moved overseas are increasingly filled by even lower-wage immigrants.  Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.

    We may be able to identify the problem for one individual or another.  However, if we are to create change, we must do more than recognize the ills of society or the difficulties within a given home.  In a recent edition of Time Magazine, Journalist Nathan Thornburgh studied the students enrolled in Shelbyville High School, 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Indiana, and those that were no longer registered for classes, although they were of age.  Thornburgh writes of a population ready to recognize and resolve a crisis.

    Identifying the problem is just the first step. The next moves are being made by towns like Shelbyville, where a loose coalition of community leaders and school administrators have, for the first time, placed dropout prevention at the top of the agenda.  Now they are gamely trying to identify why kids are leaving and looking for ways to reverse the tide.  

    At the request of a former principal, a local factory promised to stop tempting dropouts with jobs.  Superintendent David Adams is scouting vacant storefronts for a place to put a new alternative high school.  And Shelbyville’s Republican state representative, Luke Messer, sponsored a bill, signed into law by the Governor two weeks ago, that will give students alternatives to traditional high school while imposing tough penalties on those who try to leave early without getting permission from the school district or a judge.

    However, punitive measures might not be the answer.  Many of the children that choose to leave campus have been threatened before.  School bullies can cause a child to flee and seek sanctuary elsewhere.  Yet, for more adolescents the bigger browbeater was at home, and would be part of their lives even after they exited the educational system.  Perchance, for most of the pupils no one would punish them more severely than they did themselves.  The heart of a person that fears they failed feels much pain.  Perhaps, a child that believes they can never be their best brings great sorrow to self.

    Thirty-five percent said that “failing in school” was a major factor for dropping out; three out of ten said they could not keep up with schoolwork; and 43 percent said they missed too many days of school and could not catch up.

    Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling.  Many of these students likely fell behind in elementary and middle school and could not make up the necessary ground.  They reported that additional supports in high school that would have made a difference (such as tutoring or after school help) were not there.

    Thirty-two percent were required to repeat a grade before dropping out and twenty-nine percent expressed significant doubts that they could have met their high school’s requirements for graduation even if they had put in the necessary effort.  The most academically challenged students were the most likely to report that their schools were not doing enough to help students when they had trouble learning and to express doubt about whether they would have worked harder if more had been expected of them.

    Sadly, a student in distress often acts outs and does not speak of what truly troubles them.  For decades, schools worked to push pupils out if they did not perform as expected.  This trend is accelerated under No Child Left Behind.  The Bush Administrations is happy to fund schools with high achievers.  Educational institutions unable to statistically verify that pupils learn well, or more accurately test well receive less tax dollars.  A school that ranks poorly may be subject to more severe actions.  Thus, schools are encouraged to releases non-performers.  A learning institution benefits if the number of “good” students is high.  

    For scholars bored with rote and mechanical methods of instruction, an invitation to exit campus permanently may be welcome.  Early in life, without much guidance to help an adolescent reflect on the future, a jaded student might simply feel relieved at the prospect of a presumed perpetual freedom.

    Rachel was among those pupils pushed out.  As are most intelligent individuals, Rachel was chatty.  In class, she was often told to be more considerate of others.  Teachers reminded her that her classmates were there to learn.  The implication was Rachel had no desire to develop her skills and intellectual capacity.  This was not true.  The regal in appearance Rachel yearned for knowledge.  For her, it seemed she acquired more information when she was away from school.  She certainly had more fun.

    The rebellious Rachel could be confrontational.  She was a troubled teen from a tumultuous home.  Each day she encountered another trauma.  Her parents placed her life in turmoil.  Mom yelled.  Dad hit.  The other children in her family cried.  There was much chaos in the sanctuary of her domicile.  At school, the girl did not feel cherished or treasured; she was only a bit safer.  Still, even in this setting Rachel was unwanted.

    The instructor knew that Rachel skipped class; she roamed the streets.  Friends drove her to all the sites she had yet to see.  Those a little older than Rachel were able to travel further in their automobiles.  Acquaintances took her to worlds where she could discover and explore.  A few of her pals already dropped out.  Others cut class with Rachel.  The teachers and the school Administrators were truly fine with Rachel’s absence.  Her presence was a distraction and disruption.  

    Rachel had accumulated so many tardies.  She was gone from class more often more than she appeared.  Her grades, well, there is no accounting for the taste of an “F”.  Over time, Rachel became bored with a life less than focused.  She returned to school and inquired how might she get back on track.

    A Vice Principal, the person usually responsible for pupils with behavioral problems asked Rachel if she might not wish to leave the system permanently.  After all, poor Rachel had fallen so far behind.  She obviously was not happy in school.  Perhaps it would be best for her if she just quit.  Had she thought of applying for emancipation from her parents.  Perchance that would relieve the pressure and the young woman could get on with her life.  Rachel was ripe for change.  She failed at being a student and in her mind, through no fault of her own, she botched up family life.  Hence, Rachel dropped out.

    Currently, Rachel is older and wiser.  However, she still fears she cannot succeed.  She did acquire a GED [General Educational Development] certificate.  Therefore, she was able to secure a decent, though not great job.  She married, has a wonderful husband and exceptional children.  Yet, she remains unfulfilled.  Rachel would like to enter college.  She wants to set an example for her offspring.  However, her history haunts her.  This intelligent woman, without much of a formal education, fears she cannot succeed in a University.  Rachel feels foolish enough.  The grown woman has no desire to look idiotic in front of youthful scholars.  To  appear as a dunce in the company of professors is not what she craves.  Rachel stays where she is and where she was.  She has little hope.

    A once rebellious woman is now resigned.  Rachel is content; yet, she wonders what would her life have like if only someone stopped and paid attention to her, as a person.  Rachel’s circumstance is not unusual.  

    Researchers call students like [Rachel] “pushouts,” not dropouts.  Shelbyville High’s new principal, Tom Zobel, says he’s familiar with the mind-set.  “Ten years ago,” he says, “if we had a problem student, the plan was, ‘O.K., let’s figure out how to get rid of this kid.’  Now we have to get them help.”

    These words echo in the minds of educators aware of the need for Federal funds.  No Child Left Behind leaves little leeway.  In the present, as in the past some state . . .

    [Ca]n educators really be faulted for the calculation, however cold, that certain kids are an unwise investment of their limited energies and resources?  That question quickly leads to the much thornier issues of class and clout that shape the dropout crisis.

    The national statistics on the topic are blunt: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest.  And in Shelbyville, nearly every dropout I met voiced a similar complaint: teachers and principals treat the “rich kids” better.  “The rich kids always knew how to be good kids,” says Sarah in a more nuanced version of the same refrain.  “So I guess it’s natural the schools wanted to work with them more than with the rest of us.”  The poor kids, though, are exactly the ones who need the extra investment.

    Granted, the underprivileged among us are more likely to dropout or be pushed out and aside.  Characteristically those of little means are treated cruelly by a system that rather not know they exist.  Nonetheless, they do and in creasing numbers. The volume of dropouts and pushouts increases in the inner city and in the suburbs.  Our children are troubled; yet, we consider them as trouble.

    No one notices the distress a teen feels.  Few listen to their pleas.  Rarely are the impoverished authentically counted.  Perhaps that is why Americans did not realize the extent of this catastrophe.  Now, we might recognize the disaster.  We have become a Dropout Nation.

    Schools nationwide never imagined the calamity was as widespread as it is.  While throughout the country the populace clamors for accountability and the White House sets standards, the criterion used to establish dropout rates differs from District to District and even from school to school.  Frequently, formulas used to calculate who completed all their coursework and when are manipulated to ensure that schools will secure funds.  At times, the numbers are juggled solely to appease the citizenry.

    For years, Shelbyville [as was true in other schools] had been comforted by its self-reported–and wildly inaccurate–graduation rate of up to 98%.  The school district arrived at that number by using a commonly accepted statistical feint, counting any dropout who promises to take the GED test later on as a graduating student.

    The GED trick is only one of many deployed by state and local governments around the country to disguise the real dropout rates.  Houston, for example, had its notorious “leaver codes”–dozens of excuses, such as pregnancy and military service, that were often applied to students who were later reclassified as dropouts by outside auditors.

    The Federal Government has been similarly deceptive, producing rosy graduation-rate estimates–usually between 85% and 90%–by relying only on a couple of questions buried deep within the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.  The survey asks whether respondents have a diploma or GED.  Critics say the census count severely underreports dropout numbers, in part because it doesn’t include transients or prisoners, populations with a high proportion of dropouts.

    It is evident that not all is as it appears.  In 2001, Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, published a study titled High School Graduation Rates in the United States.  His research examined the stratum of arithmetical adroitness associated with commencement statistics.  As Greene pondered the raw education data, he began to appreciate that he could not answer the question often asked.  What percentage of students receives a high school diploma?  The response is, it depends.  After closer scrutiny, even Greene admitted he needed to revise his report.  

    The report’s main findings are the following:
    • The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%.  For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.
    • Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 54% of students graduating, followed by Nevada, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
    • Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate with 93%, followed by North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
    • Wisconsin had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 40%, followed by Minnesota, Georgia, and Tennessee.  Georgia had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students with 32%, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in seven states and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in eight states for which data were available.
    • The highest rate of graduation among African-American students was 71% in West Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey.  The highest rate of graduation among Latino students was 82% in Montana, followed by Louisiana, Maryland, and Hawaii.
    • Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia.  Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia’s Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.
    • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds a national high school completion rate of 86% for the class of 1998.  The discrepancy between the NCES’ finding and this report’s finding of a 71% rate is largely caused by NCES’ counting of General Educational Development (GED) graduates and others with alternative credentials as high school graduates, and by its reliance on a methodology that is likely to undercount dropouts.

    Overwhelmed by the predicament, you dear reader might ask what are we to do.  I believe we must cultivate relationships.  I have long advocated that human interaction is the greatest instructor; empathy is the best educator.  If we wish to encourage our offspring, we must engage them authentically.  If they are to believe in themselves, they must trust to their core that we believe in them.

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.

     ~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]


    In March 2006, a report sponsored by the Civic Enterprises in Association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, experts examined what they call, The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Researchers John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison realized what dropouts and pushouts have long known.  If a child is to be motivated, if they are to truly learn, and become autonomous critical thinkers they need attention and assistance.  A caring mentor makes all the difference.

    A survey of former students revealed the children understood what would have helped them to stay in school.  Indeed, those that floundered were intelligent enough to communicate what they needed then.  Now, with thanks to this more honest examination they had an opportunity to share.  If society and schools are to save the youth of America, we must . . .

    • Improve instruction, and access to supports, for struggling students: Four out of five (81 percent) wanted better teachers and three fourths wanted smaller classes with more  individualized instruction.  More than half (55 percent) felt that more needed to be done to help students who had problems learning, and 70 percent believed more tutoring, summer school and extra time with teachers would have improved their chances of graduating.
    • Build a school climate that fosters academics:

      Seven in ten favored increasing supervision in school and more than three in five (62 percent) felt more classroom discipline was necessary.  More than half (57 percent) felt their schools did not do enough to help students feel safe from violence.  Seven in ten (71 percent) said their schools did not do enough to make school interesting.
    • Ensure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school: While two-thirds (65 percent) said there was a staff member or teacher who cared about their success, only 56 percent said they could go to a staff person for school problems and just two-fifths (41 percent) had someone in school to talk to about personal problems.  More than three out of five (62 percent) said their school needed to do more to help students with problems outside of class.  Seven in ten favored more parental involvement.
    • Improve the communication between parents and schools: Seventy-one percent of young people surveyed felt that one of the keys to keeping students in school was to have better communication between the parents and the school, and increasing parental involvement in their child’s education.  Less than half said their school contacted their parents or themselves when they were absent (47 percent) or when they dropped out (48 percent).

    In truth, we must all care for the children.  Elders must be intimately involved in the lives of our progeny.  If schools continue to be a source of statistics and a corral for our children, we serve no one, young or old.  Indeed, we hurt ourselves if we harm our offspring or hinder their growth.  

    Sarah knows of pain.  She was a happy child, a brilliant girl.  For all her life, Sarah defined “scholar.”  In her sophomore year in High School, her teachers noticed a change.  Although Sarah attended classes regularly and was still friendly, this talkative teen seemed extremely disinterested.  Sarah was distracted; yet, no one at school knew why.  

    In her junior year, a new instructor entered the lovely young lady’s life.  This educator, Miss Adams sat with the students as they worked.  She developed a relationship with each pupil.  The teacher personalized lessons.  Miss Adams understood.  Students [people] are authentically engaged when they relate to the subject, when information is personally relevant.  This instructor also trusted that adolescents truly yearn to learn.

    Sarah felt safe when with Miss Adams.  One day as the two sat at a table, Sarah reveled that her father committed suicide the year before.  He shot himself in the head, in front of this tender teen.  “The police do not clean up after such an incident; the family does,” Sarah said.  Miss Adams listened intently as Sarah shared her story.  Later, the educator was able to enlighten other teachers and counselors.  Everyone was touched.  They never knew.  

    Belatedly, the school community reached out to the sorrowful Sarah.  Slowly, this young teen worked through her worries, with a little help from those that cared.  That was everyone.  The sadness is, in a school [or society] where statistics rule, much is lost, mostly the students, our young people, the next generation.  Teens dropout, or are pushed out.  We all suffer when we do not attend to more than roll sheets and rank.

    Next time you walk past the school in your neighborhood, please listen for more than the noise.  See more than your tax dollars going to waste.  Invest in the littlest individuals more fully.  Embrace education, it is more than facts, figures, formulas, or failed students or teachers.

    References, Resources, Sources for Student Support . . .

    Less Homework Plus Yoga Equals Greater Stress?

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In recent years, parents appear to be less able, or available, to assist with their child’s  education.  Moms work outside the home.  Dad is away at the office.  Either or each, flies off on business trips.  Even when the family is together, they run from one activity to another.  Few families dine together.  Less eat home cooked meals.  There is so much pressure and it is not in the cooker. 

    Stress fills the lives of everyone, young and old.  Among teens the problem many be more profound.  Depression affects twenty percent of teens.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers.  According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), about 8 out of every 100,000 teenagers committed suicide in 2000.  Needham High School Principal, Paul Richards yearns to change these statistics.  Mister Richards is among many educators that have introduced programs to help reduce the strain, yoga classes among these.

    Students are stretched to the limit.  Society demands they prepare for college from birth.  Once a neonate takes on an earthly presence, they are force fed a schedule.  School is on the agenda, for some in the first months of their life.  Toddlers are required to talk, use a toilet, and walk as soon as possible.  Frazzled Moms and Dads are busy they have places to go, people to see, jobs to do, and so too does baby.  Once a newborn is delivered, anxiety is introduced into their lives.  Parents teach their young what they too learned at knees of those that cared for them.

    Parents are a powerful influence on their progeny .  From early childhood, to the ‘tween, and teen years mothers and fathers make the difference.  They are the a youngster’s first and foremost teacher.  Mommy and Daddy instruct through their presence and absence. 

    In March 2007, much to the dismay of many working Mom’s and Dad’s, a study substantiated that a child placed in day care for extensive periods, no matter the quality of the center, is likely to become disruptive in class.  A child away from Mom or Dad at an early age still craves an intimate connection.  Poorly paid surrogate parents cannot and likely will not offer the love, support, and attention that a guardian does. 

    Intellectually, Mommy and Daddy know this.  They fear the possibility.  Yet, what is an overwhelmed parent to do.  Few can stay home even if they wish to.  In a competitive market place, money must be made.  A need to put bacon on the table causes many an anxious Ma and Pa to leave their little loved one in the hands of strangers.

    Many guardians express their guilt and then look for a logical reason to explain away the pain.  Desperate to find evidence that nursery school is beneficial to toddlers and tots, fathers and mothers cling to the revelation, time spent in high-quality day care centers correlates to higher vocabulary scores through elementary school. 

    We all know that parents are intent.  They will do the extra work to ensure that they provide the best for their progeny.  Mothers and fathers will vigorously investigate before they enroll their prodigy in a pre-school.  Exceptional children will not be among the masses; nor will a prized child be among the norm.  A good parent can be certain, his or her brood will be the best-behaved boy or girl in class.  Ma and Pop insist on nothing less.  Children consistently rise to parents’ expectations.

    Moms and Dads across America famously cater to their children’s needs.  They provide, ever if what they feel they need to do causes them great stress.  A parent will sacrifice for his or her child.  Poorer parents often secure two jobs, so that they might provide the best for their offspring.  Local private and religious schools certainly will serve little Tim and Tina well.  Middle Class Ma and Pop move to the better neighborhoods.  They can choose from quality public establishments or academies meant for the privileged.  The affluent need not worry.  Their progeny will be properly placed and prepared.  Ivy-league schools have a prestigious list of alum.  These institutes honor legacies.  However, efforts to secure excellence for elite scholars, while often emotionally and financially taxing, have not produced the expected results.

    Study examines public, private schools
    By Nancy Zuckerbrod
    Boston Globe
    October 10, 2007

    Washington — Low-income students who attend urban public high schools generally do just as well as private-school students with similar backgrounds, according to a study being released Wednesday.

    Students at independent private schools and most parochial schools scored the same on 12th-grade achievement tests in core academic subjects as those in traditional public high schools when income and other family characteristics were taken into account, according to the study by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy.

    While the finding is in line with a handful of recent studies, it’s at odds with a larger body of research over the years that has found private-school students outperform those in public schools.  Some of that research found a private-school advantage even when income levels are taken into account.

    However, the new study not only compared students by income levels but also looked at a range of other family characteristics, such as whether a parent participates in school life.

    “When these were taken into account, the private-school advantage went away,” the report states.

    The study looked at 1,000 low-income students from cities who are part of a nationally representative sample of kids surveyed over a period of years, along with parents and teachers, as part of a federal research effort.

    In trying to determine whether the type of high school attended by a student made a difference academically, the new study tried to separate out the effects of income; earlier eighth-grade test scores; parental expectations; whether parents discuss school with their children and whether parents participate in school activities.

    Parental expectations and involvement play a profound role in a child’s achievement.  Moms and Dads place much pressure on themselves, and then transfer the weight to the one that once resided in the womb. 

    In America today, some question whether Moms and Dads are too involved.  Parents are concerned that their children attend the most impressive schools before the actual birth of the baby.  Some Moms and Dads save for college just after conception.  Pink and blue are not the only colors to consider; green is a must.  Financial advisers suggest funds be set aside for the future at birth.  In a competitive culture, children vie for a place at a prominent day care center. 

    In primary school, nothing is elementary.  Children recognize if they do well, they will receive much attention and praise.  Hence, little ones endeavor to be the best in every endeavor.  Tikes ask if they might enroll in extra curricula activities.  Friends are registered and their parents are proud.  Approval motivates many decisions when we are small.

    In High School, the pursuit of excellence is a compulsion, a habit.  It seems almost inbred.  Young adults know that if they are to compete, Advanced Placement courses and an stellar academic standing are a must.  Adolescents ready their resumes before they apply for college.  Numerous students devote their lives to advancement, much to their detriment.  Hence, the reason that Paul Richards, and other educators, think there is a dire need to act.

    Some high schools are requiring students to get parental permission before enrolling in Advanced Placement classes.  Others are experimenting with later start times so students can get more sleep.

    [Denise Pope, a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education and author of the book, “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students” (Yale University Press, 2001)]  Dr. Pope advises schools to end the tradition of student newspapers publishing end-of-the-year lists of seniors and their colleges.  “We found that there are kids who are lying,” she said, “because they’re embarrassed to say they’re going to a state school.”

    Richards, among those Principals nationwide that realized the need to attend to the mental health of his students, observed as other educators have, frequently school age children, adolescents, and tots demand more from themselves than is physically possible.  The desire for prominence and recognition took its toll.  Students had no time to sleep, eat, or be.  They were busy striving for success.  Mister Richards decided the school would no longer submit the school honor roll for publication.

    When Mr. Richards stopped publishing the honor roll in the local newspaper last winter, a move aimed at some parents who had turned the lists into a public accounting, Rush Limbaugh accused him of politically correct coddling of students, and Jay Leno mocked the school on national television. He received hate mail from all over the country.

    Mr. Richards is undeterred. “It’s not that I’m trying to turn the culture upside down,” he said.

    “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he said. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”

    Yet, in this nation the pursuit of health is but another item to place on the time clock.  As we observe hamsters on a wheel, we wonder.  Does the animal generate momentum or does the centrifugal force move the Eurasian rodent.  A human in pursuit of health may hit the treadmill for a few minutes.

    Stress is significant in America, no matter what your age.  Parents understand that they must prepare their children for what they face, an uncertain future, and they do.  A good education is not enough to ensure economic stability.  Jobs are outsourced.  Machines replace people in the workplace.  Corporations no longer invest in the laborers, and employees are not loyal to the company.

    Income volatility has long been a hallmark of the American economy. Compared with those of workers in other developed countries, the earnings of Americans tend to bounce around drastically from year to year.  And that’s not necessarily bad.  “People don’t realize that income volatility and income mobility are the same thing,” said Peter Gottschalk, professor of economics at Boston College and a pioneer in the study of income volatility.  People who start out at the bottom of the income ladder frequently wind up at a higher rung.

    Conversely, just because you earn $300,000 this year doesn’t mean you’ll be making that much 10 years from now.  The economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, who coined the term “creative destruction,” described the upper strata of society as a hotel in which the guests are always changing.  Income volatility is the mechanism through which guests check in and check out.

    After mining data from the Panel Study of Income and Dynamics, a database produced by the University of Michigan that tracks the incomes of the same families over a 40-year period, scholars have concluded that incomes are much less stable – i.e., much more volatile – today than they have been in the past.  “There has unequivocally been general upward-trend income volatility since at least 1975,” said Bruce A. Moffitt, the Krieger-Eisenhower professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, who, with Professor Gottschalk, wrote one of the first papers on income volatility in the 1990’s.  “It accelerated in the 1980’s, turned down in the early 1990’s, and then accelerated into the end of the 1990’s.”

    According to a measure of volatility constructed by Jacob S. Hacker, a Yale political scientist, which tracks the five-year moving average of family incomes, income volatility rose 88 percent between 1978 and 2000.

    “The problem in the past few decades,” Professor Moffitt said, “is that volatility has risen while real incomes haven’t risen.”  What’s more, income volatility has grown significantly for those who can afford it least.  A series of articles last year in The Los Angeles Times, written by Peter G. Gosselin, who worked closely with Professor Moffitt and other scholars, reported that in the 1970’s, income for middle-class Americans tended to fluctuate by 16 percent a year.  But in the 1980’s and 1990’s, middle-class incomes fluctuated an average of 30 percent.  For those whose earnings placed them in the bottom fifth, income volatility rose from 25 percent in the early 1970’s to 50 percent in recent years.

    Because of other longstanding trends in the economy, strong income volatility can wreak greater havoc now than it did in the past.

    The havoc appears to be economic, and it is. However, what devastates Americans most is not the lack of income, as much as the fear of a shortage does.  The stress caused by financial woes takes a toll on physical, mental, and the spiritual well being of Moms, Dads, and their offspring.  Stress related illnesses are abundant.

    People in this country run at an incredible pace.  They race to make the grade, to make ends meet, to make a modicum of money, and to secure a prestigious career.  Permanence is no longer possible.  Thus, there is greater tension.  Families are full of angst.

    Each baby that bounces out of the womb must be prepared to woe the world with their wisdom, their wealth, and their worth.  The latter is often determined in the formative years.  Colleges will ask, “What was your grade point average?”  Entrance, acceptance, approval all are dependent on your name and rank, or at least that is what parents teach their children. 

    Words need not be uttered.  Moms and Dads model what they feel, fear, and believe.  Actions speak volumes.  The message is get a good education.  Excellent grades are a must.  Go to the best University.  Secure an esteemed position in a company that pays well and provides benefits.  Buy a big house on the hill, travel; and did I mention make lots of money.  Then you will be a success, stressed, nonetheless, a success.  Young people, in their desire to please, and be as mother and father think best strive to achieve.  However, there is a cost.  Financial obligations accrue.  Tension mounts.

    Although there is little quality research linking debt to poor health, experts say there’s no question that being in debt can be stressful. And a wide body of research has tied stress to health problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stomach disorders such as colitis.

    Even those that have yet to enter the workforce feel pangs of angst.  As lads and lassies prepare to enter the adult world, they doggedly attempt to keep the dragons at bay.  In Elementary School, Middle School, and in the higher grades, there is a need to achieve.  Youngsters acknowledge it is a competitive world out there.  Our offspring train academically.  They are coached in sports, tutored in music, dance, the arts; they strive to be smart.  Long before they accumulate monetary arrears, emotionally they become out of balance.

    High School Principal Richards realized this in his current assignment.  At Needham High School, in the affluent Boston suburbs, Paul Richards, the Principal, meets with the Stress Reduction Committee.  Some students are unable to attend.  They are overscheduled and cannot commit to a consultation that takes them away from their rigorous academic schedule. 

    Mr. Richards is just one principal in the vanguard of a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions. He has joined like-minded administrators from 44 other high schools and middle schools – most in the San Francisco Bay Area but others scattered from Texas to New York – to form a group known as S.O.S., for Stressed Out Students . . .

    High schools in other Boston suburbs – Wellesley, Lexington, Wayland – have taken steps similar to Needham’s, organizing stress committees and yoga classes . . .

    At Needham, there is some grumbling that measures like homework-free holidays could erode academic rigor.

    Principal Richards realizes it is a challenge to change.  Students and parents indoctrinated in a culture that demands that you do, deliver, and achieve external successes, cannot imagine taking time to be.  There is no time to waste in pursuit of a degree.  Ivy-league schools require exemplary résumés.  However, Principal Paul Richards realized a rigorous routine may not reap the rewards that many expect.

    Needham began an intense self-examination a couple years ago, after four of its young people – one in college, two in high school and one in middle school – committed suicide. While school officials emphasized that the suicides were not related to stress, the deaths heightened concerns about how Needham’s students were responding to school pressure.

    Even before the suicides, Needham school officials had responded to youth surveys indicating troubling rates of alcohol and drug use and depression – rates like those at other affluent high schools – by establishing an initiative, starting in elementary school, to help students develop better emotional and social skills.

    “One of our big goals is to try to help students become more resilient,” Mr. Richards said. He wants to help students learn to cope better with the inevitable setbacks, he said, “so they don’t fall apart if they get a B-minus.”

    Mr. Richards, 36, arrived here three years ago from Nantucket, where, as principal of the island’s high school, he had to push students to aim higher. For all the academic advantages of Needham High School, what struck him, he said, was the cost to all this achieving and performing.

    Many students were so stressed out about grades and test scores – and so busy building résumés to get into the small number of brand-name colleges they equated with success – that, he said, they could not fully engage with school.

    “A lot of these kids,” he said, “are being held hostage to the culture.”

    Mr. Richards, who is pursuing his doctorate at Boston College, made himself an expert in research on stress. In his office one recent morning, he grabbed a marker and drew a curve on a flip chart to illustrate scientific findings that while a certain amount of stress is necessary for learning and growth, too much interferes.

    He said he was concerned with widespread cheating, mostly by students copying homework and failing to cite sources fully. Cheating, experts say, is a problem at high schools nationwide.

    Interestingly, cheating on examinations cannot compare with the way that we cheat ourselves. American adults dupe themselves and the children into believing we can measure success.  In the minds of most, a diploma, a degree, and the dollars in your bank account documents you have triumphed.  A huge house on a hill, one that overlooks all others validates, you are victorious.  A flashy chariot communicates you have arrived.  It matters not that the person within the vehicle is void; that he or she thinks himself or herself to be nothing more than an empty vessel.

    Unfulfilled parents work to possess more and more.  Thus, they place their children in day care before the babies feel safe, secure, or have time to develop a stable sense of autonomy.  They tell themselves they must send their babies off to school.  With only one income, Moms and Dads cannot make ends meet.  Perhaps, for a very few this is true.  However, for most the desire to acquire is the dominant factor.  Parents tell themselves they must provide; whilst they forget how much their mere presence bequeaths.

    Citizens of the United States, mothers and fathers are so consumed with consumption, that they only know how to acquire possessions.  Americans are unaware; ‘How might I experience fulfillment.’  We ask our offspring what they want to “be” when they grow up.  Yet, actually, we wish to know what profession will they pursue in order to prove themselves valuable to society.  Few of our countrymen, at any age, have discovered the answer to the deeper question, “What or who do I desire to be.”

    As Paul Richards pursues a higher mission, as he works to preserve the idea [or ideal] education is about more than statistical accountability, he acknowledges as he refers to Needham’s record of academic success, “If the results aren’t there they’d run me out of town pretty quickly.”  Dear reader, as you evaluate your own community you might give credence to the truth of Principal Richards statement. 

    Apparently, in America, profound contemplation is of little if any merit.  Meditation is not suitable for those that wish to progress up the economic scale.  If achievement falls at Needham High School, even if temporarily as people adjust, stress reduction programs will be eliminated.  The rapid pace of the civilized rat race obliterates reflective reasoning. 

    In this country, current curriculums suggest critical thinkers need not be cultivated.  Unless people are able to bring in the bucks, they have no legitimate purpose.  Hence, we must teach to the marketplace.  Mathematicians and scientist are taught rote techniques.  Even artists, if trained at all, must act as technicians.  Designers can generate dollars.  Musicians have a mission. If they can please the masses, there is money to be made.  In American classrooms, curiosity is not cultivated.  There is no time to breathe deeply.  Americans have debts to pay.  Sadly, the deficit may be soul deep.

    The Sum and Stress of Less Homework Plus Yoga . . .

  • Teenage Depression Statistics.
  • Teen Suicide Statistics
  • Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care? By Jay Belsky, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Margaret Burchinal, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Kathleen McCartney, Margaret Tresch Owen.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD] Early Child Care Research Network. (2007)  Child Development 78 (2), 681-701
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  • The Kids Are Alright. By Emily Bazelon.  Slate. March 28, 2007
  • Study examines public, private schools
    By Nancy Zuckerbrod.  Boston Globe. October 10, 2007

  • Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress.  By Sara Rimer.  The New York Times. October 29, 2007
  • pdf Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress.  By Sara Rimer.  The New York Times. October 29, 2007
  • Poor Behavior Is Linked to Time in Day Care, By Benedict Carey.  The New York Times. March 26, 2007
  • pdf Poor Behavior Is Linked to Time in Day Care, By Benedict Carey.  The New York Times. March 26, 2007
  • Saving for College.  The SmartStudent? Guide.
  • Social Security as Dramamine  By Daniel Gross.  The New York Times. March 20, 2005
  • In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body. Persistent Stress Caused by Financial Worries Can Lead to Physical and Mental Problems Such as Hypertension and Eating Disorders, Say Experts. By January W. Payne.  The Washington Post. Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page HE01
  • pdf In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body. Persistent Stress Caused by Financial Worries Can Lead to Physical and Mental Problems Such as Hypertension and Eating Disorders, Say Experts. By January W. Payne.  The Washington Post. Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page HE01
  • Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math, By Sam Dillon.  The New York Times. March 26, 2006
  • Some push for arts in core curriculum, By April Simpson.  Boston Globe. July 1, 2007
  • Supreme Court Rules; Brown Versus Board of Education Reversed

    Affirmative Action: Separate But Equal

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It is official Brown versus Board of Education has been reversed.  Providing equal education opportunities to all children, regardless of race, color, or creed is no longer a priority.  The 1954 Court decision that invalidated the principle of ‘separate but equal’ was overturned on June 28, 2007.  This day will live in infamy.  In another of the many recent 5 to 4 split decisions, the neoconservative Supreme Court canceled the promise made to students of color.

    School integration, which was once considered essential, as of today, is no longer practicable.  Perhaps, more accurately, the work needed to improve the quality of education for those living in impoverished areas was not pleasurable.  Now, efforts to unify schools need not continue.  Endeavors to integrate are illegal.

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 et al. has basically nullified the construct of racial equality in the schools.  According to the majority, Affirmative Action is no longer thought just.  The conservative Justices deemed this principle an illogical inconvenience.  The Judges in the majority stated students in white enclaves or Black must travel too far to ensure equal access to quality schools.  Justice Roberts declared.

    The districts ”failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals.”

    Perhaps, the school system did not demonstrate a means for combating what is the convention. Schools do not have the power to force people to integrate their local neighborhoods.

    Educational institutions are not able dictate who lives in what community.  After receiving this ruling, Districts must relent, cease, and desist.  School Districts will not have the option to open enrollment to those that do not reside in their region.

    Oh, if they could; schools might possibly be given an opportunity to truly teach tolerance.  However, for now, that prospect is but a dream, one Martin Luther King hoped we would realize.

    I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today.

    Sadly, the fantasy faded on this morning in June 2007.  The nightmare is vivid.  Facilitating awareness for diversity is a slow process, made more challenging when elders impose their preconceived notions on innocent children.  If we do not endure, then the forces of “evil,” malevolence will.

    As of June 28, 2007, this newly formed bias will be built into the laws governing school enrollment.  The likelihood is bigotry will  flourish.  Culture clashes are now legal and encouraged by the dominant neoconservative  Supreme Court.

    Thankfully, there was vocal dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer, ardently voiced his concern; however muted in its effect on the final decision.  In his fervent appeal Breyer offered.

    Roberts’ opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

    ”To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.’

    Justices Breyer went on to express his fury over the fallacy that is now prominent in the Court records.  In commenting on the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice Roberts, that the white students who didn’t get the school of their choice in Louisville and Seattle were equivalent to the black students in Brown versus Board of Education who were denied access to integrated schools in Topeka, Kansas, Justice Stephen Breyer forcefully spoke with some restraint stating . . .

    “You have got to be kidding me, that the efforts in good faith of these schools in Louisville and Seattle to integrate their schools, to make sure that there’s diversity, how dare you compare that to the discrimination of Jim Crow?”

    Nonetheless, it happened.  The words were uttered and the wheels of derision were set more deeply into the structure of society.

    Division may have been the original intent of this Court.  The rulings delivered in this past week would indicate that the Supreme Court is definitively split.  The Conservative Jurists have no intention of seeking unity.  However, whether that is the actual goal long-term is unclear, as much is in this Court.  Chief Justice Roberts declared.

    “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” he wrote

    Apparently, we are to believe that in our attempt to reverse centuries of racial prejudice, which in my mind equates to fear of the unknown, stranger anxiety, or xenophobia, segregation must stand.  Humans will validate their reasons for racial discrimination characterizing these as the “natural.”  The unequal “process of selection” is firmly planted in the minds of many and as of this day mandated by the courts.

    It is quite ironic to this author; as we philosophically battle against the idea of ethnic cleansing elsewhere, we here in America are proud to adopt policies that promote it.  We honor division in our local communities, and presently, with the Courts blessing.

    Perhaps, that has always been the truer agenda.  In placing the newest neoconservative members to the Court, we have awarded lifetime positions of extreme power, to those that practice the policy of “Divide and Conquer.”  It seems some of the standing Justices already accepted the notion of separation as truth. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas.  This Jurist stated his belief; separation is inevitable.

    “Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations.”

    Perchance, the evidence is ambiguous because Affirmative Action rules, those that advance unity have not been fully embraced or enacted.  Thus, we have this Court case and the oft-repeated belief of Justice Thomas Affirmative Action does nothing to help the disenfranchised.?  Judge Thomas has faith that is was the goodness of one insightful, intelligent, and intuitive individual that altered his life, Father Brooks.  In a March 12, 2007 interview Justice Thomas recounted his tale of trials and tribulations.

    Why is Father Brooks such an important person in your life?

    That was an era of in loco parentis. It was a transition period unlike today when you have these notions of race entrenched. It was a time, actually, when there was no set road map for kids. Father Brooks understood something intuitively, that we were just kids. He knew we were from a lot of different environments.

    Father Brooks made a point of trying to recruit a lot more African Americans to campus in the months before you came. Do you think that recruitment drive helped you?

    Oh no. I was going to go home to Savannah when a nun suggested Holy Cross. That’s how I wound up there. Your industry has suggested that we were all recruited. That’s a lie. Really, it’s a lie. I don’t mean a mistake. It’s a lie.

    I had always been an honors student. I was the only black kid in my high school in Savannah and one of two or three blacks in my class during my first year of college in the seminary. I just transferred. I had always had really high grades so that was never a problem. It was the only school I applied to. It was totally fortuitous. The thing that has astounded me over the years is that there has been such an effort to roll that class into people’s notion of affirmative action. It was never really looked at. It was just painted over. Things were much more nuanced than that?.You hear this junk. It’s just not consistent with what really happened.

    What did Father Brooks do?

    Father Brooks realized that we needed to be nurtured not that we needed it every day but that we were going to have unique problems. When you have six blacks in a class of 550 kids, you need that. We all came from very different backgrounds. That’s something that gets lost in this weird notion of race that somehow you can come from New York and Savannah and Massachusetts and somehow you’re still all the same. That’s bizarre, and it denigrates individuals.

    Father Brooks understood that. He saw people who were individuals who happened to be black who had very different outlooks.

    Might we ask what will become of those that do not have a Father Brooks.  Will they feel as young Clarence Thomas did before he was given the gift that Affirmative Action provides to those without a mentor, as the youthful scholar felt when he first arrived at Holy Cross college?

    I was a kid. I was confused. I was 20 years old. I had no place to go. I had no precedent for anybody going to college. I had no precedent for anybody being in New England. I had no road map. I didn’t know anybody to call. I had nobody to talk to. I had nobody to give me advice. Now, what do you do? You were just a kid, trying to make all these choices.

    Were you angry?

    Sure. I was upset. I was upset with a lot of things. You get there and you sort it out. Look at that neighborhood there [Thomas points to a photo of a desolate strip in Georgia]. How do you go from that to Holy Cross? How do you do it? That’s why some of us were really concerned about throwing some of these kids into those environments without thinking because you have a theory. That’s the neighborhood I lived in before I went to live with my grandparents. Doesn’t look very good, does it?

    There were a lot of changes to absorb. Just to think about it was fatiguing. It’s still really fatiguing. It’s also fatiguing that people assume we all showed up the same. A friend of mine sent me that print there. [A sketch of an African American man, draped over a desk with his hands extended toward the floor.] He has since passed away. He thought it captured my life.

    Does it?

    Oh yeah. That’s why I keep it there. Look at the hand. Look at the exhaustion.

    What sort of exhaustion?

    Everything. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Just constant change. You just want to slow down. You see people take a walk and you want to, too.

    Mental, physical, spiritual exhaustion, exasperation, this is the legacy that we as a nation are leaving our children of lesser means.  A person can only live without hope for so long.  As the rich become richer and the impoverished plunge further into forced ignorance we can expect that this emotional fatigue will be felt by all of us.

    Perhaps, we, as a country, by promoting principles that further division will experience what comes when the classes are truly separate and far from equal.  Once again, we may witness what comes when people are [class] war weary.  Possibly, rebellion will be the result.  I trust in time revulsion will turn into rage, and why not.  Deep division breeds revolution.

    In just a few short years the craftsman President George W. Bush has created such strife abroad.  Civil War in Iraq is invasive.  With his recent appointments to the Supreme Court Mister Bush has secured the eventual possibility here at home.  If not Civil War, certainly civil unrest may become our shared truth.  Inequitable change often causes conflict.

    This President, master of the message George W. Bush has definitely advanced imbalance.  Most of us accept that President Bush has altered world politics with precision.  He has done so with expediency.  It seems this world leader has not ignored the domestic front.  His appointments have altered the face of the Supreme Court.  The newer members serve to accelerate the schism.  Justice Stephen Breyer may have said it best.

    “Never in the history of the court have so few done so much so quickly.”

    Indeed we as a nation are deeply divided.  We have reason to expect that soon Civil War, will be here.  It is the natural outgrowth of a society divided.  I can only ask that we remember the words of many and take these to heart.

    United we stand; divided we fall.

    ~ Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson,  Abraham Lincoln

    Sources for the Misnomer, Segregation is superior? . . .