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State Socialization to Build Grit & Perseverance

By: deft Friday July 4, 2014 10:10 am

cross posted from post in space

Portrait of Adam Smith

Today’s education “reform” is part of Adam Smith’s capitalist agenda for workers.

Statistician and blogger Mark Palko compares the hyped push for higher standards with the push for New Math, a program that finally eliminated arithmetic as an underlying focus of elementary mathematics:

New Math would seem to be an almost ideal starting point for a discussion of the current Common Core and Common Core-related education programs (the former being a relatively small part of the overall initiatives). It is perhaps the only precedent of similar scale. Its ties to concerns over Sputnik are analogous to today’s concerns over PISA. Its underlying assumptions about taking a more scientific approach to education are similar. Add to that New Math’s relatively high name recognition and generally agreed upon outcome (there’s not much point in bringing up something no one remembers). [...]

Perhaps [Richard] Feynman’s most cutting criticism was that, after dragging students through painfully rigorous presentations, the textbooks did not get the rigor correct:

‘The reason was that the books were so lousy. They were false. They were hurried. They would try to be rigorous, but they would use examples (like automobiles in the street for ‘sets’) which were almost OK, but in which there were always some subtleties. The definitions weren’t accurate. Everything was a little bit ambiguous — they weren’t smart enough to understand what was meant by “rigor.” They were faking it. They were teaching something they didn’t understand, and which was, in fact, useless, at that time, for the child.’

Mass compulsory schools undertaking extensive character education inside state standards is an extension of the original mission of schools that should be frightening to citizens in a democracy. Math educators, anxious to see better quality teaching and texts, would do well to be informed of how the educational-industrial complex can take their desire for students to wrestle longer with well-constructed mathematical problems and expand that straightforward need, that could be accomplished with peer-to-peer collaboration, into a comprehensive agenda of developing psychological traits in children such as grit, tenacity, and perseverance. (see Susan Ohanian’s post)

Grit research doesn’t even know much but that hasn’t stopped this report from being put out:

In this accountability-driven climate and in communities that place extremely high expectations on students, grit, tenacity, and perseverance may not always be in the students’ best interest. For example, persevering in the face of challenges or setbacks to accomplish goals that are extrinsically motivated, unimportant to the student, or in some way inappropriate for the student can have detrimental impacts on students’ learning and psychological well-being. Little systematic research has investigated this. Researchers need to explore the different reasons for demonstrating grit and what potential costs may be. [...]

The shocking invasiveness of this approach signals that the educational-industrial complex needs deep change. The report has character report cards (from KIPP) that do not even allow for different character types, introvert and extrovert, much less for the ongoing development of these characteristics. The educational-industrial complex, under the guise of helping under-achievers, plans to socialize children in ways traditionally thought to be the role of the family and community.

A focus on grit and character-building for the poor isn’t a new thing, it has been a part of how capitalism sees the world:

Why Adam Smith Advocated Controls Over Workers: Molding personal behavior to fit the needs of the market was not the only thing Smith had in mind. It was also crucial in terms of national defense, which Smith considered more important than opulence (Smith 1789, IV.ii.30: pp. 464 65). In fact, on at least two occasions, Smith equated opulence with effeminacy _ looking back favorably at a time of ‘rough, manly people who had no sort of domestic luxury or effeminacy’ (Smith 1762 1766, p. 189; see also p. 202). [...]
To remedy this situation, Smith called upon the state to transform the people, correcting their personal defects and making them into upstanding citizens. To his credit, Smith did called for educating the poor, while others at the time feared that widespread literacy could make them more dangerous. However, Smith, the reputed libertarian, suggested that education be mixed with compulsion:

‘The public can impose upon almost the whole body of the people the necessity of acquiring those most essential parts of education, by obliging every man to undergo an examination or probation in them before he can obtain the freedom in any corporation, or be allowed to set up any trade either in a village or town corporate. [Smith 1789, V.i.f.57, p. 786]
Coercion would force the poor to submit to education. The penalty would be that potential merchant workers would be limited in the kind of merchandise (their work) that non compliant people could bring to the market. [...]‘

The US lags far behind its peers in providing families with the maternal and parental leave (even when it is good for business), health care, and wages/resources to help their own children develop strong character, traditionally the job of families and communities. That the educational-industrial complex will happily step up to move beyond teaching specific skills like reading, writing and computation, and specific curricular content, history, sciences, etc., into the well-paid work of developing psychological character traits is an extension of institutional power that citizens in a democracy should view with alarm.

Socializing Children in the Education-Industrial Complex

Poor and working-class families have no lobbying arm and no organized way to counter the education-industrial complex, comprised of wealthier professionals who themselves benefit from the culling out performed by grading and ranking in the education industry. The educational-industrial complex is armed with extended compulsory attendance laws that not only actually harm families, but completely remove accountability from the users of the system. Even progressives stumble with union issues. This is because the other set of workers within schools are children, or else they are products, either way the factory model shows its problematic nature. (There is a progressive movement to democratize unions and enable union members to work more closely with communities and families.)


Extending the Vote to Teens

By: deft Thursday October 24, 2013 9:27 am

cross-posted from post in space

Woman with Vote Here sign

What happens if we lower the voting age?

In case you missed it, 16-year olds can now vote in local elections in Takoma Park, MD beginning this November. Research indicates that earlier voting may help build stronger turnout among younger voters and ensure a lifelong habit of voting. Federal elections require a voter to be 18 years of age in the US.**  (Audio clip at link.) 

Takoma Park Opens Voter Rolls To 16-Year-Olds | WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio: “Like getting your driver’s license, or graduating from high school, taking part in the democratic process is another sign of growing up. But in Takoma Park, Md., teens will be reaching that milestone a bit earlier than kids in most communities, thanks to a change this year in the city’s charter to allow residents ages 16 and older to vote in local elections.

Takoma Park Councilman Tim Male led the charge to lower the voting age as part of a larger set of voting reforms passed in April, including extending suffrage to former felons and instituting same-day registration. Male says lowering the voting age wasn’t initially on his agenda, until he looked into similar reforms in Europe, where studies in Austria and Denmark have suggested positive outcomes from the change.”

“What they found is that 16 and 17-year-olds show up to vote,” Male says. “They understand the issues, at least as well as 18, 19, and 20-year-olds do. And then — for me at least — even more importantly, if you start them voting at 16 or 17 there’s some evidence that they will keep voting when they get to 18, 19, and 20.” In the U.S., that age group is notorious for low turnout.

Research on vote quality (teens vote as sensibly as older people) and a look at Austria where 16-year olds can vote (effects are largely positive).

FairVote’s Position on extending the vote 
FairVote supports expanding suffrage to 16- and 17-year-olds in municipal elections. Extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 may be a proposal that surprises some, but the latest research is a revelation. All evidence suggests that cities will increase turnout by allowing citizens to cast their first vote after turning 16. The reason is simple. Many people at 16 and 17 have lived in their communities for years and are taking government classes in high school. That combination results in more people exercising their first chance to vote if they are 16 or 17 than if they are unable to vote until they have left home and school.

A voting age of 18 means that many people won’t get a chance to vote in city elections until they are nearly 20. A detailed study of voting age and voters in Denmark ( found that 18-year-olds were far more likely to cast their “first vote” than 19-year-olds, and that every month of extra age in those years resulted in a decline in “first vote” turnout. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections will enable them to vote before leaving home and high school, and establish a life-long habit of voting. [...]

**Nearly half of all U.S. states have changed policies or enacted legislation that will allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, if they will be 18 at the time of the corresponding general election. 

the factory model fights healthy brain development

By: deft Saturday July 13, 2013 12:59 pm

Location of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (red) and medial orbitofrontal cortex (green) shown on ventral and medial views of the brain.

first posted at post in space

Understanding The Brain Of A TeenagerAs children enter their teens, they spend more and more time with their peers. The feedback they get from friends and colleagues at school might tune their brain’s reward system to be more sensitive to the reward value of risky pursuits. This sensitivity may drive teenagers to concentrate on the short-term benefits of making risky choices over the safer, long-term alternatives.

The cognitive control system in our brains, which helps “put the brakes” on risky behavior, takes longer to mature.“The authors explain that a new wave of research at a point where behavior and neuroscience overlap suggests that peer pressure and conformity fundamentally changes the calculus of teen risk taking.”

In a previous study published in 2009, Steinberg and team discovered that 14-year-olds were much greater risk takers in a driving simulation game when they were tested in the presence of their peers, compared to the same test without their peers around. While a 14-year old takes twice as many risk in the presence of peers, older adolescents were found to take 50% more risks. 

More recently, Steinberg and colleagues showed that adults do not take more risks when observed by their peers, but teenagers do. The teenagers also had more activity in the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex regions of the brain, which are involved in evaluating rewards.

Research appears to show that when adolescents are with their peers, their risky decision-making tendencies are heightened because of a change in the way their brains process rewards.

Our Communities Have Changed

Schools have extended compulsory attendance and now young people attend mass schools for a very long time. And in the last thirty years, the working-class family and the neighborhood social networks that created social time for teens outside of peer-only groups have both disintegrated (blame mass incarceration, working-class wage decline, corporate kleptocracy, the national security state). Everyone works longer hours for less except those at the top.  That means schools themselves, with their age sorting and grouping mechanisms, contribute at a greater level than before to peer-dependence and its consequences. 

Wealthier families still have the power of the purse to finance family vacations for special bonding time, equip their homes with expensive toys and gear that extend learning, provide expensive afterschool activities that keep kids busy and stimulated, all in calm homes with comfy study spaces where they never miss the basics, like food and medical care.

Working-class families cannot provide the offsets to peer influence that used to be more common: there isn’t money, there isn’t time and no one’s around much. Schools provide very limited extracurricular activities most of which filter out large numbers of students through grade requirements or time requirements or fees. Family leave, sick leave and vacation time are scarce, mass incarceration and wage decline have decimated families and communities, and the basics of food and medical care are not so basic anymore.

We can’t build our social system around marriage anymore | Family Inequality: “If the new book by sociologist Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson is to be believed, there is good news for the floundering marriage movement in this approach: Policies to improve the security of poor people and their children also tend to improve the stability of their relationships.

Attachment Theory Can Help

Ongoing research in attachment theory has generated a body of work that confirms what many families have discovered homeschooling: teens need deep support and interactions that are not restricted to their peers. Adequate time with parents and mentors, less peer time and more flexibility about that time,  more social time among diverse ages, all would allow the brain to develop more. The growing length of schooling, as well as the age-segregated model, conflicts with the growth and development patterns of young people (even if the current school model worked better when our communities and economy were very different than they are today.)

Note on this video: This video portrays professionals but the majority of attachment education in the US is done through peer-to-peer groups, like La Leche League, attachment parenting, or other voluntary groups of various kinds. Our mass institutions, our jobs and schools, do not recognize these instinctive social needs at this time. 

Using attachment theory to more fully develop an awareness of the social needs of children and teens can help us make institutions like public schooling more flexible and responsive to families.  Learning activities, developing skills, and acquiring credentials are all worthwhile activities but clearly these activities must be available within a framework that acknowledges and works with some conception of human development and growth. Attachment theory provides a vital framework to grasp the human dynamics of our social life and its implications for learning. Building sustainable institutions will require this understanding our attachment needs as human beings. Mass, age-segregated models work against many teens with lower social capital and resources.

Peer-dependence and the segregated structure of our communities means the time has come for schools to begin thinking how to change their model. A learning services model would allow families to choose services and make granular adjustments to maximize the environment for the child. A change of model would allow credentialism to be separate from learning. It would also begin to empower families who are the only ones who can make real change happen. Schools must stop complaining about families who do not provide them with the right kind of students: schools must begin to support families and kids in their lives as they live them now.


life in mass institutions

blaming parents, blaming the family

voluntary attendance

schools & the destruction of the working-class family

Image via Wikipedia under Creative Commons license

Life in Mass Institutions

By: deft Thursday February 14, 2013 12:34 pm

cross-posted from post in space

From “The Problem of Student Engagement” on Wright’s Room:

When I first learned this statistic I was stunned. Moreover, research shows that the longer our students are in school, the less academically competent they feel (Covington & Dray, 2001) – even students who are considered “successful” in our current system experience this problem. That’s a pretty big deal. School shouldn’t be something you have to recover from, and for too many of our kids, it is.

Currently, I have a directed reading course on neuroplasticity & learning. The change in an adolescent’s brain is immense, with large portions of the executive function and the prefrontal cortex maturing. There is also a significant proliferation in dendrites & synapses that causes the adolescent cortex to thicken, before it goes through 6 or so years of intense pruning. It’s vitally important that our students be deeply engaged cognitively during this period. The brain works on a use it or lose it principle. So you can see why a boring environment having a more powerful thinning effect on the brain cortex than an exciting or enriched environment has on cortex thickening is a big deal. Boring classroom environments might actually be harming our students ability to think.

Bored student

Are dull classrooms making kids dumber?

Life in our mass institutions dumbs us all down. We insist on trying to educate, to inculcate a set of facts and skills that we test, and this is a form of brainwashing. We could instead return to what has been the usual goal of our group efforts in government: providing resources that families need and want to make their lives better.

The US did this when providing communities the physical infrastructure of schools was essential. The group effort to make a place for learning outside of private homes was successful. The US now has a large network of schools. Some nation-states struggle with achieving this (especially when they rely on the US model, unique to its time and place).

Since this network, whatever its condition, is in place, the provision of services should mean schools provide a wide array of learning services that help families and kids. Instead, compulsory attendance laws have frozen the factory model in place and the ubiquity of the school experience has meant that many see the current school model as the only way schools can function.  School administration remains stuck in a 19th century mode even as families and kids in this neoliberal era need more support and services.

And so we argue about what is taught when what we need to grasp is that we can provide schools and tools and services but trying to educate someone is an invasive form of manipulation. The strong blog post referenced above shows just how damaging this education can be when measured with modern methods. The attempt to mass brainwash kids into achieving numerical test results is still fairly new in the US. For most of our history, we provided resources — school buildings and land grants and teachers and extracurriculars — that were valuable to a great number.

But compulsory attendance laws have stifled administrative innovation and created a large group of empowered technocrats who are structurally isolated from the people they should serve. And so the entrenched technocrats and the politicos at the state and Federal level work around the edges of the problem in a system whose major design flaw is that those within the system itself have no voice. Families are completely cut out and the students themselves are ignored (abusive suspensions and neglect are also evident in a large scale). Our citizens pay for schools but cannot ask for services.

Even in other nation-states without the large economic disparities and diverse ethnic makeup of the US, the role of mass schools is proving problematic as families grapple with peer-dependence from years of mass socialization. Social services need to allow the users of the services to structure their social worlds in diverse ways. Families need and want services but our large-scale systems are undemocratic and prone to authoritarian tactics; those within them hang onto a power they should not have in the first place.

Increasing the low-level democracy within our mass institutions is critical: families and kids need far more control, a greater ability to shape their learning and social lives in ways unique to their situation. Granular control by families is the opposite of standardization: it works by having decisions made by those closest to the child. This would strengthen families and also communities. Mass institutions raising and training kids for an ever-increasing length of time are very new and not likely to survive in their current form.

More on compulsory attendance and schools:

undermining homeschooling

By: deft Friday July 6, 2012 6:50 am

cross posted at post in space

There’s a hard and unfeeling undertone to many of the anti-ed reformers discussion of homeschooling. And the jab at homeschoolers (below) was popular with many who read Diane Ravitch. After all, even as they fight ed reformers and No Child Left Behind, this group cannot really support parents and homeschooling.  Just as the NEA is still completely against homeschooling instead of seeing it as a viable option for making stronger families.

Pearsonizing Our Children « Diane Ravitch’s blog: “We’ll have Pearsonized their minds, their lives, and their bodies. Here is one true example of the cost we contemplate: “She’s pretty typical. She is a very sedentary child, has been for a long time, really has no experience with activity, no way to think about being active. She’s relatively socially isolated, doesn’t really have very many social opportunities. She’s homeschooled. She has a number of medical problems, in addition to her diabetes.”

And the example of Pearsonized minds, lives and bodies? A charter school kid drilled into compliance?  No, its a homeschooled kid with health problems.

If you click through to the NPR story on diabetes, you’ll find that the quote is from a doctor. (Video at link above or watch Study Says Traditional Diabetes Treatment Not Effective on PBS. )

The full quote. (Her doctor is pediatric endocrinologist Phil Zeitler of the University of Colorado):

DR. PHILLIP ZEITLER, University of Colorado: She’s pretty typical. She is a very sedentary child, has been for a long time, really has no experience with activity, no way to think about being active. She’s relatively socially isolated, doesn’t really have very many social opportunities. She’s homeschooled. She has a number of medical problems, in addition to her diabetes

Dr. Zeitler offers no evidence for her social isolation but he seems to assume this is true because she homeschools, an unfair stereotype that is often leveled at homeschooling. And an incredible charge when you think about it.

Parents often have to homeschool in order to have the time to care for kids that are ill. Schools will level truancy charges at families with health problems that go beyond the meager sick days allowed and schools do not accomodate chronic illnesses.  The use of antibiotics is greatly increased by demands that schools make for attendance and doctor visits — a parent’s word is not considered good enough, they could be lying!

We do know that most teens are not homeschooled and many are unhappy even in schools. From the CDC:

School-Associated Suicides — United States, 1994–1999: “Suicide-prevention efforts are needed not only to address the risk for school-associated violence, but also to reduce the much larger problem of self-directed violence among adolescents overall. In 2001, suicide was the third leading cause of death in the United States among youths aged 13–18 years, accounting for 11% of deaths in this age group (2). In 2003, approximately one in 12 high school students in the United States reported attempting suicide during the preceding 12 months (3). Data from Oregon indicate that approximately 5% of adolescents treated in hospitals for injuries from a suicide attempt made that attempt at school (4).”

Homeschooling does not mean social isolation but, like kids in schools, family income plays a large role in most families’ social strength. Many kids in schools are socially isolated and bullied and their talents ignored, and again, family income plays a role. We know that what many call socialization in the public schools is an experience of mass coercionbullying, and intense peer orientation more so as social capital, families with sufficient incomes, and strong local food supplies have all declined. We know that support for public spaces and public services is threatened in the US and that poor people are more isolated than the middle class and the rich since they cannot buy social venue access.

This study shows that the better the relationship with the parents and the lessening of peer orientation were associated with more successful treatment of diabetes. And we know that many states do not permit homeschoolers to access sports and activities though some do, so homeschoolers have fewer options, even if their physical or mental health conditions limit their engagement in the factory process. NPR didn’t mention that fact nor examine whether the homeschool girl shown had had negative school experiences. Instead they focus on activity and show a young women smiling and playing sports (and eating a poor-quality school meal) and an unsmiling homeschooler, driving (and playing with a pet).

The doctor also attributes the rise in Type II diabetes to social changes, the first of which he mentions is women going back to work (his list of social changes does not include the rise of corporatized food and decline of nutrient values in chemically-treated soil & seeds, the decline of wages for families as corporations outsourced jobs, the lack of family leave and maternity leave, the documented decline of social capital, or the continuing inability of doctors and hospitals to support breastfeeding (and here):

DR. PHILLIP ZEITLER: This represents the outcome of a large number of social changes that probably began in the ’70s, more mothers working, so the kids were coming home to empty homes, being told to stay indoors, more opportunities for sedentary activities. When I was a kid, you went outside. So, the opportunities for sedentary behavior have increased.

Does this homeschooled teen really have to represent social isolation, obesity, and also corporate school takeover?

Pearson wants to greatly extend harmful practices that are already in place within our schools. I think we need to change the public schools’ mission.  We should have schools focused  on working with families and children, not “on their behalf” or against them. I think we need to reconsider many elements in the system, from grading to credential manufacture as a mission.

And I think those fighting ed reform need to truly reach out to homeschooling and learn from it. Ignoring or vilifying homeschoolers and the progressive alternative education movement shows an inability to fully respond to a crisis and move to a better model.


supporting families

blaming parents, blaming the family

blaming families, juvenile justice edition

bullying families and children

every parent should have real choices

deschooling, family style

undermining the family and the child

ngram: school and family


globalized education

By: deft Friday May 18, 2012 2:55 am

[cross posted from post in space]

The global middle class is on the move and life is good. It is also a great time to be in educational administration in state schools that once had to focus on their state. No more. Just because you pay your taxes and attend as required doesn’t mean you get a job or can attend college.  The educational-industrial complex supports the global middle class and maybe your state, too, can find smart students abroad. US students are just not very smart and they can’t afford to pay much either.

in Ohio colleges in record numbers | “The university, like others in Ohio and across the country, has realized the benefits of recruiting Chinese students — who usually pay full price and can handle the academic challenges.

The number of Chinese students in undergraduate programs at U.S. colleges increased 43 percent, to 57,000 students, from 2009 to 2010, according to the most recent statistics from the Institute of International Education.”William Brustein, vice provost for global strategies and international affairs at Ohio State University, has worked in international education for 30 years. He said the sudden increase in undergraduate Chinese students has been a surprise.

“The phenomenon is due to the growth of the professional middle class in China and the emphasis they place on higher education,” he said. “The United States is that magnet. The growth wasn’t a surprise, but I don’t think people expected it to surge so quickly and rapidly.” OSU, in an effort to establish a large global presence, targeted China as its first “global gateway” — a prime location for faculty research, international student recruitment and opportunities for study abroad.

The university has opened offices in Shanghai, China, and Mumbai, India, and plans others in Brazil and Turkey ... While universities focus on China and India, they are also looking to other countries because as China and India expand their university systems, fewer students will look to the United States, Brustein said.

There are emerging markets,” he said. “Brazil will be one and Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia as well. We have to have plans for that more diverse flow.” A year ago, representatives from 56 universities, including the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Shawnee State University and the University of Findlay, visited Vietnam and Indonesia to explore opportunities for student recruitment there. They were invited by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

School administrators, a growing and prosperous group, are happy they can get kids from the global middle class who can handle the educational challenges. Those kids who slogged through twelve years of compulsory mis-education in Ohio just can’t seem to cut it.

Tuition increases at Ohio State are on the way next year. Many students have been protesting the proposed hikes over the past two months, saying they’r e already stretched to the limit. On Wednesday, more than 50 sign-carrying students marched across the College Green chanting “higher education, not a corporation.”

I’m being crushed by debt,” said Christy Holden, a 19-year-old sociology major. “I understand wanting to maintain the quality of the education at Ohio University, but at what costs?”

Ohio is the same state that has not fairly funded their public schools and the state that used its police arm to charge Kelley Williams-Bolar with felony charges for sending her kids to a better school in her own father’s district two miles away. Soaring tuition rates and few jobs for high school grads put pressure on everyone and when some in this system feel fearful, things can get ugly.

Kelley Williams-Bolar’s father dies in prison hospital – Local NewsWilliams and Williams-Bolar, 41, went on trial together in 2010 on charges of conspiring to enroll his granddaughters in Copley-Fairlawn schools in 2006. Williams-Bolar, who lived in Akron, was convicted of felony record tampering and served nine days in jail. Gov. John Kasich, after a torrent of international support for the mother, granted her request for a pardon over the objection of Summit County prosecutors.”

The whole point of compulsory public education was to strengthen citizen choices and the local and state economy. States provided resources, from land to funding, to build schools that everyone paid for and benefitted from except the rich, of course, who had private schools of their own. Now the so-called public schools themselves are globalized and privatized and helping fund a global middle-class, entitled to whatever they have by test scores. Schooling was designed to end child labor but kids can take high-stakes tests for twelve years and still not get a job or a scholarship. Many have taken on debt trying to get work they can live on. And debt levels record the amount of transfer:

Paul Krugman’s Economic Blinders – By Michael Hudson | Steve Keen’s Debtwatch: “Blindness to the debt issue results in especial nonsense when applied to analysis of why the U.S. economy has lost its export competitiveness. How on earth can American industry be expected to compete when employees must pay about 40 percent of their wages on debt-leveraged housing, about 10 percent more on student loans, credit cards and other bank debt, 15 percent on FICA, and about 10 to 15 percent more in income and sales taxes? Between 75 and 80 percent of the wage payment is absorbed by the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector even before employees can start buying goods and services! No wonder the economy is shrinking, sales are falling off, and new investment and hiring have followed suit.

Globalization and the growth of corporate power has been a long time coming.

The Demise of Higher Education in the United States « unsettling economics:
The response to the falling rate of profit also played a role in changing education. Tax reduction had the attraction of partially restoring profits, but it also had an important effect on education. Growing budget deficits would ramp up pressure to privatize what had been previously public responsibilities. By largely defunding education, universities became increasingly dependent on corporate money. Administrators became cautious about allowing expression of ideas that might seem upsetting to business. These factors took an enormous toll on higher education.”

Class Dismissed author interview

By: deft Thursday May 3, 2012 6:06 am

cross posted from post in space

Wed 4.11.12 | Education and Inequality | Against the Grain: A Program about Politics, Society and Ideas:  It seems logical: if you don’t have enough education your economic prospects will be diminished, while those who have a lot are able to succeed in our purportedly knowledge-based economy. But what if that’s only partially accurate? John Marsh posits that economic inequality and poverty are not causally connected to differing levels of education. He argues that we need to reject the appealing notion of education as a cure-all and look deeper at class power and structural inequality.

For Their Own Good

Against the Grain radio show has an interview with John Marsh on the popular idea that more education will somehow fix the poverty issue. Most recently, there has been a huge push to raise compulsory attendance laws and many states have done so. The reason usually cited is that drop outs do worse on lifetime earnings and therefore, heavy police tactics to keep kids in school is actually helping them.

It is another instance where lawmakers and the schools themselves rely on policing and authoritarian practices instead of figuring why kids drop out and working with them to make system changes. Compulsory attendance laws have eliminated that feedback loop, the mechanism that makes businesses listen to their customers (though we have corporations lacking that mechanism as well).

It is, of course, clearly a matter of money as schools have tied attendance to funding and raising compulsory attendance laws at a time when states have cut school funding is clearly a way to raise revenues. Concern for the welfare of young people is not the motivation in the US where we have large numbers of teens sentenced within the justice … penal system … as adults every year.

Schooling and Poverty

policing youth

By: deft Saturday April 7, 2012 4:51 am

cross-posted sans video from post in space

As the civil rights movement was working to end racial apartheid in the South and gain access to education after WWII, schools were continuing their intense centralization. Spurred by the rapid growth of the military-industrial complex, corporations expanded their reach and grasp globally. And corporate expansion fit well with a highly centralized public school structure that could offer a large market to corporate vendors. Education corporations have since gained enormous domination of the entire arc of education in the neoliberal era even as more citizens used education services as fair wages declined.

Increasing repression within schools is clearly seen in the movement toward zero tolerance policies in the past 30 years, policies that sync with mass incarceration, so that today we are seeing levels of policing and control within schools that hard to reconcile with the original purpose of schools. The schools were partly an answer to the exploitation of youth in factories but many schools today have become factories themselves with a school-to-prison pipeline for racial minorities. 

Schools should be a social service for citizens in a democracy and police are not needed when this social service works with families in a supportive capacity.  Changing the power structure of compulsory schooling to allow all families to be partners in the social services they pay for, changing this dynamic would enable communities to begin strengthening our weak social fabric. Authoritarian tactics and racism by a social service that should serve families are, as Alice Walker says,  symptoms of the disease .  That disease has brought war as a growth industry and expanded police power in mass institutions that are not anchored firmly and democratically to all citizens.

Trayvon Martin Suspensions: Too Harsh?:

“In March the U.S. Department of Education released the Civil Rights Data Collection, a self-reported survey of more than 72,000 schools that serve 85 percent of American students. Among the tool’s findings is that African-American and Latino students receive harsher school discipline than their white counterparts. Black students are more than three times as likely, for example, to be suspended or expelled, and one in five African-American boys received an out-of-school suspension.

Youth protesting Trayvon Martin case in Baltimore, video with activist Glen Ford who advises youth to remain involved in activism for change, at the Real News Network, Trayvon Martin and Structural Racism

background posts

unequal treatment

blaming families, juvenile justice edition

semi-private clubs called schools

update on williams-bolar

theft of education crimes

school to prison pipeline