Friday, April 11, 2008

How the Middle Class Negotiates and Justifies School Advantage

I am looking forward to hearing from an author's whose book has generated lots of discussion about class and influence in public schools.

From the UW Bookstore website:

Friday • April 25 • 7pm
Ellen Brantlinger
Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Justifies School Advantage
Reading & Book Signing U District store

Ellen Brantlinger studied the relationship between social class and educational success in her Indiana hometown. And instead of simply looking at the way the historically marginalized lower classes fail or succeed based on class, she looked at the middle and affluent classes as well to see how their value systems corresponded to their educational goals. Sponsored by the University of Washington School of Education.

And from the UW College of Education website:

Brantlinger’s book is receiving acclaim as a “take-no-prisoners ethnography” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Rationalizes School Advantage combines observation and interviews in an analysis of how social class structure affects educational success.
According to Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor of Educational Equity at UCLA, “Dividing Classes forces us to confront perhaps the most troubling and least studied challenge to equitable schooling: Middle-class Americans’ presumption that their own superiority accounts for their school success and the life chances that successful schooling brings.”

Dividing Classes challenges the notion that our school system is progressive or that it is based on equality. Brantlinger, a retired professor of education and Curriculum Studies Doctoral Program Coordinator at Indiana University, builds her researchon 31 candid interviews with administrators, principals, teachers, and parents in a small Midwest town.“Many students and colleagues are uncomfortable with my slant that advocating for your children may not be a very democratic or a fair thing to do,” explains Brantlinger. “But that is a great discussion starter, talking about how schools are shaped by class dominance.”

The College of Education has housed many of these discussions since Dividing Classes was selected as a College of Education “common book” by faculty president Philip Bell. Since its selection, Dividing Classes has been read by the College of Education community, built into coursework, and anchored into the broader community dialogue through focused events. “Sometimes educators will see progress in race and class inclusiveness, although in truth progress has been reversed recently,” Brantlinger states. “As the wage gap grows, as the suburbs become more exclusive of particular types of people, and as residential areas become less diverse, there has been a reversal of race and class inclusiveness.”

“As a radical humanist, I believe that virtually all of us have a tendency towards social reciprocity, particularly in times of crisis,” Brantlinger summarizes. “I think that times are difficult right now – we are in a war, our country is viewed negatively, there is a growing wage gap – and this time of crisis is an opportunity for people to come together.”


I think Ellen Brantlinger's book is absolutely worth reading. Whether you agree or disagree with what she says, it provides an excellent starting place to tackle a difficult and controversial issue.

Want a preview? Click here to listen to Ellen Brantlinger talk about school choice and self-selected segregation on NPR’s Talk of the Nation program.

26 comments:

Ad hoc said...

My child goes to a Shoreline middle school, and although I have been tremendously satisfied with the academic offerings, I have been very troubled by the division of the have and have nots. The Honors kids, and the regular ed kids. My son, being new to the Shoreline SD, and wanting to make friends as been willing to befriend anyone who welcomes him, and thus has met some unsavory kids. One of which has tried to commit suicide, the other of which comes from a lower income home, whose apartment smells of cigarrette smoke, is filthy, the child sleeps on a couch, and the single parent (dad) is rarely present. I wonder what this division of classes does, how it affects children, and how parents can assimilate and teach kids to respect the differences among us but still shelter them from harm and exposure???

I'm not fond of the Hale all inclusive model, with no separate AP and honors classes, but I have to wonder if this is good socially??? It must be good not to divide by class, and make all kids equal?? Hind site is 20/20, and I hope I can figure this all out by the time my kids graduate!!!

Charlie Mas said...

I bristle at the word "privilege" because it sounds like something granted rather than something earned. Maybe I'm just "justifying", but if I make sacrifices for my children or work hard for my children, and therefore secure benefits for my children, I don't care to hear people dismiss that work and sacrifice and speak of the benefits as if they fell into my lap.

Charlie Mas said...

And what, pray tell, is the alternative?

Because there is some other family that can't tutor their child at home, that is a reason why I should choose not to tutor mine - lest they have some unfair advantage through privilege?

If another person is blind, should I pluck out my eyes?

This perspective is madness. Are we to understand that no child should learn anything more than the least educated child in the class? We should all diminish our achievement to match the lowest achieving member of our community? Whom does that serve?

We should not follow a path that leads to everyone being served equally poorly. Instead, we should preserve and expand the high quality opportunities. Moreover, we should provide additional support for students who are not ready to take advantage of those opportunities and make them ready.

The problem with the division isn't the high quality of some opportunities; the problem is the low quality of the others.

hschinske said...

I haven't read the book, but it sounds as though Brantlinger is suggesting that education is somehow in limited supply and midde-to-upperclass people are grabbing more than their share. I don't see it that way. There is no inherent reason why the educational system should function as a zero-sum game. In so far as it does, it's broken, and it hinders everyone, though it doesn't hinder rich people *as much*. Still, the zero-sum game works out badly for everyone. It's just *less bad* for rich people, not actively *good*.

Helen Schinske

YoureKidding said...

You ARE both kidding, right? "Education" isn't a zero sum game, but the dollars we devote to it are definitely finite. If we spend a lot on one thing, yes, we have less for other things.

And what, pray tell, is the alternative?

The alternative to wealthy people funding their own educations via tutoring and private schooling while enjoying low tax rates (including zero income tax), is to adequately fund education for those who can't afford tutors, homes, health care, and all the rest. That means good old taxes. Duh.

hschinske said...

But the inequities in the system are mostly *not* inequities of money. If they were, it would be a lot easier to solve them. I completely agree that the whole business is underfunded, and I have always supported the increase of basic education funding in this state (and yes, I'd be okay with paying higher taxes myself to that end), but I don't think it's the only problem we face by a long shot.

Helen Schinske

taxpayer said...

They're not about money? Oh yeah, you mean, the old argument: "The poor schools get a few hundred dollars extra per student, or even 1 thousand. After that extra money, the poor schools get essentially the same as a wealthy schools. Counting auction, and contributions etc."

So, if a really high needs school gets the SAME as a wealthy one after every penny is counted... then "it's really not about money". ??? Everyone's getting the same, right? Some get it from the state, others get it from contributions. Fair? That proves it's not the money, doesn't it?

The fact is, the really high needs students, need really a LOT more (after everything's counted). If we really wanted to make up for these inequities, it would actually cost a lot. I think most people actually like having the edge that an inequitable system brings them. And they like the low taxes.

Charlie Mas said...

I wouldn't be so quick to make conjecture about what other people like or want.

Many of us find it difficult to plumb the depths of our own motivations. Presuming to understand a stranger's motivations simply isn't credible enough to give voice.

Ad hoc said...

So, what amount of money would it take to make things equitable for the very low income schools?? What would you add with the money? Clearly from the Madrona community the school doesn't want PE, gardening, music, etc. And, I think this is fairly common in the low income schools. So, where would the money go, and exactly how much would you need?

Are there any examples in other districts around the country that have successfully closed the achievement gap with adequate funding?

Beth Bakeman said...

Money is only one piece of this discussion.

Does anybody remember Chris Drape's discussion with Danny Westneat on this issue? As a parent, he was committed to sending his child to the neighborhood school because of equity issues.

The middle class negotiates advantage in many ways, including choosing to attend a school other than the neighborhood school (like I do with my kids), testing (and arranging private testing if necessary) to get their kids into Spectrum and other special programs, and advocating for the best teachers within any given school.

I definitely see myself in the picture painted by Brantlinger as a middle class parent who negotiates the best education for my kids and justifies it. And I don't think there is anything unusual or particularly awful about that.

But I think there is incredible value in understanding what we are doing and the effect it has on other people's children. I see that understanding as crucial to being able to design a better, more equitable school system. Perhaps that self-awareness can prod people into taking actions (like many people on this blog do) to improve educational opportunities for kids other than your own.

And hopefully, we can grow towards a shared understanding that there are many extremely important school outcomes (such as compassion, the ability to get along well with people different from us, and a recognition of types of intelligence that doesn't always show up in test scores) that can be gained in schools and classes that aren't the "best" by more traditional measures.

hschinske said...

It was somewhat muddled of me to say that the inequities aren't ones of money. Most are related to money, but in a fairly distant fashion, and can't be solved *just* by adding money to the low side of the account.

I've argued several times on this blog and elsewhere that any system that is complicated and difficult to deal with will unfairly favor people who have more time, energy, information, and chutzpah. Those things correlate highly, though not perfectly, with socioeconomic status. But it doesn't mean that any of us LIKES dealing with a system that takes so much time and energy, or that we wouldn't far prefer a system that was more transparent and easier to navigate. Such a system would benefit everyone, but particularly those who now can't deal with it at all.

To give an example: the current mathematics curriculum ends up "benefiting" (putting at a relative advantage) middle-to-upperclass students who have math-literate parents or can afford special tutoring. But it's exactly that population that's screaming the loudest about its inadequacies.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

taxpayer wrote:"The fact is, the really high needs students, need really a LOT more (after everything's counted). If we really wanted to make up for these inequities, it would actually cost a lot.

What would it cost and what would we buy with that money?

What would it cost to duplicate for some other child the value I express for education for my children? And how could you buy that?

What would it cost to duplicate for some other child the little one and two minute lessons I constantly give my children in math, science, history, literature, and grammar nearly every time I interact with them? And how could you buy that?

What would it cost to duplicate for some other child the way I ask my children thought-provoking questions or the way I challenge their thinking? And how could you buy that?

What would it cost to duplicate the encouragement I give my children? And how could you buy that?

Doing all of these things is part of my duty as a parent - as I see it - and part of my culture. I cannot stop doing it, I don't wish to stop doing it, and I don't imagine that anyone else actually wants me to stop doing it. Everything I do for my children can be found on the District web site as a recommended action for parents.

Is this the privilege that my family is supposed to abandon? Is this the privilege that my family is supposed to somehow share?

Do I advocate for my children? Sometimes I do. Should I not? Should none of us advocate for our children? Whom would that serve?

I also advocate for other children - pretty darn actively. Does that somehow give me enough credits that I can escape the accusation of "privilege"? Is there any amount of advocacy that I can do for other children that would absolve me of that "guilt"? I don't think so. There will always be someone new showing up, presuming the worst about me and my family, and spewing accusations of classism, racism, and elitism.

Is it elitist of me to want my children - and all children - to be taught at the frontier of their knowledge and skills? Is it elitist of me to want my children - and all children - to have a challenging, rigorous academic experience? I don't see it.

Is it elistist of me to choose a school or a program other than the general education program at our neighborhood school when that school tells me that they are not set up to meet my child's academic needs? What am I supposed to say? "Oh, that's okay, school isn't really about academics." It's bad enough to be accused of elitism, but to be accused of classism and racism as well because I want my children to have an appropriate academic experience? That's more than I will suffer quietly.

Maureen said...

I have come to believe that there are several different factors at work here. To oversimplify: Some children fall behind in school because their lives are chaotic, their adults are just trying to hold things together well enough to cover their basic needs; Some kids (like mine and Charlie's) are immersed in a culture where education happens constantly, is valued and is made a top priority; and many children are in families who treat education the way I do sports: we think they are a good thing, but we don't let them interfere too much with our real lives.

My kids will never get soccer scholarships; they are fit and healthy, but they definitely suffer from a team sports achievement gap.

I have no problem doing whatever is necessary to help the kids whose adults are overwhelmed by life. I do however have trouble sympathising with families (many but not all of them are middle class) who let kids skip homework to go to practice or watch TV, who skip school to go on vacation, or sometimes just because they don't feel like going, who don't express consistent support for teachers and for kids who do well in school. In other words families who treat school the way I treat organized sports.

Is this a cultural difference? Is a value for education something I can instill in a kid I work with for half an hour a week? I know there are kids who end up excelling in sports even though their parents don't support them, but they tend to be the extremely talented ones. Is that acceptable in eduction? How can we communicate to adults that if they want their children to succeed at school, they need to show kids that it is important; that it is the family's work to help the child learn?

Ad hoc said...

"How can we communicate to adults that if they want their children to succeed at school, they need to show kids that it is important; that it is the family's work to help the child learn?"

I honestly don't think this can be communicated. Did someone communicate it to you?? I think that there are families whose values are just different than yours, mine and Charlie's. They don't value education for whatever reason. Their lives are chaotic and they are as you say, just trying to hold it together. They don't have the time or energy to do what you do with your kids. So many have other issues such as drugs and alcohol, homelessness, joblessness. Education is at the bottom of their list, and understandably so. Then there are the middle class folks who also don't value education, perhaps for other reasons. So many middle class families just blindly trust that school will do it's job, without their intervention or help. Both parents work so they can have a bigger house and a nicer car, and just don't have the time it takes to give to their children. One of my child's best friends never sees his single dad because he works long hours. He doesn't often do his homework, and is failing several classes. But he has a fancy Xbox, a PSP and a Wii to keep him busy. Things my kids vie for. We have a small house, an old car, one old (used) xbox that the kids share. I am able to stay home, and not work. My kids do well in school. They do their homework. Education is our top priority, and we do what it takes to make sure that our kids will be successful.

It is all what you value, and I am not convinced that you can teach people values and morals. I believe values and morals are instilled in you, passed down from your parents, they are part of your composition. They are what make you who you are. I don't think a school, or administration or well meaning parents like Maureen can instill these in people who don't seek them. I don't think schools regardeless of the amount of money they recieve can ever replace the value and support for education that children get at home. I don't think the children whose parents don't value education and hold them accountable for good grades, make them do their homework, and don;t let them skip school, will ever do as well as children whose families do. I don't think society can change that. All we can do is support these children and do what we can for them, which will never be enough.

That's just my opinion.

funsizedwit said...

Charlie Mas said, "I bristle at the word 'privilege' because it sounds like something granted rather than something earned. Maybe I'm just 'justifying,' but if I make sacrifices for my children or work hard for my children, and therefore secure benefits for my children, I don't care to hear people dismiss that work and sacrifice and speak of the benefits as if they fell into my lap."

Privilege is granted rather than earned. I'm not denying that you have worked hard and sacrificed for your children or saying that they fell into your lap. But you probably started out ahead of many others monetarily. Your family/home culture may have valued education and certain kinds of success. You may have had more resources at home and in your community to help you succeed. When you applied to college, you had reduced competition because of the disadvantages of others. Later, starting your career, you once again had to deal with reduced competition. None of this is your fault. But I think it's important to recognize that when there is no level playing field (because I think we're adult enough to recognize that there is not), most people do not simply "earn" their place in society. They work hard to get the place they want in society, and society works hard to ensure that certain types of people get certain types of places in society. I am privileged; for example, my parents wanted me to focus on school in high school. They gave me an allowance so I wouldn't get a job. Other friends had no choice. They had to get jobs. It's a lot easier to do well in school when you're not working 20 hours a week. Then you get into the good colleges. Then... (etc)

In summary, I think it's important to recognize and accept the role privilege plays. Then we can try to find ways to help under-privileged students rather than placing the blame solely at their feet or the feet of their teachers.

Ad hoc said...

"Privilege is granted rather than earned"

While this is true in some circumstances it is not always.

My (black) father in law grew up in Alabama, in a very very poor family, that to this day still has an out house. His wife, my mother in law, also came from a very poor family of 12 kids in Alabama. They were turned away from many colleges because of their skin color, but had the will and drive to succeed, and eventually were accepted. They lived in public housing and worked two jobs to make ends meet, pay tuition and raise their family. To make a long story short, my father in law became a PHD, and worked his way to becoming the president of the Clark County community college system in Nevada. My mother in law earned a masters and was a biology teacher for many years, until she retired, and opened her own boutique, which she runs today, at age 72. They are what you would consider privileged today, but they worked hard to earn their privilege. Nothing was handed to them. They conveyed to my husband, their son, how valuable education was, and my husband now passes this value on to our children. We feel lucky to have such role models in our lives.

On the flip side, my mother (white), while not from a super wealthy family was offered privilege without working for it. She attended private school, was encouraged to go to college, at a time when many women did not even think about college, and came from a stable, hard working, middle class home. She could have been anything SHE wanted to be. But, she chose to do nothing with her privilege. She shunned college, got pregnant at age 17, turned to alcohol, and generally never did anything substantial with her life. She died of liver disease at age 56.

So yes funsizewit it is not always a level playing field, but where there is a will there is a way. It is easier to do well in school if you are not working 20 hours a week, but it can be done, if it's what you want. If my in laws can do it, with all the cards stacked against them, then anybody can.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm enjoying this discussion and I hope it can continue. I really like how people have challenged my thinking here and I hope they are open to the same experience.

I will acknowledge that I was granted a "headstart" in a number of ways. I have been privileged by being a member of a culture that values education. I was not disadvantaged by poverty. I did have the benefit of resources in my home and community which contributed to my academic and personal growth. I will even acknowledge reduced competition for academic and employment opportunities due to the "uneven playing field" which obstructed access to those opportunities for others.

Thank you for the kindness of excusing me from personal blame for this privilege. Not everyone who talks the privilege line is ready to extend that pardon.

There can be no doubt that a number of advantages of birth put me in a position such that some opportunities were open to me - unless I screwed them up - and other opportunities were put within reach. There can be no doubt that a lot of other people did not have that advantage of birth and either had to work harder to access those opportunities or, in some cases, could not access them at all.

I accept all of that in full and completely acknowledge it as true and agree.

But let's face it. No matter who you are, there is somebody who is worse off than you - and somebody who is better off than you. That is the nature of the world.

I don't think that is in dispute either.

Let's say that we wish to change the nature of the world. Let's say that we want to level the playing field.

My question, the one I asked earlier in this thread, remains unanswered.

What am I supposed to do about this?

"Because there is some other family that can't tutor their child at home, that is a reason why I should choose not to tutor mine - lest they have some unfair advantage through privilege?

If another person is blind, should I pluck out my eyes?
"

What would funsizedwit - or anyone else from a similar perspective - suggest I do? Reject my privilege? How would I do that?

Should I reject my education? How would I do that? Should I pretend I don't know things? Should I keep myself from thinking critically or deeply? Where is the point at which I should stop thinking about things? Have I already gone too far? If I were to reject the gifts of education wouldn't I fail or refuse to even engage this topic?

Should I reject my job? And take what job? What job can I have that doesn't exploit my privilege when there are some who are unemployable?

Should I reject my culture? And what culture should I adopt? Is that even a reasonable expectation? Is there some culture which is acceptable?

More to the point, should I deny my children any support beyond the least amount of support granted their peers? Should I deny them any support beyond the average amount of support granted their peers? How much support is too much support? Where is the line, so I know not to step over it?

I feel accused - whether I have been absolved of personal responsibility or not - but I see no viable path to atonement. It's like original sin - a concept which is, by the way, alien to my culture.

While haven't been accused of creating my own privilege, I have, in fact, been accused of perpetuating privilege by extending it to my children. The guilt isn't really sticking all that well, however, because I believe in the righteousness of supporting my children's education. Within my culture, this is one of my highest duties. How can I walk away from it? It is bred in the bone, an intrinsic element of my identity. What alternative is open to me? When my children ask me questions am I supposed to tell them to stop being so inquisitive and watch TV? Whom does that serve?

I have to say that I get the same sort of vibe when people speak of gentrification. They see my efforts to improve my property and my neighborhood as somehow evil and negative when, from my perspective, they are good and positive. What should I do? Encourage street crime and vandalism? Choose squalor? I'm not seeing the alternative. A neighbor with an attractive front lawn makes a gift for the neighborhood. Picking up trash as you walk around is good for the community. I haven't heard anything to convince me otherwise.

There are no villians here. Or rather, as I am always telling my kids, the villians believe themselves to be the heroes. No one (except a very few pychopaths) believe they are doing evil. The bad guys think they are the good guys. The people who scare me are the ones who are absolutely convinced that they are right. The more you're sure that your are right, the more wrong you give yourself license to commit. The people who flew planes into buildings were absolutely convinced of the righteousness of their cause and their actions. I'm afraid of people who aren't open to the idea that they might be wrong.

I'd like to think that I'm open to the alternative, but I haven't heard it yet.

Maureen said...

What am I supposed to do about this?

What I think a lot of us do is try (and we're not always successful) to advocate for other people's kids the way we do our own. We support opportunities for them to be exposed to enriching activities, we do some tutoring, we donate money so everyone can participate. We bite our tongues when our kids have to spend some time on things that benefit other kids but not them.

Sometimes I feel like people think I'm patronizing or I get discouraged at how little progress some kids seem to make, but then I think of how grateful I am to the coaches who have taught my kids how to dribble or field a grounder, skills that I know as much about the average parent does linear algebra, so I go back and try some more.

People like Charlie and Melissa might do it a little differently--they push for more resources and a more intelligent use of the ones we have. They shine light into dark corners. We might not all agree on exactly what will benefit all of the kids, but I believe we are all trying in our own way.

Ad hoc said...

Yes, I would agree with Maureen...it's the little things that we do. Contributions that we make, to support the community as a whole. Volunteering in any classroom that needs our help, not just our own child's, or going to your schools auction to ensure that there will be plenty of scholarship money available for those who need it, coaching a sports team at the community center even if your child doesn't play on that team (my husband does this). Small things, but things that do make a difference. Giving back. That is what we as individuals can do. It is our right to work hard, and earn privilege, but it is also our responsibility to share our means, talents, and gifts with those who are less fortunate than us.

Charlie, Melissa and Maureen, you are all already doing this on so many levels. Charlie, picking up that piece of trash as you're walking by is giving back. It's caring, and it's helping your community. No need to be ashamed of our privilege. We earned it, we have a right to it, and we value it. But we must also share it when and how we can.

Charlie Mas said...

Honestly, I don't get the sense that sharing a bit of the wealth, these minor acts of charity, would be enough to satisfy the "privilege" crowd. I have never heard them say as much. I have never heard Dr. Hollins say "Yes, you and your children are privileged, but you have shared those advantages enough to earn exemption. We won't try to take that privilege from you."

The line I hear from her is "Because your children have already benefitted from the privileges of being raised in your home and the support you have given their education, the school district doesn't need to support their education and can re-direct even baseline resources from your children to children from less privileged homes."

That is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase. Here are some direct quotes:

"We should not spend a single dime to support students working beyond standards until every student is working at standards."

"No student should learn multiplication until every student has learned addition."

I see a Soviet-era vision of equity here that terrifies me. It is race to the bottom. Every student must be as poorly supported as the poorest supported student. I would far prefer a race to the top. Let's aspire to making every student as well supported as the best supported student. Let's expand challenging rigorous curricula to every student. Let's set high expectations for every student. Let's support every student to work at the frontier of their knowledge and skills. That's a vision of equity I can get behind.

Of course some students need more. Let's get it to them. But let's still provide every other student with the basic resources to which they have a right.

Ad hoc said...

But Charlie, we are not in the race toward the bottom. Your children are in Washington and Garfield, Melissa's are in Roosevelt, Maureen's are in TOPS, Beth's are at Pathfinder, mine are at Bryant and a fantastic Shoreline middle school getting all honors classes. Our kids get tutored at home or in Kumon or Sylvan if need be, they get private music lessons, they get it all. We make sure of that. There are enough of us out there to never let Dr. Hollin's "soviet era vision" affect our children, and if it ever did, we'd run, not walk out of this district (at least I would). I don't do the right thing and share my privilege in order to get the "privileged" crowd or Dr. Hollin's validation. I do it because I am a good person, and want to help the less fortunate. You can't change some people's mind set, there are people who will always think like Dr. Collins, and Serestoo, but I think, or at least I hope, they are in the minority.

Ad hoc said...

And, I should add that I believe Dr. Hollin's mentality of "re-direct even baseline resources from your children to children from less privileged homes." is just plain wrong on so many levels. I 100% agree with you, Charlie. I'm just saying that thus far we have been able to shelter our children from the affects of this mentality.

Charlie Mas said...

It's a small correction, but my kids are both at Washington. We live in the Washington reference area, although Mercer is almost within earshot of our house. Next year I will have one at Washington and one at NOVA. I won't have a kid at Garfield for at least a couple years, and who knows if ever.

Ad hoc said...

I hear NOVA is a fantastic school. Their previous principal, Elaine Packard, was a great leader there for many years, and is still an active advocate for the alternative school community! I will be eager to hear your feedback next year.

jllz said...

"There are enough of us out there to never let Dr. Hollin's "soviet era vision"--by "us" do you mean middle class folks who bristle at the word, "privilege"?

Granted, there are a lot of problems with schools today, and this blog is a reminder to me that those of us in the middle-class are pretty anxious about our own upward mobility, and feel the need to protect our own --yes, at the expense of others. When we don't advocate vocally and optimistically and pro-actively for others, we are at odds with democratic goals of education, and dare I say, social justice, for all of our children (I can hear the soviet slurs gearing up to be hurled my say). Just what kind of public future do you envision for your well-educated child, tucked away at one of the few gems of the public system? Keep your child where he/she is--we ALL want the best for our children, but I'm so tired of the soviet rhetoric anyone bravely advocates beyond one's own, invoking justice!

Dr. Hollins isn't trying to take something from you by trying to create public schools as places where all children thrive, feel pride in their own and others cultures --even those at home who do not benefit the private, informal daily mini-lessons Charlie provides at home for his kids, influenced by his culture that "values education". When you ay this, what exactly are you implying about another's culture, do you think? Can we now chalk school success and failure up to "culture" now? It has nothing to do with any systemic problems whatsoever? So all success then, happens in the home and school is just what... is school the place where all children are supposed to arrive equally equipped, ideally with the good training of your culture? Talk about utopic thinking..

We really don't have to scratch the surface of institutional practices post Brown v Board too deeply to begin to get some sense that schools have never been set up to the advantage of the economically disadvantaged (and we know that race and class overlap significantly--now this overlap, do you chalk this too up to merely "culture"? Certainly a large body of research supports the idea that other factors (i.e., the very attitudes and systemic patterns which advantage white, middle-class students. "culture" begins to sound an awful lot like a proxy for race.

Suggesting that all children should have the best school experiences is not to take anything away from your child (or my white, middle-class child), it is to say that for far too long "bad" (or underresourced, due to very difficult economic factors of the famiies that attend them sure, but also as research continues to show, the least experienced teachers, and a host of other factors that stress schools serving low-income, predominantly children of color severely. The families at these schools need, frankly, more than you do, for schools to be fabulous. But we know currently these are a scarce commodity. Asks yourself who finds their way to these too rare public entities and secures a spot.

Those with advantage --cultural capital--the movers and the shakers who know how to work the system for their children, do not move and shake for other people's children, by and large. IN fact, Danny Westneat called invoking justice, on behalf of public school children, a tall order.

I disagree. What if those of us with that sort of know-how saw all of the children as our collective responsibiity. What if instead of moralizing about what other parents aren't doing in their homes with their children (is the implication here that if parents are not doing all the good things you are doing, then the chips will just fall where they may for that child and well, its that irresponsible parents fault)?

I wonder if anyone on this blog is familiar with the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy? These schools, touted as the best in the world by Newsweek, attract international crowds by the thousands annually. Having gone on a tour myself, I can say, that these incredible learning environments are nothing short of a public school dream--they are the public system of pre-schools --0-6 years! It would be silly to compare that context with Seattle Public Schools on most levels, nonetheless, I we can certainly take inspiration from what they are doing and ask ourselves as a society how we act in similiar or dissimilar ways on behalf of all our children---they think very broadly about children as having 100 languages maybe more, and they speak unashamedly about school being a political space, a space of democratic relations. Oh, and guess what, 12% of the muniple budget goes towards making these schools wonderful and available as a public system. It take $, it takes political will, and takes loving all the children--I belive that lacking any one of those, good public schools will continue to be a scarce commodity for those that know how to game the system.

WHy must the pejorative label of "soviet era vision" be thrown across any advocacy beyond our precious own?

Maureen said...

Can anyone report on Dr. Brantlinger's talk?