Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let's Have a Serious and Difficult Discussion

There's been some articles/opinion pieces I've read over the last couple of days, combined with some discussions with other people, that lead me to believe we need to have some very serious discussions about parenting for educational success and how that is viewed (or not) within different communities.

Some of this is spurred by the call of political correctness over Brave New World (over at the Stranger Slog several people referred to whiny victimhood). I'm also reading a good book my son recommended to me that he read in his high school social studies class called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn in which a gorilla attempts to teach a young man how to view the world. It's very well done and very thought provoking.

I don't pretend to know all the answers nor can I say I understand the complexities of every group. I don't believe for a minute that we all live in equality and/or equity in this country. I do believe this country does represent the best chance that most people could ever have of reaching that goal. But somewhere along the line the idea that the opportunity of working hard and giving your children a better life evolved to expectation that it should come easily. And maybe without working so hard or by believing for a minute that you could buy a house with $1,000 down and no consequences or that living on credit cards will work.

The worst one? Believing that all you have to do to help your child academically is to send him/her to school and just remind them to do their homework (rather than making sure it gets done). And believing that if your child fails, then it's the teacher's fault or the school's. If a child is failing in school, there is NO one culprit.

So what did I read? I read Tom Friedman's column "Teaching for America" where he goes over the depressing stats about American students. He points out that students who perform the best come from Singapore, South Korea and Finland. (Let's put aside their small size and homogeneous nature even though it does play a part.)

Three countries that outperform us — Singapore, South Korea, Finland — don’t let anyone teach who doesn’t come from the top third of their graduating class. And in South Korea, they refer to their teachers as ‘nation builders.’ ”

Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be. There are 3.2 million active teachers in America today. In the next decade, half (the baby boomers) will retire. How we recruit, train, support, evaluate and compensate their successors “is going to shape public education for the next 30 years,” said Duncan. We have to get this right.

BUT he ends saying we also need...better parents. Turn off the tv, restrict the video and the phone and most important "elevate learning as the most important life skill." It's funny because some people might say teaching children empathy or kindness or honesty is more important but really those all relate to learning.

The more we demand from teachers the more we have to demand from students and parents.

The second article was in the NY Times and is entitled, "Proficiency of Black Students is Found to be Far Lower Than Expected". I was talking about this with a friend (who in turn had been talking about it with some Rainier Beach parents she met at Betty Patu's community meeting yesterday). We both agreed we got tears in our eyes as we read it.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

How can this be? How can middle class African-American boys do more poorly than poor white boys?

This came from the NAEP results from 2009. A report on this issue, "A Call for Change" was released on Tuesday by the Council of Great City Schools. (I have not yet read the report as it is 120 pages.)

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

"The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.

The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” Mr. Casserly said."

What is interesting is that the article then went on to say some disagree with the above. It stated that in Baltimore their drop-out rate had decline by half from 4 years ago and their graduation rates were up 6 percent in 3 years. They did this by a combination of the ed reform of closing failing schools (but it doesn't note what happened to the schools) BUT, like Everett School District, having one-on-one intervention (knocking on doors and alerting teachers and principals when a student missed several days of school). Meaning, parents would have a hard time missing that their student was in academic trouble.

So this brings me to the last column by the great Bob Herbert in the NY Times entitled, "This Raging Fire". Mr. Herbert is an African-American who frequently writes about that community. He points out the painful truths for the African-America child; a very high rate of single-parent households, high drop-out rate and incarceration rate and being twice as likely to live in a home where a parent doesn't have full-time employment. From his column:

It is inconceivable in this atmosphere that blacks themselves will not mobilize in a major way to save these young people. I see no other alternative.

The first and most important step would be a major effort to begin knitting the black family back together. There is no way to overstate the myriad risks faced by children whose parents have effectively abandoned them. It’s the family that protects the child against ignorance and physical harm, that offers emotional security and the foundation for a strong sense of self, that enables a child to believe — truly — that wonderful things are possible.

I wouldn’t for a moment discount the terrible toll that racial and economic injustice have taken, decade after decade, on the lives of millions of black Americans. But that is no reason to abandon one’s children or give in to the continued onslaught of those who would do you ill. One has to fight on all fronts, as my Uncle Robert said.

He ends this way:

This is not a fight only for blacks. All allies are welcome. But the cultural imperative lies overwhelmingly with the black community itself.

My friend who attended Betty Patu's meeting and was handed this article by a Rainier Beach parent said the parent told her that their community knows this. They don't need blame, they need support. To pull everyone up is going to take effort, not finger pointing.

What has to happen is no more excuses. I do not mean that anyone should forget what has gone before or believe that there is not still discrimination based on skin color, culture or sexual orientation in this country. But treading water and still sinking has got to stop.

I think the parents at Rainier Beach are reaching their frustration point and may be in the best place possible to mobilize for change. We need to support that.

124 comments:

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

Hi Melissa,

Two things worry me about this study: The possibility that it could lead to some kind of eugenics argument -- the implication that kids of a certain race always perform less well than kids of another race, regardless of socioeconomic background.

I am also concerned about the scientific and political purity of a study provided by an organization that is backed by major pro-privatizing ed reformers and industries.

Have a look:
The Council of the Great City Schools

From 2009 Annual Report: http://www.cgcs.org/boardmeeting/Annual_Report_Final.pdf

Wrote and submitted a proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting in a $3.7-million grant
to support a multi-year research project on standards and data use in the Great City Schools.

"Blue Ribbon Corporate Advisory Group"
(Note: Strategic Support Teams
include The Broad Foundation)

Blue Ribbon Corporate Advisory Group
America’s Choice, Inc.
ARAMARK Education
Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
McGraw-Hill Companies
Pearson Education
Scholastic, Inc.
Sodexo
Texas Instruments
Voyager Expanded Learning
Wireless Generation
2008 Chief Financial Officers
Meeting
AECOM
Catalyst Financial Group, Inc.
Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality
CherryRoad Technologies, Inc.
CIBER, Inc.
Cognos, an IBM Company
Heery International
Microsoft
MILO Solutions & Services, LLC
Oracle
Preferred Meal Systems
Public Consulting Group
SAP Public Services, Inc.
School-Link Technologies
Sodexho
SunGard Public Sector
The Cadmus Group
Tyler Technologies
2008 Annual Fall Conference
AAL
Approva
America’s Choice, Inc.
ARAMARK
Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality
CIBER, Inc
Community Education Partners
DHJM
Evans Newton Incorporated
Excelsior Software
FirstClass
Houghton Mifflin Company
Kaplan K12 Learning Services
KellyService
McGraw-Hill Education
National Geographic School
Publishing/ Hampton-Brown
Naviance
Pearson
Public Consulting Group
Renaissance Learning
Schoolnet, Inc.
Scholastic
Science Weekly
Sodexo
Texas Instruments
Vantage Learning
Voyager Expanded Learning
Wireless Generation
Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers
Strategic Support Teams
The Broad Foundation
2008 Curriculum Directors &
Research Directors Joint Meeting
America’s Choice, Inc.
Data Recognition Corporation
ETA/Cuisenaire
ETS
Evans Newton
Houghton Mifflin Company
McGraw-Hill Education

[MORE]

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

[CONTD]
Pearson Education
Renaissance Learning
Scholastic, Inc.
Schoolnet, Inc.
2008 HRD/Personnel Directors
Meeting
CherryRoad Technologies, Inc.
SunGard Public Sector
MILO Solutions & Services LLC
TransAct
2009 Legislative/Policy Conference
America’s Choice, Inc.
Community Education Partners
Heery International
Pearson
Sodexo
Voyager Expanded Learning
Wireless Generation
2009 Chief Operating Officers
Conference
Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality
CIBER, Inc.
Heery International
Preferred Meals Systems
Sodexo
2009 Bilingual Directors
Meeting
A+RISE
Benchmark Education
ETS
iPASOS
McGraw-Hill Education
National Geographic School
Publishing/Hampton-Brown
2009 Chief Information
Officers Meeting
Blackboard, Inc.
Education Networks of America,
Inc.
eVerge Group
Desire2Learn
Fronter
Kronos
MILO Solutions & Services,
LLC
Oracle Corporation
Pearson
Public Consulting Group
SAP Public Services
Schoolnet, Inc.
Strategic Products & Services
Sun Microsystems
Wireless Generation
X2-Development
Sponsors
The Council thanks the following contributors
for their generous support in 2008-2009


Also, the "no excuses" line is a refrain of the most strident ed reformers who often back fairly punitive charter school models (including KIPP, btw). Another red flag for me.

Lastly, if indeed the academic struggles of African American children are caused by social and familial issues at home, then why are the ed reformer hammering on teachers and blaming them as the number one reason these kids don't do well in school?

Seems to me the ed reformers are tripping up on their own contradictory "research."

sue p.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would absolutely reject any eugenics argument and that is nowhere to be found in any of my writing or Mr. Herbert's.

I appreciate that we have to take anything we read today with a grain of salt and ask who produced it and why. But I am not completely in the camp that everything Gates and Broad do are bad. That they are arrogant in their belief that they are right about everything is a problem and that you don't see a lot of coming together of people of different minds towards a goal is troubling.

But I do not reject everything they do and support outright.

"Lastly, if indeed the academic struggles of African American children are caused by social and familial issues at home, then why are the ed reformer hammering on teachers and blaming them as the number one reason these kids don't do well in school?"

They do this because (1) the teachers are a very easy target (and haven't helped themselves in the past by rejecting evaluation reform and (2) it is very hard to know what we can do to create better parenting. Therefore, pick the easier and more controllable target.

Sahila said...

Our views are racist... we are measuring people and expecting them to live by white standards...

rascal said...

Doing well in school is a white standard?

Which means what? That the black standard is doing poorly in school.

Wow. Now, that IS racist.

seattle citizen said...

My concern regarding this is that ONLY high-stakes tests are being used to determine policy and curriculum. While graduation rates, college entrance, etc are also considered, it is, and the operational level, a couple of narrow tests that is determining curriculum, funding, school closure, PD, and lots of other things.

I am increasingly upset about the perpetuation of racial categorization in education. As I noted in an earlier post, all staff recently received instructions to participate in a federally mandated survey where they are to identify racially or ethnically, and if they don't, their supervisor is supposed to make this identification for them, based on "observation."

When students enter school, they are given a form to select "categories" for themselves (or, more likely and more onerously, their parent/guardian selects for them)

These categories, of staff and students, are used to make all sorts of declarations about teaching and learning, yet they are based on...air.

Students and staff aren't this, that, or the other thing. They are people. Race is a political construct; it has little scientific meaning. People (especially in this country, perhaps more than anywhere else) are products of all sorts of influences, yet students and staff are expected to be categorized.

I've asked this before: What does it mean if someone is identified as "Black" or "White" or "Asian Pacific"? What are we supposed to do with that information, if it is merely a word that describes little of who a person actually IS? Are teachers presumed to teach a certain way if they are identified (by their supervisor, perhaps) as "White"? Are students presumed to learn a certain way, or have certain backgrounds, if they are identified, perhaps ten years earlier even when they enter kindergarten, as "Black"?

This identification drives the so-called "achievement gap," and it concerns me. Rather than teachers being trusted (and monitored) to work with students as individuals, assumptions are made about what teachers do, and what "certain" student do, based on these nonsensical categories. Yes, someone might have had relatives that came from Samoa, but does "Asian-Pacific Islander" tell us anything about that person's experience and influences here? Yes, I had relatives in other countries; does anyone care that I am German, French, and Scottish (among a zillion other influences). One of my parents had wealthy parents who lost it all in the depression; another had middle-class parents who stayed relatively middle class. What does that make me, who has had some money and sometimes not had money? Are my "poor," "wealthy," or what, and what does that possibly mean?

I myself have fallen back on the poverty indicators to try and find reasons for schools' problems, thinking the racial and ethnic categories too flexible, but does the "poverty" category tell us much more? If a student gets free/reduced lunch this year, does that mean they were generationally poor? Recently poor? Having a bad year?

To me, this increasing focus on "data" generated by these categories is a disaster. Yes, it might present some general trends if disaggregated very, very carefully, but it is also driving all policy, and causing policy makers and educators to make assumptions about students and staff that are just not accurate, while also enabling radical change to curricula based on the tests that are then used to further categorize children.

hschinske said...

I think one problem is that there is too little support for learning in our culture *generally*, and that it's easier for some to overcome that than others. Also, any time a poor teaching method is used in a public school (*cough* *math* *cough*), those whose parents are able to supplement their learning, change schools, etc., are instantly put at a much greater advantage *compared to other students*. That doesn't mean it's a GOOD thing for them to be taught by a substandard method in school; it means they can overcome it. A better method would be better for everyone.

The worst one? Believing that all you have to do to help your child academically is to send him/her to school and just remind them to do their homework (rather than making sure it gets done).

I read that and immediately said, "But that's exactly what I would ideally like my kids to be able to do." Not that I begrudge them any support, or that I don't do as much as I can to support their being lifelong learners in general, but I think that the kind of homework that absolutely requires a ton of parental involvement actually makes class-related gaps much worse. I'm probably on a tangent and not speaking to what you really meant, but it seems worth mentioning anyway.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

One of my parents had wealthy parents who lost it all in the depression; another had middle-class parents who stayed relatively middle class. What does that make me, who has had some money and sometimes not had money?

Did you ever read "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"? http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

Helen Schinske

ParentofThree said...

I think what Salia is getting at when refering to "white-standards" is the fact that our education system is biased to white culture and white learning styles.

For example, despite the best efforts of standardized test reviewers, cultural and linguistic biases are inherent in tests and they work against students of color.
Jay Rosner, executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, conducted an SAT bias analysis in 2003. He examined answers from 100,000 test takers along with their race, ethnicity and gender.

Rosner's findings, outlined in “On White Preferences,” showed that “every single question carefully preselected to appear on the test favors whites over blacks.” Rosner said that whites answered 99 percent of the questions correctly at a higher rate than did blacks and Latinos.

Another prevelant, yet not talked about is the pedagogy used in classrooms. From her dissertation, "Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in English and Eliminating the Achievement Gap,"
Dr. Laura Zlogar points out the following:

"Many classrooms rely on an analytical learning style. This style is characterized by a part-to-whole approach that values written text over oral expression and individual work over group learning. In contrast, many African American children are global learners, favoring a whole-to-part approach when learning and thrive on a communication style that is group oriented, oral, and full of movement.

In “Questions of Race and Culture: How they relate to the classroom for African American students,” Susan Graybill quotes Hakim Rashid on the factors that influence the lack of success for African American children in the classroom:
the education of white children is relatively more successful than that of black children because the schools are designed for white education. In other words, an
“essentially African” group of people must function in “essentially European”
schools.
Faced with a learning style so clearly mismatched to their own, many black and brown children, especially males, become defeated, defiant, and tuned out (McMillian 25; Young, Wright, and Laster 519)."

So how do you address cultural bias that have seeped into every tenet of our educational system?

seattle citizen said...

Helen, yes, I've seen this (and similar texts) and I understand about priviledge. I don't deny that I have both male and "white" privilege, I just wonder about the usefulness of categories in a) figuring out where someone (staff, student) is "coming from" or what influences their world view; and b)how these categories are helpful when they are used to make broad assumptions about people how have, for whatever reasons, check the box.

For instance, a friend of mine is 1/8 Native American. His daughter is 1/16. My friend checked the NA box; in statistics, she is counted as one of the Native Americans.

Is she Native American? Well, yes....Her grandfather was 1/4, and was a practicing story teller. Her father, as far as I can tell, has little visible connection or interaction with the Native American community. Should a teacher, or a statistician or a curriculum designer look at her test scores and make assumptions about her?

My example of my own economic status was made to show the vagaries of THAT "category": How do these categories and numbers help set policy. Yes, we know there is priviledge, we know that poverty has an effect...but how do we use the "achievement gap" in a useful way? How do we look at those numbers and say, "54% of Black children didn't reach level 3"? Yes, if we use the categories, we can make that statement, but what does it TELL us? Generally, that there is white priviledge, generally, that there is still some sort of racism(s) going on, whether economic or in the classroom...But what do we do with that information at the policy level? If that information is used to restructure education, what are the best ways to use that info?

I don't know, I'm talking in circles, I've wrestled with this for quite some time. I believe that my anti-"reform" mindset also influences my thinking: I conflate the "data" with the agenda I see it put to...

I'm just not sure that these broad statistics MEAN much on the ground - If my friend's daugher's test scores show up in the NA category, what do they tell people looking at NA statistics? She is certainly generationally "white" or "european," but her high scores will be included in NA category scores, and thus someone looking at those scores will miss the REAL trouble that many Native Americans who are more closely allied with that "group," or who APPEAR more Native American, face. In her instance, if one were to look at NA scores generally and say, "look! improvement!" it would not address the actual needs of Native Americans who are struggling under racism and oppression.

Maureen said...

Does anyone know if the gap exists for black or mixed race children raised by white parents? Can you supply a link to any studies on this?

none1111 said...

Sahila said: "Our views are racist... we are measuring people and expecting them to live by white standards..."

rascal said: "Doing well in school is a white standard?

Which means what? That the black standard is doing poorly in school.

Wow. Now, that IS racist.
"

I must agree. Sahila, I disagree with much of your philosophy, but I do believe (hope) you are someone who respects all people's ability regardless of race, and I think you need to explain what you really mean. A statement like the one you make here is condescending at best and outright racist at worst. I truly hope you have a rational explanation.

Anonymous said...

Our views are racist... we are measuring people and expecting them to live by white standards...

I think I understand what you are trying to say, BUT that's a gross over-generalization of a complicated subject if ever there was one and almost offensive on top of it.

-The Spook Who Sat By The Door

Anonymous said...

Our views are racist... we are measuring people and expecting them to live by white standards...

I think I understand what you are trying to say, BUT that's a gross over-simplification of a complicated subject if ever there was one and almost offensive on top of it.

-The Spook Who Sat By The Door

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double-post, the second had the better choice of words.
-Spook

emeraldkity said...

I think what Salia is getting at when refering to "white-standards" is the fact that our education system is biased to white culture and white learning styles.

Then maybe you can explain what you mean by " white culture" and "white learning style".

I know that although I didn't graduate from high school, and although neither I nor my husband have ever attended a 4 yr college & despite that we are both blue collar workers, I have heard comments directed at me by parents & admin in Seattle public schools that we are " privileged".

I was stymied, because these comments were coming from people whose parents & grandparents had college degrees, who successfully raised their children with the emotional and financial support to complete college, yet because they were minority & I was not- I was the one who was privileged.

Sahila said...

We are racist in that we impose a "white" curriculum and learning style on people from other cultures (and culture, arguably, is wired into the brain/dna)and then we dump on these people because they dont do as well as white students do...

Each culture has mastered math, for example - even ones we consider "primitive"... I have linked to other math systems in previous posts - here it is again: ethnomathematics... and whites are in the decline proportionately in school communities - in California this year, for example, whites are the minority students...

But we only teach western math...

Each culture learns in different ways - as a previous poster said, african american students think globally, not in an analytical style...

Many cultures learn by doing... they learn math by painting and basket weaving and making tools etc... expecting them to learn stuff while not using their bodies is completely asinine and puts them at an immediate disadvantage...

And for people to say: well, they're in america now, in the west, they ought to just buck up and do the work and the homework and they'd be fine - well, that's racist...

ParentofThree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rascal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ParentofThree said...

"Then maybe you can explain what you mean by " white culture" and "white learning style".


I did explain EXACTLY what I meant and cited several studies and a dissertation to elaborate. Please re-read my entire post.

You don't have to agree with me, but you do have to be fair and acknowledge that there is a wide body of opinion supporting my view on how our standardized tests and pedagogy is biased towards children of color.

klh said...

I wish we could simplify the entire education process (I know, I'm dreaming) by having clearly written basic standards, curriculum that supports the basic standards and then freedom for individual schools, teachers, and communities to pick and choose the in-depth and inspirational parts of education to add to that for their schools.

Racism, privilege, parental involvement, poverty, etc., etc. are forces that definitely affect students and schools. How many of those forces are amplified by the way our schools are run these days? When teachers are required to teach a particular curriculum, regardless of how well it works for their students, regardless of their students' current level of knowledge - how can we expect success? I am not nearly as interested in knowing how many students passed a test of set-in-stone standards for their grade level, as in knowing whether or not those students actually grew during the school year.

It is true that many of our students have some real challenges in their lives that probably affected their learning at some point. They may be behind. As long as we find a way to meet them where they are and keep them moving forward they have a good chance of succeeding.

I'm concerned that our kids are becoming nothing more than data points to analyze against a backdrop created by adults. Things just seem to get more and more complicated, but not much better for the kids.

Sahila said...

and I agree with Helen...I am a lot further out in unschooling land now than I was with my first family, but even with them, I gave them access to the resources to succeed at learning, but the rest was up to them... they didnt get help with homework very often, they had to do projects on their own, unless they had been sick, I didnt write notes explaining late work etc...

They learned to take responsibility, to choose what they valued spending their time on, to be accountable and to own their own successes and failures...

Because I wasnt going to be around in their adult lives to hold their hands as they navigate the world...

And all three are doing well... it took each of them their own process/time to hit their stride, but I trusted them in that and they managed...

seattle said...

So White students should learn AP Calculus and AP Statistics in a classroom setting, while black students should learn math via weaving baskets. Really, Sahila?

I find your generalizations offensive, and your comments over the top.

tl said...

Maureen said: "Does anyone know if the gap exists for black or mixed race children raised by white parents? Can you supply a link to any studies on this?"

I've often wondered this myself. I've known multiple black and black-biracial students in APP who have white parents, which to my very limited numbers seemed quite disproportionate. But I have no idea how common this is, and I doubt the district has this kind of data. I've never seen anything that asked for my race as a parent.

This a delicate path to navigate, because of the obvious implications. But if it can help discover causes of, and more importantly, reveal potential solutions to our achievement gap, it might be worthwhile.

Sahila said...

@ Seattle...you might find have the opinion that my perspectives are offensive and over the top, but that doesnt make them untrue...

and no, I dont think african american children should learn math by basketweaving... they should learn math in the way that is culturally appropriate for them:

see here for some ideas of where to start developing that concept:
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/Ancient-Africa/madrefs_ancient.html

I find it interesting that so many people cannot allow others to be as they are... assimilate or die... the system ought to adapt to the needs of the people, not the other way round...

The System - Servant Or Master?

I think the insistence on eurocentric teaching in math and other fields is arrogance personified... it sets people up for failure and then blames them for that failure...

emeraldkity said...

lack of success for African American children in the classroom:
the education of white children is relatively more successful than that of black children because the schools are designed for white education. In other words, an
“essentially African” group of people must function in “essentially European”
schools.


If you are saying that blacks learn by doing & whites learn by reading- then it seems ironic that a black superintendent closed the only school that had a K-12 community and which stressed out of the classroom learning for all.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is hard for me to think of African-American children as essentially African and white children as essentially European. I'm not even sure their parents would ever think to say that but I'm only one person.

I also think that a lot more oral learning/discussion is happening in classrooms than ever before so I'm not sure where that leaves us.

I absolutely think that the tests need very carefully scrutiny. But is that about not knowing how to read or is that about references that are not culturally relevant?

But my thread was about parenting. I think as parents we all have difficulty ever pointing a finger and saying, maybe that isn't working.

But it's not about pointing a finger; this is about what is not working. It is not working to have so many black children in single parent households. Forget right or wrong - it isn't working. Lack of emphasis and support for intellectual thought is hurting our country.

What do we do?

hschinske said...

Transracial adoption may carry life stressors of its own -- see for instance http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=787542.

Helen Schinske

emeraldkity said...

Many kids, not just african american grow up in single parent households.

It seems to come down to- do you want your kids to have a better life and education than you did.
Are you willing to make sacrifices if that is what it takes to make that happen?

But I believe Caprice Hollins mentioned that planning for the future is racist.

How can we ever expect anything to ever change unless we have goals & steps to meet them?

Even a small step- it is a step.

Anonymous said...

culture, arguably, is wired into the brain/dna

I don't know what to make of this. This seems dangerously close to suggesting that race is anything but a construct. You can use the word culture if it makes you feel better, but it's not much of a stretch to go from saying that black kids are genetically incapable of sitting still and learning to suggesting that black people are better suited to physical labor.

Studies have shown that people who look the least alike and come from wildly disparate cultures often have more in genetically in common with each other than someone who shares physical and cultural similarities.

-The Spook Who Sat By The Door

Sahila said...

nothing will change until this society takes responsibility for the past and does something about that in terms of restitution...

where do you think the problem of black single parent households comes from?

where do you think the problems amongst native families/communities come from?

every action has a consequence...

and the consequences we are seeing today come from actions taken generations ago...

and STILL we are expecting these communities to live long and prosper in the manner white people do...

and we make them wrong if they dont...

black families - the cultural norm is for children to be raised in extended families... when's the last time you saw an extended family situation?

And what do whites say about blacks living in extended family situations? We generally scoff at them...

Though we dont scoff so loudly at asian extended family situations...

How much do white scoff at "native time"? Refusing to acknowledge that native communities (like most indigenous people all over the planet) live life to a different rhythm...

and whites - the invaders - say native people should give up their ways and assimilate... do it our way...

other cultures taught their children through song, chant, stories, through doing...

and we want them to sit down for long periods of time and write...

stupid, stupid, stupid...

Sahila said...

@emerald kitty...

in many cultures, there is only the eternal now... there is no future, so planning for the future is an entirely alien concept...

"In Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, a Quechua Indian told me that everything one does in life involves looking forward while going backward simultaneously. This I didn’t understand. I said, ‘What do you mean, going backward?’ And he said,’Well, it’s very simple. For us, for the Quechua, the past is in front of us. It’s in front of us because we know the past and we can look at it. And the future is behind because we don’t know what it brings so we move into the future, but we move backwards.’ The expression is ñawpaman puni. This idea of moving into the future while looking clearly into the past is something that is lacking in all these considerations about development and alternatives to development, and about what is going to happen and from where we can create an alternative to development.
This lack of historical depth is what is going to prevent us from thinking of real alternatives to development.
(David Tuchsneider 1992:63-64)"


www.oired.vt.edu/sanremcrsp/UGA/.../www.../02.UGA.Tirso.ppt

Sense of Place and Indigenous People’s Conservation A brief Political Ecology of the Seed and Place. From Modernization to Globalization from above and from below. Towards the strengthening & re-indigenization of local epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmovisions

and its not only indigneous people in the "wilds" of Bolivia who dont fit the western model of thinking... all cultures are different and again, its crazy to think/expect that all children are the same and the one system of learning will suit all...

emeraldkity said...

Studies have shown that people who look the least alike and come from wildly disparate cultures often have more in genetically in common with each other than someone who shares physical and cultural similarities.

Another way to put it is there is far more variability within a group, than between groups.

If African American students really needed to learn a " special" way, wouldn't we expect that the HBCUs would excel at educating black students?

Nationally, the historically black colleges and universities have a six-year graduation rate of 38 percent, according to The Journal of
Blacks in Higher Education.
That is slightly lower than the figure for black students at all other institutions, and roughly 40 percentage points lower than for blacks at elite schools.
The situation amounts to a little-noticed crisis in the very institutions that, for their size, play a disproportionate role in educating African-Americans.

seattle said...

"It is hard for me to think of African-American children as essentially African and white children as essentially European. I'm not even sure their parents would ever think to say that but I'm only one person."

Amen Melissa!

We are a bi-racial family, and I hardly think of myself (white) as European, and my husband (black) as African. We are Americans. And our kids are Americans. As a 4th generation Italian, I have little, if any, connection to my European Heritage. My husband has no idea what generation American he is, or even if he descended from Africa. He has absolutely no connection at all with African culture.

Personally I think Black children are failing, not due to classroom settings that are not culturally appropriate, but because of societal ills (high rates of single parent households, poverty, teen pregnancy, violence, incarceration).

Sahila said...

You miss the point with regards to citing HBCUs, Kitty...

they still teach in an eurocentric manner, and all students have come through eurocentric elementary and high school education...

I think you will find that academic achievement amongst children from non-white cultures soars when they are enabled to study within the norms of their culture...

In New Zealand, if you wish, you can take all of your university exams in Maori... and there are schools which teach the curriculum but in Maori, from a Maori value foundation...
"In particular, the education system has had to make special provision for the indigenous Maori population.

Maori Education: While most Maori students remain within the mainstream education system, there is now a strong demand for Maori language education. This growth has been stimulated by the revival of te reo Maori (the Maori language). The programs developed to preserve their language have given Maori the opportunity to design the kind of education they want, and one that meets the needs of both adults and children.

The revival began with the establishment of köhanga reo (Maori language early childhood centers) and continued with kura kaupapa Maori (Maori medium schools). Growing numbers of Maori students are also enrolled in bilingual and Maori language immersion classes in mainstream schools.


Recent decades have seen rapid growth in the size of the Maori population. From less than 8 percent of the New Zealand population in 1956, the Maori ethnic group grew to 15 percent at the 1996 census. By the middle of this century the Maori ethnic group is projected to almost double in size to almost 1 million people and make up 22 percent of the total population. Among the factors contributing to this growth have been historically higher rates of fertility, a greater concentration of people in the reproductive age groups compared to the non-Maori population, and a growing willingness to identify as Maori. The Maori population has a young age structure and although it is expected to age over the next half century, it should remain relatively young compared to the non-Maori population.

Sahila said...

Continued:
Another distinguishing feature of the Maori population is its geographic distribution. From being a predominantly rural population prior to World War II, Maori are now almost as highly urbanized as non-Maori. Nevertheless, the importance of traditional iwi locations is reflected in their greater concentration in the Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne regions. Recent years have also seen increasing migration back to rural areas. The ethnic population distribution among the two main communities comprises European preponderance in the south that gets progressively more diluted as one moves north, until Maori dominate in Northland.

Patterns of family formation and the types of families and households in which Maori live differ from others, but trends in family formation for the Maori population reflect wider social trends among the population as a whole: Maori are less likely to marry and more likely to live in a de facto relationship than in the past, tend to have fewer children, and are more likely to live in sole-parent families than previously. At the same time, however, the living arrangements of Maori also reflect the traditional importance of the whanau, or extended family. Maori are considerably more likely than non-Maori to live in extended families, in households occupied by more than one family and in large households. Socioeconomic circumstances may possibly also be a factor encouraging shared living arrangements.

Maori Teachers: An evaluation of Maori teacher supply initiatives was completed and a review of the current Maori and Maori medium teacher supply initiatives is underway. During the year 2000, TeachNZ scholarships, designed to attract increased numbers of Maori and Maori medium teachers, were awarded to 165 recipients.

Kura Kaupapa Maori & Other Secondary Education: Maori medium education in schools is rapidly expanding. In 1990 there were six officially designated kura kaupapa Maori catering for 190 students. In 1999 there were 59 kura kaupapa Maori. In 1999, a total of 396 schools other than kura kaupapa Maori were offering some form of Maori medium education. Maori enrollments at the senior secondary school level have been steadily increasing over the last 10 years. In the tertiary sector in 1999, Maori were most likely to be enrolled in polytechnics, whereas non-Maori were most likely to be enrolled in university. A total of 27,837 Maori were enrolled in a formal program of tertiary education. Maori made up 9 percent of university students, 11.9 percent of college of education students, and 12.6 percent of all tertiary students.

Sahila said...

Continued:
There are three wänanga Maori (tertiary establishments): Te Wänanga o Aotearoa (Te Awamutu); Te Wänanga o Raukawa (Otaki); and Te Whare Wänanga a Awanuiarangi (Whakatane). All are state funded. In 1999 there were 1,735 Maori students enrolled at wänanga and 148 non-Maori. Government and iwi will assess the future development and growth of wänanga as a viable option for Maori participation in the tertiary sector.

Maori Language Education Resources: The government supports targeting funds to increase teacher training in the Maori language and to increase the supply of learning resources for Maori medium education. The Maori Language Education Plan (MLEP) is the educationfocused part of the government's Maori Language Strategy. There are five key areas in the MLEP designed to support Maori language education. These focus on raising the capacity of education providers to deliver high quality Maori language education. This will be done through the adequate and appropriate provision of resources for both mainstream and Maori medium schools, including the provision of skilled teachers, sufficient teaching and learning material, and new assessment tools.


http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1080/New-Zealand-EDUCATIONAL-SYSTEM-OVERVIEW.html

and WV gives me "kingi"...Wiremu Kingi, also called Te Rangitake, or William King (b. c. 1795, Manukorihi, N.Z.—d. Jan. 13, 1882, Kaingaru), Maori chief whose opposition to the colonial government’s purchase of tribal lands led to the First Taranaki War (1860–61) and inspired the Maoris’ resistance throughout the 1860s to European colonization of New Zealand’s fertile North Island.

emeraldkity said...

Sorry Sahlila, I am more than a little dyslexic and I can't read your long posts.


If I can go off topic for a minute- my sister is LDS and has been dutifully researching our ancestors ( we are descended from folks who have been in this country for 500 years)

There are some common threads which I found fascinating. Apparently we come from a long line of " non-linear learners".
Lots of famous ( and infamous) inventors, artists, actors & politicians as well as outlaws. I expect that those who migrated to the " New World" had more than a few of those tendencies.

I would agree that we need to be adaptable in how we approach the skills and knowledge to be taught to children in this country.

But having Asian grandparents doesn't make what Meng needs to know to be a contributing adult in 2010, any different than what Anastasia needs to know even though her grandparents are from Africa.

How Meng & Ana choose to be in the world may require different types of instruction after they have attained the basics- but we can't have different expectations at the basic level, that will limit their choices as adults.

THAT, IMO, is racist.

Sahila said...

@ Spook... that's not what I mean at all...

I'm born dutch, but havent been lived in that country since I was young, stopped speaking dutch when I was around 11 and to all outward appearances am a Kiwi (New Zealander)... but I am not... I dont feel like an anglo-saxon kiwi of the colonial kind... I dont think like a white new zealander, or like a white australian or like a white american either...

I think and resonate to european culture - you see it in what I wear, how I decorate my house, my attitudes to life...

Quantum physics and biology is beginning to get to the place where it proves that culture is transmitted via our dna...

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/songbirdculture/

Maureen said...

Each culture learns in different ways - as a previous poster said, african american students think globally, not in an analytical style...

I can see why someone raised in Africa, or in a small village in Italy for that matter, might be more comfortable with a different style of learning than is standard in modern US classrooms, but I don't see why that would be true of modern Americans of any racial background.

Sitting in a classroom and learning is an adjustment for any five year old. Formal education is valuable to every US adult. I don't accept the fact that your race determines how able you are to learn under any pedagogy. I feel that claiming that is close to accepting genetic determinants of behavior (as opposed to cultural ones.) I think that many children do better with direct instruction while others do better with project based learning. I don't see why we should think that race has anything to do with which is which. Are there any studies that prove otherwise?

Sahila said...

kitty... the problem comes when you assume that different equals less than.... and that's not what i am saying/advocating... there is a place for 'and/also' in this world... it doesnt have to be either/or....

dan dempsey said...

From Book TV:

Acting White: the curious history of a racial slur.

by Ron Christie
====================
Mister Christie .. why do you act white and talk white?

wseadawg said...

As bad as it is, this is a manageable problem that can be turned around rapidly. More Baltimore & Everett type solutions, less LA & Seattle type solutions. At it's base, it's about parents and schools, together, caring about and sharing responsibility for kids. That means taking attendance, homework, and respect seriously.

It ain't rocket science, but it sure seems we want to make it that way, because its somehow not politically correct to say some kids don't give a sh@# about school.

Some will come around, and some won't. But if I were a struggling kid and most of my buddies were too, for self-preservation and to feel better about myself, it would be convenient to say, "Screw it! I'd rather drive a truck than buy into all that dominant-culture BS that says I have to go to college to amount to anything in life."

If we're going to do anything to get a lot of kids to buy back into the importance of school, we'd better be ready to make the case its worth their while to do so.

It's a pretty grim world all we "smarties" have produced for them to inherit. I can't blame any kid for believing we're the ones with our heads up our arses, along with all our ideas about "education." Just sayin'.

grousefinder said...

Sahila!?!

Mathematics has no culture. There are variations on pathways, but basically, math is "a science (or group of related sciences) dealing with the logic of quantity and shape and arrangement." Add "rate" to that.

You can use an abacus, beads, or your fingers, but primitive mathematics limits efficiency, and mathematical efficiency is what we teachers teach. The object is to move children away from manipulatives into the realm of the algorithm. I have lived all over this globe and it doesn't matter where you go, teachers move towards the most efficient mathematical structures as soon as the student's little mushy brains can handle it.

I also teach a math program that comes from another country...and it uses no inefficient Base10 toys to do the job after 2nd grade.

Anyone can learn math, one only needs to understand its semiotic elements. Nearly every brain is hardwired for symbols. There is no pigmentocracy in mathematical understanding...period.

Some proponents of Discovery Math promote the use of inefficient teaching methods, but we don't need to go there. Everyday Math has proven itself a failure in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Sahlia, please do the world a favor and shut up.

The "culture is encoded in your DNA" article you quote is about birds. Birds are behaviorally hard-wired relative to mammals.It is one of the fascinating differences between birds and mammals but it is NOT a guideline for public school education.

No wonder SPS education is in such a quandary - especially science education.

I hope none of my brilliant African-American students read your stupid posts and realize that they are learning all wrong.

agibean said...

Emeraldkitty-can you explain the reference to Caprice Hollins and her saying that planning for the future is racist? What was the context (and what was her role)? And I'm not sure I understand how that statement fits with parents helping/encouraging their children or not.

And what is it your trying to say?

dan dempsey said...

The harming of educationally disadvantaged learners through instructional practices.

About the Achivement Gaps:

The SPS attempted to justify the TfA action as related to closing the achievement gaps.

(1) The SPS does have great math achievement gaps that have grown over the last decade while reading achievement gaps have narrowed.

(2) To significantly close math achievement gaps, the district will need to change its course away from ineffective experimental pedagogical practices to making evidence based instructional decisions based on practices proven to work.

(3) The district continues with the following defective position still guiding the SPS in a continually failing direction:

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.


The District misses the obvious. The focus on learning mathematics as principally happening through the exploration and inquiry of challenging problems has only produced substandard results for most students. The TfA proposal was a diversion away from this significant shortcoming, which has yet to be addressed as a fundamental cause of the math achievement gaps.

Without a significant increase on explicit instruction and increased practice there will be little improvement in the learning of mathematics in the Seattle Schools. Instructional materials and practices need to be changed. Seattle needs an internationally competitive mathematics program.

See document #1
Geary gap thoughts

See document #2
Geary summary by Dempsey applied to Seattle Math

See document #3
An Evoluntionarily Informed Education Science

by David C. Geary
Department of Psychological Sciences
University of Missouri at Columbia

Central Mom said...

A little less philosophical back and forth and a little more driving/busing/biking down to RBHS for any of its upcoming planning meetings, which I hope will be posted here, seems to be in order.

There are motivated members of the community pushing to put community-backed programming and staffing in place at RBHS. They are working very very hard, and they need more volunteers. The greater community of SPS parents has something to contribute here. We are all one district, and this area of our district needs, and is asking for, parental help from whatever zip code or ethnicity we each happen to call our own.

And I also hope Central Admin supports, vs. hinders, the community's efforts.

Anonymous said...

@Sahila, Interestingly, at the bottom of the Wired bird culture article you referenced was a link to another article about math ability: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2001/02/41886#previouspost

In fact, if children practice math from a very young age, they are put on a track to do well in math for the rest of their lives, said Starkey.

His tests show that there is marked difference in the mathematical abilities of four-year-olds from different parts of society, which is due to the different levels of math practice the kids have had. For example, four-year-olds from American low-income households have markedly less math ability than those from high-income households, and American four-year-olds have less ability than those from China.

Improving the situation in the United States involves reforming math teaching at the pre-school level, Starkey said, and possibly putting stronger cultural emphasis on the virtue of being good at math.


-The Spook Who Sat By The Door

none1111 said...

Many cultures learn by doing... they learn math by painting and basket weaving and making tools etc...

This is certainly true, and for those who live in the Bolivian Andes or an Inuit village, this might allow them to learn enough mathematics to be fully productive members of their society without restriction. That is not the case in Seattle in 2010. The level of math kids can learn solely through these methods will leave them cut off from most non-menial jobs, let alone careers in science, math, engineering, etc.

expecting them to learn stuff while not using their bodies is completely asinine and puts them at an immediate disadvantage...

This is fine for the early basics and primitives, but as grousefinder points out, to be successful in mathematics you need to move away from this mindset. The more students rely on these techniques the harder time they will have moving on to sophisticated algorithms and abstract concepts. Ignoring these facts is what truly puts kids at a disadvantage.

Did you bother to read the Wired article Spook posted? It's very short, easily digestible and discusses a book called The Math Gene, which is specifically about how humans developed sophisticated mathematical abilities.

Bottom line? Just what Spook posted earlier.

How does one master the ability to do this? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice.

In fact, if children practice math from a very young age, they are put on a track to do well in math for the rest of their lives

Improving the situation in the United States involves reforming math teaching at the pre-school level, Starkey said, and possibly putting stronger cultural emphasis on the virtue of being good at math.


The last point is critical, underlies much of our discussion here, and cannot be ignored.

uxolo said...

Thanks Melissa for allowing this dialogue.

For success: " Xavier University of Louisiana continues its track record of successfully placing more African American students into medical schools each year than any other higher education institution in the country, a distinction that it has maintained since 1993."

This is in part, a function of academics, a particular academic approach to teaching and learning which is ALSO used in a top notch university in Canada.

Keep in mind, what's not working for the kids who come in high performing will not likely work for kids who start out behind. Please read this abbreviated work of Hart and Risley.

Early intervention - we "know" about it. No matter what continent you are on, there is a "language of instruction" and there is research that examines language acquisition of English Language Learners in the US that points to the difference between acquiring "playground language" and classroom language. Instruction is important and can overcome even really bad tests.

seattle citizen said...

speaking of manipulated data (this somewhat relates to this thread, as the achievement gap and college entrance/graduation rates are used to drive policy)
Seattle Time "Truth Needle" pokes holes in the "Only 17% of Seattle students college-ready" data presented by SPS
here

emeraldkity said...

I admit- I won't be attending the RBHS discussions- from my experience {insert sarcasm here} what that community is waiting for is white parents from the north end to show them how to fix RBHS{/sarcasm}- however- if the community was asking for others to be involved- I would.

Im sorry to go off topic but I did run across this thoughtful piece on music/math instruction that I thought the choir might find interesting.

A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he finds himself in a society where music education has been made mandatory. “We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world.” Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project. Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made— all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or
composer.

Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious
black dots and lines must constitute the “language of music.” It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school.


As for the primary and secondary schools, their mission is to train students to use this language— to jiggle symbols around according to a fixed set of rules: “Music class is where we take out our staff paper, our teacher puts some notes on the board, and we copy them or transpose them into a different key. We have to make sure to get the clefs and key signatures right, and our teacher is very picky about making sure we fill in our quarter-notes completely. One time we had a chromatic scale problem and I did it right, but the teacher gave me no credit because I had the stems pointing the wrong way.”


mathematician's lament

emeraldkity said...

Dr Caprice Hollins is currently faculty @ Mars Hill graduate school.

To combat bias, Superintendent Raj Manhas in 2004 created the Office of Equity and Race Relations and appointed its first director, Caprice Hollins, a licensed psychologist, charged with examining curriculum, textbooks and other policies.

I wouldn't argue that racism isn't a problem- but I agree with Sahila that a larger problem is expecting all children to learn the same things in the same way at the same speed,

emeraldkity said...

47% of Seattle residents have at least a bachelors degree.
They are obviously interested in education.

But, IMO, In order to really address disparity issues in the city & its institutions we will have to dig deeper than we have been.

The income disparity in Seattle is increasing

Sahila said...

I hate to say this but I am going to anyway...

First - Melissa - the fact that you cant see kids from other backgrounds as anything other than american kids rather than african american or chinese or vietnamese or pacific islander or polish or whatever, says a lot about what is wrong with our approach... we all think we are not being racist when we are "colour blind", but that is racist in itself:

http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/6085/Color-Blind-Racism.html

And you're all stuck in the mental rut of thinking that everyone has to do well at math and science to have a happy, productive life...

And that's because you've bought into the pyramidic power and control model of this world and you're fixated with fear holding on to your place on the ladder and pushing your kids up at least one rung higher... success is being a technocrat in this society...

And you talk through holes in your arses..

Yes math is a science, a language of symbols and everyone can learn it... do you know artists work with math every time they pick up the paintbrush? As do musicians whenever they start to play, as do singers every time they open their mouths? And how many of them have got college degrees in math? How many got 800 in the SAT in math?

Indigenous people were working with fractals thousands of years before French mathematicians Pierre Fatou and Gaston Julia "discovered" them in the early 20th century...

Your problem is that you are stuck using only one terminology and you fail to recognise and value anything which talks about the same thing, using different "language"...

So how about your broaden your perceptions so that some new, meaningful answers to these "issues" can come forward...
instead of saying that all kids have to be the same, and black kids will do as well as white kids if only we get them all into preschool earlier and teach them WHITE math earlier...

Arrogance, racist, elitist...

Go here, to the last link, and read a report on what works in teaching Maori kids math... it only words if you teach it in a cultural context:

http://www.rpi.edu/~eglash/isgem.dir/links.dir/islands.htm

The last link - the Glenys Holt report from 2001...

There is more than one way to "success" and if we are little more accepting and flexible we can get all kids to whatever 'success' means for them - not what it means for US

So no, I will not shut up...

agibean said...

Ok emeraldkitty-you explain why you referenced Dr. Hollins, but not the supposed quote about planning for the future being racist. I just can't wrap my mind around someone saying that, and I'd love to see a link.

Also, I'm glad you won't be participating in the RBHS meetings. Attitudes like yours are part of the problem. That's not what I've enountered AT ALL from the BBHS community, and I know several parents at that school and Aki as well.

Dorothy Neville said...

Agibean, Caprice Hollins believed in a very extreme version of racism. Here's the first article I could find that discusses this. I will dig and find you more details. Emeraldkity is spot on with her facts.

Dorothy Neville said...

Here's an archived copy of Caprice Hollins' definition of racism. Note the cultural racism includes having a future time orientation. That was generally discussed as planning for the future. If I recall properly, Helen found this and more in an internet primer on racism. Caprice did not create this definition herself, but it is from a particular (many think extreme) movement in the equity and racial issues realm.

Sahila said...

For Melissa:
Colour blindness: Color Blind Racism

For others who dont accept that other cultures used high levels of math in their day to day lives, please be aware that indigenous cultures used fractals eons before their 'discovery' by two french mathematicians in the early 20th Century... and:

The Marshall islanders used their understanding of swell interaction to navigate, rather than the astronomical methods more familiar to us. These methods had the advantage of being usable when the sky was not visible. In fact, the author notes "one navigator recounted that an early part of his training was being made to float in water at various places in order to learn how to feel what would later be shown and explained to him." Ascher explains how wave refraction and reflection explain the swell interactions, and how the Marshall islands map called the mattang was used to explain these interaction. She explains how the rebbelith and meddo maps (large and smaller scale) are not just literal descriptions of distances, but are also abstract representations of some of the same principles.

artists use math every time they pick up a paint brush, as do musicians and singers, and many other others who are quite happy with their lives, despite not having math degrees or scoring 800 on the SAT... it is quite possible to be happy and fulfilled in life without having to join the technocrat class, you know...

Yes, math is a language of symbols and everyone can learn that language...

But asserting that there is only one way of learning it and that the only thing we have to do to ensure black children succeed in math is to get them into preschool earlier and teach them "white" math earlier, is arrogant, racist, elite and misguided...

And as to teaching math in a cultural context...

Maori children have many of the same social and educational disadvantages experienced by african american children...

See this report from Glenys Holt in 2001, describing the need to teach Maori children math within the context of their culture:
http://www.rpi.edu/~eglash/isgem.dir/links.dir/islands.htm

- 8th link on the page...

Perhaps if we accepted that other cultures had/have as much math knowledge as the european culture does, but express that in a different "language" and we open to the idea that we ought to teach in the language children understand, then maybe all children will find 'success' that is meaningful to them, rather than 'failure' in terms that are meaningful only to us...

Sahila said...

Instructive and funny at the same time...

Time we applied this kind of thinking to education...

Unconventional Strategy in Action

emeraldkity said...

Im not sure which school is BBHS, but if Rainier Beach was asking for residents of other neighborhoods to assist them with empowering their school, then I would gladly participate- however, my experience has been that , that would be a lot like TFA coming into the schools and telling the tenured teachers what they are doing wrong.

I would hope that Ms. Hollins, has become a little more broadminded since she left the district, because her beliefs didn't leave much room for cooperation or perspective, let alone learning, so I didn't feel I needed to link to her previous statements- in case she regretted them.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, I asked a teacher at RBHS what I and other neighborhood parents could to to help make RBHS a school we'd want our children to attend. The teacher answered:"We don't want a bunch of white people coming in telling us what to do." Mind you, this teacher was white and had been teaching at RBHS for a while, and still is. I think some of this attitude is behind the move to oust Lisa Escobar as well, I have heard her referred to as the "white principal" from the same teacher.

At least some of the staff at RBHS look at themselves the same way the TFA teachers do—working to amend social wrongs. Unfortunately, it also makes them less eager to work with the kids who don't "need" them.

I know that this attitude was certainly a factor when we considered the school. I did not want my child to be ignored by teachers because she was considered to be "privileged" and did not "need" them.

In closing...does anyone know what has happened with the petition to remove Escobar? I wish we could get past this, but it doesn't seem likely at this point in time.

Sad in SE Seattle

agibean said...

Ok, emerald, you got me-I hit a wrong key and I'm guessing you actually knew I meant RBHS, but whatever.

Asking a community what one can do to help is a lot different from asking, in essense, "How can we fix up your school so it no longer sends us screaming in the other direction?" I think any community would react with some hostility when that's the implication. What I keep hearing from people with kids in these schools is that they have a lot that they like about them. But no one asks them what they like and WHY, but offer help to fix the problems, without really knowing what they're all about.

Trying to "fix" them to meet the needs of an entirely different demographic is going to end up irritating everyone involved. I think a chicken-egg thing happens, where the middle/upper income(mostly) Caucasian are population won't send their kdis there, thus bring in no new ideas, but because there isn't any diverse student population, there is nothing new drawing in those middle/upper income Caucasian students...

As for Dr. Hollins position, I'm still not clear that it means one should not plan for the future or help their children to succeed. But I would wager that even the most extreme position holders want their children to be successful.

I didn't see a lot on that page Dorothy linked defining types of racism that seems "extreme". There IS a problem when school materials are Eurocentric, when a minority group is considered "less than" or worse, invisible. There IS a problem when one group is discriminated against, either openly or when the discrimination is silently approved. I've seen examples of many of what is on that link happen within my own family and in-laws.

Again, I don't understand the future reference and I'll need to learn more about it.

Dorothy Neville said...

The idea, agibean, is that we attribute value and normalcy to such ideas that are White, such as having a future time orientation and emphasizing individual rather than a collective ideology. Impulse control, delayed gratification, planning for the future are white values but we racist whites consider them "normal", not "white" and therefore we are culturally racist. Since we are speaking of educating teachers to understand their cultural racism, what does that imply?

This comes from a fellow named Singleton who wrote Courageous Conversations about Race. See for example this commentary about him and Seattle and race.

Dorothy Neville said...

Then of course there's our superintendent whose parting shot at Charleston included complaining that the black folk were stuck in plantation mentality. Read the article and do not miss the comments, where several folks discuss Hollins and her views of race.

Sahila said...

Training to recognise and understand institutionalised racism is undertaken in the northwest (including Seattle) by the Peoples' Institute...

http://www.pisab.org/

If I havent gotten my organisations muddled up, AS#1 used to require its (new) teachers to undertake the training...

The school has a strong and active social justice group working within it to identify and dismantle racism...

emeraldkity said...

It is interesting to me that some groups who are concerned about racial inequities in our institutions seem to be putting most of their energy toward working with those they seem to view as " benefiting" from racism, rather than working more with those whose voices are not always heard.


I've attended workshops often run by groups that are at least half " white", attended by interested parties who were virtually all " white", and paying for the privilege of being told that all their previous attitudes and values were racist.

All you gotta do in Seattle is play on white guilt & you are guaranteed an income.

For decades that this sort of approach has been emphasized- is it working?

It seems to me that empowering people to get involved- to have their voice heard, would be more long lasting.


My daughter who is a teacher in Oregon, just went through a series of diversity trainings that she was really inspired by ( I am going to get more info at the holidays)- they are held free- by the Oregon Education Association

I couldn't find if WEA had something similar- but I can't imagine why not.
washington education association

Sahila said...

I was 'forced' to attend cultural sensitivity training in 1990 when I went back to school (as an adult) to complete a broadcast journalism course...

Course was given by a middle aged hard core Maori man, who called it for what it was...

At first I was really resistant... hell, my family had only been in New Zealand since the mid 60s, had not hurt anyone, taken their land, enslaved anyone, forced assimilation on anyone, engaged in cultural and ethnic genocide, used racist slurs - hell some of my best friends were Maori, polynesian, french, polish so I wasnt racist blah, blah, blah...

Well, you know what? My life and all the privileges myself and my family enjoyed (including the chance to work hard, buy a small piece of land a build a modest house, a social welfare system, free education, medical etc) had been built on the back of land theft and exploitation... and yes, I was a part of the problem because I didnt realise/acknowledge that...

If you wont admit you are part of the problem, you cause the problem to persist...

And no, there is no way for me to turn the clock back and undo what was done... no way for me to "pay back" what I have received in white privilege... but I can at least acknowledge it, own it and do my best to ameliorate the effects as they are being felt by those who have been exploited for generations...

Have you acknowledged your white privilege lately?

Or your relative african american privilege that was bought on the back of native land theft and genocide?

agibean said...

Well, Dorothy, that link to the blatantly Republican and hostile blog about Singleton sure was unbiased, lol! Love the plethora of loaded words there!

And emerald, thanks, you've been very helpful in showing me your thought process about how you've come to feel the way you do.

"All you gotta do in Seattle is play on white guilt & you are guaranteed an income."

Got it. Right. I'm out.

emeraldkity said...

the videos of Dr Hollins and the statements she made as director of equity and race relations have been removed from the district web page.
But a few quotes.

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue,
stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than,
or render them invisible.
Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored,
having a future time orientation,
emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,
defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.


And from the district
Our intention is not to ... continue to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality.


It's hard to have a discussion, without listening

Dorothy Neville said...

Sorry, Agibean, I didn't mean to offend. Yes, Hollins sparked a lot of anger among a number of different people. I hesitated to share the link, but I found that that one in particular had links to a number of other places, including some arguments that the Supreme Court was swayed against SPS based on their extreme position. So follow those links and judge for yourself or not.

Are you also planning to comment on the PI piece on Maria and the "plantation mentality"? And the comments afterward where several people claim Hollins said stronger words in person, things like volunteering in school is a white thing, family engagement is a white thing.

Either way, I think it is fair to say that Caprice Hollins set back Seattle Schools from any real positive change in real conversations about race and equity.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

So...what is the answer?

Do we segregate the schools so we can teach differently to different groups? That seems pretty racist to me. Do teachers have to have different teaching styles for different groups in their classrooms? AA kids get to move around while learning, Caucasian kids have to sit in their chairs?

I'm a second-generation American—Caucasian of Italian-Polish descent. My 80-yr-old mother tells of being discriminated against in Central NY because she was Italian and considered less than the Anglo-Saxon kids in her school, so I didn't grow up with a lot of race-based prejudice. Never heard the "N-word" or disparaging remarks...so am I a product of white privilege? My dad worked in a factory; mom worked as a teller in a bank—lower middle-class at best.

I remember a meeting on institutional racism at my daughter's elementary school where an AA parent (of a high-performing kid who ended up at Lowell) explained how it was culturally acceptable for his child to "roll their eyes" at a teacher. Maybe so...but I certainly didn't want my kid to think that kind of behavior was OK in the classroom. Do we have different rules for different groups of kids?

Do we teach to the style and cultural mores of the kids at the bottom of the gap to raise them up?

I honestly want all kids to succeed—our future depends on it. But what is the answer?

none1111 said...

Sahila,
Yes, there is power in understanding that different people learn differently, and yes there are cultural biases (some of which can be taken advantage of, and some of which are impediments to a productive education In Our Society). But we're not talking about people who live around the world, this discussion is about how to help segments of our population here in Seattle.

it is quite possible to be happy and fulfilled in life without having to join the technocrat class, you know...

Of course. Many people, even in a highly educated city such as Seattle, can live happy and fulfilled lives without much education at all, but I think we can all agree that's not something to strive for! Why? Because it takes options off the table! Especially early in life when kids have no idea what they might want to do when they grow up. By not exposing kids to a variety of activities and experiences, we do our kids a huge disservice.

It's a sad state of affairs when striving for a good, well-rounded education is called "white values". Unfortunately, parents (and later teachers) make choices, either willingly or unknowingly, from the time their children are born, that affect kids' attitudes toward learning and ultimately their ability to be successful and happy in life - In Our Society. Some call that culture, but the flip side of it is a culture of neglect.

Lastly, when I read ridiculous statements like this:

artists use math every time they pick up a paint brush, as do musicians and singers,

there just doesn't seem any point to a conversation. I'm sure you can find a way to twist a tenuous tie of some kind into this ("quarter notes" ooooh, that's 1/4!), but speaking as a musician and mathematician (non-professional) myself, this is 99.9% crap.

none1111 said...

SolvayGirl,

Great points and questions.

Do we segregate the schools so we can teach differently to different groups? That seems pretty racist to me. Do teachers have to have different teaching styles for different groups in their classrooms? AA kids get to move around while learning, Caucasian kids have to sit in their chairs?

As the parent of 2 very high-level, abstract thinkers, having kids get up and move around or play with manipulatives would be (and has been) highly distracting.

Sahila, this is what it comes down to in reality, and it's not pretty. It's easy to gripe, but it's not easy to come up with meaningful, practical solutions that have buy-in from all parties.

Sahila said...

Perhaps None111 would care to read even just a few sentences out of this piece:

ART, MATHEMATICS AND MUSIC

or this one:
mathematics in art and architecture

and this one:
Fibonacci Numbers and The Golden Section in Art, Architecture and Music

and this one:
Renaissance Banff II: Mathematics, Music, Art, Culture ...

Really none111.... YES, "I'm sure you can find a way to twist a tenuous tie of some kind into this" - IT IS VERY EASY... AND THE LINKS ARE NOT SO TENUOUS...

Are you setting yourself up to be called ignorant deliberately, or is it just a by-product of you prideful and closed mind?

You ought to know by now I do my research BEFORE I open my mouth... maybe you should take a leaf out of my book...

Sahila said...

Professor B L Moiseiwitsch
(Benno Moiseiwitsch)

Article on Art, Mathematics, Music and the Physical World

Contact Information

* Postal address

Prof B L Moiseiwitsch
Dept of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
David Bates Building
Queen's University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland
U K

* Telephone +44 (0)28 9097 6040 (direct line)
* Telephone +44 (0)28 9097 6001 (secretary)
* Fax +44 (0)28 9097 6061
* email B.Moiseiwitsch@qub.ac.uk

Within Queen's University

* Position
o Professor Emeritus in Applied Mathematics
o Member of the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
* Location
o Room 02.015, David Bates Building
o Telephone (internal) 6040

Research Interests

* Broad area: Theoretical studies in atomic, molecular and optical physics
* Current topics
o Electron capture at relativistic energies

http://www.am.qub.ac.uk/users/b.l.moiseiwitsch/

seattle said...

Sahila, would you please quote the relevant points in your articles instead of pasting multiple links and expecting everyone to pilfer through and read them all.

I don't often have time to read through the multiple articles that you post so I skip them.

Maureen said...

I feel like we have lost track of the original issue.

My interpretation of what Sahila is saying is that we are wrong to even think about a race based achievement gap because the way we measure it is biased--we teach all kids based on a white standard and you can't expect black kids to do well on that standard because they are fundamentally (culturally or genetically?) different.

I don't buy that personally. While I agree that how we measure success is imperfect, I don't think there is anything fundamental and unchangeable that keeps black kids from doing as well as white kids on those measures. And, what's more, I think we would all be better off if knowing the color of a kid's skin didn't tell us anything about how well they would do on a test.

I think all kids in our society should be fluent readers and writers in standard English and fluent in computation. (They should also understand and love art and music, be conversant in science and social studies and be able to whip up chocolate mousse at a moments notice!).

From what I have read, I think much of the gap comes down, in large part, to two things: (1)poor children and especially poor black children start school with a language deficit that they never fully recover from and (2)as they get older they begin hearing and then believing that they are not doing well and not expected to do well in school so when they sit down to take those imperfect tests, they question their own knowledge disproportionately (stereotype threat) and do even worse than they would have without that fear.

Those two effects create a spiral that feeds on itself and pulls in even middle class black kids.

I think there are things that can be done to break that pattern, but those interventions are often seen as racist and as forcing kids to abandon their culture. I find that really frustrating because I don't see why kids can't belong to a strong school culture and a strong home culture.

That's what I think.

none1111 said...

Yawn. So predictable. I never said, nor implied, that there aren't mathematical components to music. There are plenty, from rhythm to harmonic structure. This is my field, you're not going to win an argument with me here. And of course there are instances of art that model mathematics, it would be ignorant to think otherwise.

But what you said was: "artists use math every time they pick up a paint brush, as do musicians and singers,", which just isn't true.

Even if you stretch to the obvious (and silly) next path "well subconsciously...." that doesn't account for the vast amounts of art that are not mathematical in nature. And you'd be past the point of tenuous. It's easy to point to interesting research that isn't relevant to the conversation. But to throw insults based on that made me laugh. I read through two of those articles in their entirety, just because it's interesting material to me. Either you posted them without reading yourself, or you've lost track of what the conversation was about.

And what was the conversation again? Simply that students are not going to get an appropriate math education in Seattle using methods like "painting and basket weaving and making tools etc..." Nothing you've brought up refutes that in the slightest. There are really neat ideas in alternate cultures and learning styles (math and otherwise), and I would love to see some of these things explored as supplementary material in existing classes. But they are not adequate in and of themselves for a modern day Seattleite to get a solid, well-rounded education.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'd much rather watch the train wreck that's unfolding with the Bernatek/17% story. It's amazing that the Seattle Times is finally reporting out on this in earnest AND that they allowed a very strongly worded op-ed. I do know there's one thing we agree on Sahila, and that's the fact that the district is being mismanaged into the ground. I really hope this article and op-ed will bring some needed attention to the issues, and I'm feeling mildly optimistic on that front.

none1111 said...

Maureen, you're right on track, IMO.

One thing that I would add to your comment that I think adds to that downward spiral is simply the lack of support at home and in the immediate community. And that's a really, really hard cycle to break. If your family (or all too often, single parent) isn't actively pointing out the importance of a good education AND helping you get started early AND modeling good behavior and decisions to steer you that direction, the odds of discovering that on your own are pretty low.

Then pile on the immediate community of friends, their parents, neighbors, etc. If you are brought up in a neighborhood filled with poverty, crime and neglect, it's easy to see why expectations are low. Not only that, but it seems that in many black-American communities, working diligently to do well in school is actively frowned upon by the "cool kids" and considered, as you say, "abandoning their culture". Sometimes abandoning a culture can be a good thing.

This is of course on top of the real issues of subtle discrimination that are all around us.

Each of these things can be overcome, but all together they create a formidable barrier. I don't see any easy solutions, but I do agree with some of the other people who say that the solutions have to come from within those communities themselves. Solutions proposed by outsiders will be viewed with skepticism and mistrust.

Sahila said...

@ maureen re the speaking of English:

Gingrich's "ghetto" talk

International scientific English: Some thoughts on science, language and ownership

"These questions remain because Standard English is not defined or fixed by any official authority. It emerges from a common consent that leaves plenty of room for disagreement and plenty of room for changes. It does not exist in a vacuum but is part of the huge pattern of variety that makes up the English language worldwide.

The true basis of determining usage is to look at what the language itself is doing; that is, at how people are in fact using it. Some usages are "better" than others, better because they are clearer, more effective, more pleasing, more sensitive; or sometimes, better merely because a consensus of influential people prefers them.


http://wordinfo.info/unit/4369?spage=&letter= .... note the short verse at the bottom of the page...

If Maori kids can be taught in Maori, why cant African American kids be taught in AAVE, for example, if that is their cultural root?

African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—also called African American English; less precisely Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular (BEV), or Black Vernacular English (BVE)—is an African American variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of American English. Non-linguists sometimes call it Ebonics (a term that also has other meanings or strong connotations) or jive or jive-talk. Its pronunciation is, in some respects, common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and many non-African Americans in the United States. There is little regional variation among speakers of AAVE. Several creolists, including William Stewart, John Dillard, and John Rickford, argue that AAVE shares so many characteristics with creole dialects spoken by black people in much of the world that AAVE itself is a creole, while others maintain that there are no significant parallels. As with all linguistic forms, its usage is influenced by age, status, topic and setting. There are many literary uses of this variety of English, particularly in African-American literature.
Overview

AAVE shares several characteristics with Creole English language-forms spoken by people throughout much of the world. AAVE has pronunciation, grammatical structures, and vocabulary in common with various West African languages.


Who hear dismisses AAVE as "ghetto English", with all the negative permutations of that label?

We are racist in this country, through and through...

The times they are a'changin, and with whites soon being a minority even in this country, I think its time we became a little less "white" in our expectations and teachings and became more flexible, so that all kids 'succeed' rather than 'fail' cos they dont fit our white paradigm...

Sahila said...

@ maureen re the speaking of English:

Gingrich's "ghetto" talk

International scientific English: Some thoughts on science, language and ownership

"These questions remain because Standard English is not defined or fixed by any official authority. It emerges from a common consent that leaves plenty of room for disagreement and plenty of room for changes. It does not exist in a vacuum but is part of the huge pattern of variety that makes up the English language worldwide.

The true basis of determining usage is to look at what the language itself is doing; that is, at how people are in fact using it. Some usages are "better" than others, better because they are clearer, more effective, more pleasing, more sensitive; or sometimes, better merely because a consensus of influential people prefers them.


http://wordinfo.info/unit/4369?spage=&letter= .... note the short verse at the bottom of the page...

Sahila said...

contd:

If Maori kids can be taught in Maori, why cant African American kids be taught in AAVE, for example, if that is their cultural root?

African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—also called African American English; less precisely Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular (BEV), or Black Vernacular English (BVE)—is an African American variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of American English. Non-linguists sometimes call it Ebonics (a term that also has other meanings or strong connotations) or jive or jive-talk. Its pronunciation is, in some respects, common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and many non-African Americans in the United States. There is little regional variation among speakers of AAVE. Several creolists, including William Stewart, John Dillard, and John Rickford, argue that AAVE shares so many characteristics with creole dialects spoken by black people in much of the world that AAVE itself is a creole, while others maintain that there are no significant parallels. As with all linguistic forms, its usage is influenced by age, status, topic and setting. There are many literary uses of this variety of English, particularly in African-American literature.
Overview

AAVE shares several characteristics with Creole English language-forms spoken by people throughout much of the world. AAVE has pronunciation, grammatical structures, and vocabulary in common with various West African languages.


Who hear dismisses AAVE as "ghetto English", with all the negative permutations of that label?

We are racist in this country, through and through...

The times they are a'changin, and with whites soon being a minority even in this country, I think its time we became a little less "white" in our expectations and teachings and became more flexible, so that all kids 'succeed' rather than 'fail' cos they dont fit our white paradigm...

Sahila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Corsby said...

Sahila...the WA State Standards dictate that Certified teachers must teach English, not AAVE or Ebonics.

Pidgin English (or Creole), which is rooted in Loma, Bassa, Vai, Mende, Ebo, Hausa, Fanti, or the multitude of other languages from Coastal West Africa, is interesting to linguists studying dialect origins, but they have no place in Washington State classrooms.

Quite frankly studying the relationship between Zouk music of Martinique and Soukous music from Zaire makes an interesting study for ethno-musicologists since they are both the product of Angolan music transferred to Cuba via multiple transoceanic voyages (metaphorically speaking). And yet, as interesting as this topic is, it has no place in a public school classroom except as novelty.

If you wish to promote these novelty notions of hyper-idealistic utopianism then by all means do so, however, methinks you are barking in the wind with this crowd.

Sahila said...

@william... I wrote the post in an effort to prise open closed minds...

many people here seem to have no sense of the 'other' and blithely put forward pontifications that have no basis in the realities of those 'other' to them...

If only they would do what good "white" people did, we would all be well and happy and successful at school... in fact, we would all be "white" despite our skin colours and cultural heritages..

Melissa showed she has only a cursory understanding of what racism is... her being "colour blind" is an example of racism in itself...

and the fact that people can only look at the situation from their own view point and what makes 'sense' to them, means we will be shortchanging the children who are "other" than us white folks for years to come...

and there is a place for that to change in washington public classrooms and public classrooms all over this country...

seattle said...

Sahila, once again, you have offended me beyond belief. To suggest that my kids should not be taught in standard English because they are black, is offensive at worst, and a gross generalization at least. It is hurtful, and I can't believe that you would even suggest this. Most black people, especially here in Seattle, don't speak AAVE, or ebonics. We speak clear English just like white people. Do you have any black friends? Are you part of any black communities here in Seattle? If not, please don't make generalized conclusions on our behalf.

Sahila, almost every single posting on this entire thread pushes away your ridiculous ideas about teaching basketweaving, painting, ebonics.

Maybe it's time for you to reexamine your positions.

Oops, maybe I should translate this post into ebonics or AAVE so my black friends won't have a hard time reading it. RIDICULOUS. RACIST. INSULTING.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

So Sahila...are we then back to separate classrooms for African American kids? Or are teachers expected to teach in multiple languages? If we're doing AAVE, then we MUST also do Spanish at least, and any other native language that shows up in the classroom, including French, Italian, etc.

seattle said...

So Sahila, after 12 years in a school teaching ebonics do you think black children would be prepared to go out into the real world.

How do you suppose they would do in college, say at the UW, where they'd be expected to speak, read, and write, in standard English.

How do you suppose they would do on a job interviewer at Amazon?

How would it be if Obama made his state of the union address in AAVE?

Or your doctor told you your diagnosis in ebonics?

Or your real estate agent wrote your contract in AAVE?

How about MGJ? Should she write her email correspondence with the public in Ebonics?

Do you see how ridiculous this is?

seattle said...

"So Sahila...are we then back to separate classrooms for African American kids?"

Yes, Sahila, in your uber liberal attempt to teach black kids in AAVE or Ebonics, you would have to separate, or um, segregate "those" kids.

Yup, separate classrooms for blacks. Good, Sahlia. Real, good.

William Corsby said...

Sahila...see this...

My friend Bill Cosby wrote it.

http://scout.wisc.edu/Projects/PastProjects/NH/97-01/97-01-13/0036.html

Here is the link again truncated. I forgot my HTML codes.

http://scout.wisc.edu/Projects
/PastProjects/NH/97-01/97-01-13/0036.html

Maureen said...

Shahila, I don't know if I will be able to explain this clearly here but I'll try. I think it's ok to judge students on how well they learn the language of whoever is teaching them. When you moved to an English speaking country as a child, your lessons and exams were in English not Dutch. If a school is teaching in "Ghetto English" (your phrase) then the exams should be in that language.

We teach in School English and the kids should be evaluated in their use of School English. Sometimes School English has to be taught as a second language and that should be acknowledged, but we're not doing kids any favors if we let them graduate without being fluent in School English.

There were things I said and did at home that I knew I could never say or do at school. I never felt that was a rejection of my culture--that was school culture and I needed to master it if I wanted to succeed.

Anonymous said...

What do we do then with bi-racial or multi-racial kids? If their culture or learning style is encoded in their DNA, how do we determine what teaching style is appropriate for them?

Take the child of an African-American and a European immigrant. If the child has brown skin (most likely), do we teach them in AAVE? If the child has white skin (uncommon, but it happens) do we teach them in the King' English? Or do we apply the 'one-drop rule' and teach them both in AAVE? Do we let skin color determine their learning style?

If they live with one parent, does that parent's native culture determine how we teach them, regardless of the child's skin color? What if neither parent is enmeshed in 'White-American' culture, but very much want their children to assimilate and be successful in America? (yes, I know you object to a White-American definition of success- but you can't impose your definition on them) Do we insist that they learn in some other fashion simply because they look different or came from somewhere else.

I'm as happy as the next person when white folks recognize their privilege, but I grow weary of watching them fall all over themselves trying to prove how much more enlightened and unprejudiced they are. Stop it. It's just embarrassing.

-The Spook Who Sat By The Door

Dorothy Neville said...

Much of what Sahila is saying here is way shallow and silly, to say the least. Saying that artists use math every day just because there are some mathematical principles underlying art is just like saying slugs solve differential equations and cats solve complex physics as they drink water.

If anyone is actually interested in a deeper look into the Black Vernacular issue (I have no idea if this is relevant in Seattle) find a copy of Twice as Less, by Eleanor Orr. She shows that the Black Vernacular of DC is logically consistent but sentence construction in many cases has exactly the opposite meaning than in standard English.

So, for instance, "double fifty" for us would mean 100 but in BV would mean 25. (I possibly have the exact example wrong, but this is the jist of it.) So yes, if a student has been raised in a language with a different logical structure, one MUST start from that point in order to teach them, but if that student wants to succeed in the US then they must learn Standard English. One could not possibly expect them to be a successful engineer or doctor or anything relying on logical abstract thought or mathematics when they are using the same words as Standard English but have exactly the opposite meaning. If a doctor tells a nurse to cut the patient's medicine dose in half, don't you want BOTH of them to be completely in agreement on what that means?

emeraldkity said...

I have tutored students of high school age and younger, they had recently come from Eritrea, Sudan, & Kenya.

If anyone had a right to claim a need for " special" instruction, it was they.

But with the class sizes in SPS and without parents who knew the way around the school system ( or without parents in this hemisphere- or without parents. period), what they got was a group of hard working volunteers to help them transform into American students.

I am saddened if someone can't listen to my experiences because I don't have the same color skin as these kids- but they don't need Ebonics or instruction tied to their ancestors or even parents culture to learn- yes some of them have learning differences, just as some kids of wealthy white folks have learning differences and like anybody, they learn best when there are breaks & they can see progress, and can relate what they learned in one subject, to another. Reading & writing for example- improves their skills in every other area.

But what an insult to them- who have made such an effort to come to this country, to learn in an American school and become part of the wonderful fabric of this community- to imply that they can't learn alongside -native born students.

We should ALL be cognizant of other economies,languages & histories, than our own- because not only is that needed to be successful in this world, but it makes life richer.

But when the world is moving toward a common base of knowledge for those who move between :science & the arts, Tajikistan & Dallas, these children need a solid foundation of instruction that won't limit their future, as much as any other child.

Sahila said...

Just a pity, Emerald Kitty, that the american white world is insisting the whole world should move more towards Dallas than Tajikstan, isnt it - and that is another sign of racism...

even in this comment of yours, you display how eurocentric most people are... you cant even see how you very thinking is racist... you dont even stop to consider that all other races and cultures are equal and ought to have an equal place in this country - THE MELTING POT of the world...well, its only the melting pot because you here expect people to assimilate, to standardise... borg thinking...

and an evolutionary dead end street...

Sahila said...

@Dorothy...back to giving examples of being a doctor or engineer markers of being "successful" in life...

white middle class, racist, elitist thinking... being pushed onto other people as the (most valid) way to be in the world...

I am surprised and saddened by the number of "well educated" people on this blog who dont see this...

Sahila said...

@ William - I know what Bill Cosby thinks... I used that same item in a debate in another arena where blacks were talking about the issue of experiencing backlash in their peer groups for "acting white"... this whole thing is a huge issue in the black community.... some want to move forward only within their own cultural context and others argue for going down the "white" road as being the only path to success...

And the point I am trying to make is that there IS A DIFFERENT CULTURAL CONTEXT and it is racist of us and the education system to ignore that and expect children from other cultures to perform and conform to white expectations...

emeraldkity said...

ust a pity, Emerald Kitty, that the american white world is insisting the whole world should move more towards Dallas than Tajikstan,

I think it shows just how provincial your viewpoint is- if you think that White Americans are directing the global march toward the future.

Dorothy Neville said...

"@Dorothy...back to giving examples of being a doctor or engineer markers of being "successful" in life...

white middle class, racist, elitist thinking... being pushed onto other people as the (most valid) way to be in the world...

I am surprised and saddened by the number of "well educated" people on this blog who dont see this..."

Well, totally flog me now. I am full of white guilt, ashamed at the very idea that I could have thought that black people might aspire to be engineers and doctors. How wrong I am! So the fact that fewer black people on average become doctors and engineers has nothing to do with white privilege or the achievement gap, but simply because the native culture of Black Americans is different and that's not what they aspire to be. My bad, I see the light now and will be forever in your debt for this painful and very valuable lesson in self understanding of my racist nature.

Sahila said...

I dont know how many of you have actually ever had the opportunity to look at your world with new eyes..

I came here for the first time in August of 2002 and stayed for three months... in the north end, spent a lot of time in the U-District and down town in the CBD...

and even there, walking the streets seeing new sights every day, I was struck how down trodden even well dressed african american people looked... they appeared to be participating in society - nice clothes and shoes, on their way to or from an office or whatever, but they all - without exception - walked with their heads down, not willing/wanting to make eye contact... there was absolutely no pride in their stride...

I was shocked... this is what I expected (as an outsider) to find in the south of the US 50 years ago, 100 years ago - not in Seattle in 2002... and from what I cant tell, nothing has changed 9 years later...

So where does this shame and humiliation carried in the body language come from?

Could it at all, even a tiny little bit, have anything to do with having to turn one's back on one's origins, roots, culture and "act white" to get a foothold in this society?

Could it have anything to do with being expected to abandon one's own heritage and conform to and perform in an "alien" environment?

I wish that some of you here could participate in the "blue eye-brown eye" experiment, carried out by Jane Elliott in 1968...

Jane Elliott - A Class Divided

hschinske said...

Sahila, I think you're really contradicting yourself here. Didn't you write a while back

"languages...
all babies are wired to be able to speak every language on the planet... if they are exposed only by their 'mother tongue' the neurons giving this capacity are pruned back, until over time they no longer have that facility, or it is severely curtailed...

"Many of us have seen families where the children are bi or even trilingual...

"I myself spoke Dutch at home until I went to school, where I learned to speak English - had to, matter of survival... my family switched to English only when I was around 11, apparently to make it easier for my sister and I and to make our friends feel more welcome... I regret that decision now. My mother tongue is now very rusty - I'm better at speaking French and Latin than I am at speaking Dutch, though I can still understand and read it - and I have been unable to teach it to my own children who have Dutch nationality...

"It seems to me that if we see a value in/want children to be successful at learning other languages, then they should be exposed to other languages from kindergarten... and if we want true fluency/facility, they should be full immersion classes... "

Why on earth should the same thing not be true of standard academic English, math, etc.? Learn them young, and you have more flexibility later on. I don't see why you're suddenly arguing for such limitations in children's abilities to adapt.

Helen Schinske

Erin said...

One of the flaws in all of these arguments is the assumption that all African Americans come fromone background and all "European" whites come from the same background. They don't. The groups are much more mixed up genetically than we can even imagine. So basing an argument that black kids learn one way because of their DNA is deeply flawed. There is little diference in the DNA between African Americans and Caucasion Americans, especially those whose family history goes back hundreds of years in North America.

However, I do think that people learn differently, and that American schools must provide culturally compentent instruction. But culturally compentent instruction means not sterotyping based on skin color. A black kid from Mississipi whose family has been in the US for generations may or may not have the same learning needs or style as an 2nd generation Ethiopian or Carribean immigrant, who under our current classifiction system would also be considered "African American."

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Again...my original question...
If as Sahila attests we should be teaching cultural groups differently (and I'm not saying I agree; I have no idea if this is really the best idea), how do we do this economically and equitably without segregating?

Her approach is, I believe, what keeps a lot of middle-class families of all races who want what Sahila refers to as the "white" or "Euro" style of education from choosing RBHS and other SE schools with high AA populations has much more to do with the style and expectations of teaching that the staffs at those schools are using—because they believe it to be the best approach for their current populations—than because we don't want our children in classrooms with children of color and/or poverty.

We need to look at what we can do realistically and what will actually work at helping all children achieve a level of success where they can put food on the table, a roof over their heads and secure health insurance—whatever that may be. I myself, am not expecting my child to be a doctor or engineer—she's an artist—but I do want her to have enough education that she can have a decent day job while she pursues her art.

Sahila said...

@ Dorothy -

I know what it is like to go to school and not be able to speak english...

and to be thought of as less than because of that...

and having to work hard at school because I wanted to be accepted and to meet the family push to use education to get out of poverty/climb the social ladder/achieve acceptance, and at the same time, underachieving (I was quite 'bright') to avoid more of the limelight...

and having a name that no one could pronounce...

and having cultural slurs hurled at me - ones I didnt understand...

and not having my origins or culture valued, recognised even...

and not feeling at home in my native culture, not knowing my history because not enough of it got transmitted/maintained in the process of meeting the demands of assimilation...

I understand this issue because really, I'm not dutch, I'm not a kiwi, I'm not an australian, I'm not an american...

I think too much like a dutch person to be called/recognised/accepted as a kiwi, and too much like a kiwi to be accepted as dutch...

My dutch relatives recognise my dutch blood but I dont fit into the culture and our conversation cant reach really deep levels because although I "feel" what they are talking about (its in my blood/DNA and comes out in how I dress/decorate my house/approach problems etc), I dont have enough personal experience within the culture to contribute meaningfully ...

my kiwi friends say I sound too much like an australian, my aussie friends say I sound too much like a kiwi and my american friends think I am british...

I like that I have had this diversity in my life - its given me many opportunities and experiences and understandings I might not have had, but there is a rootedness missing...what the children in trans-racial adoption families talk about...

Many other immigrant children I have talked too have exactly the same experience... and it doesnt change as you become an adult...

For some - when they go back to their native country, they feel like they have come home; for others, they feel even more alienated...

Yes - kids are wired to learn every language and that's great and teach them languages etc...

BUT DONT ASK THEM TO LEAVE BEHIND, ABANDON THEIR NATIVE CULTURE, dont teach them within a racist, standardised framework...

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

it is racist of us and the education system to ignore that and expect children from other cultures to perform and conform to white expectations..."

Not "white" expectations Sahila. AMERICAN expectations.

America is a melting pot - all the more need for a standard way of teaching....everyone.

You've yet to explain how we could accomplish your ridiculous idea of teaching every nationality, color, and culture, differently?

Think about all of the different cultures in one single classroom. How could we teach them all differently? And wouldn't that mean separating, or segregating, everyone by their race, color, or culture? Are you OK with that type of segregation?

Or would you keep all of the students in one classroom and expect every teacher to be able to teach every child in that child's cultural style, native language, vernacular, form? Equally absurd.

Do explain?

seattle said...

"BUT DONT ASK THEM TO LEAVE BEHIND, ABANDON THEIR NATIVE CULTURE,"

It is within ones family that your native culture is learned and practiced, and passed down from generation to generation. It is within ones home that you speak your native language, or vernacular. That you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza. It is within ones home that you pray, learn family values, and form traditions.

That is not the schools job or responsibility. Nor should it be.

emeraldkity said...

you dont even stop to consider that all other races and cultures are equal and ought to have an equal place in this country

I don't agree with this- but it seems to be Sahilas main point- as she keeps coming back to it.

Should we be electing David Duke president?
How about Louis Farrakhan?
How do you feel about genital mutilation of children?
After all it may be part of their "culture".
Some cultures don't want females tp be educated, or males when they are big enough to fire a weapon.
Are those cultures "sympatico" with the goals of a free society?

We do not live in "everyman for himself" land.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would agree. We still have immigrants who come from many lands but most people here are American. I think most of them embrace American culture (for good or bad).

I think you need to know and speak English in order to succeed in this country and in the classroom. I say this as someone who grew up on the Arizona/Mexico border and had many kids in class who didn't speak English well. My husband came to this country not speaking a word of English. In fact, I think we keep kids in ELL maybe too long because, again for better or worse, English is the lingua franca for this country and certainly for much of business/technology in the world.

There absolutely has to be cultural sensitivity. We have to do better than previous generations but the idea that you come to a country because you want to be there is not a bad idea.

I don't think I'm being racist or insensitive. But we do have an American culture which most people in this country get. We are slowly losing the idea that you need to be educated to get ahead, do well by your children and be a good citizen. We have to get that back.

seattle citizen said...

We live on a globe. English is becoming the lingua franca. Math and science are formulaic in any language. History is certainly interpretative but it's also "truth," when done right. I believe most public school teachers try to teach these things because they want students to be prepared to participate in the global culture: Economic, certainly, but also participatory and a sharing of various cultural assets.

It's my belief that a teacher can't teach to every child's unique mixture of ethnic, racial, or other cultures, but teachers CAN be open to them, and attempt to serve an interpretative function for students: "You say this, and I think it means much the same as this, so your answer, in its context is (right, wrong, malleable, in need of exploration...)"

Unfortunately, in a highly regimented school system, with standardization (and yes, the tests are NOT subject to interpretation, they are often designed with a very limited viewpoint in mind), then teachers lose their ability to serve as mediators between various "cultures" and the "dominant culture" (which isn't necessarily "white" at this particular time, but is certainly market-oriented, capitalistic etc).

I mean, students have to know English: It's one of the "languages of power." That doesn't mean they have to give up anything else. And yes, to live in the world today there are instances where one has to participate in the dominant culture, even give up some things...Washing clothes regularly is usually a good idea in today's job market, even if it wastes water.

Someone said once that life is about learning to live with our own hypocrisy - we TRY to live our beliefs, but we can't always do that: So we're hypocrites, do as I say, not as I do. But that's just life. It's possible to live in the world, keep one's "cultures," and try to change things.

I know that some might say that that is easy for ME to say, a white male...I understand the concept of "white priviledge" and don't deny it, but the world is what is, I look white, I'm wealthier than about 90% of the world...so what am I supposed to do, throw up my hands and grieve? I can only hope, and work toward more equity, but the world I live in is the world I live in.

Sahila said...

Some of you might like to read this Truthout piece by Henry Giroux, which references the need to provide education "in context" appropriate to students...

Lessons to Be Learned From Paulo Freire as Education Is Being Taken Over by the Mega Rich...

"our current knowledge is contingent on particular historical contexts and political forces. For example, each classroom will be affected by the different experiences students bring to the class, the resources made available for classroom use, the relations of governance bearing down on teacher-student relations, the authority exercised by administrations regarding the boundaries of teacher autonomy and the theoretical and political discourses used by teachers to read and frame their responses to the diverse historical, economic and cultural forces informing classroom dialogue. Any understanding of the project and practices that inform critical pedagogy has to begin with recognizing the forces at work in such contexts, and which must be confronted by educators and schools everyday....

...Consequently, culture - as a crucial educational force influencing larger social structures as well as in the most intimate spheres of identity formation - could be viewed as nothing less than an ongoing site of struggle and power in contemporary society."

Maureen said...

Going back to Mel's initital post:
...we need to have some very serious discussions about parenting for educational success and how that is viewed (or not) within different communities.... Believing that all you have to do to help your child academically is to send him/her to school and just remind them to do their homework (rather than making sure it gets done). And believing that if your child fails, then it's the teacher's fault or the school's....

I don't see this as a race based or, nowadays, even a class based issue. We have been focusing in the discussion here on the racial achievement gap in part, I think because we get hit over the head with that all of the time. But I think there is another related issue that Mellissa points out here and it is that many parents, of all races and classes, do not respect teachers or education and as their children absorb this worldview, they achieve less and less in school. This lack of achievement becomes a self enforcing downward spiral.

I'm not saying that parents should mutely accept bad/racist/destructive teachers. But I think they don't do their kids any favors by blaming a kid's lack of academic success soley on the teachers and the school. I think, like with any sort of work, accepting responsibilty for your own success and failure is key to moving forward.

I think this is a really important issue and I would like us to take a small step away from race and ethnic culture part of it and see if there is a way we can address it.

emeraldkity said...

I would like to see us step away from focusing on socioeconomic things too- Ironically- one thing that TFA has said that I agree with was


Wendy Koop-I also had this revelation that we were no longer going to go through all this development of strategic plans.
We would go through this massive process of creating these endless strategic plans and reviewing them.
And I don’t know how many years we did that until I said: “Forget it. We don’t even need to do this anymore.
Let’s figure out our priorities and how we are going to measure our success. And then we’re going to let people run after those goals.”
And that just freed up all the energy.


When the district keeps changing what & how they are measuring work in the classroom- that confusion is reflected in the children.

Bird said...
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Bird said...

...we need to have some very serious discussions about parenting for educational success and how that is viewed (or not) within different communities.... Believing that all you have to do to help your child academically is to send him/her to school and just remind them to do their homework (rather than making sure it gets done). And believing that if your child fails, then it's the teacher's fault or the school's....

Ok, I'm going to go against the current and say, you know, just sending me to school was all my parents did. They didn't check up on my homework. They sometimes told teachers I wouldn't be doing homework. They thought it was more important for kids to play outside of school. On the whole, I rarely had homework.

They didn't sign me up for tutoring. They didn't quiz me on academic subjects. They didn't check up on the curriculum of our schools. My parents were middle class, but back then that didn't mean that we had a lot of enriched activities. We mainly just were left to our own devices outside of school.

They simply sent me to school, and I got a decent education. I did fine, went on to college, and got a good job.

I understand that family background matters, but it probably matters more in the areas of disruption, depression and genuine desperation that poor kids face rather than this disparity of "parenting for educational success".

I also worry when folks say that the schools can't work unless parents are driven to carefully watch over their child's education. I worry not only for kids who don't have parents that can do that. I worry for my kids.

I'm here now to do the watching and the tending, but 18 years is a long time, and, I think there are no guarantees that I'll be ready and able to keep watch that whole time. Things happen to people. They die, they get disabled, they get depressed, they lose their jobs, they get divorced. I'm hoping none of that happens in our family, but I do think it is a reasonable aspiration to expect the educational system to work for my kids even if I am derailed from the "super parent" track.

emeraldkity said...

hey simply sent me to school, and I got a decent education. I did fine, went on to college, and got a good job

and some poor kids with absentee parents have the same experience-& some poor kids with involved parents. THey received a good education, went to college & and working- or didn't go to college, but learned a trade- same difference.

but some middle class kids whose parents aren't involved dropped out of school and never made it back- some middle class kids whose parents were involved , have had similar experiences- perhaps the not dropping out of high school, but not going to/or doing well in college or being successful because they never acquired the skills needed to do so and it is pretty difficult to learn what you needed to learn in K-12, as an adult.

Being involved is not being a SUPER parent- it is part of being a parent. Period. It is part of the commitment you took on when you decided to have a child.

Maureen said...

Bird, I was raised almost exactly the same way (except I can't imagine my parents ever even telling a teacher I wouldn't be doing my homework--they would leave that to me.) And, like you, I actually don't think I really had much homework-until High School at least.

That said, if any of the seven of us ever came home complaining about a teacher, it was made very clear to us that it was our job to figure out what the teacher wanted and give it to them. We got no sympathy whatsoever. The teacher deserved our respect and obedience. Period. I'm not saying this was always ideal for me, but it made me take responsibility for my own learning in a way I don't see much now. Maybe many other kids were left behind by that system?

I wonder if that attitude is less prevalent today because so many parents see teachers, as a group, as being different than them--either too elitest or not elite enough. I have seen parents at both ends of the socioeconomic scale distrust teachers and pass that attitude on to their kids.

Jan said...

Emeraldkity: Wendy Koop said THAT! Well, I'll be! I agree with it too (although if by "figure out what we are going to measure," she somehow means 'spend a fortune teaching to high stakes tests' -- then not so much). But in general, I love the idea of just stopping so much of the churn, the expensive coaches and consultants, the trying to herd every teacher and every course into some sort of lock step "all hail to she who orders from on high" orgy. It is so unnecessary, and so wasteful. If each school would (as part of its CSIP) just sit down and say -- all right -- here we are, at pick a school -- Hale, say. Here is the list of things we think we need to fix most -- here are the 2 from that list that we are really going to focus on, here is what our target is, here are the resources/whatever we will bring to the task that we think will work -- and GO! Just GO! Start!
I don't expect immediate results. But honestly, MGJ has been at this for over 3 years now, and claims she isn't accountable yet -- because she is just getting things started. That is one entire high school career for kids, while she revved her engines. Middle school came and went for a whole batch of kids.
I don't think it is easy. I think it is hard work. But we are wasting, just throwing away, time, money, and a quarter to a half of the educations of kids (we are 3+ years into a 6 year contract of a superintendent who is producing NO results, to me, that is a quarter to a half) -- while the central office dismantles programs that have worked, fails to replace or start new ones that work (exceptions being Jane Addams and -- jury is out, but maybe Cleveland). AArRRGH! Let my people GO!

seattle said...

Bird, Maureen, I grew up much the same way, and am trying to raise my kids with that same independence. I encourage them to do their homework on their own without help. That means that when they get assigned projects like building a bridge other kids present architectural master pieces (that their dads build for them), and mine present pretty basic structures (but were proud that they did them all by themselves).

If they don't understand their homework, with few exceptions I tell them to go back to their teacher for clarification. Sometimes that means they lose points for not doing their homework, and that in in itself is a learning moment (if I don't understand something I better ask in class before I get home and can't do it).

And, with few exceptions, if they have an issue with a teacher I don't get involved. They are teenagers, and should be learning how to work issues out for themselves, and also be learning how to deal with many different personality types.

I do check the Source regularly to make sure they are on track, and when they aren't I talk with them about it. They know I am keeping an eye on them, but I won't interfere unless it is absolutely necessary.

Sahila said...

It happened all over the world

Anonymous said...

Bird and Maureen summarized: They [the parents] didn't check up on my homework. They sometimes told teachers I wouldn't be doing homework. They thought it was more important for kids to play outside of school.

My parents too did next to nothing to support me in school. That never seemed problematic back then. It was normal. PTA meeting? Forget it! And certainly NO donations, or volunteering either. My parents specifically thought volunteering was almost undemocratic or unAmerican. Teachers were paid to work, and doing their work meant somebody wouldn't have a paid job. Maybe they would buy a pie at a bakesale or similar.

The thing is... the world is a heck of a lot more competitive now than it was back then. Colleges are full to the brim. We've got a lot more high stakes standarization than we ever had before. And, we've got a job market that leaves out a lot of high school graduates. I think that most parents actually WANT lots of other people to fail, so that their kid can succeed demonstrably... and they are willing to go to great lengths to see that happen. EG. Vote for high standards, CORE 24, vote for NO income tax that might help other people, etc. Then push to make sure their own kid does meet those standards. That's really the difficult conversation.

A Parent in SPS