Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time (and who knows the way forward)?

I think we know the answer - it's still civil rights protections for all citizens of our country but especially for those whose rights appear to be violated every single day. (Note: this is a very long thread but I think worthwhile for the discussion.)

I will say right upfront - the only thing standing between us and the bad guys?  Cops.  These are people who go out every day not knowing if they will come home at night because of the job they have chosen.  It is a horrible, difficult job.  Everyone is always happy to see firefighters but police?  Not so much.  No one likes to be told what to do. 

But with that kind of danger also comes responsibility.  That responsibility is to be true to the goal "to protect and serve." 

We can't have police officers having different standards of interaction for one community versus another. 

We can't have police officers escalating conflict rather than deescalating it. 

Most of all, we can't have officers out there with a "kill or be killed" mindset.  Because then we have lost all that we are as a society if the people who are charged with protecting us feel their first reaction in situations with one group of people is to fire a gun at them. 

That is a terrible, terrible thing to write but given the number of these incidents, no one can just turn away and shrug.  (At least I hope not.)

I had thought of writing this thread at the time of the Michael Brown ruling in Ferguson, MO that said that the officer who killed him would not be indicted.  But then we had the Eric Garner ruling in NYC.  And then there is Tamir Rice, 12-year old playing with a toy gun in a park in Ohio.

What spurred me was a column at Education Post by Shree Chauhan, "If Education is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time, Reformers Can't Ignore Police Killings." 


As education advocates that say we serve students of color, we cannot ignore Eric’s death, Mike’s death and the deaths of countless others any longer. They are human beings, not hashtags.

The overused phrase “education is the civil rights issue of our time” sounded hollow after the Ferguson protests swept the nation. Too many individuals and organizations that push education reform as a civil rights issue remain eerily silent on Ferguson—on protests led largely by young people of color.

These groups that say they want to address educational inequities and be advocates of students of color—but where are they on the injustices in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases? It’s time to speak up.

She's right, you know.  If you're going to take on the mantle of civil rights activists who came before you, you might want to be sure of that the original issue is put to bed.  Clearly, it is not. 

This should be an opportunity to address social injustices that underlie educational inequities. For those organizations that have been quiet on these injustices until now, it is time to be bold and brave once more.

Providing students an excellent education is one path to achieve a more perfect union.

This is the moment where you can be true to your mission.

She hits on what I believe is an important point -to get real change, you not only need to ask the right questions, you need to ask the right people those questions.   I hear this frequently from activists of color who say that they feel like a token person on panels and that really, no one is listening.

On the other hand, we can never make progress in this country if, when we do sit down to discuss civil rights issues, we just hear a litany of wrongs.  To be sure, the list is massive but the most important thing is not to know how many wrongs there have been but what would truly make a difference.

And then we have the difficult conversation which is one that played out at Education Next earlier this year.  It is fascinating and challenging reading.  It was a back-and-forth between two writers,  Jonathan Chait of New York magazine and Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic about the question of  poverty and the African-American community with citations from several articles.  (And I want to note that both Chait and Coates seem to have the highest admiration for each other.)

It starts in The Atlantic with Ta-Nehisi Coates' article with a quote from Rep. Paul Ryan:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

 Coates notes that some liberals took issue with Ryan's words and yet: 

The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are "not holding up their end of the deal" as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing. From the president on down there is an accepted belief in America—black and white—that African-American people, and African-American men, in particular, are lacking in the virtues in family, hard work, and citizenship:

But again, doesn't poverty continue to be a huge issue?

Certainly there are cultural differences as you scale the income ladder. Living in abundance, not fearing for your children's safety, and having decent food around will have its effect. But is the culture of West Baltimore actually less virtuous than the culture of Wall Street? I've seen no such evidence.

Chait answers back:

Certainly there are cultural differences as you scale the income ladder. Living in abundance, not fearing for your children's safety, and having decent food around will have its effect. But is the culture of West Baltimore actually less virtuous than the culture of Wall Street? I've seen no such evidence.

He then, oddly, goes on to compare that Coates' writing about the culture of West Baltimore to Wall Street (which technically is no real neighborhood community):

It would be pretty shallow to attribute the cultural pathologies of Wall Street at their root to bad people working there. The trouble, instead, is that the structural conditions of the financial industry have fostered certain cultural norms.  

That statement kind of falls into the "wait, what?!" category.  I'm not even sure how he got from A to B but I don't see how the cultural pathologies of African-Americans can be compared to people who work on Wall Street.  

Coates comes back:

The liberal version of the cultural argument points to "a tangle of pathologies" haunting black America born of oppression. This argument—which Barack Obama embraces—is more sincere, honest, and seductive.

The "structural conditions" Chait outlines above can be summed up under the phrase "white supremacy.

Then he says something truly striking:

For some reason there is an entrenched belief among many liberals and conservatives that discussions of American racism should begin somewhere between the Moynihan Report and the Detroit riots. Thus Chait dates our dispute to the fights in the '70s between liberals. In fact, we are carrying on an argument that is at least a century older.

The passage of time is important because it allows us to assess how those arguments have fared. I contend that my arguments have been borne out, and the arguments of progressives like Chait and the president of the United States have not. 

Either Booker T. Washington was correct when he urged black people to forgo politics in favor eliminating "the criminal and loafing element of our people" or he wasn't. 

Either W.E.B. Du Bois was correct when he claimed that correcting "the immorality, crime and laziness among the Negroes" should be the "first and primary" goal or he was not. The track record of progressive moral reform in the black community is knowable.

He finishes:

There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.

Chait comes back:

“Progressives who advocate the 19th-century line must specifically name the ‘cultural residue’ that afflicts black people, and then offer evidence of it,” he (Coates) writes, “Favoring abstract thought experiments over research will not cut it.
 
That is a sound challenge. Of course, there is a great deal of research on the subject of the culture of poverty, aside from Coates’s own powerful, though now-forgotten, firsthand testimony. For instance, via Jamelle Bouie, this paper surveys some of the best research evidence of the detrimental cultural outgrowths of concentrated urban poverty on parental expectations, sexual behavior, the willingness of students to engage in beneficial activities, and other things. Culture is hard, though not impossible, to quantify, which does not mean it doesn’t exist.
 
My analogy, of a basketball game in which the referees are systematically favoring one team over the other, directly implies the opposite. I agree that racial discrimination persists, but I don’t believe this fact abnegates the possibility that a culture of poverty exists as well.

I find that last sentence challenging and thought-provoking - does racial discrimination+poverty = the landscape we have today?

Then, he gets to the ground that I find the most challenging:

Some of the most successful anti-poverty initiatives, like the Harlem Children’s Zone or the KIPP schools, are designed around the premise that children raised in concentrated poverty need to be taught middle class norms.

Ah, so is that the goal?  "Middle class" norms and values?  Would that be because that is what white people like or what communities that don't have those need?  And who decides?  

 Bringing up KIPP charters is a sore spot for me because KIPP is a hugely restrictive environment which you could see as bringing structure to kids who may have little in their lives OR you can see KIPP as a lot of white people trying to model mostly kids of color into one form.

The Education Next article then goes to another writer, David Whitman, who writes about KIPP (and other schools) in An Appeal to Authority, the New Paternalism in Urban Schools. (bold mine)

Students take a college-prep curriculum and are not tracked into vocational or noncollege-bound classes. Most of the schools have uniforms or a dress code, an extended school day, and three weeks of summer school.

Yet above all, these schools share a trait that has been largely ignored by education researchers: They are paternalistic institutions. 

By paternalistic I mean that each of the six schools is a highly prescriptive institution that teaches students not just how to think, but also how to act according to what are commonly termed traditional, middle-class values. These paternalistic schools go beyond just teaching values as abstractions: the schools tell students exactly how they are expected to behave, and their behavior is closely monitored, with real rewards for compliance and penalties for noncompliance.

 Unlike the often-forbidding paternalistic institutions of the past, these schools are prescriptive yet warm; teachers and principals, who sometimes serve in loco parentis, are both authoritative and caring figures. Teachers laugh with and cajole students, in addition to frequently directing them to stay on task.

The new breed of paternalistic schools appears to be the single most effective way of closing the achievement gap. No other school model or policy reform in urban secondary schools seems to come close to having such a dramatic impact on the performance of inner-city students. 

Done right, paternalistic schooling provides a novel way to remake inner-city education in the years ahead.

I would disagree that these schools are all warm and fuzzy - that's just not the total story.  Of course, if you believe what he is saying, then that ties into the notion that "middle-class values" are the gold standard for life/education.

As well, there is also the issue that KIPP and other schools start out with a large group of kids and rarely end up with the same large group.  Meaning, they weed them out and end up with the most motivated kids (with the most motivated parents).

But isn't this notion of paternalism part of U.S. education anyway?

But many paternalistic programs remain controversial because they seek to change the lifestyles of the poor, immigrants, and minorities, rather than the lifestyles of middle-class and upper-class families. The paternalistic presumption implicit in the schools is that the poor lack the family and community support, cultural capital, and personal follow-through to live according to the middle-class values that they, too, espouse.

In the narrowest sense, all American schools are paternalistic. “Schooling virtually defines what paternalism means in a democratic society,” the political scientist James Q. Wilson has written. Elementary schools often attempt to teach values and enforce rules about how students are to behave and treat others.
 
He does see some differences from traditional schools and the new "paternal" schools:

The most distinctive feature of new paternalistic schools is that they are fixated on curbing disorder. 

The emphasis springs from an understanding of urban schools that owes much to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling’s well-known “broken windows” theory of crime reduction: the idea that disorder and even signs of disorder (e.g., the broken window left unfixed) are the fatal undoing of urban neighborhoods. 

That is why these schools devote inordinate attention to making sure that shirts are tucked in, bathrooms are kept clean, students speak politely, and trash is picked up.

Paternalistic schools teach character and middle-class virtues like diligence, politeness, cleanliness, and thrift. They impose detentions for tardiness and disruptive behavior in class and forbid pupils from cursing at or talking disrespectfully to teachers. But the new paternalistic schools go further than even strict Catholic schools in prescribing student conduct and minimizing signs of disorder.

At the same time that these schools reinforce middle-class mores, they also steadfastly suppress all aspects of street culture.  

Paternalistic schools, in short, push all students to perform to high standards. They spell out exactly what their pupils are supposed to learn and then ride herd on them until they master it. From the first day students walk through the door, their principal and teachers envelop them in a college-going ethos, with the goal that 100 percent of students will be admitted into college. Over time, paternalistic schools create a culture of achievement that is the antithesis of street culture.

Great BUT, do we have to have schools specifically for students of color?  Segregation of students has never been shown to work in any large scale way.
 
By their very nature, the new paternalistic schools for teens tend to displace a piece of parents’ traditional role in transmitting values. Most of the schools are founded on the premise that minority parents want to do the right thing but often don’t have the time or resources to keep their children from being dragged down by an unhealthy street culture. But the schools do not presume that boosting parental participation is the key to narrowing the achievement gap. Parents’ chief role at no-excuses schools is helping to steer their children through the door—paternalistic schools are typically schools of choice—and then ensuring that their children get to school on time.

Again, okay if that's a parent's choice but why do largely white schools want parent involvement and these schools seem to wave goodbye at the door?

He gives a small overview of the history of paternalistic schools in the U.S. from the horrific schools that took Native American students off reservations to somehow "correct" them.  (Ever hear the song, Cherokee Nation?  I grew up with that one and it is chilling.)  Then, there were the urban schools in the late 1800s/early 1900s that tried to teach Irish, Polish, and Italian students how to be American.  

Then there was this:

For a quarter century after the controversial 1965 Moynihan report on “The Negro Family,” urban school administrators abided by an unwritten gag rule that barred candid discussion of the impact of ethnic culture and family values on academic performance. A core premise of paternalistic schools—that they can transport students out of poor communities by providing a sustained injection of middle-class values—became politically taboo. Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced this trend beginning in the 1970s. By advancing the notion that students have the right to free speech and the right to due-process protections if they are to be suspended or expelled, the Court made it more difficult for principals and teachers to play a morally authoritative role.

So what's the problem with today's paternalistic schools?

While liberals applaud these schools for placing poor kids on the path toward college (and out of poverty), conservatives cheer them for teaching the work ethic and traditional virtues. And there is great demand for seats in paternalistic schools among inner-city parents. So why not create lots more of them? Unfortunately, the three legs of the education establishment tripod—teachers unions, the district bureaucracy, and education schools—are all unlikely to embrace key elements that make paternalistic schools work.

Wow, sounds a lot like ed reform at work.  Get rid of those pesky teachers' unions and education schools and take over districts, and see, it all works out.

What's the takeaway?
  • It's going to be a tough conversation and one that has to be tightly controlled so that it is a discussion - not an argument, not a history lesson, not a wagging of any finger.  
  • Different types of schools help different kids.  But if the role of the parent is fundamentally different, I worry.  If some schools, in the name of the goal of "middle-class" values, narrow the curriculum and activities, then some kids in non-paternal schools may see more freedoms and choices.  
  • I would ask these promoters of paternal schools - is this the choice you would make for your own child?  I have no problem with a parent making this choice as long as he/she understands that the equity overall may not be there. 
  • Will changing schools alone create real change for kids of color?  
  • Will teaching kids of color middle-class values create better education and life outcomes? 
  • What about the issues of appearing "white" within black culture? 
  •  What about black culture in paternalistic schools?  Does it exist  there?  Can it exist?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa. I hope this will be a fruitful discussion.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

Discrimination against people with disabilities is THE Civil Rights Issue of our times. Yes, there are lingering and festering racial issues. But nobody disputes that the usage of the N-word is unacceptable and hateful, and that racism is an evil. The R-word, well it's not a problem. Over and over the R-word is repeated in SPS, without a thought or care. "Ablism", that's ok. It doesn't matter that failure to address the basic issue of disabilities human rights costs our society, at every turn. Education, employment, medical care, homelessness, jail, etc. Despite all that, our basic government services refuse to address the problem. Special ed is the most mismanaged part of SPS, yet not one thing has been done to fix it. Not one thing. It's never mentioned in the achievement gap, there's never any point of accountability. Restraint and seclusion - those are all fine and good for our students with disabilities. When implemented on anyone else, they are a crime. The group MOST likely to receive restraint or seclusion are the disabled, yet the federal government doesn't investigate that. Special ed is simply a funding source to plunder - at all levels of SPS. At the highest level in SPS, we have a 3 directors who barely have ANY special education experience between them. They are all simply plundering the resource for their own benefit, and resume padding. The executive director has what? 2 or 3 years of teaching sped experience, and that's it. Does he even have a degree in special ed? We have a "school based" director - who has 0 experience in disabilities, 0 education in anything related to disabilities or special education, and was never very good with the population, who suddenly has a new found love of the disabled. Really???? Her new found love is somehow qualification for promotion? Sure it's great for a personal pay bump, and an easy leap to a directorship. And finally, we have a school psych, who has spent her career gatekeeping services. Nice trio. This crowd has decided that their own personal enrichment is of paramount importance - because, well, IAs for student services need to be curtailed in order to pay for an increased administration cost.... triplicated for all three. SPS has also decided that students with disabilities - don't need an assignment plan. The trio alone should decide the placement of students with disabilities. (IDEA says it's an IEP decision. But, SPS has fought this at every turn.) I could go on and on. Above that, we have the state level special education: OSPI. OSPI has done nothing for special education for decades. The ONLY our state director of special education has gotten involved - is when he was able to force SPS to spend it's special ed IDEA funds.... to hire his friends. After years of doing nothing, Doug Gil decided that special ed in SPS is soooo bad - they have to spends hundreds of thousands on his friends, TIERs for "consulting".

All this should answer the question - what is the civil rights issue of our times.

Sped Watcher

Anonymous said...

A lot to think about. Thank you for the well researched post Melissa.

-Downtown Dad

Anonymous said...

Racism is still a huge issue in our culture, and we must use the recent horrible events as a catalyst to push us into doing more about fostering equal treatment and opportunities for all.

But we must also not ignore poverty. Poverty, for those of all skin colors, is a huge anchor on achieving both a good education and future good employment. Hungry and stressed out children do not learn well.

It's sad that we still have so much work to do in creating a remotely fair society.

-rhoda

Anonymous said...

What's the point of business people pushing middle class values on racial minorities and economic poor when many of those very same people support Federal policies that daily undermine the economic viability of the entire middle class?

The US economic divide today is wider than ever and the middle class is losing viability at a terrifying rate. The WA Post is running a good series on this right now.

Even if one believes the debatable point that KIPP et al offer better educational opportunities than the school around the corner for racial minorities or the poor, there is little hope that even with a college degree these students will vault from poverty into a strong middle class, let alone achieve a high economic standard of living.

Our economic system is broken and our kids - even those starting out within the middle class - face declining prospects for their futures thanks to the interest and influence of the country's top wealth holders. Charter school solutions and teaching middle school value "solutions" are canards within the true economic remedies needed to staunch our decaying society.

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

Ed voter asks:

"What's the point of business people pushing middle class values on racial minorities and economic poor when many of those very same people support Federal policies that daily undermine the economic viability of the entire middle class? "
--
The answer is obvious to me. People who learn "middle class values" as defined by the 1 percent will be less likely to want to overthrow the order, even through the ballot box, that the 1 percent has established to protect itself.

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

"US economic divide" could be the break point for this country.

"People who learn "middle class values" as defined by the 1 percent will be less likely to want to overthrow the order, even through the ballot box, that the 1 percent has established to protect itself."

Very much in a nutshell for me. That Gates, Walton, Broad and all these 1% are the ones pushing much of ed reform (plus the unholy duo that is the Koch brothers) is what makes me lose sleep at night.

Middle class values? Yes. But who and how are questions that have to be answered.

Charlene said...

The middle class has a vested interest in the status quo as it keeps them and their offspring out of the lower class. In fact, the middle class is the enemy of the lower class. The middle class exploits them as much as the upper class. Whether the fast food worker or store clerk in the US, or the garment worker in Pakistan or the electronic assembler in China; the global middle class is the problem, the lackey of the 1%, if you will.
As far as teaching poor non-white children middle class values, it can only help for those kids to understand their real oppressors.

Anonymous said...

What are "middle class values"? Are these values class bound? I ask in all seriousness. I'm old and I think when I was young my parents were so busy working that we didn't have discussions about values. It didn't happen in school either and that was during court mandated school desegregation. My parents were thrifty and hardworking. They wanted a good education for their children. Many of my teachers were black (men and women) and teaching was a respected profession. It was desirable back then to be a teacher, a nurse, or to work in the government.

My parents despite many challenging life experiences were generally positive people. They prized thrift, hardwork, education, good citizenship, good paying jobs, a home, stability, and family. By the time I was school age, we were middle class by income bracket. But I have to say neither of my parents derived these "values" because they achieved middle class status. I think it was because of who they were to begin with plus, as my dad would say, a lucky break here and there.

Perhaps it's not class values or paternalism as much as outlook and character plus opportunity
which matter. I realize my parents' world is slowly disappearing. In so many ways we are using class, race/ethnicity, religion, politics, credit rating, what we wear and where we shop, go to school and live to define who we are. It's easy data to gather and quantify. Data to separate people. Easy to marginalize and polarize. Government, coporations, schools, employers, neighbors are profiling by using
superficial artifacts of our lives. How accurate are these profiles? People make so, so many decisions based on these snapshots? Sometimes with deadly consequences.

I think it's difficult to gauge a person's character, motive, and outlook. It takes time, face to face daily interaction to appreciate people's worth and their human condition. We've seemed to have lost that ability. Rather ironic despite the ease of mobility and social media connectivity, we've become more partitioned. It's this lack of care and where fear abounds which make opportunity (those lucky breaks) for the most vulnerable among us harder to find.

lunchtime reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlene, yes, this could all backfire but it depends on what is being taught to kids in terms of personal actions (rather than academics).

Lunchtime, I understand what you are saying. The problem is that many African-Americans learn, early on, that they will be judged (on a daily basis) in ways that others will not be.

It affects your outlook and your motivation.

This is a huge issue.

Anonymous said...

I do understand Melissa. I'm not white and growing up in the South, I lived the social/color pecking order. 50++ years later, I'm still quite aware how people judge me based on my color. Speaking specifically of SPS, schools need more diverse group of educators (in all schools, not just ones with high FRL). It does not escape me with the passing of the civil rights act and desegregation of universities, many blacks and other ethnic groups along with women have so many other worthy professions to pursue. Today, teaching is not the desirable, well paying, nor respected profession it once was. In my parents' day, teaching or government jobs was were you find professional, well educated non-whites working. Besides my parents, my teachers were my role models and mentors.

Finally, motivation and opportunity go hand in hand. People have to believe there is still such a thing. Is there?

(lunchtime)reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lunchtime, you are now at what might a more delicate place in the discussion.

Because you are talking about personal responsibility. That's a very tough place because it is the intersection of personal and group.

I absolutely understand the era you describe. I grew up in Arizona, the land of Barry Goldwater (famously conservative).

BUT, for example, no one wore their religion on their sleeve - it was a private matter. JFK was questioned about his religion and he was somewhat offended by the intrusion of the public into his private life.

I think someone once said luck is when opportunity and preparation meet. No one can wait for something to come to them nor have something come, only to not be ready.

mirmac1 said...

sped watcher.

Nailed it.

Anonymous said...

what mirmac1 said --

Jan

Mary G said...

On the one hand, in SPS, sped watcher has got it nailed, because for the most part, kids with disabilities are not even mentioned by ed reformers. The opportunity gap? That's about kids of color or kids of immigrants. On the other hand, being black is not the old civil rights issue or the new civil rights issue. It's still the same issue. The question, as phrased, is wrong. We don't live in a post-racial society, and all the hand wringing by ed reformers really doesn't change any of that. What I would say is that students with disabilities, who are invisible, and student who are black, who are not invisible, still end up in the same place. Sped Watcher points to the use of restraint and seclusion, though, would point to a deeper human rights issue than even the provision of an adequate education.

Despite what the district administrators have reported to the board, the use of restraint and seclusion occurs on a daily basis in almost every single elementary school in this district. It is not limited to emergencies. It is not being done according to procedure. It is routine, it is inhumane, it is not educational, and it is morally wrong. It is traumatizing to these kids, and just as traumatizing to their parents. It is a basic violation of human rights. It is the same disproportionate use of force displayed by police against black people. And it starts in kindergarten. For shame.

Carol Simmons said...

We must continue to include our students with disabilities in the opportunity gap data. We have primarily focused on racial and ethnic disproportionality.......and we must continue to focus on all students who are discriminated against in our educational systems.

The Seattle Public Schools Data Profile Summary that presented all data has been discontinued. This document must be published again. The general public must be able to access this data as in previous years. The School Board is aware that this Data Profile District Summary was discontinued in 2012. Director Carr said that she was looking into this. Please strongly encourage the Board and Superintendent to make this a PRIORITY. Thank you.

mirmac1 said...

They still collect the data. That was the Gates' $10M investment in an Academic Data Warehouse. They just choose not to share it. Much like they choose not to share a lot of things. Perhaps it's embargoed because scores dropped under Enfield and Banda. Only print good news, right?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bravo, Mary.

Anonymous said...

You are right Melissa. I am sorry I don't see much value in talking about middle class values and paternalism.

In my work, I see people at their worst. There's no stamp on their forehead telling me much. All I get is sex, possible age, possible name, kind of injuries, and possible history of what happened to them. If they survived their injuries,I get to see them recover and perhaps follow up in community/outpatient clinic. Sometimes I get to meet their families. What I see is people suffer, die, rally, survive, and even recover. And while money and status certainly affect their level of care and outcome to some extent, the individual experience going through all of this is remarkably similar regardless of their class, values, or paternalistic tendency.

I don't understand what people mean when they say middle class values. Why are they so great that they become the standard of comparison? Are values different if you are poor or rich? Did the census poll for these values? I can see attaching descriptives to class of people is useful if you want to sell stuff.

As for paternalism, good grief that exists at all levels of society in this world, from refugee camps to suburbia to country clubs.

If people want to use these terms and other like it when discussing education, health care, wage disparity, etc. and study them to death. Great. You can make money writing about these problems, studying them, teaching about them, have convention to meet and share all these findings. Heck you can get elected or be a national voice with a platform. Whatever. Everything but fixing the problems. This is where I am losing patience. I can care less if you are an ed reformer or a Ravitch follower. It's not a debating point at the daily level when your problem is getting accommodation in the classroom or facing a principal over a fight. The outcome is how things are handled. It depends so much on people doing their job and being personally accountable for their actions. I suspect many people out there are like me who are sick of national debates. When I head to work which I must soon, I run into headwinds. It takes many skillful hands, some highly educated, others without a HS education or even fluency in English to get through these headwinds. The successful days are days when we all work well together and do our best even when the people we care for die. When we work, it's what in front of us that counts. During breaks, when we have time to shoot the breeze, sure a good debate over education, is this the civil right cause of our time or not, might be fine (though in all honesty, it's more let's hit so and so unit for cookies someone brought in :)

reader