Why Education Inequality Persists- My Critique

Why education inequality persists — and how to fix it—My Critique

By Valerie Strauss May 16, 2012
By John H. Jackson and Pedro Noguera


This piece talks about the New York City School System and some of its schools. It talks about poverty. Since there is poverty everywhere then what I say about this system can apply elsewhere as well.

This piece starts with, “If it takes a village to raise a child, the same village must share accountability when many children are educationally abandoned.”

You and nobody else have proven that it does take a village.

The first part of the proposition is false to begin with, at the very least it is an unproven assumption. So logically the statement is true, according to the truth table for propositional logic. The if – then proposition is false only when the first part is true and the last part is false. So, there is nothing wrong with the logic of the statement. But the fact that the first part is wrong makes the whole statement meaningless. If this were an if-then statement in a computer programming language, since the first condition was not met or was not true, the second part would just be skipped, that is, it would not be executed.

So, from my point of view this whole paper is pointless. But for the sake of argument, I will continue to critique this paper.

I should try to prove that my contention that it does NOT take a village is true. It takes a village is a statement touting government and its ability to make positive changes. This is socialistic by its very nature.

Anyone who believes that the government can function well at all is just fooling themselves. When was a law not misused? When was a law written that did what it is supposed to do? When did a government project go off without a hitch, within budget or heaven forbid, under budget? When did anything the government has done not had unintended consequences, usually for the worse? So much for the effectiveness of government. The village itself is not functional. So if it takes a village then we are screwed. I have shown that it takes a village is not true, at least.

My contention is it takes a good student or scholar and a supportive family would be good, but not necessarily needed as well. If we have this then the school will be good. Parents do not need to be engaged if their kid is doing well.

The second half of the proposition mentions accountability. I believe that this is not possible to measure accountability. They are really talking about outcomes—results of the school system’s efforts. I like to use the analogy that you can have the best doctors, nurses, administrators and technology and still have negative healthcare outcomes. There are no guarantees as to outcomes. If this is true then trying to measure it becomes problematic. You cannot guarantee education. You do not have the right to learn. Rights are absolutes. They apply to everyone. But not everyone can learn as well as others. You do have a right to be presented with information (taught) and try to learn. Education like most things between human beings is a two-way street. The kids must be capable of understanding what is being presented to them. If they are taught 1 + 1 = 2 and they do not remember it then it is the kid’s shortcomings. Notice I did not say fault. It is not their fault if they were born with below normal IQs, or not as smart as most. People accept the fact that not everyone can be a superior athlete or rich or tall or good looking. So why is it that most cannot accept the fact that some kids are just not academically inclined? Most reformers seem to forget this and they blame the teachers or the school system. I do not blame anyone. I just accept the IQ data of over 100 years. If people would do so too then they would see as I do that none of the reform would be necessary.

The authors say, “In New York City, the nation’s largest school system, on average student outcomes and their opportunity to learn are more determined by the neighborhood where a child lives, than his or her abilities.”

The authors like to posit, along with many other reformers, that a city’s poor are shortchanged. They tend to get less money and newer teachers and therefore they say worse teachers. Again, this is a common refrain from reformers.

The quality of the teacher has little to do with it. It is more the quality of their students. The students are at least half of the equation. They are at the very least a plurality of the equation. I mean that you have teachers, students, administration people and more that go into a child’s education. But the students are at least 50% of the equation and that leaves the other 50% to be divided up between the remaining factors or influences of education. Again, reformers have a bad habit of overlooking this fact. They are all about placing blame.

The authors say that blacks and Hispanics, in New York City, tend to be in poorly performing schools. This is news to them? It is inevitable. Birds of a feather tend to flock together. This old saying is still true today. It is called de facto segregation. If the city’s poor are all in the same neighborhood then you may very well indeed have a bunch of kids with low IQs going to the same school and thus making that particular school and school system it is a part of both look bad. So, the schools perform poorly because of the kids. Of course kids that can’t or won’t learn can get frustrating for the teachers, too. Again, I am not blaming the kids just stating a fact, in my opinion. It is a conclusion based on facts though.

The authors state that, “Districts with higher poverty rates have fewer highly educated, experienced teachers and less stable teaching staffs. Students from low-income New York City families of all ethnic groups have little chance of being tested for gifted-and-talented program eligibility. Few black and Hispanic students are selected for the city’s top exam schools, such as Stuyvesant and the Bronx High School of Science.“

Of course these schools would not want to take those kids as they do not want their average scores going down. The experienced teachers are ones that get a job a good school. They do tend to stay longer because they are happy and productive. They stay longer so by definition they get more experience. What is so hard to understand about that? They tend to stay because their students can learn what they are being taught. If one teaches at a school that has not so smart kids then it does tend to get frustrating because as a teacher you know that you told them something and yet most did not remember what you said. So, they might just try to transfer to another school. Also, with their jobs on the line, based on some silly standardized tests, I would think that that would also be another reason to leave these schools or not to go to them at all. What is the need for Talented and Gifted Programs in the first place? I did not have them when I grew up. Anyone not in it might just feel slighted. This is the excuse the US Supreme Court used to say that separate but equal was not fair. If it is not fair then the Talented and Gifted programs should not exist. More on the subject of separate but equal being bad later.

The authors propound, “The real outrage, then, is not our vivid language but how education in New York City is more likely to reinforce existing patterns of inequality than to serve as a pathway to opportunity. It is as if New York is testing black, Latino and poor students on their swimming abilities after knowingly relegating them to pools where the water has been drained. These students are then stigmatized as failures, their parents labeled as less than fully engaged, and their teachers called ineffective. Ultimately, their community’s schools are closed rather than being supplied with the necessary resources and supports to flourish. One cannot ignore the impact of such policies and practices on the public image of blacks and Latinos males and the profiling that exists in our society.”

The profiling exists because these are the people most likely to commit crimes, unfortunately. I am sorry to say that they would be fools not to profile. One should play the odds. Except for one thing. Profiling is used in crime prevention not law enforcement. If the police stick to law enforcement and not crime prevention then profiling is not necessary. Police should not be doing crime prevention, therefore, profiling is wrong but also unnecessary.

If we could end poverty then most of society’s ills would disappear, including many crimes and profiling. I would like to see an end to poverty and profiling. But education of the masses (in the macro) is NOT the answer. As I have stated in other essays the relationship between education in the macro and the economy is almost nonexistent.

It is not so much that the pools have no water it is more that the students need flotation devices just to keep from drowning. It is hard to swim with floatation devices on your arms and around your chest. It does tend to end the streamlined body. It is hard to swim to get anywhere when you are struggling just to stay afloat. Or the kids do not have the muscle strength to be able to swim, and are incapable of getting this muscle strength.

While I do agree that not so smart (and the very smart ones are too) students are stigmatized. I do agree that they blame the teachers but I do not agree that the teachers are to blame. I say that nobody is to blame. Parents do not need to be fully engaged. Again, if the student is good then parental involvement can be detrimental.

Kids in the lower quartile and upper quartile are all stigmatized, looked down upon, by the middle two quartiles. Neither one of which should happen in a perfect world.

The authors state, “Even in the days of legal, state-sponsored segregation, some students and schools were able to swim upstream against a current of inequality. This should not cause us to be any more accepting of bad policies. We should not forget that many more students, schools and good teachers are drowning because of policies that exacerbate racial and wealth inequities.”

This is exactly what I mean the just because you are poor does not mean you cannot learn.

The US Supreme Court back the in 1950s said that separate but equal was not fair because blacks would look down upon their schools as being inferior. To this I say why? Why would they not think that their schools were superior? Why does it have to be a negative? Why do they have to think either good or bad? I never thought of my schools as being better or worse than any others.

There will always be inequalities in schools. I am not talking about just financing or segregation either. The only way that we can begin to have equality is to have it exactly the same everywhere in the country. Let’s take for example teaching the subject of Algebra. We’d have to have only one Algebra teacher (or none at all) for the entire country. For this to be it would have to be online. To have it fair online would mean that everyone would have to have exactly the same hardware, connection speeds, bandwidth, and software, etc. It would have to be offered at the same time would and that would mean about 6 different sets of servers, etc., one for each US time zone. Computers would have to keep track of every Algebra student’s progress. This would be a logistical nightmare. Then multiply this by every subject in every grade K-12. Then this system would be approaching fairness, but still lacking. Do not forget the other half of the equation. The kids are all different therefore education will never the same for everyone. It will never be fair. As I said before education is a two-way street.

This system is the only truly fair system that we can have but even it is not completely fair. It might even be cost prohibitive as well. So, equality of education is not possible and especially the equality of outcomes, as neither is possible.

No kid should take the Talented and Gifted test as there should not be a Talented and Gifted Program.

So, the reason why inequality exists is that is a naturally occurring. Again, inequality is something that you will never get rid of.


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