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We need a war on poverty, not teachers
Salon ^ | November 7, 2013 | David Sirota

Posted on 11/08/2013 2:36:56 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

The right loves to demonize unions, but economic factors are much more important to success in the classroom

Google the phrase “education crisis” and you’ll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme nor the “evil teachers union” narrative is accurate.

Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant story line about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda.

As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.

Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world — Finland’s — is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.

So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing education data, researchers found that a majority of all public school students in one-third of America’s states now come from low-income families.

How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two-thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors — and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That’s hardly shocking: Kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school.

All of this leads to an obvious conclusion: If America were serious about fixing the troubled parts of its education system, then we would be having a fundamentally different conversation.

We wouldn’t be talking about budget austerity — we would be talking about raising public revenues to fund special tutoring, childcare, basic health programs and other so-called wraparound services at low-income schools.

We wouldn’t only be looking to make sure that schools in high-poverty districts finally receive the same amount of public money as schools in wealthy neighborhoods — we would make sure high-poverty districts actually receive more funds than rich districts because combating poverty is such a resource-intensive endeavor.

More broadly, we wouldn’t be discussing cuts to social safety net programs — we would instead be working to expand those programs and, further, to challenge both parties’ anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-austerity agenda that has increased poverty and economic inequality.

In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.

TOPICS: Government; Health/Medicine; Politics; Society
KEYWORDS: education; innercity; teachersunions; waronpoverty
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This mantra has been getting louder and louder:

+++++Don't test the teachers! It's the poverty! Students can't learn because they are poor. SPEND MORE MONEY. It's for the children.++++

Leftists/Teachers Unions have shifted their inequality, social justice argument from WHITE vs BLACK to RICH vs POOR (so many poor whites and browns to add to the blacks in their never ending exploitation of minorities - nurturing their dependence so they can milk them for votes).

The Left does not care about blacks, they only care about their votes. Likewise, the Left does not care about the poor, they only care about their votes.

Redistribution is the hallmark and focus of the Obama Administration.

NOTE: All the broken-down, bankrupt, crime-ridden inner cities have been run into disrepair and despair by decades of uninterrupted Democratic Party rule.

1 posted on 11/08/2013 2:36:56 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

“After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.”

Do teachers in Finland attain “employment for life, without performance metrics”? In the US the teachers’ unions are half the problem; tenure is the other half.

2 posted on 11/08/2013 2:39:50 AM PST by kearnyirish2 (Affirmative action is economic war against white males (and therefore white families).)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I ran across a old contract for teachers here in Kentucky. There were many interesting things in it but one I found to be fascinating was the one where a teacher would not be paid if his/her students failed the exam given by the master of the school district as he made his rounds checking up on the one room school houses that dotted the countryside.

Oh yes, this is worthy of note... the real Amish here still run their own one-room school houses. There are two within five miles of my home here.

3 posted on 11/08/2013 2:42:53 AM PST by The Working Man
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

War values as applied to society. Mussolini understood this very well. A free society is too disorganized to control. So he imposed a warlike value on the Italian society to control the economy.

“Ordinary rules of behavior are mothballed. You can get things done like building roads, hospitals, houses. Domestic populations and institutions were required to do their part....

...William James spoke of the moral equivalent of war. He wanted all the benefits without the cost. Hence in recent times the left has looked at everything from environmentalism to global warming to public health and ‘diversity’ as war equivalents to cajole the public into expert driven unity,” Page 149, Liberal Fascism, David Horowitz.

Poverty is not something one makes war on. To say that it will take a war on XXXXX means they are making war on the American citizen, on society as a whole. This automatically means there are winners and losers, there allies and enemies, there is nothing uniting society in using these tactics to control society. They are self-destructive to the very people they claim to help. There is no moral equivalent to make war on your own citizens over anything. Even God does not make war on His Saints, that “war” is against evil.

The whole idea of a ‘war on XXXXX’ means a government that puts a gun to the head of the citizen, not cajoled, but forced into submission through assorted punishments, disgrace, and bullying tactics.

4 posted on 11/08/2013 2:50:23 AM PST by EBH ( The Day of the Patriot has arrived.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
We've had a "War on Poverty" for half a century now. It is time to strike those colors and withdraw from the field.

Never before has any nation had so many poor people, and we have the fattest, most pandered poor people on the planet.

We lost the war.

Similarly, we have thrown money by the truckload at the "education" problem, and solved just as much.

Poverty's miseries were an incentive to better one's self. Remove the stigma and pain from poverty, and there is no incentive to change.

A culture can only absorb so many engaged in omphaloskepsis while working the drive-up window before the normal flow of commerce grinds to a halt. Unfortunately, the blame will not fall where it belongs, and the conservators, generators, and purveyors of useless "knowledge" will ever claim it is because they are underfunded.

5 posted on 11/08/2013 2:53:23 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: The Working Man

That was back when School Boards were filled with involved parents who had real power, when schools weren’t consolidated and kids learned or the teacher was fired.

6 posted on 11/08/2013 2:56:16 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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The War on Poverty has cost trillions and has only multiplied their numbers - though the definitions of “poverty” and “poor” have certainly been massaged and exploited. The Left loves this issue because if you protest, you are greedy and/or racist - so people naturally tend to shy away from such labels.

7 posted on 11/08/2013 3:03:19 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Smokin' Joe

“we have the fattest, most pandered poor people on the planet.”

exactly what I was thinking...even kids on reduced or free lunches are fatter than their average classmates that pay or bring their lunches...says alot about Parent Induced Disability (PID)....

8 posted on 11/08/2013 3:04:37 AM PST by BCW (Salva reipublicae)
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To: Smokin' Joe
.....Similarly, we have thrown money by the truckload at the "education" problem, and solved just as much. ...

The numbers are staggering. I believe that beyond the Federal dollars (returned to states with the Federal label to control education and assist unions) that 50% of every state budget goes toward education.

9 posted on 11/08/2013 3:07:34 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I agree. After fifteen years on the job teachers in Finland earn about $37,500. Pay US teachers the same. Problem solved.

10 posted on 11/08/2013 3:09:35 AM PST by muir_redwoods (Don't fire until you see the blue of their helmets)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

You describe the very tactic I am talking about.

I am tired of having ‘war’ made against the American people. I am tired of seeing our society divided against itself.

11 posted on 11/08/2013 3:12:08 AM PST by EBH ( The Day of the Patriot has arrived.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Wait! LBJ declared a War on Poverty. He lost. How’s the War on Drugs going. They just surrendered in Colorado.

Seems the last thing we should have is a War on Teachers.

12 posted on 11/08/2013 3:12:24 AM PST by Makana (OLd soldiers never die. They just read Free Republic.)
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When are people going to have a bellyful of the Left’s divide and conquer tactics and say ENOUGH!?

13 posted on 11/08/2013 3:13:55 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

David J. Sirota (born November 2, 1975) is an American liberal political commentator and radio host based in Denver. He is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Democratic political spokesperson, and blogger.

In 1999, Sirota served as deputy campaign manager for Philadelphia mayoral candidate Dwight E. Evans, who is currently a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing the 203rd District (Philadelphia County). Sirota was fired after being linked to a bogus Web site apparently intended to hurt a rival candidate.

Sirota worked as spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. While a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research and advocacy group he created its Progress Report.

In 2003 Newsweek profiled Sirota as a "political operative" skilled at "hacking out a daily barrage of anti-Bush media clips, commentary, and snappy quotes" who made "guerrilla attacks on the Bush administration" and who was "well schooled in the art of Washington warfare.". According to the article, Sirota's main weapons were computer emails; Sirota was described as the "Internet child of the Clinton War Room generation." Former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta was quoted as ut Sirota: "I just saw he had an eye for critique and the instinct for the jugular

14 posted on 11/08/2013 3:21:09 AM PST by kcvl
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Here is an interesting article for you.

Saving One
by: James Nold Jr.

Poston’s 1901 one-room schoolhouse restored to original—including old-fashioned desks, flag, pot-bellied stove, coal bucket, even outhouses—and now serves as a museum in Fleming County

Charles Berry would see them, sitting abandoned, as he drove through rural Kentucky, and his renovator’s spirit was intrigued at the idea of taking on a one-room schoolhouse—especially since he’d spent the first three years of his own education at a one-room school in Carter County.

“I had such a good experience,” he says. “I think they did such a fantastic job in these little schools.”

So when the retired teacher found himself called back to be a substitute agriculture teacher at Fleming County High School for the 2008-2009 school year, he turned his agriculture construction students loose on a yearlong project to renovate the Poston School on Kentucky Hwy. 559, located at the top of Park Lake Mountain, the highest mountain in Fleming County.

It’s now open as a museum, re-creating what was once the state’s most common educational institution.

It’s hard to know how many one-room schoolhouse buildings remain standing. Bill Macintire, survey coordinator for the Kentucky Heritage Council, says that his office is still discovering previously undocumented ones. “With 120 counties, there could easily be hundreds of single-room schools we don’t know about,” he writes in an e-mail.

In a follow-up interview, he says they’re “rapidly disappearing”—he and his surveyors often go to spots marked as schools on USGS maps, and find nothing there.

“People do have a sentimental attachment to them, but we lose a lot of them because nobody has some idea of what to do with” the structures, Macintire says.

Berry and company did have an idea. They’ve fitted Poston out to look, in Berry’s words, “just like it was the day they closed”—a chalkboard, flag, pot-bellied stove, water bucket, coal bucket, and rows of old-fashioned desks. (Outside, there’s a pair of outhouses, a well box, and a shelter used by groups who hold gatherings at the site.)

“It’s a nice early 20th-century schoolhouse…your simplest, stripped-down rural country school,” says Macintire. “It looks pretty authentic to me.”

Artifacts uncovered in the renovation brought back moments from the school’s history. An odd stain on the wall and ceiling turned out to be the remains of a can of spoiled tomato juice that exploded when it was opened—60 years ago. There was a poem stuffed inside one of the walls that memorialized a teacher’s decision to make the school her wintertime quarters: “Mrs. Sledd put her bed in the corner of the school/She taught us if we worked hard and studied our books we wouldn’t grow up to be a fool.”

Eighty-five-year-old Emma Jean Lightner Emmons, who now lives near Maysville, taught at the school a few years after Mrs. Sledd, in the late ’40s. When she started, she was a recent high school graduate barely older than some of her students. At recess, she played along with them. “I learned really more than the children did,” she says.

She recalls one year when the My Weekly Reader delivered to the school featured an article about praying mantises, which had just recently become prevalent in the area. The students collected mantis cocoons during the winter and put them on the classroom windowsills. Then came a spring weekend. When Emmons and her students arrived on Monday, “Those little things were in the desks, they were on the books, they were in the windows—they were everywhere!” she recalls. “We worked half of the morning trying to get those things all out.

“They knew then what praying mantises were.”

In the larger schools she worked in later, Emmons says, “They had more to work with—more pieces of equipment, more books and encyclopedias, and things of that nature.”

Emmons says some stories claim that the Poston School was the first school in Fleming County to get electricity, but she thinks it was probably just the first one-room school in the county to get electricity. “We had a pie supper” (people brought pies, which were auctioned off) “and made about $76. We gave all the money to the school board to help with the cost of wiring the building.”

Continues Emmons, “But in the one-room school everybody knew everybody else and helped each other, and when they learned something they were all excited about it. It seems like they enjoyed each other more than they did in the larger school…It was just like a big family.”

For Eugene Hester, 80, it was literally family—when he attended Poston School in the late ’30s and early ’40s, as many as eight of the students at any one time would be siblings or cousins. He recalls enjoying listening to the older students’ lessons for a preview of what he’d be doing in a few years: “I think it made me aware of a little higher goals.” He went on to Fleming County High School (at a time when not everyone received secondary education), Morehead State University, and a career that saw him heading the inventory control department for Seagram’s in New York.

He now lives in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and came down for family reunions held at the school in June of 2010 and 2011.

“It just almost made me cry, to see how those guys, the FFA boys and Charlie Berry, had taken the interest in renovating and making it look just as (it did) back in the day of ’38 and ’40 as you can get,” he says.


For the last few years, Dr. William Lynwood Montell, professor emeritus of folk studies at Western Kentucky University, has been compiling a series of oral histories of the professions and states of being in Kentucky and Tennessee under the “Tales from” title—lawyers, doctors, ghosts, funeral homes. Just out is Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs, with preachers and nurses to follow.

But his own background gave this January’s publication of Tales from Kentucky One-Room School Teachers (University Press of Kentucky) special significance for him.

“I knew so many of these former one-room school teachers were gone or were close to going away,” he says. “And by golly, I thought the history, the descriptive comments they could make about teaching at a one-room school, would be so important for their descendants and for the general readers and public, who need to know more about what the one-room school system was like.”

He even got to interview Mamie Wright, one of his teachers at Rock Bridge, shortly before her death.

The volume contains everything from the details of teachers’ pay and transportation, to Halloween pranks, to harrowing stories of teachers dealing with threats of violence. One teacher talks about an explosion in a Pike County school caused when a student accidentally poured gasoline on the fire in the stove; another, who taught in Wayne County, tells about running off an amorous couple who parked their car on the playground just before recess time. Montell’s favorite is about a softball star who, following a big win, was kissed by all the cheerleaders. His little sister got angry, spit in her hands, and rubbed the kisses off his cheeks.

The book catches the end of an era that stretches back more than 100 years. In his introduction, Montell prints the “Rules for Teachers” adopted by the state legislature in 1872:

1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, trim the wicks, and clean chimneys.

2. Each morning teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s lesson.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they attend church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or any other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good cause to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.

9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week for his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

15 posted on 11/08/2013 3:22:08 AM PST by The Working Man
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To: The Working Man

The Amish in my part of the country are not taught by Union teachers, but by the girls who have already passed the 6th grade and pass their learning on.

16 posted on 11/08/2013 3:49:12 AM PST by Venturer (Keep Obama and you aint seen nothing yet.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I can't really argue about the general sentiment of this article, except to the extent that it's used as an excuse to perpetuate and expand an expensive taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. I've said for a long time that this country needs better students, not better schools.

Maybe it's time someone pointed out that the U.S. government actually implemented one of the most comprehensive measures to improve student performance through a reduction of poverty. It was called Roe v. Wade, and its primary purpose was to make America smarter and wealthier by eliminating a large portion of the population that would otherwise have grown up on the left side of most socio-economic bell curves.

17 posted on 11/08/2013 3:51:50 AM PST by Alberta's Child ("I've never seen such a conclave of minstrels in my life.")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty very high Democrat areas.
Specifically, it is "isolated primarily” to places where parental support for disciplined learning by the children is in short supply.
You want to see evidence of a crisis in education? Well, a “crisis” is a point of danger and opportunity. And here is one:
For the teachers’ union, it is danger; I showed that site to a math teacher, and she walked away from my computer saying that suddenly her job didn’t seem as secure as it had the moment before.

For any parent, any child, and any adult who feels a need to learn, that site is an opportunity. And of course, that’s just one site. If one man can build a site like that, someone else can try to do it better - and just as free. But Salman Khan is one sharp cookie, and a man who oozes empathy for the student. So anyone who does better will have to be pretty good themselves.

The idea that geometrically increasing funding from the government is sine qua non for the education of our children, to the extent that it ever was actually based in facts and logic, is now as musty, archaic and stodgy, as the conceit that we needed boards dominated by unions to determine whether to build diesel-electric or steam locomotives.

Yes, I found an old socialist tract that argued exactly that! And laughed, not at the controversy that once raged over the replacement of the steam locomotive, but at the notion that that was even an important question at a point in time in which aviation was about to supplant long-distance rail passenger service - and computers were about to supplant aviation as the frontier of technology!

The lesson is obvious -technologically speaking, unions are inherently reactionary.

18 posted on 11/08/2013 4:06:12 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (“Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: The Working Man

I was a student in a one room school house. When I entered 3rd grade, the schools were consolidated - some classes were still combined (1st-2nd, 3rd-4th, etc). But we still learned multiplication tables in our heads, how to write in cursive (as well as how to print), how to answer test questions, not with multiple choice answers but in sentences (that we knew how to diagram) and where correct spelling was important. The outhouse (2-3 holers) were a thing of the past. It took awhile for sex education, global warming recycling studies and the drugging of “unruly” boys to take over.

19 posted on 11/08/2013 4:06:49 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion

In the Houston-Clear Lake area (property tax state of Texas) the “wealthy” school districts must increase what they tax themselves for their schools (just to keep current) as there is something called the “Robin Hood” fund that steals (re-directs) taxpayer money from “rich” school coffers to give to the “poor” school districts (Shelia Jackson-Lee, etc. areas).

20 posted on 11/08/2013 4:20:03 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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