- Capitalism and Alternatives -

I don't belong to the school of armchair criticism

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on March 04, 19100 at 12:27:46:

In Reply to: You must be a product of the School of Soft Knocks. posted by Garloo on March 03, 19100 at 20:45:36:

: : SDF: Ah yes, the "Horatio Alger" myth applied to education. Nobody really has "self reliance," we are all in this society together, all labor is social labor, people are groomed to fit into social classes. The folks who once claimed the mantle of "self reliance" were actually beneficiaries of community and government benefits.

: Garloo: I'm not. Go blow yourself.

SDF: So do you really make everything you need for a living, without anybody's help? Where did you get the raw materials (esp. the gallium arsenide) to manufacture the computer you use to post to McSpotlight?

How about that private school you went to? Did you pay all the tuition bills yourself, no scholarship, no parental support, with money you generated from your own business?

Self reliance. Yeah right. Spare us the Robinsonades. Everyone depends upon someone else. I went to a private school too, for grades 7-12, but at least I'll admit that other people helped push me through.

(skipping anecdotes -- since I can't verify any of it, I really can't say anything of substance)

: I'm sorry I'm not a scholar. I don't think I've ever tried to hide my naivete from the people at this board. I have no citation to verify the above information. I suppose you can call Arlington yourself but the Ap's are pretty reluctant to discuss things on the phone because of all the gang problems they have ( the media love to cover those stories.) Now you can use the old stand-by 'let them eat anecdotes' defense or you can take my word for it as someone who has seen this happen first hand. I don't care. ( I should note additionally that students can opt-out of the diversity programs and stay in class. And some do. Guess which ones, the students who are passing or the ones who are failing?

SDF: I'd have to know more about the school -- what its teachers teach, what are their resources, how well the students do, what the dropout rate is, what the students are interested in and do the teachers recognize that interest in class, etc.

: : SDF: I would like to know the name, position, work phone number and work address of anyone in America's public schools who is in fact a "grief counselor".

: Garloo: Grief counseling has been a huge phonomena of the last five years. I can't furnish you with the phone numbers of any personally but are you seriously doubting their existence? Do you live in a box?

SDF: Nope, I teach in the California public schools and never once have I heard of any public school anywhere hiring a "grief counselor." Maybe it's a Minnesota thing, like classrooms with fewer than 32 students per teacher or schools that aren't in disrepair.

: : : If I had to do it over again I would have gone into grief counseling. Talk about a growth industry, good grief. The students today are slowly learning that how they feel is far more important than what they know.

: : SDF: Um, where I come from, the main thing that students are learning in public schools is that schooling is irrelevant to their lives, and so they tune it out.

: Garloo: Is that ANY different than what I just said smartguy?

SDF: Yes. You're repeating the standard right-wing attack against educational discussions of "self-esteem". My observation is that students don't care about academics because the way it's taught is BORING and IRRELEVANT. And it IS boring and irrelevant, I've observed, because the presupposed goal of the standard curriculum of the public schools, seven hours a day, 180 days a year, is the standardized test that the teachers teach the students to pass. That, and the generally boring teacher culture and the fact that teacher education institutions don't challenge it.

No, classes on "self-esteem" won't solve the problem. But attacking them is a red herring. If you were to hire a plumber and he were to tell you that your problem was not your (observably) stopped-up toilet, but your heating fixtures which weren't broken, would you pay the plumbing bill?

: : SDF: Well, we could have a system like the ones in Europe, which fails large numbers of its students before channeling them into menial work.

: Garloo: You must be referring to the school system that lark Lord's over us. The one that is alledgedly far superior to America's. That was my point in the first place. Nice try though.

SDF: Would you rather have such a system? What do you think? If you'd gone through the Brit school system, would you have made it to college?

: : As for the proposed solution of failing everyone who doesn't "measure up" -- well, we could put our 9th graders back in 5th grade, but what would that do for their dignity?

: Garloo: You sure are concerned with their dignity. You'd better take your pick though. Educate them at the levels needed for success. Or pass them along into a world where they are only qualified for undignified work your condescending ass would call menial.

SDF: Since, as Stoller pointed out, 25% of the new jobs require a high school education, what counts as "educate them at the levels needed for success"?

Do we pay for a system of public education so as to provide IBM with entry-level staff? If it's so damn important for IBM to have entry-level staff, then, why can't IBM pay for all this education? Why does the public have to pay tax monies to support a system of education whose basic goal is to subsidize IBM's training costs?

See, I come from a different school of education, one that argues that the task of a school is to produce not corporate drones (as corporate welfare) but CITIZENS. Defining the ultimate goal of student learning, the mastery of the standard curriculum, as the passage of a bunch of fill-in-the-bubbles tests, is not going to produce the sort of people we need to militate for social and institutional change. So I don't buy this "test scores" obsession. Use the schools to teach kids to do something real. Passing tests isn't real.

And, as I pointed out, students DO drop out, in large numbers in some places. Non-possession of a high school diploma is often a prerequisite for these low-level job opportunities that are expanding so rapidly these days, since the non-possessors are not likely to switch jobs or be deemed overqualified. School districts can "educate everyone for success" in some places, thus preserving the reputations of the school administrators, by pushing people off of the rolls, by convincing large numbers of kids that it is in their best interest to drop out. And that's what strict retention policies do -- they convince kids who are bored by the standard teach-to-the-test product that it is in their best interest to drop out, since their other choice is repeating a grade and sitting in classrooms with significantly younger students while they are bored to death with the SAME curriculum they hated last year. So if stripping students of their dignity is what it takes to push out enough students to make the school look like a success, the administrators will be all for it. That's what Michelle Fine's FRAMING DROPOUTS is about, it's a study of a school with a 70% dropout rate. New York City, though, not Minnesota.

I'm responding in this sort of detail because I'm tired of reading stuff that criticizes the public schools by people who beat to death the same old tired stereotypes, from the same old perspectives of ignorance, from folks who would only make them worse while basking in the warmth of their armchairs.

: What's needed is a society of learners that will allow all of its members to participate in the good life, and if we had enough real educators putting their combined efforts into creating that, well, then we'd have a revolution on our hands...

: Garloo: Agreed. Of coures how would you reconcile the paradox that Stoller would point out: If every pulled themselves up {to the good life} evil capitalism would still need someone to scrub the toilets. Eventually some one from your good life SDF, will need to do some menial work. And please, give me a better answer than the crack-induced fantasy of job rotaion.

SDF: Stoller has plenty of fantasies, but job rotation isn't one of them. The fact that you dismiss something out of hand doesn't make it automatically bad.

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