Thursday, February 24, 2011

Part Two of "More money not the answer to education reform."

So if more money is not the answer to our educational woes, what is? And why, in general do “poor” kids not do as well educationally?

First, the poor kid part. As mentioned, my family was not wealthy. In fact, we could have qualified for free and reduced lunch but luckily our parents did not submit us to that humiliation (It used to be humiliating to receive a government handout –a stigma that has obviously changed. It might also be useful to point out that we never went hungry. We didn’t have the most exciting food and of course, never ate out, but there was always food.) Out of six children, two of us graduated college and the other four graduated from high school. Was this because our parents rode us constantly and helped us with our homework? Of course they didn’t. Parents then were too busy putting food on the table and clothes on our backs to spend “quality” time with us. (unless you consider nagging us to do our chores quality time.) What our parents did give us was the expectation that we would go to school, get at least acceptable grades, and not cause trouble. This was not something spoken out loud, but just assumed. All our parents had to do was look at our quarterly report cards, read the behavior comments and sign them. The child with the highest grade point average would get $5 – a huge amount then.

If it’s so easy, why don’t all children, rich and poor, do at least average in school? When you think about it, it’s quite logical that kids who are higher on the socioeconomic ladder in general do better not because of intelligence or any other advantage, but simply because, the more money someone has, the more highly educated they are, and the more they value education, therefore richer parents tend to have higher expectations for their children. Of course this is a generalization so is not true 100% of the time. Even though my parents weren’t highly educated (my father did not graduate high school), they did value education and wanted us to have a better education than they received.

I would submit that more money will not improve educational outcomes because the education of a child is like a three legged stool – the child, the parents, and the school. If any one of the legs is deficient or even missing, the stool cannot stand firmly. We can build up one of the legs of the stool (the school part) all we want, but it won’t help if the other two are not also strengthened. What seems to be missing these days is accountability, from the parents to do their part (have high expectations of the kids, both academically and behaviorally), but primarily of the children. If they come home with a bad report card it’s not their fault these days, but the teacher’s. If the children act out - again, not their fault, but the teacher’s for not “holding their interest.” I would like to tell those “highly gifted” students to sit down and shut up. If they are so bored, let them read a book while they wait for the rest of the class to catch up – preferably one of the classics.

Of course, this is a simplified example and not universally applicable. Next week, a look at what the schools are doing wrong, based on the 1955 book, Why Johnny Can’t Read.”

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