City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Sol Stern
Lots of Children Left Behind « Back to Story

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We've known since 1966 that parents drive school performance. Kids of interested, involved parents unfailingly do well; kids of other kinds of parents seldom do well in school. We could save hundreds of billions of dollars by incorporating reality into education policy, rather than ignoring it.
Perhaps there are just populations that lack the intellectual capacity to perform beyond a very basic level.
See "The Bell Curve".
We've already poured millions of dollars into underperforming schools. When will we ditch political correctness and admit that the problem lies with the kids - or, rather their parents? Absent fathers, poorly disciplined children, and disinterested parents who do not value education cannot be compensated for with more money.

It's time to address the failures of the parents. Nothing else is going to work.
All the money, all the laws, and all the programs in the world won't help in the students aren't interested in, and the families don't value learning. The teachers' unions' complicity in this is that they don't address this issue head-on.
To Commentator Jan
Re: Under performing African American students

The reason is an 80% birthrate out of marriage, with the reason for that 50 years of Democratic sponsored "family assistance" policies. And, the reason for that is a terrible mistake by African Americans in the mid 60's - by throwing in with the Democratic party blacks were assured of: shattered families, a criminalized community, leaders more interested in being good Democrats, delivering votes and getting rich in the poverty industry than helping the community. After almost three generations worth of good (evil) intentions, and the result, as predicted by D. Patrick Moynihan is an unrecognized national holocaust.

Or to look at it another way, after 50 years of almost solid support, shouldn't black leaders be clamoring for tax breaks for the wealthy?

Worst of all, it has no end - no one expects African Americans to end the disastrous cycle of a criminalized community, hordes of single mothers, government dependence.....ever. But then again, why should Democrats be interested in change - Democrats get close to 100% of the vote in a community where achievement and living conditions are dismal and where to even discuss this is considered racist. But of course - Democratic leaders certainly don't want their failures out in the open, and Democratic media plays right along - you won't see "60 Minutes" having a program on abject Democratic failure in the black community. No, it's the fault of Republicans, who haven't had a presence in the community for half a century, if even then.

So how does it EVER get better? When does this nightmare end for African Americans? With black Democratic leaders protected by a media that adopts a political correctness standard to preserve the status quo, awful as it is, and deathly afraid of being called racist by criminals like Barry, Gibson and James (who is talking about a come back once he gets out of prison) when do conditions ever get better?

The answer is never, as long as Democrats are in control. Most frightening of all is that the Democratic Party has is using its formula for community destruction on Latinos - can we as a society possibly survive that?

No doubt there is a special place in hell for the Democratic Party - think of the scientists, educators, children we have lost, the lives ruined, by a political party that already had the KKK, Jim Crow and slavery on its rap sheet. The Democratic Party has been nothing short of plague on the African American community for going on two centuries. Most ironic, this is not even recognized - the Party not only gets away with it, it is something that is denied by those whom it destroys.
You want students to do well, look at students who do well. From what I understand, students who do well are from cultures that place a high premium on education, but more important, where families stay together.

The programs and money are wasted if you don't have two involved parents. Homework, being studious, not getting into trouble - children need guidance at home.

Alas, the teachers unions and others in education (and regrettably, in New Jersey, the Supreme Court) claims that money somehow equals education and that if only enough resources were put in place then that would make all the difference in the world. But, that's not it, and another million, billion, trillion dollars and a thousand new programs won't make a bit of difference if there aren't two parents at home making sure that the children are studying. School, homework doesn't come naturally, and children need adults to encourage them to be achievers. After all, it's not as if popular culture encourages educational achievement - quite the opposite.

That doesn't mean that it works all the time. But two parents at home are a BIG deal.

Doesn't anyone else make this connection? I've heard about statistics in this area but it doesn't seem that anyone is looking too closely at it - no one really seems interested in making the connection between parents staying together and educational achievement. What about culture and education? Are there any studies on that?

These are rhetorical questions - culture and parents staying together are the two biggest indicators of education achievement.
So why are we throwing away all this money? How can we be spending $25,000 to $30,000 per child in the mistaken belief that money equals education if money isn't that critical? Do we have so much that it can be tossed away like this?

Anyone listening out there?

Educational reform pundits and experts endlessly repeat the same tired refrain as if the education establishment and political class were not achieving exactly what they desire. The poor performance by students as measured by all testing devices is not an unintended consequence of well meaning but benighted administrators, but intentional and goal oriented. It is the purposeful creation of a population of unskilled, ignoramuses, dependent on government, gullible enough to elect George Bush and Barack Obama , dumbed down enough to consider Lady Gaga and Kayne West as artists, and make mediocrities such as Bloomberg billionaires.There is a reason that our "representatives" avoid sending their children to urban center public schools as if they were infested with plague. Our system of public education is structured the way it is because the results exactly meet the needs of our governing class.
Did anyone really expect "Bloomberg's children" to be great? His philosophy of education encourages girls to choose abortion but denies a parent choice of schools for their kids.
In education, above all else, government wastes money. Its record here is, in many ways, of a kind with prison systems. The relation is not fanciful. In New York the public school wastes children's best years for learning, wastes their lives, and sends many to untimely graves or to the prison system, where they can be destroyed or be taught to destroy the rest of us. All this is the outcome of the collectivists' dream.
How would the findings in this article compare with 1940 or 1950?
The largest township in New Jersey, here unnamed. Official population a bit over 101,000. The fourth largest municipality in New Jersey. Large enough in population and size that it has to have two high schools, each with over 1100 students.
Both high schools utilize the same computers, the same textbooks, the same lesson plans. Both have the same education budget. Teacher and administrators' salaries are identical. Teachers regularly move between high schools.
One high school is predominantly white and Asian - large proportion of Jewish, Chinese, and Indian students. Most of the parents are middle class, white collar, and professional.
The other high school is predominantly African-American and working class whites, children from,blue collar white families, and a high percentage of never-married single mothers, both black and white.
The first high school has been listed as one of the top high schools in New Jersey, both public and private. This high school has met all of the state and federal tests for grade-level proficiency in all subject areas.
The second high school requires an armed police officer on the grounds during the school day. The school is considered under-performing by both state and federal testing standards.
Same administration, same textbooks, same teachers, same lesson plans, etc. Starkly different outcomes.
Interesting.
Does stability and degree of nurturing in a child's home count for anything? Failing teachers are blamed for everything. How about failing mayoral panaceas?(DOE). People who say that home life and upbringing are key, are considered to be ogres.
The irony is that Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, when she was education minister visited NY and invited Joel Klein to visit Australia. She was so impressed with the Klein initiatives that Australian schools are being forced down the same road - even though the evidence is mounting that Klein's approach is flawed, educationally unsound and counter productive.
Well, as usual, this academic analsis of poor school performanve ignores the elephant in the room: the racial composition of the student body. In every school district across America, black students underperform all other ethnic groups. In fact, this striking disparity holds true the world over, in foreign countries and even in Africa itself. And for this, we cannot blame Mayor Bloomberg.
There is something else operating here, which apparently no one wants to explore.
What keeps NYC's scores up is Asian immigrants too poor to move out of the city.
Great opinion piece Mr Stern. I only hope that your article receives national attention as this failure by the Bloomberg administration must be exposed to the nations education community.
“The mayor promised that new accountability measures would reform the previously “dysfunctional” and “sclerotic” school system and….”: It would be interesting to know who has been held accountable and what measures have been taken. Just kidding – we all know that no one is being held accountable and no one will suffer for their ineptitude – except the kids of course.

“The city’s education budget this year is close to $24 billion, and Bloomberg’s children are now….”: We might think that the Bloomberg years have been a bust but the Education Establishment must think of the period as a stunning success.

“with a recent study that showed that only 22 percent of students receiving diplomas were “college ready.” It’s no coincidence…..” That’s OK. There are thousands of institutions of “higher education” that are more than happy to supply the other 78% with some sort of “not ready for prime time” experience; provided they can come up with a tuition checks of course.