Thursday, February 5, 2009
John Merrow Series on Urban Schools
How I despise the term urban when it is used as code for Black. It's lazily meant to be all-encompassing but it negates the individual's experience and doesn't differentiate amongst social class. So we have a marketing term to sell cars but it's also supposed to describe the lifestyle of people who are categorized as a monolith. I live in the city but I am more urbane than urban, but I digress.
I was watching Newshour and saw an interesting segment on the New Orleans school system and how to best combat truancy. There's an entire series on NOLA and DC but you have to view them through the website directly. School Superintendent Paul Vallas seems like a man dedicated to fulfilling his job. He made one statement that was very telling about wanting to set standards that the "culture" had to fit and not the other way around. With the truancy problem amongst some students multiple strategies are needed to turn things around. At one point a teacher had at least 10 students who hadn't shown up for class and she expressed her frustration about having to repeat the same lessons repeatedly. It was such a disservice to those who came prepared to class.
When you think about it, some people don't value education. We can certainly point to overcrowding or lack of materials or other situations that discourage learning, but as it's pointed out, ultimately it's up to the parents to monitor their children. They sent officers to search for wayward students who would be issued a summons if they were over 16 or sent to a center for an evaluation by a social worker. One student had a drug problem and wanted help. In another segment the parent of a 2nd grader complained about having to take a day off from work to attend court because her child had missed 21 days of school. She didn't appear on camera but asked the officers how many days would it take for further truancy for the State to take the child. She admitted that she didn't want her daughter. Yes, my jaw dropped!
My experience with school was one of joy. I usually liked my teachers a lot and couldn't wait to go to school. In fact I much preferred school to being at home and joined a lot of after-school clubs for the camaraderie as well as to be a more attractive college applicant. You would have to be pretty disconnected and embroiled in family turmoil to intentionally skip school. The drop-out rates amongst certain groups of teens is as high as 50%. With no education, the chances of getting a job go out the window. That just fuels a cycle of illiteracy and crime. If you live in a segregated neighborhood that's just a time bomb waiting to happen.