Shaming children, Stuttering,
An ADHD prosthetic, Looking back
RESPECT FOR TEACHERS
Teaching isn’t, as some legislators apparently think, professional babysitting. Teachers don’t just “tell” students what they need to know, and students don’t just “remember” everything.
Teaching a class of children — whether they are 6 years old, or 16 — is not easy. To do it well takes training, experience, support, resources, and a fair amount of luck.
Most licensed teachers in Indiana have four-year degrees from accredited university teacher training programs; many have master’s degrees. Yet almost half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years. Perhaps they didn’t realize that teaching is hard work. Perhaps the hours are too long and they thought they were just getting a 7 – 3:30 job with lots of vacation time. Perhaps the pay isn’t good enough. Perhaps they find out that they’re not cut out for teaching.
The teachers who stay, then, are those who are committed to education. One would think that, with years of training, teachers would be considered experts in their field. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Panels of “education experts” regularly have no teachers on them. The National Reading Panel had only one middle school teacher. The Panel, which explored the way young children learned to read “included no teacher of early reading instruction.”
The National Commission on Education, authors of A Nation at Risk, consisted of twelve administrators, one businessperson, a chemist, a physicist, a politician, a conservative activist, and only one practicing teacher.
This lack of respect for the teaching profession seeps in from the various state legislatures. Teachers in Indiana, for example, are told what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess what they have taught. Then they are blamed for failure when the scores on the assessment (currently ILEARN) are lower than the arbitrary cut scores.
Teaching may be the only profession where you are required to get an advanced degree including a rigorous internship only to be treated like you have no idea what you’re doing.
DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS
Since 2011 more than half a billion Indiana taxpayer dollars have gone to fund private and parochial schools despite the fact that vouchers don’t go to “better performing” schools…and despite the fact that the First Amendment (as seen in Madison’s support of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) establishes a wall between Church and State.
Indiana’s voucher program, like others around the country, is free from any conflict between Church and State because the money is laundered through a parent “voucher” in which the parent “chooses” the school their child will go to. In truth, however, it is the school that does the choosing.
…many religious schools engage in blatant forms of discrimination. They may refuse to admit students who are LGBTQ, nontheists or religious minorities. Many apply similar religious litmus tests to faculty and staff. Unlike public schools, which are open to all, religious schools serve a private interest.
Finally, any diversion of taxpayer money to religious schools threatens the public education system. Public schools serve 90 percent of America’s children. They ought to be our priority when it comes to allocating taxpayer funding.
All of these reasons are important, but at the end of the day, this is an issue of freedom of conscience. Our founders understood that no one should be forced to support religion against his or her will. It’s one of the primary reasons why they built church-state separation into the First Amendment. The Supreme Court must not abandon this vital principle.
STOP BLAMING KIDS FOR THE IMPACT OF POVERTY
Nearly half of Indiana’s children are low income; more than one in five live in poverty. With this many children coming from homes without a lot of money, it’s even more important for schools to remember that it is not the student’s fault if their lunch bill isn’t paid. We have to stop blaming children for the impact of poverty on their lives.
Even when parents have enough money it’s not the child’s fault when parents are late with their payment.
Facing stigma around school lunches can negatively impact kids’ mental health, stress levels, and overall cafeteria experience, Cohen says. That’s seen with kids who feel labeled by receiving school lunch, for example. “When we remove that stigma, it makes a big difference in kids’ lives.” Some schools do so by giving all students cafeteria swipe cards so that it’s not apparent who is or is not paying for the meal. On the whole, Cohen says schools are getting better at free meals, but not lunch debt. “When you give a kid a cheese sandwich, you’re bringing that stigma back.”
ARE SOME OF JOE’S GAFFES SIMPLY COVERING UP HIS STUTTERING?
I’m not going to comment on Vice President Biden’s education plans, but this article about his history of stuttering might explain some of his hesitations, and misstatements. “He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth…”
“The paragraph I had to read was: ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman. He laid his cloak upon the muddy road suh-suh-so the lady wouldn’t soil her shoes when she entered the carriage,’” Biden tells me, slightly and unintentionally tripping up on the word so. “And I said, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man who—’ and then the nun said, ‘Mr. Biden, what is that word?’ And it was gentleman that she wanted me to say, not gentle man. And she said, ‘Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?’ ”
Biden says he rose from his desk and left the classroom in protest, then walked home. The family story is that his mother, Jean, drove him back to school and confronted the nun with the made-for-TV phrase “You do that again, I’ll knock your bonnet off your head!” I ask Biden what went through his mind as the nun mocked him.
“Anger, rage, humiliation,” he says. His speech becomes staccato. “A feeling of, uh—like I’m sure you’ve experienced—it just drops out of your chest, just, like, you feel … a void.” He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth: void.
Blogger Fred Klonsky says he plans to vote against Biden in the primary election, but understands first hand that the story of Biden’s stuttering is a story about how we treat children with differences.
But Atlantic’s senior editor, who has a stutter himself, has written an article that is about way more than Biden.
It is about how we treat differences.
And it is about me, since I had a severe stutter as a child and I still stutter when I am tired or stressed.
TREATMENT AS AN ADHD PROSTHETIC
Is medication for ADHD a “crutch?”
“My concern,” the parent continued. “Is that if we get him glasses, we are sending him the message that it’s okay not to try to see. It feels like an excuse. Like we’re enabling him. I mean, he has to learn to see someday, right? He can’t go through life using his poor vision as an excuse not to see.”
A LOOK BACK AT CHANGE THAT HASN’T HAPPENED
This quote from a June 2017 blog post is a good reminder that not much has changed in the field of public education. There are still those of us who “continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education” and there are still politicians who refuse to take their share of the responsibility for that poverty. Apparently, politicians think that schools are the sole public institution responsible for overcoming the effects of poverty. If they can’t, then they are blamed, castigated, taken over by the state, or privatized…none of which changes a damn thing.
Meanwhile, nearly 20% of America’s children live in poverty. If we include “low income” children the number doubles….for Black, Hispanic and American Indian children, it triples. The relationship between school success to economic status is well known, but they still blame the schools and teachers.
…To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.
We can’t ignore the impact of poverty on our students’ achievement.
From March 2009
The U.S. has set as a national goal the narrowing of the achievement gap between lower income and middle-class students, and that between racial and ethnic groups. This is a key purpose of the No Child Left Behind act, which relies primarily on assessment to promote changes within schools to accomplish that goal. However, out-of-school factors (OSFs) play a powerful role in generating existing achievement gaps, and if these factors are not attended to with equal vigor, our national aspirations will be thwarted.
This brief details six OSFs common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.