Saturday, August 05, 2006

School 2.0: The Imagination Gap - Keeping the Poor Uneducated

Connecticut Public Television runs a show called Front and Center that aired this week featuring the topic of Connecticut's education gap. The show accurately defined the education gap as the difference of acheivement between suburban students and urban poor and minority students.

This gap isn't new and the courts, politicians, and education specialists have done virtually nothing to eliminate it. So I watched Front and Center with interest - expecting to be able to recommend it here as a shining beacon of innovative ideas. Sadly, I can recommend the show as a prime example of the kind of unimaginative, depressing, and deflating conversations that we've heard for over forty years.

Urban schools already get the lion's share of Stae Education funding, yet the minority voices advocate more money and more social programs as if this recipe has ever improved education in the past.

And the white voices say, "Let's take money off the table, tell us three things that we could do to improve education."

The resulting cacophony of incoherent prattling is deafening. And this primal absence of ideas, energy, and enthusiasm is precisely why no one wants to spend another dime on education programs. For far too many years, additional funding of education has resulted in the money being absorbed instantaneously in higher wages and benefits for employees of the school systems and zero educational progress, curriculum reform, or innovation.

This is not a vicious cycle of failure, it is a pernicious cycle of educational brain-death. All of the benefits of accountability measures that are promoted by bean-counters are little more than imaginary band-aids intended to obfuscate the reality that we've given up on universal public education. We pretend to care. We dance the hamster dance of concern about education gaps but we don't lift a finger to change the inflexible, obsolete, educational juggernaut that is killing the intellectual veracity of this country.

If there's anyone out there who wants to be bold, let's start a real conversation about improving education in this country.

1.) Nobody has a right to stay in school if they cannot or will not honor the rules of the school. I think schools have the right and obligation to the greater good of the school to remove criminally active youth, drug addicts, and psychologically unfit individuals. These individuals should be given a voucher to seek their education in schools dedicated to working with troubled populations. A quarantine of this nation's most troublesome individuals should not mean they can't work their way back.

2.) A student of parents who are identified by the school to be addicts, under extraordinary duress, or psychologically incapable of making sound decisions will be assigned a social worker/guidance counselor who will act as a responsible parent proxy for the parents in school matters. Every kid needs someone qualified to look out for their best interests.

3.) School districts will have the right and obligation to their respective populations to petition the governing body exempt themselves from federal or state mandates that either do not apply to their circumstances or are wasteful excesses of good intent. All populations do not need breakfast programs. All populations do not need NCLB screenings. The list of waste and unnecessary government regulation is endless.

4.) After 50 years of economic policies that advocated tax cuts for corporations to appease their appetite for profits, an corporate education tax must fully fund failing urban schools until they are no longer failing as determined by State and local formulas.

5.) Furthermore, no H-1B foreign worker can be imported nor can a job be exported in urban areas where failing schools exist. Corporations will be responsible for ensuring that failing school succeed and that their graduates are employed (if so desired by the graduate) before a corporation can reach for foreign employees. It is a national disgrace that corporations can use and abuse America's cities while neglecting America's urban youth.

6.) The right to bear arms must be suspended in failing school zones with the same severe penalties that drug dealing enjoys. An uneducated population loses the right to bear arms until that situation no longer exists.

7.) Union contracts guaranteeing job security become null and void in failing school districts. The event of a failing school becomes significant enough that the Board of Education that supervises that school or district is given extraordinary powers to immediately remedy the situation including the immediate dismissal of any school personnel, the suspensions of raises, and so on. The obligation of a union contract must ensure that their membership WILL deliver a successful product as defined by the union and the BOE.

That's a lot to consider for today. Here's one last quote to think about as well:

"I have come to the conclusion that for many years, we have been ill-served by a tired old coalition of Republicans and Democrats for whom re-election is more important than the courage demanded of conviction," Weicker said. "America needs a house cleaning in Washington on both sides and Lamont can be a part of that process."

- Lowell Weicker

Let me re-emphasize this part, "America needs a house cleaning in Washington on both sides". No truer words have ever been spoken about America.

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