With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A letter to Pres. Obama

Ira Socol gets a little too personal for my taste, but his questions are tough and to the point (Schools Matter). He's basically calling out Obama and Duncan, and in a way, all of us, by asking if some of the privately-managed charters they so highly tout, are only good  for other people's children? For example, if KIPP's Slant system of instruction, which tells kids to sit still, nod to demonstrate your compliance, and speak in unison according to the script, works well enough to deserve millions in i3 funding, why not send your own kids there?
What research is it, Mr. President, that Secretary Duncan cites to indicate that the students of KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School deserve so much less - of life, of creativity, of respect, of freedom, than your daughter's classmates at Sidwell?


  1. Well, that's pretty obvious. Kids are at woefully different levels. Obama's kids are probably at a level where they could do the unschooling model and they'd be successful in life. But guess what: most poor kids are not in that privileged situation. They're already starting out with huge disadvantages, and they're going to be even more disadvantaged if their teachers buy the stupid notion that it's mean to focus too hard on pesky issues like grammar and punctuation and basic math skills. They're going to grow up and have misspellings and grammatical mistakes on their resumes, and that will be enough to get every door slammed in their face. LIke it or not, poor kids desperately need an education that at least gives them a sound footing in how to behave, write, read, and do math like the rest of mainstream Americans.

    So I'll turn the question around on you: You clearly write like an educated person. How long would you stand for it if your middle school kids came home writing "their" for "they're," and writing run-on sentences or fragments, and using basic vocabulary words wrong, etc.?

  2. Anon,
    Thanks for the compliment. You must not read my blog. "Their" for "they're" is my middle name.

    But nevertheless, poor kids need the same kind of schools that the wealthiest kids have. Obama's kids aren't getting an "un-schooling model," whatever that is. They are getting the best schooling that money can buy. I have no problem with that.

    My problem is when they and people like you think they know what's best for other people's children--"what poor kids desperately need." It always seems to be schools that they themselves would never, in a million years, send their own kids to.-- Yes, I know. It's dangling. What do you expect? I'm a public school grad.

  3. " poor kids need the same kind of schools that the wealthiest kids have."

    Here's where we disagree. Be real: if one 10-year-old shows up at school with the ability to read Dostoevsky and to do algebra, and if another 10-year-old shows up not being able to write his name or read beyond a kindergarten level, are you going to give them the same type of instructional experience? Come on. You know as well as I that to do so would be either 1) insulting to the former student or 2) way beyond the latter student's capabilities at present. It wouldn't be fair to either one. So the latter OBVIOUSLY needs more basic instruction if he's ever going to catch up in the slightest bit.

    It's frankly silly to complain that the parents of the former 10-year-old would never subject him/her to the same instruction given to an illiterate kid. Why should they do so? That's like arguing that kindergarten is a bad idea because, after all, a high schooler's parents wouldn't want to put him back in kindergarten. Well, of course they wouldn't -- he's progressed beyond that level -- but kindergarten is still good for kids who need it.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.