Thursday, July 12, 2012

challenge to institutionalized ignorance

The American Civil Liberties Union has brought suit against the state of Michigan and a Detroit school district for failing to educate children.

The suit is being brought under an obscure state law.

I can only hope that other states have similar obscure laws and that they will be brought to bear. I may be biased and better educated than most, but I do feel that institutionalized ignorance needs to be called onto the carpet.


  1. "Institutionalized Ignorance"? It sounds too much like placing the blame the schools. As in schools are institutions of learning. It should rather be titled the Politics of Ignorance.

    During summer school many years ago an assistant principal once let me in on an all-too-obvious-secret. With time and experience educators figure out that many students are passed who shouldn't be. Why? Because if the 30+% of students who should be failed at every level were, the school systems across the country would burst at the seams requiring real estate, the hiring of vast numbers of people needed to teach, administrate and provide support, huge numbers of books and supplies required, etc. There is no urban city in American that could afford or is willing to do this. (In NY that number is probably higher than 30% due to the large number of non-English speaking students actually illiterate in any langugage. The total number in NYC alone would approach 325,000.)

    This "passing" was and is done under many guises ranging from administrators telling teachers one on one that the teacher "messed up" because he failed too many students to the more recent schemes making the tests easier and of administrators and their flunkies conspiring to change the markings on the standardized tests and /or the grades on report cards. (Administrators and teacher even entire school communities who don't cooperate are made to suffer in many ways.)

    But the schools are the last place to look for the source of failings, yet too many accept the nonsense that the schools are the first to be blamed.

    The failings are all political in nature. But politicians themselves are often not the first and certainly aren't the only one who say no to changing the budgeting priorities and the higher taxes needed to truly address the systemic societal problems which manifest in part as children not getting anywhere near a good education.

    But much political capital is acquired by mis-assigning blame and spreading many kinds of lies all of which direct the public's attention away from of the atrocious systemic societal problems (and the current economic situation makes matters much worse).

    There was a great example of the politics of ignorance in 2002 (far more egregious than the education plank of 2012 Texas GOP platform). In 1993 many interest parties joined forces forming the Campaign for Fiscal Equity to sue the state for more money for education. The case wound its ways through the courts and there was a ruling in 2002 that NYS was only required to provide an eighth grade education. The then governor Pataki proudly announced that he agreed with the court's decision. A few months later bowing to political pressure Pataki changed his opinion (which resulted in part to his re-election to a third term in office.)

    There was a great chant in the 60's - "The people united will never be defeated." The opposite is equally true.

    There is so much to fight back these days it can be overwhelming.

  2. Frank -- I stand gratefully -- if gloomily -- corrected. In no way did I intend to impugn the schools themselves.

    One of the old statistics (don't know if it's any longer the case) that used to impress me was the fact that only 25% of the voting public had children in schools. The political fallout from such a statistic, if true, is obvious.

  3. The schools used to offer woodshop and autoshop, but i suppose those programs intended for anyone not going to college were shut down by insurance costs. These programs not only kept things flowing, but offered some self esteem and job opportunity.