Monday, August 7, 2017

It's All Your Fault

In his tenure as DeKalb School's chief Michael Thurmond started riffing on the notion that public schools were just fine and the real problem was failures in the communities they serve. Green and his administration brought deflective blame-the-society, blame-the-community to a crescendo complete with pep rallies and self-congratulatory billboards. This strategy does not supersede or obsolete the tried and true tactic of trotting out the teacher-proof student as a shining example of public schools' capabilities. In fact, a staunch proponent of public schools, the AJC is doubling down.

In a recent posting it is suggested that the success of public schools is due to work ethic, another external factor and yet somehow crediting schools, and not the external actors with that success. The author dances a jig around racial issues by singling out successful east asian families, Tiger Parents and their Tiger Cubs, for the high priority they place on academic achievement and the work they devote to that achievement. The posting paints a picture of "this is how public schools can work for you"--dedicated, devoted parents with high expectations taking primary responsibility for their children's care and education using the public schools as one of many tools at their disposal.

The author pulls up short in any examination of the primary and subordinate roles of the featured actors lest the argument backfire exposing that these academic success stories have little to do with public schools or their wrap-around services and bloated administrations. This would required poking around in Tiger Mom's toolkit. Music schools--violin, piano not Sousaphone and marching bands. Math programs--Kumon, Mathnasium, the Art of Problem Solving as teaching mathematics was abandoned decades ago by public schools in favor of "math concepts." Summer math, robotics and computer science camps. Perhaps, depending on what part of "East Asia" the Tigers come from there may be some soccer involved. World of Warcraft? Maybe not so much.

And then the author would need to explore how this works. How does the Tiger Parent find the programs? How do they choose between them? What does the student's schedule look like? You can cite directed, funded research to fill the page, but in Atlanta many folks know or are Tiger Parents. You may start with a beginning keyboard program advancing to smaller studio lessons based on Tiger Referrals, studio visits and recitals. Similar approaches are used to select the math programs, summer experiences and online education where Tiger Cubs acquire their educations. The key element here is why proponents of public schools avoid all but a passing examination of Tiger Families: they have choices and they make choices. Choice is a wooden stake thru the heart of vampiric public schools.

So just how does this all turn out? Well, you can get an immediate sense by googling Kumon locations noting where they are and perhaps more importantly where they are not. Now if you believe they are missing in south DeKalb because the schools in that part of the system are doing such a wonderful job that a market doesn't exist then you need to check some facts. To Thurmond and Green's original point, there are no supplementary educational operations in that community because there is insufficient demand. This drives the on-going wave of self-segregation with Tiger Parents putting miles and sometimes school districts between themselves, and their children, and those suffering from an Elektra complex with regards to paternalistic governments, including schools. Since it is politically impossible for even a concentration of Tiger Parents to break the stranglehold public schools have on education tax dollars they will leverage their political power to ensure that "working for the children" is more than a platitude. If the best teachers, measurably better than others, are not teaching their children there will be changes. This self-segregation and political pressure will continue until the system modernizes giving Tiger Families complete control over the full spectrum of education options.