Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Can Education Be Reformed Without Equality?

On its face, the title of this post is rhetorical, but the authors of Badass Teachers Unite! would argue it is the key question dividing themselves and "reformers."  For those unfamiliar, Badass Teachers is a group--not quite as radical as their name might suggest-- that "is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning."  They charge that reformers are taking the position

that schools in depressed areas can be radically improved without doing anything to improve conditions in the neighborhoods they are located in, [which] flies in the face of the common sense of anyone who lives or works in such communities, so much so that it represents a form of collective madness! The idea that an entire urban school system (not a few favored schools) can be uplifted strictly through school-based reforms, such as eliminating teacher tenure or replacing public schools with charter schools, without changing any of the conditions driving people further into poverty is contrary to anyone’s lived experience and has in fact, never been accomplished anywhere in the world. Let me break down for you what the no excuses approach to school reform means in commonsense terms.

Among the inequalities that must be addressed and which reformers ignore, the authors list homelessness, housing instability, hunger, racial profiling, violence, employment, and criminal justice.  

I don't know that all of those problems and barriers must be addressed to ensure all children receive an adequate education.  Inadequate education is the cause of, not the effect of, some of them.  But their point is well taken.  To almost no avail, civil rights advocates have increasingly lamented the disregard for inequality for the past decade.  Groups such of this have, over the past year or so, done more than anyone to put the issue back into public discourse.

Equity in education, Teachers | Permalink


" Inadequate education is the cause of, not the effect of, some of them. " seems to ignore the generational aspect of several of the "inequalities".

Additionally, unfortunately, the key aspect the "reformers" miss is not yet on the list above: the epidemic (DOJ term) of childhood trauma, and its effect on the developing child's brain.

"Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm ?"

Posted by: Daun Kauffman | Sep 3, 2014 1:52:25 PM

Daun: Thanks for the comment. I would agree that generational inequalities and racism help explain educational failures. Thus, it is fair to argue they play a role in inadequate education. Our state constitutions, however, are predicated on state government doing what is necessary to start anew with each generation. They are obligated to overcome students' impediments to an adequate education. If they met this obligation, the cycle could be broken for many children. Because this is an affirmative duty of the state, as opposed to passive perpetuation of inequality, I believe that the cause of many social issues is our failure to live up to educational obligations.

Posted by: Derek Black | Sep 4, 2014 4:50:11 AM

Thank you for your time and your response.

I was trying to make the point that a key variable is missing from the discussion: childhood trauma. The scale of the issue is "crisis" scale, and depth is life changing, even leading to early death.

Based on the research, the child is in existence, carrying neurobiological injuries before entering any legal, health or educational system, generally. Most egregious in urban settings, but at a rate of 20% + in wealthy white suburbs also.

Our(adult) failure includes (first) the need to acknowledge and then the need to address those injuries (including requiring training for adults in the related spheres), before investing in traditional classroom "education". If we don't triage the neurological injuries first, education efforts will be a self fulfilling failure -- it's circular.

Adults are accountable for all this. It is not the child's "fault".

This process may affect timing of various services the State delivers. Time will be necessary for healing injuries before other neurological portions and functions (Prefrontal cortex for cognition) are ready for a traditional public school classroom.

At any rate, since many of the exposures to a variety of childhood traumas are inflicted (passively or actively) by adults, PRIOR to education system efforts, the four phenomena --

family/social/generational setting-> childhood trauma ->
neurobiological impairment -> educational results and
educational system described as "failing" --

can not be logically or successfully separated. The paradigm is missing the crucial central variables. The research is overwhelming in weight. Childhood trauma is described as an "epidemic" in our own DOJ documents. The neurobiological testimony is also clear.

We have failed our children. Many don't even understand (or acknowledge) the issue. A sad state (no pun).

I outlined much of this in "Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm ?" (including links to the research on Public Health and Neurobiology of childhood development).

More coming soon.

Again, thank you for your time.


Posted by: Daun Kauffman | Sep 4, 2014 1:47:02 PM

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