Friday, October 30, 2015

Hard Knocks

 I used to jokingly say when asked what college I went to I said it was the school of hard knocks. I loved gangster movies as a kid, I had old parents what can I say. But in my years going to private schools, public schools and lastly Catholic Schools I never really got into the whole concept of school life.  As I look back on it now I think I was already a misanthrope in training. I did like to read and I loved music and theatre but never elected to participate in either as spending more time with people who annoy me was not my plan, but the library was a haven.  I have no idea that being a loner was the equivalent of being a sociopath or anything more than that.  Different times different generation.

But today social media and an ever increasing need to "belong" I think places undue pressure on kids. The rise of single parents and that affect has been duly noted to affect boys more severely but it has problems for all children, as this article in Slate discusses. 

As I wrote yesterday about a boy pressured to say his father had molested him, at times I am afraid single mothers do their best to hold it together and they are often the ones most penalized and lionized.

So many of the "boot strap" stories seem to come from men who talk about their single moms and how they raised them. To be honest I think that is usually a sign of a man with real problems with women,  it re-dfines "mommy complex" and again the stories about guns and boys are  quite telling as most lived alone with their mothers.   Even Bill Maher joked and noted that the sexualization of our culture contributes to further confusion about where one fits and what is appropriate with regards to relationships and sexuality.

Google the phrase "15 year old brings gun to school" you get this

Or you can read about the kid who wanted to Columbine his school and this is becoming an almost daily ritual, which I believe is largely again due to excessive media coverage. Instead of the Ferguson Effect we can call it the "Sandy Hook Effect"

We had a student in a local middle school graffiti his intent to shoot up the school. I know that school and I quit subbing there last year. The Principal there was attacked in the parking lot after a school dance but claimed it was a student from "another" school. Middle School dances are closed to off campus students but sure. The high school across the street the Principal was attacked in the lunch room by a student who had been suspended and blamed her. Later another student who had been suspended showed up to finish the fight with the individual who allegedly led him to be suspended and that led to a dog and helicopter search by the Police to find the boy who was hiding under a porch a block away. Slight overreaction but you saw that with clock boy. And that was attributed to race and ethnicity as clock boy was Muslim. Well I hate to break it to you race at times like this have little or nothing to do with it,  but yes children who are not white are expelled at higher rates and have more discipline problems.  And in turn that is what led to a cop attacking a girl. Not excusing it but trying to explain it.  That is the stereotype so the "enhanced" suspension rates are misleading and of course issues related to the zero tolerance policy that schools now follow.

There is so much going on public schools and in our own citiies that at times I think this is like the Sunni/Shia/Kurd argument that perpetuates the Middle East. I suspect that has large portion of what is happening in Syria as the migrants are from a certain ethnicity that the State wants removed. It is the genocide of the Armenians of 70 years ago. We had our own migration issues post civil war and oddly now in reverse which I suspect contributes to the sudden voter laws, redistricting and other issues to manipulate and isolate those of color.  And again in Katrina where the white wealthy took advantage of a natural disaster to re-populate the city and further segregate the city.  So racism comes in every color but it is often simply just a matter of black and white.

I see kids of all colors act out. I was at the largely white middle class middle school for two days this week. I was in the "intervention" room and the only kid that was assigned in house detention a little white girl, who was nice. But she disliked this teacher. Here is a plan switch teachers. But that is too easy. So they detain, suspend and isolate kids. The remaining kids were kids defined at risk academically. They were all black and all African descent. I am not sure if there is a correlation but I do see a true problem with children whose families having migrated here and the confusion of which culture they belong and the subsequent confusion and frustration with many American black kids.

The next day I was in the same school but this was the Spectrum class. This are the kids that test in the upper quartile. They are largely white and Asian. In this school they are well just largely white due to location and the demographics of the neighborhood. There are some nearby apartments and you see some of the kids I mentioned in the overall school population, the African descent and some of Latino, but few Asian kids as their families do not live in the area.   So the "stereotype" with regards to the advanced classes have one color in composition -white.

To get into advanced placement classes, the testing starts pre-k.  The test actually cost money so of course that isolates the population who would take them. And the kids of color may actually succeed in the academic program as frankly it is just the work load, as in they actually get homework and have it daily as the texts, readings and lesson plans are largely the same. Parents complain endlessly that the HCC cohort lessons are inadequate but there is no mandate or law requiring this type of "special" education in our state so they simply segregate them into these tracked cohorts based on test scores. Ah the testing once again that determines one's life course.  So we take young children at age 5 and they are segregated from their peers with little done to integrate them socially or academically to any other classes or students.  And due to heir schedule they are the same kids in any extra curricular as well - so if they take Music, PE is exempt, Art is out as they may have a foreign language, which may put them in with "regular" kids  but that even changes in high school when they enter the International Baccalaureate program as their foreign language classes have a defined curriculum.

We create racism via our instituions. We create classism and we create gender inequity as well as there are boys who test well in math versus girls and that further divides the classes.  It is all the way that funding and the push to eliminate public education and of course integration that came from the 1954 Brown vs the Board of Education.  What white flight could not accomplish, money was the final death knell.

So in other words a privileged child could go through 13 years of education (that includes of course Pre K) without ever meeting any child of another race, class or culture due to this testing tracking philosophy. So they are eliminating the programs here and placing the advanced kids in gen ed and of course the helicopters are flying and not the search kind.

The reality is again simple, put kids of color that are borderline on the tests, set up an academic calender and tutoring program for both child and parent to meet certain obligations to get the student up to the same base level as their peers in this cohort. Oh wait that costs money and its hard! So nope. No one can play with my toys but me so I am throwing them out! So there!

This same school got a new Principal this last year. She ran a home school program so to step up to a well to do area and their school means do little to upset the apple cart but of course there is an overwhelming need to make your own stamp. The bookend is the school in the south end that it too got a new Principal last year.  This school was a "magnet" school and still has the programs in place to draw the "good" kids  from around the area, this year it is dissolving their spectrum program. This is being accepted with much chagrin and kickback as the school is discreetly becoming a neighborhood school so while still  in a largely gentrifying district so its population will change on its own however current scheduling still reflects very much a racial divide regardless of the public face and reports. I decided to quit going there unless it works in my schedule or I am utterly desperate. The kids are the least of the problem.

Then we have the new Teachers, the have drank the kool aid and the focus on testing, the common core and imitating the ideas of what defines charter schools as they seem to be what they are teaching in ed school.   They (whoever they are) are fully funded by the wealthy ed reformers who are strong advocates of both charters and school control by the City vs by elected school boards. This type of central control is further dividing and conquering as schools see even less funds and more pressure to perform on tests to prove they are worthy of existence.  And this article on charter schools discusses the way they segregate and separate the problems and use public schools as dumping grounds that have no money or resources to repair and help these "problems" become productive members of the community. This perpetuates of course the idea - from the school yard to the prison yard.

So new Teachers with a truckload of debt and suitcase full of bullshit arrive and they are put into classrooms that the demands are not something the pedagogy of ed schools actually teach. I watched two Student Teachers at this same school, one last year who is now a member of the staff full time.  And at the bookend the other student teacher is as well.  Having worked with both they are nice women but need more support and guidance frankly. But any Teacher who has not been teaching for 5 years has not hit their stride, their evaluations, their teaching and their whole approach to the field takes time. It explains why that 40% leave the profession by year 4. Imagine having a support and co teacher to work with and commiserate or celebrate with. That takes money.

The Student Teacher I had yesterday was a nice person but utterly overwhelmed with insecurities. It was painful to watch a 35 year old man treat children like elementary students and seem obsessed with clocks and timing.  He would be a great elementary Teacher as they need more males and that type of approach works well in that environment. Why he was not placed in one I have no clue.  I think Elementary Teachers loathe Student Teachers and if they are like him (and they are) I can see heads butting in many ways. 

If you think any of this doesn't trickle down to the kids (its trickle down education vs economics) you are mistaken. I can always tell what families are talking about in the presence of kids by what broken records I hear. You had to be around during Ebola, wow that was a fount of misinformation.

So why are kids being violent in acts and deeds, meaning thinking about it, telling people about it and then in some cases acting upon it? They have no support system.

The schools fail as they are overwhelmed with not a few but hundreds of kids who have problems that go beyond their academic ones. They have staff members spending hours filling in evaluations and validating their own existence. Then we have the teaching the test and ensuring that little snowflake does well and that too reflects on their abilities to teach and how they are perceived/evaluated as a professional.

So who has time for the kids. They go to school and is a school of hard knocks. 


Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly drawing ‘diagram’ of plan to shoot up Dallas grade school

The Washington Post
Michael E. Miller
October 30 2015

School shootings have become sickeningly common in the United States. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to the deadly attack that tore apart Oregon’s Umpqua Community College earlier this month, students have chosen their own schools as staging grounds for murder and mayhem.

There have been more than 40 such school shootings across America this year. In most cases, the shooter has been a male in his late teens or early to mid 20s.

Now a case in Dallas is breaking that pattern — but for a devastating reason.

On Thursday, Dallas police arrested a student at Trinity Basin Preparatory for allegedly plotting to shoot up the school. The Dallas Police Department said the student had spoken several times over the past month about bringing a gun to school but classmates thought he was joking. When the student brought a “diagram” of his deadly plan to school on Thursday, a fellow student turned him in.

The possible school shooting plot, though thwarted, has nonetheless shocked people in Dallas due to the suspect’s age.

He is just 12 years old.

The pre-teen’s alleged plot is all the more stunning because of the apparently meticulous manner in which he allegedly planned the attack.

In a Thursday evening press conference, Dallas Assistant Police Chief Randy Blankenbaker told reporters that the boy had brought to school a “written diagram detailing how the plan would be carried out.”

Local TV station WFAA described the diagram as “a detailed map of how he would carry out his attack.”

Over the past month, the student had told one of his classmates several times that he planned to shoot up Trinity Basin, a diverse public charter school near downtown Dallas. The classmate didn’t take the 12-year-old suspect seriously — until he showed up with the diagram describing exactly how he planned to open fire in the school.

That’s when the classmate told school administrators, who found the diagram in the 12-year-old’s hand and contacted police.

Blankenbaker praised the classmate for preventing a possible massacre.

“This young man was very courageous. He did what he needed to do to protect himself and his classmates, and he is to be commended for that,” Blankenbaker said, according to NBC 5.

The assistant police chief said the diagram or map was detailed enough to signal serious intent.

“An average person would see this diagram and it could give them grave concern,” he said. “A reasonable person would see this diagram and they would believe that he intended to carry out his threats.”

The boy’s name has not been released due to his age. He has been charged with exhibition of firearms, a third-degree felony, for the alleged plot even though it’s unclear if he actually had access to a weapon.

It’s also unclear if he will be charged as an adult. He is currently locked up at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center, according to NBC 5.

The juvenile’s arrest was the second such incident in a Dallas-area school in little over a week. On Oct. 20, a 15-year-old boy was arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot up North Forney High School, according to the Dallas Morning News. The teen reportedly told friends he planned to bring a gun to school the next day.

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