Monday, December 21, 2015

Cost of Education

When you hear that phrase, the cost of Education, you usually associate it with College.  There is that truth but there is a greater issue at stake here when it comes to Education in America.

We spend endless hours debating, discussing, and comparing United States test scores of students with those of other countries, such as Finland and Singapore.  When I was growing up it was the Soviet Union kicking our assess, then the Japanese.  This competitive rhetoric is not new.    Well last time I checked I am neither of those people nor are we those countries.  The idea that we all are the same regardless of age, country of birth, age of parents, size of community or overall financial well being of a family is all leveled out when we learn how to do math or read a book.  Really we are all the same?  Wow I need to a do a high level Physics calculation to see how that works.

I say frequently that unless I am in a room of one that the majority ends there.  There are many women my age, 56, white, educated, employed.  Okay stop there.  That is where it ends.   As in eyewitness testimony the same collective of women that meet those parameters will have many different experiences and in turn explanations for largely living at the same time in history.   It becomes virtually impossible for all of us to experience the same thing in the same way and feel the same way about it.  It also might explain divorce - we all just grow apart.

This week there were many articles about Education that I wanted to share.  As I have written that much of life's predestination is set at birth and by age 4 the course of that life becomes a hurdle for some for others just a mad dash to the finish line.  With that has come the insane push for Pre-K education to ensure that the terrible blocks of income inequity are reduced.  And with that of course the role of school starts early and with some bizarre notion that you can also be a genius when you have just learned to like cauliflower.

This article in the Atlantic discusses the crushing reality of the new Pre-K and Kindergarten that has kids speaking fluent foreign languages and doing pre-calculus before nap time.  I have seen this and it is not pretty.

My experience and skill set is not K-5 so I come from a place solely as an observer.  I am not a parent so how dare I render an opinion!  Well it hasn't stopped our Mayor, who is gay, has no children and is now forming a department of Education whom he selected a man with no prior experience nor education in the field of elementary education to run said department.  A man with 2 years experience as Vice Principal in Texas Schools, a former Juvenile Detention guard (well ever met a 2 year old they are hard to corral so this might come in handy) and his recent gig was at a very troubled high school that received over 4 million dollars in grants to develop the International Baccalaureate program to push both enrollment and graduation rates.  A program not sustainable and basically is just one of the many ways schools jerry rig enrollment data via adding programs that attract academically focused families who as I have written want their children to partake to have opportunities. What happens is that it takes more than 4 years of high school to do so, but hey dream is the American noun, verb, adjective and adverb.

And this editorial in The New York Times discusses the cost of College and why Tuition rates should be high.  And there is truth to his argument. Frankly we should have sliding scale tuition's as we do out of state ones.  Those who can afford pay and in turn there is your subsidy and ability to offer education for all. Just as all those fees for sports should be paid for those who partake in sports or those who eat in the schools commons.  Its pay or play.   And of course those wealthy benefactors who obsess over sports they can cough up the money in the same way they do for private boxes.   Funny how our priorities about sports is the idea is that is something that anyone can enjoy.  You can if you can afford to and that is becoming increasingly less so. Even cable TV forces everyone to pay for the costs of licensing games that many of us don't watch.   I would be happy to pay for what I watch alone, selective cable needs to come as I am not paying to watch people abuse each other to the point of major illnesses.  Sorry no.

Then we have the article about the Superintendent of a very small very poor school district in Missouri and who has turned her small district into a less costly version of the charter version of the Harlem Children's Zone.  Now I commend this woman's efforts and the article much like the one about the school in Seattle where said Principal did this amazing renaissance neglects to speak to some Teachers, both former and current, with regards to the program and their thoughts on what is working and what could be or need be done to ensure that academics becomes the primary focus.  I commend the idea that  the school has built a shelter, offers nutrition and other basic needs to families to enable them to develop and foster future adults but.. and there always is... there is still the role of the school which is to teach academics.   And again, the idea that people want to do good means they can and should but at what cost?  I hear similar stories about charters and their endless work day and the lack of division between a private life and work life.  And I do find it oddly telling that the Superintendent does not live in the district nor was there any mention of a School Board and their thoughts on the program.  I believe it takes a Village to raise a child as the saying goes.

And lastly the idea of faith.  Faith and education play a symbolic role and the reality is that we have to build community and understand that many share a belief in a higher power but they do so in ways that are again different.  Much like my majority of one, I find ways of expressing my faith as something personal and private.  I don't need to have a community in which to share said faith but the idea that they are out there is essential.

America the land of the free and the right to pursue any faith or dogma is an inalienable right.  But when you come to America there are things that are uniquely western and in turn "different."  And of course there are those would prefer that said differences were simply based on gender as in male/female and leave it at that. And the biggest argument would be which team deserves the win.  Frankly it is boring to talk to myself and despite my own narcissism I appreciate differences as long as we keep it civil.

So in Norway that education includes the education of immigrants from largely African and Muslim countries about gender distinctions and what that means in a more tolerant, liberal society.   And in America we assume integration and assimilation comes naturally. Clearly it doesn't as even those born in America don't feel connected to the larger culture.  That sense of isolation breeds anger and in anger comes hate and from hate comes violence.

What Norway is doing is again the reflection of a smaller country and in reality it is largely white so they have the ability to simply incorporate this program as part of their immigration requirements. It neglects, however, women.  I find that women and girls need equally the same type of assistance that comes prior to the domestic violence aspect which in America serves as a way of "helping" women.  How about educating women about options where career and education can be in line with practicing one's faith and that one can practice one's faith and still be a member of a new society that may express their belief's somewhat differently.  Faith should not come at a risk.

These are again my opinions and my beliefs and my own observations as I travel across my largely liberal white bastion of a city that is now over 60% migrants, as in largely white and Asian folks who have come here to travel the Amazon.  The largest group are male, over 78%, and frankly they scare me. The misogyny and confusion about sexuality has emerged with hate crimes (aggravated assaults)  on the rise and angry missives and postings about women and men all over the Internets that debase the ugly appearance of women and the exploitation of them towards men who live here.

I have nothing good to say about those who live in Seattle, the lack of humor, the very dogmatic view of intelligence, the raging sports mania and the provincial manner which shows in the 2 person one child homes of largely overpriced real estate and gentrification throughout a city that does not know how to handle it.  The people who come here in search of their piece of the pie are so afraid that it will get smaller they are angry and afraid and well you know what happens when people are angry and afraid.

No one checks their history, their upbringing, their "reality" of life at the border of a country or state. You enter with the baggage that made you and over time you toss out the old or cling to it as it is the reminder of who you are and what you escaped, ran from or wish you had never left.  We all run from and to something but we should do so with the reality that we are a majority of one.

Education costs but those costs are not always financial.  I always tell kids education is knowledge and knowledge is power.  They always answer that for me as they know it but they need to know what that power can bring - both good and evil - and education can enable those to realize the difference.

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