Monday, May 15, 2017

School Ya

When I opened my New York Times this morning and saw this front page article I nearly peed myself. A state of which I am becoming familiar with age and any time I see the word Education and Tennessee paired together.

I have made no secret about the State or its' state of the schools here in Nashville, abominable is the first word that is clean comes to mind. I know of the Tennessee Promise program and Drive to 55 to push education rates up from the decades old 33%. I have also said that it will be a generation before we will ever see the state's population to embrace higher education as with it means an entire change in one's philosophy and belief system. It could lead to higher order thinking skills and critical analysis that would in turn lead a state to be governed and run by the actual 70% who are open minded toward change and all that "liberal" stuff versus the current 30% (no irony that is the equivalent of the educated populace) who override any progressive laws or ideas in which to improve the quality of life for the residents of the State.

And again in Tennessee all things are about the County in which one lives and the "richest" county in Tennessee is finding funding difficult to expand their schools. And given the way schools are funded throughout the United States the convoluted equation often means the richest gets the least as they have alternative funding sources - The PTSA. In the Seattle area the richest suburb was Bellevue and it has acclaimed schools with wealthy parents happy to fund raise and support public education. While in Seattle, a growing city and increasingly more expensive one, struggles. And its schools, like Nashville, are largely poorer student composition, more Immigrants, Special Needs which changes the funding equation into a higher order Physics level one but in turn does little to actually serve all the children equally. It is just not possible.

And in the tale of two cities I see here the higher order kids get a superior break as the schools are highly segregated, challenging to get into but highly public. And then the private schools for the wealthy just like Seattle have the choice a check away. Different but not necessarily better just different and more expensive. And their path is clearly marked which for public school kids that is one rough pot holed road.

Or how about a return to the Little House and the Prairie Days with the one room school house. As this one in New Jersey is. Clearly Chris Christies lambasting Teachers has more importance than ensuring schools have adequate resources in which to function.  Again, this is across the country but some are more egregious than others.  No wonder tubs wanted a job in the Trump Administration it could not be worse.  Well the Trump Administration makes Bridgegate seem lame in comparison.

The Promise is an amazing program and ironically quite liberal sort of like Rommneycare that evolved into Obamacare but who cares right? The idea that it matters who thought of it and who in turn implements it seems to be the real reason many great programs fall to the wayside. So while I feel positive that encouraging kids to go to College even for two years and being open to the idea that learning is a lifetime adventure in which can carry on through adulthood as the Promise has expanded to include that as well, I want to point out that the early numbers of this program once again reflect the racial diaspora that dominates.

Current stats are at best showing that it serves white kids great, Hispanic and black not so much. We don't have data on the kids who are not brown and Spanish speaking as despite the reality is we have the largest population of Kurdish refugees in the country we also don't have the Pacific Islanders and Native Americans that can change that data. And thankfully the Asian population are as invisible as ever and of course believed to do well as that is "their" culture. Again, any time you add a pronoun or article before the noun, you have a problem.

I was at my Tailor this week and she was sharing me a story about her twin grand kids whom she raised until this last year when her daughter, their mother, decided to become active in their lives again. They moved in with her and transferred schools. The boy wanted to have a girlfriend and both mother and grandmother said fine but he needed to work to pay for said girlfriend so he got a restaurant job at Oprymills, the large retail mall. He was able to have flexible hours but also decided that the money was better so he dropped out. His sister who was going to College and looking at many schools including UT at Knoxville, the religious diploma mill (pure speculation on my part) Trevecca and Cumberland with plans to be a Teacher. They all want to be a Teacher as right now the State is also massively advertising that profession everywhere. It also explains the schools and the quality or lack thereof of Teaching that I have encountered. However, in true fashion her graduation nearly did not occur as she neglected to do the final papers in her English class. As a result of this it was down to the wire to pass the class and get her diploma. Her explanation was that she was busy with her extra curriculars and did not have time. And when I pressed Grandma on the grades she was a solid D student up until that point. I have no words, other than "When will my pants be ready?"

I have said this over and over, Toto we ain't in the North anymore! But the push towards Education is one that begins at Pre-K and even those numbers aren't great but again this starts a family on track to see growth, potential and from that opportunity. No education will not cure poverty but people can and by being educated they may actually become active in ways to rectify that situation. The best way is via voting, finding candidates to run who are advocates not shills for corporations. You need critical thinking skills and optimism for that to happen.

I am not sure what the end result of this Promise will be but to think that Tennessee will end up with 55% of its population educated by 2025 is lofty and again not sufficient enough time frankly as this will take a cycle of a generation in which to value the concept.  As this is the South and the anger, resentment and resistance to change runs deep here in the red sea.  They not only revere the past they live in it.

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