No Accident

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Maryland Second grade teacher David Keyes writes in today’s Washington Post about the growing inequality between the social classes in public schools, and he’s very concerned:

As it comes up for reauthorization, members of Congress should consider the unintended consequence of the [No Child Left Behind] act: a new gap between poor and minority students, who are being taught to seek simple answers, and largely wealthy and white students, who are learning to ask complex questions. In my work as an elementary school teacher, I have seen this new gap and I worry about its impact on my students’ future prospects.

Schools often use test-prep programs to try to raise test scores. The problem with these programs is that they teach the skills covered on tests, and only these skills. Poor and minority students spend hours repeating “B buh ball” and two plus two equals four. Every hour spent drilling basic skills is an hour not spent developing the higher-level thinking skills that are emphasized in wealthier school districts.

Currently, I teach in an almost exclusively minority, high-poverty elementary school. Administrators require teachers to strictly adhere to a months-long test-prep program. My students recoil at the sight of their test-prep books. Last year, some of my students cried, wracked with anxiety over the tests.

My students are 7 and 8 years old.

The effect of this gap will be long-lasting. Students taught higher-level thinking skills will be able to compete for jobs at the upper echelon of the 21st-century economy. Students who receive an impoverished education focused on basic skills will be stuck at the bottom.

But Keyes needn’t be so worried or puzzled by this. The whole of public education since its inception has been the creation and maintenance of this very caste system, one in which some (many, actually) would be relegated to permanent service and some to permanent leadership. Keyes needs to acquaint himself with John Taylor Gatto, and maybe THAT will help him figure out what is going on and why…

6:41 am on April 9, 2007