Every few days something crosses my mind to post here, but the fact of not updating in a month makes me feel like I need to squeeze out an epic narrative about what we’ve been up to. Rather than wait for that, I thought I’d just start posting those little things. Like this commentary from an education-related blog. It’s mostly about the recent New York Times Magazine piece about New Orleans (a much-covered topic in education journalism and TFA alumni newsletters). There’s a quote at the end that articulates well what frustrates me about 90% of the education reform commentary I read on my beloved liberal political blogs. Okay, here, I won’t make you read the whole post to get to it; here’s the Louisiana state superintendent on whether schools should be expected to successfully educate kids in the face of all the other social ills (from the magazine):
“It would be convenient to say that it’s a whole lot of other people who need to be part of the equation,” he replied. “But we have the job. And we have to do something.” Pastorek said he didn’t want to fall back on the excuse that he had heard from many other school officials, in Louisiana and elsewhere — that it was impossible to fix their schools until other social problems had first been corrected.
But then he switched direction somewhat. In many ways, he said, he was sympathetic to the Ravitch position. “If we want to really get kids to the level that we want to get them,” he said, “and we want to do it in a more efficient and effective way, then we would be well served if we took care of those kinds of problems — if we provided more resources to kids from conception to early childhood, if we took care of mental-health issues and physical ailments and teeth and eye examinations. Including, you know, where these kids go home to sleep at night. I’ve lived in this community a long time, and I can’t imagine how I could ever feel comfortable in neighborhoods that these kids live in at night. And yet they do, and we still expect them to do well.”
Pastorek paused for a moment. “So, now, can I solve all those problems tomorrow afternoon? Can I even get the attention of the people who have control over those things? Right now, in New Orleans, after Katrina, the answer is no, I can’t. But I can’t take the position that I can’t succeed unless I have those things. I have to take the position that we’re going to do it in spite of that. Now, will it be hard? Will I be less successful? Probably yes. But I have to take that approach, because I don’t have really any other cards to play.”
Me again: So yes, I think we ask too much of our schools, but throwing up our hands until we’ve ended poverty is not an acceptable response. And that’s why *I*…conduct research that is vaguely related to the field…