My Photo

Quotations

  • Simon Blackburn: An Unbeautiful Mind
    Polkinghorne holds the belief that unless some things last forever, everything is futile, a "meaningless empire of accident." This would wipe the smile off the face of many scientists. For science is not good about "forever." It paints a different picture of the world in which we find ourselves. Science teaches that the cosmos is some fifteen billion years old, almost unimaginably huge, and governed by natural laws that will compel its extinction in some billions more years, although long before that the Earth and the solar system will have been destroyed by the heat death of the sun. Human beings occupy an infinitesimally small fraction of space and time, on the edge of one galaxy among a hundred thousand million or so galaxies. We evolved only because of a number of cosmic accidents, including the extinction of the dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago. Nature shows us no particular favors: we get parasites and diseases and we die, and we are not all that nice to each other. True, we are moderately clever, but our efforts to use our intelligence to make things better for ourselves quite often backfire, and they may do so spectacularly in the near future, from some combination of manmade military, environmental, or genetic disasters.
  • Roger Scruton: The West and the Rest
    "It is thanks to Western prosperity, Western legal systems, Western forms of banking, and Western communications that human initiatives now reach so easily across frontiers to affect the lives and aspirations of people all over the globe. However, Western civilization depends on an idea of citizenship that is not global at all, but rooted in territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty. By contrast, Islam, which has been until recently remote from the Western world and without the ability to project its message, is founded on an ideal of godliness which is entirely global in its significance, and which regards territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty as compromises with no intrinsic legitimacy of their own. Although there have been attempts to manufacture nationalisms both appropriate to the Islamic temperament and conducive to a legitimate political order, they have fragmented under the impact of sectarian or tribal allegiances, usually giving way to military dictatorship or one-man, one-family, or one-party tyranny. Islam itself remains, in the hearts of those who live under these tyrannies, a permanent call to a higher life, and a reminder that power and corruption will rule in this world until the reign established by the Prophet is restored."
  • Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations 1776
    The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were perhaps very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance. But without the disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had the same duties to perform, and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talents.
  • Kishore Mahbubani: Freedom
    But freedom does not only solve problems; it can also cause them. The United States has undertaken a massive social experiment, tearing down social institution after social institution that restrained the individual. The results have been disastrous. Since 1960 the U.S. population has increased 41 percent while violent crime has risen by 560 percent, single-mother births by 419 percent, divorce rates by 300 percent and the percentage of children living in single-parent homes by 300 percent. This is massive social decay. Many a society shudders at the prospects of this happening on its shores. But instead of traveling overseas with humility, Americans confidently preach the virtues of unfettered individual freedom, blithely ignoring the visible social consequences.
  • Harold Pinter: Nobel Lecture
    There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.
  • Charles Darwin: The Descent of Man
    As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.
  • Earnest Becker: The Denial of Death
    We have to go the way of the grasshopper even though it takes longer.
  • Johnson, Samuel: Rambler # 121 May 14, 1751
    "To learn is the proper business of youth; and whether we increase our knowledge by books or by conversation, we are equally indebted to foreign assistance."
  • Murray Rothbard: Education Free and Compulsory
    It is evident that the common enthusiasm for equality is, in the fundamental sense, anti-human. It tends to repress the flowering of individual personality and diversity, and civilization itself; it is a drive toward savage uniformity. Since abilities and interests are naturally diverse, a drive toward making people equal in all or most respects is necessarily a leveling downward. It is a drive against development of talent, genius, variety, and reasoning power. Since it negates the very principles of human life and human growth, the creed of equality and uniformity is a creed of death and destruction.
  • J. M. Cameron: Review of Becker's Denial of Death
    Life, for Becker, is a desperate business, in which a steady heroism before the terrors of existence is in general the only thing to be commended.
  • Mark Lilla: The Politics of God
    In the end, though, what happens on the opposite shore will not be up to us. We have little reason to expect societies in the grip of a powerful political theology to follow our unusual path, which was opened up by a unique crisis within Christian civilization. This does not mean that those societies necessarily lack the wherewithal to create a decent and workable political order; it does mean that they will have to find the theological resources within their own traditions to make it happen. "Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men. NYTimes Magaziine, 8/19/2007
  • Richard Fields: The Land of Opportunity
    Immigration to the United States is not a problem. It is a phenomenon. The only way the United States can stop this phenomenon is by destroying the capitalist economy that draws immigrants here. We need to move in the direction of more open immigration, not in the direction of militarized borders fit only for a police state. Though it's been obscured by layers of cynical campaign rhetoric, the issue of immigration comes down to whether we want to restrict individual liberty to native-born Americans or offer it to everyone. If freedom works for us — and it does — what possible moral reason do we have to offer it to those born in San Diego, and deny it to those born inches away in Tijuana?
  • Edward O. Wilson: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1998
    On the surface it would seem, and was so reported by the media, that the Rwandan catastrophe was ethnic rivalry run amok. That is true only in part. There was a deeper cause, rooted in environment and demography. Between 1950 and 1994 the population of Rwanda, favored by better health care and temporarily improved food supply, more than tripled, from 2.5 million to 8.5 million. In 1992 the country had the highest growth rate in the world, an average of 8 children per woman. Parturition began early, and generation times were short. But although total food production increased dramatically during this period, it was soon overbalanced by population growth. The average farm size dwindled as plots were divided from one generation to the next. Per capita grain production fell by half from 1960 to the early 1990s. Water was so overdrawn that hydrologists declared Rwanda one of the world's twenty-seven water-scarce countries. The teenage soldiers of the Hutu and Tutsi then set out to solve the population problem in the most direct possible way. Rwanda is a microcosm of the world. War and civil strife have many causes, most not related directly to environmental stress. But in general, overpopulation and the consequent dwindling of available resources are tinder that people pile up around themselves. The mounting anxiety and hardship are translated into enmity, and enmity into moral aggression. Scapegoats are identified, sometimes other political or ethic groups, sometimes neighboring tribes. The tinder continues to grow, awaiting the odd assassination, territorial incursion, atrocity, or other provocative incident to set it off. Rwanda is the most populated country in Africa. Burundi, its war torn neighbor, is second. Haiti and El Salvador, two of the chronically most troubled nations of the Western Hemisphere, are also among the most densely populated, exceeded only by five tiny island countries of the Caribbean. They are also arguable the most environmentally degraded.
  • Murray Rothbard: Rights of Animals
    There is, in fact, rough justice in the common quip that "we will recognize the rights of animals whenever they petition for them." The fact that animals can obviously not petition for their "rights" is part of their nature, and part of the reason why they are clearly not equivalent to, and do not possess the rights of, human beings. And if it be protested that babies can't petition either, the reply of course is that babies are future human adults, whereas animals obviously are not.
  • Dr. Kenneth R. Miller:
    When asked, “What do you say as a scientist about the soul?” Dr. Miller's answer is always the same: “As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. It’s not a scientific idea.” Dr. Mller, a Roman Catholic and biologist at Brown University is the author of, “Finding Darwin’s God” (Harper, 1999)
  • Richard Rorty:
    "...if we can work together, we can make ourselves into whatever we are clever and courageous enough to imagine ourselves becoming.”
  • Richard J. Herrnstein:
    "It is easy to lie with statistics, but it's a lot easier to lie without them."
  • Michael Slackman: Quiet Revolution in Algeria
    In Algiers there is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes — the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.
  • Albert Einstein:
    Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down by the mind before you reach age 18.
  • Neil Postman:
    "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

Search

  • Google

    WWW
    philipwaring.us

« Disconnect | Main | China trade with the United States »

January 29, 2008

The 24 Hour School Day

We read in today's Los Angeles Times these words of Andy Warhaftig, an English teacher in that city:

"This is a crucial time for the district. Debates rage over the mandates of No Child Left Behind and how much testing and teaching-to-tests we should do. Charter schools -- some good, some bad -- are siphoning off students and resources. High schools are subdividing into Small Learning Communities, a model that's produced mixed results elsewhere, without adequate planning or funding. Most students don't pass Algebra I the first time, yet Algebra II will become a graduation requirement in a few years, likely increasing the already abysmal dropout rate."

About how many inner city school districts might we have said the same thing? Probably all of them. For these are issues confronting every inner city school district in the nation. And up until now no one seems to have the answers.

The irony is that these and other issues have arisen from what were supposed to be the answers to earlier issues or problems, NCLB (the answer to low minority achievement), Charter Schools (to failing district schools), Small Learning Communities (to huge, impersonal middle and high school learning environments), Algebra II (to low expectations, when no algebra at all, or algebra I was all that poor and minority students might expect to encounter in high school).

Why have what were supposed to be the solutions to the earlier problems become the new problems?  Perhaps because we were afraid to take the big steps, to make the really fundamental changes, with the result that our timid and tentative steps were (and are) never substantial enough to bring about real reform.

And we go on in this fashion, bungling ahead with our hesitant reform efforts, really going nowhere at all.  (see Tyack, David, and Cuban, Larry. Tinkering Toward Utopia: a century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995)

Take the longer school day as a case in point, a current and popular reform effort. One can agree with these reformers that children, especially at risk kids from poor and minority families, need to have more supervised hours in school during the day.

So what might we do to bring this about? We first need to persuade the principal and the teachers that such is vital to raising student achievement. Then we need to persuade the state legislators, or other funding sources, to put up a few million dollars to lengthen by a few hours the school day in perhaps a dozen now "failing" elementary and middle schools throughout the state.

And we may very well bring this about. In Massachusetts it has already been done. But our goal is, of course, much more than this. We want to extend the extended day to all struggling elementary and middle schools throughout the state, that which represents a generation-long project, at least, given the additional monies that would be needed. And there's probably not much chance that our money sources would stay with us throughout the reform effort, leading to another failed reform.

Furthermore, even if the additional monies could be found, there is no hard evidence that the additional 2 or 3 hours in school, while probably beneficial, especially in as much as some of the extracurricular activities eliminated by NCLB would be reinstated, —there is no evidence that the extra time in school would do much to raise the children's academic achievement in any significant fashion.

There is another irony here in that the model of a much longer school day, one that might have worked, is out there, currently in place. The model exists among all those poor and otherwise disadvantaged middle school children admitted to elite private schools where the school day is not just a few hours longer but the full 24 hour day long.

And the model exists in what I call "nativity" or "epiphany" schools, those few Massachusetts church connected private schools whose student bodies are all poor, severely disadvantaged middle school aged kids who are given full scholarships and are carefully supervised throughout most of their waking hours, only going home to sleep, and if they have one, to spend a few moments with their single parent care giver.

These two models work well for the kids. The kids are clearly achieving, both while in school and later in the colleges that most of them will attend. Why? Because these models do not represent incremental and therefore insufficient reform efforts, but are instead complete changes in children's lives, revolutions if you like of what the kids' lives had been up until then.

But of course they are costly and so far we prefer, or are obliged, to spend our wealth on defense and entitlements, and comfortable security for our old, but not for providing rich opportunities for our young.

What would a real reform of this nature cost? Take the present total of some 50 million students enrolled in our nation's public schools. Assume that somewhere between a third and a fourth of them, about 15 million, would qualify for full tuition support in the sort of school I mention above.

At a per pupil cost of $25,000 (which I admit, may be low—the full cost to the Academy of a single student at Phillip's Exeter is nearly $65,000) this would mean an annual budget amount of $375 billion, significantly less than the cost of Social Security or defense, and while a bit less than Medicare a bit more than Medicaid, welfare, and the interest on the national debt.

But this money would be money for prevention. By that I mean that such expenditures in the present would lower entitlement and other social costs in the future. We would end up paying significantly less for the costs to society of failed lives because there would be many fewer of the latter.

Unlike social security, unlike the armament industry whose costs will continue to grow, unless something else is fundamentally altered in our society, these full day tuition costs would be made up in good part from no longer needed portions of Medicare, unemployment and welfare, education and training costs.

Is it lack of vision, imagination, courage that keeps us from undertaking real educational reform? Is it something else? Must we always wait for things to happen to us, rather than making things happen?

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/1092781/25589336

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The 24 Hour School Day:

Comments

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In