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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."

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February 2008

February 25, 2008

Schooling and Education

Ask your own children who wrote the Declaration of Independence, what were the Federalist Papers, who was Jim Crow, and you will see that even your own kids may not be learning, or at least not retaining information about their own country, the very things that school was supposed to teach them.

Then try to carry on a conversation, say in Spanish, the "easy language," with a third, or fourth year Spanish student in a typical American high school, perhaps with your own child if he or she fits the description. You will very quickly see that the schools (as in teaching Spanish or American history) are clearly not doing what they say they are doing.

Now what we seem not yet as a nation to have fully recognized, is the fact that in our schools, especially our middle and high schools, very few things are learned in the sense of acquired, or made one's own, — a grounding in American history, or conversational ability in the Spanish language, as in our examples.

Our elementary schools, those schools that have been around since the time of the earliest settlers on the Atlantic seaboard, are probably best at what they do. In part because of their long history. And in great part because what they do is still highly relevant to kids' lives outside of school. At earlier times and probably still today most if not all elementary school kids do learn to read and to count.

The situation in our middle and high school classrooms, however, is something else. Only for the last 60 or 70 years have most of our young people been subjected to schooling during these years. And the jury is still out on how well we have succeeded, even whether it was such a great idea that all kids be in school for some 12 or 13 years. But they are, and we have them.

The success of the elementary years is probably best explained by the fact that the subject matter, mostly the learning to read and to count, is not limited to the classroom. The kids, at least those who do learn, go on with both activities outside of school. And those who don't probably don't learn.

Totally different from the situation of the middle and high schools, where what goes on in class is usually not something the kids take with them and do at home. Rather it's something, in spite of books and notebooks crammed into knapsacks, that the kids at the end of the day mostly leave behind them in school.

Is it any wonder that just months let alone years after these classroom lessons, perhaps even weeks or days, the kids cannot solve an equation like the one they solved in class, can't respond in Spanish to a question put to them in that language, can't tell you much if anything about the US constitution and the separation of powers, can't even accurately place the Civil War on an American history time line.

And the reason is not that the schools have failed, as so many echoing the urgency of those who gave us A Nation at Risk in the 80s would have us believe. The schools haven't failed. The kids, perhaps. But they have failed to learn, not so much because of what went on in school, what the teacher did or didn't do, but because the "languages" spoken in the classroom, the ones they were supposed to learn, be they math, science, history et al, are just not spoken outside of the classroom.

And math, science, history et al are languages, no less than Spanish and Chinese, and need to be spoken, and read, somehow "used," given life, if they are to be learned. For John Dewey was right. We do learn by doing, much more than by listening. Lectures and language tapes are not enough.

Try to learn Spanish or any foreign language when you hear only words in that language from your teacher (or on a tape) while sitting in class along with some 25 others who are as ignorant of the language as you are. What language can possibly be learned in this manner, other than by the rare student with exceptional intelligence, a photographic memory, or both?

Now all this is not to say that middle and high school students are not learning in school. They are learning, and many of them are learning a lot, but little or nothing (in respect to what they might have learned) of the academic subjects that are still at the heart of the typical middle and high school curriculum.

What they are, in fact, learning, and this should come as no surprise to anyone, is what they are doing in school (or out of school) with interest and motivation. You can put a kid in a classroom, of course, but that's it. So far we haven't been able to make him or her learn.

What kids are learning may be music, as in playing a musical instrument in the school band. It may be art as in designing sets or murals. It may be acting as in the school theater group, or it may be bodily strength and coordination, plus cooperation with others, as in participating in one or more team or individual sports activities.

What kids are learning may be any number of other things including shop, automotive mechanics, and other voc ed activities. Schools, in order to stay in business, learned long ago that play, art, music, voc ed and all the rest were no less important, I would say essential, to kids' lives, to their mental and physical health and well-being, than college prep and advanced placement courses. Indeed, if you want to see even greater “failure” than you think you see right now in our public schools limit schooling to college prep. (This being for some what the No Child Left Behind Law is effectively doing to the schools.)

Currently there is, and has been, almost from the time of Horace Mann and the Common School over 150 years ago, a sharp, verbal battle between those who would give the public schools failing marks and those who would defend the schools, claiming that they are doing just fine the way they are.

I would say that this battle need not ever have been. The sides could have come together because they are not so much apart as they are talking about different things — the ones about the low academic achievement of public school students (that which has probably always been low), and the others about the real success that the common school has had in reaching all, or nearly all of our youth.

For the defenders of the public schools correctly say that now no one is left out, and that all are given an opportunity to continue their education through high school, college and beyond, even though only a minority of them  will actually do so.

There are many things we could say about our schools that might help to go beyond the school battle I refer to. Most important both groups ought to understand that learning is not what schools are mostly about. For the kids just have little, often no interest, in what the schools are teaching. So why blame the schools. It can hardly be their fault if the kids are not ready to learn.

Although life itself is all about learning, and although kids are learning all the time and everywhere, for the most part they are just not all that interested in what we are teaching, in particular, in math, science, history et al, all those subject matters that we tell them are all important and that they will need, to go on to college, to get a good job, to make a lot of money.

Those who attack the schools say that at one time things were different. At one time in the past, they assure us, kids did learn, — math, history, foreign language and all the rest. But a close look at the past, a close look at student achievement in earlier periods makes it clear that this is not so.

Gerald Bracey and others have shown us that in the past kids, at least the relatively few of them that were in school, did not learn anymore then than their peers are learning now. Kids are kids and the educators who should most of all know this most of all seem to forget it.

In fairness to those who attack the schools they do have a number of reforms in mind. One of their reforms is to make both kids and teachers accountable. First test the teachers, then the kids. Hold the kids to (national) standards. Make them fear for their lives after their schooling if they don't work while in school.

But of course the threats don't work. Because the kids, even if they work more in class, and are given additional class time, still don't take what they are taught in class into their lives, that is, where these things they are taught might be learned.  Equations, American history, and the spoken foreign language are still not a part of their lives outside of class.

The kids are into other things. The schools don't take this enough into account and go on confusing schooling, what is going on in their schools, with education, that is not going on. Our schools would be just fine if our goals for the schools were things that schooling could accomplish. But too often our goals are in need of an education for which our kids in middle and high school are not yet ready.

What could the kids be learning in school? Good classroom habits for one, such as listening to the teacher and other students in the classroom, speaking up and thereby contributing to the class discussion, being on time, being equipped with whatever is necessary for the orderly classroom activities, such as pens, notebooks, texts, even laptop computers. But instead of doing this sort of thing where we might be successful we go on pretending to teach (math and history) and the students go on pretending to learn.

There are schools, both public and private, that do stress good classroom behavior and don't worry about whether the students are learning, knowing that the latter will not take place until the students themselves are ready.

Children do, as we've already noted, come to school with their interest and motivation in place. Everyone has seen the great delight that small children take in learning their words and numbers in the elementary classroom. The greatest difference between schooling and learning is the absence (schooling) or the presence (learning) of interest and motivation on the part of the student.

But everyone has also seen kids' interest and motivation fall away by the fourth or fifth grade when their awareness of themselves, and most especially their growing awareness of their relationship to others, become the principal and driving forces in their lives.

For here begins the process when learning turns into schooling and the content of the lesson becomes confined to the classroom, when what is most vivid and most alive for the kids is no longer words and numbers, as it may have been during the first years of school, but the physical, their bodies, and the social, their friends, thereby relegating the subject matter of the classroom to at best a few minutes of homework squeezed somewhere in between friends, family, sports, television, video games, computers and other such modern distractions.

February 17, 2008

There is no going back.

Are we reading less because of television, films, video games and the internet? Two articles in today's Washington Post, one by Susan Jacoby, and the other by Howard Gardner, come down on either side of the debate. Jacoby says yes, we are definitely reading less, becoming a less literate people. Gardner doesn't say no. Rather he says it's more complicated than that, that we need to change the terms of the debate.

Jacoby, confirming her conservative credentials, bemoans what's happening to our young, their often cited fall into an image and video dominated present, from the much to be preferred book and word dominated past of their parents. The Dumbing of America she calls it.

Gardner on the other hand displays a liberal tolerance to change, a much greater willingness to accept the new, and to even look for the good in what is happening. He sees the brave new digital world, the same one that frightens Jacoby, as being pretty neat, not something we should bemoan, but rather something that is going to be with us, regardless of what we might like or do, and that we might best try to understand.

Gardner would probably say that what is happening to our young is no more within our power to stop or change than it was in our ancestors' power to alter at any point in time the course of humanity's, that is our "progress" through some 100,000 years of history and prehistory, right up until today.

Gardner, along with the liberal in us, is saying that what will be will be, and we had best live with it and enjoy it. Jacoby, along with the conservative in us, seems to be saying that what was is better and we should protect and preserve the old or what was, and resist the new (and what is). Not possible of course.

Holding onto the past, and especially a particular version of the past such as that of Susan Jacoby, is never possible, whether it's the past of our childhood, which for many of us may still be an age of gold, or the distant past of our African forbears now totally buried in the rock formations of the Rift Valley.

Actually, the real struggle is always to free ourselves from the past, to get on with it, to get on with the new. For change will be. And the new digital media are here in force. Books will no longer be, no matter how much we may protest, and as they may very well have been in our childhood, central to our growing up. Nor will they be for some few of us who still read central even to how we now experience the world.

The liberal, in this instance, Howard Gardner, by accepting what is happening is the realist. Susan Jacoby, the conservative, by resisting the new digital media and promoting a book lined past, is the idealist. She ought to have known that what is will always trump what would, or even what should be.

February 15, 2008

Education and Super Power Status

In an op ed piece in today's NY Times David Brooks tells us that the single biggest reason that the US emerged as the economic super power of the 20th. century was "our quality work force."

There is no hard evidence in support of his claim. In fact, only in mid-century did most young people even attend, let alone finish high school. Whatever our work force was during the last century it was not well-educated. Also, the emergence of our "great power" status in the first years of the century came well before the time when most of our citizens  even attended school beyond the 8th grade.

Furthermore, the manufacturing jobs that were mostly driving our economy during the last century needed little if any higher education. They certainly did not need a college preparatory program in high school, let alone college.

What these jobs needed most of all were good work habits, being on time, being attentive to details, assuming responsibility, habits that were most of all learned in strong, often immigrant families, not during the relatively short time spent in school and in class.

Much more plausible as the single most important cause of our emergence as a great power was the availability, just when it was most needed, of lots of unskilled labor, first from Ireland, Germany and China, and later from eastern and southern Europe.

In fact our success (then and now) is most of all fired by our immigrant pool, and the latter results more from hands-off government policies (such as readily obtained work visas and no fences along the border), policies that don't get in the way of a growing, vibrant, innovative, entrepreneurial class of workers and managers.

Government or public education policies and programs just don't do this. Such efforts do not make good workers. Nor do they make entrepreneurs. People will work well and be inventive and innovative because of the economic opportunities available to them, because of what they can achieve by doing so, because of the American Dream which is still alive today and still the principal reason people come to our shores. It is most of all incumbent on government to stay out of the people's way.

What government (public) educational program or policy has been instrumental in fostering our economic success? You might want to say the GI Bill, but wasn't this the government providing opportunity to people and then getting out of their way?

What government backed public school reform during the past 100 years or so, has succeeded in correcting the widely recognized failure of our public schools to "educate?" Our economy continues to thrive in spite of, not because of our schools.

The present system of public or government schools was established during the 100 years between Horace Mann's Common School in 1850 and James Bryant Conant's Comprehensive High School in 1950. While it's true that these same 100 years also witnessed our country's emergence as the world's greatest economic power there is no evidence of a cause and effect relationship between the two.

What might have happened if education, like so many other things, had been left to the free market for its realization? Would we now be saying that we not only had the wealthiest nation on earth, but also the best educated?

As it is we deplore the poor standing of our schools in the world, just as much as we applaud the productivity of our free market economy.

February 09, 2008

'Doc' Howe and Michael Goldstein

'Doc' Howe, President Lyndon Johnson's U.S. commissioner of education, in a Phi Delta Kappa interview with Mark Goldberg in October of 2000, said that, "You test kids who have poor lives and inadequate schooling, flunk them, and say they didn't meet the standards. You must first improve their lives and schooling and then give the test."

Now who would disagree with Howe's words? Certainly not David Berliner, Alfie Kohn, Jonathan Kozol, perhaps Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier, to mention just a few of the countless progressive educators who are out there thinking first of the kids.

In fact, at first blush we would probably all agree. For how can you teach a child to read who hasn't had enough to eat? And what about the preschooler who has seen his Mom taken from him during the night and who has that mostly on his mind when he arrives at school?

And then there are the homework assignments, always having to be done in the same room with the big screen television set that is never turned off, or even down? Who is going to win that competition?

And then there are the children who get to school in the morning, well almost at 7:30 and almost on time, but they're still half asleep because bedtime was midnight and the alarm went off at 5:30 in order to make the hour long subway and bus ride to school. Are they going to be listening to their teacher?

So is there any sense in teaching, let alone testing kids, whose lives are seriously deficient in proper food and shelter, and the no less important rest and quiet, and most of all, whose lives are mostly without close contacts with caring adults?

The liberal (and yes common sense) response is to say, "let's not blame the kids for their failure in the classroom, let's direct more resources towards improving their lives outside of the classroom," or in Doc Howe's words, "first improve their lives and schooling and then give them the tests."

And what's wrong with this response? Why aren't we all pushing along with Jonathan Kozol to direct increased resources to our impoverished inner city and rural school communities?

Well this sort of response acquired a name, the war on poverty, and it began some 44 years ago, when then President Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty in his first state of the union speech on January 8, 1964.

Johnson's war created programs such as Head Start, food stamps, work study, Medicare and Medicaid, all of which still exist today. But the poverty rate, the percentage of those falling below a government determined poverty threshold, after an initial reduction due to these programs, has remained steady since then, right up until today, fluctuating between 11 and 15% of the population.

Would another series of anti-poverty programs, comparable in weight and substance to Head Start, food stamps, Medicare et al. bring about another 5% reduction in the poverty level? We'll probably never know because neither republican nor democratic politicians, with the exception of John Edwards who is now out of the presidential race, have any interest in doing one.

Therefore, it's probably just not going to happen, that kids lives are going to be improved outside of school before we get them in school. We get them in school the way they come to us and we have to take them that way and teach and test them.

There are those who have accepted this state of affairs and have decided to go ahead and teach and test regardless of the gaping inadequacies of kids' lives outside of school. These individuals have been properly recognized by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in their book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, their "no excuses" meaning that the excuses kids bring to school with them, no less than guns and knives, must be left at the door before coming in.

I think, for example, of the MATCH School, a Commonwealth Charter School in Boston. I sent Doc Howe's not unreasonable statement to the founder of the school, Michael Goldstein. Here is what Goldstein said in response:

"If teachers believe that kids' 'overall lives' must be improved (and this never comes to pass), it undermines the idea of teachers taking responsibility for driving big gains in student learning.  [And instead of being accountable, we have teachers saying] "Well of course my students continue to be bad readers, even after a year of my teaching them, for nobody has improved their lives!" 

He's right. You have to go ahead with what you have, and most important take responsibility for what you do with what you have. Now I say that realizing with some trepidation that my position comes dangerously close to that of Donald Rumsfeld, who in December of 2004, in response to a question from a member of the Tennessee National Guard, said, "You go to war with the Army you have. [Even if] they're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

But of course the analogy to the war situation doesn't hold. For yes, we could have adequately armed our combat vehicles. But no, we can't by our government programs diminish, let alone do away with, the poverty in people's lives. For this poverty is one of human, not so much material, inadequacy. Afterall we are the world's wealthiest country.

So yes, we have to do as Michael Goldstein does at the MATCH School. We have to teach our kids, whether or not they've had a good night at home before walking into our classrooms, and we have to hold them accountable for their learning, or not learning, while they are there.

For otherwise we are abandoning them to be members of another failed generation, the second or third since Johnson's War on Poverty in 1964, not to mention all those undocumented generations of impoverished kids that came before.