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Re 'Bad Parents' Bashed in SW Journal Column
Subj: Re: [Mpls] 'Bad Parents' Bashed in SW Journal Column
Date: 12/5/2001 2:12:13 PM Central Standard Time
In a message dated 12/4/2001 4:29:34 PM Central Standard Time,
>... I have to disagree with Mr. Mann that the point of the article was
"bashing bad parents", but rather advising parents not to be so worried about
which school their child will attend as the defining factor in what kind of
people they will turn into...[snip]
Ms. Mickelsen mentions "freaked out" parents asking questions about math and
reading curriculum, learning styles, etc. Many of these parents seem so
anxious, she observes, that there have been tours... "where I want to pass
out Xanax before we start roaming the halls."
Why so much anxiety about finding "the right school" in Minneapolis? Ms
Mickelsen speculates that it might be "collateral damage from the culture
wars...Conservatives predictably declare public schools a failure...And
liberals have demanded public schools overcome all the ills of society
including racism, poverty, and parents who screw up."
I am quite certain that "liberals" have demanded nothing of the sort. Ms.
Mickelsen is setting up a straw man, i.e., attributing to an opponent a
position one can demolish with the greatest of ease. I've never heard anyone
seriously argue that public schools can overcome all the ills of society, or
that the "academic achievement gap" between white and black students, for
example, can be completely eliminated without also eliminating poverty and
racism. No one denies that extra-school factors affect how students do in
However, Lynnell Mickelsen articulates a position that is just as extreme in
the other direction as the one she attributes to 'liberals,' and just as
ridiculous. "Relax. Your kids will turn out fine. Or they won't. Either way
the school won't have much to do with it. Because most of the time, it's the
family, stupid. If parents stay sober, etc.."
In other words, if you do a good job as a parent, your kids will probably do
fine in school and in life. The implication is that if your kids don't "turn
out fine," it's because you are a bad parent. That just happens to echo the
school administration's propaganda.
The Minneapolis Board of Education argues that educational outcomes have
little to do with the allocation of educational resources among schools in
the district and practices, like ability grouping, which the district
promotes. That was also a line of defense the state of Minnesota used in an
educational adequacy lawsuit involving the Minneapolis School District (NAACP
/ Xiong et al. v. Minnesota). I was a plaintiff in the NAACP / Xiong case.
If I were a resident of Edina or Minnetonka, assurances that the schools are
unlikely to screw up or under-educate my child can be backed up with
statistics on dropout / pushout rates, on-time graduation rates, the
percentage of students who pass the Minnesota Basic Standards Tests on the
first try, etc.
If I were a resident of Edina, Minnetonka or one of many other towns in the
Twin Cities Metro area, I wouldn't need to shop around for a good public
school. I wouldn't need to consider alternatives to the public school system.
And I certainly wouldn't need the assurances of a tour guide at one of the
public schools that if I do a good job as a parent, my child will "turn out
But I am a resident of Minneapolis, where reading instruction isn't
ordinarily done in the public schools. A surprisingly large number of kids,
especially kids from low income neighborhoods are designated "low-ability"
learners. The districtwide high school dropout / pushout rate is about 50%,
and considerably higher for the students who are excluded from academic /
college preparatory programs (about 75% of the students are tracked into a
work readiness curriculum).
If the school district admitted that poor and unequal educational outcomes
were due, in large part, to unequal resource allocation and practices like
ability grouping, they would have to do something about it. Instead, they
are sticking to their courtroom strategy.
My advice to parents: worry, and demand excellent and equitable schools for
-Doug Mann, Kingfield
Doug Mann for School Board web site
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