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K-12 Schools and the Poverty of Culture
Subj:      [Mpls] K-12 Schools and the Poverty of Culture
Date:     12/12/2001 10:00:15 PM Central Standard Time
To:     mpls@mnforum.org

In a message dated 12/9/2001 5:19:33 PM Central Standard Time,
[wizardmarks] writes:

> I think it might have been Andy Driscoll who said that some
>  cancers have not been proven to be definitely caused by
>  smoking, though it's well nigh impossible to deny the direct
>  link by inference.
>
True, some cancers have not been linked to cigarette smoking, and even the
link between cigarette smoking and cancers that originate in tissues directly
exposed to high concentrations of cigarette smoke has not been "definitively"
proven.  However, I will settle for less than "definitive" proof that
cigarettes are bad for my health.  

As I recall, Stephen J. Gould once said "Science works with testable
proposals. You can never be absolutely sure that a proposal is correct, but
one may show, with a high degree of confidence, that it is wrong..."  
Scientists generally settle for less than "definitive proof."  

> The question is
>  how to break the Gordion knot of items entwined and change
>  the situation so as to change the predictable outcomes.

I agree. That is what scientific research is all about.  And before you set
about to change a situation, it helps if you figure out beforehand whether
those changes will have the desired effect.  That's why it is important to
figure out whether and to what extent a cause and effect relationship exists
between various items.

>  The public schools have answered that they do not know or,
>  if they know, they cannot amend the situation as they are now
>  constituted.

The school board members say that the have been trying to bring about better
education-related outcomes for 'disadvantaged students,' but have failed
because of poverty and a culture of poverty, lack of parental involvement,
and other factors over which they have little or no control.

I think steps could be taken to dramatically improve education-related
outcomes for the low-achievers, and improve to a small degree
education-related outcomes for the high achievers, resulting in a closing of
the academic achievement gap.  What I have in mind includes a process of
'untracking' the students, a more equitable distribution of educational
resources, and less segregation of students by race and socioeconomic status.
 I expect changes along these lines would result in less interpersonal
violence, a huge reduction in EBD diagnoses, and less racial profiling.

However, the MPS administration and a significant part of the school
community are committed to the ability-grouping model, an unequal
distribution of some important educational resources (e.g., inexperienced
teachers), and a policy of racial segregation.  Those policies need to
change, and yesterday won't be soon enough.

-Doug Mann

Doug Mann for School Board
<http://educationright.tripod.com>