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K-12 Schools and the Poverty of Culture
Subj:     K-12 Schools and the Poverty of Culture
Date:     12/12/2001 9:59:04 PM Central Standard Time
From:     Gypsycurse7

In a message dated 12/9/2001 5:19:33 PM Central Standard Time, wizard marks 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