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School Propaganda Counts #2
Subj: Re: [Mpls] School Propaganda Counts.
Date: 12/7/2001 9:05:26 PM Central Standard Time
In a message dated 12/7/2001 4:08:25 PM Central Standard Time,
> Does naming a cluster of facts "the culture of poverty,"
> automatically constitute using it as a "theory" to maintain
> the status quo? I cited 'culture of poverty' to identify one
> way in which kids fail to achieve.
My pocket dictionary defines the term 'theory' as 1) a set of propositions
describing the operation and causes of natural phenomena, 2) a proposed but
unverified explanation...[The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary]
An explanation for the link between poverty and education-related outcomes,
sometimes referred to as the 'culture of poverty' theory, was proposed by
James Coleman and others in a 1966 study entitled "Equality of Educational
Opportunity." According to Coleman et. al:
"Schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is
independent of his background and general social context; and that this very
lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children
by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become
the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school
[The Manufactured Crisis, 1995, Berliner and Biddle, page 71]"
The conclusions of the 1966 Coleman were cited by school districts as
evidence that desegregating racially segregated school systems would not
benefit black children.
What happened after most of the racially segregated school systems were
desegregated? According to the 1990 Sandia Report, the test score gap
between whites and blacks declined during the 1970s and 1980s. Even as the
income gap between blacks and whites was increasing during the early 1980s,
the test score gap was decreasing (Berliner and Biddle, 1995, The
Manufactured Crisis, pages 26).
The Sandia Report was suppressed by the first Bush administration, then
released by the Clinton administration. It was a very authoritative study
commissioned by the Bush administration that also contradicted an earlier
report, "A Nation At Risk," which claimed that the quest to reduce
disparities in educational outcomes had gone too far and was doing harm to
the nation's high performing students. This went along with the "rising tide
of mediocrity" rhetoric that was used by the Reagan and Bush administrations
to push a neoconservative education reform agenda, which includes a return to
racially segregated 'neighborhood schools,' and the promotion of the
It is also noteworthy that six years after the original Coleman Report was
issued, Coleman published reanalyses of its data using "regression"
procedures. (A "regression" procedure is a one-step analysis that estimates
the net effect of each variable while controlling for the effects of the
other variables.) Based on the reanalyses, Coleman concluded that the
original report gave an inflated estimate of the influence of home background
characteristics due to unexamined effects of school characteristics.
Coleman's later work has been swept under the rug [ibid Berliner and Biddle,
> The schools say, I think, that they don't have the skills and resources to
make an impact on that sub-cultural gordian knot, break it open and let the
kids inside out. Several people on this list have said, in effect, that the
schools have to do it whether they have the resources or not. [snip]
I believe that the schools do have a big impact on the subcultures you speak
of, a largely negative impact. The "learning is a white thing" is a
rationalization that some black kids use to deal with the cards they have
been dealt. Far more problematic is the corporate culture of the Minneapolis
Public Schools. It is reasonable to expect tremendous institutional
resistance to changes in policies and practices which clash with deeply
ingrained beliefs about the limited academic abilities of most low-income
students that are held by [many of] the adults who are running the schools.
-Doug Mann, Kingfield
Doug Mann for School Board