Youthful Energy Will Not End Poverty

Poverty is the disease.  We see its symptoms all around us.  We see dropouts, violence, hunger, ill health, despair, bankruptcy, poor school performance, crime, and on and on.  I didn't end the cycle when I was in the classroom.  And I tried, hard.

I hear this refrain all too often--education is the way out of poverty--and I shudder.

I shudder because it's a bromide that no longer holds true in America, and too many people still buy into it.

TFAers and other young, energetic, new teachers believe it and perpetuate the notion that teachers and schools will ameliorate the symptom, thereby eliminating the disease.  The reformers agree, and have chosen to pursue charter schools that rely heavily on youthful, nearly temporary, teachers. Well, no; that ain't gonna work.  The problems TFA and other youthful teachers think they are going to tackle are not in-school factors.  So, unless these young teachers adopt these troubled kids, the out of school factors will remain--and they make up between 50% and 95% of factors that influence a child's ability to learn.  Schools are like mirrors of society--they reflect who we are, warts and all.

Impoverished neighborhoods are home to the worst performing schools--that's just a fact.  It's also the only correlation anyone has consistently found in terms of "good" schools versus "bad" schools.  It's so blatantly obvious that I think we must assume it's not really so clear and true.  We are programmed to be skeptical of simplicity.  But Occam's Razor still applies.  We have poverty schools, and rich schools.  It's that stark.

Young teachers (and old for that matter), please stop saying things that will perpetuate the notion that a young teacher full of energy and hope will change the circumstances for millions of systematically impoverished kids.  If you really want to do some good, make clear how stifling poverty is, how these kids show up in pain--both physical and mental, how they show up hungry and dirty, how they get to school before school opens and it's fucking cold outside and they have no coat because mom can't afford one even though she works 2 jobs, and how a couple simple, yet expensive (at the outset) programs could do much more than hope and energy: Universal health care and high-quality early childhood education.

Testing doesn't educate anyone.  Hope doesn't help end the cycle of poverty.  Good policy could.  Good policies that would provide parents in poverty real, actual, tangible help.

This means that the American billionaires (all 400 of them) and millionaires (1 of every 125 Americans) must pay more.  It's called taking care of the least able, and is the only measure of a civilized society.

It's your country.  Vote.

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