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Thursday, May 19, 2005



I just read several reader comments on this issue over at Undernews (http://prorev.com/indexa.htm). Sadly, even from those you'd expect to be somewhat more enlightened, I hear the second comment/analysis much more often than the first (and I hear it a lot since I work in teacher education):

"A READER - Unfortunately, many of these parents don't have an alternative. The average wage of a U.S. worker is 80% of what it was in the mid 70's. This means that both parents must work to meet the needs of the household. This means daycare of some sort. We need to divest from military and prison spending and stop the continuing shift of the tax burden from corporations and the wealthy to middle and lower class. By advocating systemic change in how we invest in the future, we can move away from the distracting debate about deadbeat parents and focus on the societial structures that mandates such behavior."

"A READER - As a former daycare teacher, I am so not surprised. People leave their kids in daycare, expecting other people to raise their children for them (and paying them nothing like a livable wage to do it) and offer nothing in the way of support for a teacher or school's discipline methods or unacceptable behavior. The kid gets home, parents pump him full of sugar and plop him in front of the TV, and let him get away with anything. By age 3, this kid is a nightmare, doing whatever he can to get the adult attention that his parents won't give him. He bites. He kicks. He breaks things. And a preschool teacher is dealing with 20 of these brats at once. She has no time for one out-of-control monster, and the other parents (who are paying $1000 a month for the privilege of having someone else raise their kids) don't really appreciate having little Brianna and Nicholas come home with big red bite marks on their skin. Are all parents who use daycare like this? Of course not. But I bet 95% of the parents of expelled kids are."

Ben G.

Elisa, thanks for posting these comments. I have to say, my research about the Ja'eisha Scott case and the comments received here and that I've read elsewhere have really depressed me terribly. I used to notice stories like the one posted here and shake my head in disgust, but now the terrible attitudes towards children behind the news items are much more vivid to me.

The differences in expulsion rates acccording to race and ethnicity drive home the fact that what's going on is not all about spoiled children of parents who don't want to parent. What's more, if this is a national study, then what percentage of the kids in the sample comes from such privileged backgrounds as I think the second "reader" implies.

Maybe my one question is this: if there is even a shred of truth to the second reader's analysis, what's the middle ground between overhauling the system entirely (something I want!) and blaming the children and their parents. Since I know that regardless of who runs things at the federal and state levels, systemic change is not likely soon, what sorts of narrow reform measures would go some distance in supporting children and teachers?

I am asking the questions somewhat naively, since I am not knowledgable about educational policy and theories of education. Suggested reading is fine. It's not your job to educate me single-handedly. Input from other other readers is also welcome, of course...


I'm becoming increasingly depressed about the possibilities of finding that middle ground that you talk about. I was recently talking with several of my former students, now teachers. I was amazed at how quickly they had transitioned into what seems to be the default mode of blame the families -- after less than one year of teaching. It drove home for me how, in spite of my best efforts, I may be merely replicating rather than disrupting the system by working in teacher education.

The Ja'eisha Scott case, the Haitian students case, these both highlight the very overt forms of violence going on in schools, directly mostly at kids of color. However, I spend a lot of time in urban classrooms, and am coming to see how "violence" can take many more forms. Labels, blaming, expectations and they way that they play out in terms of teaching and opportunity offered.

This all does not answer your question, basically because I don't have a good answer at the moment. I'll think about some readings that might be good and get back to you. I wrote a piece awhile back that may touch of some of this. You can find it here: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0119-31.htm

And, I'd like to thank you for focusing consistent attention on these issues on your website. It is crucial.

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