If I were president of the United States…

whitehouse.jpgTracy Dordell, a third-grade teacher at New Highland Academy in the Elmhurst area of East Oakland, recently asked her students to write about how they would improve our nation if they were elected president. Their responses seem to offer a glimpse into what’s on their 8- and 9-year-old minds:

Lyanne: “… I would change everything that is bad. Guns, stealing and killing are really bad. There would be no drugs. If people fight, they will do community service. If people shoot, they will go to jail forever.”

Keion: “… there will be more jobs, and daycares. I will make more laws. There would not be guns and wars.”

Jose D: “… I would melt all of the guns. I would change how much people should get paid. People should get more money and more vacation. People should spend more time with their family. I would take away all weapons. I would take away all drugs and alcohol. I would try to stop the war. And give more freedom.”

Alfonso: “… I will help people to get some money. I would make the schools better. I would clean the ocean. I would ban guns. … Alfonso is the best.”

Escobar: “… I would give poor people homes. I would say, `People, stop fighting!’ No more shooting people! No more drinking when you are driving! … with Escobar you will go far.”

image on David Paul Ohmer’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    The first issue here is that these children are being taught that the President is a King, a God, a Money Tree, a Dictator, and the list goes on.

    This kind of nonsense continues throughout the OUSD classes so that by the time these children finish school they haven’t a clue about their own country and government.

    If we want 3rd graders to use school time to discuss what they would do if they were King for a Day we should say so. What the school is doing is just wrong. This is an example of the schools teaching kids that they are victims and that other people should give them things – and that such conduct is good and moral. Well it’s not good and moral. People who run for power promising bread and circuses (or similar) are usually very bad people indeed. Maybe the 3rd graders would be better off studying the rise and fall of the 3rd Reich – because this kind of thinking is how it started.

  • Tracy Dordell

    I appreciate your concern for the educational focus in our schools. However-this lesson/project was based on the Third Grade National Standards for Social Studies and Language Arts. (SS-3.4, LA Writing Strategies 1.0)
    It is imperative that our students are aware of current political happenings- Regardless of our personal political views-incorporating periodicals and media in various forms.
    In addition, our future-the children, should always know that becoming a leader in any capacity, in whatever they choose is possible. Empowering youth to advocate for very real community issues is crucial.
    Third grade students are taught to determine the reasons for rules, laws and the U.S. Constitution: the role of citizenship in the promotion of rules and laws; and the consequences for people who violate rules and laws. This curriculum supports the ability to contribute to our community and social structures that exist-(A Democratic Government.)
    At eight and nine years old, children know the difference between right and wrong and want to see change. They are focused on things they see and feel daily in their lives and community. We have had many class discussions, lessons and community circles addressing these very real issues.
    Our school community works very hard to advocate for social justice and youth empowerment. An educational experience that is based on both state and local standards-unaffected by my personal political constraints is equitable and relevant.

  • John

    I agree with you Nextset. I suspect the author was thinking, “How cute this is!” I was recently viewing an historical video about the 3rd Reich that included school children reciting poems about Adolf Hitler and referring to him as a noble being, a god.

    Anual Martin Luther King events occurring throughout the district include young students doing recitations at Martin Luther King Oracle Fests. If the Afro American community more commonly practiced what Dr. King preached the racial divide would be much narrower than it is today. I don’t believe the separatism we see going on in Barack Obama’s church
    http://www.tucc.org/about.htm , with its segregationist philosophy and founding minister (Obama’s admitted long time mentor) who gave Luis Farakan a Life Time Achievement Award, accurately reflects the teachings of Martin Luther King. I doubt the likes of Martin Luther King would be welcome in Obama’s church.

    How about a balanced curriculum (K-12) on the comparative philosophies of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Luis Farakan? Unfortunately this might well detract from the cuteness and specialness of OUSD Oratorical Fests.

    As observed in the Third Reich, ignorance isn’t so cute when it’s all grown up.

  • mirror

    “…ignorance isn’t so cute when it’s all grown up.” Especially when it lacks the basic fundamental skills necessary to spell the word “annual,” John.

  • Katy Murphy

    I believe the point of the exercise was for the children to imagine a better society, and to practice their writing skills — not to cultivate would-be dictators.

    I’m surprised that some would compare this writing exercise to those practiced during the Third Reich, although I probably shouldn’t be. Those who are determined to spot fatal flaws in a lesson plan — or in a school, a population of students, or a school district — will find a way to do so.

  • cranky teacher

    Katy, the problem here is that the blog is still picking up readers and so John and Nextset, who may well be the same person, as well as Doowhopper and myself, are able to dominate the discussion. This is not a large sample size from which to draw a balanced conversation.

    Nextset may not have kids or have ever been a teacher, so he may not understand what a third-grader is capable of as opposed to, say, a sixth-grader, where learning about the Third Reich or the differences between a president and a king start to be developmentally appropriate for the average kid. Sure, there are a small number third graders who are sophisticated enough to talk about the differences between Obama and Hillary, if you give them enough “scaffolding.” But these are kids at the apex of the nature/nurture grid, not the norm.

    For third graders, imagining what they would like to change in society is a completely innocent and decent lesson plan being twisted by a couple folks whose agenda has been made clear in EVERY SINGLE POST they make: To convince us that liberals are babying Oakland school children into an early grave or prison. No matter what you post, they will find a way to make this point.

    As the editor of this blog, if you are unhappy with the role of the comments section, you have to either build your readership to where more and different people are posting (I would recommend making it a weekly newsletter if the software/site allows, to boost return visits), or cut off public comments until you think you have the critical mass to have a richer conversation.

    Even then, though, every successful blog attracts those who comment obsessively/frequently and often drive off the casual (and often more thoughtful) posters.

  • vitalnurse

    I am a school nurse who works at several different Oakland schools. I can assure you that the work that is being done at this school is exemplary. In this amazing school, where teachers care and use all kinds of creative methods to stimulate and interest their students, Ms Dordell stands out. Her students are engaged, involved, interested. They know what is going on in the world and talk about it. When I walked down the hall and read what these students had to say about being president, I was moved. Almost every one of them talked about dealing with violence, drugs, gang membership, poverty, homelessness, despair. Their ideas were more than cute ( though they were cute ) – they were serious attempts to deal with the challenges that they see everyday in their lives in East Oakland.

    Thanks! School nurse, Susan Sherrell

  • Sue

    Wait a minute – 3rd graders?

    Maybe I’m getting senile, but I would have sworn that my kids didn’t get US History (and government) until 4th grade – at the same grade level I did nearly 40 years ago. As a parent, I wouldn’t have been upset or concerned if one of my kids had brought home an assignment like this from 3rd grade. If the now-5th-and-10th-graders brought this home today, I would find that very disturbing.

    If the comments above were about middle or high school students, I might think the posters had a valid point. But what seems to be expected here – of 3rd graders who haven’t yet been taught *anything* at all about the President’s role and duties – seems unreasonable and ridiculous.

    Let’s just condemn the school district as a failure for following the state curriculum instead of teaching 3rd graders what the state curriculum says they should be learning in 4th grade. It’s not as if we can’t find anything else that would be a *legitimate* criticism of the district.

  • Nextset

    Katy & Others: If you want a parade of blog posts saying that life is beautiful I am not your man. One of the things that my posts do is pose the contrary side of what the “educators” pose. You would do well to consider the contrarian view and explain your rejections. It’s great that we disagree.

    I am not John. I am also not surprised at his addition to what I was saying. Katy’s surprise at what I had to say makes my point. It’s important that this education blog attract a wider audience so that you don’t just get the “everything is beautiful” people.

    If the writers such as myself didn’t care about the people who have to use OUSD – and I have family attending school there – we wouldn’t bother to comment and you wouldn’t be hearing us. As it is you don’t have many people who are around to mention the emperor’s wardrobe. Think about it. The greatest fear you need to have is that there will be no warnings of icebergs ahead.

    Look at the history over the last 2 generations of OUSD performance. What critism was ever heard in the last 2 generations? Other than the moving vans for Contra Costa County and the giggles from Piedmont, who is going to say anything about trouble for the products of OUSD? Nobody, and I don’t even remember reading about adverse Civil Grand Jury reports.

    I repeat my concern about this 3rd grade excercise. I don’t find it funny or charming at all for the reasons stated above. Many of you couldn’t imagine my reaction. Well now you know. If I have prodded a few people to think, well and good. The process I complain about is an insidious process that results in 18 year olds finishing (I didn’t say “graduating”) OUSD largely unable to compete against other 18 year olds (of largely other ethnics) for educational slots, jobs and spouses.

    And Yes, I’m saying that the process of this miseducation can start with third graders programmed to think that the US Presidency involves giving away things to people and that people do well or not because of what they are given by more powerful figures. That is not a lesson I agree with for 1st grade or 5th graders either.

    If some of the readership are so bothered by public discourse about education and policy that they want contrarians banned from publication, why are we all here?

  • Nextset

    Tracy: “Our school community works very hard to advocate for social justice and youth empowerment.”

    What you have described is the problem. It’s not a school, it’s a collectivist indoctrination camp.

    A school teaches or educates it’s students in basic through advanced skills like reading and writing, algebra and chemistry. It might even teach logic, calculated risk taking, discipline and morals.

    By substituting Communist indoctrination for education you produce products that are unable to compete in life with the products of, say, Piedmont and Acalanes. And that’s what I have seen happen at OUSD for over a generation now.

    And another thing, the Mormon Religion would be a better doctrine to teach than your dogma – and I’m not Mormon. They are wearing better in this Brave New World though. Your grads are doing badly.

    Enjoy what you are doing, but understand the low regard in which your doctrine is held by those who produce in this society.

  • Katy Murphy

    Does anyone else think this blog suggests that “everything is beautiful” in Oakland schools? Parent-principal confrontations, child prostitution, Tasers, teacher turnover, budget cuts…

    If that paints a beautiful view of the local public education system and its challenges in your view, Nextset, I wonder what you’d consider ugly.

    I certainly welcome differing points of view in this forum. There is a difference, however, between a lively discussion and an inflammatory one. This blog is meant to be a civil space where thoughtful ideas are debated. Please keep that in mind.

  • Tracy Dordell

    Again, I appreciate your interest and concern of curriculum in the classroom. It is important for people to express their views, opinions and beliefs. It is also important for the community to share how they feel about the educational system-especially what is working and not working.
    I also appreciate your willingness to share your views/knowledge of other cultural, political and religious ideals. It is important to express yourself. I have read other feedback that you have given on topics. Very interesting.
    In regard to your postings about my student writing-
    My students are eight and nine. They are so intelligent and excited about current events. We receive newspapers on M,W,F (compliments of the Tribune)It is a big deal election-so we talk about it.
    I have-FYI-taught them the difference between a MONARCHY and DEMOCRACY. They understand that a President always has to be elected-(in the United States) and that he is not all powerful. My students know that they have to read, write, pass exams, go to college- They also understand that they could be President. I think they could.
    It is weird to read such negative feedback on an assignment. I would recommend you visit a classroom. Visit mine-you are welcome always-just go to the front office and get a visitors pass. Amazing teaching/ learning going on!

  • hills parent


    This blog clearly shows that all is far from beautiful in Oakland schools. Just this weekend I attended children’s birthday parties of “hills” students. It amazed me how many of the families were talking about their plans to move from Oakland due to the school system. Rather than pay for private schools the parents felt that they may as well put their money into mortgage payments. At least that is deductible. When will OUSD wake up to its impending doom if drastic changes do not occur? An attitude of “if you don’t like it then leave” will only result in a flight from Oakland. By the way, all of these were families who enjoy the diversity of Oakland, but felt that their children’s education must come first. Despite all of the wonderful programs at select Oakland schools, it is not nearly enough to hold back the flight of families leaving.

  • NHA Teacher

    This is a fascinating conversation! As a teacher at New Highland Academy, I believe that more of it is needed. To call an Oakland Public School a “collectivist indoctrination camp”, is a bit extreme, but I also understand the intent. Our schools continue to produce “unsuccessful” members of society generation after generation. After experiencing educational policy at its worst and working with state administrators and district employees who have lost sight of students’ best interest, I must agree that the public schools, in part, serve to fill a status quo. However, within every established system, there are individuals who refuse to follow suit, and I would argue that our school is full of them! Our school focuses beyond even advocating for social justice and youth empowerment. The staff and administration at our site recognize the battle we must fight to achieve our school mission: to ensure that graduates are powerful thinkers, effective communicators and compassionate citizens. The battle exceeds asking children to put aside the fact that their parents are drug addicts or that society hates them because their skin is brown in order to learn reading, writing and arithmetic for 6.5 hours. The battle is against a system which produces members of society that don’t question the status quo. How do we do that? We are trying to figure it out, and we are passionate about it. We are passionate about arts integration, positive learning communities, and parent and community involvement. Our staff developments often revolve around trying to understand how we can promote critical thinking skills through observation in dance, visual art, and science, and how we can transfer those skills to learning in math and language arts. Are we successful at getting the troubled child to put away their woes for 6.5 hours everyday in order to imagine a life that does not seem a reality? Probably not. Are we asking our students to look at their reality and think critically about it? Definitely. To me, the beauty in the project featured in this article from Ms. Dordell’s class is that they are expressing their reality. The things that they wrote about are things that they are experiencing. I see Ms. Dordell’s class and this project is a very small glimpse into the positive learning community in her classroom.

  • Mr. G

    The first step one must take to fix something that is broken is to realize what is broken. The second step is to imagine what it would look like once it is fixed. The third and hardest step is to find a path from the first step to the second.

    If Ms. Dordell has 3rd graders who are capable of getting through step one and step two, we might just be all right in another twenty years. But we can’t, in fairness, expect our third graders to do all our work for us. If only we had some grown-ups around who could take it the rest of the way.

    This assignment seems solid to me. If these kids are reading and writing about something that interests them, that is a huge victory. I’m not sure Ms. Dordell has to incorporate Ayn Rand or Aldous Huxley into her lesson plan just yet. There may still be a couple years for them to learn that stuff. It sounds like she’s managed not to sew the seeds of socialism in her classroom, despite what others might think. In fact, I’ll bet the biggest lesson her students learned was that by working hard and doing their best, they might get recognized for their hard work (like being published on this blog). Not the worst thing for them to figure out.

    Nextset listens to too much Michael Savage, but I think he means well. If he does come to visit your class, I’d love to be there. I’d like to see how his philosophies translate to the third grade intelligence level and attention span. I’m not sure they’d make it through the rise and fall of the 3rd Reich, but maybe they’d surprise me.

  • Nextset

    Katy: I believe I have been civil and welcome discussion from those who think not.

    However nowadays some people believe they have a right not to be disagreed with publicly. When they are confronted with contrarian views they become emotional and feel they have been dissed. I suspect that is what is really happening.

    Is it a lack of civility you feel or is it a feeling that your political view is being dissed? This is a public forum – for the time being in this country we have the ability of lively public discourse. This is what it feels like.

  • Nextset

    NHA Teacher: Do you really believe that “society hates them because their skin is brown”? Is that what you telegraph to your students? They grow up in Oakland for heavens sake…

    As I discuss education policy on this blog I seem to see constant references to the sort of thing I’m complaining about in the casual commentary from educators. This is exactly the point I’m trying to illustrate. The problem I see with the way the OUSD children are being indoctrinated is that it is from the very core of the way the OUSD staff thinks.

    If anybody hates your schoolchildren it’s not because they are “blacks”, it’s because the haters – if there are any on hand locally – feel threatened. That’s an important distinction that is almost certainly not being taught. It’s my belief that OUSD is teaching victimhood in every lesson (cloaked in pious “social justice”) – rather that reading, writing, and accounting & deportment.

    Does OUSD ever teach the kiddies what happens when a black cat paints a white stripe down it’s back and tries to get someone to give it food? Yet the propagation of black english, the sagging pants, the cornrows, tattoos, the loud music, etc. Doesn’t allow the students to find food (or jobs, etc) even from middle class blacks who live in Oakland.

    I was once at a NAACP career day at a local Jr College in a room full of high school students – black of course – the discussion was of police records/police encounters. A significant number of the boys in the class had been pulled over for loud radios (which led to expensive tickets for other things). What struck me was that it had happened repeatedly to the same boys. I indicated that learning disabilities made them a lot harder to place in careers – and the tickets documented the disabilities. They didn’t get it. They thought they were being picked on by the cops.

    Well my classmates and I got it by the time we were in 3rd grade. But then, I went to Catholic Grade Schools in the East Bay.

  • NHA Teacher

    Exactly Nextset! The children percieve hate from society, definitely! Even at 5, 6, 7, 8 years they are internalizing the hate that they feel and they are hating themselves! Is it actually that society is hating them? That is a big question. The important part is that we as teachers can present them with an important tool: to look at your situation, the way that you feel, the things that you observe, and think critically about them.

  • Doowhopper

    Jonathan Kozol calls children “ambassadors of innocence” and I see nothing wrong with allowing them to openly and creatively express their longings, however idealistic and pie in the sky, about how the world SHOULD be. It won’t be long before they become as cynical and hard bitten as most of us adults!
    I think that old Earth, Wind and Fire song, Thats the Way of the World said it best: “Child is born with a heart of gold, way of the world, makes his heart grow cold”
    Ha, the story of my life!

  • Nextset

    NHA Teacher: I can’t quite understand your last post, can you elaborate? Are you describing the children’s perception of generalized anger in the community – or are you saying the children feel hated personally? And by who exactly? Storekeepers, neighbors, passersby? other kids, talking heads on TV?

    As a 3rd grade black child circa 1964 I remember being screamed at by (white) strangers while walking home UP the hill. The people involved were blue collar whites who couldn’t afford houses higher up near the horizon in the hills above El Cerrito. I believe that was during the Goldwater vs Johnson race and I believe there was a ballot initiative on about open housing… They knew my house was nicer and more expensive than their place and it fried them (they were in the flats at the base of the hills and I was heading upward to home)… And I knew it also. Those people were probably High School graduates at best, mine had professional degrees for over 2 generations. They annoyed me more than anything… I certainly kept walking that route. It never reached the point where I complained to the parents.

    So I’m less than impressed by the story to date about your kids reeling from the hate in Oakland 2008. Maybe there is something more.

    Society (at least somebody in it) may hate your students, so what. That’s nothing new. Now tell me about their reading scores, etc. Being hated, if that really is the case, can mean you are doing well. All of my cohort who grew up in the ’50s to ’60’s black in the East Bay going to integrated schools as the minority (not the majority, like now) dealt with it and largely managed to have Houses and Hondas or whatever. We never used it to explain failure. And neither did our parents (who had FAR more interesting experiences in apartheid America).

    They kept guns at home and we all learned how to use them. They never said they did so because of haters. It just wasn’t an excuse that some people didn’t like you, it was life. We didn’t like everybody either (big time)!

    No one went about failing in school, using broken english, sagging pants and loud radios though. And you didn’t talk back to teachers or adults at all.

  • Sue

    Nextset Says:
    March 19th, 2008 at 7:47 am
    “Katy: I believe I have been civil and welcome discussion from those who think not.”

    Calling another poster a “petulant child” is not being civil. Name-calling in general isn’t civil. Racial stereotyping isn’t civil. Insulting others’ intelligence isn’t civil. Characterizing someone’s experiences as “part of the problem” and when they asked what you meant, refusing to either explain or apologize – not civil.

    No, I’m not complaining here that you’ve done any of those things to me… when I think someone has behaved badly towards me, I’ve called them on it.

    I’m just describing your posts that were directed at others. From my very brief review of the last two weeks, it looks as if most of those who were treated uncivilly haven’t been back to post again.

  • Nextset

    Sue: I’m thinking about your post, thanks for the feedback. I can say that one of the items you are referring to began with the student saying “How Dare You…” – which resulted in an explanation of how I dare.

    As far as racial stereotyping – no apologies for what you portray as racial stereotyping. Deal with it. The first thing that happens when you go in to medical is that a box is checked for race. Ditto when you encounter the justice system, ditto when stats are kept. There are important reasons for all of this that are reflected on mortality tables. People (and by that I mean other black people, I’m black, remember) are dying prematurely as well as experiencing worsening fates from year to year because in my view (mostly) black people are being cheated on public education.

    I have been in education, my family has taught since prior to 1900. I for one say these worsening stats wouldn’t be happening if the largely black urban public school systems did their jobs. So I blog…

    I am not trying to run people away but I will point out the issues I have with their point of view. And they won’t like it, I think because a lot of the personalities who work in this arena believe they should be congratulated for OUSD and especially when they make people feel good. Hmmm, my families’ students mainly felt good when they graduated and put us behind them, but they did better in life then they expected. Education is not generally a feel good experience. It’s work.

    Still, I’m thinking about your comments.. Thanks again for the feedback. I’m not always on the money, I’m only me and that’s just one person.

  • cranky teacher

    Well, we can say a couple things for for Nextset:

    — He’s clear, persistent and voluble. Clearly, he is a strong debater.
    — He has provoked a lot of thoughtful responses, which is good.

    On the depressing side, how much credence can we give somebody who is black AND argues that blacks are intellectually inferior from birth?

  • Sue

    Nextset Says:
    March 19th, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    “As far as racial stereotyping – no apologies for what you portray as racial stereotyping. Deal with it. The first thing that happens when you go in to medical is that a box is checked for race. Ditto when you encounter the justice system, ditto when stats are kept.”

    Yes, and when my doctor tries to tell me something about me based on those little check-boxes and statistics, and I don’t happen to fit that particular statistical model (i.e. that stereotype doesn’t apply in my case) my response is to correct her/him. I expect to be treated as an individual, and if a doctor can’t deal with a unique individual with unique medical conditions and needs, that’s the wrong doctor to be treating me.

    Same with the justice system. Try waddling into your bankruptcy hearing seven months pregnant, and tell me how that goes.

    Same with any other statistics-gathering. One of my best efforts at completely skewing a grading curve – during my Air Force service I took a lot of on-base college courses, and I was often the only woman in those classes – was putting on a tiny little sundress with the skirt slit all the way to my hip, then walking into the mid-term, sitting in the center of the U-shaped tables, and crossing my legs. Nobody but me was looking at the test questions for the next 15 minutes, and I completely blew away the rest of the class.

    Statistics, aggregates and averages are really easy to mess up, so I don’t rely on them. I try to always judge an individual on who they are as one unique human being, not on what group they can be lumped into. Group norms and averages won’t all apply to any unique individual even though the individual is part of that group.

  • Nextset

    Sue: You are very wrong and you have a point also.

    I use stats in predicting human behavior in my work. I have previously worked in the credit industry, but that was before FICO scoring. The predictions I deal with are sometimes life and death, race is not always factored in the stats – but crime stats have always been reported by race, also medical and mortality charts.

    I have several relatives working in the banking & medical industries. I have regular contact with public health communicable disease control and emergency planning, etc. (but it’s not my primary job). I get around.

    The group scoring and averages are not intended to be the absolute word on the outcome or behavior of an individual, yes. BUT when you are 65 and get certain Cancer Dxs you are well advised to buy the burial plot and settle your affairs within a certain number of months depending on where you are on the charts. When you are black and go in for a physical in Oakland, good practice is to screen for certain things that Ken and Barbie aren’t screened for. Not to mention certain subjects had best be discussed with Otis and Latifah and often aren’t (diabetes, for example).

    When OUSD – or any other usban school district – is dealing with a town full of black children, there are certain things they need to manage that Piedmont Unified doesn’t. Say what you will about your ability as an individual to be master of your own fate. When you are dealing with thousands of a certain ethnic….You keep an eye on the charts.

    Have you seen the recent national stats on Veneral Disease? Are you aware of the racial stats on the annual FBI crime stats? Rape and Murder, for example, who are the suspects and who are the victims?? Have you ever studied cause of death charts for blacks and whites ages 1 to 30 years old? I could go on.

    There are big racial gaps in a lot of things other than IQ going around. Some of these issues represent mortality risks to the OUSD children. There are also big racial gaps in behavior – which there is evidence pointing to the IQ distribution gaps as the cause of some behaviors. (There is no longer any reasonable argument about the existance of the gap as opposed to the reasons and durability of the gap.)

    This thread started with your claiming that “stereotyping” is uncivil. My response is that’s your opinion. In public discourse about education policy, I accuse OUSD of ignoring the special needs of the black (overwhelming) student majority and cranking out unhirable students who can’t even speak standard English or carry themselves well enough in public to survive in this economy. My ire and my arguments may use “stereotyping” to get the point across. Piedmont High doesn’t have to teach standard English, OUSD high schools need to and don’t. I defy you to portray this kind of debate as uncivil.

    If we had more of this debate going on these kids would wear better.

  • Nextset

    Sue, another important thing OUSD has to deal with. Onset of Puberty varies by race with Blacks in this generation hitting Puberty first, as young as 8, with Asians going last on average, as late as 15.

    OUSD has a set of issues with Black 7th & 8th graders who are typically farther into puberty than say, Piedmont’s 7th graders who have very few blacks. Earlier onset of puberty is associated with higher levels of trauma death and shorter lifespans – this is probably behind some of the sharp differences between black and asian causes of death ages 12 to 22 (blacks who die prematurely do so more from trauma as opposed to disease). Earlier puberty doesn’t bode well for English, Math and Science lessons either.

    When you have rooms full of 7th or 8th graders that many years into puberty you have to expect a lot more drama than in Piedmont. Sorry, another example of racial “stereotyping” that is fact based and requires the school & staff to compensate for it.

    Is OUSD ready and able to understand what they are dealing with, racially, and handle it well? Or are they busy with lesson plans based on whites in Iowa?

    Sue, race matters, a lot. These bad outcomes OUSD experiences don’t just happen. The District may be letting them happen.

    But I could be completely wrong and just worry too much.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com Former Oakland Teacher

    I see a number of posts that would be much more convincing if the poster:

    1. stuck to the topic. Going on about Communism and who would be welcome in Obama’s church and whatever else ridiculous is being said is detracting from your arguments.

    2. Got terms/spelling right. It is not an Oracle fest, John. Not sure what that would be. It is an Oratorical Fest.

    3. Understood what third graders are capable of. Even the very advanced ones are not at a stage where they understand the three branches of government. Let them dream about being president for a day. Let them talk about what they think it would be like. It’s really nothing like Hitler. Really. Look up Godwin’s law.

    4. understand that the blog does not paint a pretty view of Oakland schools. If you think it does, you’re obviously not reading.

    I’m all for welcoming other people’s comments, but let’s be reasonable.

  • Nextset


    1> Blog discussions tend to branch out, is this not your experience?

    2> Blogging is done on the run and typos and spelling mistakes creep in. Hope you can avoid being too upset.

    3> While this thread started with the OUSD’s manipulation of 3rd graders – if that’s what it was – this is a blog about education policy as much as anything. Thus the various points of view about what OUSD is doing with these kids. While this is an abstract concept to some people others think it’s important. I think it’s important. People certainly welcome your views on what’s important and my views have been affected by blog postings of other’s experiences. I’m not trying to argue as much as to post the counterpoint to your position.

    4> I couldn’t care less about painting a pretty picture of Oakland, California or the USA. I am not in business to deliver good news. I’m more interested on what is happening and how things can be improved – quickly if possible. Truth is never pretty to those who live in denial. I do think the weather is nice.

    The Education blog is important and the more parents and employers can be heard from along with the educators, students and former students the more ideas can flow. Good for the Tribune for having an education blog.

    Katy: Ideas for blog topics! Field Trips, Science Classes/frog dissection?, Discipline stats, Math and Verbal scores, Sex/Health Ed, Teacher Security (persons and autos), Substitutes, College Placement, College Trips, Dress Codes, Closed Campus Policy, Student Health & Dental Screening, Planned Parenthood lectures on campus, Police Interrogations on Campus, Child Abuse/Neglect referrals, Social Promotions & School Parties/Proms.

  • Sue


    Uncivil is a synonym for rude. Telling an individual on this blog that they are not intelligent because they are a member of a particular ethnicity seems awfully rude to me – but you say that’s not the case in your view.

    If I were to pick a different stereotypical characteristic that I thought applied to you, would you feel I was being rude to you? Suppose I called you “Oreo”? That’s a stereotype for a successful/non-ghetto person of African decent, right? Would it be rude to call you that?

    There are so many more inaccuracies in your comments, but I’ll only mention one. You said, “I accuse OUSD of ignoring the special needs of the black (overwhelming) student majority …”

    I checked the OUSD web site, and blacks are a plurality of the student population, but not a majority. At 38%, certainly not an ‘overwhelming majority’. These sorts of mistakes and misstatements litter your posts. As Former Oakland Teacher already said, when your posts are filled with the riddiculous, those rare, accurate statements will most often be missed.

    In one sentence you’re completely wrong on your statistics, and you’ve contradicted several of your earlier posts under this blog topic.

    “What you have described is the problem. It’s not a school, it’s a collectivist indoctrination camp.

    “A school teaches or educates it’s students in basic through advanced skills like reading and writing, algebra and chemistry. It might even teach logic, calculated risk taking, discipline and morals.”

    In response to:
    “At eight and nine years old, children know the difference between right and wrong and want to see change. They are focused on things they see and feel daily in their lives and community. We have had many class discussions, lessons and community circles addressing these very real issues.

    “Our school community works very hard to advocate for social justice and youth empowerment. An educational experience that is based on both state and local standards-unaffected by my personal political constraints is equitable and relevant.”

    And another teacher’s later comments:
    “Our school focuses beyond even advocating for social justice and youth empowerment. The staff and administration at our site recognize the battle we must fight to achieve our school mission: to ensure that graduates are powerful thinkers, effective communicators and compassionate citizens.”

    So, could you make up your mind please, and try to stick to just one position – either OUSD is considering the special needs of your preferred racial minority, but they are failing to meet those special needs, or it is not the responsibility of OUSD to make any special efforts for students with challenging personal circumstances.

    If it’s the first choice – trying, but not succeeding – how about suggestions for how to do better instead of just more laundry-lists of the problems. I think the teachers who are posting here already know the problems, and they seem to feel they’re working on the solutions, but perhaps they’d be more successful with some *constructive* feedback.

    If it’s the second choice – not the district’s responsibility to fix children with messy personal lives – who is responsible? Law enforcement and the penal system?

    My Grandma used to say, “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with viniagr.”

    If you choose to be polite to others here instead of rude (civil/uncivil in our previous discussions), and if you leave out the nonsense/untruths and the self-contradictions, you might convince other people more easily, or at least *we* might all keep folks here long enough to have some real – and even really interesting and productive – discussions.

  • Nextset

    Hmmm. Put a lot of work into that didn’t you?

    Blacks at OUSD are now down to 38%?? The stats I just pulled (schoolmatters.com) show a white percentage of 6% with a black percentage of 41.2%, Hispanic 34.3%. Yes I was thinking a higher percentage – I wasn’t current.

    The Hispanic fugures are a moving number and higher than I remembered. So I stand corrected. It may well be that the Mexicans will push the blacks out – is is occurring in Los Angeles (with gunfire). Oh Well…

    As far as the rest, No.

    Please continue to point out when you think I am being “uncivil” – you are not always incorrect about everything. I’m interested in your views, you worked hard to get them across.

    My opinion – my rather low opinion – of OUSD stands. And yes, I have no apology about being interested in the fate of the black students who I believe are an endangered species due to the non-education going around at OUSD as much as the neglect of any “parent”.

    I’ll repeat one more time my issues.

    OUSD doesn’t teach or enforce standard english – or deportment. OUSD has a campaign of teaching it’s students – especially the blacks – that the world revolves around them and their pleasures, to the point that the students have a toxic self esteem. OUSD fails to give their students preparation for industry, military or higher learning by 12th grade/age 18 so that the students leave OUSD at risk for bad outcomes in excess of what a reasonable school system which the $$ used should produce.

    By bad outcomes I mean jail and prison admits, trauma and disease cases, unwed pregnancies long-term unemployment and other such pathology.

    And as far as fixing children with messy personal lives who is responsible? Yes, the school is responsible. The school is responsible for detecting that kind of trouble and calling in social services, juvenile authorities, CPS, The Health Dept, The families of the kids concerned and whatever other resources the school can bring to bear on the “messy personal lives”.

    As far as your Oreo comment… That’s a good one. About what one would expect from someone who sees their boat rocked by an ungrateful black after all they have done for the kids of Oakland. So to answer your question on the Oreo thing – I expect it sometimes. Whenever anyone black or white attacks the failing status quo the petty putdown usually appear before the first recess.

    It’s all a cover for the fact that your dog doesn’t hunt.

  • Sue

    Thanks for demonstrating my point about stereotypes. You reacted about as I expected – a little more self-control than I usually see when I deliberately set out to be rude. If it’s rude for me to apply a stereotype to you, then it’s also rude when you do it to anyone here.

    I do want to note that I didn’t call you anything. Instead I suggested that it would be rude to do so.

    I think it would be lovely if the school system could fix kids with messy personal lives, but I’m afraid that it’s completely unrealistic to expect it.

    I had a pretty messy childhood. (The phrase is taken from some of your earlier comments, and at the time you weren’t advocating that the school district was responsible for cleaning up the mess. Instead, you felt the responsibility for my mess belonged to me.) My school didn’t help me – luckily, my teachers liked me and encouraged me – but that wouldn’t have been enough by itself.

    What saved me from sitting in the locked-room-with-padded-walls next to my mother’s, was my extended family. Someone, in my case, my paternal grandmother, stepped in and filled the role of my absent parent. And I do mean filled that role, as in teaching ethics and morals, supervising my dress and behavior, handling puberty and all that girl-stuff that my dad just couldn’t do, and just being there for me and my sisters and brother. And we were also very lucky that our dad didn’t do what a lot of men did with a crazy wife and four small kids back in the 60’s. After she went into the hospital, he stayed. He didn’t get a divorce and dump us in foster care.

    I think it’s completely unreasonable to think that a school system can compensate for a child’s home that’s falling apart. And I know that I had a lot of good breaks that made up for the bad stuff, and I know people who had it worse than I did as a child. My husband is one of them – he became a ward of the state (Missouri) when he was 10. He has some pretty grim stories, but he also has known people who had it worse than him. They’re dead, or in jail, or in other forms of institutional care. And what saved him was an incredible, incredible foster mother. Our children met her the last time we visited St. Louis, and refer to her as their “other grandmother”. She’s family, and when she finally passes, she’s going to be missed a lot more than some of our biological family.

    It takes an individual who is willing and able to step in and be the missing parent/adult/role model. It’s simply not reasonable to expect that a school system can do that for a kid in trouble. It would take an individual teacher essentially adopting a kid – which does happen once in a blue moon, and NPR gets a nice story out of it – but to expect it, and say that it’s the responsibility of the school district, well, I think that’s asking much more than our teachers can deliver.

  • Nextset

    Sue: Your teachers can’t deliver the goods (from the low OUSD verbal scores). My teachers did.

    That’s one of the many places we differ.

    This thread started with various comments on 3rd graders being asked to write what they’d do if they were dictator for a day. How about teaching them the actual duties of the president and other constitutional officers – which is what I was taught in 3rd grade. Something about signing bills or vetoing them. Something about appointing staff and ambassadors, something about Commander In Chief duties with the military.

    My teachers had no problem teaching – expressing – the difference between right and wrong, as in your English grammar is wrong and you need to use proper grammar in class. Sue, do you believe the OUSD should correct “black english” in class and require standard language be used? Or do you think that’s “rude” also?

    Is this sort of thing why OUSD has such poor verbal/reading scores?

    What I am getting to is running classes so that the students have a workout not a play session. Even at 3rd grade.

  • Sue

    I’m not sure what reviewing last week’s misinterpretation of the assignment had to do with my points in my previous post a couple of hours ago?

    How come “my teachers” are OUSD, and yours aren’t? We’re both posting on the same blog about the same school district. Seems to me that OUSD teachers belong to both of us – or neither of us – equally.

    Oh, wait, just a minute…

    There we go.

    Now if I just had a mailing address, I could send you your very own National Nonsequitur Society membership, including a button with the official motto: “We don’t make sense, but we like pizza”.

  • John

    I haven’t visited the comments on this blog of late. In response to Mirror, who reflects a correct spelling of my misspelling, I could claim it was a typo but it would only water down the potency of Mirror’s thoughtfully reflected contribution to the discussion.

    What Martin Luther King preached and what is generally preached today in the Afro American community are two different things. Dr. King celebrations can largely be likened to colorful Easter eggs with little if any regard for egg content. His words hang in the air like antique ornaments on a celebration tree. The dream of King is not the dream of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other longer recognized leaders of Afro America. Martin Luther King spoke of a desegregated society not one of Afro American separatism and intolerance that relies on victimization as the means to an end. Katy, you state you are “surprised that some would compare this writing exercise to those practiced during the Third Reich….” I commented that, “As observed in the Third Reich, ignorance isn’t so cute when it’s all grown up.” I also stated that, “If the Afro American community more commonly practiced what Dr. King preached the racial divide would be much narrower than it is today.” Again, the words and sentiments of a Dr. King Oratorical fest is one thing. The words and actions of many contemporary (so called) Afro American leaders is another. You can recite the talk, but what good is it if you’re taught a different walk my child? Where’s the indigent outrage of the Afro American community with those who invoke Dr. King’s name but dishonor what he stood for? The children of the Third Reich were taught to look up to and honor Adolph Hitler, a demagogue who taught separatism and intolerance. Sound familiar? Are the children of Afro America growing up to be as wise as the King or as ignorant as someone else? I believe the evidence points to the latter, giving substance to my comment that “ignorance isn’t so cute when it’s all grown up.”

    I also suggested a “balanced curriculum (K-12) on the comparative philosophies of martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Luis Farakan?” (for starters). Doing cute recitations and writings about Dr. King is one thing. Separating popular historical rhetoric from belief and practice is another.

    In response to Crank Teacher’s observation that “John and Nextset, may well be the same person,” I say thanks for the compliment Crank Teacher! I quite frankly prefer Nextset’s communication skills over my own. However, I can see why some would think we are one and the same because it largely appears we are the only one’s not singing in tune with the ‘tolerance’ gospel choir. Shame on us! A regular contributor to this blog commented that I (John) don’t “share the common goals” of other blog contributors (of the Oakland community). Off with his head is the essence of what she said. My head’s in the guillotine pull the lever anytime Katy my dear. Being a blog master is like being the dictator of your own country. Enjoy!

  • Katy Murphy

    A blog master. I like the sound of that. Maybe I should put it on my business cards.

  • Tracy Dordell

    Very appreciative of the attention-
    However– there are budget cuts that require more attention…
    I would think about that instead of my students essays at eight years old?
    They are about to cut millions from Education!

  • Nextset

    Tracy: “Education” may need cuts of millions of dollars before the education budget is brought down to match education results. Until the “Education System” starts producing something that satisfies the taxpayers there will be no support for maintenance of your budgets. There must be systematic change – if the schools are put on a financial diet, change may be forced.

    Perhaps delivery of education services by internet…

  • John

    Right on Katy! Ignore the response content! You should run for public office!

  • Katy Murphy

    John, I’m sure you don’t really think I have time to analyze and respond substantively to each and every opinion you and others express on this forum.

    If you have a specific question for me, feel free to ask it. Then, if I have the time and inclination, I’ll try to answer it.

  • John

    Katy, this is in response to your following comment to me that: “I’m sure you don’t really think I have time to analyze and respond substantively to each and every opinion you and others express on this forum.”

    I believe and appreciate that your busy schedule generally doesn’t allow you sufficient to time analyze contributor content. It is therefore understandable how you could wrongly conclude that someone was “comparing this (MLK) writing exercise to those practiced during the Third Reich, or that that there is a determination “to spot fatal flaws in a lesson plan — or in a school, a population of students, or a school district — (and) will find a way to do so.” (Although, should someone happen to “spot a fatal flaw” I believe he/she should take the time to point it out, even if the response is ridicule.)

    It was wrong of me to say that you ignored my response (#34) to some of your (above) comments (#5) when it’s now apparent that you likely didn’t have time to properly analyze comments before responding to them. I will factor this into my contemplation of your future responses. Thanks for the clarification.

    By the way, I agree with you that “Blog Master” could look good on your business card!