Sustainable Urban Design at Castlemont High

Sustainable Urban Design Academy
photo by Ray Chavez/ Bay Area News Group

This spring, photographer Ray Chavez and I tagged along with a group of students in an urban ecology class at Castlemont High School for a story and video that came out today. It’s part of the school’s new Sustainable Urban Design program, a California Partnership Academy started by teacher Timothy Bremner (He brought from Youth Empowerment School after it closed.)

The Sustainable Urban Design Academy is slated to expand this fall as part of Castlemont’s controversial merger and redesign — which was the subject of an early morning protest on the campus last week; another is planned for tomorrow morning.

The students have undertaken a number of projects on the campus, including a community mapping initiative featured in the below video. They have been documenting the strengths and challenges of their neighborhood from various perspectives: public health, economic opportunity and the natural vs. “built” environment, among others.

In addition to learning about various `green’ career paths, the students hope to weigh in on city and school district projects. The MacArthur Boulevard strip outside the high school campus could sure use a little TLC.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Peach

    This is welcome news. A program like this, which has students examine the strengths and challenges of their communities, has great potential to offer a robust, relevant curriculum and to engage students so that they meet standards. One would expect that each student would produce research reports, mathematical models, position papers, and digital products every year and throughout their high school careers.

    The current teachers of this program are already aware of the content standards, but here is a sampling of what student learning results at the high school level can be as the Common Core and existing CA state standards are addressed –

    from Common Core State Standards for California 9-10, 11-12 Adopted 2010
    Reading Standards for Informational Texts 11-12
    Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g. visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

    Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects
    Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.

    Common Core Standards for Mathematics 9-12
    • Standards for Mathematical Practice
    • Modeling – Modeling links classroom mathematics and statistics to everyday life, work and decision-making

    from CA History/Social Sciences Standards Adopted 1998
    Eleventh Grade
    11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.
    Twelfth Grade
    Principles of American Democracy
    12.2 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured.
    12.3 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are…their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.
    12.5 Students summarize landmark US Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution and its amendments.

    Principles of Economics
    12.1 Students understand common economic terms and concepts and economic reasoning.
    12.4 Students analyze the elements of the US labor market in a global setting.
    12.5 Students analyze the aggregate economic behavior of the US economy.
    12.6 Students analyze issues of international trade and explain how the US economy affects, and is affected by, economic forces beyond the United States’s borders.

    from CA Science Standards Adopted 1998
    Investigation and Experimentation

    Biology – Ecology
    6b. Students know how to analyze changes in an ecosystem resulting from changes in climate, human activity, introduction of nonnative species, or changes in population size.

  • Nextset

    You wonder if bookkeeping wouldn’t have been more valuable a course for most of these kids..

  • livegreen

    The academies are great for several reasons. First they help the kids who want to learn do exactly that with other students who want the same. Also this academy opens the kids eyes to the relationship between study and real life. This includes career tracks like urban planning, design, various engineering tracks, biology, etc.

    Keep up the good work.

  • livegreen

    BTW, the students might look into how much their food scrap program is diverting from local landfill. This info is probably already available from Waste Management and brings up some interesting questions…

  • Cranky Teacher

    There are also a whole raft of Career Technical Education standards these are academies and pathways are based on.

    OUSD wants most high school students to be in one by 2015. Very ambitious. Most will not be funded by CPA, though, which makes scaling it up difficult.

  • anon

    Bremner and his team are amazing! He is continually building this academy and exposing our youth to incredible opportunities both around East Oakland but also in the bay area.

  • Gordon Danning


    You say that “[o]ne would expect that each student would produce research reports, mathematical models, position papers, and digital products every year and throughout their high school careers.”

    That would be great. But, do they? And, if so, why isnt this expected of every HS student in Oakland? You certainly don’t need an academy to to that.

  • Nextset
  • Peach

    Gordon – You’re right, one doesn’t need an academy to teach the California curriculum in our high schools. That’s the point I’ve been making about too many of the schools in OUSD. The state and national expectations are about what the students are supposed to learn, create, and use to make their marks upon the world.

    All of the products mentioned are expected from Grade 3 onward according to the CA standards and the new Common Standards, but only a few students attend schools that have such an orientation. OUSD focus, like that of most urban, suburban, and rural districts, for children of the working classes, is on passing basic skills tests and remedial work.

    Don’t get me wrong, most teachers are working diligently to do their best for their students. However, they operate in a system that does not encourage the teaching of any kind of inquiry, literature study, mathematics, science, social studies, modern languages, or the arts. I don’t mean to leave out the important subject of physical education, because the research is overwhelming about the manifold benefits of exercise, wellness, and teamwork.

    The system does not support, and often inhibits (through lack of teachers, resources and PD) or prohibits (nothing can be taught that is not ELA or Math; students are taken out of core subject classes to attend intervention or test prep) efforts to provide quality instruction in performance, writing, modeling, experimentation, or simply word processing.

    The schools in the hills and some others that teach on the down low are where students are supported in gaining a knowledge of the world and the skills for life, careers, and higher education. And we all know that it is not easy. It require perserverance and patience, especially when teaching adolescents.

  • Catherine

    I had the opportunity to spend two hours with an attendee of Oasis High School, a charter high school in Oakland. She described many of the ideals that I see written in this piece as those she explored at Oasis: social awareness, examining the inequities in the community, looking at sustaining neighborhoods, working on projects that helped the people of the neighborhood and so on.

    The 20 year old young woman was nice and she wanted to share her ideas. She is the mother of a 20 month old black son whose father has not seen his son in 18 months, she did not speak a single complete sentence that was proper English. She lives with her mother in a one bedroom apartment in East Oakland. She wonders aloud if it is almost time to have another child so her kids won’t be too far apart and she won’t be an old mother. Her 22 year old sister has three children and no high school diploma, her 27 year old brother is married with five sons and moved out of Oakland to keep them safe. He works as a laborer and did not graduate from high school.

    I believe the IDEA of the program is a good one. How do we make sure the students are creating presentations, writing grant proposals and completing the research and analysis including mathematics and science that will break this ugly, ugly cycle?

    If this program works as Oasis did, with the social justice piece in place, but no grade-level academic work behind it, it is an expensive multigenerational experiment just like Oasis. What safe-guards are in place?

  • Observer


    I have so many questions!

    Was this young woman aware of her lack of language skills?
    Was she aware that having a child so young and without support is…not ideal?

    I was in the restroom at Target and listened to 3 young clerks talk about their children and wanting more. They too had terribly broken English, but I chalked it up to the fact that they were speaking to one another. I had nothing for why they were obviously planning on having more kids and soon when they were obviously single, poor and uneducated.

    I’m not that old. I’m in my 30s. I went to large, urban schools that were basically screwed up. They were full of poor black kids that also had kids young. But there was still some sense of it not being the right thing to do. No one openly bragged about having kids before they were “too old” at 25. The teen pregnancy rate has gone for all socio-economic groups except this one. Why?

  • Catherine


    I will refer to this young woman as “T” for privacy. She was on a break from her “training program” and we began talking. She did not seem to realize at all that her language skills were not correct grammar or that she did not use vocabulary useful – as I sit here and think, she may have been aware which is why she was selecting vocabulary that was not familiar to her.

    She also seemed to understand some nuances of “middle class” behavior such as saying she was glad that she did not get a tattoo and that she did not bleach her hair because it was expensive to keep up and damaged your hair and nobody would want to hire somebody that looked bad.

    She seemed very proud of two things: first, she was proud that she made it out of high school before she had her baby. To her this seemed to show her maturity in making good decisions. Second, she was very, very proud of her brother for being a good husband and father, a working man who made sure to take his sons out of Oakland to keep them safe and get them educated. He was careful about the city he chose and made sure it was safe for “black boys.”

    Although T had trouble with the developmental stages in children, she did say she thought her son was not ready for a “preschool” type of atmosphere because he was still too clingy and had no interest in his cousins. T also said that her son is talking some, that T does not like it when her mother (son’s grandmother) tells him to “shut up” and that he hasn’t asked about a dad yet. She worried about what she would tell him. She did not mention dating at all – no mention of a boyfriend.

    T was also concerned about getting a good job to be able to buy him what he wants because “every kid should get most what they want.” She was tired, very tired from going to the training program five days a week, 8 hours a day and taking care of her son in the evening and on the weekends.

    T seemed to me to be a very intelligent girl, reflective, thoughtful, but did not know that she did not know how middle class families behaved. I have been thinking about her for several days. She did not dress inappropriately, however many of her classmates did, she did not smell of smoke, did not have long manicured nails – seemed to be a young mother doing what she needed to do to make the best life possible for herself and her son. And she did not know how it was going to happen but she wanted him to have a sibling.

    How does one learn “middle class values and behavior” if one does not have access at work, at school, at home, at church and so on? How does one break away from a lifestyle that spans several generations without losing the love of family?

  • Gordon Danning


    You are absolutely right. My expertise is in social studies, and although California has both content standards and skills standards in social studies [eg: 3. Students evaluate … authors’ use of evidence and the distinctions between sound generalizations and misleading oversimplifications. and 4. Students construct and test hypotheses;], the state tests do not evaluate those skills, and the textbooks barely mention them.

    Perhaps the new emphasis on the Common Core standards will improve matters, since they emphasize skills

  • Observer

    Thanks for answering.

    ‘How does one learn “middle class values and behavior”?’ I ponder this. Obviously the climate you exist in has the most influence on you as you grow. But, these kids are exposed to the social norms and standards typical of American culture daily through media. I realize that’s a slippery slope with slop like MTV’s Teen Moms and the Kardashians not to mention the glorification of gangs and thug culture. But even with all of that, it’s plain that the successful people—even in Hip Hop culture, ie: Pdiddy and Russel Simmons—are hard working, well spoken and mostly well mannered. From what I gather, these kids watch an incredible amount of TV that is full of middle class values. And they reject it in their day to day lives and cling tightly to the culture around them. They just don’t have the skill set to pick and choose the positive (and there are many) over the negatives. Because it is so prevalent, it must be so hard to break through and go against what your peers say is the road best travelled.

    I hope T makes it out. I hope she doesn’t seek a sibling for her son until he’s at least ten. That’s her best hope.

  • Peach

    Gordon you may be right. To my mind, the Common Core standards can not change what happens in the classroom. We already have strong standards that are too often ignored or used as a guide to teach to the test.

    Standardized tests do not have the capacity to assess anything complicated or thoughtful. Their design renders that impossible. So they’re not a good guide for educators. They are blunt instruments that have minimal value as incomplete pictures of how systems are working or not for policy purposes.

    More complicated tests involving products and essays are expensive so the state rolls them out every ten years or so and then they ride into the sunset at the first budget squeeze.

    It is incumbent on teachers, support staff and leadership to ensure that students have rich learning experiences. That’s what’s done in elite private schools and in successful districts – these institutions view standardized tests as a small piece of their overall assessment of student progress.

    OUSD is so tied to the tests, including CAHSEE, because of federal monies involving Title I. However, at the school and classroom level educators can provide quality instruction and ensure that students acquire skills as they learn grade level material. Then students will find it far easier to show mastery of the low level skills on the state tests.

    Educators engaged in lesson study, grade level coordination across subjects, and learning communities that address teaching and learning – guided by the standards and student work rather than by data points – might positively reorient what happens for students. We know that teachers do not have to wait until these activities are encouraged or forced upon them by site administrators. Just do it. Life’s always easier with friends.

  • Nextset

    Catherine & Co:

    Where do I start on T?

    I would start by saying that she is a victim of a ghetto school district that carefully trains it’s students to stay ghetto.

    One of the thoughtful ways they do so is to not give them bad grades for bad english, deportment and work product. This is why T does not know (assuming she really doesn’t) that she cannot speak standard english. It’s doubtful anyone got in her face about her bad English. She was probably never given Fs in English, for bad speech in the classroom as well as bad writing and testing. Belive me, if T was in the schools I attended k-12 she would have been punished for bad english and made to take remedial classes to learn the language (this really worked, we had some poor students and dull students in my k-8 and they all learned standard English). T’s failure to speak English will serve to keep her and her children in their places in the Brave New World. This is actually what the school district plans for T.

    As far as T being immoral enough to procreate outside of marriage and by a shiftless, no good baby daddy – well that’s both a reflection of her parentage and the school’s teaching. You haven’t mentioned the details of her natal home but have described her siblings who appear to be modeling lower class/underclass reproductive patterns also. So I suppose she is proletariat/underclass by birth. That being the case she is merely acting as programmed by her caste. Perhaps a good school might have done something about that. In the early 20th Century my black family converted to Catholicism. Not sure what they converted from but my Great Grandfather was a fairly notorious black preacher of some black church I know nothing about. Grandma married at 18, left home and never went back. There was my parents generation – Nuns appeared on the scene, I wasn’t around until they were late 30s. Next thing I know it’s mid century and I’m staring Irish Nuns in the face in 1st grade in the Bay Area. My parents liked the Nuns a lot having dealt with them in early 20th Century Black East Coast. They were extremely reliable for drilling into children (Black, Irish, Italian, hispanic, and newly discovered) something called the 10 commandments. This avoided a lot of T’s problems. Ghetto School Districts teach the black kiddies to keep it real and do what comes naturally. This also keeps them in their place in the Brave New World. Far be it from a ghetto school to inhibit the chillun. Because that would mean transforming the kids into something other than what they were born, and Ghetto Schools are here to support the Caste system of the Brave New World.

    I could go on but the readers probably get my point by now and it’s dinnertime. My parents who saw what could happen to blacks from the view of the 1900s to the 1950s selected my schools from preschool to college – and moved from neighborhood to neighborhood as part of that selection – put me and my siblings in Church Schools and Public Schools calculated to provide upward mobility and access to University & a Professional Career.

    You can see what kind of parents T was stuck with.

    Poor T was not moved to a good school district – say, Marin County – where even black children on welfare are taught standard English and how to pass in white society. (I use White Society as a euphemism. Sometimes it’s Jewish Society or something else depending on what you want to do for school or a living.) These good schools do not limit their black kids to their Caste society.

    As far as T’s future – it’s bleak. Very bleak. While breakthroughs are possible they are bloody unlikely. And remember, the welfare state will either be canceled by a future Romney/Republican/Tea Party government or will eventually collapse under it’s own weight. Socialism always fails. The Ts of the world eventually suffer their fate as undesirables and non-producers.

    Problems like Ts are avoided by good schools. Like the ones the Catholics set up in the flats of Oakland in the early 20th Century. They had Black students before the 1950s and then on.

    Maybe T should convert to the Mormons.

    Brave New World.

  • Catherine

    Nextset and others:

    How do we know the Castlemont High program will not be the same as the Oasis program – old program, new site?

    I know that many new teachers are discouraged from correcting students writing and speaking in Oakland public schools from how they speak to standard academic English. It is harmful to the students’ self-esteem, does not encourage students to speak out in class and is not “culturally relevant teaching.” I believe this is a shame. If all students had to speak academic English – it would not be “acting white,” it would be “acting academic.”

  • Gordon Danning


    You are right that we have many good standards that are ignored. My hope it that it will be impossible to ignore the Common Core standards.

    You are also right about standardized tests in general. However, I think it is possible to have standardized tests that assess complex thinking, such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment http://www.cae.org/content/pro_collegiate_sample_measures.htm and its high school counterpart, the CWA http://www.cae.org/content/pro_collegework.htm.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: I believe OUSD teachers are forbidden to correct bad English or impose “white” standards in any way because OUSD is dedicated to keeping Blacks and Mexicans intact – not in any way changing Caste. This is an important core value for OUSD.

    This position arrived with the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 1960s. It is connected with the “all people are created equally smart” dogma. It’s easier to continue to pretend this is true when you don’t challenge minority students (as in learning correct English, deportment, etc).

    Can you imagine the uproar if OUSD teachers graded Fs for use of Bad English in classrooms and on papers (if they still have “papers”)? Can you imagine flunking, suspending & expelling/transferring students for disrupting class, being late, insubordinate, wearing bad clothes, not turning in work, failing exams or even lascivious behavior? And for truancy?

    If OUSD started doing this, the students that survived in the schools would have to change into – something else!! Those that didn’t would join the other drop-outs in the street. You know, like in 1962.

    OUSD and LAUSD believes that things are much better for blacks and browns now than in 1962. Look how much easier it is for the typical high school product to get an entry level service job.

  • Yet another Oakland teacher

    Nextset, you just showed your ignorance of the actual situation in OUSD. Teachers are expected to teach academic English and children are expected to learn and master it, in every school in the district. The issue is that children (even the white ones) come to school with “home language” that is not academic English. So we start by acknowledging the existence of home language, the we teach academic English to every child. We also teach when it is appropriate to use academic English and when it is appropriate to use home language. Now whether the children use academic English outside of class is a different story, and a choice made.

    It would be lovely to believe all of the things you say, some of them I actually agree with, but on this one you are factually incorrect.

  • Catherine

    Yet Another Oakland Teacher: Do you correct non-standard English in your class every time you hear it and every time it is written?

    We are a lower middle class family with two sons. I was surprised in elementary and middle school that in more than half the cases my sons’ written work was not corrected to be academic English. Also, I made corrections at home to their speech and asked them specifically if they spoke that way in class. They always said yes – that I cannot attest to being fact – but the lack of correction in written work I know to be true.

  • Gordon Danning

    Nextset: After all the railing on here about the evils of tenure and how it supposedly makes it impossible to fire teachers, it boggles the mind that you would think that teachers are “forbidden” to do much of anything, let alone forbidden to correct nonstandard English. That clam puts the poppy in poppycock.

    Catherine: I cannot speak for other teachers, but my policy was to correct grammatical, etc, errors on the first page of a paper only, but to correct non-academic usage whenever I saw it. But, I never taught English. My English teacher colleagues have told me that they correct all errors.

    Of course, that might explain why my students always claim that I (and many other social studies teachers) require more writing than do their English teachers. The reality is that, if I take a mere 10 minutes to grade an essay, which is a bare minimum, and every kid turns in an essay, that 1s 1600 minutes of grading — or almost 27 hours. That’s more than 5 hours a night, M-F. If I take another 5 minutes to correct every grammar error, that is 2400 minutes, or 40 hours per week just to grade papers. How often can I assign a paper if it takes that long to grade, especially given that students should get their previous essay back before they are asked to write their next one?

    So, it is an open question whether students’ needs are best served by correcting every error in written work.

  • Nextset

    Gordon Danning: I think you are correct that I presumed a practice to be a written policy.

    I would not expect OUSD to be caught with a written policy that it’s staff are not to correct bad english used by students. I do believe that nowadays unlike the past it is very much the practice of OUSD and LAUSD that the staff not correct bad english used in class or on the property by the students.

    What do you think of this point though – do you believe I’m wrong about this practice? Do you correct students in classroom conversation?

  • Steven Weinberg

    Nextset, since you value correction so much, when “its” is used as a possessive it does not have an apostrophe and English is a proper noun and requires a capital letter.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Sorry for the lack of a comma between my two independent clauses in my last post.

  • OUSD Parent

    Back on track here… I do think that Catherine and others raise a valid issue. My children have rarely received corrections or edits on their English assignments after 8 years in OUSD. And that’s not because they are error free. Far from it! I think that Mr. Danning is correct in that it is nearly impossible to provide adequate correction and feedback when teachers have so many students in their classes. It causes a lot of frustration for parents and it puts teachers on the defensive. There are only so many hours in a day.

  • Marcia

    Steven Weinberg, thank you for pointing out Nextset’s ongoing inappropriate placement of an apostrophe in the possessive “its”! That error has been driving me nuts since I started reading this blog.

  • Gordon Danning


    For the last 10 years, I have taught seniors and AP students; those students (at least the ones who are confident enough to speak in class) tend to have pretty good mastery of the conventions of spoken English. So I might not be the best person to ask.

    That being said, it depends. If it is a student who rarely speaks out, I would not correct every little mistake, especially in public. If he or she says something that I write on the board – a tentative thesis, for example — I will often simply translate what the student says into standard English, and/or ask the class for suggestions for improvements (but those improvements usually relate to vocabulary or sophistication of sentence structure as much as to standardization of usage). If it is a student who is self-confident and who I know knows better but is being careless, I might call him/her on an error.

  • Observer


    This is why we need more classroom staff. We need more aides. The talk will turn to how unattainable that is because of the cost, so it stops before ideas are formed. If assigning enough writing assignments to give students the chance to better their skills translates to 5 hours more workma day for a social studies teachers, what are the English teachers to do?

    A program where every college student working toward their credential should spend a year working part-time as aides in all schools at all grade levels should be a given. You can weed out those who truly aren’t cut out for the profession early on, you don’t have to pay benefits–you can pay an hourly wage for 15-25 hours a week and they would have some income while they finished up their degree.

    We have a student teacher at our school. One! She is getting her credential from Mills. She said this assignment she is doing is optional and unpaid. She has the means to do it. We don’t have the means to do without the staff the students need, adult bodies in the room, support staff throughout the school building, but almost all California public schools do without. Not downtown in administrative offices. They are over-staffed, there are too many administrators and outside contract employees that have the district locked into pay often long after the district no longer has a need for those positions.

  • Catherine


    I believe if the academic English was a focus beginning in kindergarten (or transitional kindergarten) with speaking, students would beginning their academic writing careers on the right foot. Not correcting “wif” and “she go” in kindergarten means that in first grade the sight word that should be known for reading and writing would not be be “with” but “wif”. That does not require an aid. When the kindergarten day was lengthened in Oakland, the standards for what must be taught remained the same.

    We need to begin correcting grammar and general academic speaking BEFORE students begin writing.

    When they reach Gordon’s class, they will have had a good nine years of academic language development and eight years of academic writing.

  • Nextset

    Gordon Danning: To the extent you are teaching AP and college bound students you’re not the classroom I’m concerned with. My ire is directed at the management of the black students who do not graduate, or who graduate with no AP work. These are the majority of the black students.

    I take the position that OUSD used to work on these kids to get them ready for industry and military. That work included teaching them standard English – conversational English.

    I suppose you’ve heard of the “Telephone Test”. I would expect a school worthy of the name is teaching it’s products to make some progress towards passing the Telephone Test. For Proletariat blacks this is an important step towards being employable. AP classes are not an issues with them. Speaking English is.

  • Nextset

    Yet another Oakland teacher: Are you referring to Standard English as “Academic” English? That’s fresh.

    And the term “Home Language” – where did that come from? This sounds Orwellian to me. I’m used to referring to Spanish, German, French, or Black English…

    In your post you make it clear that you/OUSD believe speaking dialect is a “choice” the kiddies are supposed to be making for themselves.

    Do you tell them they can/should make a choice about washing their hands after using the toilet?

    The way I see it – and maybe it’s just me – is that you/OUSD would have the black kiddies (face it, we’re not talking about Ken and Barbie) just make a choice about staying in Caste.

    That’s no choice at all. That’s Brave New World.

    I see the role of the public school as being an engine of social mobility not a instrument of Caste Society.

    Like Marin Public Schools. Or like OUSD once was when it was White.

  • Catherine

    Nextset: The term “home language” refers to all that you have mentioned – it is eduspeak, but it also reduces the Black English, Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin that I would say if I mentioned the languages spoken by the students I tutor.

    It is very, very difficult to correct the language all of the time because many of these students have so many learning issues. Unlike middle class students, the learning (academically speaking) ends when the students leave the campus, that is why it is critical to keep them on campus longer.

    Middle class families keep the learning going when the students get home – questions about the academic day, homework, reading and talking about schedules, what is happening in the neighborhood, chores to be done that day and on the weekend, things that need to be maintained or repaired are all important learning events that are closed to most lower socio-economic homes. While the students may have chores, the information is simply stated and complied with rather than discussed.

    This is the 30 million word gap that has been studied – middle class students hear 30 million more words (of course some repeated) by the time they reach kindergarten than students of poor families. Upper middle class kindergarteners have larger vocabularies than the parents of poor kindergarteners. Is it IQ? Nextset would say yes. I believe it is a choice (or simply not giving any thought) to the way a person wants to live or wants to nurture their children and who is most important. I believe that many poor parents love their children – but they do not love them enough to change where they live, how they live or stop dating and sexual behavior to focus on the children they give birth to. This is why children seek attention in the classroom, they simply do no have parents mature enough to understand the responsibility of nurturing a child to adulthood. These kids simply grow bigger every year until they are adults.

  • Harold

    I don’t think “home language” needs to be corrected. Just teach the subject and stop trying to make everyone the same flavor. If someone wants to speak in the ghetto vernacular at home and with friends – that’s really no one’s business and should not be discouraged, in my opinion.

  • livegreen

    Catherine, Add turning off the TV to your list of habits families should change for kids benefit. A limited amount on focused programs is Ok, but I understand there are tests showing kids who watch too much have greatly reduced attention span.

    If that is true, this needs to be shared with families of all socio-economic backgrounds. Inability to focus (even after meals & runaround time) is pervasive.

  • Catherine

    Harold: The problem with not correcting speech is that students use the phonetics of their speech when they write words and use the “she be” when they write. This carries over to writing in class and out of class including job applications. Students who cannot speak standard English in appropriate settings – whether it is right or wrong – usually end up in prison or dead.

    That is why I spend so much time volunteering. Because most of the students I work with have a sibling or a cousin close in age who has been shot or stabbed to death.

  • Nextset


    I think we should have them read aloud in class. Perhaps the entire Robert Heinlein collection. In addition to English they’d learn a thing or two about making their own luck, not taking no for an answer easily, and personal responsibility.

    And yes, language skills are impacted by cognition. Dull children do not excel in Spelling Bees.

    I am familiar with the issues you mentioned. I still believe the public schools can easily do more with the English skills of the prole children and don’t for PC reasons. It’s PC to not disturb Caste Society. I believe Public Schools should deliberately disrupt Caste Society.

    And that is a serious thing. Depending on how you do it and when you do it you can accidentally get a child beaten and murdered. Crossing Caste lines can be dangerous. Teaching a black child to “act white” is not without risk (which is why PC says not to try).

    I wish urban public schools would be deliberately disruptive. They used to be. But I suppose in the past (the mid 20th Century?) parents send the kiddies off to school resigned to the fact that they’d be taught to make it in the new world not the old one.

    So tell me, is it true that for over 50% of the black 1st graders coming into OUSD, the future is prison, welfare, homelessness and unemployment? What exactly is OUSD doing to disrupt that process? I don’t care how bad the mothers are. What is the school going to do to disrupt the welfare-prison complex operating here?

    Fighting Black English would be a start. Preparation for military and industry would be next. Or I suppose you could train to be better criminals that at least can plea bargain well…

    Harold: If you are an educator it’s very much your business and it should be discouraged. You should teach them to wash their hands also for the same reason.