Attention education experts! Why do so many kids graduate with poor reading and math skills?

27/365We’ve all seen the reports on college-level remediation — the high numbers of kids who graduate from high school and are admitted to college with low reading comprehension and math skills. Here, you’ll find the CSU freshman proficiency rates for 2010.

One of my colleagues wants to explore some of the reasons behind this phenomenon. You’d think I would have a clear idea, after covering k-12 for so long, but I’m afraid to say that I don’t.

That’s where you come in — the people who teach kids how to read and/or solve mathematical problems, who supervise or coach those who do, or parents who watch the system closely. As you look at the system from pre-k through high school, where do you see the breakdowns happening, and what are the fixes?

As my colleague asked in his query to his fellow reporters:

Are young kids simply not learning to read? Or does a lack of parental involvement cripple that learning? Is there something later in their education – junior high or high school – that is causing problems? And why are these kids graduating in the first place?

Lastly, what questions would you ask about this issue?

photo from Kelly Schott’s photostream at Flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Catherine

    Nontcair: I can tell you there are tens of thousands of parents in Oakland alone who would choose to not have their children ready for college not because they have thought about the situation at all, but because they have given little planning to their own pregnancies and births. That is not to say that the mothers do not love their children I believe they do. But of the six students I volunteer to tutor none have fathers in their lives, not because the mother planned to be a single mother by choice but a lack of planning.

    You can judge me and society for working hard and wanting these children to have a choice, but four of six of these mothers are not financially supporting their own children, none of the mothers are willing or able to help with homework, none of the fathers of the boys and girls I tutor know or support their children financially, emotionally, educationally, spiritually, psychologically or in any other way that any type of parent would support their children.

    If this were a question of parents thoughtfully making a choice, I would absolutely agree with you. However, I am the part of society that picks up the slack for the parents who did not make a thoughtful decision before becoming pregnant and having a baby they neither planned for or could afford in more ways than I can list. And these children will not have any type of choice about being able to go to college because they are several years behind in their subjects. If their parents could get them to school regularly, it would be a start.

    Imposing my will? As I think about it, perhaps. I do believe that parents have the responsibility to have only as many children as they plan for and can care for in every way imaginable. I believe that when men father children they are also responsible for those children. I believe that parents are responsible for making sure that children receive enough sleep, get to school on time with breakfast in their bellies, have their homework done and know how to behave in the setting in which they enter. I believe every parent has the responsibility to truly know each of his or her children and to make decisions on thoughtful consideration. If after consideration a choice is made that the child is not a college-bound person, I can stand by that decision.

    There are far too many children in Oakland who do not have parents who planned their births, childhoods, education, spiritual and emotional lives and the consequences of this poor planning leaves behind generations of children who have children before they are ready because that is all they know and all they have been exposed to – not waiting, delaying gratification, not thinking carefully, but living a life of the examples they have seen.

  • Observer


    Don’t you understand that these people are not responsible for their lot? Only the people who live in neighborhoods like Crocker Highlands, Montclair, Rockiridge etc. are responsible for the children who don’t have responsible guardians that get their kids to school in the neighborhoods of West and East Oakland. The guardians can’t be expected to show or shoulder any responsibility! Right, Nontclair? Sing the praises!

  • Nextset


    We are not fooled by the nonsense about how much one makes with a “college” degree.

    The earnings depend on what degree, what college, what occupation, what race and gender.

    OUSD for the moment is a black school district – but they run off half the blacks. OUSD like most CA urban districts is on the way to being a Mexican school district.

    Blacks and Mexicans for the most part have lower cognition and are not college (university) material. That is really not open for much discussion – the stats are too stark. There will be many black and brown candidates for higher education but they are not the norm or the average (they are outliers, immigrants, mixed and so forth). Remember, in our wonderful digital age the numbers are easily available – by race. Some might just say the numbers are produced by choice – the minorities just don’t want to be engineers and dental hygenists – or employed at all. Whatever floats your boat. Deal with reality.

    By continuing the farce of college prep rather than vocational prep in the urban schools we wreck the careers and earning power of the black and brown average and below average students. We hide some of what we are doing by deliberately running off half of these students before they turn 17 then pretending they don’t exist. The remaining half we then graduate unable to read and write on the average. For this we take a ton of money from the treasury to run the “schools”.

    The urban school districts (LAUSD, OUSD, etc) can simply be closed and their functions distributed among private providers. These schools don’t provide value any more. Getting the minority students on occupational ladders is the only chance their children have to rise in society. This requires things that are not going to make the students happy all the time – language drills, deportment training, a range of survey courses they are not interested in, that kind of thing.

    We have a choice between pacification and education to prepare the students for military enlistment, industry and higher education. Regardless of the debate on the cognition numbers, pacification does not lead to earning power. LAUSD/OUSD & Co has chosen pacification. I would choose not to fund OUSD further and close it down.

    This controversy goes over the head of the hills families who think they are in a separate and distinct district within a district – they think they are in the “real school” branch of OUSD. Until they have to go to the high schools. Then they think they can get something despite the overall stats. Like the immigrants. Good luck with that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    Thank you.


    If I was to offer classes Junior and Senior year in High School for those students looking for a non-traditional career path, the classes would probably be very focused on philsophy. Students could study a variety of thinkers and perspectives in order to provide them a strong basis for their life. I would include extremes like Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, explore why both Martin Luther King and conservative talk show host Mark Levin have identified Palto’s Republic as their favorite book. Then inlude interesting thinkers like Churchill, Emerson, Steinbeck, Einstein, Viktor Frankl and Mark Twain.

  • Nextset

    Business Insider has an article out today about the trucking industry having problems filling it’s jobs.

    One does not have to have but so much education to be able to make a living.

    One does have to be able to pass background – that there is one of the major problems for the black and brown candidates. Public Schools do not teach enough about deportment – and why – for their products to be able to compete with private, church and homeschooled kids.

    Driver’s training is also not taught. In CA – why should public schools drop Driver’s Ed/Training but still have AP classes? I’d argue that Driving classes are far more important to the public school products.

    Brave New World.

  • Nontcair

    Philosophy?! Are you kidding me? Even Huck Finn was written at a level higher than what remedial *college* kids are capable of.

    Your reading list for non-traditionals won’t fly.

    Why do so many people insist on moulding other people’s kids in their own narcissistic images?

  • livegreen

    There are plenty of responsible non college graduates. It is a false choice. And it ends up evicerating education for students who aren’t four year college bound but are capable of
    being responsible and productive citizens, and capable of gainful employment.

  • Nextset

    Nontclair is right.

    Dick and Jane readers are called for. We can see how they do after that. I’d like to see the bottom 50% of OUSD students work up to Huck Finn.

    OUSD and their educrats need to get it through their thick heads that they are training these people to be the future truck drivers and service workers, not college students. And we want the OUSD kids to be able to take jobs as such if they don’t aspire to college. And then there’s the military. Can we please try to get the kids eligible for military enlistment? That’s the higher ed for most of them. There is a lot of classroom training and a lot of benefits waiting – but the black/brown kids are not only not being prepared to qualify to enlist but are being actively groomed to be ineligible due to behavior problems.

    College my rear end…

  • Catherine

    Nextset and Nontcair: Okay, the Narcissist is back. Nontcair, would you believe differently if all funding was cut off for any financial aid. Housing, food and healthcare only. No money. Also, no more federal funds for after school programs for the children of teens who “decided” to have unprotected intercourse and make babies, no free tutoring, no more book drives to give away books, backpacks and so on. Each parent must send their child to school ready – or perhaps not and come what may. No remediation. The students either understand the material presented or they don’t. No extra explanations, no background knowledge, no providing extra materials – all of those things are things and efforts that some group of fundraising narcissists have decided that all children deserve and should have – whether or not their parents gave such ideas any thoughts.

    Reducing my narcissism and my imposed will helps reduce my property taxes, gives me more time to spend with my sons, reduces my fundraising and hauling of books and school supplies – no need to spread my moulding, narcissism or middle-class values on anyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    I guess I misunderstood the question. I can see we have a basic difference of opinion. I see the kids in the OUSD as being as capable as kids in Alamo and Moraga to achieve whatever level of success they want, although I believe the work needs to begin in kindergarten.

    Other than the suggestion to replace AP classes with driver training, which I agree with, what curriculum recommendations do you have? Classes which offer training in computer controlled machining? Would you elimiate classes for those who want to be college-bound such as Trigonomotry, or just offer a broader mix?

  • Nontcair

    Believe differently about … *what*?

    If you want to provide free tutoring, life counseling, etc to at-risk kids, that’s your affair.

    If you believe that college is the best path, that is also fine with me.

    I don’t think the SCHOOL DISTRICTS should be pushing the college track (or any other for that matter), bending over backwards (and charging a TON of money) to achieve that political goal, and then declaring it some kind of emergency (requiring even MORE money) when it comes up short.

    That’s a crisis of its own making, and a “solution” which works to further entrench the status quo.

  • Catherine

    Charlie: The difference between the kids in Alamo – my sons have cousins that attend the schools that are in the same district as Alamo (San Ramon Valley Unified) – is first the general age the kids begin school. Most students in the flat land schools of Oakland begin school the earliest they are chronologically able to – usually 4 years 10 months or just turning 5. Alamo kids who have trouble sitting still are held back an extra year by their parents to make sure the students can sit for longer periods of time beginning in kindergarten. Why? The state standards say that kindergartener students need to read. Most Alamo children have been read to from the time they are infants. The average Oakland flat land child does not even own a book, nor do they regularly visit the library.

    I tutor Oakland students from fourth through sixth grade in reading and math. None of the students assigned to me knew multiplication tables past the 3s when he or she was assigned. Only new are any of them reading at grade level.

    Parenting is also different – Alamo parents ask questions and require children to think and communicate clearly with them, their teachers, adults in general, physicians, dentists and so on. The vast majority of flat land parents do not have this communication strategy – they give commands that children obey (or not).

    The average preschool child in Alamo has a larger and more developed vocabulary the the adults in Oakland flatlands. There is a study from Kansas City called the 30 million word gap. See here: http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/spring2003/hart.cfm

    Similar studies have followed in urban areas and the results are remarkably similar.

    What the biggest issue for me is that people in Oakland flatlands who have often not finished high school, cannot pass the exit exam which is based on approximately 8th grade levels, are becoming parents and having more children per adult than others in Oakland. Our problem is that at some point, inhumanely, there will no longer be the funds to support all of these adults and children at the same levels as the past.

  • Catherine

    In a report dated April 2012:


    These are the statistics for women and men ages 22 – 44.

    No high school diploma or GED women have 2.5 children, men have 1.7 children
    High school diploma or GED women have 1.8 children, men have 1.3 children
    Some college women have 1.5 children, men have 1.0 children
    Bachelor’s degree or higher women have 1.1 children, men have 1.0 children

    58% of women who had less than a high school diploma gave birth to their first child before age 20, 35%% of women with only a high school diploma gave birth by age 20; only 4% of women with a bachelor’s degree gave birth before age 20.

    If a boy at age 14 lived with both parents is half as likely to be unmarried when his first child is born as a boy with a single parent.

    In 2009 in California 45% of children were born to mothers who had no high school diploma or just a high school diploma and no college, of those children more than half of whom were living below the poverty line. Of the college graduates less than a one-percent of the families were living in poverty.


    Sending kids to college is the best form of birth control in the U.S.

    I do not believe schools should be in the birth control business. But we cannot continue to have nearly one quarter of the population in California born into poverty. The only common denominator that we have figured out to reduce poverty is a college education. No other conclusive study can be replicated to find another link to reducing the children living below the poverty level.

  • Observer


    What I am seeing as a general disagreement between what you are saying is differences and what Nextset (and possibly Nontclair, though I’ve yet to get a read on what horse he/she has in this race) and Charlie is as simple as this:

    My child could knew all her letters and numbers up to 100, could read a few simple sentences, could write a few words at the beginning of kindergarten. She was reading at 5th grade level by the end of 2nd grade.

    Here’s the the argument: I am fairly certain that if I adopted a newborn, healthy black baby from West Oakland that that child would reach the same level of achievement because I would provide the same level of attention and expectation. Nextset disagrees and Charlie agrees.

  • Catherine

    Observer: I have a friend who immigrated from Germany who did just that – she had a daughter whom she gave birth to and then adopted two black boys – one a couple of months older than her daughter (adopted at about 6 months) and one adopted a few years later. They are both ahead in school. However they attend schools in the Oakland hills. My friend, I’ll call H has had to fight, fight, fight to keep the expectations high for the boys. While they entered school just as capable as their sister, teachers do not challenge them in the same way as their sister.

    All three children speak German (Austrian and Swiss German – slightly different), English and French. Two of the students are in middle school and it is extremely frustrating for the whole family at the differences in educational quality between the white daughter and the black son.

    In a way Nextset is right because of our own societal racism the black boy does not perform as well. Charlie is right because without the racism in the face every day both children have proven they can equally learn.

  • Nontcair

    Why are you asking *me* to formulate a curriculum? I’m one who *agrees* that we can’t know what’s best for someone else’s child.

    I have no horse in this race. KM wanted to know essentially why 18 year old Johnny can’t read. My sense is that Johnny has been ruined by whatever time — and the more the worse — he spent with public education reading specialists.

    College as a form of contraception is one I hadn’t heard before. I thought college was for frat parties, football, and manipulation of the official unemployment rate.

  • Observer

    Johnny can’t read because “public education reading specialists”, ie: grade school teachers are NOT the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Step in ensuring Johnny will learn to read. Johnny’s parents are. And Johnny’s parents have ALWAYS been the factor in ensuring that he does well in school whether by threat of corporal punishment of yester-year or by providing a nurturing learning environment of today.

    The children who fail in school and who would not, could not handle vocational training if it was more widely available as a norm do not come from homes where they are either expected to succeed to their parents own achievements or surpass them.

    This is the number one reason by a wide margin why Johnny can’t read.

    Do you have a single, slightly feasible solution to Johnny’s problem that doesn’t include blaming everyone who is actually trying to work around the fact that Johnny’s homelike will never support him getting educated?

  • Ann

    I’ve lost track of whom was wondering about options for the vocational track, but my 4000+ student high school offered a full spectrum of AP courses including US History, AB Calculus (differentiation), BC Calculus(differentiation and integration), Spanish, French, Latin, Italian, German, Biology, Art, and English, but also offered vocational tracks leading to apprenticeships with the Carpenters’ and Plumbers’ Unions, as well as certification and work study programs for Auto Mechanics. Additionally, the school offered a FAA certified Ground School for the private pilot license.

    Yes there was tracking but it was flexible between subjects- stereotypically more boys were in the AP Calculus and more girls were in AP English. BUT, to make it into AP Calculus, in seventh grade you had to take 2 years worth of math, both standard math and pre-algebra. Even my parents, both with Masters degrees with my Mother a Special Ed Master teacher, were not able to push the system to have my ADD brother accepted by the 7th grade teacher into the pre-algebra section, despite the fact that he was understanding my AP BC Calculus homework.

  • Nontcair

    Here we go again: It’s the parents fault.

    If that’s the case (and I’m sure it’s a BIG factor), then why do we always hear that the solution involves taking MORE money out of the hands of Johnny’s parents so as to redistribute it towards non-parental sorts of involvements, like public school reading “specialists”?

  • J.R.

    It is partially the parents fault(there is no denying that). The education system is also at fault for the manner in which it implements policy(along with the various unions as well). The system is(with many exceptions)built primarily for employment of adults(pay,protection, and pensions) and hopefully some learning occurs as well. The education system is not purposefully geared to expect the best from every participant(adult and child alike). It is merely there to keep seats filled and keep the tax money rolling in. The majority of people(opinion only)are hardworking professionals with varying degrees of motivation,skill, and fortitude. On the other hand some people had entered the teaching profession when districts were hiring anyone with a degree and a pulse. Those are the people to worry about, because they affect so many kids in very negative ways. There are so many facets to the cause of failure, but it mainly rests with three: parents, teacher,students. The parents brought their children into this world so who else should have greater responsibility? Once again back to the scourge of welfare and parents who have abdicated their responsibility to the government.

  • Observer

    Take money out of the parents hands? Who do you take what isn’t there to be taken? Then again, you do hear the suggestion of monetary fines imposed on those legally responsible for the youth (parents or guardians) for not getting their kids to school. But you can’t get blood from a stone.

    And how do you legally force parents to prepare their child during the 0-5 years?

    In the rapidly demising school districts and elementary schools in OUSD where students are successful the parents bring 5-6 year olds prepared for kindergarten, they do raise funds for and pay out of pocket for specialists, they get their kids to school on time and they don’t leave them to their own devices in the witching hours after school.

    On another thread, the success of Lincoln Elementary—a school with a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch— is being debated. It is 92% Asian and the writer attests the school boasts a very high level of parental involvement. There are successful charter schools that have high levels of poverty among their student body. They often have parents sign contracts that they will assure homework is done and volunteer X number of hours. If they don’t meet the criteria and their child fails, they are pushed out back to the public schools. All year long, every single week families show up at the OUSD placement office having been “let go” from their charter school.

    Yes, lack of parental involvement, lack of familial support, the utter acceptance of having children you cannot provide for is the largest factor contributing to the failure rate.

  • J.R.

    To clarify, we have a system littered with perverse incentives and lowered expectations(from welfare to housing to the school system itself). We have section 8 and welfare that gives money and housing to single mothers with children(If the dad is around, they can’t get benefits, how perverse is that)? If the mom has more kids, they increase the benefits, and we wonder why poverty is so prevalent?

    High school graduation rates have been low for decades, so we institute CAHSEE, which is in reality nothing more than an 8th grade level exam(talk about lowering the bar so far that you can trip over it. Graduation rates are still down, does that mean our kids are increasingly dumb? This lowering of expectations has hurt our society, and it will get worse.

  • Nontcair

    Since you asked for my solution, here it is:

    1) I agree with those who call for OUSD to be dismantled; better that the *entire* public education system go with it. Slay the beast.

    2) The scope and mission of public education should be drastically REDUCED. It should only exist as a “safety net”: To teach basic skills to children of deparately poor, bona fide residents, and only to that subset of kids who actually *want* to come to school to acquire those skills.

    Isn’t this the problem most people want “solved”?

    No more AP courses, football, driver’s ed, special ed, transportation coordinators, 2nd Asst Vice Principals, bond issues, HQ refurbishings, certifications, before/during/after schoolbabysitting and all the other distractions.

    I’ll leave it to you experts to figure out how to deal with that very, VERY tiny number of kids who would qualify and yet still be unable to learn how to read and multiply fractions.

    Everyone seems to agree that parental involvement is a (the?) key factor. It must be true.

    Teachers (rightly) complain that many parents don’t care.

    How will “more money for schools” fix this?

    Blood from stones? Poor people pay taxes too, especially regressive ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    I believe School Districts do create false “crisis” in order to plunder us for more money — and I hate it. And it is unecessesary and potentially manipulative to put the problems of elemetary through high school education in the context of college preparedness. If schools would just teach what is naturally directed by common sense and time, the college question would never come up. And if schools would trust in each child’s ability and desire to learn, instead of treating every obstacle a child needs to work through as a “learning disability”; and if they had a focus on simple obvious foundational skills in the early years, we would need few, if any, specialists whether they were special ed, reading, math intervention, or any of the other names the schools come up with. One of the biggest frustrations I have had in working in the inner city is the speed with which children are classified as learning disabled or crack babies or whatever. Are there issues? Yeah, like with all of us. But of the 160 kids I’ve worked with, I’ve only met one who had any observable disability.

    So I think we mostly agree. And I see where my question regarding curriculum was off point.

  • Observer


    Ok, so in your plan we have NO public schools for productive, successful students like my child who is thriving in her public school. How do I educate her from this point forward? I cannot afford private tuition (which in your plan will bongo even greater costs as demand will continue battle against supply). There are few high-achieving charter schools available and these are only entered by winning a seat in a lottery beginning in kindergarten. The other charters show shoddy stability at best. Or they simply would not be open to our family due to our racial profile.

    I cannot home school and feed this child and her younger sibling.

    So what do I do? I suppose your solution is middle class families like mine that cannot afford private school should plan on not having children? That way we have the ideal goal of a few haves and a whole lot of got nothing.

    Or do you really have ideas? Mine are that life courses are brought back to schools. Contraception and family planning are thoroughly advised (if not incentivized) and home ec is brought back—How to run a successful, productive household with a focus on finances. And that kids go to school from sun up until sundown 12 months a year if their parents cannot provide supervision for them. Basic nutrition and career paths including service and teaching as an options is given it’s just due. But between the ultra-right and the ultra- left, none of that will ever happen (all of it used to 25 years ago).

    Or we can keep spending over five times per inmate a year instead of what we spend on students.

  • Catherine

    Charlie: Not all school districts create “false crises” to get more money. I do believe this is most prevalent in urban areas where teens begin to get on the public assistance when they become pregnant in middle and high school. Then we need to worry about the children born early, with low birth weight, need day care and preschool and mothers need parenting classes and special classes for “recovery” and so on. Then we talk about how these children of teens are more likely to join gangs to feel like a family and belong. And let’s not forget that they need breakfast and lunch and summer food programs. Then they need to have after school programs that give them additional art and science and sports programs. ALL OF THIS BECOMES THE COGS IN THE WHEELS OF EDUCATION THAT KEEP THE MONEY ROLLING IN.

    This is why I am so focused on teen pregnancy. We will reduce our costs significantly, increase the quality of life for all citizens, reduce our “crises” and create families who care for their children.

  • Nontcair

    It’s hard to operate an inexpensive private school because of a long list of government regulations which raise the cost of doing business, the most notorious of which set:

    a minimum number of schools days per year (about 180)
    a minumum duration of a school day (about six hours)

    This is all nothing more that protectionism for the public education unions.

    It sounds to me like you depend on the schools to be public daycare centers.

  • Nontcair

    Why do people advocate that the schools should teach home-ec, sex ed, and so forth?

    The schools have their hands full just trying to teach kids how to read, write, add and subtract.

  • Observer

    Because when schools taught various courses that addressed behavior and conduct– ie: home ec, art, music, PE, nutrition were all part of regular curriculum when public schools experienced the most successful outcomes regardless of economic status—students are prepared for learning.

  • Nextset

    Nontclair: Public schools – especially in the urban areas – are for the Proles.

    By definition they are deficient in any of the markers for class. They have poor sanitation, they tend towards promiscuity, they are present oriented, they are language deficient and tend towards dialect. They and their birth parent(s) are present oriented. While this is not true for all the students (immigrants have their own issues), there is a dangerous critical mass of undesirable behaviors and tendencies.

    In order to get these poor creatures ready for military enlistment, industry and higher education the public schools unlike Head-Royce, Robert Louis Stephenson & Piedmont Unified have to program greater work in civilizing their students.

    This is why the urban/ghetto schools such as Los Angeles Unified and OUSD need what Observer mentions. They also need Driver’s Ed and Driver’s training since that skill is essential to making a good living.

    Don’t worry. Part of Pacification includes not doing anything thaty might alter the Caste the kiddies walk through the door with. The modern trend in ghetto schooling is to quite carefully not go there. I don’t see any significant effort to expose or indoctrinate the lower castes in music, sanitation, health, language, and most importantly the mores of the superior castes.

    Which is why the ghetto kids sing like canaries and end up confessing tho a variety of crimes whenever a cop hands them an oatmeal cookie. They honestly don’t know that things just might be illegal. To them the behavior is normal and reasonable. The very notion of vicarious liability is beyond them (“I didn’t do it!!”).

    One could argue that teaching criminal & civil law in low class schools is essential (eliminate college prep if needed) to give the students there a chance to stay out of prison and on a job. We’re not going to do that either.

    Because there is no intention to do any caste altering.

    It’s a Brave New World. Everybody born in their place and staying where they belong.

  • Observer

    Nextset—I don’t know why you are saying “unlike Head-Royce, Robert Louis Stephenson & Piedmont Unified”, as these schools DO offer many, many life courses that address behavior, norms and standards that are needed and appropriate in a civilized society.

    Poor schools lack these course because they can’t afford them. Piedmont raises around $400,000 EACH for it’s grammar schools and over $2 million a year for it’s high school. That’s in fund-raising only, does not include the nearly double property tax rate on homes that are valued at nearly double what they are in Oakland.

    No one would pay the tuition they pay at Head Royce if there were not a ton of extra-curricular classes included. No one.

    Yes, when those kids go home their parents ride them with really high standards and expectations. But that’s not enough. I have those and it would only go so far without the support of the (one of the few) good school to back up what I do at home.

    Even McCarthy would bristle at the thought of the state not teaching Home Ec, PE, Driver’s Ed and other life courses to our children.

  • On the Fence

    Nextset and Observer,

    I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that public schools should teach such life courses as driver’s ed, home ec., and sex ed. for all the reasons that you both listed. In the case of driver’s ed. and sex ed., the people who provide the instruction have particular expertise in these areas that usually far exceeds the knowledge and delivery that most parents can provide. I especially appreciated the comprehensive sex ed. that my child learned this year in 6th grade. Sure, we had had ‘the talk’, but what he learned, and the setting in which he learned it, far exceeded what I could have provided alone. And I don’t even want to think about my memories of learning to drive with my parents. Thank goodness I had the experience of learning from an impartial driver’s ed. instructor in high school. I agree with Observer that this is not a set of skills only needed or desired by the lower classes. That said, Nextset is correct that it is much more critical for populations that would otherwise not avail themselves to these experiences. For example, many middle class famiies today pay out of pocket for summer cooking camps and private driver’s ed classes that poorer students may not receive.

    I find myself quite happy to support schools in teaching life and citizenship skills as I don’t find that outside the realm of student education. What I do find outside the realm of our public schools is the creation of “full service” medical and social service hubs.

  • Nontcair

    You want to know why Johnny can’t read? It’s because so many of you want the schools to teach him the gamut.

    If that’s not bad enough, you want him to learn things which are paradoxical:

    Say “NO to Drugs!” Yes to Ritalin.
    Say “Yes” to contraception and “Yes” to abstinence.

    The result is that he learns NOTHING.


  • Nextset


    Johnny can read – porn…

    Many of the poor performers can read if badly. They can read fine when it’s something they really want to such as a game manual. They don’t read for pleasure unless it’s Hustler or Sports Illustrated and then they go for the photos first.

    So what are we supposed to do, beat them? They don’t want to read. In a pacification school they do what they want.

    In a real school if they don’t master what is required they are expelled and aren’t allowed to be around the other kids anymore. They have to hang around only kids like themselves – kids who go to “thier” school. That mechanism is one of the important ways you get the “students” to do what you require of them.

    Meet criteria for retention and promotion or be transferred to continuation school.

  • Nontcair

    Those sex ed courses to 6th graders must be making a tremendous impact because I’ve heard that some of those kids have been using the school bathrooms to engage in (hetero) sexual activity.