Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Not "Explosively Shallow"

This story about income and education was, I though, one of the most interesting N&R investigative pieces I've read recently. Go ahead and read it.

Does it strike you as "exploitative," "hyperbolic," "ineffective," "irresponsible," "despicable," or "explosively shallow"? (I'm not sure what to make of that last mixed metaphor, actually.) That's what guest commentator Lonnie Groendes called it in today's paper.

Groendes writes,

If there are parents, or a parent, a guardian, caregivers or a single caregiver, even a strong and reassuring role model in the child's home, who care enough to take the time and make the effort to track the child's progress in school; to stay in close touch with the school and teachers; to have the courage to discipline the child's schedule to do homework and special assignments, and monitor peer pressures -- that child is going to succeed in school and life regardless of the financial profile of "the family."
Yes, quite possibly, though I wonder what research Groendes has done to back up those assertions. However, Groendes seems totally oblivious to the fact that doing all of those things is much harder if you're poor.

If you're poor, you may be working two shifts and can't supervise your kids as well. You may not be able to schedule your time so as to meet with teachers or go to the PTA. You probably won't have as much time or energy to help your kids with their homework; and if you're not well-educated yourself, you might not be able to help them even if you did. If you're poor, you probably can't afford a math tutor for a kid who's struggling. You may not have the time or money to get your kids involved in organized sports like soccer or lacrosse, giving them the opportunity to network and socialize with a lot of other highly-motivated kids, from whom they are likely to absorb important habits of working and living. If you're poor, it might be harder to schedule transportation to enrichment activities like MathCounts or Battle of the Books or Model UN.

This is not to make excuses for the kind of bad decisions that help create family poverty, such as drug or alcohol abuse or having out-of-wedlock babies.

But it's just a plain fact, and plain common sense, that having money matters a hell of a lot when it comes to educating kids, and there's nothing exploitative or hysterical about pointing that out.


Ed Cone said...

I've been confused by the vehement reactions to the story, too. Of course it's not the whole answer, but people seem to want to deny it's even part of the answer.

Sue said...

I tend to agree with Ed; the reaction is typical of those who don't like associating economic status with achievement - as if to say that "money" is "brains." The article pointed out, but perhaps not totally effectively, that economic advantage tows other advantages, including cultural opportunities, likelihood of pre-school, book-reading, and on and on. The reaction of the LTE was way off; the writer either missed the point or it bothered her too much to admit that there is some causation that doesn't include name-calling. Ah well, nothing about public education is ever going to be neutral.

David Boyd said...

Yes money matters a good deal in raising kids. There is no question about it. Therefore wait until you have a little money saved and a job or two before you have kids. Also, find a wife or husband to stay with. It's a heck of a lot easier with two incomes not to mention it's much easier to handle kids as a tag team.

Lex said...

I, too, was a bit dismayed at the response to the article, simply because so much of the criticism was your basic straw-man argument -- criticizing the article for doing "badly" that which, for good reason, it had not tried to do at all. Eh.

And to add a corollary to David's point: Stop at two kids. As my cousin, who followed up his first child with an unexpected set of triplets, says, once you go beyond two, you have to play zone instead of man-to-man, and as any fan of college basketball knows, that seldom works very well.