Explanations, Analysis and Excuses…..

The video on structural (and Instructional discrimination): https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=859899690711657

Dear Jean thanks for your thoughtful comments. (And by the way, all due respect accepted :-) But my take on the video is slightly different. I think there is an important and distinct difference between an explanation and an analysis of a phenomena; and that phenomena being offered as an excuse. There are plenty of good explanations and analysis I have read in the last few days as to why for example: people find it hard to keep New Year’s resolutions. Rather than excusing this behavior I thought the explanations and analysis opened for me, a window of understanding into human behavior, and further offered positive strategies as to how to be successful at keeping one’s resolutions (or at least offering a better chance at being successful!) An explanation and analysis is what we are thinking about a problem; an “excuse” is what we fail to do about that problem, after we have reflected on it. The video (and I watch video as a form of literature), was essentially is speaking not to blame, but to the analysis of a reality; now for us to do nothing about that reality would indeed be a crime. I recent watched a film on the horrible military tactics used during World War 1. I did not take this honest portrayal as an “endorsement” of “trench warfare” on the part of the writer or director; if anything the film led me to feel that we should never sacrifice so many lives in this way ever again. And like in our video in question; it is very often the objective of art to reveal an objective truth; even if that truth makes some of us uncomfortable. And the truth is that everyone who is “successful” in America (or any country) is not that way because of some special talent or brilliance. If “smartness”, “creativity”, “inventiveness”, etc. is equally distributed throughout the population, then why do some groups advance while others lag? Well, we know enough about pedagogy(the science of education) that a child’s projected destiny is determined long before that child can “choose” to be “lazy”, “have a baby out-of-wedlock”, “take drugs” or “kill another person”. We also know that if some powerful intervening force does not enter into the picture (and this is what your sister and I are trying to do!) a child’s odds for success drop considerably. We know for example, that there is a path that leads to a STEM career that begins in the amount of “pre-mathematics” information gathered through a quality informal education experience the child receives prior to attending school. If that child then attends an elementary school and does not receive or master the prerequisites for algebra the game is over; again unless there is an intense program of intervention. In short, children have little choice in what is perhaps the first and most important choice they must make, and that is, (and something both you and I had) selecting parents who are strong and knowledgeable in the art and practice of “parent push”. The small child would then need to pick a school, and a school staff that was highly skilled, and held high expectations for its students. Or, the student could choose to test-into a gifted or talented pre- school or elementary program; which essentially is a test of the parent’s educational skills and knowledge. Finally, we can’t ignore the factor (prominent in the video) of the power of contacts and connections. These are the “under the radar” support systems not available to all citizens equally; and of course the entitled want to control the narrative; and so it is obviously in their interest to say that they “alone” achieved all they have because of their brains, discipline, their moral and ethical superiority; and those who don’t do well in life; are “lazy”, “dumb” or lacking in moral fortitude. As educators we are ultimately forced to choose if we believe that one race or nationality of children are “naturally smart” and another group is “naturally not-smart”. All that is left then, if we do believe in this natural superiority mythology is to radically transform schools. Why waste time and money educating the “not-smart” group; just keep them in school long enough for them to learn how to read and write on a 3rd grade level (functional literacy); and then hand them a shovel or rake at their “graduation ceremony”. However, if we don’t believe that, and work to remove all of the barriers placed in the way of children; barriers they had no hand in creating; and we design schools that believe in the inherent worth, potential for greatness in every child born (or God has wasted His and our time); the idea that every child is a unique gift, and brings a unique gift to the world; then maybe our scorn for those who have fallen can turn into a working compassion to make them a future that is whole and promising. In closing I suggest a film called: Trading Places; featuring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. After you view that movie let me know if you still believe that success in America is based solely on individual skills, “natural brains” and effort. All children regardless of race, need external help; and what matters most is the quality and quantity of that help.