Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Key to Student Success

Sent to the Bergen County Record (New Jersey)
Hat-tip: Jim Trelease
"We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).

Readers of The Record might be interesting in knowing that Christoper de Vinck's column, "Key to student success lies in the home" (June 11) is going viral, as they say these days.  It is a clear statement of the insanity gripping education, and points clearly to the most important issues: Poverty and parent-child relationships. 

A great of evidence supports Mr. de Vinck's argument: Study after study confirms that middle-class American children in well-funded schools outperform nearly every country in the world on international tests: As de Vinck states, the problem is not teachers, unions, or lack of technology, it is poverty.  Poverty means insufficent nutrition, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, all of which are associated with poor school performance.  It is also likely that poverty and the stress it places on parents contributes to what Mr. de Vinck calls "chaos in the home."

The billions we are cheerfully spending on "rigorous" standards and massive testing needs to be spent on protecting children from poverty and working toward full employment at a living wage.

Stephen Krashen

De Vinck column:

Opinion: Key to student success lies in the home
June 10, 2014
The Bergen Record
Christopher de Vinck is the language arts supervisor at Clifton High School in New Jersey. His 13th book is “Moments of Grace” (Paulist Press).
LET’S CREATE a national program called “No Child Left behind,” and flood the schools with standardized tests. Let’s change the name and call it “Race to the Top.” Let’s put kids in uniforms. Let’s increase the school day. Let’s pay teachers less money. Let’s pay teachers more money. Let’s create charter schools. Let’s create schools just for boys. Let’s create schools just for girls. Let’s have kids pray in school. Let’s create common core standards. Let’s blame the college teacher-education programs. Let’s blame the teachers. Let’s blame the parents. Let’s give the governors and the business community the keys to the schools. Let’s flood the schools with technology. Let’s call schools boring. Let’s blame the curriculum.
Don’t you see how foolish we have been? Don’t you see that all of these initiatives are focused on the politics of education and not education? Don’t you realize that none of these attempts has made any difference in the education of children for the past 40 years?
Based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the nation’s report card), the average reading scores for 17-year-olds today is not significantly different from the scores in 1971.
For the past 43 years our nation has been dodging the real reasons why our system of education has been stagnant.
Stable homes
I have worked in public education for my entire career, 38 years of tending to high school students as a teacher and as an administrator day after day, month after month, year after year. I can say with certitude why many students are doing poorly in school: Kids from financially stable homes are more successful students than kids from financially chaotic homes. Kids who come from homes with socially stable adults stay in school and succeed, and kids who live with socially chaotic adults don’t succeed in school and drop out at a significantly high rate.
Poor education in this country has nothing to do with the quality of the teachers, curriculum, computers, buildings, race, uniforms and ideology. The problems in our system of education stem from children who are not nourished intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually at home each day.
The problem in our education system is that we are working with the ideal as to what schools should be with our blatant, national refusal to tend to the realities of what many children’s homes are truly like.
Children who live in chaos at home are the very same children who look nice in uniforms, look angelic with their hands folded in prayer and who ache inside to be loved.
Reading and love
The children who are read to each night are the children who succeed in school. The children who are kissed each night with the words “I love you” whispered into their hearts are the children who are confident. The children who wake up to eggs and juice in the morning are the successful children with physical energy. Children who limit their exposure to social media are the children who are dazzled with the school’s teachers and curriculum. The children who sit at the dinner table and talk about their day are the children who love school.
Vision of their future
Helen Keller wrote that “knowledge is love and light and vision.” Children gain that love at home. The school turns the lights on in the classroom, and the teachers guide the children to the vision of their future.
Without love at home, there is no education.
As Plato wrote more than 2,000 years ago, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”
Education reform is not hiding in the tests. Education reform is hiding in the home.

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