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NYC High Schoolers Release 10-Point Educational Policy Plan
March 5, 2012 11:57 AM   Subscribe

A group of high school students from The Bronx calling themselves The Resistance have released a 10-point plan to reform NYC public schooling. (via Colorlines)

Their platform is:

We demand free quality education as a right guaranteed by the US Constitution.

We demand the dismantling of Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy. We demand a new 13 member community board to run our public schools (comprised of parents, educators, education experts, community members, and a minimum of 5 student representatives).

We demand quality instruction. Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body. We demand experienced teachers who have a history of teaching students well. Teacher training should be intensive and include an apprenticeship with master teachers as well as experiences with the communities where the school is located.

We demand stronger extra-curricular activities to help stimulate and spark interest in students. Students should have options, opportunities, and choice in their education.

We demand a healthy, safe environment that does not expect our failure or anticipate our criminality. We demand a school culture that acknowledges our humanity (free of metal detectors, untrained and underpaid security guards, and abusive tactics).

We demand that all NYC public school communities foster structured and programmatic community building so that students, teachers, and staff learn in an environment that is respectful and safe for all.

We demand small classes. Class sizes should be humane and productive. We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1.

We demand student assessments and evaluations that reflect the variety of ways that we learn and think (portfolio assessments, thesis defenses, anecdotal evaluations, written exams). Student success should not depend solely on high stakes testing.

We demand a stop to the attack on our schools. If a school is deemed “failing”, we demand a team of qualified and diverse experts to assess how such schools can improve and the resources to improve them.

We demand fiscal equity for NYC public schools: as stated in the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007 by the NYS Legislature, NYC public schools have been inadequately and inequitably funded. We demand the legislatively mandated $7 billion dollars in increased annual state education aid to be delivered to our schools now!
posted by naturalog (167 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shouldn't these miscreants be off studying for their standardized tests instead of thinking?
posted by spicynuts at 12:01 PM on March 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


While their list is noble, and I have no background on what mayor Bloomberg has done about school reform, this is very easily dismissed as a wish list. Might as well ask for unicorns and pots of gold too. I can't even call it a good starting point with out invoking the window metaphor.
posted by k5.user at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2012


Well, here's the thing, if all schools consisted of nothing but students who cared enough to think about this stuff, make demands, and participate in the meeting of those demands, then none of these demands would be necessary.
posted by spicynuts at 12:04 PM on March 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


What is depressing is that a demand for a quality education can be thought of as infeasible as mythical animals.
posted by sendai sleep master at 12:06 PM on March 5, 2012 [70 favorites]


I remember when my School's Gifted And Talented program had to be cut from the budget cause I didn't care enough.
posted by The Whelk at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


No, honestly, what is depressing is that many people think that a quality education will just fall into a young person's lap without any commitment from that young person, that young person's family and that young person's community.
posted by spicynuts at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Why?

We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1.

Oh I see, they're not serious.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:08 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


While their list is noble, and I have no background on what mayor Bloomberg has done about school reform, this is very easily dismissed as a wish list. Might as well ask for unicorns and pots of gold too. I can't even call it a good starting point with out invoking the window metaphor.

I was actually fairly encouraged by it from a practicality stand point; I'm not sure I agree with some of them (the 13 member panel with 5 student members seems like a bad idea) and some of them would be very, very hard to make happen (a system full of 15 person class taught by experienced teachers), but they are concrete proposals.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Schools here are just incredibly fucked up.

I live in Park Slope (which is "the best neighborhood in the city") and the two elementary schools within it are not only essentially de-facto racially segregated, but one is exceptionally nice, and the other is completely shitty. I have no idea how it is even possible to have created this situation.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


They have an actual 10-point plan that includes immediately actionable items?

They're already 100 miles ahead of the Occupy Wall Street knuckleheads.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


NYC schools have been problematic since the beginning of time. Ever read "Up the Down Staircase"? How's it going to be different this time?

Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Why?


Yeah, I was going to comment on this statement too, though I'm not quite sure what to say. We were always taught DIVERSITY! DIVERSITY! growing up. But, having a teacher who can't relate to your life isn't the answer either.
posted by Melismata at 12:10 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Power in education in New York City has periodically alternated between centralization and more community-based power as different regimes are deemed failures and replaced by the opposite under different mayors. This community board idea would likely be another round of the same if it occurred.

Including more ethnic and racial criteria rather than merit-based qualifications in teacher hiring would only detract from the level of teaching.

What is "structured and programmatic community building"?
posted by knoyers at 12:12 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why should teachers reflect the student body? Well, for one hand, it could indicate that the schools are hiring from the local community, which strengthens both the community and the school.

It could also undo or prevent the many prevalent shocking examples of in-school racism from teachers and school leadership that make schools hostile to learning.
posted by entropone at 12:12 PM on March 5, 2012 [29 favorites]


Including more ethnic and racial criteria rather than merit-based qualifications in teacher hiring would only detract from the level of teaching.

Who said they were at odds? Read the paragraph again. The students are saying, "Please train people like us to teach us well." They're not saying, "People who look like us should teach us at the expense of educator quality."
posted by entropone at 12:14 PM on March 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


No, honestly, what is depressing is that many people think that a quality education will just fall into a young person's lap without any commitment from that young person, that young person's family and that young person's community.

Yeah, why don't these kids and their families have the commitment to move to Westchester County?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 12:14 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


In short, "We demand $7 billion from a state that already has as a projected $10 billion (17.6%) budget deficit for 2012."

Good luck with that.
posted by valkyryn at 12:15 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure students deserve a proper education regardless of the commitment of their parents or community.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Why?


Including more ethnic and racial criteria rather than merit-based qualifications in teacher hiring would only detract from the level of teaching.

What is "structured and programmatic community building"?


Because there is a feedback loop between "getting educated" <> "becoming a teacher." That's the way it always works. It's why exclusive private school hire young ivy league college graduates with almost no experience teaching. The idea that school is some sort of modular technocratic module you can plug into a culture from the outside has no basis in history. Education is either closely integrated with the culture of the educated or a imposition from a powerful outside force designed to subjugate and control.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


In short, "We demand $7 billion from a state that already has as a projected $10 billion (17.6%) budget deficit for 2012."

Good luck with that.


You're right, a state that has budget shortfalls should immediately stop all investment in things that would eliminate those budget shortfalls in the future.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:18 PM on March 5, 2012 [38 favorites]


This basically describes homeschooling except the 13-member community board is just one or two benevolent dictators.
posted by michaelh at 12:19 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why should teachers reflect the student body? Well, for one hand, it could indicate that the schools are hiring from the local community, which strengthens both the community and the school.

Hiring black people to teach black kids isn't really an indicator that you're hiring from the community; just an indicator that you're hiring people who look like people from the community.

I think the emphasis on solely on reflecting the student body is misplaced. Exposing kids to educated people from backgrounds like theirs is a good, so is exposing them to people who aren't like them. My wife is a white teacher in a (basically) all black school. The kids there have very little interaction with white people. It's helpful for them to see a white person who cares about them; it's help for them to know a white person so they can disabuse themselves of any stereotypes they might have about white people (her kids are seven, so they tend to be more bizarre than malicious, but they're still there).

Getting teachers who reflect the city and country they live is more important than getting teachers who reflect the specific school.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:22 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


The background for that $7 billion demand.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"In short, "We demand $7 billion from a state that already has as a projected $10 billion (17.6%) budget deficit for 2012.""
posted by valkyryn

Wow. Seriously? Well it shure wasn't spent on Education for those kids.
posted by marienbad at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're right, a state that has budget shortfalls should immediately stop all investment in things that would eliminate those budget shortfalls in the future.

Because not increasing the $247 billion that New York state and the $643 billion that New York school local governments already spend on education apparently means "stopping all investment".

Geez.
posted by valkyryn at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What Spicynuts said. I applaud these guys for trying, but if most students took ownership of their education in the first place, then most of this list wouldn't even be an issue.

Also, this here: "We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1." is as close to a silver bullet as we're ever gonna see. As a teacher, I want smaller class sizes much more than I want a pay increase. It would mean I could do my job much more effectively.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:29 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Depending on how the ethnicity/culture/race reflection requirement is engineered, it could work out very well or very poorly. What have similar policies' results been in other professions where there are, say, residency requirements, such as in policing?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:29 PM on March 5, 2012


Michaelh: "This basically describes homeschooling except the 13-member community board is just one or two benevolent dictators."

Homeschooling works absolutely great if you have one or two parents who actually give a damn. I've seen it. The problem is that there are a great many who plainly don't.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:31 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, this here: "We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1." is as close to a silver bullet as we're ever gonna see. As a teacher, I want smaller class sizes much more than I want a pay increase. It would mean I could do my job much more effectively.

I don't agree. It helps, certainly. But the number one determinant of better education is better training for teachers. That's closer to a silver bullet than class sizes.
posted by entropone at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2012


. I applaud these guys for trying, but if most students took ownership of their education in the first place, then most of this list wouldn't even be an issue.

What does ownership mean in this context?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:35 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, this here: "We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1." is as close to a silver bullet as we're ever gonna see. As a teacher, I want smaller class sizes much more than I want a pay increase. It would mean I could do my job much more effectively.

Small class sizes are great, but they are ferociously expensive (particularly given the strength of the teachers' union) and they are neither necessary nor sufficient to fixing the NYC public school problem. For what it's worth, my local public school, is widely considered the best public elementary school in the city. The teacher-student ratio is 25-1.
posted by The Bellman at 12:35 PM on March 5, 2012


Uh, no. The stundet-teacher ration is 25-1. Sorry.
posted by The Bellman at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The class size thing has to be a negotiation number, not an actual goal. The math just doesn't work out. According to Wikipedia, there are 1.1 million public school students in NYC. The latest class size report has the average at around 25:1. Lowest starting teacher's salalry is $45K. So, if my calculations is correct, we'd need an extra 0.66 teachers per student to get to 15:1. That's a total of $29,700,000,000/year. Thirty billion dollars for 15:1.
posted by griphus at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, if they wrote that, they can't be doing too badly. Very well done, actually.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2012


What does ownership mean in this context?

Managing their 503(c) accounts properly, I guess?
posted by mikelieman at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2012


And it's student. And ratio. And I'm going to quit now.
posted by The Bellman at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grr... Arg...

edit window.

s/503(c)/529/
posted by mikelieman at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2012


It's good to see high schoolers be motivated about their education, and Bloomberg is certainly worth going up against, but not all of their issues are equally easily-resolved. Many are tightly tied to other factors. You could have a fantastic school plan, but if the surrounding community is failing in other ways, then the benefits will be marginal at best. A student to faculty ratio of 15 to 1 is a nifty idea, but it won't fix students' home life or general attitude towards education, especially if behavioral patterns have been set since 1st grade or so.

The community work in Red Hook over the past 15 years or so may provide a guideline here. One governmental office can't do all of the work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:38 PM on March 5, 2012


While their list is noble, and I have no background on what mayor Bloomberg has done about school reform, this is very easily dismissed as a wish list.

They're not negotiating like Democrats. Which is smart.

If you want 50 cents on the dollar, you don't start out by bidding 50, you start out by bidding 100, and make the other side come to you. You don't start at 50, which lets the other side drag you towards zero.

So, of course it's a wish list. That's *exactly* what you should start with.

The problem, of course, is that it's going to take a lot of effort to get enough power to force the other side to actually negotiate. However, starting off with nothing but compromises is a fast way to lose that support.

So, yeah. It would be a dream for them to get all of these things. However, it would be a huge improvement if they got half.

Should they start by throwing away half the demands and hope the other half will happen?
posted by eriko at 12:39 PM on March 5, 2012 [35 favorites]


It seems to me that improved student-teacher ratios shouldn't necessarily imply changing class sizes. If more teachers meant freeing up time for existing teachers to do more professional development or spend more time preparing for and working on a smaller number of class periods, that would be a very good thing.
posted by idb at 12:39 PM on March 5, 2012


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.
From a motivation standpoint, it's important that kids see teachers who look like them; role models from your own community can be very motivating. I can't tell you how many times I had students say that being educated was a "white thing." Of course not all students felt that way, but there was a very vocal group of kids who did, and I heard such sentiments echoed the five years I taught. Yes, this is anecdotal, and I'll see if I can find any research that bears this out or refutes it. That said, it doesn't mean that they can't have role models or benefit from teachers who do not look like them, but take a moment and consider what it might be like to be a student of color in a school where most of the teachers are white.

We demand small classes. Class sizes should be humane and productive. We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1.
While this is very low, during my first three years of teaching ninth grade English classes were capped at 25. Compare that to my health ed classes or 11th or 12th grade English classes where I had 35-45 kids shoehorned into my built-in-1928 classroom designed for 25, and I can tell you it makes a difference. Hell, I couldn't move amongst my kids--I had one path from the front to the back of the classroom. Now consider that in my classes, approximately 20% of my students were mainstreamed kids with special needs and 35% were mainstreamed English language learners (some of whom were also special needs). No aides (because we couldn't afford them), but if I was a lucky, I might have a poorly trained volunteer for a period or two. I understand classes of 15 aren't fiscally possible, but I can tell you there's an order of magnitude re: individual attention kids can get when the class size moves above 25. It falls down another for approximately every 5 students thereafter. The quality of instruction also falls: much of your time is spent on classroom management once you hit 30+; there physically is not room to do any kind of project-based learning; class discussions are stifled affairs (shy kids too scared to talk to so many, harder to develop relationships with each other)...it's horrible. I won't even talk about how having a student load of 150-175 kids meant that I easily spent 10-15 hours a week grading (generally on weekends). ...Anyhow, everyone knows when you're negotiating, you start with best-case scenario so that you can give a little ground.

These things, plus another 25 or so are why I left teaching. I miss the kids SO MUCH. I loved teaching, but it was also killing me. I'd love to go back, but I simply can't swing 70-80 hour weeks for 9 months anymore.

White chick, used to teach in an inner city high school where 90%+ of the student population were people of color, 75%+ on free/reduced lunch.
posted by smirkette at 12:43 PM on March 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


While their list is noble, and I have no background on what mayor Bloomberg has done about school reform, this is very easily dismissed as a wish list. Might as well ask for unicorns and pots of gold too.

That's funny because I seem to remember an awful lot of criticism of a certain recent social movement for having 'no goals'.
posted by bradbane at 12:44 PM on March 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


Weird how much hostility this list seems to be generating - I feel like there's a lot of "I didn't have nice things, so kids today who want them must be spoiled and lazy". Well, I had a kind of lousy, miserable school experience, and a a nominally "good" school too, and I wish I'd had these things.

What Spicynuts said. I applaud these guys for trying, but if most students took ownership of their education in the first place, then most of this list wouldn't even be an issue.

What does this mean? "Kids in struggling schools clearly don't study enough because they are lazy"?

As to teacher populations reflecting student populations - as a white person who got a teaching certificate and then didn't teach, I certainly ended up feeling that majority POC or immigrant school communities with majority white/majority US born teachers were making things needlessly hard for themselves and creating barriers and misunderstandings that didn't have to occur. When I was in classrooms where there were immigrant or POC teachers, I felt like those classrooms consistently worked better. We don't live in a post-racial utopia where no one sees color; we live in a society where people of color are persistently devaluled, policed and marginalized. Kids aren't fools - when they see that all the authority figures are white, it tells them a lot about how POC are treated and valued in adult society, and it strongly suggests that the white authorities will be clueless at best and malign at worst. If there are some white teachers and administrators in a robust community with many teachers and administrators of color, on the other hand, that makes it likely that the white folks are going to be in equal partnership with the POC teachers and administrators.
posted by Frowner at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


Thirty billion dollars for 15:1

You'd also need more facilities space to house all those new classrooms. And you'd need to increase maintenance and facilities staff to take care of all that new space. And you'd increase demands on heating and electricity. And you'd need new supplies, desks, lab equipment, blackboards, etc. I'll stop now.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:46 PM on March 5, 2012


I have a brother who is a high school teacher. From my conversations with him, I'm pretty sure the most teachers everywhere would love to get out from the oppression of standardized tests. After beating his head against the wall over it for a couple of years, he found the only solution was to become a strict disciplinarian, and get the kids who are causing others to be distracted out of the room and to the principal's office right away. He hates it, but he hardly has time to grade papers as it is.
posted by Catblack at 12:48 PM on March 5, 2012


Y'all make a convincing argument. I now agree it is best if we do not attempt anything new.
After all, the smart kids are smart enough to be born into families that will send them to private school.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:51 PM on March 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


There's a lot of perfect world dismissing going on in this thread.

I think the kids' demands are awesome, and I think it's a mirror of what is mostly broken about our culture that we think they are so unreasonable.

(Giving billions in bailout money to banks and unsupervised contracts to wage war are just more practical concerns...than education...THAN EDUCATION...*the mind reels*.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


You'd also need more facilities space to house all those new classrooms.

Well, why? Aren't we talking about hiring more teachers to put in the same classrooms? I agree that 15:1 is unworkable, but it doesn't require more classroom space. What am I missing?
posted by The Bellman at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2012


After all, the smart kids are smart enough to be born into families that will send them to private school.

No, we poor smart kids go into the (surprisingly diverse!) Magnet/Specialized system.
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


To go further: having a reasonable population of teachers of color, working class teachers and immigrant teachers would have helped in these situations:

1. Dealing with immigrant kids who were refugees - family needs, cultural issues, potential trauma, kids who were refugees from opposite sides in a civil war. I saw two classrooms where this was of concern, and the immigrant teacher had far more tools to reach kids, even though they were from different countries.
2. Language and idiom - ESL students need both tailored support for learning English and access to a fluent speaker who can help them deal with bureaucracy and other things for which their English isn't good enough yet. A native speaker is ideal in this regard.
3. Culture stuff. As a white, suburban person, I found it hard to tell when my students were being serious and when they were kidding/pulling my leg/baiting me. I had students who had been through some serious shit - stopped by cops, family in jail, all kinds of stuff. Now, a white suburban person can certainly sympathize and be supportive, but it's crucial that on the average the school community be composed of people who share culture, not people who just come in and learn it from the outside.
4. Baseline assumptions. My baseline assumptions about education, futures, cultural competency, media, etc etc might as well have been those of Princess Margaret for all the relevance they had to my students' lives.

If you're in solidarity with people, you teach and speak with them, not about them or to them. That doesn't mean being all groovy and non-hierarchical; it means being emotionally and intellectually engaged with them in a mutual way. It means thinking of yourself in community with them instead of being outside, or an expert hired to bring things in. I know white people middle class people pretty well, and I know that we need a lot of thought, care and practice before we can do that with POC and/or working class people.....and that means that we need to be around peer teachers who are POC and working class. Even the best-meaning white middle class person will take years to figure stuff out on their own that they could have learned quickly with a mentor of color.
posted by Frowner at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


No, we poor smart kids go into the (surprisingly diverse!) Magnet/Specialized system.

Oh, are those the public schools that get funded properly, and have proper teacher:student ratios?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:59 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now you can see OWS's wisdom in refusing to release specific demands: because there is always someone on the internet ready to scream SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS! or RACIAL HIRING QUOTAS! or EVIL TEACHERS' UNIONS!
posted by La Cieca at 1:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


...if my calculations is correct, we'd need an extra 0.66 teachers per student...

Even just counting the "extra" teachers, that's more than one teacher for every two kids.
posted by exogenous at 1:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, why? Aren't we talking about hiring more teachers to put in the same classrooms? I agree that 15:1 is unworkable, but it doesn't require more classroom space. What am I missing?

In the same classrooms? Schools aren't exactly bursting with unused rooms. Are you thinking of putting two teachers to a room? That could work in some cases, but not in others.

Now you can see OWS's wisdom in refusing to release specific demands: because there is always someone on the internet ready to scream SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS! or RACIAL HIRING QUOTAS! or EVIL TEACHERS' UNIONS!

OWS was wise to not release demands for its own reasons, but you do need to produce demands eventually, and people will respond, sometimes critically, to those demands. That's life. I'm also not seeing anything about Evil Teachers' Unions in this thread, but maybe the New York Post readers are still on the train.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2012


griphus: The class size thing has to be a negotiation number, not an actual goal. The math just doesn't work out. According to Wikipedia, there are 1.1 million public school students in NYC. The latest class size report has the average at around 25:1. Lowest starting teacher's salalry is $45K. So, if my calculations is correct, we'd need an extra 0.66 teachers per student to get to 15:1. That's a total of $29,700,000,000/year. Thirty billion dollars for 15:1
Your math doesn't work. The class-size ratio doesn't equal the student-teacher ratio, because teachers actually teach more than one class a day. Adding in a single teacher teaching multiple classes reduces several other teachers' total classroom size. If I have my teachers in a classroom of 25 students, then for the cost of one teacher taking on a classroom of 20 people, 4 other teachers have their classroom size dropped to 20 as well... throughout the day. You've dropped the classroom size from 25 to 20 with the addition of 20% more teachers (and teachers aren't the only cost, there are non-teaching staff and other budgets, so it's not even a 20% increase in education costs). And it's probably not as linear as that: the union might be much more flexible about pay rates if the teachers were rewarded with classrooms of 15 people, and less standardized testing.

Just do the napkin sanity check: by your numbers, if educating 1.1 million students at a lower class ratio costs an additional $29billion a year, then that's $27,000 more per student. NY state (according to Google) already tops the nation at $17,000, with a national average of $10,000, so why would reducing the classroom footprint cost $10,000 more per year per student over the entire budget at present?

For your alleged costs, you might as well hire private tutors at $60K/year to each teach two students only, since you're claiming it would cost an additional $27,000 per student to educate them at a 15:1 classroom ratio over a 25:1 classroom ratio. And just saying that should tell you your math isn't right.

That said, there is a problem: we have such poor education in this country, and at $17,000 a student, NY state is getting ripped off by some parts of the bureaucracy, because apparently teacher salaries should be covering classroom sizes of 3:1 or 4:1! You could form ad hoc schools of top-flight teachers for less than that, and a classroom size of 10:1. So where the hell does the money go?
posted by hincandenza at 1:04 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


griphus, your calculations appear to no good.

Starting with the assumption of 1.1 million students and a 1:15 teacher to student ratio with 45k per teacher, we have:

(1,100,000 students * $45,000 per teacher ) / ( 15 students per teacher) = $3.3 billion

If we took the baseline ration as 1:25:

(1,100,000 students * $45,000 per teacher ) / ( 25 students per teacher) = $2.0 billion

So the difference per year to go from 1:25 to 1:15 would actually be $1.3 billion.
posted by weinbot at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


*appear to be no good.
posted by weinbot at 1:06 PM on March 5, 2012


I propose we put these kids in charge of everything.
posted by gerryblog at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, we poor smart kids go into the (surprisingly diverse!) Magnet/Specialized system.

Oh, are those the public schools that get funded properly, and have proper teacher:student ratios?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:59 PM on March 5 [+]


I went to Stuyvesant. Most if not all of my classes had 30+ kids.
posted by knoyers at 1:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, we poor smart kids go into the (surprisingly diverse!) Magnet/Specialized system.
They're doing a little bit better, but they're not really all that diverse, compared to the general student population. Latinos make up 40% of the students in NY public schools and 8% of the students offered places in the elite ones. Black students are 30% of the overall population and got 6% of the slots in the highly-selective schools.
posted by craichead at 1:10 PM on March 5, 2012


Even just counting the "extra" teachers, that's more than one teacher for every two kids.
...
Your math doesn't work.
...
griphus, your calculations appear to no good.

Don't blame me, I was taught math in the Brooklyn public school system.

Confidential to Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Ringol, Mrs. Garcia, Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Natale and the other competent and hard-working math teachers I'm forgetting: I'm kidding.
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


While you all are doing your back-of-the-envelope calculations, don't forget to factor in the cost of not changing things. While New York's $17,000 per year per student might seem high, the national average for a year of incarceration is about $24,000.
posted by Killick at 1:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


The Bellman Additional classroom space is difficult to figure. In may school buildings, it's going to be difficult or impossible to reconfigure (say) four 25-student classrooms into seven 15-student rooms. So at least to begin with, smaller classes are probably going to meet in existing large classrooms, and the additional small classes will need to find new spaces to meet.

However, since the demand on classroom size doesn't insist on any specific timetable to achieve the goal, it is conceivable that it could be implemented over the course of a couple of decades, and as new schools are built and old ones are refurbished, the smaller classrooms be phased in.

As to the cost of teachers, I wonder if it's not time to re-examine the model of the educator at the blackboard speaking to the rows of individual desks. Kids (or, let's say, tweens and up) are capable of a certain amount of self-direction in other activities, so it may be time to examine a model where educators serve as facilitators of motivated learning rather than force-feeders. "Facilitation" I think can be a lot less labor-intensive than the traditional model where the teacher is on stage singing and dancing for 50 minutes out of every hour. (The chicken-and-egg question of course is where the motivated students are going to come from, but that's a different discussion.)
posted by La Cieca at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2012


Black students are 30% of the overall population and got 6% of the slots in the highly-selective schools.

Wow, that's worse than I remember it being. Although they did leave out my high school for some reason -- Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and the omitted Brooklyn Tech used to be the, uh, crown jewels of the system before it expanded to encompass more schools -- which had a combined black/Hispanic population of at least 50%. But then again, my faculty for numbers is evidenced above.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2012


Well, why? Aren't we talking about hiring more teachers to put in the same classrooms? I agree that 15:1 is unworkable, but it doesn't require more classroom space. What am I missing?
If we have to have ungodly large classes, team teaching isn't a bad idea. Sure, you'd have to hope that your team teacher shares your pedagogical beliefs and expectations for classroom management, but the more hands on deck, the better.

So where the hell does the money go?
Lots of administration. Professional development (good and bad). Legal fees. Special education mandates (often unfunded). Financial mismanagement. Operations (buildings & grounds).
posted by smirkette at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, here's the thing, if all schools consisted of nothing but students who cared enough to think about this stuff, make demands, and participate in the meeting of those demands, then none of these demands would be necessary.

Indeed, the shitty state of education in this country is certainly the students' fault.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:21 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Facilitation" I think can be a lot less labor-intensive than the traditional model where the teacher is on stage singing and dancing for 50 minutes out of every hour.
Actually, this approach is just as labor-intensive because you have to front-load everything and instead of tap-dancing in front of the class, you're putting out fires in small groups. It's also harder because most teachers tend to fall back on the way that they were taught (transmission model) and have less experience seeing the facilitation model work; changing paradigms is hard. But it's definitely worth the extra time and effort--it's a much more educationally effective way to teach.
posted by smirkette at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2012


NYS has probably the most regressive system of school funding in the country. It also massively contributes to de facto segregation in the burbs.
posted by JPD at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


knoyers: I went to Stuyvesant. Most if not all of my classes had 30+ kids.

As did I, but there's a case where the selection process has already occurred, no? There's almost no discipline issues (at least not as far as in-class disruption goes) and if a student really needs individual attention, he/she will get it.
posted by Bromius at 1:27 PM on March 5, 2012


knoyers: "Including more ethnic and racial criteria rather than merit-based qualifications in teacher hiring would only detract from the level of teaching."

I also took that bullet point as a demand to hire from within the community, which could actually result in fewer racial criteria (both official and de-facto) being used during the hiring process.

My understanding is that the hiring process for teachers in big cities is already pretty damned racist, and that quotas often simply result in teachers being shifted around in order to make the numbers work and prevent any sort of meaningful racial shifts from taking place.

This isn't diversity for the sake of diversity. It's ensuring that educators are stakeholders in the communities where they teach. Much of the "us vs them" hatred toward teachers that's sprung up over the past few years stems from the fact that a great many teachers now commute to their jobs.

If teachers are unable to live near where they work, or no suitable educators live in a certain area, there are other, deeper problems that need to be corrected. It shouldn't be an absolute requirement for teachers to live where they work, but it should at least be a possibility.

That said, it's important to ensure that there is a diversity of race and thought within a school system to avoid parochialism, or the school turning into an echo chamber of sorts for its community. However, I think that we need to fix some of the system's more profound failures before we start worrying about this in big cities.
posted by schmod at 1:27 PM on March 5, 2012


Some commentators are asking why the list is being criticized. Well, when they start off claiming that education is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution it is hard to take them seriously. I suppose you could try to backdoor some right to education by invoking the 9th amendment, but I don't believe the courts have generally been receptive to those sorts of claims.

There are also puzzling demands like "experienced teachers with a history of teaching students well". Not every child can have an experienced teacher. Someone has to be the first class, the second and so on until that teacher has established a track record. I'm not sure how long that is... 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? Someone has to have they novice teachers - just not them I guess.
posted by nolnacs at 1:28 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some commentators are asking why the list is being criticized. Well, when they start off claiming...

HA!
Yeah!
Stupid kids!
That showed them.

Man, what this school system really needs is more people to put dumb kids in their place when they do something awesome.
posted by entropone at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Man, what this school system really needs is more people to put dumb kids in their place when they do something awesome.

Challenging students on their ideas is a good thing, that leads to more education, not less.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks everyone. I'm very wrapped up in this right now at the Kindergarten level and when you talk about adding teachers at that level you are indeed talking about adding another teacher to the existing classroom of 25 (for "team teaching") but obviously it gets more complex if you actually want to break the classroom into a bunch of smaller classes.

But again, my local public is 25:1 and is considered best in class, and as someone noted above Stuyvesant, which is an extraordinary school, is even "worse", so class size isn't a magic bullet. (By the way, have a look at that link craichead dropped -- Stuyvesant is over 70% asian and admitted 51 black students last year. Into a highschool of 3,300. Diversity is NOT something the magnet system does well.)

Numbers like "1.1 million students" can be hard to grok: for reference someone pointed out to me recently that one in 300 Americans is, at this moment, a New York City public school student. Just finding enough competent teachers, to say nothing of managing them, is a challenge.
posted by The Bellman at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Facilitation" I think can be a lot less labor-intensive than the traditional model where the teacher is on stage singing and dancing for 50 minutes out of every hour.

I actually had a 'facilitated' class like this in junior high. It was awesome for me because I was motivated but it didn't work too well for the other students, substantially because one teacher could not realistically do active check-ins on anywhere from ten to twenty different ongoing projects. It was also pretty resource-intensive because everyone was doing different stuff.

I also taught a 'facilitated' class if by facilitated you mean "all the kids work at computers" - and it was not easy, because there would be five kids who were struggling and they'd all be struggling with different things, so you had to run around dealing with one and meanwhile the other four would be twiddling their thumbs unable to proceed. And then all the kids who were bored and wanted to goof off (and kids do sometimes, no matter how palatable the learning) would be goofing off and making noise and hassling each other as meanwhile you tried to explain things to one person. Even with two teachers, that class was a handful.

"School is like a factory" - it's like a factory because it can only work as a factory. Consider, for example, shoes. You can have awesome hand-crafted shoes that are labor intensive and hand-lasted and really nice. You can have shoes that are made on machines and really cheap and produced in high volume. Up to a certain point, you can tweak the machines to improve the product. But you can't have hand-lasted shoes mass produced for Walmart - the conditions of production are impossible to reconcile. No matter how many computers you bring in and how much 'facilitation' you offer, you simply aren't going to get good, solid, humane 'artisan' educational results by mass production. If you want 'hand-crafted' education, you have to put the money, the people and the patience into it, and just like hand-lasted shoes, it will be expensive

The real political sin is pretending that you can have handmade education at Walmart prices, then pushing the teachers into sweatshop modes of production and blaming teachers and students when you don't get your impossible demands met.
posted by Frowner at 1:34 PM on March 5, 2012 [27 favorites]


I went to Stuyvesant. Most if not all of my classes had 30+ kids.

Ignoring that Stuyvesant is "the best public school in the city," how large was your largest class, and what class was it? How large was the smallest?

What about its funding?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:35 PM on March 5, 2012



What does this mean? "Kids in struggling schools clearly don't study enough because they are lazy"?


I wasn't talking about studying - I was talking about engagement and pressure on the system and the school. Unfortunately, keeping any state run institution effective, efficient and responsible to the actual needs of its 'customers' is a full time job of vigilance and activism. Reality is that kids don't generally care in numbers enough to pressure their parents in numbers enough to make governments accountable to investing the money they have effectively and parents live in the real world of having to have jobs, raise their kids and have lives. My point being that a lot of the demands here overlook the reality of what it takes to even be mediocre at delivering an education by overlooking some very uncomfortable realities - parents don't have the time and most kids don't have the incentive/motivation to be critically engaged in ensuring they get what they need. If they did, these demands would be completely unnecessary.
posted by spicynuts at 1:35 PM on March 5, 2012


Challenging students on their ideas is a good thing, that leads to more education, not less.

A number of comments have suggested that aspects of their plan makes it difficult to take these kids seriously. That is closer to a dismissal of their ideas than a challenge to them.
posted by sendai sleep master at 1:36 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are also puzzling demands like "experienced teachers with a history of teaching students well". Not every child can have an experienced teacher. Someone has to be the first class, the second and so on until that teacher has established a track record.
This is a reasonable point, until you realize that urban schools, largely serving poor kids of color, have much higher turnover rates than their whiter, more affluent schools, and are more likely to have a significantly less experienced teaching faculty.

Yes, that second paper is kind of old, but it holds true today.
posted by smirkette at 1:40 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a saying that you never win chess so much as you avoid making a mistake while waiting for your opponent to make one. And you ruthlessly exploit their mistake once you spot it.

America imagines that buying the world's best & brightest costs less than creating them through education, exactly such a fatal mistake. America has therefore already lost the chess game of empires to Europe and Asia.

There is an amusing property of a three player game analogous to chess, you might imagine recovering from a mistake in chess if your opponent makes one himself, but you cannot hope for such leniency with two opponents.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:42 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


As did I, but there's a case where the selection process has already occurred, no? There's almost no discipline issues (at least not as far as in-class disruption goes) and if a student really needs individual attention, he/she will get it.
posted by Bromius at 1:27 PM on March 5


I don't remember that everyone was well behaved, although they probably were relative to a typical NYC public high school, or that there was very much individual attention. I had one teacher who gave extra attention to me as a student who needed help (as opposed to an exceptional student) and that was when my father died. Students were expected to maintain themselves.

Diversity isn't the goal of the special science high schools. Acceptance is purely based on a test that's similar to an IQ test.

Ignoring that Stuyvesant is "the best public school in the city," how large was your largest class, and what class was it? How large was the smallest?

What about its funding?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:35 PM on March 5


Nearly all classes were around 28-34. I had one advanced Japanese class that was small, don't remember exactly. Largest must have been 34.

There is extra funding from parents and alums.

"The resistance" is obviously asking for an ethnic or racial quota reflecting the population of New York City and its children. That is not really compatible with a goal of hiring the most qualified teachers.
posted by knoyers at 1:42 PM on March 5, 2012


What does this mean? "Kids in struggling schools clearly don't study enough because they are lazy"?

Of course not. It means that motivated students will typically overcome most or all of these other issues. A motivated class of 30+ students is still going to find success, regardless of the fact that it's 30+ students packed into a room. However, I'm talking about the motivation they bring to the table, not just the motivation that a teacher tries to instill in them.

We hem and haw a lot about what teachers do and how they fail our society. The fact is that much more influence on these issues is held by the parents and the students themselves -- and yes, on some level, we have to accept that students make their own choices and choose whether or not they care about school. That happens in "successful" schools and "failing" schools alike, and it happens in rich schools and poor schools, too.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:46 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Average class size at Stuy is 32 now apparently. I was class of '03

http://www.bigappleed.com/schools/107-stuyvesant-high-school
posted by knoyers at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2012


To be honest I think you would have a hard time finding enough qualified teachers if you had quotas. Its a shame, but when teaching basically requires a masters degree the vast majority of the candidates will be middle class, and the middle class of 20 years ago looks different from the cohort of students today.

(Also I think you need to keep the Magnet schools out of the discussion. The students are so self-selected its an entirely different situation especially with regard to optimal class sizes.)
posted by JPD at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


> We demand a school culture that acknowledges our humanity (free of metal detectors, untrained and underpaid security guards, and abusive tactics).

Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives. Those metal detectors? The school didn't pay money for them for no reason. There are plenty of places across the country that don't have them, precisely because they don't have the kids-stabbing-other-kids problem.

I think these kids woefully underestimate how much of what they are demanding is undermined by the actions of students less engaged than them. And I think they underestimate how much of a handful even a small percentage of problem-causing students can be.
posted by legion at 1:48 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, my comment about class size being a silver bullet was meant more in the abstract. 15:1 is admittedly a bit of a pipe dream. Keeping it down to around 20:1, though (excepting certain classes where large sizes are fine, like orchestras) is certainly worth working for.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:49 PM on March 5, 2012


There is much to comment on in this thread.

Killick: While you all are doing your back-of-the-envelope calculations, don't forget to factor in the cost of not changing things. While New York's $17,000 per year per student might seem high, the national average for a year of incarceration is about $24,000.

In fact, the hidden costs of poor education are a hell of a lot higher than that. The sorry state of education in the US is the secret origin of many of our ills. Children are not taught critical thought, which is what allows popular meme viruses like Fox News to propagate. If you raise a nation of idiots, you end up with a nation of idiots.

marienbad: Wow. Seriously? Well it shure wasn't spent on Education for those kids.
Ironmouth: Well, if they wrote that, they can't be doing too badly. Very well done, actually.

SIGH

Everyone criticizes because it's easy to do. Really, these kids are miles ahead of nearly all of us, because they're trying to do something substantive rather than just snarking about it on Metafilter.

2bucksplus:
>Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.
Why?


I know why. It's a matter of perspective. If it's all whites doing your teaching, then your teaching will tend to emphasize what we might call white reality. Exposing children to a variety of viewpoints as they develop is essential for producing a well-rounded mind. It might sound like a throwaway point but it's really foundational.

Cool Papa Bell: They have an actual 10-point plan that includes immediately actionable items? They're already 100 miles ahead of the Occupy Wall Street knuckleheads.

I bet you also hate the dirty hippies. It's a grand old tradition in American politics to pick one quibbling thing about a social movement you disagree with and write off the whole group because of it.

scaryblackdeath: Homeschooling works absolutely great if you have one or two parents who actually give a damn. I've seen it. The problem is that there are a great many who plainly don't.

There are many problems with homeschooling that make it unsuitable for mass adoption: lots of parents don't have the time to put into it due to their employment, it makes the assumption that there is at least one parent who can stay at home teaching and thus is a subtle Trojan Horse for Republican-style nuclear families, and it means that developing children are taught by the same people who they spend much of the rest of their time around, giving them greatly decreased social exposure and limiting their outlook on the world.

But practically, and simply, oftentimes parents simply aren't good at teaching. There's a reason it's a profession. Communication skills do not arise out of nothing, they must be earned.

I and my brother went through a homeschooling period while I was growing up and it didn't work out well for us. We ended up doing these insipid Christian propaganda "PACE" workbooks. We really didn't take to them very well; it was very difficult staying focused on them day after day. I probably would have been better off in public school, really, although I'm not sure if the public schools in Brunswick, GA aren't any great shakes either.
posted by JHarris at 1:57 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Frowner Actually I was thinking of a slightly different model but I definitely understand your experience and the difficulties you note. However, even in an imperfect "facilitated" model there are some student who are self-directing and there are some students who are getting individual guidance, and I think that under the right conditions these "somes" add up to a good deal more that what you get under the transmission model, i.e., very little self-directed learning and almost no individual attention.

This is going to sound impossibly idealistic, but though kids obviously get bored and restless. they also have this incredibly intense ability to concentrate on things that interest them, this almost superhuman kind of flow. It's almost impossible to prevent kids from learning something they're interested in, and (I would say) if not "almost impossible" then very difficult to get them to learn stuff that they regard as dull or pointless. The two qualities are not the same: a kid on a basketball team easily may think dribbling drills are dull, but if he has the desire to be a good player, he's less likely to dismiss them as pointless. So the player does the drills and he improves his skills, because he wants to be a better player.

It's just hard to position this idea of "being a better player" in an academic classroom, because frankly a vast amount of what we try to teach kids is both dull and pointless. I actually thought algebra was a lot of fun, but God knows it's pointless.
posted by La Cieca at 1:59 PM on March 5, 2012


Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives.

Those damn kids and their inability to get their parents to move out of their government-subsidized projects housing to somewhere they don't have to grow up in the midst of constant violence and find then it necessary to arm themselves to have some semblance of psychological safety in an environment that is supposed to be a safe haven. We wouldn't have this problem if magic beanstalk unicorns leprechaun
posted by griphus at 2:04 PM on March 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


There are plenty of places across the country that don't have them, precisely because they don't have the kids-stabbing-other-kids problem.

Yes, those are the schools with the much less pesky "kids-shooting-other-kids problem." Too bad it didn't occur to any of those 12-year-olds to stand their ground and say, "Hey, would you mind not bringing automatic weapons to school?"
posted by La Cieca at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives.

Hahahahahahahahahaha! Awesome!!! *We hereby demand that our fellow students shape up or ship out!* Hahahahahahaha! *backslap*

Wait, you were serious?
posted by facetious at 2:08 PM on March 5, 2012


Those damn kids and their inability to get their parents to move out of their government-subsidized projects housing to somewhere they don't have to grow up in the midst of constant violence and find then it necessary to arm themselves to have some semblance of psychological safety in an environment that is supposed to be a safe haven.


Your snark does not change the fact that we have problems with violence in our schools, and therefore we need ways to deal with it in the schools regardless of whether or not society attacks the root causes.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:10 PM on March 5, 2012


Your snark does not change the fact that we have problems with violence in our schools, and therefore we need ways to deal with it in the schools regardless of whether or not society attacks the root causes.

How about not changing the subject?
posted by facetious at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2012


Threeway Handshake: "I have no idea how it is even possible to have created this situation."

Quality schools drive real estate prices.
posted by falameufilho at 2:12 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


spicynuts: "Well, here's the thing, if all schools consisted of nothing but students who cared enough to think about this stuff, make demands, and participate in the meeting of those demands, then none of these demands would be necessary."

Are you talking about schools or US democracy?
posted by symbioid at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your snark does not change the fact that we have problems with violence in our schools, and therefore we need ways to deal with it in the schools regardless of whether or not society attacks the root causes.

Asking kids who, on a daily basis, watch their fellow students get beaten, stabbed and shot (while the Adults in Charge prove themselves incapable of preventing it) to go all swords-to-ploughshares is a remarkably stupid suggestion.
posted by griphus at 2:21 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


2bucksplus: "Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Why?

We demand that the student to teacher ratio for a mainstream classroom should be no more than 15:1.

Oh I see, they're not serious.
"

Maybe because people might be more likely to listen to someone who kinda matches up their own reality? No offense, but some honky coming in and teaching a black kid and telling him shit might not make the kid give a fuck -- how is some suburban white stuffy person supposed to know what it's like? How can he relate to the shit an inner city kid has to deal with?

That doesn't mean, of course, that a black teacher automatically knows what it's like, but at least the prejudices might drop.

Dead Prez talks about it They Schools.

And maybe if we didn't spend 600 billion in a military and started to pay for more teachers instead, this might be a more realistic scenario, but yeah - as long as we continue to spend spend spend on needless wars, then I gues, sure... "They're not serious".
posted by symbioid at 2:22 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Holy shit - you guys... I'm choking on something... hold on... gag cough sputter. *spit*

Ok, all that privilege in the air was clogging up my lungs.
posted by symbioid at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


As to the cost of teachers, I wonder if it's not time to re-examine the model of the educator at the blackboard speaking to the rows of individual desks. Kids (or, let's say, tweens and up) are capable of a certain amount of self-direction in other activities, so it may be time to examine a model where educators serve as facilitators of motivated learning rather than force-feeders. "Facilitation" I think can be a lot less labor-intensive than the traditional model where the teacher is on stage singing and dancing for 50 minutes out of every hour.

Hey, anytime I can stay out of my students' way and watch them learn something on their own, I figure I'm doing quite well. I'm a pretty good lecturer/coach/guide, but it's always best if the students have to figure things out for themselves, or find the answers on their own.

The thing is, once you get above a certain number of students (20, in my experience), that becomes increasingly more difficult to manage. You wind up having to police more disruptions, adjust for greater variations of individual student needs... I get what you're saying, and you're not wrong to think that "facilitating" is more effective than "force-feeding," but facilitating is only possible when you have smaller class sizes.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2012


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body

Then I'd be out of a job. And schools would be even more racially segregated. Is that what we're going for?

Jonathan Kozol wrote the book "The Shame of the Nation" about this re-segregation in NYC. It's pretty heart-breaking, as are all of his books...basically outlining the complete lack of continuing positive changes in NYC's public schools over the past 40 years.

And small class sizes are obviously one solution to today's current problems...just like private school ratios would never exceed 20:1, why should public schools? Oh right. Money.
posted by bquarters at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Asking kids who, on a daily basis, watch their fellow students get beaten, stabbed and shot (while the Adults in Charge prove themselves incapable of preventing it) to go all swords-to-ploughshares is a remarkably stupid suggestion.

I'm not talking about asking them to do that. However, in the list of demands, these students include taking away the metal detectors and such. They talk about not anticipating criminality. This can certainly be taken as a "swords-to-ploughshares" demand being put onto the Adults in Charge, which is also totally not practical.

I can totally get behind the demand for well-trained, reasonably-paid security. Some school security guards I know are awesome and make a huge difference. Some are complete tools and only perpetuate problems. But these demands also talk about the removal of technology that helps keep the weapons out, and I don't see that as practical.

(Full disclosure: I was literally the first person searched when my high school first got a hand-held metal detector. As in, the VP got it out of the box, tested it to see if it worked, and then immediately came and found me during 1st period to scan me.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:30 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


craichead: "They're doing a little bit better, but they're not really all that diverse, compared to the general student population. Latinos make up 40% of the students in NY public schools and 8% of the students offered places in the elite ones. Black students are 30% of the overall population and got 6% of the slots in the highly-selective schools."

I like how Asians are never mentioned in these discussions about diversity in education. From your link:

Proportionally, though, Stuyvesant remained the least diverse among the three large specialized schools, according to historic enrollment figures. Currently, 1.2 percent of the school’s 3,300 students are black; 72.5 percent are Asian.

At the eight specialized high schools, Asian students got the highest number of offers this year: 2,490, or 46 percent. White students were offered 23 percent of the slots.

posted by falameufilho at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


scaryblackdeath Another issue here (and I'm agreeing with you on the smaller class sizes point) is that it's not always easy for students to adjust to a different classroom model. After a couple of hours of "transmission" classes, when they arrive in a room where they're expected to self-direct, they're going to be tempted to goof off, disrupt and so forth because they're already bored and tired and antsy, and a slight relaxation in structure feels like recess. So it's an additional challenge to keep a facilitated class on track under these circumstances.
posted by La Cieca at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2012


Quality schools drive real estate prices.

Yes, but that doesn't explain the Park Slope schools which I was talking about. One serves roughly one half of the neighborhood (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the other serves roughly the other half (Steve Buscemi). The two halves of the neighborhood are basically identical. And even the worse school serves more of the "nicer" official historic district.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2012


Seventeen thousand dollars per student per year. And they aren't getting good results?

If that's the case I can't believe more spending is the way to go. Here is the OECD's report on Public spending on education. The US's average spending per pupil is greater than all but a handful of other nations (e.g. Australia, Japan, Germany all spend less than we do and get better results). 17,000 is more than anyone else on earth spends.

And small class sizes are obviously one solution to today's current problems...just like private school ratios would never exceed 20:1, why should public schools? Oh right. Money.

My private high school, about 10 years ago, had class sizes of ~25. And was apparently less than 1/3 the cost of (today's) NYC education. This is enough to drive me fully to a charter school / school voucher position.
posted by pseudonick at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not talking about asking them to do that

The person/comment I was responding to said "Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives."

I went to a reasonably safe school, haven't been in a school building since, and have absolutely no idea what's actually going on in the unsafe schools. As far as actual what-is-to-be-done questions are concerned, my opinion on metal detectors and related issues is irrelevant. That being said, taking the weapons away from kids before they get through the door is a perfectly good idea. Asking them to show up unarmed to Fischer-Price's My First Warzone, on sheer faith in a student body that is either being stabbed or doing the stabbing, is a ridiculous one.
posted by griphus at 2:38 PM on March 5, 2012


The fact is that much more influence on these issues is held by the parents and the students themselves

So you're saying the world would be a better place if all the people in it were better? Well yes. But why is that relevant to the question at hand? Would you comment on improvements in policing by saying "Well, none of this would be needed if people stopped committing crimes", or demands for improved health-care by reminding us that people should take better care of themselves? Most people are pretty bad at getting through life, wishing that we weren't isn't a terribly useful political position.
posted by howfar at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Here is the OECD's report on Public spending on education. The US's average spending per pupil is greater than all but a handful of other nations (e.g. Australia, Japan, Germany all spend less than we do and get better results). 17,000 is more than anyone else on earth spends. "

Most other OECD nations provide comprehensive social welfare systems and do not provide for student welfare needs (including health care, food, etc.) almost exclusively through schools. U.S. schools today are often the last remaining bit of social safety net, and they provide extensive, extensive services. Far beyond "just" education, but it's all rolled into educational budgets and educational grants.

Secondly, most other OECD nations do not require free, UNIVERSAL public education -- in many nations, special needs students are not enrolled in schools. In the U.S., because there is no national health care, students with very serious disabilities often receive ALL their services through schools. My district of 14,000 students has a 4-person Medicaid department that does nothing but Medicaid reimbursements for medical services students receive through schools. Literally millions of dollars in a 14,000 student district. We have a unit of students with a mental age of no more than 2 years, who are so severely mentally and physically disabled they will never feed themselves. Some cannot breathe on their own. They are still entitled to a free public education -- but not entitled to adequate (or ANY) health care EXCEPT THAT WHICH IS PROVIDED THROUGH THE SCHOOL. That is not counted as health care spending -- that is counted as educational spending.

BTW, all those students in our "severe and profound" unit are standardized-tested under NCLB and measured against "grade level" as determined by age. It's super-useful!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2012 [55 favorites]


pseudonick, NYC public schools spend more than anyone else because they face greater challenges than anyone else. Especially compared to the European countries on that list, the NYCDOE has to deal with: providing health insurance to teachers, a highly diverse student body with a lot of non-native-speaking students, and a very high degree of inequality amongst its student body. None of the Western counties in that report (Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, France, UK, Finland, etc.) has to deal with any of that crap.

I agree that increasing funding alone is not going to solve the issue, but it needs to be part of the solution and trying to make a direct comparison to per-student costs doesn't really make much sense.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damned lack of preview. Well said Ms. McGee.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2012


NYC is failing its youth by not teaching them the correct way to use "comprise."
posted by millipede at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Why?


Back in 2004 I was one the less than 15 black kids in the country who got a 4 or better on the AP Physics C (The general rate was about 1500/3000. Physics C tends to be fairly self selecting) and one of the 106 black kids out of 8000 plus who got a 5 on the AB Calculus Exam(8000/27000). I will now quote my teachers for you.

My Calculus Teacher: "Don't expect to get this on the exam" After I got a 4 on the practice exam

My General Physics Teacher: " Reaching aren't we" When he was signing my approval to take Physics C.

I'm back in college changing fields at a top 5 engineering school. To be frank the number one factor that I can tell for really doing well academically is simply not be afraid of looking stupid and to get on with the business learning the material. I often see alot of black kids get caught up with trying to seem smart to white people and not getting a whole hell of a lot done. Everyone in the learning community expects you to do worse than other students. I have professors jump in shock and disbelief with their mouth agape when they've had to give me back an A. That is a real challenge if its the first time you've come to college. It has an impact. Its certainly not everyone who acts that way but it is most people.

I'm saying all this to say that these kids are asking to not have to deal with societal racism and personal racism in their learning environment. I completely understand it can be challenging to conceptualize yourself as a learner with constant negative feedback. I should know its still challenging for me now.
posted by Rubbstone at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2012 [34 favorites]


Yay; good for these kids for saying pretty much what their teachers have been saying forever.

Maybe someone will listen, but I sure as hell doubt it.
posted by kinetic at 3:10 PM on March 5, 2012


Holy crap, Eyebrows McGee. I am kind of embarrassed that I've never thought about those issues before. Mind blown, seriously.
posted by naoko at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "Well, why? Aren't we talking about hiring more teachers to put in the same classrooms? I agree that 15:1 is unworkable, but it doesn't require more classroom space. What am I missing?

In the same classrooms? Schools aren't exactly bursting with unused rooms. Are you thinking of putting two teachers to a room? That could work in some cases, but not in others.
"

I'm a substitute teacher in the city listed in my profile and I can tell you that it would be a huge help in elementary classrooms at least.* One for teaching content, one for teaching behavior. As a sub, I of course see worse behavior than normal, but you would not believe how much time I spend every day dealing with behaviors and behavior plans. Teachers are working so hard to help these students, and every student has a different plan, but it is all so much work. At least a full time job. I tell the wrong kid what to do and he throws a chair? There goes half of math for the other 25 kids. Each room could use either one general and one special ed teacher, or two general ed teachers that split the curriculum.


*I always notice that discussions like these seem to completely disregard elementary kids.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:38 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a huge crowd of kids chanting and marching in the capital in Albany, NY tonight, protesting tuition increases. I wonder if it was related.
posted by clockzero at 3:49 PM on March 5, 2012


I see a lot of shrill demands here and absolutely nothing in the way of their taking any responsibility for their own education or for the values of their families and communities. They show zero awareness, for instance, of WHY things are the way they are and of any viewpoint other than their own, and so they cannot offer thoughtful alternatives. It reads as if someone's forcefed them standard, cafeteria-gray schlock about how a lack of government resources and of multiculturalism are the sole obstacles standing between them and educational utopia.
posted by shivohum at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2012


Asking kids who, on a daily basis, watch their fellow students get beaten, stabbed and shot (while the Adults in Charge prove themselves incapable of preventing it) to go all swords-to-ploughshares is a remarkably stupid suggestion.


I'm too depressed about the KIDS EDUCATE YOURSELVES WITH YOUR BOOTSTRAPS bullshit here to make the obvious Magic The Gathering joke about white decks so just imagine your own.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:11 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


They show zero awareness, for instance, of WHY things are the way they are and of any viewpoint other than their own, and so they cannot offer thoughtful alternatives.

If only there were places that could teach them these things. They could go every weekday, for hours and hours.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:13 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I applaud those kids. Every one of their demands, while maybe shooting for the stars, represent most of the important questions that need to be asked regarding our public school system.

I wish I could toss a thousand Favorites to EybrowsMcGee, Rubbstone and all of the educators in this thread.

taking any responsibility for their own education ...

What the heck did these kids just did? But as far as that is concerned, one thing we're working on here is San Diego is to get minority or underrepresented folks to go out and VOTE. It's hard to make demands when they can't count on you for a vote etc.

But seriously, the "blame the victim" thing?...
posted by snsranch at 4:22 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


They show zero awareness, for instance, of WHY things are the way they are and of any viewpoint other than their own, and so they cannot offer thoughtful alternatives.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought they were presenting a list of demands, not a research paper. Also I'm amazed you're able to get so far into their heads- their psyches, belief systems, personal values, and critical thinking skills from this list alone. That's really quite a feat of psychoanalysis right there.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


NYC is failing its youth by not teaching them the correct way to use "comprise."

Which definition were you thinking they used incorrectly?


com·prise/kəmˈprīz/

Verb:

1. Consist of; be made up of: "the country comprises twenty states".

2. Make up; constitute.

Synonyms:
include - contain - embrace - comprehend - encompass
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:43 PM on March 5, 2012


Teachers should ethnically, culturally, and racially reflect the student body.

Magical thinking there. The higher the cultural birthrate it seems, the less chances of having that group represented in higher positions, simply because the resources are fewer per person, and in every school grade along the way. Maybe the best way to get your group over-represented just about anywhere is to lower the birthrate in your group.
posted by Brian B. at 4:45 PM on March 5, 2012


> I see a lot of shrill demands here and absolutely nothing in the way of their taking any responsibility for their own education or for the values of their families and communities. They show zero awareness, for instance, of WHY things are the way they are and of any viewpoint other than their own, and so they cannot offer thoughtful alternatives. It reads as if someone's forcefed them standard, cafeteria-gray schlock about how a lack of government resources and of multiculturalism are the sole obstacles standing between them and educational utopia.

Can you perhaps tell us why things are why they are, then?

What are the thoughtful alternatives?

Might I ask where you attended school?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:51 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


If only there were places that could teach them these things. They could go every weekday, for hours and hours.

Gee, if they're smart enough to write a manifesto like this, I think they're smart enough to demonstrate a more nuanced grasp of the issues.
--
What the heck did these kids just did?

I mean in terms of recognizing that a huge chunk of the ultimate success of a school rests on the motivations of its student body and their families. They make no attempt to address these.
--
Also I'm amazed you're able to get so far into their heads- their psyches, belief systems, personal values, and critical thinking skills from this list alone. That's really quite a feat of psychoanalysis right there.

I don't need any psychoanalysis. I talked about what they show in this manifesto. Look at the Declaration of Independence, the Communist Manifesto, the 95 Theses: the good manifestos all at least attempt some reading of history before they get to their suggestions for change. Not to say this one should be remotely close to those, but this one doesn't even try at the history. It gets a 0 on that portion of the rubric.

Although, the more I reread this, the more it does not sound like it was written by high schoolers at all -- not even smart ones. It doesn't sound authentic. What normal person writes of "structured and programmatic community building"?

I think they're acting as someone's mouthpiece, unintentionally or otherwise.
--
Can you perhaps tell us why things are why they are, then?

What are the thoughtful alternatives?


I'm not an expert and I don't have a manifesto, but I'm well-aware that there are some very prominent issues (e.g. charter schools, the need for longer school hours, a focus on "self-esteem" at the expense of realistic appraisal, promoting children to the next grade regardless of readiness, tenure protecting poor teachers, the need for parental investment and involvement) that are left conspicuously unaddressed here.

Might I ask where you attended school?

Good public schools, though they didn't fit many of the manifesto's points (e.g. class size, racial composition of teachers).
posted by shivohum at 5:05 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good for them.

Institutions are failing citizens everywhere. Of course citizens are also failing their societies. The link between those two systemic failures, coincidentally enough, is quality education, or the lack of it. Without an informed citizenry that understands that not only their rights but their duties, trust and cooperation collapse.

When things get bad enough, people will begin to try to take their future into their own hands. This disgruntlement is at the root of the idea that American Republicans elevate and beat the drum over -- 'less government'. Of course, that's idiotic. Government failing its citizens doesn't mean you need less government, it means you need better government, more efficient government, more ethical government. Replace 'government' with 'institutions' as necessary.

Couple a breakdown of institutions with angry, disenfranchized and despairing citizens, then try to solve that with government that is equally corrupt and inefficient, but somehow smaller, and you are looking at some Very Bad Times ahead.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


shivohum:

So let's get this straight, shall we?

You have demonstrated no knowledge whatsoever of the New York City school system. You haven't provided even one specific critique of one argument that they've made. You've criticized them for not providing thoughtful alternatives, and yet you're not even willing to provide one thoughtful alternative. You literally condemning this document, written by a bunch of badly-educated high-school students, because it's not at the level of the Declaration of Independence!

Even if what you were writing weren't couched in such an air of hostility, it'd be hard to take you seriously.

(Might I assume you vote Republican?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:17 PM on March 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I mean in terms of recognizing that a huge chunk of the ultimate success of a school rests on the motivations of its student body and their families. They make no attempt to address these.

My issue with this argument is that it employs a kind of dualism. It assumes that student and community motivation are something entirely separate from the systemic issues that these kids are attempting to highlight. Whether individuals and groups are motivated to act in certain ways is inextricably linked to the systems that they exist in.

When these kids say things like: "We demand a healthy, safe environment that does not expect our failure or anticipate our criminality. We demand a school culture that acknowledges our humanity"

They are really asking for changes to be made so that their environment might be more conducive to building the kind of motivation you're talking about.

If you believe that "a lack of government resources and of multiculturalism" are not the answers these kids should be seeking then I would be happy to hear your input on the discussion.

With that being said, I think that referring to these kids as "shrill" and suggesting that their plan must have been secretly written by someone else is fairly hostile and mean spirited way to engage with their ideas.
posted by sendai sleep master at 5:56 PM on March 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


(Might I assume you vote Republican?)

The bootstraps rhetoric (ie, "ultimate success of a school rests on the motivations of its student body and their families") pretty much guarantees that.
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I dunno. I don't think that the bootstraps rhetoric is entirely without merit, and I can't stand the republican party. Although it is also impossible for people to succeed with motivation alone, and no funding or material support. I mean I've tried to do just a little community work, and you start understanding why people end up jaded and republican if you do some of that stuff. You really can't pour money at a problem and expect it solved if nobody is willing to work and sacrifice to solve it.

That being said, meeting and setting an agenda is what community motivation looks like, especially at the start. Sorry if it looks like shrill demands, but what would look better to you? If next time they showed up demonstrating their commitment to meet as a group and improve their own education, would you be willing to match that demonstration with some sort of commitment to support it?

When the generation you were too stingy to educate grows up, don't be surprised if they balk at supporting you in your old age...
posted by SomeOneElse at 6:25 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We demand a new 13 member community board to run our public schools (comprised of parents, educators, education experts, community members, and a minimum of 5 student representatives).

Put intelligent and responsible in front of each of those please.
posted by Splunge at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2012


Seriously. As a parent who went to PTA and community board meetings for two children who went to school in NYC, from elementary to High School, I would hope that the choice of the members was not just by fiat.

George Lucas came up with the phrase, "wretched hive of scum and villainy" right after attending a school board meeting in NYC. So what would be the criteria and who would make the choices?
posted by Splunge at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of shrill demands here and absolutely nothing in the way of their taking any responsibility for their own education or for the values of their families and communities.

This sounds like racist dog-whistle to me. I'm thoroughly sick of austerity demands, and people who think starving public services is better than paying taxes.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:21 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, when they start off claiming that education is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution it is hard to take them seriously.

Well... Brown v. Board does mean that while education, as such, is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution, equal access to education is, seeing as how it's a governmental service.

This doesn't strike me as precisely what the students are saying, but it's far less unrealistic than similar claims about health care. There, the debate is about whether the government should be providing that service at all, since it isn't a historic, traditional governmental function. But state and local governments have been providing educational services for the better part of two centuries now, and there's a very compelling argument to be made that operating a shitty school is some kind of constitutional violation.

The plan has huge problems, and as I suggested above, one of the largest is the fact that it seemingly requires the state to magic its way out of a serious budget crisis. But the constitutional argument, while arguably problematic, isn't probably something I want to spend much time on. There is a colorable argument there, and you can get to most of the things they want to get to without it.
posted by valkyryn at 7:24 PM on March 5, 2012


You literally condemning this document, written by a bunch of badly-educated high-school students, because it's not at the level of the Declaration of Independence!

Ok, so if we're agreed that it's a mediocre document written by "badly-educated" kids, why give it so much publicity? Doesn't this mentality make trouble -- wild applause for exceeding even the most minimal standards? Doesn't it make our expectations kind of pathetic?

Might I assume you vote Republican?

Nope? Though perhaps that has more to do with the insanity of the Republicans than with the sanity of the Democrats...
--
My issue with this argument is that it employs a kind of dualism. It assumes that student and community motivation are something entirely separate from the systemic issues that these kids are attempting to highlight.

Well, they may not be entirely separate, but they're certainly not entirely the same either. I just see the one-sidedness of this set of requests as striking the wrong tone.

With that being said, I think that referring to these kids as "shrill" and suggesting that their plan must have been secretly written by someone else is fairly hostile and mean spirited way to engage with their ideas.

But come on, really, doesn't this sound like it was written by some organization giving out talking points? It does not sound like it comes from the natural thinking and speech of concerned young people.
--
Sorry if it looks like shrill demands, but what would look better to you?

For one thing I think they should address other parts of the system, like the role of school choice, longer school hours, and the need for greater parental involvement.

Other than that, I think they should demonstrate some greater effort on their own part to better themselves and their community. For instance, it might show real initiative if they organized their own little seminars, maybe with some teacher support and Internet-based course materials, and just learned what they wanted to learn--maybe even things that schools won't ever teach. They could create something in addition to asking for things. They could innovate and show strength, not just a passive attitude of complaint.

When the generation you were too stingy to educate grows up, don't be surprised if they balk at supporting you in your old age...

Well the US already spends the third most per pupil in the world. I'm not convinced more money is the key issue.
posted by shivohum at 8:01 PM on March 5, 2012


I don't think there's anything in the manifesto that precludes responsible, active engagement by the students, their families and the community at large. In fact, quite the opposite when they are asking to be educated in a safe environment.

Similarly, having teachers who originated in the diverse communities and cultures of NYC doesn't preclude having skilled teachers... People like Rubbstone do get to college every year, despite the expectations of their teachers. Competent, experienced teachers are not by definition white folks from the suburbs. I don't blame those (potential) teachers for wanting to make a good wage doing something far from the systemic, institutionalize racism documented in the NYC schools but you shouldn't imply those skilled candidates don't exist.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:28 PM on March 5, 2012


facetious: "Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives.

Hahahahahahahahahaha! Awesome!!! *We hereby demand that our fellow students shape up or ship out!* Hahahahahahaha! *backslap*

Wait, you were serious?
"

I should apparently wonder how I made it through 4 years with nothing but my knuckles (pretty lame, actually) and my wits (fair dinkum, if I can say so myself) as it is apparently impossible to do according to you folks.

Or... Did I die in high school and am one of the... living dead?

DUMMMM DUMMMM DAAAAAAAAAH!
posted by Samizdata at 8:30 PM on March 5, 2012


School choice?! How, exactly, is that supposed to fix things in this situation?

All the decent schools are already overcrowded and have waiting lists. A lot of the schools are really bad - perhaps most of them. What will "choice" do?

Longer school hours? Here's an analogy: "This food makes me sick." "You should ask for more of it."

> For instance, it might show real initiative if they organized their own little seminars, maybe with some teacher support and Internet-based course materials, and just learned what they wanted to learn

It strikes me you've made zero attempt to find out about the place you're talking about. How is this supposed to happen? Where are they supposed to do this? In the schools? Where they need a teacher and special permission even for established extra-curricular activities? No one, no one is going to let kids use school facilities unsupervised. That's part of the problem!

Just the idea that you say to kids, "If you don't like the education you're getting, you should do it yourself," is appalling.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


NYC is failing its youth by not teaching them the correct way to use "comprise."
___
Which definition were you thinking they used incorrectly?


Your definition is right. They used it wrong. Things can't be comprised OF. Comprise is not a synonym for "compose." You can't say "this band is comprised of five members." You can say "this band comprises five members" or "this band is composed of five members." "Comprised of" is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, correct.
posted by millipede at 8:44 PM on March 5, 2012


Language evolves.
posted by empath at 9:41 PM on March 5, 2012


New York City offers an unparalled set of educational opportunities for kids, as long as they've got what it takes, and they go by the name of Stuy, Bronx Science, Hunter, Townsend Harris, and many others. These kids need to ask what their schools and student bodies are doing wrong if they don't make the grade.
posted by MattD at 10:00 PM on March 5, 2012


"Comprised of" is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, correct.

Perhaps this is just a joke I'm not getting rather than pure obnoxiousness, but this, to pick an example, calls 'to be comprised of' acceptable idiomatic usage, and Merriam-Webster, to choose another, says it has been in use in that sense since the 18th century but that 'you may be subject to criticism for doing so'.

Not exactly your laying down of prescriptivist law, there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:11 PM on March 5, 2012


You know, I think these kids are onto something.

Really, I do. If anyone has the right to demand change, it's those who are in the midst of a broken system. And if anyone has the right to claim innocence for creating that system, it's children who literally were not in charge and could not be responsible for the systems they've been thrust into.

It may very well be the case, empirically, that 15-1 ratios are required for educational systems to work well. Note that homeschooling implies much lower ratios; there aren't too many mothers in history that have survived 15 pregnancies. If the ratio is 15-1, past which group dynamics leave children behind, then that's the game. Figure out how to get 15-1. And who else would you expect to tell you the game is failing, but the students themselves?
posted by effugas at 10:30 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget that we're talking about compulsory education here, as in, if you don't attend, a truent officer comes to your door. If you were lucky enough to attend an even mediocre public school, you have no idea what it is to be forced to attend a bad one. And then to be told that you're just not trying hard enough. And then to be told you should be grateful. And then to be told not only what to talk about, to whom and when; what to learn and how to learn it; and even when you are allowed to eat and go to the bathroom; and then what to do when you get home so that you can demonstrate the appropriate amount of "personal responsibility"...school is prison for some people. (and that doesn't even begin to address bad teachers who feel you up in class or humiliate you for having holes in your sneakers that squeak when it rains and call them "clown shoes" or tell an eleven year old that he can't write about being inspired by Obama for African-American history month because, after all, Obama is part white).

And fuck. Being the parent who is forced to send your child, day after day, month after month, year after year to such a school? It's humiliating and worse, To know your child's well-being is being threatened and you can't do a thing about it. It doesn't take an education to see your child's joyful face turn to dread. Fuck no, I won't come to parent teacher night so that you can tell me my daughter needs to apply herself. Call me "disinterested" all you want, but I will not become a bully on the school's behalf and "enforce homework rules at home" when it is clearly busy work that doesn't support learning. And I will not ever allow my child to believe that the sum total of his worth as a human being is dependent on his performance at school even if it is where he is forced to spend the majority of his time. Complain all you want, teacher, about being a glorified babysitter -- I did not hire you or choose you. You vett babysitters who spend 2 hours with your kids while you're at the movies more thoroughly than I am allowed to vett you.

If that wasn't your experience, your personal assessment/opinion of what's wrong with youth today is pretty much worthless. You're overstepping your bounds.

I started out saying that if you were lucky enough to attend an even mediocre public school, you have no idea what it is to be forced to attend a bad one. That was wrong. All you have to do is ask. Listen. These students who are listing their demands are giving you an opportunity to listen. Correcting their grammar or ridiculing them for not fucking swallowing it is a dick move.


Have you ever worked collectively with others to demand change, directly from the people who do not want to give it to you? Most people haven't. It takes courage. Because people will try to humiliate you for it. They will pick you apart and find anything you've been embarrassed about and point it out through a megaphone. You're poor. You're stupid. You're not grammatically correct.

*i know a few exceptional teachers. And every single one of them knows a bad teacher. A bad teacher who spends hours each day in his/her personal fiefdom, without any transparency or accountability.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:40 PM on March 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Ok, so if we're agreed that it's a mediocre document written by "badly-educated" kids, why give it so much publicity? Doesn't this mentality make trouble -- wild applause for exceeding even the most minimal standards? Doesn't it make our expectations kind of pathetic?"

We aren't agreed on that, but rather that requiring students to write at a level that not even most expert adults can aspire to in order for their concerns to be taken as legitimate is an absurdly elitist dismissal, and amounts to an ad hominem refusal to consider the ideas in order to snark about their rhetorical skill. That's what we agree on.

And the reason why it's important is that it's a coherent statement from an organized group of stakeholders, stakeholders whose outcomes are generally agreed as the very fucking point of the system.

"Well, they may not be entirely separate, but they're certainly not entirely the same either. I just see the one-sidedness of this set of requests as striking the wrong tone."

I see your one-sided criticism, along with the mouthing of unsupported prescriptions in order to ignore the legitimate complaints of the document, as striking the wrong tone.

The difference is that, again, they're stakeholders dealing with problems largely regarded as systemic and institutional, whereas you're overdetermining from a bias for individualism that isn't supported here, and being a dismissive ass about it in the meantime.

"But come on, really, doesn't this sound like it was written by some organization giving out talking points? It does not sound like it comes from the natural thinking and speech of concerned young people."

Your comments echo talking points from right-wing and libertarian media. I can only assume that if you'd thought for yourself, you'd be less cliched and more nuanced. See how that's again attacking the speakers instead of their ideas? Given the number of times that MeFites howl about ad hominems, you'd think you'd recognize one.

"For one thing I think they should address other parts of the system, like the role of school choice, longer school hours, and the need for greater parental involvement."

Like I said, talking points. Instead of dealing with their ideas and talking about what is and isn't feasible about them — like, say, the concrete criticisms above that do back-of-envelope math about cost and efficacy — you simply shift the discussion to some hobby-horses you feel are superior based on, well, it sounds like they came to you from someone you respect. But third-party expertise obviously hasn't translated into you being able to build a strong argument for any of them. "School choice" is too broad to be a real topic here — some school choice schemes allow for rapid development of novel teaching techniques; many school choice schemes really are about reinforcing segregation, both economic and racial. Longer school hours also has budget implications and isn't a panacea at all. Greater parental involvement is a general good, but it's not a substitute for systemic changes and doesn't address the fact that all kids need a good education, whether or not their parents are involved. Taken to the absurd extreme, you'd argue that orphans have no place in school, as they have no hope for parental involvement.

"Other than that, I think they should demonstrate some greater effort on their own part to better themselves and their community. For instance, it might show real initiative if they organized their own little seminars, maybe with some teacher support and Internet-based course materials, and just learned what they wanted to learn--maybe even things that schools won't ever teach. They could create something in addition to asking for things. They could innovate and show strength, not just a passive attitude of complaint."

How do you know that they're not involved in bettering their education and community? You invent a hypothetical path to that — implying that all other paths are unworthy — and then dismiss the kids for not following your invented prescription, without even bothering to check and see whether or not they do. Instead, you label them as complainers and use that to justify dismissing their comments.

That's homespun bullshit, and shows you to be the empty complainer, not these kids.
posted by klangklangston at 11:27 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now you can see OWS's wisdom in refusing to release specific demands: because there is always someone on the internet ready to scream SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS! or RACIAL HIRING QUOTAS! or EVIL TEACHERS' UNIONS!

This is a funny response. The purpose of asking for specific demands is to make it possible for people to evaluate for themselves whether the goals and strategies of OWS (or any other movement) are worth putting effort into. It's not a fucking trap. You'll survive the criticism if you actually have good ideas.
posted by Anything at 3:35 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What if your goals and strategies involve things like, "create international network of protesters"? Then the "criticism" will involve things like pre-emptive police barricades.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:45 AM on March 6, 2012


That's your categorization not mine.
posted by Anything at 3:58 AM on March 6, 2012


I'm not sure what you're talking about or arguing against.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:23 AM on March 6, 2012


Well I hope it'll help to point out that arguments are not the equivalent of police barricades.
posted by Anything at 4:36 AM on March 6, 2012


Back to the class size issue: would it make sense to have overcrowded schools operate on shifts? Such that some kids and teachers start at 7, and a second batch starts at 3, and maybe even a night shift? Yes, it means more teachers, but doesn't require more physical locations. As well, there are some people who function well at the crack of dawn, and there who function best when the moon is rising, and shift-based education could serve them both.
posted by dejah420 at 5:04 AM on March 6, 2012


Boneheaded slogans like EVIL TEACHERS' UNIONS! are quite useful if you're trying to instigate a police action against someone.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:09 AM on March 6, 2012


A friend-of- a-friend was a teacher at Berkeley High School in the Bay Area, a town with great disparities of race, wealth, education, and privilege. He said that the the students from wealthier (read: white) families who pushed the value of education performed better in the same classrooms of the same high school than members of poorer (read: non-white) families who did not stress the value of education in the home. This comes down to the families, not the schools--as these are these students are in the same building, same classroom.

This is true in my own life: I was not expected to do well in school and was told by my family that school was some part of society's rules that I must endure, rather than a gateway to an entirely different standard of living. I was pretty much expected to be pregnant and married before I was 18, as was my mother, and most of my many sisters, and other female relatives. Plus, a religious upbringing taught me to not value "wordly" things like an education. This is not something you can just snap out of as a teenager; the difference between what your family values and what school tells you should value is a major hurdle, especially when the rules of the game seem stacked against the very fiber of your considered-unique and valued being. My family loved me, but didn't want to lose me to what they considered a "false" world. I assume that many in poor communities, be it of color or no, have the same opinion of the so-called education. We have no real agency in our lives and we know it.

I had to move out on my own and slowly piece together an education apart from the values of my own screwed-up family and community. My public high school could not be expected to shoulder that burden, though they tried. I was an intelligent "discipline problem" and would-be drop-out.

I'm amazed these New York Students want to be valued: SDS started out the same way, how quickly before they became Weathermen! I'm worried and sad for us all...
posted by eegphalanges at 5:16 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


"worldly" things. And "wordly" if that's a word.
posted by eegphalanges at 5:17 AM on March 6, 2012


Mmmmm. Blame pie. Plenty for everyone.
posted by Trochanter at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2012


I have experienced the city schools both directly, as a student, and through my mother, who is a teacher. I could go on about these issues for days: why the city's schools cost more, how the IEP system fails students, why Teaching Fellows and Teach for America aren't helping, or how community engagement and parent involvement could be encouraged. There are many different ways the system could be improved, but I have a feeling that asking kids to "take responsibility for their education" isn't going to solve the problem on its own.

I think it's fine and good that this list was created, even if it isn't a full manifesto, and includes a grammatical error, and doesn't include immediately practical goals, and maybe apes the voice and language of other stakeholders (which seems par for the earnest teenager course). It includes a lot of areas that need improvement, and which can only be improved if people see them as possibilities, rather than mere budgetary line items.

This comes down to the families, not the schools.
Even if it were, simply, the families, it's still the schools' problem. Let's say you have a school in an area where almost all of the parents don't value education. Does that mean you just throw in the towel? How do you support the odd kid who is actively trying to learn? How do you get more kids engaged, despite their families? How do you get the families on board?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:23 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: I attended Stuyvesant, too! Only I went there when I was dropping out of my own magnet school, because Stuy served as an overflow school for kids who couldn't attend a program in their catchment area. As such, the student body was a hell of a mix: go-getters from around the city who were taking courses over the summer to skip ahead, magnet-school kids who were making up classes, and kids from schools whose local summer programs were overloaded to bursting, because so many students needed to catch up.

My physics class had 72 kids in the same room on the first day (it would later be broken up). Someone was setting looseleaf on fire at their seat. Another kid was swinging from the ball-bearing pull chain attached to the blinds, cutting through it with a pocket knife. The chain snapped, dropping him to the floor. He stood up slowly, and then wrapped it around his wrist, as a bracelet. For what it's worth, that guy turned out to be a Stuy student.

posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:34 AM on March 6, 2012


Demand your fellow students stop showing up to school with knives. Those metal detectors? The school didn't pay money for them for no reason. There are plenty of places across the country that don't have them, precisely because they don't have the kids-stabbing-other-kids problem.

This was pretty much exactly what the Right was saying about how "moderate Muslims" were responsible for stopping terrorism. I thought it was bullshit victim blaming then too.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:51 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, honestly, what is depressing is that many people think that a quality education will just fall into a young person's lap without any commitment from that young person, that young person's family and that young person's community.

It works for most communities that way. Generally you show up to a place where there are "good schools," and the schools are good, the students get a good education, and the teachers are competent. I find this incessant victim-blaming where poor communities are told, "these people just want a good education to fall into their lap!" to be pretty patronizing and unrealistic.

This entire list almost entirely hits the nail on the head. Just because one or two bullets seem inserted by an over-earnest parent or student playacting at college activist isn't something I am going to get agitated about when the rest is something that needs to be demanded.
posted by deanc at 9:25 AM on March 6, 2012


The purpose of asking for specific demands is to make it possible for people to evaluate for themselves whether the goals and strategies of OWS (or any other movement) are worth putting effort into

That assumes that your opinion and evaluation of those movements matter. They don't exist to serve you. They exist to serve their members.

It's kind of clear that this list of demands served as an invitation on the part of MeFites to instead glorify themselves screeching about "OH NOES QUOTAS" as if they were somehow important players in this issue or that their opinion about what was best for NYC schools was somehow relevant or mattered. This is the big problem, I think-- you hear a bunch of concerns of a problematic school system and a point-by-point set of demands from the students, and the immediate middle class reaction is, "well, let me explain how this is all about me."
posted by deanc at 9:30 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Longer school hours (or running schools in shifts) would require a seismic change in family life. Essentially right now public school scheduling is built around traditional adult work hours, i.e., 9ish to 5ish Monday through Friday. About 70% of children live in households where all adults are employed outside the home, which means 7 out of 10 kids on an early shift are either returning to an empty house or else the parents are forced to pay for child care in order to avoid that situation. A later shift means that kids are leaving the house hours after their parents have departed, or else, again, some kind of child care system has to come out of the parents' pockets.

And this is all supposed to happen in an atmosphere where (admittedly) some parents are not particularly committed to their children's education?
posted by La Cieca at 9:39 AM on March 6, 2012


Tone always becomes a frustrating factor in any discussion/argument about education. FWIW, when I noted that high student motivation would trump most of these issues, I wasn't trying to discount the list or the effort.

Family life is always going to have a huge impact. Student motivation is always a huge impact. Both of these factors can easily outweigh the schools themselves. Society largely can't control either of these issues (we can try like hell to motivate our students, but in the end it's still the students' call). Therefore, we focus on what we theoretically can control, which is the schools and the teachers.

Sadly, it frequently gets to the point where we act like it's all on the teachers and the schools because we can control that part. We put idiotic expectations on our teachers ("Why didn't you mold all your disinterested, disadvantaged kids into college-bound graduates? Aren't you competent?") and our schools ("Joey brought a gun to school today. Why didn't the principal stop him? Is the principal incompetent?"). We also all have stronger memories of the less-than-impressive teachers than we have of the competent/effective-but-forgettable teachers.

I feel like that's a whole lot of self-evident stuff...but then I look at stuff like this thread and I wonder what happened to all the perspective.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:43 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perhaps this is just a joke I'm not getting rather than pure obnoxiousness

It's neither. If it's obnoxious to care about grammar, then feel free to consider me obnoxious. I now consider you obnoxious, so we are even.

'you may be subject to criticism for doing so'

Yes, and I'm the criticizer.
posted by millipede at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2012


It's neither. If it's obnoxious to care about grammar, then feel free to consider me obnoxious.

Oh, fear not, I'm sure most people reading this thread do. It's not obnxious to care about grammar -- far from it. Here on Metafilter, more people are more concerned about matters grammatical than almost any other place on the internet, which is part of what makes it great. You'd know that if you'd spent much time participating here. You might even be aware how often I've personally argued in the 12 years I've been here how often I've suggested that it is not only what you say but how you say it that makes your arguments convincing, but knowledge of my personal posting history is not required.

I now consider you obnoxious, so we are even.

That's fine. Some people do. I try not to be, but we all have our off days.

Yes, and I'm the criticizer.

The problem, you see, is that your criticism in poorly founded, tediously prescriptivist (friendly suggestion: try a search for the word 'prescriptivist' and have a look at the many hundreds of discussions we've had on this kind of thing over the years), and when made by repeating the word 'ever' more than 60 times, pure fucking noise.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:17 PM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Heh. If there's not already an equivalent of Godwin's Law stating that every website comment about spelling will contain a spelling mistake and every one about grammar will contain grammatical errors, there should be. I suggest 'Wonderchicken's Axiom'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:03 PM on March 6, 2012


They show zero awareness, for instance, of WHY things are the way they are and of any viewpoint other than their own

Highly mobile workforce, willing to meet the needs of employers even if that means constantly relocating for work or abandoning their given trades to meet the fast-paced demands of a global market place. That's a bigger part of why things are the way they are--and why our communities are so fragmented and our culture so broken--than anything these kids or their parents have any control over.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The purpose of asking for specific demands is to make it possible for people to evaluate for themselves whether the goals and strategies of OWS (or any other movement) are worth putting effort into
That assumes that your opinion and evaluation of those movements matter. They don't exist to serve you. They exist to serve their members.
You have an error there if you think your first sentence needs to have anything to do with the latter two. Good luck with imagining that a movement with societal goals only needs to convince its own members that it is right. Success by default!
It's kind of clear that this list of demands served as an invitation on the part of MeFites to instead glorify themselves screeching about "OH NOES QUOTAS" as if they were somehow important players in this issue or that their opinion about what was best for NYC schools was somehow relevant or mattered.
Who are you to say what anyone else's motivations are for taking part in the conversation?
posted by Anything at 2:38 AM on March 7, 2012


Sadly, stavros, it appears that a certain Mr Muphry got there before you. You might argue that your construction is a subset of Muphry's law, however. How does "Wonderchicken's Variant" strike you?
posted by howfar at 9:56 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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