California Schools: Dreadful by Choice

The City & County of San Francisco adequately reflects Sacramento’s inept approach to governing: tax and spend as much as possible on ineffectual projects. The City’s Board of Education operates on the same principle. Here are some quotes.

George Washington High School, in San Francisco’s Richmond District, is among the public schools in The City that bears the name of a historical figure with a questionable legacy. Photo caption. S.F. Examiner, May 14, 2018.

This discussion of changing names of public institutions and taking down public statues, particularly ones that serve to honor the Confederacy, has become more prominent across the country, especially with the rise of white supremacists who have been given implicit and explicit permission to come out in the open to display their bigotry by our so-called president. Opinion piece by by Stevon Cook and Mark Sanchez, S.F. Examiner, May 14, 2018.

The San Francisco Board of Education is at present considering a blue-ribbon panel composed of historians and other luminaries to review all San Francisco government schools that bear names declared inappropriate. For example, George Washington High School will be considered for a name change, since an old white slave owner simply does not fit into San Francisco Values.

Right about now, George Orwell is saying I told you so, and reminding us that, “Who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past.”

Available information does not specify whether these blue-ribbon panelists will receive taxpayer-funded stipends or expense reimbursements; although the panelists will certainly place taxpayers on the hook for the considerable costs of changing the schools’ name signs, letter heads, forms, documents, websites, email addresses, and whatever else bears old names.

Distract When You Cannot Deliver

We need to place the School Board’s resolution in context. California government schools are at the bottom of the national rankings. The ability to read proficiently is a key element in an individual’s ability to lead a self-directed life. Yet only 32% of 8th grade California students read at or above proficiency level. Given such an abysmal score, why are any resources spent on changing names of schools and not on finding new and more efficient ways of teaching children to read?

The school name change effort, like the statue demolition or the focus on movements, serves the system well. While parents and voters are embroiled in discussions about how horrible George Washington was, they are not paying attention to the fact their kids can’t read proficiently.

Although parental involvement in California government schools is not outstanding, the system has succeeded in distracting parents that do get involved. For example, Brea Olinda parents have become distressed about the name of one of their schools, William E. Fanning Elementary School, saying Mr. Fanning represents a racist past. All this angst in spite of the Brea Historical Society’s curator reporting that “the case for saying Fanning was a Klan member is flimsy at best.”

Scapegoating the Poor and the Immigrants

California government school bureaucrats are quick to excuse themselves from their responsibility of delivering proper education by quoting the high percentage of lower-income and non-English speaking students in the government school system. So, are these bureaucrats saying that lower-income and non-English speakers are less able to learn than other students? If so, that is unfortunate.

The nation’s Founding Fathers encouraged awareness and learning as means of preserving the Republic. That is, a Republic depends on its residents’ ability to remain self-sufficient, so that government remains within the boundaries prescribed by its Constitution. The Founders’ vision of education was further expanded by Horace Mann, who said,

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance wheel of the social machinery.

Mann visualized the child of more affluent parents and the child of working-class parents coming into a class-blind arena, where he would be motivated to learn the skills necessary to achieve his chosen goal. Whether the child chose to be a scientist or an artisan, educators would support the child’s inclinations.  Mann went as far as to say that such widespread education targeted to each child’s strength would erase poverty.

… the sufficiency, comfort, competence, of every individual, in regard to food, raiment, and shelter. And these necessaries and conveniences of life should be obtained by each individual for himself, or by each family for themselves, rather than accepted from the hand of charity, or extorted by poor-laws.

California government schools not only fail to teach children to read proficiently, but also blame the children for it. What to do?

Ella T. v. State of California

Two well-established law firms, Public Counsel and Morrison & Foerster, filed Ella T. v. State of California in Los Angeles Superior Court on December 5, 2017. The case, brought under the California Constitution, claims the right of all students to access literacy and receive schooling equal to that of other students in the State of California. The lawsuit demands that schools adopt the following:

* Evidence-based literacy instruction at the elementary and secondary level.
* A stable, supported, and appropriately trained teaching staff.
* Opportunities for parents and families to engage in students’ literacy education.
* School conditions that promote readiness for learning.

A hearing date is scheduled for later in May, 2018.

Alternative Learning

People come in different shapes, sizes, and types. Therefore, to place a group of children in a confined space and expect them to follow the space’s strict rules borders on insanity. Yet, traditional government schools do just that. However, they offer and allow some choices within the otherwise rigid setting.

* Charter Schools:
Publicly funded, but have more control over academic achievement and school management than traditional government schools.

* Homeschooling:
California allows for ways that parents can teach their children at home: through an existing private school, through a public charter or independent study program, and in many instances by opening their own private home based school.

* Language Immersion:
Designed for children whose primary language is English, these schools teach all or most subjects in another language.

* Magnet Schools:
Specialize in specific subjects, such as art or science, and children need to prove their inclination towards those subjects.

* Public Montessori
Associated with the American Montessori Society, these schools follow the Montessori “child-centric” method, which assumes all children are curious and will learn if their curiosity is property encouraged.

Kids Cannot Fight on Their Own

Little kids learning the basics of reading, writing, and math cannot fight for their rights to be taught by competent and caring educators. Kids need grownups in their lives to fight for them. Not an easy feat when parents must work two jobs to make ends meet, or one parent is the sole breadwinner.  Being involved is a difficult but crucial balancing act.

Education Book Report 2
This book report by a 3rd grader is part of the Exhibits in the Ella T v. California law suit.