The Matthew Effect and American Education

What’s all this nonsense about American schools being designed for a “democratic society … united by our education system through common values, comprehensive curriculum … and free K-12 education for every child”? (Per
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/17/edward-berger-on-the-tenets-of-education-in-a-democracy/ )

There are many who don’t believe a word of that stuff about equal rights or common values. From well before the American Revolution, it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write. Many of our Founding Fathers owned slaves and most states limited the vote to those who owned property. The US invaded Mexico so that white Texan slaveowners could keep their slaves. A large portion of the nation seceded from the union lest they be unable to further expand slavery into those new territories.

It took a bloody civil war to smash the idea and practice that some people were so inferior that all their labor could be stolen from them and they had no rights even to live as a family or go where they wished. Of course, after the Confederacy was smashed, the war criminals and traitors who led that treacherous rebellion were eventually allowed back into power in the South; corporations in the North were given free reign to profit from the merciless exploitation of “free” laborers from all corners of the globe, while Southern plantation and factory owners were permitted to re-enslave black workers through Jim Crow vagrancy laws. (Please see http://www.slaverybyanothername.com )

Our system is in a constant war between the forces of democracy and the forces of the power elite (or the Ruling Class, or “the 1%”) and those who agree with them.

This is true also in education.

Can anybody doubt that the children of the wealthiest have always received the very best educations, with the best instruction known in the arts, music, foreign languages, sports along with the best in the sciences, writing, math, literature and so on — for the purpose of allowing them to think for themselves? And that the poor and working classes are generally given an education designed to weed them out or to toe the line and be obedient workers, blindly pledging allegiance to a system that basically disenfranchises them?

The “Matthew Effect”, as you can read in Wikipedia, means quite simply, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It comes from Matthew 25:29, and the KJV says “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.”

The nation’s billionaire education “reformers” are at it again. They claim that the best type of school for the poor and brown or black kids is one with a few temporary teachers and a lot of profitable computers, all in one room. Or a school where there is nothing but relentless force-feeding of math “facts” and “brief constructed responses” and SLANT in English. And kids who can’t handle this stultifying regime get bounced out back to the regular public schools.

While students at Choate, Chicago Lab School, Phillips Exeter, Sidwell Friends, Lakeside school and so on (where the 1% send their own kids) get the royal treatment.

It’s going to take a huge movement to stop this incredibly unequal treatment. Parents, teachers, students and ordinary citizens, please step up and be counted in that struggle!

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Some of us are trying to organize, but it is very frustrating when teachers who have never read the Common Core Standards or never taught them or have never been accountable for test results related to them tell everyone how wonderful they are and how they are a game changer when asked about them! What is needed is for NEA and AFT to combine their resources and start their own TV program like Oprah did and organize programs showing what a real education should look like. So when someone turns on the Learning channel they see something related to education and helping people develop the tools so they can continue to think about new ideas and when turning on the discovery channel they are watching something related to discover or new frontiers in some discipline and not just about Aliens from another galaxy! They could sponsor political debates that are run like Real debates and candidates must give well thought out answers to questions or they need to say honestly they need to learn more before commenting. They could invite ALL candidates to debate and not just two people. People want choice so let us give it to them. We could have Real Experts discuss the issues of the day and not a paid think tank individual who is paid to slant the truth. A debate between Arne Duncan and Professor Pasi Sahlberg about the “no excuses” idea for educational reform. I hope we can gather more support and change our current direction for public education before I pass and my grandchildren never get the wonderful education I received in a very middle class school system in wonderful Waukegan, Illinois.

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  2. I think you might like this book by Carol Jago. It’s specifically related to literature, however.

    http://www.amazon.com/With-Rigor-All-Teaching-Contemporary/dp/1893056066

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