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comment by thenewgreen
thenewgreen  ·  2753 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Avoiding Ivy League Preschool Syndrome

    I've disagreed with basically all of hubski on this issue before, that most knowledge can be self-taught to the extent that "bad" public schools versus "good" ones, especially at certain ages, is an unimportant distinction.
I'll call bullshit. You can be the biggest go-getter, self starter in the world but take these two examples and tell me there would be an "unimportant distinction"

School A

  Has only a few computers for entire student population. Runs on dial-up still
  Has teachers that are underpaid and have to work second jobs on nights and weekends
  Has no extracurricular activities
  Has antiquated text-books
School B

  Has computers in every classroom with high speed Internet
  Has teachers that are well compensated and dedicated to their profession alone
  Has debate club, science club, young astronauts, a baseball team, recreational equipment, a physics lab, a drama dept with a theater, a school band etc etc etc
  Has up to date textbooks and curriculum 
These things matter. A lot.

djw  ·  2753 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm with you. in some cases, the disparity is even greater than it is between the hypothetical schools you listed. Jonathan Kozol's text, Savage Inequalities, shows an example of this by looking at two schools in the same county in New Jersey. I forget the specifics, but one receives something like $10,000 annually per student in funding while the other sees just a few hundred dollars.

in schools like the latter, textbooks are not only antiquated, but also limited; they are often shared between multiple students, leaving many with none to take notes or study from overnight. classes are taught in supply closets because the schools have inadequate space. the teachers are often less experienced and skilled than the ones in the wealthier district because those ones get the higher-paying jobs.

the result is that not very much is learned, standardized test scores (flawed measure of knowledge though they are) suffer, and drop-out rates are high. obviously, these are social issues as well as academic ones, but the point is that education can't be entirely divorced from resource availability or school quality.

I'm as charmed by the notion of the autodidact as anyone, but it's hard for me to assume the poor performance of the less fortunate kids is their own doing rather than an uneven playing field. and let's not forget that, to teach oneself, one must value learning and be motivated to pursue it. how valuable does education seem if one's school / town / state can't even supply him or her a textbook or a classroom?

user-inactivated  ·  2753 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That's fine. I mean, you have personal experience from the parenting side with this stuff, which is hard to trump or argue against.

I firmly believe that brilliance will out, as it were. I shouldn't call it unimportant -- to some students it's vital; but to others it doesn't matter a whit. From personal experience, I guess.

thenewgreen  ·  2753 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Like b_b said, parents are what it comes down to. They tend to instill the curiosity in a child that nurtures brilliance. What a good school can provide are the tools to satiate that curiosity. That's important stuff and you might be shocked at how early the thirst for satiation occurs.

user-inactivated  ·  2753 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah I agree very much with what b_b said. The tools have to come from somewhere, but I can't help but think of (the obviously exceptional) Abraham Lincoln. He had no "tools", so he walked miles to his neighbor's houses to borrow books and he taught himself to read. School is an easier way for some, but isn't all-important.