It is important to define in very specific terms what is meant by academic background, or what it means to be an educated person. So let me take a crack at some of the factors that are clearly present when a person is educated:
1. An educated person tries in the present to consider what they have experienced and learned in the past in determining with great specificity what they will do in the future.
2. In trying to develop a model of analyzing an issue, they focus more on the ideas that disagree with their own position, since they realize that the more complete their model of analysis is, the higher the probability of their coming up with a viable solution.
3. They realize that all answers are tentative, because the nature of reality is something that is always changing, so that there is no guarantee that what works now will work in the future without continued modification based on predictably changing circumstances.
4. Truly educated people realize that the counter intuitive nature of knowledge is the realization that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know -- it should create actions that are always self-critical and humbling.
5. One of the most positive pillars of conservative thought is the awareness that the relative stability of of any society rests on certain factors that must be considered thoroughly before implementing change. Often a potential solution already exists that might just needs to be identified and implemented.
6. Human beings by their very nature tend to have a vested interest in whatever the status quo is and have a difficult time with change.
So let's see if we can apply some of these factors of being educated to cleverly maintaining excellent public education given the objective reality of the difficult economic times we find ourselves in in California and the rest of the country. This can only be accomplished if something more than a simplistic balance sheet approach is taken toward the hundreds of millions of dollarsin cuts LAUSD faces over the next few years. As we have seen by Superintendent Ramon Cortines' draconian cuts to certificated and classified staff as well as departmental operating budgets, while one can remain concerned about the effect that these cuts will have on already failed public education, they can be made nonetheless if you are either unwilling or unable to posit a more creative solution open to a truly educated person, because Cortines' approach lacks many of the factors cited above.
There is a great deal of talk today about empowering parents in hopes of making schools more responsive to the needs of the students in their charge. The problem is that there is a failure to realize that most of these parents where themselves in this same failed public education system not too many years ago and as such lack the education necessary to effectively advocate on behalf of their children and not be manipulated by people who have their own self-interest at heart and the maintenance of their power under the status quo.
So here's a little fix that not only costs little or nothing, but stands an excellent chance of bringing down many of the collateral costs to the State of California for the failure of LAUSD and other school districts throughout the state. Any inner city teacher or school administrator will tell you that it is difficult, if not impossible, to address the needs of an academically challenged student population if student discipline cannot be maintained. In difficult economic times, administrators marching orders from LAUSD are to maintain attendance at any cost, because funding for LAUSD is exclusively a function of in seat attendance or ADA. In perusing the California Education Code, one comes up with the following section:
EDUCATION CODE SECTION 48900-48927 48900.1. (a) The governing board of each school district may adopt a policy authorizing teachers to require the parent or guardian of a pupil who has been suspended by a teacher pursuant to Section 48910 for reasons specified in subdivision (i) or (k) of Section 48900, to attend a portion of a schoolday in the classroom of his or her child or ward. The policy shall take into account reasonable factors that may prevent compliance with a notice to attend. The attendance of the parent or guardian shall be limited to the class from which the pupil was suspended.
Although this is the law in California, LAUSD has never to my knowledge used this approach with students and parents who continue to show contempt for school discipline rules, because they have no teeth. I remember a parent telling me when I taught at Palisades Charter High School, "Johnny is not my problem between 8am and 3pm." Over the years, parents are brought in for parent-teacher-administrator conference -- when they decide to show up -- and the teacher and administrator go through how Johnny has to act in school. Often, Johnny is put under a contract or given a euphemistic "opportunity transfer" to another school, where they proceed to disrupt that school the way they did their prior school.
Clearly, when there are no consequences for either the student or the parent, one has to be a damned fool to think that behavior is going to change. The cost of a school police force, that didn't exist when I went to LAUSD, LAPD, a criminal justice system that presently owes the federal government $8 billion for the illegal conditions of state prisons, is far more expensive than instituting an educated and well thought out program of requiring parent attendance as long as their children's behavior remains incorrigible. Not only would the students do better, but we just might get a second chance with the ex-LAUSD parents.