"Those who control the education of the children control the future of the race." Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project
The most pernicious aspect of our present purposefully failed and exclusively corporate-profit-driven public education system- when it comes to students of color and the poor- is that it gets these student victims of this system to think something is wrong with them. This as opposed to the easily verifiable truth, which is that this public education system has let them down from the moment they entered kindergarten.
The real problem is public education's continued unwillingness to educate all students in a timely age-sensitive manner that deals with each individual student at their respective subjective level irrespective of often arbitrary and inaccurate grade-level designation determined solely by age. And the longer this public education system fails to do so, the more immutable the damage being done to these innocent students, whose lives it continues unabatedly to destroy.
This predictable leads to more violence and costly damage to all of our society, because continuing to fail to socially and economically integrate an unnecessarily large part of our population ultimately costs big bucks. Surprisingly, it would be much less expensive and much much easier to educate and integrate this country's future. At some point one must ask if the real purpose of public education as presently constituted is to educate or to reinforce class and racial sterotypes to maintain the status quo.
The movie The Bad Kids is a new feel good documentary that will screen on your local PBS station at 10 pm March 20th. It purports to show in a faux objective documentary format the day-to-day life of "bad kids" aka underachieving students. What it purposefully never addresses is the supposed second chance at getting an education and making something of themselves these students are supposedly being offered, which is a complete fraud because it completely ignores the measurable academic deficits the "bad kids" have been allowed to acquire from years of being socially promoted without mastery of the prior grade-level standards that would have allowed them to reach their academic potential.
Just putting them in a continuation school, designed to help them finish high school, is an act that is doomed from its inception, because it is based on the false assumption that you can make somebody ready for and accessible to being in high school by merely waving a magic wand and declaring them ready, even though they have no mastery of any of the prerequisite prior grade-level standards that would actually give them a chance of succeeding. Not exactly a formula for good self-esteem.
Simply stated: How can you do Algebra, when you haven't learned your times tables? Or how are you supposed to read a 12th grade English literature or Government book, when you have a 3rd grade reading ability? But these and other issues are never addressed in The Bad Kids, whose sole purpose seems to be to create positivity and hope without any substance to back it up.
In addition, the mystical value of a high school diploma is set as the unquestioned goal for all students at Black Rock High School Continuation School students in Yucca Valley, California. No context or questioning of this goal is ever presented nor is the subsequent academic success or failure of any of the students ever presented.
When you go to the Black Rock website, it gives statistics of 38% in English and 50% in math for the number of students in the school district that are at grade-level, but the specific statistics of Black Rock Continuation High School students are a noticeable omitted. And when it comes to how many of Black Rock students are actually "College Ready," the website says "N/A" for not applicable. Why is that?
In the film and in the after screening discussion I attended, lead by KPPC Reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez, at no time was any critical questioning of The Bad Kids film premise ever addressed, until I raised my hand and mentioned what I thought there were some relevant questions that needed to be addressed:
1. Since 70% of students going to California junior colleges with high school diplomas cannot pass the entrance/placement examination and wind up taking remedial classes until most drop out, why is a high school diploma so important- especially since students could get a GED or high school diploma contemporaneously with doing other community college work. Are all high school diplomas created equal, if given by rote irrespective of whether or not the student really has mastered the material?
2. Since the total capacity of all colleges and universities in the United States is only 40% of all high school graduates, why are we closing down industrial arts and other direct occupational training programs that could see students gainfully employed in a manner that would make them self-sustaining and tax paying members of our society with a profession and/or the ability to pay for further education without going into debt?
3. What justifiable rage and antisocial behavior is predictably acted out when the vast majority of students in continuation school programs like Black Rock High School ultimately figure out that they have been scammed by being given high school diplomas that aren't worth the paper they are written on? And just how much effort would it take the school district or state to test whether the students really warranted a high school diploma as something more than a gift?
While schools in the past served as the key societal integration mechanism whose purpose was to level the playing field, when it came to equalizing academic opportunity and achievement available to all socio-economic classes of American society, today the difference in education between what the affluence receive and what minorities and the poor receive has never been greater. Is it any wonder that we presently have over 2.3 million people behind bars? If nothing else, it would seem that the cost of timely education would be far less expensive than incarceration at $78,000 a year for juveniles...unless your a for-profit corporation running the prison.
The free exchange of ideas and knowledge with which we as a putative democratic society can continue to make the decisions that will allow America to be great- again or maybe for just the first time- requires that we the people be given a marketplace of ideas from which to choose and something more than mere propaganda. Could that be why the various aspects of these right are in the First Amendment?
What I found most reprehensible on the evening we screened The Bad Kids was what has become the knowing cowardice of the news media- both commercial and public- which seem to care more about keeping their jobs as opposed to going where the facts lead them, irrespective of the corporate or foundation interests that either own or subsidize them. The Reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez, who emceed the evening, is an extremely intelligent person and excellent writer, who knows more than I do with regard to what is really going on in public education. But he not only chooses to do nothing to function as a reporter and question it, he rather gives purposefully distorted credibility by his mere unquestioning presence.
When I asked him why he never questioned something as irrational as LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King's serious recent call for 100% graduation rate, while LAUSD has an audited effective truancy rate of 52%, Guzman Lopez said, "She must have meant she would like to have 100% graduation." Other than President Donald Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is it the function of a reporter to slant and interpret without input or rather should he proactively ask how such an apparent contradiction exists? Shame on you Adolfo!
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