The social disadvantages and day-to-day tribulations faced by low-income students are all too real, says Mr. ab. All the more reason, he contends, that educators need to avoid letting them get in the way:
The necessity of learning to read or add does not decline with the difficulties of life. By now, millions of children, of all colors and countries, have acquired their basic skills despite the grandest obstacles. I don’t know what common strengths they have shared ... but I deeply suspect that one asset was not a teacher so “understanding” as to permit them to fail. As a self-purported “No Excuses” teacher, I am still cognizant of [the out-of-school issues students face] as they weigh in [their] minds. The difference is that while I might accommodate them in my approach they do not modify my expectations. To a degree it is heartless. It must be. My students cannot afford another year of failure. I care about their trials and traumas, but I choose to focus on helping them succeed anyway. ...
Nor does he see the wisdom in blaming external factors for schools' problems:
Blaming the families or the children will always be a fruitful approach for those who seek to conceal their own shortcomings, whether it is a lack of competence as an educator or a lack of compassion as a citizen. I have no time nor tolerance for it. We can change nothing about our children’s heritage or color. We can change little about their families’ focus and our society’s racism. We can change everything about our schools. Let’s start there.