October 2013 Archives

Someday I'd like to write a book on anti-poverty efforts, and I hope it might have the title above. Understanding that my knowledge about this vast topic is still limited, here's a first cut at the basic outline. I think you'll agree that there are quite a few items on the list about which we can agree.


Is it really "virtuous" to put one's own children ahead of everyone else's? That baffles me. Have I misunderstood you?


Over the course of our dialogue, we've written a lot about children living in poverty and about inequality. But you've been practically daring me to engage on the question of the other end of the spectrum: the children of the rich. OK, fine, I see that resistance is futile!


Despite 30 years of relentless attack most still trust school teachers more than businesspeople, public schools more than corporations, and see their own neighborhood school as pretty good! It amazes me.


I totally understand the frustration of educators who complain that policymakers put all the problems of the world on their shoulders and want to see "broader and bolder" efforts to fight poverty, too. But there's a simple reason that education has been in the spotlight for so long: It's one of the few things upon which the politicians--and the Americans they represent--can agree.


I'd find your willingness to back away from "a pure boot strap" approach comforting, but remind you that many children born to parents (or great grandparents) in the top fifth never have to lift themselves up at all to remain in the top fifth.


A good many of our policies and programs should be designed to help people with the drive, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to rise. We should clear any obstacles in their path. We should empower them with opportunities. And, at all costs, we should avoid undercutting their efforts. In short, we should bring an ethos of meritocracy back to our anti-poverty efforts--the same ethos that still works relatively well at the top of our social structures and could work equally well at the bottom.


Test-score achievement may lead to a BA, MA, or PhD, but it isn't the route to a good job if enough good jobs don't exist.


Do you in fact not believe that tomorrow's schools, like those of yesterday, can be lighthouses that help young people find a brighter future? And if you share my faith in the power of great schools, how can we help educators see their role as a point of pride, rather than something that feels like an accusation?


I want some things to "matter" to students, their families, and the school community—and citizens writ large. Habit #5 of our "Habits of Mind" is: "Who cares? Why does it matter?"


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