Saturday, July 16, 2011

while we're talking about it

So some of you may have seen it already, but this AP article ran in The New York Times today, about a huge scandal that has embroiled that Atlanta public school system.


Atlanta Schools Created Culture of Cheating, Fear
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 16, 2011 at 10:20 AM ET


ATLANTA (AP) — Teachers spent nights huddled in a back room, erasing wrong answers on students' test sheets and filling in the correct bubbles. At another school, struggling students were seated next to higher-performing classmates so they could copy answers.

Those and other confessions are contained in a new state report that reveals how far some Atlanta public schools went to raise test scores in the nation's largest-ever cheating scandal. Investigators concluded that nearly half the city's schools allowed the cheating to go unchecked for as long as a decade, beginning in 2001.

Administrators — pressured to maintain high scores under the federal No Child Left Behind law — punished or fired those who reported anything amiss and created a culture of "fear, intimidation and retaliation," according to the report released earlier this month, two years after officials noticed a suspicious spike in some scores.

The report names 178 teachers and principals, and 82 of those confessed. Tens of thousands of children at the 44 schools, most in the city's poorest neighborhoods, were allowed to advance to higher grades, even though they didn't know basic concepts.

One teacher told investigators the district was "run like the mob."

"Everybody was in fear," another teacher said in the report. "It is not that the teachers are bad people and want to do it. It is that they are scared."

For teachers and their bosses, the stakes were high: Schools that perform poorly and fail to meet certain benchmarks under the federal law can face sharp sanctions. They may be forced to offer extra tutoring, allow parents to transfer children to better schools, or fire teachers and administrators who don't pass muster.

(Read the full article.)

So...that.  This is not a new story, by the way--it's been in the local papers for the past few months--but it's one that I've been following with more than a little interest.  Because in a few weeks, we're going to be part of the Atlanta Public School system, when Cal starts first grade.

I would first like to point out that both Joe and I attended public schools up until we went to college, and Joe's dad is actually a retired public school principal.  And of course, I'd also like to think that if reputation and historical data count for anything, the school Cal (and maybe Mack in a few years) will be attending is actually supposed to be excellent--that school is, in fact, the reason we moved into this particular neighborhood in the first place.  But do these things make me feel better?  I little, I guess.  But not totally.

Ideologically, I think that every child should have the right to a good education, that we need to direct more resources to public schools, that the public school system in the United States should, by all rights, be one of the best in the world.  I don't believe that getting a quality education should solely be the purview of those who can afford private school.  The fact that an education is state-funded doesn't make it a bad one, just as much as paying a lot for an education doesn't make it a good one.

But at the same time, want to know my first, knee-jerk response?  It was: If this doesn't work out, there is no amount of money that I wouldn't spend to make sure my kid gets a good education.

It isn't about the money.  Or is it?  How do you separate out resources from environment?  Why is it that the best public schools are usually in the most affluent neighborhoods?  And wherein do other, non-monetary resources come into play?  There was an example in the article of a parent who talks about how she was just blindsided that her child, despite passing all standardized testing indicators, was actually performing way under grade level, and the first thing I thought was: how could you not have known that?  How can you not know what your kid is doing?  How would you be surprised to find out that your kid can't read?  Can't do math?  Isn't performing at grade level?  I wouldn't think you'd be blindsided by that; I'd think you, as the parent, would be the first to know.

So in this case, as is the case with just about everything in the world, it is about money, but also...it isn't.  It's about the rest of the picture.  My kid spends seven hours a day at school, ten hours a night sleeping.  It's what one does with the other seven hours that make the difference.

(And before people get upset, let's not equate emphasizing academic success with a joyless childhood.  I have two little boys and I know kids have to unwind and have fun in order to grow up happy, so I'm by no means promoting seven straight hours of grim academic drills, cram school-style.  I'm just saying is that as their parents, we have more perspective than anyone else the extent to which our kids can achieve, and also as their parents, it is our responsibility to help them get there.)

Anyway, Cal's starting first grade in a few weeks.  And Joe and I are going to be right there.  We'll see what kind of work he's doing, see what kind of homework he's bringing home, see what kind of progress he's making.  We're going to work at home, and then we're going to work a little more.  And I think that'll be just as important--probably more so--than what school he goes to or what teacher he has or whatever summer reading list they're sending home.

And make no mistake, I think all schools most certainly have a tremendous responsibility to their students.  They should, and they must.  But along with that, let's not let institutional reputation, test scores and a grades give any false reassurances, or absolve us as parents from the responsibility of picking up the slack.

37 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Joe's dad is actually a retired public school principle.
    It is princiPAL because the principal is your friend (not principle as in notion).

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  2. Anonymous5:27 PM

    It's unfortunately about money and demographics. I felt a degree of guilt sending my children to a private school, but it faded over the years. I am sure there are excellent public schools and hope that the one you selected turns out to be one such school. If not, you can go elsewhere!

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  3. Anonymous #1: good catch on "principal"! Spelling was my WORST subject in elementary school. Thank god for spell-check, though it can't catch thing that are spelled correctly, though contextually incorrect. :)

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  4. Anonymous5:59 PM

    Isn't the problem with inequality in public schools (i.e., the best public schools are in the most affluent areas) due to the property tax base in these areas? The public schools are mostly funded by property taxes from the area where they are (and some lottery money, but there's not nearly enough to cover the entire cost), and if it's an affluent area, they get more money. Not to say that public schools can't do a lot with a little, but being able to draw in good teachers with a decent salary, and buy resources that poorer school districts couldn't afford, might be part of it. I don't think that this is right or fair, but that's the way it currently stands.

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  5. After working in a high-need middle school [where in this case, high-need is defined as > 50% of the students are eligible for free- or reduced-lunch], it became apparent to me that while what a child does in school is important to their success, what one does at home is almost equally -- if not more -- important. Many of my students were inspired by the engineering activities I did with them, but when I asked about their performance in math and science most of them admitted that those particular subjects were never their strengths. I soon learned that their homework assignments couldn't be completed because no one at home could help and the encouragement that children thrive off of just wasn't there. Not to say that all high-need schools have parents that fall into this category, but a lot of the time the parents are just busy working and trying to put food on the table.

    This all being said, I have to agree that the best public schools tend to fall in the most affluent areas -- but in my own recent public school experience [a highly-ranked district], the kids who weren't going to graduate were quickly pulled out and sent to a separate school. Maybe that 98% graduation rate and high test scores are because those who are struggling are identified early on and sent away to prevent the statistic from dropping.

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  6. BittenByBedBugs8:08 PM

    We just went on vacation and, in addition to the beach toys and snorkeling gear, I also packed some math drill work for my daughter to do. I don't expect a teacher to adequately teach 20 students, be it in a public or private school. I look over my daughter's tests, help her with her homework, and we read together every day. If my daughter has difficulties with any subjects, I would be the first one to notice and help her improve. Parental responsibility is not a novel concept but it is one that eludes many parents. I enjoy your blog.

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  7. Anonymous9:39 PM

    Hi Michelle, just want to let you know that it is not actually a durian in your picture. It is a tropical jackfruit, or what we call 'cempedak' here... Durians have really sharp thorns and of course the great smell/bad stench depending on your take, haha!
    xoxo Kylee from Malaysia :)

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  8. Anonymous10:21 PM

    you know, not every "parent" is as educated nor capable of assessing whether his/her child is progressing age/grade appropriately at school. Two obvious examples that come to mind are parents who are recent immigrants to this country, and parents who grew up poor and did not receive a decent education themselves and therefore unable to help their children academically -- both examples are especially true in low income neighborhoods.

    "And make no mistake, I think all schools most certainly have a tremendous responsibility to their students. They should, and they must. But along with that, let's not let institutional reputation, test scores and a grades give any false reassurances, or absolve us as parents from the responsibility of picking up the slack."

    Good for you. Cal and Mack are very lucky/fortunate to have such highly educated, academically motivated, tiger-like parents who will do everything in their power to ensure that they are properly educated. But really, do you believe that all children at these low-income schools implicated in the cheating scandal have parents like you and Joe? You must know (unless you are live under a rock, on another planet) that some of these parents wouldn't give a rat's a** about whether their children are even eating properly, let alone excelling/doing ok in school. The main point that the NYTimes article is trying to get across is that schools are suppose to teach kids -- regardless of their homelife, socio-economic status, or the kinds of parents they have -- not help them get by without properly teaching them. It's really a shame that you missed the obvious point of the article. Again, I'm glad to read that you and Joe will utilize the remaining 7 hrs (when Cal is not in school or sleeping) efficiently to make sure that he does well in school. But sadly, not every child (esp the ones at public schools in low income neighborhoods) has tiger-like parents like you and Joe.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Wow, that is just horrible. Both my mother and my mother in law are teachers and I can not imagine either of them doing anything like that. Rather I have witnessed both of them go above and beyond, investing extreme amounts of time,effort and their emotions into helping struggling children. And yes by the above requirement from Amanda, my mothers school district qualifies as high need, guess that is what comes from living in rural farmland.

    I also want to echo the above anonymous. Not all children go home and spend those 7 hours in happy environments. In farm country most of them go home and work, helping on the family farm, usually from age 8 on. I would imagine that urban Atlanta would have it's own equivalent of kids that work to help keep their family afloat.

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  11. Yes, yes and yes. I agree with pretty much all your points, and then some.

    Private or public, if kids wanna learn, they'll learn.

    I grew up in the Fmr Yugoslavia where education was FAAAAR more advanced than here in Australia (and, I imagine, in the US); we're talking geometry, extensive grammar, social studies and thorough book reports in the FIRST GRADE...

    When we migrated here in July '94 and I started the fourth grade (of which I only ended up doing four months given how late I came in the school year, which in Oz is from Feb to Dec), I was flabbergasted when I saw kids sitting on the floor having the teacher read to them. Within a month or two, I was a better speller than a lot of Oz natives, which I found baffling.

    Long story short, as I progressed through high school, I always felt something was eeeever so slightly missing and so I supplemented things for myself...I read up on things that I didn't feel were being covered in school, yada yada...and I graduated with a fantastic year-end result.

    One of my best friend's brothers finished high school with a 99.95 "enter" score...and he went to what is considered one of the poorest public schools in the area. Just goes to show that most of the time it's down to the student and his or her willingness to learn and excel (and, of course, the parents who monitor the type of curriculum the child is getting, who take the time to give a damn about their kid's tuition).

    AAAAANYWAY, I love your blog, it's fascinating and irreverent and ALL kinds of awesome, and it kinda makes me wanna be a doctor...'cept no, I won't go down that road, heh heh.

    When I was around twelve/thirteen, I did entertain the notion of becoming a, wait for it, NEUROSURGEON, but this idea faded with time...snerk. My dream of becoming an author, however, is and always has been very much alive!

    (...OOH, and huuuuge congrats on your book, I shall purchase it from Amazon post-haste!)

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  12. Also, totally neglected to add HOT DIGGITY...they changed scores, egads!! I mean, what the Dickens, who DOES that?!

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  13. Good points, all. I in particular was thinking about immigrant families when I was writing this post, and I totally agree that the non-monetary resources we have to offer (for example, level of education of language proficiency of the parents) are not the same across the board. My intent was only this: to say that wherever your kid goes to school--fancy pants private school or local public school--school should not substitute or replace our obligations as parents.

    As for the immigration issue, many of my friends in high school attended P.S. 124, which was a public school in one of the lowest income/highest ESL schools in the system (it is in Chinatown) but was also uniformly regarded as one of the best public elementary schools in the city. And I'm not pointing this out as some kind of Amy Chua baiting tactic, only that I am familiar with this school and while it may be an outlier, it also shows that income, primary home language, and parent's level of education do not necessarily dictate academic success. (It must also be noted also that P.S. 124 has a very strong English as a Second Language program, which no doubt plays a significant role.)

    Anyway, very interesting topic! Thanks everyone!

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  14. Anonymous2:58 PM

    One of my professors and I were talking about that recently, when we were discussing outreach and such for the local elementary schools. I live in a UniversityTown, so a lot (about 60%) of the students have parents who are professors (mine included)--which certainly has a lot to do with how we are regarded academically. I think that having parents who are professors has a lot to do with how my friends and I did in school, once we came home from school and parents were home from work, we were immediately asked, "Did you do your homework? What did you learn today? Have you studied for that math test? Do you need help with your homework?"

    But then, there's that 40%, the other side of that bell curve, whose parents are working 3 jobs just to keep a roof over the kids heads. Honestly, obligations as parents aside, the parents can only do so much in a 24 hour period. It's not fair to compare those parents to my parents and say that those parents aren't 'as involved' or that school should take a backseat to the parents. School isn't a substitute for the parents/guardians, but there ought to be some level of support there so that those students don't fall through the cracks.

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  15. Anonymous7:16 PM

    The real outrage should be that role models are engaged in unethical behavior. Not much different that uber parents who hijack the 5th grade science project and make it their own. (different reasons--but the same practice) Parents would be better to tutor their kids in doing the right thing than to blow out classmates on the PSAT. Doesn't anybody understand that someone has to be in the academic middle? I feel bad for kids who belong there but have tiger parents. what a miserable childhood. I teach a college course to first and second year students and if you come to my first class you can almost see the kids of tiger moms self identify. They are driven, arrogant and they want an A. But they believe they are more intelligent than they actually are, have terrible critical thinking skills and are not very coachable because they really think they know it all. The students who learn the most in my class are often the non-trads who have sometimes been underachievers and they now see school as a privilege rather than an entitlement.

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  16. Absolutely agree that the real tragedy (well, one of them) is the example set to the kids by their role models who, for a number of reasons, needed to game the system--or to outright cheat it.

    "No Child Left Behind" was created with good intentions, but I think its weaknesses are being exposed by stories such as this, where the scores on standardized testing were obviously viewed as more important than the purpose of such testing, or indeed the students themselves.

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  17. Anonymous10:27 PM

    Arrogant, elitist post. Of course you and Joe are going to be able to help your children with their homework - you are affluent, educated and don't have to worry about where your next meal is coming from. The children of parents who do not have the luxuries you have are the ones who need the schools to be there for them the most -- and those are exactly the children who are being let down by this dishonesty and cheating. Not everyone can live the life you and your husband live, with two overly educated parents and vacations that cost another family's three-month budget. Your ignorance baffles and frankly, frightens me.

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  18. Anonymous11:11 PM

    Commenter above me--seriously? While I don't live in or anywhere near either ATL or GA, the article itself is extremely concerning to me as the parent of a small child who will soon possibly be entering the public school system. My husband and I work hard and sometimes go paycheck to paycheck and regardless of what someone else's vacations may or may not have cost, still worry about our children getting the best education that they possibly can. I don't think there's anything elitest about wanting the best for your child, be it education or anything else--isn't that just a natural part of trying to be a good parent?

    The point that sticks out the most for me from the entire post is Michelle's idea that no amount of money will keep her from making sure that her kids are able to excell academically. Even as someone who's combined family income is drastically less than Michelle's--surprise, we feel the same way at our house. If we go the public school route and find that it isn't meeting our kids' needs like we think it ought to, you had better believe that I will do whatever it takes, financially or otherwise, to correct the problem.

    I don't think Michelle is ignorant of the problem at all.

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  19. I have a degree in secondary education. I have not taught professionally in a public high school because I got jaded when I was doing my student teaching. Granted not every place would have the same experience but when you are youngish, naive and wear rose-colored glasses, the things you experience say a lot to you. I do want to note before I go on that I was a part-time instructor at a university, so I do have professional teaching experience.

    When I did my student teaching (I was teaching social studies), my master teacher basically told me that it was not good to flunk students, even if they deserved it because it reflected upon the teacher. What this meant was despite the fact that I was teaching 10th graders who could barely read comfortably and did not know how to write a complete sentence before they entered my classroom, it was my fault if they flunked! Yes! This was not in GA by the way but somewhere out west. So when we gave tests, if the student wrote anything, they would automatically get 1 point even though it was wrong! In addition, if they wrote something longish and wrong, they would get additional points! It was horrifying to me but I could not do anything. Student teachers were scrutinized closely and a bad review from your master teacher could mark the end of your career! For real! I was shocked and disgusted. Also, you can to be nice to the principal or else you could end up with a crappy classroom the following year! Oh, when the principal came to my classroom to observe me, her suggestion was I needed a better bra. You know one that held the girls up better because that was how you gained respect? Have no idea what that meant. My girls are rather big but I wouldn't want them out there! Being a teacher nowadays is tough. I opted to teach at a higher level where I would have a more control over my classroom. It was so much better in terms of dealing with the administration. Being in a compulsory education public school system sucked for me as a student teacher and turned me off to teaching at that level!

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  20. Anonymous2:21 AM

    This is a very thoughtful post. Public school systems around the world share this problem of access. The state I live in employs a Selective Schools System, where primary students matriculate into the highest achieving high schools based on their performance in a standardised exam. (Here, students go straight from primary to high school.) The Selective Schools System is an entirely public collection of highschools that have been shown to repeatedly produce students that rank at the top of the state and thus go on to competitive university programs such as medicine, law, etc. It's bred a lucrative market of unscrupulous tutoring colleges and teachers that have been accused of getting students to replicate questions for them and having their students regurgitate memorised essays.

    I believe the system was put into place to encourage those from all socioeconomic classes to pursue quality education but when you look at the majority of students sitting in the classrooms of these selective high schools, the vast majority are students that have been coached into those seats-- students whose parents had the financial means to send them to these colleges or parents that have taken out exploitative repayment options in order to do so. These days, most students realise that not attending one of these colleges puts you at a disadvantage. It begs the question as to why there's such an unequal access to quality education.

    Still, I'm glad you believe in public education.

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  21. Anonymous3:00 AM

    wow anonymous at 10:27 pm, it's ok to want what you don't have, but it's even better to work hard to get it. stop comparing yourself to others by pitying yourself. michelle and joe have worked damn f*cking hard to get to where they are.

    your comments frighten me.

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  22. Victoria7:18 AM

    Michelle is so right about the importance of parenting. Not having enough education to help your kids do their homework is no excuse. There are lots of other ways of helping - showing enthusiasm and interest in what the child does at school; making sure they sit down and do their homework; speaking to the teachers and asking for extra help if your child is struggling and you can't help them... all these things are free and don't have to take up hours of time.

    Also, having English as a foreign language is no excuse for not reading with your child - there are books in languages other than English, and good language skills are important regardless of the language.

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  23. What does it even mean for a doctor to be "overeducated?" That someone might actually consider that to be an insult kind of scares me.

    It makes me really sad to see that this cheating went on as long as it did. The ones who really got hurt in the end -- of course -- were the kids.

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  24. It surprises me that you would fail to consider the larger social construct within which these parents and children operate.

    Let's not beat around the bush. The majority of the children in these under-performing and cheating schools are not simply from a lower socioeconomic stratum, but also happen to have a much higher melanin content.

    The example of an inner city school with a large Chinese immigrant population creates a false equivalency.

    The Chinese American immigrants, who may speak little or no English and know little or nothing about the educational system, grew up in a society that valued and placed huge emphasis on education without personally excluding them or their children. They held a firm belief that success could and would be attained through a good education, and more importantly that their children could not and would not be excluded from this education or success a prior.

    The brown children who have African American immigrant parents (recent immigrants from Africa) are typically brought up with a similar mentality. However, brown children of parents who are only nominally African American (because let's be honest, the African connection has been long lost for most) grow up in a very different construct. The brown-skinned 50-year-old parent of a 12-year-old current student of an Atlanta public school most likely attended a segregated school for at least a part of his or her childhood. The education was not separate and equal, and we should not pretend that it was. Furthermore, if that parent happens to be the father, then there is a 25% chance that he is or has been incarcerated.

    That father grew up seeing and believing that the only way a black man can achieve success is by being a star athlete, musician or actor. These were historically the only open avenues of success (for any appreciable numbers) for people with too much melanin in their skin. I know you can bring historical examples. Yes, there was Thurgood Marshall, there is Ben Carson and Michelle Obama (nee Robinson).

    However, these are exceptions, which only serve to highlight and underscore the rule. Now there is also President Obama, and this seems to have given plenty of people the misguided idea that race problems are dead, all black people have the option of being just as successful as he is and simply choose not to be by virtue of laziness and/or stupidity. President Obama did not grow up within the socioeconomic reality of a black family. He did not grow up in 1960's Atlanta with a grandmother who had grown up drinking from a water fountain labeled "Colored" and had not only been left without an education, but had been convinced that the best job she could have found was to be a housekeeper for some nice white families. Think of the limited world that grandmother could have allowed herself to imagine for her grandchild.

    (cut)

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  25. (cont'd)
    Yes, things have changed, and the fact that we do have President Obama has significant ramifications. Unfortunately, the results of these changes will not become truly evident until the current generation of kindergartners has grown up.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the issue of personal responsibility. Too many people have abdicated control and responsibility over their own lives and the lives of their children.

    Realistically what a well-intentioned, well-educated person like you and your husband and I can do is to use our significant human resources to become the village that can raise the next generation of children (even if they are not all our own) so we can have a better future. You and I can volunteer at an inner city elementary school. We can step in to do parent-led story time once a week, to fill in for parents who are too uneducated (themselves the victims of broken homes, inadequate parenting, a horrid education system and unable to read well enough to actually come and volunteer in their children's classrooms), too poor and working too many jobs to be able to get time off, too strung out on drugs, in jail, or simply too lazy to step up. Sure, we can say, but that's NOT my responsibility! Why should I spend my precious time on somebody else's children?

    My answer: If we think solving the problem isn't our business then talking about it shouldn't be our business either!

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  26. The one thing I'll say though, for the parents need to be involved/we shouldn't absolve parents of responsibility is that sometimes the parents are at a disadvantage, particularly in lower income areas. They have a disadvantage in their own educations, or a disadvantage in time, or a disadvantage in language, or maybe they are uninvolved parents, or they are abusive, or they are uninvolved, etc, etc, etc.

    School needs to be the equalizer. This should be the spirit of no child left behind - that no matter what kind of home life the child has, and their parents involvement in their education (either because of reasons relating to privilege or just uninvolved parenting) that child can come to school and learn and do better than the generation that is preceding him or her.

    People are born into varying degrees of privilege and fortune. School should be the place where they get an equal chance to succeed, based on their abilities and willingness to work, a place where the income of your family, your neighbourhood, etc, shouldn't matter.

    Furthermore, I think it's easy to say that parents should be involved, but unless you are that parent, with that background, with that education, that job schedule, etc, etc, you can't really say how much involvement you could have with your children. Kind of like how before you had a kid, you'd look at the screaming one in the restaurant and think various things on how you'd be treating it differently. (grin) Maybe you'd do a better job. Maybe you wouldn't. But I think the vast majority of parents are doing the best they can with what they have but we tend to view them with the lens of "they should have just done MORE" which really only applies to the minority.

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  27. I think I should add that not all that I said was based on Michelle's commentary, but reading the comments too! It was overall digressing, all things told, hah.

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  28. White Coat Dreamer - What an eloquent, inspirational response. Please publish more of your writing! I for one would love to hear more of your thoughts!

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  29. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Great, thought provoking entry as usual Michelle.

    I'd also like to echo the sentiments in previous posts. One need not be educated to understand the importance of education. It really *really* aggravates me when negligent parents are given a free pass because of this. @ White Coat Dreamer brings up several excellent points - certain mentalities are so deeply entrenched in families or communities that it's difficult to break the vicious cycle. It's exactly why so many volunteer groups out there have been established to create positive role models for kids who lack them. Because after all - even if you shape the future potential of only ONE child it DOES make a difference, as you've just opened a channel for that same child to be an equally positive role model for others.

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  30. Victoria3:52 AM

    School is too late to be the equalizer. Most of the disadvantage is ingrained well before then. Support should start before birth, continue with parenting help during the early years, and be maintained with a robust education system.

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  31. Extensive Researched Article.

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  32. I know I am totally late on this comment, but I have had a lot going on... :) Anyway, the advanced reading list is not advanced. Some concern there, but maybe they are just trying to make everyone feel great for the start of the school year (hey, my kid is ADVANCED).

    Oh yes, I also bought the book, read it on my spiffy new Kindle, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am a Mom Lady of grown kids and I sort of felt proud of you. Probably because I have been reading your blog for years. Anyway, well done. Carry on.

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  33. Anonymous3:16 PM

    All haters of overeducated parents (we worked hard on educations most our lives - took me 16 years from highschool to first MD job and what hatered now?! We earned it!) - rest assured your and our kids are equal in public school system. They all spend 7 hours on meaningless activities like paper cutting, coloring, and copying responses in "open book" tests, they get zero education out of their school day and we, overeducated parents, work far more than 40 hours/week (that's what our jobs call for) and also have very little time to try to educate our kids during 2-3 hours we have with them at home which must include dinner. One thing you are right about we care that our kids are educated, so we will help them. Efforts must be directed at improving public education for all kids. In my country of origin we had free excellent (superb compared to this country) education where blue coollar population was thriving. Our teachers tought, did not make up test results, and were not critisized for bad grades and felt they had to fake bad grades. I went to blue collar public school in my country. The school had none of the electronic resources that are avaiable here. Black board and chalk produced stellar results. I owe everything to my education and teachers. Do not hate educated people. Hate lack of equal opportunity... sigh

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