2011-04-29 / Columnists

School Scope

New DOE Program To Boost Grad Rates: Tweeting For Credit Recovery
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott There has been a lot of criticism over the credit recovery program where high school students short on credits needed to graduate can spend a little time copying and pasting from online encyclopedias to make up these credits and receive a quickie diploma — before entering a remediation program in college. Despite these tricks, when you take the kids pushed into phony GED programs or into trade schools disguised as legit transfer schools into account, the grad rates under Bloom/Black/Wal/ Klein haven’t budged all that much and may even be dropping. What is needed is a way to help boost the graduation rates and raise the standings of poor Mayor Bloomberg whose poll numbers as the education mayor have been dropping almost as fast as the scandals coming down on his head.

Really, why make the students come into school at all? Why not just let them tweet their way to a high school diploma – in 140 characters or less? And if they can do it in less, let’s toss in some extra credits for being thrifty.

Tweed jumped at my idea and is even having a contest for the best credit recovery tweets. Here is the leading candidate so far, 35 characters worth 3 social studies credits and exemption from the American history regents exam: GWash cut dwn chrry tree, bad boy.

Health Care and Education

The analogy between the move to privatize/marketize/competesize all as-pects of health care and the similar assault on the public education system is hard to ignore. Last week’s Wave had a few articles on the health issue from both ends of the stick. Paul Stubben (Commentary on Things Present, April 22) is worried about entitlements – but only those entitlements that affect people on the lower end of the stick. Like tax cuts for the rich are not an entitlement. GE earns $15 billion and pays no taxes. Massive farm subsidies or the fact that US defense spending is higher than the totals of every single nation in the world put together are not on Stubben’s or his hero Paul Ryan’s radar. You see, these guys only want phantom cuts in the budget as long as they get their ideological dibs in – free market competition that gives the health care and drug companies massive profits. You know, like the fact that the law says Medicare can’t make companies compete with Canada. Just raise the idea of a single pay-er system that might actually save money and people go crazy about socialism, even if it can be proven there would be tremendous savings. Better broke than red.

It was up to Howard Schwach to save the day last week with his “Rockaway Beat” article where he does a double hammer take down of Paul Ryan and his “roadmap to solvency,” which Schwach terms “tax the old and the poor to subsidize the rich.” Schwach uses his own medical experiences to illustrate how Obama care eliminated the Bush doughnut hole sop to the drug companies. He closes with, “If seniors vote their self-interest, then Repub-licans are toast.” But he forgets the cynical Ryan plan exempts current seniors and doesn’t kick in until people are 55, thus screwing the younger generation, some of whom are actually children of the seniors the Republicans assume will be willing to throw their children under the bus.

Students Are NOT Consumers

I’ve been hoping that NY Times columnist Paul Krugman would take on the education deform issue. He has touched on it at times but his focus has been on health care. His April 22 column (Patients Are Not Consumers) took on the concept of patient “choice” being used as a wedge to privatize all aspects of health care. I added brackets to show how this piece can be adapted to education:

... the fact that Republicans are demanding that we literally stake our health [education system], even our lives [children’s education], on an already failed approach [see results of ed deform failure in Chicago, NYC, etc.] is only part of what’s wrong here ... there’s something terribly wrong with the whole notion of patients [students] as “consumers” and health care [education] as simply a financial transaction.

—-Paul Krugman NY Times column, April 22, 2011.

Here are some more words of wisdom from Krugman (with a little embellishment from me).

Earlier this week, the Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible...But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer [parent/student] choice.” How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients [parents/ students] as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor [student and teacher] used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care [an education] as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough. What has gone wrong with us?

Nothing has gone wrong with the US, the people. What has gone wrong is a government captured by the wealthy and corporate self-interests. Krugman does not tread in areas that might talk about the inevitable evils of a capitalistic system run amuck. Makes me want to start a left-wing tea party movement. Except there won’t be tea in those bags.

Note: The premiere of our one hour film, “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” will be on May 19 at 6 p.m. at Riverside Church with Diane Ravitch as our guest speaker along with a panel discussion with teachers, parents and students.

Email me for details: normsco@gmail.com.

Norm blogs (way too often) at: http:// ednotesonline.

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