Category Archives: Education

The Light Ahead

Assuming you believe income inequality to be a problem (economically, socially), then we must next turn our thoughts to alternative methods for economic mobility besides a four year degree, benefits of which do not always justify the costs. One such company creating an alternative is Pursuit in Queen’s, NY. Pursuit is a trade school for software development. It is also partly funded by bonds, where graduates pay back a share of income. “I believe tech can be a road to the middle class for large numbers of Americans,” said (Jukay) Hsu, a co-founder and the chief executive of Pursuit, a nonprofit social venture. “But there’s real skepticism about that among people who see the winners in technology as a small network of the privileged.” Pursuit’s success can likely be attributed to its adherence to high-demand, high-paying job skills, however, the model is worth replicating.  Construction, medicine, nursing, graphic design or art…what fields can you imagine creating a bond system?

A Principled Stand…Or A Betrayal?

As tweeted by us earlier this week, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho publicly recommitted to his Miami role during an emergency school board session, just one day after privately committing to move to NYC for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top educational post.  NYC’s pursuit of him had been well-known, but at this point the public did not believe he had made his decision.  However, Carvalho had personally accepted the job with de Blasio the night before, and agreed to make the NYC announcement public.

The superintendent’s change of heart was allegedly due to appeals by students, especially undocumented immigrants who feared the loss of his protection.

Digging into South Florida and turning down the superintendent role of the largest school system in the nation only stoked rumors of a future run for political office by Carvalho– perhaps for the congressional seat that is soon to be vacated by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

Was the dramatic switch heartfelt, or an unseemly reach for attention and power?

MC thinks the latter. Would you want to hire someone who was okay publicly rejecting you, when a more delicate, private hand-off could have easily satisfied all parties?  Would you respect someone who put spectacle over integrity behind closed doors?

Or, perhaps there was no good way to handle turning down the job. And it was important to regain the faith of Miamians with a public commitment to staying.

What do you think?

Give Us This Day Our Daily Mile

Many schoolchildren in the UK have adopted the “daily mile,” with positive results.  In addition to regular physical education, all students who are physically able must go outside together when called, in whatever they are wearing, and run around the neighborhood.

The movement started in Scotland and is most popular there. While empirical evidence of it reducing obesity and boosting concentration is still pending, students’ reported enthusiasm for more activity is enough to aid growth. One boy remarked that the exercise, “makes me feel like I’m proud of myself.”

Next stop, USA!?


Scout Badges for Financial Literacy

Unfortunately, personal finance is a huge blind spot in the American public education system.   Thankfully, there are some private enterprises working to address this need for our youth.  Both Boys and Girl Scouts of America offer concentrations in issues like personal budgeting, investing, and credit.

Girl Scout troops have been known to partner with local banks to visit and hear firsthand what to expect when trying to reach future goals. Cadettes have a Budgeting Badge that uses a mock auction format.

Gscouting badges fin
Boy Scouts offers a Personal Responsibility Merit Badge that addresses budgeting, spending habits, stocks, lending, and goal setting.
However, financial personality Dave Ramsey takes issue with the Girls Scout’s acceptance that some debt is common and okay.  He quotes educator Rachel Cruze:
“It’s unbelievable how early companies start feeding kids the lie that you have to ‘build your credit,'” she said. “You can exist in life without a credit score. It is possible to go to college and own things like a car and house without going into debt.”  Rachel adds, “But instead of teaching kids how to save and spend wisely, (Girl Scouts are ) teaching them how to make the most of borrowing other people’s money. We need to provide kids with a message of hope and encouragement–one that tells them they can live their life debt-free.”
It is unrealistic to expect young people to never need to borrow money–for even the biggest purchases of homes and cars– and so educating them in how loans and credit lines work is a worthwhile endeavor.
What will it take for the public school system catch up?  Unless and until we have reduced the wealth gap in education, housing, and healthcare, our lending society is not going anywhere.

The Rise of Homeschooling for African Americans

Homeschooling among African Americans is currently on the rise, with 220,000 African American children currently receiving their education this way.

Many of the parents cite racism, poor treatment, and low expectations within the public school system as reasons for opting out, rather that the religious reasons that many white Americans use.  Also, a Euro-centric history lens bothered a number of African American parents.  Other parents wanted the chance to expose their children to positive role models who looked like them, especially males. According to the Department of Education, less than two percent of current classroom teachers nationwide are African American adult males.

The long-standing economic barriers (especially having an educated, stay-at-home parent) to homeschooling are lifting, which is making it a viable option for middle class of every race.  Flexible work schedules for parents, subsidized nutrition and team sport options for homeschoolers from the local public schools, and materials-sharing all contribute to this ease.  However, not everyone sees these options as reason enough to exit the school system.

“For African Americans there is a sense of betrayal when you leave public schools in particular,” Professor Ama Mazama said. “Because the struggle to get into those schools was so harsh and so long, there is this sense of loyalty to the public schools. People say, ‘We fought to get into these schools, and now you are just going to leave?’”

While opting out of government institutions is a treasured right, the social norming that takes place in schools–public or otherwise–seems impossible to successfully replicate.  Not only are social skills learned by necessity: handling conflict, peer communication, disappointment, healthy competition, etc., but students learn to adapt to real world expectations for performance in the job market, in community organizations, and in relationships of all kinds.  And even with traditional schooling, helicopter parenting undoes these gains when the child is isolated from consequences, which is an outcome that is antithetical to the real world.  Spending time developing a child without negativity is a contradictory statement; negative consequences are what develop people.

Therefore, homeschooling for any race seems like something that should be considered a last resort, and only for kids who have highly prohibitive learning disabilities.  Common educational content is part of the social contract that holds our shared culture together.  While one could claim that our current state of higher education does not adequately meet the needs of our economy, grade school standards are an obligation of living in a civilized society.