Most parents are pragmatists

Nearly all parents want their child’s school to provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and  stress science and technology, concludes a new Fordham study. They want their children to learn good study habits, self-discipline, critical thinking skills and speaking and writing skills. But, after that, parents have different priorities, concludes What Parents Want.

Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.” Pragmatists tend to be less educated with lower incomes. They’re also more likely to be parents of boys.
Pragmatists

Jeffersonians (24 percent) prefer a school that “emphasizes instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership.”

Test-Score Hawks (23 percent), who tend to have academically gifted and hard-working children, look for a school that “has high test scores.” If they’re not satisfied, they’ll switch schools.

Multiculturalists (22 percent), who are more likely to be urban, liberal and black, want their children to learn “to work with people from diverse backgrounds.”

Expressionists (15 percent), more likely to be liberals and parents of girls, want a school that “emphasizes arts and music instruction.”

Getting their child into “a top tier college” is important to Strivers (12 percent), who are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic.

After the “non-negotiables” (reading, math and science) and the “must-haves” (study habits, critical thinking, communications), “desirables” include “project-based learning, vocational classes, and schools that prepare students for college and encourage them to develop strong social skills or a love of learning,” the study found. Rated “expendable” are small school enrollment, proximity to home and updated building facilities. Teaching love of country and fluency in a foreign language also was a low priority for most parents. “When forced to prioritize, parents prefer strong academics,” Fordham concluded.

There’s a lot of overlap between Test Score Hawks and Strivers: Add them together and you get  35 percent of parents focused on academic success, nearly as large as the Pragmatist group.  Jeffersonians and Multiculturalists don’t overlap as much, but arguably both groups are concerned about preparing children to be citizens in a diverse society.

Who killed the liberal arts?

    Who Killed the Liberal Arts?  Joseph Epstein blames his fellow professors in a Weekly Standard essay.

    (Professors) in their hunger for relevance and their penchant for self-indulgence, began teaching books for reasons external to their intrinsic beauty or importance, and attempted to explain history before discovering what actually happened. They politicized psychology and sociology, and allowed African-American studies an even higher standing than Greek and Roman classics. They decided that the multicultural was of greater import than Western culture. They put popular culture on the same intellectual footing as high culture (Conrad or graphic novels, three hours credit either way). And, finally, they determined that race, gender, and social class were at the heart of all humanities and most social science subjects. With that finishing touch, the game was up for the liberal arts.

    Epstein became a liberal arts major because he didn’t think he could pass accounting.

    He’s responding to Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, which complains that most students enroll in college to earn job credentials, not to pursue an education.

    This cartoon says it all.

Cultured, sensitive markers

Crayola now offers “Multicultural” markers, crayons and colored pencils in an “ethnic-sensitive color palette.” That is, the markers come in “diverse” skin tones from pale pink to dark brown. Not one is labeled “flesh.”

The idea of cultured, sensitive markers is silly, writes Eugene Volokh.

Multiculturalism vs. science labs

Multiculturalism has gone berserk at Berkeley High School, writes William Briggs on Pajamas Media. The school board may cut before- and after-school science labs that extend instruction time by 20 percent. After all, most advanced science students are white and Asian-American.

But there’s plenty of time and money, Briggs writes, for the required History of the Americas course and Globalization, in which students “draft a more effective decision-making mechanism of world government.”  Students also can take Politics and Power (“large run” by students) and Contemporary La Raza History.

Popular Culture in 20th Century America . . . examines “texts” as diverse as mural paintings, street theater, rap music, women’s art, immigrant stories, and MTV to analyze their role in shaping American society. Popular Culture is designed to teach students skills in critically examining the historical role of popular culture in defining racial issues, the regulation of sexuality, and consumer society. It also explores popular forms of resistance to the dominant culture.

If no room is left in the “Eco-Literacy and Social Justice Seminar,” kids might opt for the fall-back “Social Justice Seminar,” where the question “What can I do to bring about social change for a more just society?” is answered.

. . . BHS will surely keep all offerings from its African American Department. There, students can open their minds with “African American Journalism” or “Advanced African American Journalism.” From their course descriptions, these appear to be identical in substance with non-African American Journalism courses (which BHS also offers). Just as the course “African American Economics” doesn’t differ from non-African American Economics.

. . . Black Psychology— whose major objective “is to impart a clear knowledge of what African-Centered thought is” — could be that easy “A” a lot of kids seek because it “is not a lecture course.” Major “emphasis is on classroom discussion.” What is cooler than sitting around and grieving?

Berkeley High has the “largest racial equity/achievement gap in the state,” notes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders. The plan to eliminate science labs “bolstered the common suspicion that some educators want to close the achievement gap by dumbing down public schools.”

As Peggy Scott, a governance council parent who voted against the plan, told KQED Forum’s Michael Krasny on Wednesday, “Closing the achievement gap really means bringing the bottom up, and the problem is that it does seem and it does feel like what might be happening is trying to bring the top down.”

While the science labs have been shown to improve achievement, the savings will go toward “equity grants.” One proposal is to “de-track” ninth-grade math so all students take the same class. “The result will not be a more just society,” Saunders predicts. “Instead, a declining number of Berkeley High students will be able to do the math.”