Who ruined childhood?

Schools Are Ruining Our Kids, writes A.A. Gill in Vanity Fair. Gill has raised one set of children and has a second set just starting school.

In the 100 years since we really got serious about education as a universally good idea, we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most carefree, inquisitive, and memorable and fill them with a motley collection of stress and a neurotic fear of failure. Education is a dress-up box of good intentions, swivel-eyed utopianism, cruel competition, guilt, snobbery, wish fulfillment, special pleading, government intervention, bu­reauc­racy, and social engineering.

Gill blames “the byzantine demands of the education-industrial complex,” but it’s really competitive parents who demand preschool put their kiddies on track for the Ivy League.

Over-achieving Hillary Clinton smugly told us that it took a village to bring up a child. Oh my God. If only. If all it took were some happy, thatched, smocked village, we’d all have bought villages, have bought 10 villages—we’d have adopted a village. But no dusty, higgledy-piggledy, clucking, mooing, sleepy-town hamlet is going to get you into the only pre-school that is the feeder for that other school that is the fast track to the only school that is going to give your child half a chance of getting into that university that will lead to a life worth living.

Oh no, we need far more than the village. We need au pairs who speak three languages and musical nannies and special tutors and counselors and professional athletes with knee problems to coach hand-eye coordination.

Outside of the wealthier parts of Manhattan, how many parents can afford to buy villages worth of nannies, tutors, coaches and counselors? Are parents really so obsessed with their children’s “success” that they forget about happiness?

Youth survey: 96% say they make their own success

“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” said President Obama at a campaign stop in Virginia. “Somebody else made that happen.”

Young people think they’ll be the authors of their own success, according to the Horatio Alger Association’s 2012-2013 State of Our Nation’s Youth survey: 96 percent of high school students and graduates agree that their own actions, rather than luck, shape their ability to succeed. Most expect to work in the private sector and/or be self-employed.

Those surveyed, ages 14 to 23, were not much interested in presidential politics. Only 57 percent of high school students said they cared who wins the election, down from 75 percent in 2008. Graduates and students were much more concerned about the economy and jobs compared to 2008. That’s not surprising: 39 percent of high school students and 28 percent of graduates not in college can’t find work.

Other results:

48 percent of high school students get news online.  Just 15 percent read printed news.

63 percent of high school students are taking college preparatory classes, but 24 percent of recent grads who took college prep needed remedial education classes to meet college requirements.

37 percent of high school students reported receiving mostly A’s, up from 25 percent in 2008.

97 percent of students aspire to further education after high school, up from 93 percent in 2008.

Despite everything, 60 percent of high school students are hopeful about the country’s future compared to 53 percent in 2008.

The higher ed bubble

How many college borrowers are “underwater” on their student loans?

“Part of the American dream is that if you work hard, and you get an education and you apply yourself, you’ll be successful,”  a Rutgers researcher tells NPR. A third of young college graduates don’t believe this any more.

$2 billion for remedial ed — and it doesn’t work

Remedial education costs community colleges $2 billion a year — and only a quarter of students go on to earn a credential. Colleges know it’s broke, but not how to fix it.

Colorado community colleges have improved success rates for remedial students. Unfortunately, more high school graduates require remediation.

 

Colleges offer support, but most don’t use it

Community colleges are raising very low success rates by connecting first-year students with classmates and faculty, but most students don’t take advantage of available help unless it’s required.

‘No excuses’ for teachers, but plenty for kids

‘No Excuses’ Is Not Just for Teachers, writes Laura Klein, who teaches at a Bronx middle school, in the New York Times‘ SchoolBook. “By allowing ourselves no excuses, and doing whatever it takes to make students successful, we often find ourselves accepting excuses from them.”

Students don’t complete an assignment, and we give them a second chance. A parent comes to school, upset to hear that his or her child is failing math, and we say, time and again, “they can make up the work.” A test is failed and we provide a chance to retake it, or do test corrections for extra credit.

Teachers want to be understanding and supportive, Klein writes. But it’s easy to turn into an enabler.

“Being a jerk is not a disability,” one teacher said to me about a boy who was cursing, bullying and harassing students during class. He was a special education student, and often this status was used as an excuse for his behavior. But what type of future are we setting him up for if we allow him to act in a way that will not be accepted once the training wheels of middle school have been removed?

Children need to experience and overcome failure on the path to success, Klein writes. They need to learn what lines can’t be crossed.

Hube of The Colossus of Rhodey recommended this.

Speaking of lines that shouldn’t be crossed, check out this post on the mother-daughter pair protesting because the yearbook staff rejected the girl’s sexpot photo.

 

College dreamers meet reality

In 1988, 59 fifth graders in a low-income Maryland school were promised a college education by two wealthy businessmen, recounts the Washington Post. The college “dreamers” were given transportation, tutors, field trips, camps and an advisor who followed them through school.

One would become a doctor. One would become a cellist. One would become a UPS driver. One would kill herself. One would kill his father. One would become a politician. One would become a cop. One would become a drug dealer.

Forty-nine graduated from high school or earned GEDs, surpassing the graduation rate in the area, and almost half enrolled in college. But only 11 “dreamers” earned bachelor’s degrees; three of those went on to earn advanced degrees. Another 12 students completed trade school.

Most of the successful “dreamers” were motivated students before the scholarships were offered. Others, growing up in violent, drug-ridden neighborhoods, followed their peers, not the dream of college.

Many of those who made it to college failed their classes and gave up. That’s typical of similar programs. Nationally, “dream” scholarships have increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates, but have not produced many college graduates, according to the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

Success can’t be measured by a college diploma, concludes Tracy Proctor, who served as the counselor for the 59 students into adulthood. (When the drug dealer was ready to retire, Proctor got him into trade school.)

The doctor and the pharmacist are successes, for sure. But so are the UPS driver and the Prince George’s police officer. They may not have college degrees, Proctor says, but they have a sense of purpose and ambition.

Where did that drive come from? The series profiles Darone Robinson, the most surprising success story in Proctor’s eyes. Almost kicked out of high school for fighting, Robinson almost flunked out of college. But he couldn’t face telling his mother that he’d failed. So Robinson worked harder, raised his grades, earned an IT degree and now lives a middle-class life with his wife and children. Without Proctor’s help, he might not have made it through high school. Without the scholarship, he might not have started college. But what got him through was something that can’t be given.

The cult of success

The new issue of AFT’s American Educator features a cover story by Diana Senechal on The Cult of Success (pdf). “In research studies, newspaper articles, and general education discussions, there is far more talk of achievement than of the actual stuff that gets achieved,” she writes.

In Bipartisan, But Unfounded: The Assault on Teachers’ Unions (pdf), Richard D. Kahlenberg defends unions from attacks on all sides.

The issue also includes Meaningful Work (pdf), by Will Fitzhugh, on how writing history research papers prepares students for college and life.

Prioritizing ‘success’ comes under fire

California’s community colleges should focus on educating students who are making progress toward a certificate or degree, giving lower priority to “permanent students” and people seeking enrichment courses, recommends a state task force. College newspapers are campaigning against the changes, saying students should be able to explore without committing to completing a “program of study.”

Also on Community College Spotlight:  One out of four students enrolled in community college in fall 2010 was not enrolled anywhere by the following semester, though that includes students who earned a certificate or degree.

CC report: Focus on motivated students

California community colleges offer “open access and limited success,” says a new task force report, which calls for focusing scarce resources on new students and motivated students who choose an academic plan and make progress toward a certificate or degree.  Students who’ve taken lots of classes without completing a credential would go on wait lists and eventually lose fee waivers.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  High schools and colleges are trying to teach “financial literacy” to students before they run up huge debts they’ll struggle to repay.