EDUCATION POLITICS - The latest salvo from federally-forced EdReform, the “Common Core” and its implementation, seems to be branded by a scarcity of Common Sense.
Consider, for instance, the iPad snafu – these iPads are all about enabling implementation of the Common Core, and just about everything about this iPad stratagem all seems completely nuts.
I know politics is complicated and we peon-citizens only see, read or hear about a small fraction of the whole swirling morass flying about behind the scenes.
But sometimes a banana is just a banana, and sometimes those suckers born every day get sold a lemon.
We all know this about tablet “computers”: they are not real “working” machines. When I proposed buying a tablet for my student the dude behind the counter told me: “Don’t do it. You’ll have to buy a keyboard, it has way less memory and no ports, a smaller screen and slower speed: it’s just not what a serious student needs. By the time you’re done adding on, you’ll have a machine almost as expensive as a real computer with far less functionality”.
Any parent will have received that advice from just about any computer salesman. And while there are a few serious students out there who no doubt feel otherwise, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the word on the street is: tablets are no substitute for a computer; students need computers.
Moreover, in the war on social injustice, all these privileged kids we’re trying to catch everyone else up to – they’ve all got the real deal, a computer. Heck, they have several of them. A handful of years ago a visit to the local private school boasted a reveal of 2.4 computers on average per pupil for student use on campus. That’s an average and that number is two-point-four and that’s on campus.
Just making sure those figures are comprehended. Because meanwhile less than a mile away, the comparable public school had something on the order of 0.06 computers per pupil – between one and two orders of magnitude fewer. So this effort at narrowing the toy-gap isn’t actually getting too far.
Here’s some more wackiness in the Common Sense department: I don’t give my grade schooler multi-hundred dollar toys and I bet you don’t either. They drop things, they break them, they lose them, they forget them, they enroll them in snowball-substitution fights. They are young kids and they are not sufficiently responsible to be held accountable for expensive toys and so … I don’t force them to be thus-responsible. It’s just asking for trouble and guilt and hard feelings and lost money.
This qualifies as a no-brainer in the parenting department. It definitely qualifies as one of the shake-your-head-at-the-wacky-things-people-with-too-much-money do, giving their wee children expensive, delicate toys. It does not count in closing the opportunity-gap because the owning of expensive toys is not a hardship of opportunity necessary to redress. Cost-appropriate toys are respected in our household and it is unclear why the design of capitalist paymasters Apple and Pearson supersede rudimentary common sense in purchasing.
So: we don’t give babes-just-out-of-arms expensive toys to break, and we don’t give serious “college-ready” scholars toys masquerading-as-academic tools. We also don’t spring for diamond-encrusted ball point pens when a humble pencil is all that is indicated, and funds are so scarce that even the necessary support of a pencil sharpener is a hardship.
Our facilities are crumbling, our personnel are overworked to the point of non-functionality, our programs are not just decimated but expunged, and yet the money appropriated explicitly to address these issues is skimmed into an account relabeled to accommodate inappropriate, unapproved, luxuries.
“A fool and his money are soon parted”; common sense dictates a little skepticism be employed in warding off financial chicanery. There are so many get-rich – excuse me, get-“smart”-quick schemes floating about EdReform/Common Core Land that their sheer volume belies legitimacy.
No one purchases a car with a 30-year loan. Long-term financial “instruments” are intended for a more “durable” purchase like, say, a house. Or a school building.
If you purchased your Honda Civic with a house mortgage, you would find yourself paying for that auto to the tune of several times its original worth, a dozen years or longer beyond when it was melted into candlesticks. How does it make sense that LAUSD stakeholders should be purchasing ephemeral electronic equipment with long-term construction bonds? Where’s the common sense in hoodwinking tax-payers with such a scheme that doesn’t even seem legal? When will the average voter ever agree again to finance any child’s public educational needs when there are only foxes in charge of the hen house?
Maybe this is all more complicated than it seems. But since it was we taxpayers who invoked the common sense solution of approving bond money to maintain school facilities sufficiently, we deserve transparency regarding decisions that reverse course on how this money is spent. And we deserve legal redress should the caretakers of our money not spend it according to our wishes.
Our children need teachers — more teachers — who can conduct school within classrooms of a manageable, teachable size.
Our children need a village-worth of support staff to enable and assist those teachers to engage their learners.
Our children need to attend school in facilities that are clean, commodious, safe and stimulating.
Diverting funds from rank-bottom pedagogical necessities in favor of frivolous electronics in service of opaque commercial ends, just makes no Common Sense.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com)
Vol 11 Issue 74
Pub: Sept 13, 2013