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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » "Poverty, not bad teachers, is what plagues our schools"

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Author Topic: "Poverty, not bad teachers, is what plagues our schools"
philnotfil
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newsday.com

quote:
Beating up on public education is practically our national sport. I often do it myself. But overlooked in the ongoing assault is strong evidence that U.S. schools actually are worldbeaters -- except for the problem of poverty.

When it comes to reading, in fact, our schools may well be the best in the world. As Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond points out, U.S. 15-year olds in schools with fewer than 10 percent of kids eligible for free or cut-rate lunch "score first in the world in reading, outperforming even the famously excellent Finns."

quote:
These results are from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, a widely followed effort to compare educational outcomes. PISA scores inspire a good deal of hand-wringing in this country -- overall, we were 14th in reading -- but I suspect we've been taking away the wrong message by not adjusting for poverty.
quote:
So the connection, which exists in most countries, is clear. But somehow the implications haven't been, and now that school is again upon us, it's worth thinking this through. If American kids who aren't poor are doing so well, maybe our problem isn't bad teachers or inadequate school spending or indifferent parents or screen-besotted children. Maybe the problem is simply poverty -- and the shameful fact that we have so much more of it than any comparable country.
But poverty is a harder problem to solve than teacher quality, so maybe we will just work on the easy problem instead of the problem that needs to get fixed.
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Pyrtolin
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And even poverty isn't really all that hard to solve, given our overall resources; we just lest moralistic and racist nonsense prevent us from enacting effective policies and undermine what systems we do have to address it.
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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
And even poverty isn't really all that hard to solve, given our overall resources; we just lest moralistic and racist nonsense prevent us from enacting effective policies and undermine what systems we do have to address it.

I consider myself to be pretty conservative and oppose socialism on ideological grounds, but every once in a while I look at the results of what Europe is doing and the results of what the US is doing and I try to figure out why they get so much better results than we do.
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Pete at Home
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Education, housing, and welfare have nothing to do with socialism which is only about state control over the means of production.

In that light, Bush Junior was America's great socialist, not Barry, since Junior is the one that had the government buy out General Motors.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
And even poverty isn't really all that hard to solve, given our overall resources; we just lest moralistic and racist nonsense prevent us from enacting effective policies and undermine what systems we do have to address it.

One of the most pernicious cause of poverty in the USA is unrealistic expectations. Kill advertising and the pipe-fed illusion that driving a sports car and wearing $200 sneakers is normal, and Americans might actually turn away from senseless materialism, might meet and greet their neighbors, and otherwise turn back into human beings.

What the poor need, what the rich need, what the middle class need, is neighbors, both in the Christian sense and in the community sense.

Why do middle class American boys sometimes turn into time bombs, gunning down schools in displays of raving nihilism not really unlike the behavior of the 9-11 hijackers? Because we've squandered their cultural inheritance. Told them the TV is their friend, and that money is their god. Then we try to gloss over their empty shells with a few moralistic statements like say no to drugs and vandalism and drive-by shootings. What exactly is our youth supposed to say yes to?

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Gaoics79
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quote:
And even poverty isn't really all that hard to solve
LOL... Yes and no. Poverty as it once was undestood (food, clothing, shelter, basic healthcare) is certainly easy to solve in a first world country. It has already been solved.

Poverty as it now is defined (basically a moving target) is actually impossible to solve.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
LOL... Yes and no. Poverty as it once was undestood (food, clothing, shelter, basic healthcare) is certainly easy to solve in a first world country. It has already been solved.

Is this a joke? The U.S. government has an absolute definition of poverty, not a relative one:

"The "absolute poverty line" is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health."

By that definition:
"According to the US Census, in 2007 5.8% of all people in married families lived in poverty,[23] as did 26.6% of all persons in single parent households[23] and 19.1% of all persons living alone.[23] More than 75% of all poor households are headed by women (2012). [24]"

And how accurate is the U.S. measure? It most likely understates poverty:

"As noted above, the poverty thresholds used by the US government were originally developed during the Johnson administration's War on Poverty initiative in 1963–1964.[53][54] Mollie Orshansky, the government economist working at the Social Security Administration who developed the thresholds, based the threshold levels on the cost of purchasing what in the mid 1950s had been determined by the US Department of Agriculture to be the minimal nutritionally-adequate amount of food necessary to feed a family. Orshansky multiplied the cost of the food basket by a factor of three, under the assumption that the average family spent one third of its income on food.
While the poverty threshold is updated for inflation every year, the basket of food used to determine what constitutes being deprived of a socially acceptable minimum standard of living has not been updated since 1955. As a result, the current poverty line only takes into account food purchases that were common more than 50 years ago, updating their cost using the Consumer Price Index. When methods similar to Orshansky’s were used to update the food basket using prices for the year 2000 instead of from nearly a half century earlier, it was found that the poverty line should actually be 200% higher than the official level being used by the government in that year.[55]
Yet even that higher level could still be considered flawed, as it would be based almost entirely on food costs and on the assumption that families still spend a third of their income on food. In fact, Americans typically spent less than one tenth of their after-tax income on food in 2000.[56] For many families, the costs of housing, health insurance and medical care, transportation, and access to basic telecommunications take a much larger bite out of the family’s income today than a half century ago; yet, as noted above,[53][54] none of these costs are considered in determining the official poverty thresholds. According to John Schwarz, a political scientist at the University of Arizona:
“ The official poverty line today is essentially what it takes in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation, to purchase the same poverty-line level of living that was appropriate to a half century ago, in 1955, for that year furnished the basic data for the formula for the very first poverty measure. Updated thereafter only for inflation, the poverty line lost all connection over time with current consumption patterns of the average family. Quite a few families then didn't have their own private telephone, or a car, or even a mixer in their kitchen... The official poverty line has thus been allowed to fall substantially below a socially decent minimum, even though its intention was to measure such a minimum."
(source)

No one genuinely concerned about poverty would even remotely consider this reality to be "solved".

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Gaoics79
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Adam, if the state supplements a family's resources such that all basic needs are met, even if that family could not meet those needs but for the state's interference, would that family still be considered living in poverty?
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
Adam, if the state supplements a family's resources such that all basic needs are met, even if that family could not meet those needs but for the state's interference, would that family still be considered living in poverty?

You're right about the old definition of poverty being "solved", but wrong about the fact that poverty as it is defined today is a "moving target" and "impossible to solve". It is spelled out very clearly by the government as being self-sufficiency without the need for state support - and if the economy were vibrant enough that would become true in any nation that had the right policies in place.

Poverty is not simply shorthand for "the people with the least wealth" in a society, as you probably imagine it based on our conversations. It is quite simply not having the resources to meet your basic needs without outside assistance.

[ September 03, 2012, 09:55 AM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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threads
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You can use Trulia to get a bird's-eye of the quality of schools in a region. Link. It's interesting to see how it matches up to the distribution of wealth in a region.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
Adam, if the state supplements a family's resources such that all basic needs are met, even if that family could not meet those needs but for the state's interference, would that family still be considered living in poverty?

Do the have the resources necessary to invest in moving up from that position? The security necessary to be able to take the risks involved in making such investments and to plan for the future? If so then they have a path to freedom from poverty, if not then they're just being strong along.
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
Adam, if the state supplements a family's resources such that all basic needs are met, even if that family could not meet those needs but for the state's interference, would that family still be considered living in poverty?

Good question. And I can see how this perspective could rationally lead to a conclusion that poverty has been solved (at least, to a much greater degree than our economy provides). However, there remain some very big barriers to declaring the problem "solved".

For one, it takes a class of people who, instead of being in poverty, are instead a class of people whose subsistence level in determined by the whim of the voting public. In the U.S., this is the easiest issue in the world to demagogue over. Currently there are several proposals around the country to tie subsistence assistance to drug-testing and other forms of intrusion. This is literally asking people to exchange civil liberties in exchange for sustenence, regardless of whether one agrees with the intent.

Also, artificially inflating the means of a social class only solves *some* of the problems associated with poverty. The lack of liberty that is a condition of poverty is NOT addressed by this kind of assistance. Indeed, as Pyr pointed out, people in this situation have no real means to get out of this condition, and this is reflected in the poor social mobility in the U.S., and in generational poverty rates. Such people are also more likely to live with more crime, worse schools, worse public infrastructure, and a whole litany of real problems that those not in poverty rarely even think about.

Solving the poverty problem means more than simply maintaining somewhat humane living conditions for the poor. Ideally, it would mean a system where a child of a poor family was no more likely to end up in poverty than the child of any other family. Even if we accept that we are simply going to have a social floor, below which no one is forced to subsist, its still a problem if people are assigned to such a category for reasons beyond their control, AND unable to escape. But we are light-years from being culturally ready to deal with poverty for real, despite the ironic fact that we have more resources for doing so than any time in history.

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