America Is Burning, by Diane Ravitch

I haven’t seen it said better:

America Is Burning

About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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13 Responses to America Is Burning, by Diane Ravitch

  1. Hi Bob. I spent many hours documenting the struggles that just one school district is going through regarding school reopening. I hope that you get a chance to look at it.

    http://eduissues.com/2020/06/28/critical-school-reopening-issues-from-the-smuhsd-board-meeting

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    • Bob Shepherd says:

      My note on your superb piece, David (it’s awaiting moderation on your site):

      Great, David. My read on returning to school:

      Yes, distance learning is subpar. Everyone knows this. The only people who refuse to recognize how problematic it is are those who benefit financially from distance learning.

      However, a recent study suggests that children 10 years old and older are just as likely to contract Covid-19 as adults are. See this: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31304-0/fulltext

      In addition, we now know that even among people who are overtly asymptomatic, contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus can have severe, long-term consequences not limited to the lungs, but affecting other bodily organs and systems, the heart, brain, liver, nerve function, and so on.

      I think that a lot of people who don’t work in schools vastly overestimate the ability that schools will have to enforce rules for social distancing and the wearing of masks. “Johnny, please don’t wear your mask over your eyes and pretend to be Batman. What? You accidentally blew your nose in your mask? Yolanda, please pick up your mask and don’t shoot it at Hector again.” LOL. And we now know that small, confined, usually windowless environments LIKE CLASSROOMS are ideal for transmission of the virus. Kids, at all levels, touch everything, as every teacher knows. I recently taught high-school in an upper-middle-class environment. I cleaned my classroom regularly. The bottoms of desks were covered with kids’ gum and BOOGERS. If you think that kids are going to be careful about this stuff, you simply don’t know kids. They have very short attention spans, they aren’t clean, they don’t follow rules consistently, and there is no way, short of insanely draconian measures, to make them follow the supposedly sufficient rules consistently, even if they were sufficient, which they clearly won’t be.

      The only way to be able to reopen schools SAFELY is to be able to test every person in the school regularly, track all contacts, and isolate those infected or exposed. Until we can do this, the fact is that talk about reopening schools “safely” is just magical thinking on the part of people who don’t know schools and kids but would like the kids out of their hair again so that they can easily go about their lives. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

      If we reopen schools under these conditions, we will see vast surges in infections, and lots and lots of teachers, administrators, staff, and parents and other relatives will die who didn’t have to die. And some kids will as well. How many of these deaths are you willing to accept? And how many other SARS-CoV-2-related health problems later on?

      Look. There’s a freaking pandemic going on involving an easily transmissible, DEADLY disease that can cause severe consequences in the long-term even for people who are overtly asymptomatic. We are faced with these choices:

      1. Simply call off school until there is a vaccine.
      2. Send kids back to school and watch the infections and deaths soar.
      3. Accept that we are going to have to continue doing distance learning, as bad as it is, until we have sufficient testing, tracking, and isolation capabilities to test every person in school regularly OR have a universally available vaccine.

      Option one is not acceptable. Option two is psychopathic (who cares about those deaths and infections with long-term consequences) or involves magical thinking. It’s BY FAR the worst choice. I’ll take option three, thank you.

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      • PS – my iPhone alerts me as soon as a comment comes in to the moderation queue on my blog, so items usually go up pretty quickly except when I put the phone on DND.

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      • Bob Shepherd says:

        I had posted it, David, on Diane’s blog, where it was in moderation. I’m surprised that Diane deals with these as quickly as she does, given the volume of work that she does in a day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think I read that Diane’s blog is set to approve a person automatically after they prove trustworthy. My traffics levels never get higher than a few hundred people a day and most of them read without commenting, so I can easily process everything via iPhone alerts. Many of my readers who do comment do so on Nextdoor just as Diane’s readers comment on her blog much more than they do on the referenced articles. A lot of my readers are busy working parents though who are just looking for information and don’t have time for discussions.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bob Shepherd says:

      Let me also hasten to say, David, that I agree with you that there is another epidemic of stress-related mental disorder among our nation’s high-school students. The stats bear this out. And like you, I saw this first-hand in the teaching job from which I recently retired.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Bob. I have had just two cases of students with mental health issues in my tutoring work in the last eight years. My biggest concern about the AP system is that it creates artificially high hurdles for high school students and is killing the love of learning math and science in far too many of the kids with whom I have worked, not that it is driving them over the edge into depression, anxiety and worse.

        I am a bit concerned when listening during the Board meeting to the testimony of psychotherapists who are attending to teens that they obviously see only students coming to them who have problems and they are probably seeing a significant increase right now, but I don’t know how the overall % data in the entire population is tabulated since a lot of parents may keep this information within the family.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Shepherd says:

        I saw a lot of kids, at all levels, completely frantic at end-of-the-year exam time.

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      • You had the advantage of seeing the entire class. My students are a small subset but they run the gamut of abilities. Because of the socioeconomic status of the parents, most of them are pretty good and some are excellent, so I have to factor this into any general conclusions I draw about education

        When I returned to classroom teaching I was given low level classes like regular physics, algebra 1, “repeater” geometry (everyone had failed previously and 10 had IEPs). Due to lack of seniority it was clear that I would never get to teach any more advanced classes for maybe as long as 10 years by which time I would be way past retirement age. Couple that with mass layoffs of new teachers during the financial crisis in 2010 – 2012, and this explains why I decided to switch to tutoring. I probably would have been able to get better more secure work if I left the SF Peninsula but I didn’t want to disrupt my wife’s career and teaching was pretty much something I wanted to do before I retired, but not an economic necessity for me. I sacrificed a lot of income and benefits for tutoring but enjoyed myself much more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Shepherd says:

        David, my first teaching job was in a one-factory town, poor, working class. There were five remedial preps in the high school. As the new teacher, just out of college, I got all five of them–five separate remedial preps!!! I have a lot of war stories from that time.

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      • It always amazes me that the teaching profession treats new people so poorly. When I was a manager in software and in biotech I always made sure that everyone had something interesting to work on. That is just plain human decency.

        In talking to various people behind the scenes in the local school reopening controversy, some of the bad behavior I observed is almost infantile. I think that allowing people to go to school, go to college, get a teaching certificate, and then go back to school is something akin to a mistake. People should learn about other parts of the world at some time in their lives.

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      • Having said the above though, if the 30% of teens affected and 13% affected severely numbers from the NIMH that the psychologists were quoting are accurate, then I would have to assume that the AP system is in part to blame.

        It has been some time since I read The Atlantic cover story on the Gunn High School suicide clusters in Palo Alto, CA, but my recollection is that the stress of the AP system was compounded by parents withholding affection from their kids unless they performed well (a bit of the Tiger Mom approach).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Shepherd says:

        Agree entirely with regard to AP. The College Board is a great danger to students.

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