Saturday, March 14, 2009

Daily Howler: Standards and Obama Speech

Excerpt from Friday, Mar. 13, 2009

Farewell, Gabriela: Huzzah! A gang of know-nothings in a far city had acted on some lofty ideas! They fell in line with the “standards revolution,” adopting city-wide “higher standards.” They did this because they lacked the first clue about the lives of low-income kids. During Jim Crow, our elites ignored the lives of these children. The “standards revolution” has given us ways to ignore them all over again.

In the Los Angeles Times, Duke Helfand did a remarkable piece of education reporting, describing what happened to struggling kids when that city’s lofty elites adopted those higher standards. His piece centered on Ocampo, who had recently become a high school drop-out. Incredibly, Ocampo had dropped out midway through twelfth grade—because she couldn’t pass her high school’s first-year algebra course. And there’s no doubt she couldn’t pass this course. By the time she finally quit, she had taken—and failed—the course six times! In this passage, you get a sense of the kind of gong-show Obama has now recommended. You get a sense of the decent kidsd who get steam-rolled by such high ideals:

HELFAND (1/30/06): Gabriela failed that first semester of freshman algebra. She failed again and again—six times in six semesters. And because students in Los Angeles Unified schools must pass algebra to graduate, her hopes for a diploma grew dimmer with each F.

Midway through 12th grade, Gabriela gathered her textbooks, dropped them at the campus book room and, without telling a soul, vanished from Birmingham High School.

We did a six-part report on Helfand’s superlative piece; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/2/06. “Liberals,” who quit on such kids long ago, predictably stared into air. (Question: How much discussion of Obama’s speech have you seen at our “liberal journals?”)

Imaginably, those “higher standards” can help some kids—but they can badly harm many others. Who wouldn’t have known that LA’s “higher standards” would damage decent, good kids like Ocampo? Duh! Our lofty elites wouldn’t know! These lofty elites have little idea about the real lives of these crummy children. This week, Obama was pimping one of this group’s lofty, know-nothing cries.

Special Report: Farewell, Gabriela!

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Be sure to read each part of our current series, “Farewell, Gabriela:”

Part 1: A brilliant report in the L. A. Times begins with a child left behind. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/22/06.)

Part 2: Thousands of kids are now quitting school—because of their school board’s “high standards.” (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/23/06.)

Part 3: A ninth-grade class needs fourth-grade work. How did they get left behind? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/24/06.)

Part 4: “Faddish” theories help produce an Era of Magical Thinking. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/28/06.)

Part 5: Modern liberals don’t care about low-income kids, We dropped out long ago. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/1/06.)

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