Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
NOVEMBER 29, 2010 5:49AM

Want America to Regain A Competitive Edge Again? Join Me.

Rate: 31 Flag

     If you really want the United States to lead the world in educational attainment and prowess, in tech, in business, you have to work and work hard to eradicate or seriously lessen the poverty in our midst. And if you truly want that, as a goal for our nation, you cannot be anywhere close to satisfied with the educational attainment and strength of our middle and upper classes only. You can, of course, be content with excellence for those children only, but if you are, you are not a very civic-minded American nor are you particularly patriotic.

     Stephen Krashen, formerly of USC in Los Angeles where he was a professor of education points out in yesterday's NYT that the Scandinavian countries Denmark and Finland "outperform" us and have teachers at all levels who routinely "graduate in the top third of their classes". He points out, though, that the real difference is that whereas 21% of Americans live in poverty, less than 3% of Danes and Finns do.

     What does this mean?

     --Our kids attend schools far less well-nourished.

     --Our kids attend schools as yet with inferior health care.

     --Our kids attend schools without regular access to new books, labs, and clothing.

     Our upper- and middle-class kids, both in private and in public schools that are well-financed, "outscore nearly all other countries". Our averages, however, are minimized by schools and children of poverty.

     Unless you are among those who believe that children from poor families are somehow intrinsically doomed to mediocrity or worse because of race and/or ethnicity (and then you'd have, of course, to explain the consistently comparatively lousy scores from Appalachia in some novel manner)...and if you're an American who wants our nation to succeed long-term in a highly competitive world economy...if you're one who has simply not given up or given in...then you must work, in your own, small way, to erase poverty in your part of our nation.

     Being a cynic's easy and a cop-out. It's a lazy-thinker's out. Why?

          --The cynic says little use in trying/the fix is in.

          --Be a skeptic. A skeptic believes all things, good and bad, are forever possible. So we must work.

     Join me.

Here's place to start:  Find a Local Food Bank | Feeding America

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I've shared this link with you in other contexts, the last time almost ten months back. I know that some of you used it.

It's just after Thanksggiving and because of that and the natural connection it has to the education issues I raise here, it seems appropriate to share with you this link anew.
Jonathan, it seems appropriate to share this link until people have food in their refrigerators every day and kids don't go to bed hungry. Did you hear that D.C. Public Schools are planning to serve free dinner now to after-school kids? ~r
Thanks Jonathan. Poverty is absolutely the most important factor affecting achievement in our schools We must choose to make a difference...every possible way every day. Thanks for this and for your passionate commitment to children and education.
Without a doubt, poverty is a huge factor in academic failure. But why is poverty so rampant? I shared some thoughts on this topic in yesterday's post.
(( JON )) I agree and thanks.....:)
Joan I hadn't heard that. Thnk you!
Jonathan, excellent points here! We could have handled these problems of poverty far, far better with all of the resources our nation "could have and should have" mustered over the many decades of being the world's superpower.
Desig yes it's abt choice.
Some schools are asking kids to bring their own toilet paper. This is not the America I know.
donated to the Waterfront Homeless Mission this weekend....the lady said this to me:" You're the bomb!" love it, Christmas meals for the hungry

stop the advance of the 451s
Eve but it's the America the poor have always known. Honest.
For me, the problem is in these short term bandages to situations that really scream for long-term solutions. I hate the concept of poverty, and I really hate that there are any people living in poverty, but it bothers me to no end that me, being someone who has lived most of his life on the bleeding edge of poverty is often the one called forth to do something about it when the captains of industry, the ones who perpetuate the very nature of poverty do absolutely nothing but continue to amass huge fortunes at the expense of everyone else. That's what sets me into a cynical, skeptical, apathetic response pattern almost every time.
Why I think those acounts of other nations don't take into account many factors, you are so right. If we could get the poor and downtrodden just to average, we would be working miracles!
Duane then what's to be done?
Scanner t h e i r averages, yes.
Jon, I have been in this nrighbourhood for almost 13 years. Nothing has changed and 3 out of 10 kids graduate high school.
rated with hugs
Linda what do you suggest?
My daughters are determined to get a college degree. They have worked full time and gone to school full time for years. I wish I could believe that they will be better off with that stupid degree but Im a cynic. They live at near poverty level and so do I. There are days when I think it is just who you know that makes the difference. But I would never tell them that. I just want them to know Im proud of them and support them in any way I can. I have a college degree too but it doesnt help when you are almost 64 and no one wants to hire you. Good place to rant. I wish schools could provide the steps we need for survival. Obama seems to have made it a priority. Now if he can just get us some jobs and some common sense we will be fine. End poverty in America now. Good idea.
Tom waiting's part of the problem.
Thank you, JW. Between you, Al Loomis, and of course many others here on OS, maybe we can actually start to make a difference.
Zanelle bless all of you
Junk1 The choice other than to try is unacceptable; yes.
Jonathan, as an educator, you know that if the country spent as much on education as it does on war, the planet would be a totally different place.

Kudos to you for writing on this issue.
Catherine and, at risk of sounding self-ctrd, my mom and millions of other moms would not have dir=ed so young had the priority been basic med rsrsch and not the assinine fear of the Soviets. At least some balance!
Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald wrote an editorial entitled, "Take action to end hunger now." In his opening sentence, he states that 17.7 percent of Americans were at times unable to feed themselves this past year. Horrifying! How can kids learn if they can't hear over their stomachs growling?
Donna thanks so much for this!!
This time of the year brings out the best in all of us. Wonderful, Jonathan.
Our town has taken the local food bank to the next level...they come pick up donations from every house in town on a bi-monthly basis, donations have skyrocketed since the program began to come get food from each willing door.
This can be set up in your town/neighborhood too...
Important post, Jon, thanks for this...
JustTh your town's doing it right!
The problem is, in part, that schools are primarily funded locally. Even George F. Will was eventually led to believe that this is a problem. Poor neighborhoods don't have the tax base to support local schools adequately. If schools were funded by their states instead of by districts, no public schools could be left behind by law. That doesn't fix poverty but it gets poor kids a much better shot at an adequate education, which in itself goes farther toward fixing poverty than many other things I can think of.

Contrary to what some say, not everything is outsourced.
Kosh yes; the worst aspect tho historically understandable part of our Constitution is that education is relegated to Amend. 10.
Timely post, Jon. Always timely. Thank you for the reminder and for your committment. ~R
I think Republicans deliberately nix school funding, their theory being that dumb people will vote for them. So far, it's working.
John it certainly does work.
Thanks Jonathan; as an education professor I can only agree and share this post widely. R
A wonderful "roll up your sleeves and get to work" post. Rated.
Excellent post. I exist at poverty level but with a few breaks haven't had to bother the food pantry for my own food leaving more for others. I even donate. I live very near depressed school districts/towns, all the children live in poverty and the education is sometimes so poor the schools have lost accreditation which also means colleges won't accept their students' education. It has been called a vicious cycle, but in this country that should not be true. The rich, of late, can't seem to do enough to see that their politicians insure they keep more of what they have instead of looking around them for what they could do to make this country great. I believe one would find that many of those who donate are those among us that don't really have it ourselves. Until elimnination of poverty and a good education for all is a priority, there aren't many solutions for the ills of this country.
I hate knowing that in a country as accomplished as ours cannot feed all of our people, and shamed by the fact that children go hungry. Our local food banks have been depleted by the economic crisis, and as the unemployment extension doesn't seem likely, they're predicting having to close down for lack of food. I gathered up a box today and will take it down tomorrow.
Good post, Jon.
We must not forget the underprivileged in our country just because they are underprivileged. Many of the greatest influences on our society came from people with low -income backgrounds.
I believe Abraham Lincoln is a prime example. Came from nothing, survived Major Depression, and look what came out of all this "poverty."

Again good, important, and remindful blog.

alas, the decline in the family and overwhelming immigration numbers are complicating our recovery
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