Legislature's Step Backward on School Testing Makes Us Like France, Only Racist

Categories: Schutze

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When I was the adolescent son of a family of modest means in a factory town in Michigan, I won a scholarship to study French by living for a summer with a French working class family. It had some to do with my being a damned good French student, some to do with my father's church connections and a whole lot to do with blind luck.

The eldest son of my French family had just finished high school. In my hometown, Pontiac, if you wanted to turn a girl's head you had to drive at least a Pontiac GTO with a rumbling glass-pack muffler. I had no car at all. Imagine the wonder and admiration I felt for this French kid who could ride through medieval streets on a bicycle with a single rose in his teeth and suck pretty girls out of shop doors, market tents and second-story bedroom windows to wave and call to him.

I remember thinking, "I could go back to Pontiac and try the rose-in-the-teeth bicycle thing, but I'd probably just wind up in the hospital missing some important teeth." And that would have been the reaction just from the girls.

Later in the summer when I knew enough French to talk to him, I asked him what he was going to do with his life. At first, he seemed not to get what I was asking. He said, "What's wrong with my life?"

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I said, "Your career. What will it be?"

He said, "Oh, you mean work. I don't know. I will work."

"Where?"

"I don't know. Some factory or something. Why?"

I stopped asking questions, in part because I was too shocked to know what to say or ask. I came from a place that was at that time the world-center of factories. Everyone I knew was the son or daughter of parents who worked in factories. Their parents had come from all over the world (except maybe France) to work in American factories. I didn't know a single kid who would graduate from high school and nonchalantly accept a life of working in factories.

We all had that American trait -- I guess we could argue about whether it's a blessing or a curse -- of believing not only that we could rise above the station of our parents but that we had to do so in order to keep our parents off our backs. What my handsome and very cool French brother had accepted instead was a permanently limited social station. I just didn't get it.

Our American adult mentor in the language program was a Baptist minister and doctoral student of both theology and French history. I told him how upset I was that this really cool guy just shrugged and said his life didn't matter. The mentor laughed. "He didn't say that, Jim. He said his social class didn't matter to his happiness."

He explained: By steering poor kids early and hard into vocational training, French schools enshrined and enforced pre-Revolutionary concepts of class that survived from ancient culture. The French school system plucked up the old institution of aristocracy, roots and all, and transplanted it in the soil of a so-called meritocracy that would always be dominated by people of relative wealth. In this system, poor people accepted a lower social station early in life and then didn't worry about it.

My mentor said that was why my French brother could pedal around with that rose in his teeth all day: He didn't have American rat-in-the-belly social anxiety gnawing at his guts. I remember being very depressed about that. I thought, "Yeah, great, well, he's never going to get a GTO that way." As I said, I was an adolescent.

These memories come to mind now because I can't help thinking Texas took a big turn toward the French last week with the near unanimous passage of HB 5 in the Texas House of Representatives. HB 5 will create a system of early academic steering in which students and their families must choose a student's lifelong destiny at age 14.

With HB 5, assuming it becomes law, Texas is abandoning the American dream -- or curse -- of limitless ambition, opting instead for the more comfortable rose-in-the-teeth convention of permanent social class linked to birth. But in our case, the motivation for imposing a permanent socioeconomic ceiling is worse and dirtier than the French reason. They were operating out of assumptions of class so ancient and unquestioned as to be almost subliminal. Our reason is race.

State Representative Mark Strama, a 46-year-old Democrat from Austin, was one of only two House members who voted against HB 5. He has a piece about his vote on his blog in which he points out that HB 5 is aimed at eroding and degrading the system of accountability that has successfully prodded school districts to raise the achievement scores of black and Hispanic students. Strama provides hard data to show that black and Hispanic test scores started rising in the '90s when Texas first embraced a philosophy of rigorous accountability for schools.

Those scores have continued to rise at rates faster than the national rates. But Strama also provides anecdotal evidence from school officials who have told him that's exactly why they wanted to see HB 5 passed -- so they could escape the pressure to raise minority student achievement. Strama says he voted against HB 5 because he believes its purpose is to allow school districts to duck back beneath the radar on minority achievement.

We really don't have hard-walled social classes in this country the way the Europeans still do. Maybe it's because our own revolution took place on new soil, cut free from the massive cultural and psychological root system of a medieval past. But we do have race and ethnicity.

For example, let's consider the saga of the immigrant families from Mexico whose children now compose almost two-thirds of the student body in Dallas. They come here with a kind of bifurcated worldview in the first place.

On the one hand, they are products of a culture in which poor people are barely visible in the structure of social political power sharing and can literally get themselves killed by standing up and making demands. On the other hand, the families who make it to Dallas have whatever courage, desperation and rat-belly ambition it took to come seek their fortunes in a foreign and often hostile land.

It's easy to teach their kids that they're not allowed to rise above a certain level. Too many of them already get that at home. The trick is to teach them just the opposite -- that they must strive to break through every barrier and take their places not at the bottom, not at the middle but at the very top of American society. Because that is the American way.

It's not just a mistake and a waste of human potential to steer children toward lesser destinies. It's a sin and a betrayal of all that is truly American.

A parallel bill has already passed in the Senate. Now all we need is the signature of Governor Oops, and Texas will be truly French. No, wait, that's unfair to France. What Texas will be when this noxious bill becomes law is truly racist.

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121 comments
PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Nice conversation, folks. I'm taking Mr. Schutze's points and your arguments to extrapolate a few things here, but it looks as if the plan intends to offer more classroom choices for public schoolers rather than fewer choices. As long as we don't allow some bureaucrat to funnel our children as they so choose, I see no problem here. By the way, some of us are proud to have a trade as well as a formal education. Of course, school is like a vacation compared to learning most trades, but that's something that a smart kid will discover for him- or herself.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

My father worked for DART and was once sent to a DuPont automotive paint class which was taught by three German BMW employees. They related that they graduated from technical high schools and were immediately hired by BMW and earned excellent incomes. What's wrong with that?

No one is calling for a return to the days when shop and woodworking classes were holding cells for minority students. Research shows that we lose most students in junior high and high school because they see no relationship between what they are learning and what they plan to do in life. What's wrong with graduating high school with a professional license or certificate in a skill or trade? The students can still go to college and have a ready source of income to support them if they choose or have to pay their own way.

bmarvel
bmarvel

" literature, after being castrated, dehorned and defanged is no longer great"

You're not very old are you, Scott? When was this era of "great literature" that you imagine? The '70s? '60s? '50s? I was there. The Miller's Tale would no more be taught in high school than bomb-making or brain surgery. In fact our reading list was in many ways far more restricted than that of today's students. I had to wait for college to read the good stuff. Nevertheless, I was able to find my way on my own to science fiction, the Beats, "Catcher in the Rye," Hemingway and Joyce. High school classes at least established a pattern of serious reading. Now, serious books are taught only to the college-bound.

But the ignorance of your comment astonishes me. I don't know who's castrating your literature, but you need to get out more.

jane
jane

some people want to reap crops from fields that they did not harvest.

jane
jane

People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.

jane
jane

I think surgery should be performed without benefit of anesthetic.

jane
jane

It’s easy to hypnotize chickens.

 

jane
jane

France's as a whole has become dangerously uncompetitive.  

jane
jane

As long as I get my free birth control pills what difference does it make.

jane
jane

Jim should stick to writing about subjects about which he have some knowledge.

jane
jane

a tour de farce.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

This probably has less to do with France and more to do with the fact that we're turning out too many lawyers and not enough lawyer jobs, so the Lege (aka lawyers) want to make sure we divert a sufficient number of young minds toward other life choices, like caddy.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@observist That's a fair enough distinction.  Amend that to "many" rather than "any".

jane
jane

I'm not saying I'm gifted or anything but I created my own birth certificate with Photoshop.

jane
jane

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

WeGetIt
WeGetIt

Ok, Jim, sorry about accusing you of early stage dementia. You are simply GTOJim, stuck in Michigan, circa 1965.

Career education is no longer tracked vocational education. Career education can be as rigorous as the 4x4 plan of academics and these classes can be substituted for some math and science classes because, oh yeah, they have a math and science foundation applied to problem solving.

Engineering, anyone?

http://www.achievetexas.org/Sciences.htm

On the other hand, we are so unhappy that you have decided giving all kids more choices suited to their interests is racist. It's going to be really hard to sell that line of bullshit to all those white middle class kids who are standing in line for these classes because they are high interest.

Based on your current line of bullshit, why did you settle for a lowly job, probably poorly paid, in blogging? Where's the fire in the belly? Where the money you could have made in corporate shilling?

You weren't interested?

That, my fine friend, is the point.


PrestonHoller
PrestonHoller

If only that Frenchie just a battery of a couple score state mandated tests shove down his throat, he’d have that “rat-belly ambition” that we all know its take to have the gumption in order to aspire to acquiring a GTO.And, today, that same Gallic bike rider could be writing op-ed pieces about how evil France’s equivalent of Highland Park is.

Oh the humanity!  If only France had had Miles and the DISD administration out there hiring TFA’ers and mandating more and more standardized tests, just imagine where France would be today.  What a travesty.

Maybe this is why Miles is more consumed with seeing Les Mis than trying to actually reform the DISD.  He knows that if only he was there during the Revolution, his standardized testing would have resulted in the spike of GTO sales that Jim wishes for.

PrestonHoller
PrestonHoller

Jim, you idiot.  You freakin’ idiot.  Period.  You. Are. An. Idiot.

 Your story says that your mentor “… explained: By steering poor kids early and hard into vocational training, French schools enshrined and enforced pre-Revolutionary concepts of class that survived from ancient culture. The French school system plucked up the old institution of aristocracy, roots and all, and transplanted it in the soil of a so-called meritocracy that would always be dominated by people of relative wealth. In this system, poor people accepted a lower social station early in life and then didn't worry about it.”

Yeah, right.  French  culture is just a government conspiracy engaging in “pre-Revolutionary concepts of class” to systemically raise kids “up in the old institutions of aristocracy” to be “dominated by people of relative wealth”?  

Have you seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  You remind me Dennis and just as laughable:

DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system. 

ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?


bmarvel
bmarvel

@jane Nobody here is saying your gifted, either.

Daniel
Daniel

@jane That's nothing -- I'm my own grandpa.

observist
observist topcommenter

@jane  

Oh, it makes none

But now you have gone 

And you must be looking very old tonight

bmarvel
bmarvel

@WeGetIt "why did you settle for a lowly job, probably poorly paid,"

Mistake made over and over again on this forum, That the only ambition that counts is for money, the only jobs that are worthy are the ones that rake in big salaries. If you have to ask why that's a mistake, then you'll ever understand the explantion.     

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@WeGetIt If you pulled up your trousers, held your breath and thought real hard about it, you might be capable of somethng better than an ad hominem argument once in a blue moon.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@PrestonHoller

Please don't ever take the English achievement SAT.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@PrestonHoller

Loved that scene. Not sure it was intended to be the basis for your understanding of world history.

laughingalltheway
laughingalltheway

@bmarvel @WeGetIt 

Your logic is fascinating. Kids shouldn't be allowed choices because everyone needs to go to college where they won't be polluted  by money.

Jim accuses those in favor of choice of being racists because students might not choose college which is supposed to lead to eternal social mobility and more money.

Neither of you makes any sense, but the world has changed outside your bubble.

WeGetIt
WeGetIt

@JimSX 

And if you breathed the air of 2013 instead of 1965, your articles might be timely and relevant.

Want to spend $100K getting a degree in today's world with the belief it will move you up the ladder? Ask today's grads about the debt they are hauling around in today's job market. Ask them about social mobility based on a college degree.

Ask them when they think they might ever be able to buy a house after buying into the sixties idea about the worth of a college degree.

It is a changed world and it requires different options. Calling out different options as racist is laughable.

PrestonHoller
PrestonHoller

@JimSXSaid by the guy who just castigated WeGetIt for using ad hominem.  Double standard much? You don't have to answer that.  We already know.

FWIW, I pop on here to take short breaks from my 9-5 job.  I have insufficient time to thoroughly edit my posts.  I assume that in the give-and-take of the comment sections, people have a little liberality in excusing someone else when they employ something that is less than the King’s English.  

But I really don’t think you give a hang about any of this.  Instead, I’ve noticed that when Libs are losing the argument, then tend to lash out at form rather than substance.  I think that is really what’s going on here.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@JimSX Actually, if you don't understand world history the scene isn't nearly as funny.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@RTGolden1 This is a forum for robust argument,not a debating society. Disagreement, even vigorous disagreement, is not "arrogant condescension." I have no idea whether most other commenters here do or do not have college degrees. It doesn't make their arguments any weaker or stronger.

As for scottindallas,he cam give it as well as he can take it. He needs no defense from you.   

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel @scottindallas Your arrogant condescension of those who do not fit the mold of your thinking is painting a subtle picture of you Bill.  But fear not, I never obtained my college degree, so my analysis is probably sub-par.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@bmarvel @laughingalltheway Bill, those studies are very dated.  College, particularly liberal arts, which you've been a vocal advocate of, are VERY hard to justify.  I have a philosophy degree (which for me was pre-law) and I support exposure to liberal arts but majoring in these should come with flashing lights and warnings. 

bmarvel
bmarvel

@laughingalltheway Never said kids shouldn't be allowed choices. Didn't say everyone needs to go to college. And certainly wouldn't argue that college immunizes students from the allure of money. So that pretty much wipes out your first paragraph,lauging. You really DO need to start paying closer attention.

I'll let Jim deal with your misreading of him, except to point out that studies show conclusively that a college degree promotes (upward) mobility. So there goes your second paragraph.

What's left? Not much. Some meaningless nattering about our "bubble." Since you don't know a thing about me except what you misread, I don't know what kind of bubble you imagine I live in. But it IS transparent, so I can see out and read what people actually write, rather than what I imagine them to write.

bmarvel
bmarvel

Your defense of The Market led me to believe you're some kind of Free Market man. But apparently not.  You advocate that government interfere with the market by compelling colleges to offer better information on the demand for degree paths. (Why not employment prospects while they're at it?) You're probably going to be hearing angry yelps  from some of the free-range capitalists and libertarian tub-thumpers on this forum.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@bmarvel @WeGetIt the market has also lead the way in auto efficiency, health food options, and green solutions.  

What's wrong with compelling colleges to offer better information as to the demand for various degree paths?  Someone should have to pass many warning signs before getting a liberal arts degree.  I support liberal arts education, but majoring in it is another matter.  For there are we job prospects for critical thinking, bosses may need this, but they fear employees with such skills.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@laughingalltheway News to me that I'm not part of the capitalist system, since I supported myself and my family -- paid mortgages, bought groceries, paid debts -- all my life with paychecks from profit-making businesses. So, no taxpayer dole there. 

Hey, I'll bet you thought that, because I mentioned that I taught for a couple years, I must be a college prof, right? Wrong. You jumped to a conclusion and fell flat on your face. 

But don't let me discourage you, laughing. if misreading what people write, leaping to the wrong conclusions, and pulling arguments out of thin air are what it takes to get ahead in this new shifting paradigm, I'm sure kids won't need any school at all. They can always turn to you for guidance.   

laughingalltheway
laughingalltheway

@bmarvel @WeGetIt 

Hey, Jim's whole thesis is predicated on getting ahead and social mobility.

That comes from a belief in the good old capitalist system, one you, professor, are not a part of.

Kids need credentials. You are on the taxpayer dole providing a credential. All your idealism aside, they are buying a piece of paper from you while you sit in government-financed buildings.

The whole paradigm is shifting.

And the whole pollution thing is caused by the whole car thing and we assume you own one and take trips on planes.

Jim wasn't presenting us with a view of the virtues of socialist France.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@WeGetIt Yeah. The market. 

It's done so well over the years. Gave us gas-guzzling cars, cancer-causing junk food, ubiquitous pollution. The giant financial crash that we're slowly crawling out of. Schlocky products destined for instant obsolescence. What other gifts has the market given us? Oh, yes. Drugs, the whole narco-market. The most perfect market system yet devised, which survives and even thrives despite every kind of government interference. A market you can't kill.

Yes, indeed, WeGett (so appropriately named; we get and we spend.). The market. Let's toss our kids' education into the marketplace. What could they lose?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@WeGetIt @JimSX 

Thank you for giving us this window into your brain.

WeGetIt
WeGetIt

@JimSX 

The market decides who will join the teaching forces. 

The market rewards those who stay in education as long as they don't stay in the classroom.

Parasites win; teachers lose.

Change the equation.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@WeGetIt @JimSX

Tell me your plan for improving literacy, numeracy and overall academic achievement in urban public school systems.

cantkeepthetruthdown
cantkeepthetruthdown

@JimSX @cantkeepthetruthdown @PrestonHoller Bad liberal needs to be signed up for sensitivity training

cantkeepthetruthdown
cantkeepthetruthdown

@PrestonHoller @JimSX He can never respond to criticism with anything other than generic insults. Typically along the lines of mocking mental illness(bad liberal, Jim). Mostly he just expects everyone to fawn over his articles like he  handed them down to Moses from the heavens.

How dare you disagree with his (false) wisdom!

bmarvel
bmarvel

@JimSX Sometimes world history sounds a though it was written  by Monty Python.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bmarvel @JimSX

But, Bill, World history first, Monty Python second, right?

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