Friday, November 4, 2011

Get Your Stats out of my Edumacation

And now, for something completely different. Some of you might know that writing and blogging is not my full time job. My full time position is Lacky. Not really, but it works, I put it on government forms and everything. Never ask for me to fill out a reference form for you, especially if you are applying for some sort of government clearance. I mean we've already established that I am addicted to sudaphed, play with bomb dogs, tell police that I am going to KKK meetings, and do u turns in front of the CIA, I digress.

Sometimes I wish writing was my full time job, I doubt the pay would be much worse. Anyway I work at a civic education foundation, called the Close Up Foundation.

I describe my job about as vaguely as I describe my writing. I do stuff. Lots of stuff...but its easier to tell you what the foundation does.

We bring kids, mostly high school students, from across the country to DC where we teach them about government and current events and other important political stuff in a non partisan way. We break down the barriers. We try to get them to see each other, and through each other the issues.

You see, a student from Orange County California might not ever have seen a gun, and only know about gun violence from tv, while a student from Chicago might have lost a brother to gang violence, and a student from Hiawassi Georgia might go hunting once a week. These kids know people exist that dont believe the same thing they do, but if they have never met them, seen them, talked to them etc, these other people become mythical creatures, stuff of legends and newspapers, and yes I believe those are the same thing.

But we bring these kids together, make them room together, hope they become friends, then get them to talk about gun control (or other important issue, like the economy, I hear that's important).

Maybe your thinking, whats the point. So I'll throw in some statistics:

Families that make above $75,000 per year are twice as likely to vote and six times as likely to be politically active as families that make below $15,000 per year

Only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government

Less than one-third of 8th graders know the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence

Despite the highest level of voter turnout in 40 years in the 2008 election, only 56.8% of eligible voters voted, that means on hundred million Americans failed to vote.

African American and Hispanic students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to score below proficient on national civic assessments

These were taken from the September 2011 Civic Mission of Schools Report.

Are you scared yet? If not I'll throw a bit of an analysis in there for you. Follow me for a minute (I have logic and I'm not afraid to use it, you should be though):

Wealthy families have more opportunities to help educate their children, for example, they can afford private schools, tutors, extra curricular activities, college, etc. Upper middle class families who might not be able to afford private schools might be able to afford to have a parent work part time, or from home to provide assistance with their child's education. This parent most likely is college educated. Middle class families can probably afford extra curricular activities, and perhaps tutoring, odds are one if not both parents graduated high school with some college or technical school. Blue collar and lower middle class families rely on public school systems, but maybe they belong to a union which gives them health benefits, etc. Immigrant families and families that live below the poverty line, have kids in public school, with limited assistance, who may or may not drop out by the time they are sixteen so they can get a job to help out the family.

Most public school's get their fund's from property tax collected in the area they are zoned in. People can typically afford to live in area's with other people earning about the same as they do, you dont typically see a trailer park next to the McMansions. This means that the schools where your lower earning families live have less money than the schools in the higher earning neighborhoods (although not always). And your middle class/upper middle class families have a bit more flexibility in where they live, they can look at the local schools before deciding where to move.

Now, consider that families earning $75,000 plus a year are more likely to vote and be civilly active, write letters, call politicians, donate to campaigns, go to town hall meetings and more, than families earning $15,000 or less. Who do you think these families will advocate for? What do you think they will advocate for?

Now lets look at the recent government "entitlement program" spending cuts, you know, that bill they passed to end the deadlock that faced congress last winter, when the government shut down for a little bit. Here are a list of programs that lost some, if not all of their government funding.

Center for Civic Education

Communities in Schools

Council for Economic Education

Close Up Foundation

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

National History Day

National Writing Project

New Leaders for New Schools

Project GRAD

Reach Out and Read

Reading is Fundamental

Teach for America


Yep, that's right. Extra curricular education programs were cut, across the board. As I said at the beginning, I would eventually get to the point, and here it is.

Higher earning families are more likely to vote. Children of high earning families are less likely to need educational assistance provided by the government. People with high education are more likely to get high earning jobs.

People keep complaining that the rich are getting richer and the poor and middle class are staying the same, if not getting poorer. People seem to forget the role education plays in this. Don't believe me? Want proof.

The Civic Mission of Schools Report identifies six proven practices that overcome these statistics:

Provide Instruction in government, history, law and democracy

Discussion of current events and controversial issues

Service learning/applying what is learned

Extracurricular activities

Simulations of democratic process

Some of the Benefits of civic learning (also from the same study)

81% of high school dropouts say they would have been less likely to do so if there were more opportunities given for experiential learning

Civic Learning in middle school with a focus on civic responsibility is directly tied to a students propensity to drop out of high school.
Now, I have two questions for you:

Do you think democracy works when only 58% of eligible people participate in it?

Do you think all people from all economic classes are given equal opportunities when they do not have the same access to education?

I will end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson.

"Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10. 11. & 12. years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and, if they are not, so much the work is the system; for they will be untaught, and their ignorance & vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education."
1818 January 14. (to Joseph C. Cabell)

Sorry for the political rant, we will return to our regularly scheduled programing on Monday Have a good weekend!


  1. I used to work in the voting industry, for the nation's largest voting machine company making sure our machines couldn't be hacked. They couldn't. But it was amazing, going to a polling place and seeing all of the rich-looking people vote, meanwhile the poor bumpkin coming up in his 1975 Chevy pickup is trying to tell me he refuses to vote because the 'big computer's just gonna 'steal' his vote and vote for 'the other guy.' Yeah, that's the way to shape the future, sir.

  2. You make some good points Sara. Nice post.