The physics of education: Geoffrey Canada challenges Dayton

“No one is coming to save your kids. You’re going to have to save your own kids”- Geoffrey Canada speaking at UD to a packed house of people who want answers to how we’re going to teach our kids.

Of course, the irony is- that’s why they asked Geoffrey here to speak- to tell us what the answers are.

And if you were listening- you heard the answer- but, you won’t like it.

Geoffrey calls it the “physics of education” and explains it in one of those math story problems we all hated (at least I hated as a kid)- but this one was easy: if a train leaves Dayton (obviously, Canada hadn’t heard about Governor Kibosh- I mean Kasich) at 9 a.m. heading East at 39 m.p.h., and another leaves at noon going 39 m.p.h.- when will train B catch up with train A?

This was to explain how you can’t expect kids who start behind- to ever catch up with kids who start at grade- working with the  same number of hours of instruction. Basically- the metrics we somehow believe are supposed to work- learn one year’s material in 180 school days- only works for middle and upper class kids. Hello?

Not only that- but, even with our current system- he pointed out that a high school diploma is almost worthless in today’s job market- and even though our graduation rates suck- esp. for black males, 75% of our kids aren’t even fit for military service (he cited the report by a slew of generals “Ready, Willing and unable to Serve“). If they can’t even stop bullets for Uncle Sam, how the hell can they do something productive?

Of course, while we can find money for “Air Superiority Fighters” that cost a billion a piece- we’re unable to do the simple math- that by spending an extra $5K a year per student- for a total of $60k for a HS diploma- we can easily save the $35K a year we’re going to spend locking little Johnny up later – or paying for his unemployment, his uninsured medical costs, his bastard children and the baby mommas we all love to watch on Jerry Springer.

But, don’t even worry about the money. The reality is, we’re becoming a third world nation as it is. There are better educated people, willing to work for less, all over the globe. Not just making cars- but even willing to design and engineer them. Yep, we may have the guns, but we’re running out of people who can use them- and pretty soon, we won’t be able to make them either.

Canada talks about responsibility and accountability for teaching. This is always a sticking point with our “educators” that are failing to properly prepare our students for today’s global economy. In no other profession is failure so widely accepted, and no one gets fired (well- except for the wizards on Wall Street, but that’s another story). He’s not even worried about firing the mediocre teachers- just the bad ones- and catches hell for suggesting that some people weren’t cut out to teach. Why this is so hard to believe is unbelievable, since all of us had at least a few pathetic teachers growing up. Mine was a former nun- who became a Social Studies “teacher”- every student realized she was a joke, and so did other teachers- but she marched on to the same retirement that my best teachers earned. Thank you David DiCarlo, Betty Levy, Steve Young and Larry Geiger.

I’ve written about Canada before on this site- and long before I had heard of him- when I first ran for mayor, proposed that Dayton differentiate itself by providing 24-hour subsidized child care for residents as a way to draw people and jobs into the city and improve our schools.

Unlike other politicians- 20 years later- my ideas are still sound, and there to be seen and discussed- they also offer real solutions to problems- that we could try here. Over and over, Canada said, we can’t keep doing the things that aren’t working and expect different results (without throwing in the Einstein definition of insanity).

So, to Dayton Superintendent Lori Ward- are you willing to reinvent Dayton Public Schools to make success the norm?

Here are some suggestions on how to transform our schools:

  • Teachers are paid to teach for a school year (180 days)- lets change the terms and they are hired to move a child a grade level instead. Can’t get the kids up one grade in our standard 180-day year- either increase the school day- or lengthen the school year. You, and your students, earn time off by performance. We now have almost all schools air conditioned- so the longer school year shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Since we’re moving to “neighborhood schools” and should be able to cut busing considerably- let’s also end the 2-block collection rule. All students in a neighborhood will walk to the closest school building or a collection point- up to .75 mile from their home for k-3 and 1 mile grades 4-8 and 1.5 miles 9-12. This will help kids get to know kids in their neighborhoods (since kids could be going to DPS or to Charters) and help connect the communities.
  • Offer day care to all future DPS students starting at 90 days- till kindergarten. As part of the subsidy, parents must either have a GED or HS diploma or be enrolled in a GED program to qualify. The parents will be offered opportunities to attend Sinclair Community College if they successfully complete their GED. Family planning and counseling will be part of the program.
  • Rebuild our public recreation and parks departments- creating neighborhood sports programs city wide.
  • Institute new programs in the schools: mandatory learning of chess starting in first grade, tai chi and martial arts in every school, and a “Think and Grow Rich” influenced self-awareness program for every student.
  • And if we want to properly prepare kids for a digital world, it’s time to supply every student with a computer, move to open source texts and eliminate the flow of paper in our schools.

Canada ended his presentation with a poem he wrote in 2007 “Don’t blame me”

I’m posting it here- from a PDF he has on the Harlem Children’s Zone website;

Don’t Blame Me

The girl’s mother said, “Don’t blame me.
Her father left when she was three.
I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,
But I am poor and work hard you see.”
You know the story, it’s don’t blame me.
The teacher shook her head and said,
“Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.
He’s ten, but if the truth be told,
He reads like he was six years old.
And math, don’t ask.
It’s sad you see.
Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.
Blame the mom, blame society, blame the system.
Just don’t blame me.”
The judge was angry, his expression cold.
He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.
Break the law again and you’ll do time.
You’ve robbed with a gun.
Have you lost your mind?”
The young man opened his mouth to beg.
“Save your breath,” he heard instead.
“Your daddy left when you were two.
Your momma didn’t take care of you.
Your school prepared you for this fall.
Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.
But you did the crime for all to see.
You’re going to jail, son.
Don’t blame me.”
If there is a God or a person supreme,
A final reckoning, for the kind and the mean,
And judgment is rendered on who passed the buck,
Who blamed the victim or proudly stood up,
You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,
I did not let these children fall.
By the thousands I helped all I could see.
No excuses, I took full responsibility.
No matter if they were black or white,
Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,
Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,
I did my best to save them all.”
And I will bear witness for eternity
That you can state proudly,
“Don’t blame me.”
By Geoffrey Canada February 2007

When people ask me why I still run for office- it’s because I believe there are solutions to our problems- that there is a way to change things.We don’t have to resort to paying companies to locate here- we just have to do what we’re supposed to do in our city and they will come.

Geoffrey Canada has achieved “the impossible” with his Harlem Children’s Zone. A community that couldn’t give a building away 15 years ago- now has the same buildings going for $700K. The “real residents” of Harlem are having to fight people off from coming in and buying up the neighborhood. He’s spoken to presidents and been on “60 Minutes”- he’s written books- he’s even been on Oprah, he has the answers- right in front of us.

The problems aren’t insurmountable- we are. We keep electing the same idiots. We keep accepting the logic that locks up a higher percentage of people than even the least “democratic” nation out there. We spend trillions on wars and their machines- while ignoring the most important resource we have: our kids. Because without them, there is no future.

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