Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Ron Clark Phenomena

Embedded video from CNN Video

How fun is this school?! We have to admit -- this is the NEW MILLENIUM -- and we can no longer expect students to learn by passively sitting at a desk or working on group projects at home. No - we have to change how we interact with kids today and quit trying to squeeze them into our 1890s mold. Can we do it? To borrow Obama's line, "Yes, We Can!"


Cerebration said...

I don't know where to post this, but I just saw the new Michael Moore movie - Capitalism. I found it riveting - interesting and very well-told. My hometown US Congresswoman Marcie Captor is featured a few times, which was fun to see... At any rate - I would highly recommend it - you will come away seeing more clearly the change that is needed to occur in this country -- change that at it's core must begin with quality education -- change that we all need to bond together to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

True change is not going to take place until people take personal responsibility for themselves, their finances, health care, education, etc. That is not what is in the air in America right now. Many Americans want the government to take care of them.

We must also remember that life is about choices. You make choices and you must deal with the consequences. We are not teaching our children this either, with no zeros and 3 chances to get work turned in.

True change starts at home with taking personal responsibility for yourself and family.

All too often we're worried about what others have and we don't (Like the north/south DeKalb argument often seen on this blog).

We can't be jealous that someone worked harder than we did or has made better or different choices than we did and has the ability to make more money and obtain more things. Americans need to realize that they can't have all of the material possessions that someone else has if they don't have the money for them. Many people are more worried about others than they are themselves, and don't realize that if they just worked harder or made different choices that there would be a different outcome.

True change will not take place until there is a movement in our country for people to take responsibility over themselves and the choices that they make.

No Duh said...

Haven't seen the movie, but plan to.

But, I suspect I'll fall more into believing that education is the key to REAL change, and not just competing for the all mighty dollar,as Anon 9:28 suggests.

Our capitalist friends fail to see that life in the projects/ghetto/other side of the tracks/etc. couldn't be a better capitalistic model. The rich drug dealer controls the neighborhood and has all the material possessions. Outside of the ghetto the equivalent would be the rich people (who "worked" hard for their money) and the dimishing middle class (who, by Anon's definition, are slackers).

Anon says: "Americans need to realize that they can't have all of the material possessions that someone else has if they don't have the money for them."

No duh.

It is the cycle of poverty (which unfortunately, seems to be fueled by a model that values the quick buck over education) must be broken. And, since I don't think kidnapping all the five-year-olds from their parents and starting over is feasible, we MUST start with encouraging change in the communities themselves.

Another movie that really struck me was District 9. Really makes you think about humanity, values, responsibility.

No Duh said...

diminishing middle class

Cerebration said...

I suppose all of what you say is true, anon, but truthfully, times have changed and the "free enterprise" has become out of balance. If you click on the link I had here a while back highlighting the fact that Goldman Sachs executives have pretty much taken over our government and changed the rules to hugely benefit the ultra wealthy - including deregulating pretty much all banking regulations - you will see that we could be in deep doo doo.

In the movie, we see hundreds of hard-working, middle class people who end up powerless over the loss of their job, their farm, their home... their American "Dream" gone up in smoke. (Disclosure: We have suffered a year long job loss in my household, and so have many of our friends. In fact, I have had dinner with a half-dozen friends in the past few months who are educated, had long-held careers and/or businesses and are now bankrupt and near homeless. Unless you are personally involved in the current economic crisis, you can't really "get" what is actually going on, IMO.)

I recall once, meeting a guy on a plane who was on his way to CA - to promote a "game" he had developed. The game was along the lines of Monopoly, only is was geared toward keeping people in poverty. It was impossible to "win" this game - which served the purpose to enlighten people as to how the struggles of the poor really go. Guess no one really wants to know the truth of that however, as I've never seen the game available commercially.

ps - the north/south spending inequities (and I would say that it's really only one district in particular that gets more than its fair share) - isn't about the "haves" vs the "have-nots" - these are TAX dollars (sales tax at that!). We all pay in - and we should all expect to benefit as promised, eh? Prioritizing and being better stewards of the dollars (ie: foregoing Taj Mahals for some) would ensure enough money for everyone to have safe, sound, healthy buildings along with books and supplies needed to learn. We do not have equity in these areas right now.

Anonymous said...

"diminishing middle class"

What is the "middle class"? I would contend that almost all Americans are better off (materially) than they were a generation ago.

How many of our parents' generation could have afforded a computer with an internet connection, cell phone(s), cable TV, a microwave oven, etc.? I know that we had none of these luxuries growing up, and as a family of educators, we were certainly considered "middle class."

Cerebration said...

Anon - do you have a clue how many people today can NOT afford these things?

Here's an interesting article on the shrinking or non-shrinking middle class - depending on how you define "middle" class.,9171,962753,00.html

Seems it's women who have lifted many families up from the middle class.

"The most important factor affecting family incomes has been the entry of more and more women into the work force. Following the rampant inflation of the 1970s, having two incomes was the only way many households could maintain their standard of living. For some families, however, two salaries have been enough to lift them out of the middle class."

And it's women who by and large are sliding from the middle class to the lower classes due to single parenting.

"Another group that is swelling the ranks of the low-income class is single parents, according to M.I.T.'s Thurow. Unwed mothers and divorcees from middle-income families often slide into the lower class when they try to get by on their own. Reason: they may have the double burden of child custody and a lack of marketable job skills. "


Bottom line though -- we still have a duty to provide access to a quality education to absolutely everyone - or the "playing field" is not level and the American Dream is just a figment of our imaginations or a lie we tell ourselves to assuage the guilt and justify materialism.

Cerebration said...

BTW - while we didn't have a computer, the internet or cell phones (they weren't yet invented), we did have a microwave and cable tv - plus 2 cars, a camper and a boat - and we had 4 kids - my dad was a seed salesman (not exactly big bucks) and my mom worked part time in a store.

Anonymous said...

Much of our current economic crisis is fueled by greed. The greed of people spending more than they have. The greed of banks making home loans to people they knew couldn't afford them. The greed of people taking these loans when they knew that they couldn't afford the house, but really wanted it.

Share holders of companies want a return on their investment. If you have a 401k, a pension, or an IRA, you are a share holder and you can't tell me that you don't want the money you have in these accounts to grow. We all expect it to. This is why Goldman was saved by the government. Lehman wasn't saved and there are many problems around the world that we aren't really aware of, because it wasn't.

There are many farmers who are making it. They are pulling their resources together and creating farming collectives, so that they can keep their family traditions alive. Other farmers are being put out of business because they can't get the water that they need for the crops that they grow (a situation in California right now). If farmers want to keep farming they are going to need to be creative and find a niche. They also may need to join a coop, as this is how much of farming is done now. It has been this way since ADM and other large companies have gotten larger.

The same goes for small businesses. Most Americans would rather the cheap prices of Walmart than to shop in a locally owned store.

No one is guaranteed the American dream. No one is guaranteed a home, a job, health care, an education, or anything else. You are guaranteed the right to pursue happiness, that is it.

Times have changed in America. Americans don't know the difference between needs and wants. We need cell phones, we need cable, internet, play stations. We don't really know what it is like to be poor and not know where your next meal is coming or if you're even going to be safe.

I have worked in the ghetto and my students and their parents valued an education. They supported me, because I truly cared about their child and wanted the same outcomes for them. I had 2 parents just this week (one of which is a teacher) tell me that it is my fault that their child is not completing their homework, not passing tests, changing homework assignments in their agendas, and other things out of my control. I refuse to take this blame.

The bottom line is that Education isn't valued in America. Most Americans that apply to technical PhD. programs can't get in because they don't have the technical background that it takes to make it through the programs (I'm not talking the on-line and mail order PhDs many DCSS administrators have). Americans skills are far lower than the foreign students that are applying to these same programs.

Education reform needs to take place, our students need to be critically thinkers from the get-go in preschool and kindergarten. We need to be applying the best practices that are used in countries where students are performing better than we are in the area of science and math. We need to make learning and receiving a good education something to aspire to.

Capitalism isn't the problem, but it's harder to look inward at ourselves and see that we don't need the big house, fancy cars, cell phones for all members of the family, a tv in every room of the house, computers for every member of the family, a new car when you get your drivers license, etc.

We are in large part to blame for this economic crisis, it's called greed. Americans don't know poor. We've never lived it. Even those who have lost their jobs and possibly their homes, there are safety nets here where they will qualify for some type of government help. This downward turn in the economy is nothing, it could have been a lot worse if companies and banks were saved, and it really isn't over yet, so who knows.

Anonymous said...

The Ron Clark Academy works, because it only accepts students in the 4th grade, no late students trickling in throughout the year. Parents apply, so parents want a good education for their child. I am sure that they don't keep students who don't live up to standards.

It has a great amount of corporate and private sponsorship, that allows the school to take students all over the world. There are also only a hundred students in the entire school.

How can it not fail?

teacherwatch said...

saw the movie. three parts i left the movies lamenting about,was the take over of the us treasury by that wall street company, and those companies who have million dollar life insurance policies on their employees, unbeknown to them. the third is the manipulation and threatening way in which the voting was redone for the bailout. unbelievable.

to ron clark....there a plenty of performing arts schools. my opinion of course, he is exploiting the students. his so called "school for students in depressed area", has turned out to only be accepting smarter gifted students.
he wanted his 15 minutes of fame and he's getting it.

Cerebration said...

All good points on a complex subject. I think this economy has at least caused many Americans to take a good, honest look at how we were living our (financial) lives and making some changes.

I think the valuable thing about Ron Clark's academy is the teacher training that they offer. Teachers from anywhere can come in and pick up new methods and ideas to try to incorporate into their classrooms. (FWIW - Kittredge is supposed to be doing this too.)

And Anon, I agree with you that much learning has to come from the student's own motivation. That's why I said, "access to a quality education". Access - what you do with it is your own making. That's America. What is not America is not offering the same opportunities to everyone - no matter income, race, religion, etc... Our tenets include that all people are created equal and are entitled to the pursuit of happiness - without hindrance (actually Jesus said the same thing - bring the little children to me - do not hinder them).

Let's just not hinder them.

andi said...

The thing that stood out for me was the way he talked about teacher freedom. It seems the opposite of America's Choice.

Anonymous said...

I have watched the Ron Clark Academy since its inception. He seems to have great ideas and energy and to have gathered a group of innovative teachers.

While I am thrilled for the students who have an opportunity to attend the school, I agree with all the teachers in the regular schools. Clark is able to do what he is doing because he selects his students and teachers and has tons of corporate funding.

Would his methods work in the typical metro middle school with a high percentage of special ed, ELL and economically disadvantaged students that are not hand picked? Why doesn't DCSS hire him and let him see if he can work his magic in a middle school of 1000 students?

Cerebration said...

oooh - great idea! He may just welcome the opportunity!

Cerebration said...

Check out this TIME magazine article on Detroit to witness some of what is going on around the country -,8599,1925796,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly

By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit's treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services. The school system, which six years ago was compelled by the teachers' union to reject a philanthropist's offer of $200 million to build 15 small, independent charter high schools, is in receivership. The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved. Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit, the unemployment rate is 28.9%.

I hate to be doom and gloom - but this is reality for a lot of people in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

The Ron Clark Academy works, because it only accepts students in the 4th grade, no late students trickling in throughout the year. Parents apply, so parents want a good education for their child. I am sure that they don't keep students who don't live up to standards.

How can it not fail?

You are right.....Some students have had to leave and no one is talking about that. This school has been published to help bring kids up to par and they are socio-economically stressed but what is missing devastating it is for a child not to meet standard and get kicked out. And that parents are not all financially strapped. Their is good and bad at every school....pick which one works for you, stop comparing programs and look for a good fit for your child.