Tag Archives: school

Is a Hard Life Inherited?

Is a Hard Life Inherited?

AUG. 9, 2014


Nicholas Kristof

“YAMHILL, Ore. — ONE delusion common among America’s successful people is that they triumphed just because of hard work and intelligence.

In fact, their big break came when they were conceived in middle-class American families who loved them, read them stories, and nurtured them with Little League sports, library cards and music lessons. They were programmed for success by the time they were zygotes.

Yet many are oblivious of their own advantages, and of other people’s disadvantages. The result is a meanspiritedness in the political world or, at best, a lack of empathy toward those struggling — partly explaining the hostility to state expansion of Medicaid, to long-term unemployment benefits, or to raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.

This has been on my mind because I’ve been visiting my hometown of Yamhill, Ore., a farming community that’s a window into the national crisis facing working-class men.

I love this little town, but the news is somber — and so different from the world I now inhabit in a middle-class suburb. A neighbor here just died of a heroin overdose; a friend was beaten up last night by her boyfriend; another friend got into a fistfight with his dad; a few more young men have disappeared into the maw of prison.


Rick Goff, 64, of Yamhill, Ore., makes ends meet these days with odd jobs and his disability benefits. CreditSusan Seubert for The New York Times

One of my friends here, Rick Goff, 64, lean with a lined and weathered face and a short pigtail (maybe looking a bit like Willie Nelson), is representative of the travails of working-class America. Rick is immensely bright, and I suspect he could have been a lawyer, artist or university professor if his life had gotten off to a different start. But he grew up in a ramshackle home in a mire of disadvantage, and when he was 5 years old, his mom choked on a piece of bacon, staggered out to the yard and dropped dead.

“My dad just started walking down the driveway and kept walking,” Rick remembers.

His three siblings and he were raised by a grandmother, but money was tight. The children held jobs, churned the family cow’s milk into butter, and survived on what they could hunt and fish, without much regard for laws against poaching.

Despite having a first-class mind, Rick was fidgety and bored in school. “They said I was an overactive child,” he recalls. “Now they have name for it, A.D.H.D.”

A teacher or mentor could have made a positive difference with the right effort. Instead, when Rick was in the eighth grade, the principal decided to teach him that truancy was unacceptable — by suspending him from school for six months.

“I was thinking I get to go fishing, hang out in the woods,” he says. “That’s when I kind of figured out the system didn’t work.”

In the 10th grade, Rick dropped out of school and began working in lumber mills and auto shops to make ends meet. He said his girlfriend skipped town and left him with a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son to raise on his own.

Rick acknowledges his vices and accepts responsibility for plenty of mistakes: He smoked, drank too much for a time and abused drugs. He sometimes hung out with shady people, and he says he has been arrested about 30 times but never convicted of a felony. Some of his arrests were for trying to help other people, especially to protect women, by using his fists against bullies.

In that respect, Rick can actually be quite endearing. For instance, he vows that if anyone messes with my mother, he’ll kill that person.

A generation or two ago, Rick might have ended up with a stable family and in a well-paid union job, creating incentives for prudent behavior. Those jobs have evaporated, sometimes creating a vortex of hopelessness that leads to poor choices and becomes self-fulfilling.

There has been considerable progress in material standards over the decades. When I was a kid, there were still occasional neighbors living in shacks without electricity or plumbing, and that’s no longer the case. But the drug, incarceration, job and family instability problems seem worse.

Rick survives on disability (his hand was mashed in an accident) and odd jobs (some for my family). His health is frail, for he has had heart problems and kidney cancer that almost killed him two years ago.

Millions of poorly educated working-class men like him are today facing educational failure, difficulty finding good jobs, self-medication with meth or heroinprison records that make employment more difficult, hurdles forming stable families and, finally, early death.

Obviously, some people born into poverty manage to escape, and bravo to them. That tends to be easier when the constraint is just a low income, as opposed to other pathologies such as alcoholic, drug-addicted or indifferent parents or a neighborhood dominated by gangs (I would argue that the better index of disadvantage for a child is not family income, but how often the child is read to).

Too often wealthy people born on third base blithely criticize the poor for failing to hit home runs. The advantaged sometimes perceive empathy as a sign of muddle-headed weakness, rather than as a marker of civilization.

In effect, we have a class divide on top of a racial divide, creating a vastly uneven playing field, and one of its metrics is educational failure. High school dropouts are five times as likely as college graduates to earn the minimum wage or less, and 16.5 million workers would benefit directly from a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Yes, these men sometimes make bad choices. But just as wealthy Americans inherit opportunity, working-class men inherit adversity. As a result, they often miss out on three pillars of middle-class life: a job, marriage and a stable family, and seeing their children succeed.

ONE of Rick’s biggest regrets is that his son is in prison on drug-related offenses, while a daughter is in a halfway house recovering from heroin addiction.

The son just had a daughter who was born to a woman who has three other children, fathered by three other men. The odds are already stacked against that baby girl, just as they were against Rick himself.

This crisis in working-class America doesn’t get the attention it deserves, perhaps because most of us in the chattering class aren’t a part of it.

There are steps that could help, including a higher minimum wage, early childhood programs, and a focus on education as an escalator to opportunity. But the essential starting point is empathy.”


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“A teacher in Finland explains why her country’s…”

Source: Waiting for “Superman”

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For-profit education and educational systems have just gotten out of hand.


I was recently notified that I was under breach of contract for attempting to sell my #LSAT Prep books from a #TestMasters course that I took three years ago (THREE YEARS AGO!). Not only did they forbid the sale of the books, but they are demanding that I return the books to them at my own expense. Not only can I not get a measly $300 back from the $1000 that I originally spent on the course, but I now have to PAY to return the books. The company is so concerned with profit, NOT EDUCATION, that they tracked me down through craigslist, sent me a false inquiry about buying the books, and then both CALLED and EMAILED me to notify me that I was in breach of contract and demanded that I pay to return the materials. THANKS FOR NOTHING.

Not only was I naive for thinking that studying to go to law school would be a good idea, but I was naive for thinking that standardized testing was a good way to gauge my competencies and for buying into the idea that I had to take a prep course in order to excel at said standardized testing. FOR-PROFIT EDUCATION IS NOT THE ANSWER. KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE FREELY AVAILABLE TO ALL THOSE WHO SEEK IT.

I’m not even allowed to simply donate or destroy the books, because they are the “property” of the company. Any “use” of the books other than as specified by the company (a.k.a. donating them to a school in need) would be considered breach of contract. Typical copyright provisions allow for use of the materials for “educational purposes,” but not for TestMasters. They’re not concerned with education, their purpose is PROFIT. How can we make the most money off of students who want to pursue further education and better themselves?

Don’t buy into the lies that perpetuate for-profit education and related systems. If all high school students would stand up and refuse to pay millions and millions of dollars into SAT- & ACT-prep courses and books, if all college students would stand up and refuse to pay millions and millions into text books and GRE-, LSAT-, and MCAT-prep courses and books, if we all realized that making money off of knowledge is the most corrupt form of capitalism, we would see massive change and widespread enlightenment.

It’s the same concept that the FCC is struggling with: is the internet a public utility? Is the spread of information and knowledge a fundamental human right? I say it is. Only then can we progress as a society, as a culture, as a species.

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Department Of Education Says It Is Not Responsible For Closing For-Profit College

Department Of Education Says It Is Not Responsible For Closing For-Profit College

“…The official said the department had expected Corinthian to react no differently than any other school that was placed under “heightened cash monitoring,” the government’s term for the penalty placed on Corinthian. More than 400 other schools are currently under heightened cash monitoring, the official said.

But Corinthian’s financial situation was different than almost any other school: It was already teetering on the edge of default and had a tiny amount of cash on hand, according to publicly available filings. In a May earnings report, Corinthian said it had breached the terms of its bank agreements and was in danger of defaulting on its credit lines with lenders. That report also showed that the cash the company had on hand had plummeted precipitously, from a healthy $209 million in 2010 to just $28 million in the last quarter…”



Seems like Corinthian stepped in it to me…

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Woman dies in jail while serving sentence for her kids’ unpaid school fines

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by | June 20, 2014 · 6:05 pm

Self-Regulation American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids


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Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds – NYTimes.com


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