I am now officially an old, retired wing-nut. This morning I called the White House. I was told politely that Barack was out but I could leave a message. I did.
My message was terse: I suggested that many jobs could be gained by restarting programs like WPA and CCC and that the added benefit would be the jobs would provide needed investment in our rapidly failing infrastructure.
I also suggested they offer some music on the phone while people are waiting, I recommended four choices: country, soft-rock, classical and of course, the obvious: smooth jazz. I mean it is the White House for crying out-loud; put some tunes on for us to listen to while we wait.
See I told you I was officially a wing-nut.
Interestingly enough my impetus for the move to phone the President was an article that I read this morning saying that six more states have received waivers under NCLB (or as I like to call it No Child’s Behind Left) including my own benighted land, Arizona.
Acquiring the waiver is only half the battle, now we have to demonstrate appropriate progress. In return for the pass on NCLB Arizona offered to:
“. . . get all students to proficiency on state tests by the 2019-20 school year. It’s the only state with that goal.” 1)
An ambitious goal indeed but I know what would go a long way toward attaining it: Reinstitute the WPA!
OK I admit that was a quantum jump so let me see if I can illustrate the path of my thinking here.
Yesterday while perusing various scholarly journals on education and archaeology (well, what do you do with your summer?) I came across an article by Mel Riddle in his blog imaginatively titled “The Principal Difference”. He argued that the primary problem with declining test scores has little to do with intelligence, it’s poverty. 2) His argument is compelling and his data suggest that poverty, while it may not be a deciding factor, certainly greatly impacts student performance.
I have to say here that if you are a professional educator you are probably saying, “Well, duh!!” Most teachers in public schools see the effects of poverty in their classrooms on a daily basis: children who arrive late because transportation is unreliable, show up without a coat in winter or who are tired because they were up late while their parent(s) were at work. Often students arrive without having an adequate breakfast.
It is easy for many of us, not inured to poverty, to say this is the fault of the parents but though it may be a facile way to dismiss it in an apparently reasonable statement it does nothing to exacerbate the problem. Teachers know that these factors, and many others caused by poverty, seen on a daily basis, affect learning.
So what will actually help alleviate the downward spiral? I’m glad you asked.
Work, jobs, income, we need to get people back to work who are able and looking for employment. The father of a little boy in my last class just went back to work after having been looking for two years. His family maintained their lifestyle well, Mom had a good job, Dad handled the house and kids, but they will be much better off now. For those families who have no one working the situation is much more desperate.
By re-establishing jobs, in much needed areas, rebuilding our roads, bridges and other public structures I have to believe we will see the joint benefit of improving the overall financial situation of families with children and at the same time lend support to our nation.
I mentioned above that I was also perusing archaeological texts and one that caught my eye was a long article by John Welch about one of my favorite archaeological sites: Kinishba, on the White River Apache Indian Reservation. 3)
What does this have to do with the current discussion, you ask? Just this: the Inde´, as the Apache call themselves, are noted for having an aversion to working at places associated with the dead. Back in the 30s and 40s the reservation was suffering from glaring poverty much worse than the rest of the country. What could incentivize their people enough to make them temporarily ignore their long held tribal predisposition? The opportunity to earn a reasonable income working under the aegis of the WPA and CCC, helping to stabilize the ruin.
Put people to work and improve our country, that’s what I call a “win-win”. If at the same time our children reap the benefit by becoming better learners and our teachers suffer less distraction dealing with social issues rather than educational ones. Well, there are two more wins.
Let’s get to work, our kids will demonstrate the positive results to everyone!
3) Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 49:1