Radix Journal

Radix Journal

A radical journal

Category: Education

Mass immigration and public education

Americans presume that illegal immigration is always grounded in an attempt to meet enormous material challenges. But what if it turns out that parents pay coyotes to be rid of troublesome children in a guilt free fashion?

While it’s long been the case that the majority of immigrant kids in our city do not live with both parents, it is increasingly prevalent to find such kids living without any parents around at all; teenagers are foisted off on distant relatives, friends, or acquaintances: it seems some Mexican and Central American parents have taken to immigration to solve their parenting deficiencies. They pay enormous amounts to have their child smuggled north, while staying home themselves, smug in the knowledge that they’ve done the very best thing they could do for the kid. After all who can argue against the good will of a parent who makes this kind of financial and emotional sacrifice? Aren’t North American salaries much higher, and unemployment much lower? Is it not the case that even illegal aliens are entitled to free public schooling in El Norte, even college?

Americans presume that illegal immigration is always grounded in an attempt to meet enormous material challenges. But what if it turns out that parents pay coyotes to be rid of troublesome children in a guilt free fashion? And there are many such troubled children, of course; poverty, the lack of a social net, and the explosion of violence in Central America and Northern Mexico have seen to that. These immigrant flows are the blowback from exportation not just of our own drug and gang cultures, but of globalization; free enterprise has undercut traditional family values in unprecedented ways. Outsourcing has added vitality to a maquilera economy that sunders families; aping the license of American media culture, local television, film, and music producers promote transgressive excitements which entail the abandonment of Christian morals; divorce is rampant, while even in intact households, permissiveness undermines traditional methods of child nurture—the inability to discipline children effectively, a marker of western social progress almost everywhere, is epidemic. Kids are sucked up into gang life, drug abuse and violence, and parents having lost control over them, turn in desperation to the traditional outlet of relief, immigration. Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador are in the throes of a societal breakdown. How much of the blame should we take upon ourselves for the destruction of these societies? Shall we, by absorbing these “feral” children through belated guilt, allow our own systems to collapse? Do the rights of undocumented children include a right to parents? Shouldn’t neglect be part of the equation here? Offering these children de facto sanctuary in our schools may not be in their interests. By accepting the ambitions of their parents on face value, we may be dooming the very kids we hope to save to a cycle of crime, imprisonment, illiteracy, and brutal poverty. Students are being essentially abandoned: by parents, who are glad to be rid of them, by a system of jurisprudence which is not equipped to make distinctions, by cops so overwhelmed en masse by gang culture that they gladly lash out at those so clueless as to become easy targets, and by teachers, who are asked to take responsibility for a child that has lived without adult supervision or care for most of his life, and asked to do so at the peril of destroying any semblance of class management. If their parents abroad don’t care, if they scoff at their parental obligations as they scoff at immigration laws, why does it become the State’s responsibility to raise their offspring? Which moral duty has precedence…the duty to provide children with decent, orderly schools, or the duty to take in an unwanted brood whose feral impulses have reaped havoc on school discipline?

So, given these facts, I suppose it had to happen one day. As a high school teacher of English as a Second Language, I’ve grown quite accustomed to finding students in my “advanced” classes who’ve been in American classrooms since second and third grade, but this is a first: this week Miguel enrolled in my ESL1a class, the very beginning level. This seventeen year old was born in the United States and has attended school every year here, apart from some time off in jail. A pleasant fellow whose smile lights up the class, Miguel rings the changes of English vulgarity with great proficiency, but cannot write a sentence, in either Spanish or English. Many such children find themselves trapped in a feral abyss between two underfed idioms. But how? Bilingual illiteracy takes some doing. Should we blame Miguel, who in seventeen years hasn’t found English important enough to master, it appearing a paltry thing to be able to read, for instance, the terms of his probation? No. He, like so many of his immigrant peers, has never known real schooling. Periods of no schooling were interrupted by graceless passages through dysfunctional schools, where, over the klangefarbe of Spanish chit-chat, it was impossible to hear English modelled. For Miguel school has been a restless moil, the futility of which was broken only by the brisk business of selling drugs at lunch.

It cannot be supposed that his Salvadoran parents could ever have offered a reliable memory of what it means to get educated, a functional educational routine. They more than likely dropped out in grade school, or never attended at all. For generation after generation, the process of intellectual accumulation has not merely been stifled, but forcibly excised from the culture; now on both sides of La Frontera, what it means to be a student has been largely forgotten.

The kind of people we are does not, then, really depend on us, but on the communities that sustain us. Lacking this constraint, students become a kind of void that attracts blind contingency. The kind of people we see in our classroom—are bedeviled or enchanted by—likewise is contingent, the result of circumstantial luck or chaos, and our intuition about this, that they are to be held morally accountable neither for the failings of history, nor for intentions good or ill, nor for the missteps of time, seems naturally convincing and generous, but it too is a luxury we can no longer afford. Quantitative change becomes, alas, qualitative. Nothing can be more demoralizing than to see how this plays out, in my classroom as Miguel stumbles into class thirty minutes late, in a cloud of marijuana, his eyes pinpoints of inexpressible delight.

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Mo’ Snow Days, Mo’ Problems

This was Tuesday, the 28th of January, 2014. As I marveled at the novelty of witnessing a teenager taking in her first snow, the city of Atlanta crept into the first stages of a quickly escalating, snow-induced cardiac arrest. A mere two hours later, Atlanta came to a complete and utter halt frozen in time like some poor, naïve animal suspended in mid-gait amidst an overwhelming and instant freeze. The whole city, stretching nearly a hundred miles from north to south and east to west, lapsed into a Code Blue in front of our collective eyes and died without nary a person, organization, or government to fix the situation.

How Public Education Woes Shut Down the City of Atlanta

In a non-descript public high school building somewhere in Atlanta, I stared outside between two rectangular slits as snow gracefully fell beyond the meager windows. With noon approaching, the African American students, whom I service, continued to grow more and more antsy every minute they found themselves stuck inside the drab, off-white, cement block rooms, except for one young lady from Ghana who had never seen snow before. I watched her and mirrored her grin in my own as she smiled ear to ear admiring the rare precipitation with delight. No word from county whether dismissal would come early today. As parents slowly trickled to the school alleviating teachers of wound-up students one-by-one, I had long since given up on instruction for the day, Hamlet Act II, Scene i and Julius Caesar Act I, Scene ii as the docket demanded.

This was Tuesday, the 28th of January, 2014. As I marveled at the novelty of witnessing a teenager taking in her first snow, the city of Atlanta crept into the first stages of a quickly escalating, snow-induced cardiac arrest. A mere two hours later, Atlanta came to a complete and utter halt frozen in time like some poor, naïve animal suspended in mid-gait amidst an overwhelming and instant freeze. The whole city, stretching nearly a hundred miles from north to south and east to west, lapsed into a Code Blue in front of our collective eyes and died without nary a person, organization, or government to fix the situation. Mother Nature balked at the helpless humans who had tempted the fates of weather and once again lost. For outsiders and denizens of oft cold and snowy regions of the globe, this predicament seems outrageous beyond comprehension, a city grinding to a halt over two to three inches of snow; however, outside of mere governmental oversight and incompetency that plagues multicultural cities, a far greater dilemma set the precedent for the early afternoon shutdown: our terrible education woes, in particular, our EOCT (End of Course Test) scores.

Many articles have been published the last few days that accurately describe both the chaos and the preceding narrative that allowed this mess to occur. One of the more popular articles floating around Facebook the last few days was this article How Hothlanta Happened (Again) which describes in eight reasons how this disaster happened (again) referring to Atlanta Snowpocalypse of 2011. Reason #4 of 8, which explains how two-to-three inches of snow brought the city to a grinding halt, states,

And then something happened, and nothing happened in response. No one freaked out when winter storm advisories were announced. No cancellations were made, and the city and GDOT had nothing ready, and no capacity to catch up once they were behind. The city and state play a game of chicken with winter weather. The usual tactic is to call everything off, cancel everything early, and risk ridicule for the sake of not having people trapped on the roads for ten hours. This is usually done with the luxury of a night to prepare.

One facet of this quagmire is, as the latter selection points out, Georgia Department of Transportation’s complete lack of preparedness for this type of winter weather. The other side of this quagmire is why no cancellations were made in regards to public facilities, especially the schools. For the adults of the city, corporations and businesses had the final say on shutting down; however, governmental facilities, which education is merely a branch, are decided by the counties themselves. Herein lies the reason why the one o’clock gridlock happened. The schools were reluctant to shut down, and when they collectively decided to do so, the timing, along with the weather, effectively crippled the city.

Apparently, businesses and corporations were waiting to see whether the schools would shut down early or make it to the usual end of the day. When the metro schools did begin to close, corporations and businesses knew there was going to be a mass exodus of parents in relation to this early dismal, and timed their own closings with that of the schools. Most of the school systems in metropolitan Atlanta did not call off school on this fateful day, and early dismal announcements did not begin until around noon to 1pm. As a result, approximately three million people left work for the day and the schools began early dismal at the same time. So imagine 6pm rush hour moved earlier to 1pm, add snow and ice to the mix, and, lastly, consider school dismissal which entails thousands of busses ferrying students all across the county, etc. The result has made Atlanta the laughing stock of the nation at present. The following is a picture chronicling the time, the traffic gridlock, and the total shut down of the city on Google Maps.

Here is where most mainstream news sources will cease their journalistic endeavors. Why were the various metropolitan boards of education so reluctant to cancel school for January 28th the day before and thereby saving themselves the hassle? The answer is test scores, specifically the EOCT (End of Course Test) scores. According to the 2012-2014 Georgia Assessment Calendar on the Georgia Department of Education website, the Spring EOCT administration begins April 28 and continues to June 6, 2014. For teachers, these EOCT scores can make or break you. Most teachers spend the entirety of the year teaching in preparation for their respective tests eschewing whole parts of the curriculum and certain Common Core standards that are historically less manifest on the EOCT. There is so much scrutiny for teachers to close the racial gap between blacks and Hispanics at the bottom and Asians and whites at the top that the whole system now revolves around these scores. These scores have become so important that many school systems in Georgia (and around the country) are beginning to tinker with, and hopefully fully integrate in the future, Merit-Based-Pay to encourage older teachers to retire and encourage younger teachers to really “go the extra mile.” The new salary system would effectively determine your income based upon your test scores and percentage gains.

The following image is a composite of EOCT test score results from Winter of 2007 to Winter of 2012 arranged by racial demographic. The scores account for Winter EOCT retakes (i.e. W07) and Spring EOCT first takes (i.e. S08). This data comes from the Georgia Department of Education website and is entitled TESTING BRIEF: Georgia End of Course Test (EOCT) Winter Administration, November 26, 2012 – January, 4th, 2013. The numbers for each seasonal administration represent the percentage of students who “Meets” or “Exceeds” the standard. This basically means the percentage of students who passed the test for each respective course.

The EOCT scores for each subject illuminate the gap that the nation wants to pretend does not exist. This gap is the proverbial elephant in the room for educational systems across the country.

Therefore, metropolitan boards of education need students in seats every-single-day to receive that precious instructional time in the lead-up to the EOCT testing days at the end of Spring semester. After the cheating scandals and the failure of other artificial means to boost test scores, the attention of the nation and the federal government at large continues to scrutinize, analyze, and audit every move sub-standard, low achieving districts make. This is why Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County, DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Gwinnett County schools, among others, did not cancel school the day before. That is, these school systems could not afford to lose the one day of instruction their students desperately need to increase the EOCT scores, and, thus, close the racial gap. As a result, all waited until the transportation and weather quandary was beyond them and absolute chaos ensued.

The weather fiasco is effectively kicking the schools systems of Atlanta while they are already down. Being on the inside of the public education system, I can vouch for the terror and animosity teachers have for EOCT’s. Not only is the scrutiny of the federal government at play concerning these test scores, but also massive amounts of funding for schools, as well. Percentages gained by the current administration, whether on the respective boards of education or of the schools themselves, serve to enhance the prestige of those in charge as well as increase credibility for determining funds for the near future. Therefore, when scores, funding, and careers are all at stake, superintendents, boards of education, and administrators will continue to tempt the fates in these kinds of scenarios.

As adversity reigned upon the city that day, white folks the city over did what white folks often do in times of need: help one another until the crisis is resolved. I will now refer you to the following articles: The Silver Lining Of Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse 2014, Storm victims find snow angels on social media, or this Facebook page. Obviously, whites weren’t the only ones helping others on this day, but, funny enough, you can’t find any pictures of diversity lending a helping hand.

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