The Push for Equity in Education Hurts Vulnerable Children the Most

Maybe it hasn’t been enough &/or efficiently spent? Poverty is still an issue comparatively it would appear:

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Yes, we’d want to be careful. If insurance companies want us alive, but the medical establishment (Big Pharma especially) want us sick, maybe we end up living to 100 and hating every minute of it :wink:


That’s the thing. The plutocracy is right that it’s worse in Mali, OTOH it is better in every other developed country. Do we take Mali as our point of reference, or Iceland? And as you say, that trillions have been spent is not the same thing as trillions being spent wisely.


From what I’ve read, it’s more of the latter than the former. I think the funding models for state schools would need to change (currently local property taxes make up most of the funding - not so good in low income neighbourhoods). There is also the issue of Charter Schools producing better outcomes at lower funding levels in similar neighbourhoods (and sometimes, the same premises - rented off the state school), if Tom Sowell is getting his facts straight. It’s hard to get an unbiased view on Charter Schools though - it’s heavily politicised.

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But are schools the only problem here or is attendance & engagement also a large part of the problem? That’s why I mentioned investment in the community rather than just schools. We know that supportive families make a huge difference in student success so investment in community that builds better families is a necessary component of that.

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I think it’s one of the issues, but it’s a complex problem with many uncomfortable questions to be aired. It’s unfortunate schooling is a political issue - the Dems mostly take the side of teacher’s unions and some Reps champion Charter Schools and voucher programs (Betsy DeVos being one of the most noteworthy). The problem I see with comparing Charter Schools/voucher programs with state schools is that the students attending the former require a family that gives a damn about their kid’s education, which puts them ahead of some students in the latter out of the gates.

Whether the US can come to the realisation that the uncomfortable questions need to be aired, so that real solutions can be found, is to be seen. At the moment, with pretty much every disparity being put down to racism/white supremacy et al., I’m not confident they’ll get there any time soon.


You might like this but it’s really just nothing more than what you’ve been saying.


Thank you for your insightful article. I am mainly interested in early childhood math in the 4 to 8 yr. old group. Over the past 30 years my experience has led me to believe that Kumon Math works best for American kids. I hope we will see more discussions about this important subject. I have seen special interest groups from NY to LA label Kumon as “Drill and Kill”. I see this as their attempt to keep the Japanese out of America and preserve their own financial benefits. See: “Using the Kumon Method to Revitalize Mathematics in an Inner-Urban School District.” Barbara A. Oakley, Doreen Lawrence, Walter L. Burt, Broderick Boxley, Christopher J. Kobus
School of Engineering and Computer Science, Oakland University/ Kumon North America/ School District of Pontiac.


Great comment. The drill and kill smear is based upon the progressive antipathy for the traditional method- whether it be in relation to maths or spelling. I’ve highlighted several incredibly great schools during my meandering path through education. One is the Michaela Community School in London. They use drill and didactic.

When the more extreme progressives say they are against drill, what they are actually explicitly stating is their opposition to a scientific approach to learning. They prefer the unfalsifiable absurdities of postmodernism with its various nonsenses. To them committing knowledge to memory is anathema, because quite frankly they find the concept of knowledge in any objective sense highly dubious. To them, the only great method is for the child to discover knowledge for themselves, unsullied by the pollutive influence of Western science and culture.

Or at least that it is what the thesis upon which the educational theorists who instruct progressive teachers base their approach. In actually, we know exactly what works best and completely outperforms all other approaches. It’s called Cognitive Load Theory, and it quite accurately states that in order to perform any relatively complex cognitive task, people need to be able to rely upon a huge amount of working knowledge committed to memory, otherwise their working memory will be overloaded. Here it is in a nutshell:


As you can see working memory is puny. One of the most fundamental aspects of drill in Maths is the times tables several times a day for short bursts for a few years. The reason behind this is because later on, if you don’t know 8 x 6 is 48 instantly, without even trying to think about it, then you will struggle to do 18 x 16 in you head, because your working memory will be overloaded.

In so many cases long-term memory is a fulcrum which allows people to accomplish cognitive tasks of which they would otherwise be incapable. So many educators are fond of quoting “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” by W. B. Yeats, although he was transposing a much earlier quote by Plutarch. Unfortunately, both men were almost entirely wrong. They were probably thinking in terms of their own tutoring of students. It’s a form of very dangerous intelligence induced blindness, especially if the result of it centuries later is that the all tiny, innumerable steps which lead up to the towering heights of their own intellects and creativity are wiped away for the purposes of educating future generations of children.

I used to do squares and then cubes in my head when other kids were doing their times tables, and later roots and cube roots, although I struggled with the latter. I found doing times tables unutterably dull and boring because I absorbed them so quickly. I just didn’t understand the point. It was only years later that I realised for some of the kids in my class the only chance they ever had of being functionally numerate was to have those tables drilled into their heads until they finally remembered them.

Hence the reason why I called it intelligence induced blindness earlier. Because teachers have to be at least moderately well endowed in the intelligence department in order to be able to teach. If they go by their own experience, and don’t think back and empathise with the kids in their own classes years ago who struggled, they risk doing away with tools the absence of which will intellectually cripple a child for life.

Oh, and welcome to Quillette by the way!

In case you’re interested here is a talk by Daisy Christodoulou. She wrote Seven Myths About Education. It’s a marvellously short and concise book- only about 120 pages long in memory serves. It also contains a very humorous anecdote about a reading comprehension exam question about a lifeboat service…