Pouring Water

When I’m doing the very best I can
You’re pouring water
On a drowning man
You’re pouring water
On a drowning man

“Pouring Water on Drowning Man”
Dani McCormick & Drew Baker
Download file”>Listen to James Carr’s version
This is the second of a series of farewell posts to this blog. My original intent had been to wait till the final posts to directly address the reasons contributing to my decision to leave this forum. I’m still going to post those, but Barb Lewis’ comment on the first in this series is such a perfect example of one of the contributing factors that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interrupt my plan and explore the pervasive poison culture that has come to dominate here and to a lesser extent MMSD (and maybe educational) politics and advocacy in general. For those who need it spelled out, I’m drowning in disgust with this culture and Barb Lewis’ comment is the titular water.
Barb Lewis wrote:
Once again the position of most TAG advocates is misunderstood. What many of us would like to see are programs which actually try to identify and serve ALL talented and gifted kids, not just those who have the good luck to be born to parents who are well-educated themselves and have the financial resources to help them be challenged outside of school if necessary. It is precisely the children you mention, who have no books or even homes, who are being most underserved now by MMSD’s almost nonexistent TAG programs. They are the ones who would benefit most from being nurtured and encouraged at an early age, so that they might actually make it to Calculus.
I am sick and tired of people telling me (or anyone else) what I (or anyone else) understood or misunderstood, believe or think. This is especially true in cases like this when the words I wrote and presumably are in front of them give no support their assertions and in fact support an interpretation to the contrary. If something isn’t clear, ask for a clarification. I do, often.
Inevitably this happens when someone (in this case me) posts something that doesn’t 100% agree with the commentator’s views. Go back and read what I wrote. I did not say a word about TAG parents concern for children in poverty. Everything I wrote about TAG advocates was to praise them. I did imply (and believe) that if your educational priorities center on children in poverty, then TAG programming should not be the primary way to address their needs. If you believe differently I would guess you are woefully and perhaps willfully ignorant of the circumstances of children in poverty and the educational research about addressing these circumstances (please note, this is a guess, if the guess is wrong, please correct me and explain why you believe differently. That is a discussion I’d welcome). What Barb Lewis posted was a subtle straw man attack. She did not engage what I wrote (I would welcome a discussion of that line dividing desires from needs), she put words in my mouth and used them to attack me.
The irony here is that in fact I agree with Barbra Lewis that part of the answer is reaching out to include children in poverty and other underrepresented groups in TAG and other advanced programs. It is one reason why I support “some TAG programming.” It is why I wrote about the need to “create opportunities for children who have no books in their homes or no homes at all.”
More importantly, I have (as I have noted on this site) advocated for this in my work on the MMSD Equity Task Force. I drafted the original language of the following material from the Task Force Interim Report (the final language is a collaborative effort):
(Under Guiding Principles)
The district will eliminate gaps in access and achievement by recognizing and addressing historic and contemporary inequalities in society.
(Under Implementation Strategies)
Open access to advanced programs, actively recruit students from historically underserved populations and provide support for all students to be successful.
I make no claim to any special or original authorship of the definition of Equity offered by the Task Force, but I think it also speaks to these issues:
Equity assures full access to opportunities for each MMSD student,
resulting in educational excellence and social responsibility.

What is so sad and awful about this is that instead of seeing the potential and seizing the opportunity to build a coalition to work toward achieving the goals we share, there is an inclination to see the worst in those who don’t share all your goals or strategies and (unfortunately) attack them.

2 thoughts on “Pouring Water”

  1. I have been somewhat uncomfortable with the specific emphasis on TAG programs. When I ran for BOE, I specifically did not emphasize TAG programs because I believed the emphasis to be and sound too exclusionary (the mere mention of giving underrepresented minorities access to TAG has not been convincing to me).
    However, from the TAG group, I did find a conceptualization that did sound of inclusion: that every child should acquire at least one year of learning every year.
    Thus, students whose achievements require AP or Youth Option courses to acquire one year of learning, should have them. Students who are reading at the 3rd grade level should at least acquire 4th grade level after one more year of schooling.
    Though I have mentioned the goal “one year of learning every year” many times, it doesn’t seem to have caught on. I don’t know why.
    Most, if not all progress comes from very simple goals and clear vision. This is a simple goal/vision. It’s implementation will require processes that will be increasing complex and sophisticated, but it has built into it the idea of measuring where a student is, what constitutes one year of learning, and frequent assessments (diagnoses) to measure progress toward that goal. It implies resources being reallocated dynamically to achieve this goal. It implies leadership, community partnerships, continuous improvement, data driven decisions, quality planning, professional development. And, it demands equity; it seems moral.
    And it seems to do this, in my mind, in a manner that limits contention. Will everyone get what they want? No.
    But, I’m reminded of a quote I heard probably more than 40 years ago from some philosopher, likely: One whose morality always follows their self-interest has no morality.

  2. Everyone has a hard time when TAG is brought up. The real problem is that everyone has their own definition of what kind of child is TAG and how do you deal with a TAG situation. This is a national problem, not just here in MMSD. Some states state a child with a specific IQ (above 130 usually) is labeled TAG and is covered under special education. In Wisconsin, there is no definition on what Talented and Gifted is. It is up to each school district to decide this one and how to identify a child who has TAG needs. In MMSD, they will include those who not only are “out there” but also the overachiever. I don’t have a problem with this unless this is actually the parent who is the overachiever and pushing their child. As a parent, we always want the best for our children, but sometimes we don’t see our children for who they really are. Until the district uses some kind of concrete numbers, say specific scores on specific tests to qualify who is gifted, there will constantly be this problem of those who feel TAG issues are being ignored with those who feel TAG parents are just plain pushy.
    Larry, the problem with one year of learning for one year of school, true TAG kids have the potential of learning 2,3 or more grades worth of learning within one year, specially in the elementary level. I did catch that you do realize this, but one year of learning per year -doesn’t agree with what you are trying to imply. There is also the chance that a child may be ahead but all of a sudden plateau and take a longer time to learn a subject. Should they fail then? So much of the elementary learning is baby steps for a gifted child yet high school or college work is much faster learning in comparison. Now don’t get me wrong, I also believe that there is more to learning that just academics in school, but for a truly gifted child, she/he may be strong in one subject or maybe in a number of subjects, yet in other subjects, in social skills and/or emotional skills may be age appropriate, or even immature. So a 9 year old ready for Algebra, may not be emotionally ready to be sitting in a high school classroom, or listening to the language that high schoolers speak. This doesn’t mean that this kid shouldn’t get to learn algebra, It just means that the district needs to find a creative way to having this kid get the academics he needs.
    TJ, I think that you have hit the problem on the head which blogs cause. Without seeing people face to face, and knowing each other, we do assume much more because we don’t see the body language of each other, nor know the background of each other. Because my school experiences through my kids and myself may be different than those of yours, we may also have different views on what works or doesn’t work in a specific school. I think for instance, Leopold is way, way too big already (having kids go through that school) For example 10 kindergarten classrooms already, I don’t feel that the district shouldn’t keep building onto that building. I feel that an elementary school should be much smaller, so it has a much more family atmosphere. Families want to be involved more at this level, they want to know what their children are doing, who they are hanging with, and how they are dealing with different situations in the classroom. Now, my view changed because I use to feel that the bigger the better because there would be so many more opportunities. Until I experienced this with my children through 5th grade, I didn’t understand that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Another parent who’s children are there will say it is worth adding on. That is both of our choices to disagree and we both need to agree that we disagree. We all advocate for things we know the most about, and as we have changes in our situations whether personally or through others, that may change our impressions and what we decide to advocate for. This happens with religion, education, politics, etc. To me, this is how we all get stronger is by sharing situations and educating each other about the pros and cons of any situation or why we think the way we do. Is the district perfect, no. And the only way for it to improve is for others to advocate for improvements in areas that they see problems. Without seeing both the pros and cons, I feel we can’t make good educational decisions, specially when it is time to vote. I know others will feel that this is rubbish, but that is fine because that is their choice. I do agree with you in a previous blog that people shouldn’t threaten just to get their way. I like the saying don’t be blowing wind up my skirt. You need to advocate for what you feel strong for, and there will always be those who question or disagree, and that is their choice.
    No one is going to be agreed with 100% of the time. You shouldn’t feel that because some people disagree with your views on what is important in education stop you from sharing your view. How is anyone going to become truly educated if they don’t see both sides of a story.

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