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September 27, 2006

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.


Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at September 27, 2006 9:00 AM
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