Tossing $$ Around to “Transform” Schools

, Allie Winegar Duzett, Leave a comment

At a time when schools often struggle for funding, sometimes private institutions step up to fill the perceived need for more money.

From the LA Times:

The Ford Foundation pledged $100 million Wednesday to “transform” urban high schools in the United States, focusing on seven cities, including Los Angeles.

The seven-year initiative is among the largest philanthropic efforts aimed at improving education in the United States and, as described, could both complement and challenge aspects of the Obama administration’s education reform efforts. It will fund research and reform in four areas: teacher quality, student assessment, a longer school day and year, and school funding.

The Ford Foundation is throwing its money at schools in Los Angeles, New York, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.

Clearly, this is a good thing–no one can complain over private institutions donating money to educate youth. However, is money really the answer here? Even if it is going to “teacher quality” and “school funding?”

The sad fact is that compared to students from a hundred years ago, our high schoolers are pathetic. Students in the 1800’s were taught to balance checkbooks; they were taught state and American history; they often learned languages such as Latin and Greek. And this was all in schools with no heating, no air conditioning, no separate classrooms, and no computers. One teacher would teach many grade levels simultaneously–and I doubt that class size at that point was a concern, given the situation. Students back then, though, did benefit from discipline–and from a lack of truancy laws. Only students who wanted to be in school ended up there, which meant that teachers only had to deal with students who cared about the material.

I applaud the Ford Foundation’s efforts, but maybe lack of money here isn’t the problem. Something to think about.

Allie Winegar Duzett is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia. *Blog entries by interns reflect their personal opinions only and not that of Accuracy in Academia.