From his ethnographic studies in inner-city
With the skyrocketing incarceration levels of recent decades, I believe that
So for instance, Edelman says that “a poor Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison.” However, a closer look would most likely reveal that it is something more like a 90%+ chance for a certain set of those boys, and much, much less for a different set of boys (depending if they are from a street/incarcerated class environment or from a decent one). The high-at-risk subgroup describes the incarcerated class. Parents in the community know exactly who is who.
The extreme numerical escalation of this group is what feeds the interest in charter schools. The non-I.C. parents who live in areas where members of this class are numerous are desperate to separate their kids from the offspring of the incarcerated class. For instance, read this recent, emotional pro-charter opinion piece in the New York Post and some of the response comments. One said, “A good kid going to school with kids that were not raised in a good household is like putting a kitten in the middle of a pack of wolves.” Now we're getting to the meat of things.
Over the past few decades, the number of these kids has been increasing and thus their enrollment in the public schools has been climbing higher and higher. Because of the sheer numbers, their presence at some point became overwhelming, thus all the “bad” urban public schools.
David Berliner’s recently issued report, “Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success,” describes the effect of family relations and stress on schooling, pages 24 to 29. It says:
Children from families that suffer from violence, from whatever income group and race, often display social and emotional problems that manifest themselves in the schools they attend. Too often these children show higher rates of aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, decreased social competence, and diminished academic performance.
“…such families [the above described] are overrepresented among the poor and in the African American community, increasing the difficulty of the instructional and counseling missions of schools that serve those populations…the effects these troubled children exert on others in the classroom is strong.”
More details, with citations, are given. (Intelligent people will read this sort of information and absorb it, and then fashion a response that is appropriate and relates. The supposedly brilliant venture philanthropists like Eli Broad and Bill Gates, I'm afraid, are not in this group and will never do the same.)
This large set of kids is tremendously difficult to manage and they make the school life miserable for everyone else. The teachers in the schools who aren't getting driven away are at risk for getting totally worn down -- thus the apathy which is sometimes described.
My first guess is that our ongoing inability to acknowledge that this is occurring, reasonable legal arguments and important civil rights concerns have all restrained public schools from developing the strategies that would be necessary for dealing with large numbers of kids from this group. Unlike special education or English learning, there is no extra-funding offered to schools that must manage large numbers of them. I believe this is something that could be considered as a disability of a social nature – the behaviors and the symptoms are very extreme.
My second guess is that charter schools don’t deal with too many of these kids. The parents in this social class are extremely alienated from any mainstream and aren’t as inclined to seek charters. If they happen to enter the charter school world (because a relative did, for instance), their children will be more likely to get kicked out for bad behavior and non-compliance.
Bad school climates are what drive parents away. Public schools will need a great deal of help to manage their increasing numbers of this most-difficult-to-educate population.
How does this theory sound? I invite you to poke away.
* To my knowledge, the term "incarcerated class" was first used on March 31, 2009, by Tony Waters in his comments on ”Bridging Differences.” He is a faculty member of the Sociology Department at