Friday, May 16, 2014

Why It Was Wrong to Postpone Discussion of Redistricting

The video contains the discussion and vote on the decision to postpone the redistricting discussion that was to take place at the May 13, 2014 ICCSD Board Meeting. Directors Swesey, McGinness, Kirschling, and Board President Hoelscher voted for the motion. The remaining board members, Directors Lynch, Fields, and Dorau, voted against the motion.

After watching it unfold, I made a number of snap judgments about why the vote was made and how it was planned, and I was also concerned about the decision to conduct the work session and the public board discussion over the summer. Making big decisions over the summer is a bad policy. But since I have no hard evidence to support my snap judgments, I'm doing my best to leave them in the past.

Nevertheless, I still strongly believe that the decision was wrong -- both on the merits of the argument made, and because it was just flat wrong.

The merits of the argument:

The argument for no discussion is nonsense. Here's my best reconstruction of the argument:

(P1) We got the maps last night (Monday). 
(P2) We need more time to prepare. 
Therefore, we should postpone discussion. 

First, the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. Simply because one person or one group of people are not prepared does not mean that a fruitful discussion cannot happen. Furthermore, the discussion could very well have informed our board members who were not ready for the discussion. There is no requirement that unprepared board members speak in a discussion, and it was clear that a goodly number of audience members felt prepared to discuss the issue.

Second, both premises for the argument are, at best, misleading. The changes between the third iteration of the map and the final one presented to the board were minimal, and the third map was released on May 2, 2014 a good ten days before the board meeting and there was extensive feedback and discussion on the Engage Iowa City website, which was promoted by the administration.

In short, the case for postponement given the stated reasons was extremely weak. They are so weak that it makes me curious about why the decision was, in fact, made -- that is, what goal did the four board members actually have in voting for the motion. I don't know, and I'm hesitant to speculate.

Why the decision was just flat wrong: 

The decision to postpone was disrespectful to other board members and members of our community who came out to speak. I'm not saying that the words used by Swesey, McGinness, Hoelscher, or Kirschling were rude or injurious. In point of fact, I believe focusing too much on the words used, the tone, and so forth miss what it means to truly respect someone. That is to say, respect requires treating people as agents capable of making their own decisions (as autonomous agents), and so long as the exercise of that freedom does not interfere with the autonomy of another or subvert the common good, then we should do what is in our power to cultivate such respect. We shouldn't treat people as a mere means to accomplish our goals.

Given that the item was on the agenda, Lynch, Fields, and Dorau as well as concerned citizens who wished to speak had a fair and legitimate expectation that they would be able to speak on the matter at hand. The President even states that community comments on agenda items will take place when that agenda item comes up on the agenda. And we know that a large number of people wanted to speak*, but the postponement denied them the opportunity without good cause. In this context, it did not treat those who came to speak with the inherent dignity they possess. It treated them merely as a means to accomplish the goals of some board members.

Note also that I'm not saying that the move was procedurally invalid according to Robert's Rules of Order. Rather, I'm saying that they used those procedures to act wrongly toward their fellow board members and toward the community members who wished to speak on the subject. 

If the goal was not to have the item on the agenda, then a decision should have been made at the prior board meeting. 

If the goal was simply to have a work session and vote on it over the summer (a bad policy, in my opinion, but still reasonable), then the motion should have been proposed after the presentation and after interested parties were given their opportunity to speak.

Based on these considerations, the four board members who voted for the motion should issue a public apology to the community and to the other board members.

(*I have asked for the number of people who signed up to speak, but apparently the speaker cards were not returned to Board Secretary)


  1. Mike, unlike you, I am not hesitant to "speculate" that it was obvious that the Swesey, McGinness, Hoelscher and Kirschling cooked the vote prior to the board meeting. The purpose was purely and completely to silence public input. The ultimate goal, I again am not hesitant to speculate, is to delay the vote to summer, when less parents will be available, in order to pass a version of the map to these members' liking. This maneuver was extremely offensive to the whole community, regardless of the merit of the issues. I am exploring options other than demanding an apology from the 4 members, or pleading for their recognition of their own wrongdoing. I am done with asking nicely. They need to be held accountable and their actions publicly humiliated.

  2. Mostly, I agree. I think that P1 and P2 are both valid reasons for not voting to accept or reject those maps that night. The changes might be minimal in terms of territorial, but I think that, particularly in Cluster Two, where the difference could sabotage the proposed magnet pilot, they could have substantial and sweeping effects. Honestly, those final two maps to my eyes show an undue deference to people of means and civic and social power in a couple of key places.

    But yeah, the conclusion that we need to avoid _discussion_ does not follow from those premises.

    I'd also speculate that at least two of the three, and possibly all who voted against the motion had their own prefabricated action plan, as long as those of us in comments here are speculating.

  3. So everyone has their own agenda and this is just politics. I am fine with that. But then again, unlike some members of the board, and of this community, I am having a real hard time making the claim that I care for the greater good of the whole district and every child because I am not a hypocrite and I try to be honest to myself.

  4. EDJ – Question for you.

    So, there were district-wide meetings that asked folks to rank their priorities around redistricting.

    Then there were meetings where everyone could work together to tackle the maps using the guidelines the community valued.

    Then using the computer programs we purchased and the FRL info, administration put together a draft.

    More meetings and input – back to the computer– new draft.

    More community input – more maps.

    Finally 4 iterations down with input from community and administration at each step and you don’t like the maps because they don’t “get” someone you want to be impacted?

    How does that relate to educational outcomes, exactly?

  5. Censorship is a political tool that is basically used to silence a majority that might usurp the power of a few with more advantages. It's interesting how when censorship is happening directly to us we tend to have a problem with it and at times when it is happening to those other people we don't see it as a big deal or we look the other way. The problem is that each time we enable censorship, whether it be within our board meetings, on our facebook pages, within certain social circles through destroying the names of people we disagree with through gossip, eventually censorship comes around to bite us in our own you know what's. How many who were outraged by this particular school board censorship of public comment were upset over the policy that was nearly voted in just a few short months ago that would give the SB president power to eject anyone she pleases under subjective circumstances? How many of you were upset over the near censorship of those speaking out over MLK day? How many of you upset about this current action were calling for those concerned over MLK day to shut up and be grateful? Ah so now that we are feeling the effects of censorship on a more wide spread community level, I hope we take this as a learning opportunity that it is not just wrong for us when we want what we want, but it is wrong for everyone.

  6. Anonymous 11:51: I'm not sure if the same person made all 3 posts, but thanks for your input. For what it is worth, I didn't take Eric to be saying that we need to "get someone." I think he was saying that he thought the particular moves made after the 3rd iteration were (a) contrary to the good of the entire district, and (b) made primarily because of parents expressing what they think of as being in the best interest of their children but in such a way that it inadvertently harms others.

    Anonymous 12:04: Thanks for your comment. As you may know, I'm no fan of limiting discourse in the public sphere, and I've argued against the old community comment policy, for no school on MLK day, and for greater engagement with minority community members in forums in which they will participate. Still, I don't think this issue is about censorship (i.e., limiting unpalatable discourse in the public sphere). I think it was about creating a certain set of expectations for the board and community (specifically that we would be able to speak on the subject) and then shutting that down because of some other goal. It didn't treat us as free and adult agents. I think censorship is a special instance of that same problem, but I don't know that it was censorship. In other words, I don't know that the board member's motive was to suppress contrary views.

  7. Michael - I made only the 11:51 comment.

    Eric says "Honestly, those final two maps to my eyes show an undue deference to people of means and civic and social power in a couple of key places."

    That comment sounds a lot like setting up an argument for circumventing the process that was open to the entire community; throwing away all the work that the community did at the meetings and discounting the expertise of the administration - simply because he didn’t like how it turned out and the changes didn't impact someone else as much as he thought they should. I hope that is not what he was saying, because that’s not right, but it does sound like something certain people on the school board would do.

  8. " I don't know that the board member's motive was to suppress contrary views. " Really? Seriously? No you wouldn't know because there has never been any prior indication that this was what they were doing. Ok, sure. This free and adult agent thinks differently. It's pretty obvious that their goal is to placate when and where they can and then shut down, censor where it counts. Let's be honest, what other goal might there be? I'm pretty sure that was what your blog was trying to get at in the first place? Did we get too close to the truth for comfort?

  9. 11:51/1:38: I'm confident Eric meant the changes from the third map (which was vetted in public meetings) and the fourth map, which was not. From what I understand, a group of Longfellow parents who were equally close to Twain and Longfellow didn't want to be transferred to Twain. They brought their concerns to the Superintendent, and it seems it was sufficient to convince the administration to make a change. My guess is that Eric thought that particular change was a mistake and not properly vetted by the community. I, for one, don't think it is in the administration's expertise to make such value judgments. That's the board's job.

    1:41: I've not seen hard evidence that is sufficient for me to speculate on their motives. So I choose not to do so. I understand that others make different choices. In any case, whatever their motives, I think the actions of the four who voted for the motion was wrong regardless of their motives. In other words, were those 4 board members to have noble motives and intentions, I don't think it would make the course of action right. I hope that helps!

  10. "I've not seen hard evidence that is sufficient for me to speculate on their motives." So spending months trying to implement a community comment policy in order to target and censor two specific community members and likely others doesn't count? The SB president's incessant need to scold and shut down any commenter who goes even a few seconds over their allotted time during community comment? What about how polls are set up in such a controlled and rigid manner that outcomes are pretty much laid out with no room for public, free thinking, discussion in front of the press? How about the press regularly misquoting those who do manage to speak out? Or the nature of holding important discussion in work meetings during the work day so they are inaccessible to the public and not open to public comment anyway? Or just scheduling the discussion at a time when people will have children out of school for summer or be traveling? I think the motives are clear - to limit speaking over these matters so that decisions can be made by those who have the most power. It may not always be direct censorship but certainly it is indirect and obvious.

    Just curious Tilley, will you be announcing your candidacy in the next school board election?

  11. 2:59: I'd prefer to examine the actions themselves (which I find problematic in many of the instances you cite) than tie my evaluation to the motivations that some board members may have. That's my background and training, and I generally think that's the best course of action. It seems you disagree, and that's no skin off my back.

    Based on your comments, I take you that you and I agree that there are significantly better candidates for school board than me.

  12. "I generally think that's the best course of action." I asked if you would be a candidate because your responses were very much like those of many politicians and interestingly enough, our current school board and administration who think very much as you do believing their experience and their own thinking constitute the best course of action in all matters. That is a big part of the problem Tilley and why much of the community never gets heard, never gets considered because there are people such as yourself assuming we all are looking for your help and solutions to our problems instead of making a genuine effort to get to know us and take the time to ask us what we think, what value our experiences may have to offer. Instead you just exclaim that any difference of point of view is "no skin off my back". I understand very clearly what you are saying. It's not at all unlike how our SB president invalidates other points of view from the community. Thanks for your response. I guess I can safely say I am grateful you will not be a candidate. We need much less of this type of attitude from our district leaders.

  13. Michael's correct in the interpretation of my comments, pretty much to the letter. I think that the final Cluster Two rec is both not vetted by the community (pretty much inarguably) and a mistake in terms of practical outcomes, though not process. I'll try to explain:

    Based on the superintendent's response to my questions about this, and some answers from board members, the draft three iteration depended on a set of railroad tracks between those streets and Longfellow being an obstacle and a danger, But walking the area demonstrated that, whether they were an obstacle or not, they weren't a danger. And so, per the guiding priority of minimizing disruptions, there wasn't a compelling reason to take those students out of Longfellow, since the Twain magnet pilot effectively took the need to change the demographic there out of the equation. Now, I think that there is a lot wrong with this in terms of outcomes, but I (mostly) agree with Michael that the value judgements here need to be made by the board, not the superintendent.* So, a certain portion of my day last Tuesday was spent getting answers to questions from the Supt. and emailing board members to urge them to adopt the Draft 3 Map for Cluster Two rather than the Final Rec. Arguably, the Draft 3 Map is more purely the result of comprehensive community input, rather than the selective input after-the-fact of one set of stakeholders.

    Now, in terms of outcomes, I think that this is a bad map for a couple of reasons. While I'm happy to see the district try to pilot a magnet school at Twain, this map puts the population of kids on Free and Reduced Lunch at the school pretty far north of the current 77%. One board member suggested that it would be around 91%. I think that there isn't a magnet on earth that's going to overcome that kind of anti-magnetic force, and I think that the ongoing resistance by people who are almost equidistant between Twain and Longfellow at Twain's current FRL rate probably illustrates this as well as anything else. So, my worry is that the final map sets that pilot up to fail, which means a waste of resources in a failed attempt at economic integration and a host of other bad consequences not just for that school, but also for the whole cluster.**

  14. I said I mostly agreed with Michael that this is the board's purview rather than Murley's, if its a case of weighing values (walkability, least disruption) against values (equity in educational settings, socioeconomic balance). But, that depends on accepting a couple of arguable points. One is the idea that Twain's status as a magnet pilot frees Murley from the commandment to try to bring the school into compliance. If that's not the case, then its actually a matter of some guiding principles vs. the mandate itself, and at each Cluster meeting Murley did remind participants that the principles articulated as important were secondary to the mandates of the policy. But, since he has to ask the board for permission to depart from the absolute mandates of the policy to do any of the drafts for Cluster Two, we're on murky ground here already in terms of what the mandate means. In some ways, this makes me pine for the Draft 2 Map, which did set up a really clear articulation of values in conflict for the board to adjudicate: walkability vs. integration. There I think that both ethical principles and adherence to the policy points towards the latter. The Draft Two map also puts more of the onus of change on people of higher means than people of lesser means. To me, that's a more important principle than many of the ones that our community input brought to the table.

    Another way to think about this though would be to argue that the Final Rec sets the Twain magnet up to fail to such a degree that its a practical consideration and not a value-laden proposition. If that case can be made, then that puts the decision back in Murley's court rather than that of the board. This is to say that its a mistake, but a technical mistake, rather than a choice of the wrong values in a given hierarchy. But, its hard to make that case absolutely without simply putting a magnet school in under that map and watching it fail.

  15. * Michael has been making this over-arching point about the separation between the supt.'s practical considerations and the board's value-laden considerations for a long time. I've come to think that he's exactly right about this, and about the poor job our board does of it.

    **I couldn't really fit this in thematically, so it just goes here: my other big issue with the final rec is that it just refuses to change one of the biggest problems in that cluster: the way that the current north/south line between the Longrellow and Twain zones has hardened into a line of economic demarcation that has cultural implications and which sets up a ginormous divide between two schools that are actually only 8/10ths of a mile apart as the proverbial crow flies. One of the ways to shake this up, and start reversing the cycle of affluent migration that leads people to leave areas like the Twain zone when they can afford to, is to change the kind of housing stock that's available in a given school's attendance zone. If you're not willing to make this kind of change, then you're willing to either leave your schools in the gentle hands of the real estate market***, or you're willing to wait for the municipality to fix your school's demographic imbalances. Good luck with either of those options.

    ***yes, Michael, I'm self-plagiarizing. I'm old enough to consider a good line to be a non-renewable resource.

    Closing thoughts:
    Anonymous: why the hostility. I was mostly agreeing with you I thought, except for positing that everybody on that board is playing politics to some extent and not just the four who made the bad call to shut down debate.

    Michael: I'm sorry for writing a novel in blog comments on your post. Some of this stuff got trapped in my head by superseding events, and it needed to come ou

  16. Anon 3:50: You accused me of "believing [my] experience and [my] thinking constitute the best course of action in all matters." That is not what I said. I am an academic philosopher. I know good arguments when I see them, and I am skilled at evaluating evidence and the support it provides for conclusions. Perhaps my original statement was unclear, but I was referring to the best course of action in evaluating arguments -- i.e., focus on the claims and evidence presented rather than perceived associations, possible motivations, and the like. You are, of course, free to assert and present such purported evidence for your judgments, but that doesn't entail that the argument is any good. In short, I maintain that it is always good practice in public discourse to not go beyond the evidence available, and I think that's a good way to avoid making false assumptions about people -- particularly those whose voices are often marginalized.

  17. Eric: I thought I understood your position, but I appreciate that you described it much more eloquently that I was doing. Of course, there are ways to disagree -- the value judgments you are making or the practical/technical means of accomplishing those goals -- but at the very least one must admit that the position is reasonable and well-considered. As for me, there are things that I greatly prefer in the 3rd map to the second map, but there are costs.

  18. Too many of the school board members are old left wing hippies stuck in the past, if they worked on creating good schools for all instead of using our children as Guinea pigs in their little socialist experiments things would be a lot better.

  19. Michael- yeah, I'd agree that from a variety of perspectives, the 3rd map is better. Its the fourth one, the Administrative Recommendation that I am particularly unhappy with.

    Anon, in my opinion is doesn't constitute a social experiment, to decide that its a bad idea to have very rich and very poor schools, in terms of demographics, in a purportedly public system where access to opportunities is supposed to be equal for all.

  20. The rich vs poor schools is a misleading argument, spending per pupil is not greater in one school vs another in the district.

  21. Anon 3:17: I must not understand what you mean. In point of fact, every single school in the district has different spending per pupil than every other school. I've blogged extensively about operational costs previously, and here is a link to the introduction which graphically shows the per pupil cost at our elementary schools.

    Still, I think that completely misses the significance of socioeconomic status of the students who attend a school. Based on conversations with parents whose kids attend schools with a high poverty rate (and usually high minority rate as well), I know that the socioeconomic makeup of a school has a significant affect on teacher workload and burnout, as well as the resources at the PTO/PTA level and therefore the ability to supplement needs (how much is, say, donated to Kirkwood's PTO compared to, say, Shimek's?). There are also strong correlations between income levels and (a) the political capital of parents, (b) volunteer time, (c) the level of support from the entire community (how many articles do we see in the local paper about things going on at Grant Wood as opposed to, say, Garner?), and the (d) knowledge of the educational system we find ourselves in so that they can make a difference. No wonder there is a strong correlation between achievement and socioeconomic status!

    And having relatively equal per pupil spending would simply exacerbate problem. That goodness we don't!

    But it seems we need more than simply spending more money (i.e., having very slightly smaller class sizes and so forth) if we are to truly address this challenge. And it is vital that our community address these injustices in an effective and comprehensive way.

    I hope that helps!

  22. Anonymous- I'm aware of that and I figured you and most people reading would know that. I wasn't intending to mislead anyone, and that's why I said " its a bad idea to have very rich and very poor schools, in terms of demographics" so as not to be misleading.

  23. In my opinion, as a former teacher of both middle income kids and very low income kids, there is a much bigger problem that is not being addressed. We are not talking about how and why poverty influences learning and performance. These "at risk" kids have a myriad of social/physical needs that need to be met before they are ready to learn-Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Lack of stability, hunger, inadequate medical care, etc will always affect a child's ability to learn. Many, many studies show that family income and parental education are the strongest predictors of student success. Many studies also show that the first 5 years are the most important and once a child falls behind, they DO NOT catch up. We will see more and more "at risk" families as the income gap widens and we have more non-English speaking parents. These are the real problems we all should be concerned about-not this petty east-side vs. west-side power struggle.

  24. I was thinking of the state-mandated base per-pupil rate, which is probably what Anonymous was thinking of.

    As far as the 8:19 post, I totally agree. I couldn't care less for the East West fight, and Michael probably cares even less than me. I'm interested in a sustainable and equitable school district.

    Those are significant barriers to learning that you've identified. And when a school's population is mostly made up of kids who face those barriers, then for a variety of reasons, it gets even harder for kids to overcome them and for teachers to help them overcome them. That's a very good reason to try to achieve socioeconomically balanced demographics at all the schools in the district.

  25. Anon 8:19: I don't get the east side/west side or the north versus south stuff either. I'm a Texan, so I understand rival schools and the like, but I don't understand the assumption that (a) people don't mean what they say (e.g., 'they say they want equity, but they are really closest racists/classists' OR 'they say they want socioeconomic integration, but they really don't care and just have it out for the folks at school x') and are always arguing in bad faith. I simply haven't found that to be the case in my rather limited experience. Note, I am not saying that class, race, and the like don't have an implicit role to play here. I'm just saying that the arguments certainly don't rely on it. But I've been told I'm naive about that by people from all the various factions in town, and maybe I am? And (b) that there are nefarious motives lying behind every comment, point, and suggestion. Perhaps the too go hand in hand?

  26. Correlation does not imply causation, people who are intelligent and work hard tend to have more income and their kids will tend to test better, less intelligent people with poor work ethics will earn less and their children will tend to test worse, obviously there are exceptions but income will tend to be a marker of intelligence and work, smart people who work hard will tend to have children who do the same, no wishful thinking or busing will change that.

  27. Anonymous, the assumptions built into that last statement are manifold, erroneous, and frankly, repugnant, particularly those found in the second two clauses of that first run-on sentence. I'll try to be polite, since its Michael's house here and I don't want to make a mess, but if you truly believe that socioeconomic status is a meritocratic measure of essential abilities and character, then we're done. And I have some swampland in Florida to sell you too.

  28. Your argument is that ability and hard work don't contribute to success, that is an interesting opinion, it is also wrong.

  29. No, my argument is ability and hard work can't necessarily overcome the kind of serious barriers to educational success that you brought up, and that concentrating kids who face those barriers in a school greatly diminishes the ability of teachers to help those kids overcome those barriers, so fewer of them do and more of them fall through the cracks.

  30. So then your argument is that the obstacles these kids face are so great they might as well give up now because the deck is so stacked against them that they can't succeed, I believe that we live in a land of opportunities and if you work hard and make good decisions anybody can be successful.

  31. Anon 1:01: There comes a point when arguments aren't productive. One point is when your interlocutor is incapable of correctly characterizing the position (Eirc's and mine, respectively) despite repeated, clear statements of it. It seems that you are unwilling or incapable of engaging in that kind of dialogue. I'd suggest trying to understand your interlocutor's position before engaging it.

  32. "I maintain that it is always good practice in public discourse to not go beyond the evidence available, and I think that's a good way to avoid making false assumptions about people -- particularly those whose voices are often marginalized." Except there is plenty of evidence that you are choosing to ignore (examples being response to Hoover petitions, course of action for MLK day, and community comment policy) - speaking of marginalized voices!!. You are an "academic philosopher"? What does that mean exactly? Are you asserting that your thinking process is superior by stating that? Your blog was about why it was wrong to shut down discussion regarding the redistricting. The majority of people at the meeting wanting to speak about the redistricting WERE the marginalized voices. Or did you mean to say the board members and administration are the marginalized voices? Or maybe you were referring to the poor rich folks in the district who have to result to using their checkbooks in order to be heard because their voices are so marginalized?

    My advice, and you'll have to excuse me as I am not from Texas so clearly I am in a place far below your wisdom as an academic philosopher, is that before you write a blog be absolutely sure you stay consistent to your original argument or folks might not take you too seriously for very long. Hope that helps!

  33. Anon 12:36: I appreciate your concerns for marginalized voices. However, I have no idea what you are talking about. You seem to think I didn't do enough to fight the closure of Hoover, despite my continuous efforts on its behalf including signing the petition myself, getting others to sign it online and by going door to door, speaking about it multiple times during listening posts and board meetings, blogging about it extensively, and so forth. You also seem to be under the impression that I was inactive on the MLK day activities, but I argued that it was bad policy, that the board could have found a way not to have school on that day, I attended (mainly as someone who listened) the joint strategy meetings between the Center for Worker Justice and the Coalition for Racial Justice, and I argued that the board should establish the liaison with both groups. You also seem to assume that I was unconcerned about community comment policy, but I indicated various inconsistencies in the policy and how it was already being applied improperly and in a potentially illegal way by Board President Hoelscher. Frankly, I don't know whether (a) you don't know me very well, (or have me confused with someone else) or perhaps (b) you just think that Hoover should be closed, we should have had school on MLK Day, or that we should restrict the speech of Phil and Julie.

    In short, I can make neither heads nor tails of what you are saying. You argument is, at best, confused and at worst nonsensical. Until some attempt is made to actually engage something that, at least, resembles my positions, I'll not address you further. Best of luck!

  34. Easy decision after reading these comments which folk(s) to not take too seriously. Michael Tilley, even your responses to possible trolls are enlightening.

  35. A little reading on how to improve your situation and get out of poverty for our less successful friends, get off of that welfare it crushes your soul. This is by Walter Williams, he actually has a lot of common sense real world solutions that while not flashy actually work. There is more that he has written on the subject and it is all available for free on the internet, also if you are really interested on living a great life regardless of your financial situation Mr. Money Mustache is a great blog.

    How not to be poor (Walter E. Williams)

    Ministers Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Anthony Williams and others recently met to discuss plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October 1995 Million Man March. Whilst reading about the plans, I thought of an excellent topic for the event: how not to be poor.

    Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior. If you graduate from high school today with a B or C average, in most places in our country there's a low-cost or financially assisted post-high-school education program available to increase your skills.

  36. Anon 5:49: Luckily, I've written about this before...

    I would advise you to read this blog entry on poverty in America

    A common myth about poverty is that it primarily affects single persons, particularly mothers. That myth is statistically false, and it certainly is not true in my personal experience. Based on the government census data from 2010, there were 3,596 married households that were in poverty compared to 5,625 households led by single parents (which would include cases where a spouse died). That means that approximately 39% of all households in poverty (3,596/9,221) are households with a married couple. In other words, there are more married adults in poverty (2 per household) than single adults in poverty. A good explanation of this phenomenon can be found in E. Warren's Two Income Trap, which argues that poverty is a significant risk in our modern economy, particularly for married, two-income families. It is certainly an eye-opening book. And what Warren describes and what these statistics suggest has certainly been true in my experience. My white-”middle-class,” highly-educated wife and I are two years removed from having free lunches for our kids, being on WIC, and on medicaid for my wife and children (I was uninsured at the time).

    Perhaps you don't think they work hard. Then I'd advise you to take a look at some of the data presented in the NYT blog post. It simply isn't true. Most people on "welfare" work, and they work hard.

    In short, I think claims that single people or people who don't work hard are the primary people in poverty is ideologically- and not evidence-driven. Ideologically, it is used to excuse inaction on poverty-related issues. It goes along with the pernicious narrative that all poor people are "lazy, good-for-nothing, system-milking leeches who are suffering from their own self-inflicted wounds and mistakes (e.g., not getting married, having kids out of wedlock, and getting divorced), and who will be a constant drain on "us."" By attributing poverty primarily or exclusively to single moms, despite not being supported by any evidence (at least none that I've seen), it (a) belies the systematic and negative effects of the modern economy on all people, married, unmarried, and divorced, and (b) contributes to the narrative that the poor are there by their own hand (i.e., because they didn't get married or make their marriage successful).

    Frankly, though, I'd much rather people put me, Rebekah, and our three kids (from 2008-2012) as the face of the poor. It paints a significantly different picture than the myth that the poor are lazy, good-for-nothing, system-milking leeches who are suffering from their own self-inflicted wounds and mistakes (e.g., the breakdown of the family), and who will be a constant drain on "us."

  37. And now you yourself are proof that Walter Williams who by the way has a PhD in economics is right and you have managed to avoid long-term poverty. See it works you are a testimonial.

  38. Anon 6:27: Sure, except I'd be in crushing medical debt and still regret our kids not having enough to eat save the "welfare that crushe[d my] soul."

  39. I am sorry that you are so confused and defensive. You seem to have missed my point entirely in order to defend your public image which is very odd and possibly worth further scrutiny of your character and dealings within school district matters. Let me help you to get the point I was trying to make to you. The original point of your blog was that the SB was wrong to shut down discussion on the matter of redistricting. I originally pointed out to you that their intention was to censor certain members of the community and that there was much evidence to support those assertions. You in your superior Texas educational philosopher wisdom tried to assert that there was no such evidence of the motives of censorship and it was the "best course of action" to not assume motives of the board. And yet you yourself claim to be a champion and witness to the marginalized voices of the community. You make a point to make that known even though there was never any previous question from me as to your involvement. Your defensiveness of your own position in regards to those circumstances and your continued denial that the board is trying to censor community members is inconsistent. I get the feeling that you understand perfectly but are doing your best to deflect from the obvious. Hope that helps!

  40. Anon 5:28: I think I may understand something that you are trying to get at. Frankly, given the stream-of-consciousness of your prose, and the regular imposition of irrelevant-to-the-argument personal attacks, it is a little hard to see what is of relevance to the actual argument at hand. In any case, it seems that you are trying to say, in your own way, that I was too soft on the 4 board members in question. If that's your point, then I'd encourage you to consider how to best communicate that argument. Something like this would be much easier to understand for readers and for me, and easier to argue for than all of the what you've written previously:

    You: "Michael, I think you are being too soft on those 4 board members. They have a history of trying to limit discussion and deliberation in our community, particularly from marginalized voices. It seems likely that they are trying to do the same in this instance. Shouldn't you have called them out for that as opposed to just focusing on this one action?"

    Now, I'd understand that point, at least if that is the point you are trying to make, but I have already replied to that basic point.

    Me from above: "I think the actions of the four who voted for the motion [were] wrong regardless of their motives. In other words, were those 4 board members to have noble motives and intentions, I don't think it would make the course of action right."

    Now, it seems like you think I was wrong to think that there is any possibility that they could have non-nefarious motives in this case. In which case, you might respond with something like this:

    You: "Michael, given their history, I think it highly unlikely that they'd have 'noble motives and intentions.' Once again, given that history, I'm skeptical of them, and at best their motives was probably that they just didn't want to be at the meeting all night. I still think you should have called them out for that."

    To which I would reply with the following, Me: "I can understand that. Part of our disagreement arises from a different approach to what we are trying to do. My goal in the argument was to persuade people that something was wrong, no matter whether they strongly support one or more of those four board members or whether they, like you, have a negative impression of their prior body of work. So, that's why I'm still reluctant to call their motives into question. I hope you can understand that."

    Now, I may have misunderstood your point, but it seemed like that was it. But it was hard to tell. Still, that would have been a fruitful engagement, and one I'm happy to have. I wished there was more of that sort of thing in this district. I wish you the best

  41. Yes, that is exactly what I was trying to convey, that you are being to lenient of the board members. My other point is that when you claim to be a champion of the marginalized voices in the district and then in your next breath assert innocence on the part of the board denying any evidence of their censoring such marginalized voices, it makes you appear to be inconsistent and suspect in your position. I think being the educational philosopher you are you understood that perfectly well as you seemed to have no problem in your last response in translating my seemingly foreign and nonsensical comments. I'm so pleased that you finally came to understand at the moment of your continued inconsistencies coming to light.

    Something that I would like to convey to you as a side note but in my perspective, still related, is that not everyone thinks, feels, acts of communicates exactly as you do. In our district we seem to be currently hyper focused on diversity and yet so many seem to miss the mark of what diversity means at every single opportunity. It means that in communities there are differences and those differences should be respected, and valued as opposed to being determined faulty or wrong in an effort to exclude them. It would seem Michael, that you have this deeply engrained idea about what is acceptable in terms of communication and what is not. You have made several assertions in your responses that your way of thinking and communicating are the only preferable way. What you fail to realize though is that this is not the case. And in all of your claims to upholding the rights of marginalized voices and speaking for the poor you neglect to see your own lack of diverse unawareness. This is what makes you wholly inconsistent and to me unbelievable and ultimately grateful that you will not be running for school board.

    Let me try to attempt to be more clear so that you and some of your most avid supporters can understand a little better. Diversity is not just about race or economic status. It's much broader than that. It includes differences in processing information and thinking, it includes differences in communication, it includes differences in appearance and challenges stereotypes. It includes differences in education background. So when you claim to stand in unison with marginalized voices, those voices being the most diverse vs conformist among us and then go on to marginalize people in claiming that your way of thinking and communicating is superior you become representative of the core issue in our district. That core issue being that there is no diversity nor equity for marginalized voices because of attitudes such as your own. Perhaps this is why you tend to be lenient with the boards actions and with other organizations in our community that seek to censor the diverse, because on some level you identify with that level of perceived superiority over others.

    I would like to hope that this is a time of expanded awareness for you as all humans go through from time to time. Maybe you are just beginning to realize that you have aligned yourself with people who do in fact have nefarious intentions towards others in the community because they threaten the status quo that keeps things comfortable for the most privileged. If this is the case, I wish you expedience in that awareness. If it is not the case and you maintain your belief in innocence through denial of continued discrimination by the board and others to censor certain community groups and individuals then I hope at some point you will be treated as you have treated others so that you can gain that broadened perspective.

  42. Anon 6:58: You have once again attributed positions to me that are not mine.

    (a) I didn't say that 'the board was innocent'. Not speculating on motives is not the same as asserting that they are noble or that they aren't a problem. I explained my rationale for not speculating in my last post, and you didn't engage my response. That's also why there is no inconsistency in my prior comments, despite your repeated assertions to the contrary.

    (b) Contrary to what you suggest, I agree that people have different learning styles and approaches, and I don't think that my approach is the only acceptable way. In fact, in my previous post, I expressed very clearly how you could have engaged in a readable and understandable way. In short, I fully embrace a diversity in approaches to learning and communicating, and I taught in the classroom with that in mind. I tried to engage visual, auditory, tactile learners among many others, although it is somewhat difficult to do that outside of person-to-person interaction. Of course, what I will never embrace is that irrelevant-personal-attacks are one of those different learning styles. They have no place in arguments. The only time personal attacks should be used in arguments is if you demonstrate their relevance to the issue (e.g., you establish that someone doesn't have the professional expertise to make a professional judgment). Likewise, I will never think its a good argument to ignore a particular argument being made and then act as if some amorphous nefarious motivations (here I'm talking about you attributing bad faith in the argument to me) are a response to the argument. They aren't. (By the way, one term for this type of argument is a hermeneutic of suspicion.) If you demonstrate that the argument is flawed, then you can reasonably speculate all day long about my motivations, but you haven't even tried to do that.

  43. I am sorry that you feel personally attacked. Some might feel that things that you have said and done in these comments would also constitute as personal attacks but my guess is that you would deny that made any personal attacks yourself.

    Your rationale of not speculating on motives of the board only serves to perpetuate the problems we are currently dealing with. My guess is that you are fully aware of that. To suggest that repeated, observable facts are speculation only serves to distract from the core problem and promote a false image of the board maybe as being honorable in their intentions? Any community member can go to any board meeting and witness for themselves the obvious contempt from the board president and other board members in having to listen to community comment. The intentions are so obvious one would have to live on the other side of the planet to not know what they are. This board want's input only from it's most privileged stakeholders, wants only good PR and is blatantly annoyed with having to hear any real diverse discussion.

    I'm sorry. I am totally unconvinced that you respect diverse learning models, thinking or communication styles. I see you continue to attempt to teach me on the correct manner of expressing myself and how properly to think as you do. I am curious, when you taught in the classroom did you ever learn anything from your students or was your focus solely on teaching them how to conform to your curriculum?

    Ah well I guess my hopes of you coming from a place of misunderstanding have been dashed. It would seem that you are quite determined to defend rather than consider another point of view. I'm sorry if you took that to be a personal attack. It's just that when people in our district and all over the country and world are experiencing real attacks on their lives, safety, security, their educations it is hard for me to feel too badly about you feeling insulted to comments and criticism in your very public and widely promoted blog. Perhaps you should change the settings to more private ones where you can only share with those who will completely agree with you and not question your motives?

  44. Anon 8:28: My objection to your personal attacks is not (a) how it makes me feel, or (b) that I'm offended or insulted. Frankly, they don't affect how I feel, and I can't remember the last time I felt offended or insulted. So neither are accurate in this case. Rather, my objection is that just this: it is a bad argument. It doesn't respond to the evidence I presented, or the inference from that evidence to my conclusion.

  45. If they are going to postpone this discussion they should postpone it till September when the affected parties are actually around since they claim they want community involvement.

  46. Also the entire process should be reopened and Shimek and Borlaug should be on the table.

  47. I wish that at the end of the day the school board cared more about our children and their education than about their egos and agendas, I guess that is like the old saying of wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which one fills up first.

  48. Anon 5:04 AM: I've heard people say stuff like this, but I have to wonder how many affected parties will be gone the entire summer? We have jobs that give us pretty good vacation time. We might be gone for two weeks over the whole summer. Do others in the community really take the whole summer, or a month off? Am I missing something here?