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The 90's, episode 209: KIDS, SCHOOLS, AND LEARNING

01:53 "Plamondon School" by Kathie Robertson. On Chicago's West Side, Principal Guadalupe Hamersma talks about the troubles facing low income urban schools. "It's a mistake excusing ignorance because of poverty. I really feel that if you have high expectations and find ways to help kids meet those expectations, kids will achieve." She also feels that these kids should not be concentrated in poor schools but instead should be integrated into schools in wealthier communities. "I feel it's important for kids have to get out of their neighborhood because the resources are so limited."

10:07 "Sebastian & Molly" by Dee Dee Halleck. Two kids sing parodies of children's songs that have been altered to feature the demise of teachers. Sebastian sings: "On top of the chalkboard, all covered with blood, I shot my poor teacher with a .44 slug..." Molly adds a tune dedicated to her teacher Miss Owens: "Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, throw your teacher off the boat and listen to her scream!"

18:54 Leon Lederman commentary by Ricki Katz. Lederman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, speaks about the poor state of education in America. "In the '60s we were making the best cars, the best machines, and then all of a sudden we weren't anymore. School systems around the world were getting better than us. Something happened to this country in the late '60s to do with the Vietnam War. It created a malaise in our students, it created a dropout mentality. I don't think you can blame it on one thing, but that was a sort of milestone, one from which we have never recovered. Our text books were watered down, we neglected our teachers' salaries. Right now we're spending more per capita per year than any other country - $380 billion a year on higher and lower education. We have to turn the education system around, but we have to 'leverage' money very carefully in order to fix it."

29:24 Bill Ayers commentary by Jim Morrissette. Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former member of the radical group The Weather Underground, speaks about education. "In many ways schools are very effective. They function as large sorting machines, sorting kids out along class, racial and gender lines. We complain but we never fix them. I want them to not train people to fit into hierarchies, I want them to train students to participate fully in a democratic society."

31:18 "Harbor College" by Nancy Cain. In Los Angeles, Cain visits a "college" for grade school kids that teaches stock market history, finance and business.

34:50 Murray Bookchin commentary by Luana Plunkett. Writer / activist Bookchin speaks about the misconceptions people have about education. "Education today is confusing the accumulation of information and data with the pursuit of wisdom. We are not becoming wiser, we are learning a lot of data that has no meaning, no relevance. Education should provoke, should stimulate the student to thinking. What we call education to day is, in my opinion, nonsense!"

40:32 Bill Ayers commentary continued. "Most teachers teach for the right reasons - they're altruistic, optimistic and they love kids, or they love the world, they love art, mathematics, or music enough that they want to share this with kids. Their motivation is transformation. But they go to colleges of education where they effectively ignore that or beat it out of them. So they become involved in structures which reward obedience, conformity and being a clerk. School systems are becoming enormous bureaucracies toppling under their own weight."

44:13 "William Wilson" by WTTW. Wilson, a music teacher at Hubbard High School in Chicago, won a Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching. His philosophy: "I never accept the word can't. I say 'erase that 'T''." His students report on Wilson's unique teaching style. "He treats everyone like his own child. So we have three parents: mother, father, and Mr. Wilson."

47:18 "Public Education: It's a Bull Market" by Hobart Swan. This tape traces the history of business involvement in education. In April 1990, the California State Assembly made a historic recommendation allowing Channel One, a commercial news station, to broadcast in public school classrooms. If this recommendation becomes law, commercials for candy bars and potato chips will become part of daily curriculum. However, this may not necessarily be a new thing. Public school children have always watched industrial films produced by private companies. In years past, children learned about electricity from electrical companies, ecology from lumber companies, and nutrition from sugar companies.

55:54 More from Leon Lederman. "TV is a tremendous force. It could do a lot of things. The typical scientist is portrayed as a weirdo stroking a cat and talking with an accent. TV owes an obligation both to entertain and to teach. We need he roes in science, we need good role models so kids can say this is not a nerd operation."

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