View From Lodi, CA: Diversity Is Strength! It's Also…Suffering Schools
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The Lodi Unified School District's decision not to renew the Pacific Educational Group's consulting contract is the correct one. [Lodi Unified School District Drops Diversity Group, Amanda Dyer, Lodi News-Sentinel, March 1, 2008]

The two columns I wrote (read them here and here) about the organizations accusatory, guilt-laden approach to what the Pacific Educational Group calls "equity" might have had some influence. Many district teachers told me that my critical articles expressed their own disgruntled feelings towards the consultants.

And I know too that since interim superintendent Len Castanega announced that LUSD "will have a different approach," no teacher I know has expressed any regrets about the change of direction. Their collective sentiment is "good riddance."

What's important now is not to replace the Pacific Educational Group with different race hucksters—"We're black and brown; you're white. Therefore, you're racist."

The district, which stands to lose over $800,000 through Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget cuts for 2008-2009 simply cannot afford to pay the $60,000 annually to outsiders to pursue the noble but unachievable goal of educational equity.

How can it be done when students come from such varied backgrounds—including their language, ethnicity, financial resources and domestic role models?

The brutal truth is that despite all our glowing euphemisms about celebrating and embracing diversity, the evidence is overwhelming that the more diversity in the classroom, the more difficult academic excellence becomes.

Compare California, the nation's most diverse state, to Finland a small country with fewer than half the people of Los Angeles.

In California, 97 school districts, including Lodi Unified (eligible for "light assistance,") Stockton Unified and Tracy Joint Unified, have consistently failed to make significant progress over the last five years under No Child Left Behind. Accordingly, they are subject to sanctions and a possible overhaul of their personnel. [Schwarzenegger Wants Interventions for Failing School Districts, Juliet Williams, Associated Press, February 28, 2008]

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes "more after school programs, more homework assistance, or more teacher training" as well as more help for English learners and students with disabilities. (VDARE.COM note: Note Brenda Walker's blog here about less money for general education but more for English- language learners).

But those ideas are in complete contrast to the methods used in Finland that has the world's most successful schools.

In its February 29th story, What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart, by Ellen Gamerman, the Wall Street Journal revealed how that country achieves test scores among the highest in the world.  

(JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: Steve Sailer first introduced you to the Finn success story earlier this week in his blog. Steve has graciously given me his permission to use some of his findings in my News-Sentinel column.)

To begin with, education in Finland is emphasized from birth—literally. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes books. Libraries are built adjacent to shopping malls where kids hang out, and buses travel to remote neighborhoods to provide reading material for children.

Teachers in Finland rarely assign homework. Instead, they are given virtual free reign to design their own lessons specifically tailored to the needs of their students.

One observer noted: "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are entrepreneurs."

Finnish students are given more freedom than their American peers. Dress codes are non-existent. Some students wear their hair in dyed pink dread locks or sport tank tops and stilettos despite Finland's cold climate. Libraries have no Internet filter.

For the last three years of high school, Finland separates its students based on grades. Slightly more than half go to high school; the rest enter vocational school.

What makes educating Finland's children easier and therefore helps them become productive adults is the country's homogeneous population—94 percent are Finns.

California, on the other hand, has the highest proportion of foreign-born in the nation, nearly 28 percent. Of every five California households, two do not speak English.

Over the years, California will become more diverse. Since going back to a mostly white population isn't in the demographic cards, the push for the ever-elusive student equity must go on.

What would help is to set a realistic goal for teachers in multicultural schools. That is, stop accusing teachers of insensitivity toward their diverse student base and acknowledge the obvious—the task of educating them is overwhelming given the hand they've been dealt

Teachers are doing the best they can under impossible circumstances. Don't add to their burden by subjecting them to sensitivity trainings that are a waste of time and scarce taxpayer money.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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