Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ravitch's October 17th Letter Writing Campaign


Diane Ravitch asks her blog readers to "write your thoughts about what needs to change in federal education policy and send a letter to President Obama by October 17." Instructions are at this link. My letter follows.


Dear Mr. President,
I am an endocrinologist.  The endocrinologist understands growth. Gene expression responds to hormones and a complex socio-emotional milieu. Nature cannot be separated from Nurture, though physicians clearly understand that potential growth is maximized when the child is nurtured in a healthy environment.

Education policy makers exclaim the virtues of measuring growth, much like the pediatrician does.  Create education growth curves and plot results with formative and summative assessments. Intervene when the child falls off the normal curve.

What, President Obama, is “potential” and what is “normal” when “best practices” endlessly change and, more importantly, when crucial environmental variables are not addressed?

With an equation that factors a mother’s and father’s height, the pediatric endocrinologist can estimate “mid-parental” height. That’s Nature.  But statisticians know this equation falls short when Asian children grow taller raised in the United States, rather than in their homeland.  “Normal” growth curves don’t apply to the child born prematurely, exposed to intrauterine stressors or with some genetic or anatomical abnormalities. Further, the obesity epidemic throws any notion of “normalcy” out the books. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/growthcharts/training/modules/module2/text/module2print.pdf

Poverty narrows choice and “Nurture” intervenes beyond control of any physician or teacher. Faceless, shapeless forces deprive a child’s potential. As such, the pediatrician plots a new normal while politicians wring their hands about preventing diabetes. And so it goes for the “failing” homeless child who misses school and meals and a roof above his head.

Mention a tax on sugary drinks and conservatives devolve into accusations of a “Nanny State.” Mention progressive taxes on the wealthiest and conservatives shout, “Class Warfare!”

How can austerity and a “free” market coexist?

Poverty is the over-arching enemy to “accountability.” Junk food. Junk education. Mass-produced and standardized for the consumer. BIG DATA to micro-target prescriptions that grow more products for PhRMA and Pearson.

President Obama, America’s values needs to be realigned for our kids to reach their creative, emotional and intellectual potential. Stop this Race to the Bottom.

Kris Alman MD

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