My students gave presentations yesterday on problems in urban middle schools, and a lot of issues were raised, including two I thought particularly worthy of note.
1. One group argued that middle school teachers need training to teach differently. I observed that many taxpayers feel that there is too much running around after the latest educational fad in the school systems. So I asked them: how many of you noticed these fads? How many of you feel that your teachers were teaching different things/different ways? All except 2 felt that there had been no changes in the way teachers taught. Maybe the content of the curriculum changed, but not the teaching methods. The students mostly agreed: Even if you give teachers new materials to teach, they will still use their old ways of teaching.
2. One group discussed the problems of gangs, and we observed that poverty was a root cause of gang formation. So I said, "What if we redistributed income, so the rich were less rich and the poor had more money?" I was told that was a stupid idea. :) The desire to keep money one has made outweighs their desire to see gangs eliminated. I thought that was interesting (and a little sad). But I think of my expression of opinions as seeds, ideas they can gnaw over, possibilities they are at least exposed to.
(Note: lest anyone think I am trying to brainwash them... uh, no. These guys have no problem telling me I'm stupid or wrong when they think I am.)