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Randy Speck

Superintendent , Madison District Public Schools

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Debate: Should public schools take on the responsibility for offering basic needs like food and health care to students and families?

Schools may no longer be just a place for parents to drop their kids off for six and a half hours each day. Due to various socio-economics, schools increasingly find themselves in a new place of influence. The impact of that influence could have a major impact on communities. Schools have access to be able to provide three meals a day through various breakfast, lunch and dinner programs. Schools have access to healthcare through School Based Health Centers to be able to provide services to students, their families and the community. However, the debate is...should schools have this responsibility?

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  • Oct 27 2012: I think schools should focus on making the learning environment conducive for pupils and students; but I hope we do not become a society where parents abandon their responsibilities to the school authority.
    Educating a child is the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the education sector, so I'd say that schools should meet the basic needs when the child is at school.
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      Oct 28 2012: I agree that schools should focus on making a good learning environment for students, but in some situations children haven't had a proper meal in days, are dealing with sick ,or neglectful parents. We don't know what some of these kids go through from 3:30pm when school is out to 9:00am the next morning.
      I think that if kids are getting a proper 3 meals a day at school (if they can't get it at home) it would foster a better learning environment for the student and be able to keep kids from rough households coming to school.
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        Oct 29 2012: Alyson,

        "We don't know what some of these kids go through from 3:30pm when school is out to 9:00am the next morning."

        It breaks my heart sometimes to hear of students who spend the hours outside of school "surviving". My hope is that we can create an environment that uses school as a catalyst for growth, creativity, safety, nurturing, etc. Schools may have had an initial mission to educate children...that of course still exist but the mission has expanded and in some places the mission is to break the cycle that now consumes so many students and their families.
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    Oct 26 2012: Legally, shifting responsibilities also underlies shifting regarding rights, and no parent should ever be separated from their right to feed and to care for their children!

    As public schools are no independed entireties, as usually they part of the government, the question therefore refers to such.

    Maybe it is because I am an incorrigible romantic, I still see the ideal of any democratic government, to serve the needs of the people. By this, there comes an inherent responsibility for the government to support those in need and this without shifting any rights while doing so.

    But the question of your debate somehow fits into a pattern of modern societies which can be observed lately.

    In this pattern, it seems, that the established structures of family life we used to have, are breaking apart for reasons, which, at least I, have not completely understand yet.

    Partially, it seems, that leaving our old 'role models' of woman behind, just requires an infrastucture for our children to be taken care of by our society, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    But it also seems not to be a matter of choice anymore, for a woman to choose to persue her career, as more as it became financially mandatory to have two bred-winner within a family, as otherwise, a single income would not be able to support a given standard of living anymore. This tendency seems to spread especially within middle-class families nowadays, which, by its increasing numbers, is just alarming.

    Having this in mind, the origin of your question may then just reflect how to patch symptoms, whereas I also think it always helps to seek for and to heal the causes.

    The scope of your debate widens this way, and I think, it just has to.
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    Oct 30 2012: For a pure pragmatist the school lunch (breakfast, snack and dinner?) programs make sense. Critical thinking, on the other hand, leads one to consider some additional questions like: 1) Are schools staffed with trained people to administer comprehensive health care to the entire student body? 2) Are schools funded to administer the proper feeding of all their students? 3) Do education college curriculums currently include training for feeding and health care administration? 4) Should the government take responsibility for students health care and nutritional needs? 5) Do parents/grandparents/guardians expect the school to provide such services? 6) Will taxpayers support the funding necessary to run provide such services? 7) Is there a temptation to manipulate the budget at the expense of learning? 8) Is this Socialism? If yes, is it the will of the people? Etc. etc. I argue against the empowering of schools to feed and care for the health of their students. If students are not being cared for by their parents the school should report to one of the existing social welfare bureaucracies for corrective action. If the existing child protection bureaucracy is inefficient and unreliable they should be investigated for failure to provide services demanded in their charter. The USA has made a partial transition to Socialism. To adopt the proposals in this debate would be a giant step further down the Socialist path. No! No! No!
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    Oct 29 2012: Is there a correlation between more government and the current condition of Detroit?
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      Oct 29 2012: Pat,

      I can almost see the sarcasm coming from your post :). I am not advocating more government...actually quite the opposite. I am not looking for more assistance or $$$. I just wonder if we spend it differently, with a different focus, would we have different results. Schools get the students regardless of whether or not they have anything to eat or a place to sleep. My premise is that if we possibly re-focused some efforts into kids who had a healthier lifestyle, would our academic results improve?
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        Oct 29 2012: I hear you, it is hard to argue against feeding kids, truthfully I'm not sure I disagree on a tactical level but from a strategic level this is a problem.

        By definition humor is pointing out things that don't make sense. Detroit (although I'm not sure your district resembles Detroit) doesn't make sense, Detroit is it's own caricature.

        To be blunt, generally speaking public servants want to build their empire. This is a natural tendency with everyone. The problem is that this empire really has no accountability other than getting on the budget, which has little to do with what the customer/taxpayer wants.

        More government meddling has created a dearth of economic opportunities in Detroit. The very simple truth is that ALL jobs are created by investment. Detroit scares the hell out of any investor.

        These seemingly innocuous programs have a way of metastasizing into a Detroit.
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          Oct 29 2012: "These seemingly innocuous programs have a way of metastasizing into a Detroit."

          Pat...like I mentioned to Bob up above, I'm still formulating a way to use these programs as a way to benefit, not to become an empire of social programs with zero accountability. 40% of the student body that comes to the district I lead lives in Detroit. They come to us for something different...something they are not getting. I feel a responsibility to give them that, knowing it is idealistic..knowing some may misuse and abuse...but as I said to Bob, it's hard to just sit back and do nothing.
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        Oct 29 2012: I think that as the superintendent you first responsibility is to define what the problem is.

        I would think some investigating is in order.

        I would follow the money trail and find out if there are irregularities. Find out if there is any other kind of corruption. Find out where there is waste either financial, workers being under-worked, or other types of waste.

        If you find the real problem the solution should be obvious, if the solution is not obvious you have not found the real problem and should keep investigating.

        After you have done the above you may want to look into a management philosophy called lean that has been very successfully implemented by government like police departments and other agencies.

        You may also want to get donations from corporations for food.

        You may want to look into teaching the kids economics and logic, as they obviously need to know some stuff about this subject.

        I think your real problem is that you have not defined your problem. You need to do some LOOKING.
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          Oct 29 2012: There are 55 million students in the US who attend K-12 schools....there are 16 million children under the age of 18 that are considered hungry or below the poverty level. Sixty percent of the student population I serve is mobile...meaning they will not be with us the entire school year. This in itself is part of the problem
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        Oct 29 2012: In that case what is the obvious solution?

        If one does not leap to mind you have not defined the problem.
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    Oct 29 2012: We need to provide "spark" to kids. Only 25% of school age children have it.

    SPARK: How Youth Thrive


    "Peter L. Benson, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, is one of the world's leading authorities on positive human development. Dr. Benson is the author or editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change, including, most recently, Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers Dr. Benson's international reputation in human development emerged in the 1990s through his innovative, research-based framework of Developmental Assets, the most widely recognized approach to positive youth development in the United States and, increasingly, around the world. Before joining Search Institute in 1978, Dr. Benson was chair of the psychology department and chair of the program in human development and social relations at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana."
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      Oct 29 2012: Hi Theo,

      Many thanks for the link!
      Y'know, I was once married to a very talented teacher totally committed to nurturing "spark" as Bensen promotes. She was fearful of metrics and economics turning schools into political training camps.
      From childhood, i was indoctrinated with the great unifying power of public education. And, indeed, I found my own school experience to be relatively inspiring, if you discounted all the violence from punitive teachers and rebellion turned sociopathic by a good 1/4 of those disenfranchised by the system.
      It was only when I tried to give my own child the benefit of school education that I realised that the little benefit I enjoyed at school had been totally homogenised into a command and control structure 100% dedicated to political indoctrination and the mission statement of fitting chidren to "Jarbs".
      Now it happene that my child is high-functioning autistic, and of course, the political agenda of schools was to indulge political corectness with the tokenism of "school aid funding" for the "special children". I was led to believe that this effort was genuine. However, after my child came home afer 12 months of this and told me "dad, why don't you just get a gun and shoot me", that I gathered up a team of sociologists and confronted the state school administration with the situation of their system traumatising my child. The outcome was that the "aid" program was being syphoned to fill funding gaps and that the system was incapable of conducting political indoctrination in the presence of the genuine needs of my child. Between our family and the psychs, we formulated the paperwork to just walk away from that train wreck and bring my son back into the superior environment of the home. I feel sad for all those poor little kids who did not have a monster like me for a father - I'm afraid of no one and I know how to fight. Just like my kid who gave one of the "teachers" such a great kick in the shins on the way out.
      Jarbs are for sheep
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    Oct 29 2012: we are talking about "creche' ?

    Organisations become psychopathic by definition the instant they become subject to monetary economics (funding).
    Schools are already destroying creativity and critical thinking through this dynamic. There is evidence that they are also physically poisoning children through school food.
    One also has to look at organisational dynamics to observe that few in the organisation have the corporate mission statement as highest priority - empires sprout in organisations as soon as resource governance is concentrated in a single process or department - as this defines an advantage vector for those who accept competition as self-defining.
    The parental structure, however has bio-physical re-enforcement to keep the child's nurture as priority. I can see no significant benefit in suplanting that dynamic.

    How about we just dump all our children into a pit and bury them? It would be far more cost effective. If you agree with this, by all means, send your kids to the creche' - the buldozer option will be on the table when we get machines to do what kids are being trained to do now.
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      Oct 29 2012: "The parental structure, however has bio-physical re-enforcement to keep the child's nurture as priority. I can see no significant benefit in suplanting that dynamic."

      Mitch...I agree, but what to do when that responsibility isn't taking place. Schools would have a lot of additional instructional time (throw in some creativity as well) if they were not becoming a major source of nurturing for students.
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        Oct 29 2012: Well, that's just it - they are not nurturing the "students".
        Perhaps a few maveric teachers still practice "closed door teaching", but governmental imposition of "metric testing" ensures that no teacher can close the door on fascist boot-camp.
        Childen are not "students" - forget that lie. Get over "instruction" as well - children are not "instructed" - they get hints about how to achieve their goals - from people who have done something similar.
        Take all the words about "education" and rip them out of your dictionary - they are all lies.
        Here's a model that might have a hope:
        Those with a true calling to nurture the chosen aspirations of children - PLUS those who have spent their youth acquiring skills (our elders) make themselves available at a "university" - the community and families feed them and make sure they are given dignity.
        The children go to these places and find their way to the appropriate "helper". Peer dynamics help them find the best helper, and learning is undertaken by doing - with the support of teh acumulated knowledge of teh world as reference - in books and computers. The child comes and goes as he/she wants. All of it is voluntary. Such a place would be like a library - but the dynamic would spread into the community with children following their heros when and where it is practical - from libraray, to homes to workplaces.
        (edit: Just checked your profile. Apologies if you find this as an attack on your career. I can see that you have a genuine desire to do better for our children. But .. in the framwork of schools as defined by government and market dynamics, there is little hope of seeing the way forward. Try this: Humanity seems to have 3 or 4 modes of social interaction: dominance, leadership, reciprocity and communality. The underlying flaw of our social paradigm is that all operates as reciprocity - as represented by money. When you apply that dynamic to leadership or communality - it fails. Education is part of communality.)
  • Oct 27 2012: Schools are a major influence on the students. Teachers are the students' role models. Schools are not only temples of learning but also are a home away from home where teachers only need to teach and look after the kids. Whereas at home, parents will be busy with office work and household chores. Some of them might not have the time to cook food for the children or take them for regular check-ups. So yes, the schools must take on the responsibility of offering basic needs like food and health care.
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      Oct 27 2012: Saritha,

      Thank you for your comments. There was a time when schools were reserved for academic study only, but I believe those days are gone. Schools can be a community catalyst for learning (both students and adults) and for good health.

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    Nov 5 2012: I appreciate everyone's comments because they somewhat play into what has happened on the East Coast of the United States. Hurricane Sandy comes rolling through and completely disrupts life as people...families...schools know it. Now they begin the process of re-building. People will be (and have been) giving to these communities, but like in a lot of things, the infrastructure isn't in place to provide quick relief. Government agencies such as FEMA and other non-profits spring into action and in most cases do a great job (non-profits move quicker...not as much bureaucracy). But I wonder, if the foundation of a school community was different, could relief come faster. If each school/school district acted as a hub that was connected to the needs of the community in a way that was different than local city councils. Schools know the needs of students and families...that could be leveraged to service the needs of families much faster.
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      Nov 5 2012: Without genuinely defining the problem that would be a waste of time and money.
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        Nov 5 2012: Pat,

        Do you think there is a root cause to a problem? I sometimes think problems are not that complicated, however the human element adds complexities.

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          Nov 5 2012: I always think that problems are not that complicated.

          But if you listened to the politicians, unions, crony capitalists the problems are insurmountable.

          Of course they are not, which is why defining them is paramount. As then you can come up with a plan.

          The question is do really want to serve your students or just build your empire, do you really care about them or your personal agenda?

          You may take offense to my question in which case you answered my question.
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      Nov 5 2012: Randy, I see a problem that you are attempting to seperate the schools from government .... they are not and are becoming more legislated every year. Further, if Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gets his way the schools will all be under federal control.

      Be aware the the White House Rural Sustainability Act includes schools .. as one of the 25 major agencies assigned to run it is the department of Education ... this is a extention of United Nations Acticle 21.

      Just being a devils advocate to the above. Bob.
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      Nov 6 2012: Randy, I am very interested in hearing your summary of this conversation.

      I wish you the best in your effort.

  • Nov 4 2012: Maybe is the other way around families should take over education. Given that communities and markets are going on line, humans are pointing at not going out for anything.
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    Nov 1 2012: I am so pleased that I happened upon this TEDxTalk about a baby's point of you. It really speaks to the hard of the problem we are facing in our society. I do hope others will listen to it.


    At about minute 15 of the talk the speaker mentions the importance relationship, the social emotional model a child creates early on, and how it can affect how the learning mathematics at a later age . I see this observation as spot on and might well to be considered as the root of all of the issues we are seeing in schools today.
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    Oct 29 2012: Let's kill two or three birds with one stroke of legislation. How about we teach the students to cook, plan a menu, table presentation, and how to throw and informal dinner. Let us also teach how to shop, farm, garden for the best ingredients. The list is actually endless. Is this not true education? Let's take learning way beyond abstract and give our kids real life skills. Families in the past usually took care of these types of things but with both parents working to fund the idea of the betterment of mankind, who has time for their own kids?.

    The one problem I have legislating responsibility is that of the unintended consequence of irresponsibility. Let's give our kids the knowledge and the know how to be able to take care of themselves. Let's NOT teach them that the responsibility falls on someone else.
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    Oct 29 2012: Randy. Would this not be a case of treating the symthoms while the desease goes rolling merrily along. Since 85% are eligable for free meals they are also on welfare and have medical, etc ... You offer nothing they do not already have. They have housing, food stamps, medical, etc .. You only offer to centeralize the services they have available. I have seen this from my youth as a orphan put into a home and then a institution. The environment never changed. I used the system and abused it as much as possible and complained about it all the time it gave to me.

    Randy you are a good guy and you mean well but this will not re-juvinate a community. Some will always make it out and other will always remain. Thats just the way it is.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Oct 29 2012: "Randy you are a good guy and you mean well but this will not re-juvinate a community"

      So, am I to then give up and not try. yes, the idea of centralizing is in many ways what I ma talking about and Yes, I believe and know that some will misuse and abuse, but how I can sit by and not work in some way to disrupt the system and cycle. It may be case of treating the symptoms and to get at the root cause of the disease, it will take more than me and my "good guyness" (thanks for the compliment :). I'm still trying to formulate the "getting to the root cause" part...that's where my idealism can both be helpful and an obstacle.
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        Oct 29 2012: Heck no do not quit. In my last three jobs I was the devils advocate to almost all plans as my way of supporting the effort. I would not be a good TED friend if all I ever did was to agree. By pointing out UN Article 21 and the White House Rural Sustainability (environmental) Executive Order that has 25 major agencies including Education dedicated to it I have provided you with information and tools that would dove tail with your community concept. In the same reply I admonish you to be aware that these are designed to eliminate private property and limit rights. These programs are extremely aimed at socialism, big government, and the elimination of states rights.

        When Roman conquorers returned they were given a parade for all to see the glory of Rome. Beside him in the carrage was a person who whispered in his ear the dangers and that fame was fleeting.

        Some victories are shallow and the results not as sweet as hoped to be.

        The 16 year old on Oprha who was the family bread winner ... she had three babies. Welfare gave her a home, food stamps, WICK, transportation, and a stipend of 1600 per month per child.
        Just add your house payment, monthly food bill, all baby supplys to 4800 and then times that by 12 and you get her annual non taxabe wage. Rent 1000, food 800, baby goods 300, plus 4800 = 6900 X 12 = 82,800 a year. Not a bad salary. If she marries or goes to work she would lose all of this. So why would she.

        Good luck in your efforts.

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          Oct 30 2012: Bob...good stuff. I appreciate all of your thoughts.
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    R H 20+

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    Oct 29 2012: OmG. OmG... Being a Superintendent, I would assume you view this debate subject with abject horror. Not only do you have special ed, bilingual, gifted, 'free-lunch', parental involvement all the way from complete apathy to hyper-interference, school boards running schools who have no training in education, all while keeping a smiling face, now 'the people' ostensibly want to procreate children and make you responsible for raising them - with the absolute expectation that they will all get into Harvard. This is 'responsibility shifting' at its utter worst. Yet given the current rationale that many working people propose and many unemployed claim, it's an easy solution - for them - to child dump. Maybe if schools refuse, the public will ask the police and fire to raise their children. They pay their salaries too. How about the army? They already accept the failures that parents create to try to 'fix' their kids and protect the country at the same time, maybe they can have a 'special branch' called "Youth Made For America". The fact that you even thought it was necessary to open this 'subject' up for debate shows just how dangerous of a time we're in.
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      Oct 29 2012: RH

      The fact that I opened up the discussion is because of what I see. Children with barely anything to eat...older students trying to sneak into facilities so they can clean themselves or have a quiet place to sleep. Trust me, I would rather talk about kids being creative, innovative and amazing problem solvers and one day, i will get to that. However, until then, we have a society of kids (I can't worry about whose fault it is) that need schools to be bigger in scope of services than they currently are.
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        R H 20+

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        Oct 30 2012: With all due respect of your position Randy, I must heartily disagree. I understand that in many districts kids are ill-prepared for substantive learning. I understand that you are held accountable for test scores and a 'failing schools' rating. Maybe you see your schools as a 'last resort' for these kids or you have research that demonstrates how schools with such issues have used the tactics you're suggesting to improve student learning. But with the issues your discussing, I would challenge the police and the community to start doing their job so you could do yours before I'd volunteer to do their jobs too. Good luck and all the best.
  • Oct 29 2012: Why not? The alleged conservatives are always the ones telling us that the military reasons are some of the few valid government expenditures. Got you. The Army was the original advocate of the school lunch programs. Only healthy kids will make healthy soldiers.
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      Oct 29 2012: A government should concern itself with little more than the judiciary and defence.
      If you expect a government to stand in for true community, you will be dissapointed when it turns facist - as all abrogated social responsibility does. If that seems unacceptable - go out and start a community, the government won't.
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        Oct 29 2012: Mitch,

        So then can schools be that community...many local school districts are made up of primary, middle years and secondary...all coming from a local community. Although the $$$ for the schools is from the tax payers through the government, the "government" isn't the community. Couldn't schools serve as a template for what community possibly looks like?
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          Oct 29 2012: I see what you are saying Randy.
          I was a great believer in schools, but experience destroyed my faith.
          I learned the painful lesson that children teach themselves.
          No model that fails to accept that will get my suport.
          Unfortunately for me, I still believe in education.
          So how can that work?
          Well, if a school was a voluntary resource centre for children .. perhaps it could work.
          What is this so called "civillisation" that both parents must work all the daylight hours while their children languish behind the jarb-wire?
          That the underpayment of our teachers represents income-shifting from them to the higher paid parents - where education is a necessary baby-sitting service?
          What is this "society" that forces the diaspora of kin into hives of homogenised strangers?
          What is this "family" where we abandon our children at the first opportunity?
          What is this where the wisdom and knowledge of our elders is buried like landfill?
          I tell you what it is:
          It's the economy stupid. .. Well it would be if you could call it an "economy".
          It's money and usury and "Jarbs" and cars.
          It is farming gone mad - it is the farming of humans.
          Walk off the farm.
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          Oct 30 2012: Randy I like where you're going with this. Schools could be the center of the community, though I hope to salvage some ideas from Mitch's response. I too believe it should be a voluntary resource center, one in which children have access to a variety of courses that they are free to choose depending on their age and ability. They could then model (imitate) from true professionals practicing their crafts in a role model fashion. This would be more for music, wood working, machine building, writing etc... and later on chemistry and more.

          I agree that schools should support their communities by offering non-profit based health insurance. Providing healthy meals as well would make them a truly important part of the community, and help make their community truly important
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    Oct 28 2012: The CORE problem is with $$$ and ownership of land.

    Begin with John Locke's Treatises of Government: The canonical text for economic, political, & legal understanding of how an effective government works. 1st he introduces the rights of private property ownership with these 3 rational provisos:

    There must be enough left over
    You must not let it spoil (allow waste / have more than enough)
    You must mix your labor with it.

    Then he shows that with the introduction of $, along with men's tacit agreement to put value on it, all the provisos are no longer applicable.

    1. Now you no longer have to mix your labor with your property. Now you can buy labor and profit from money itself.
    2. There is no longer a consideration of spoilage, because money cannot spoil.
    3. There is no longer a consideration for whether there is $ left over for others, because ownership of $ is not a basic human right. And if money can buy land, without leaving enough for others, then access to land (for food/clothing/shelter) is no longer a basic human right. Which is how you force the excessive poor to die or come into submission..

    Then comes Adam Smith, (Wealth of Nations - another canonical text). He says this is natural law. (the invisible hand).

    Within natural law, he says, the scantiness of subsistence, that's caused by not enough money in the hands of the poor, puts natural limits on the "RACE of laborers". He states that the greater number of THEIR children MUST die in the name of the economic system, and the free market will take care of THAT by virtue of the existence of natural law.

    Our current economic model is not created to benefit you or children. It was created to enslave us for as long as we don't demand much. The neediest are the incentive that the rich want you to see so that you don't upset the apple cart. They need to poor to scare us into submission.

    We don't need $$$ as a social glue. There've ben moneyless cultural systems that are not as cruel as monied ones.
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    Oct 27 2012: No, schools should not have to provide food to the needy, but neither should we be desperately clinging to a socio-economic model that imposes poverty on an endlessly growing number of people.

    I suspect that we can get out from under our slavery when we harness enough energy so that individuals can have affordable power plants as part of their own homes. (In addition to solar, wind, and wave energy, hydrogen fuel cells seem to be the cheapest and most effective way to do this as fuel cells can be made with Ball jars.) We would probably have it already if power plants could figure out how to make electricity in enough capacity to sell it; but they have not. These systems would have to work on a home by home basis, where people can grow food under lights and come together as communities in food-sharing ventures. Then we do not have to give up electric cars or food or heat & air conditioning, and will then have the courage to step away from the greatest abomination to hit mankind (money).

    When this is accomplished, schools can return to being schools, and can focus on the joy of learning. They can begin to focus on ending the killing off of creativity that they now impose on students. Then life will be very different, and children will not grow up feeling vulnerable and inferior.
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      Oct 27 2012: TED Lover,

      Thanks for your comments...I'm curious however about your comment "but neither should we be desperately clinging to a socio-economic model that imposes poverty on an endlessly growing number of people."

      I'm with you on the schools killing creativity notion, but I'm not sure I completely agree with the above statement.
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        Oct 28 2012: The CORE problem is with $$$ and ownership of land.

        Begin with John Locke's Treatises of Government: The canonical text for economic, political, & legal understanding of how an effective government works. 1st he introduces the rights of private property ownership with these 3 rational provisos:

        There must be enough left over
        You must not let it spoil (allow waste / have more than enough)
        You must mix your labor with it.

        Then he shows that with the introduction of $, along with men's tacit agreement to put value on it, all the provisos are no longer applicable.

        1. Now you no longer have to mix your labor with your property. Now you can buy labor and profit from money itself.
        2. There is no longer a consideration of spoilage, because money cannot spoil.
        3. There is no longer a consideration for whether there is $ left over for others, because ownership of $ is not a basic human right. And if money can buy land, without leaving enough for others, then access to land (for food/clothing/shelter) is no longer a basic human right. Which is how you force the excessive poor to die or come into submission..

        Then comes Adam Smith, (Wealth of Nations - another canonical text). He says this is natural law. (the invisible hand).

        Within natural law, he says, the scantiness of subsistence, that's caused by not enough money in the hands of the poor, puts natural limits on the "RACE of laborers". He states that the greater number of THEIR children MUST die in the name of the economic system, and the free market will take care of THAT by virtue of the existence of natural law.

        Our current economic model is not created to benefit you or children. It was created to enslave us for as long as we don't demand much.

        We don't need $$$ as a social glue. There've been moneyless cultural systems that are not as cruel as monied ones. When schools stop serving $$$, they serve something far grander. They serve US.
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          Oct 29 2012: The question is which disposition works, yours or Locke/Smith?
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          Oct 29 2012: "When schools stop serving $$$"...so, at this point, we need $$$ to be able to serve families. My belief is that if we serve the family using the $$$ we have at our disposal, entire communities can be transformed and changed. Since I cannot get us to a moneyless culture, using resources that become available to benefit, serve and grow families is a small way to assist in breaking the cycle of poverty and low student achievement.
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    Oct 27 2012: Aside from the types of things that have already been mentioned, food and health, I would like to see schools facilitate interventions for dental hygiene. Dental issues place children on a trajectory of poor health, as well as psychological problems like low self esteem. It would be well worth the investment.
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      Oct 27 2012: Theodore,
      I believe you are correct...dental, vision, mental health options are services I have seen used in school based health clinics. These become invaluable to students and their families.
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        Oct 29 2012: Randy I am always swimming up stream from the 95% minority of the socialists here on TED so this is nothing new.

        I know this group is against capitalism but for a government agency to enter into competition with Doctors, Dentists, mental health professionals, and the grocers is an unfair advantage that has roots in the leagal system. In this case I don't think the President can call it a tax again and get away with it .... again. Schools are not either chartered or licensed to conduct these ventures it is not in the mission statement or in the budget that is derived from the public.

        This appears to be more fall out from United Nations Article 21 and the White House Executive Order on Rural Sustainability.

        Randy I am not a muse but here is what I forsee.

        1. If Obamacare is not repealed then clinics will indeed apear but not in the school. That would mean Obama was re-elected and Arne Duncan will take over the school system as he has outlined.

        2. If this occurs then it will be totally funded by the state government by federal mandate. This and obamacare have alread been identified as the fatal blow to the state budget at which time the federal government will take over the states debit and will dictate all terms to the state.

        Either way it will no longer be the problem of the schools board, superintendents, principals, or the parents as they will have no say in the federal administration of the system.

        This is not alarmist or inventive just a logic sequence of events that have historical precidence.

        These people should be careful of what they wish for .... they may get their wish.

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          Oct 29 2012: When I read this I am reminded of the words of Scrooge, "Are there no poor houses?"
          Nowhere in this reply is there an alternative approach for provide children with healthier lives. Should we be against children having healthier lives and the promise of a brighter future?

          Schools and the government, and I mean to say taxpayers since they are the ones who foot the bill, are already providing these services in one form or another; school lunches, and in some cases breakfast, states currently fund medical coverage in one form or another. The problem is that they can do better. The food we service our children needs to be eatable, and good for them. Dominos Pizza is projected to be in 240 school districts this year. Companies like Dominos Pizza jump at the opportunity to promote their products in schools because they know that they will be developing lifelong customers. The joke is that the pizza schools were serving were worse.
          The Farm Bill which funds school lunches has not been revised in decades. The Congress tried to revise to pass a revision in 2011, and it fell victim to political wrangling.

          This needn't be part of a socialist agenda. Certainly, socialist are not the only ones that care about children. Or are they?
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        Oct 29 2012: Although you have made an emotional response ... I do not see anywhere in the reply that said I was not correct in a suggestion of how this would play out.

        The Farm Bill as you put it ... being UN Article 21 ... was certainly bypassed it is size by Obama in the White House Rural Sustainability (the new name for Environmental) Executive Order. He has committed 25 federal agencies to support that effort.

        Remember there is a ying and a yang to everything .... as you suggest I may be a scrooge the other extreme would be to remind you that Hitler also had youth camps. There must be a middle where we can discuss this versus the extremes and the emotional.
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      Oct 28 2012: I think you may be interested in the works of Vermin Supreme! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jKszduiK8E&noredirect=1

      All in jest, of course.
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      Oct 28 2012: I would also really like to see grade, junior, and high school work to educate kids on elementary first aid skills.
  • Oct 27 2012: "Should public schools take on the responsibility for offering basic needs like food and health care to students and families?"

    If it's the only way to get it done politically, then yes, but it's really better if the government takes charge, although providing meals does ensure that the kids still have something to eat if the parents waste all their money on other things and it ensures they eat at least 5 healthy meals per week (unless it's one of those American schools that serve pizza and fries).
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      Oct 29 2012: John,

      I would be concerned about the "government taking charge" and believe it has to be a local decision. For the community I serve (one of those American schools :), offering options such as breakfast and supper may be a huge help for families. It's possible and probable and some may abuse the system as has been done throughout history, however my hope is that my premise still remains....that schools can reach out and use the influence they have to be catalyst for community to re-build themselves. I do not believe that governments or schools for that matter can cure all of societies ills, but I know that good can come from centers of learning. And a pre-K through high school system that has a focus on serving others rather than themselves may prove to be a template that can be followed and emulated.
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    Oct 26 2012: I just read the comments. Everyone agree in the ties to education and school meals. Ony Lejan, from Germany, addresses the social aspects as he has them in his country and that the government should prvide these services and since the school is a government agency why not. He also address the role of parenting and the lack of the "mother" in the modern home. In your scenerio it is more closely tied to social-economic issues (85% qualifies for free meals, etc ..)

    I do not expect a answer to this political input .. If Obamacare is enacted then clinics will be everywhere and the hospitals will play a lessor role as will doctors. Would this resolve the question of where you see we are going and the schools role in that direction. Perhaps that alone would be your answer. I think the food meal supplements are here to stay and possiably expand.

    Currently when a student is sick you isolate them from the rest of the school population. Under the other example you would invite the sick into the school and introduce them to the students and staff. If you get paid on seat time this would be a tragic mistake. In order to meet the state attendance requirements for completion of a "school year" your school calendar would have to have built in flexability as would you contracts with all of your staff on the possibility of a school shut down for medical infections brought in by the public.

    Some of that was way outside of the box but brainstorming is a good thing ... plan for the worst and hope for the best.

    Good to hear from you again. Wish you well. Bob.
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      Oct 29 2012: Bob,

      Thank you for this input. I see a world that is hurting, beginning with it's children. I see churches and religious institutions looking too often inwardly and not enough outwardly. I see kids and families struggling every day, pulling themselves up "by the bootstraps" and doing everything they can to provide something better for their children. I have a different path to public school administration...I served for years as a private/Christian school Superintendent and was thankful to do so. That experience opened my eyes to seeing a world that is need of compassionate people, especially from those in leadership...those who can do something about it.

      I dare say I am more conservative in my thinking than a lot of my public school colleagues...I didn't "grow up" in the same system they did. My belief in the role of government is one that is a limited form. However, as I now serve a population of students and families that have basic needs, I am scouring around to find every possible form of support we can use as a school to grow the influence we have a school into the home. Trust me, I don't want anymore paperwork or one additional regulation, but I cannot sit back any longer. I'm tired of the educational conversations about standardized test scores...at this point, the families I serve could care less. They are wanting something better for their kids and if I can get the buy-in from faculty and staff (that is thankfully happening) that we have a greater purpose than to only teach math and science, then we may have the ability to grow our influence even more.

      I am very appreciative of the comments and debate that is going on here.
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    Oct 26 2012: I want to respond prior to reading the comments. You question has manty parts. 1) Is it the charter of the school to provide food and care. NO. 2) Are there programs where the school can offer food. YES. 3) School nurses are in place for dispensing doctor perscribed medications and attending medical needs and emergencies to registered students. 4) The emergence of the schools to medically treat student, families and the community would, in my opinion, drastically increase the liability of the school and make you subject to law suits. It would require open access to the school property to the community and entery into the facility during school hours. It would require a shift in focus and additional staffing to maintain records, medical supplies, and enlarge the facilities to handle the patient care. Nurses that are district wide would now have to be hired for each school within the district. Schools are certainly not budgeted for these events and hopes of more funding grows slim. I would suggest that cafeterias and clinics each be stand alone or have outside entrances and controlled doors to the school facilities as a requirement.

    On a personal note, You as an administrator would be in direct fire from all sides and the paperwork load would increase to the nth degree. I would guess that it would require a full time assistant at some level to maintain all of the grants, licences, inspections, inventories, records, supply management, janitorial staffing, and medical equipment that is not currently necessary. How about the transport of patients that require immediate attention .. would the school "clinic" be liable for the transport.

    I understand the concern and where this is coming from. That a healthy and well fed child is a better learner is a natural tie to the food. However, the medical for the families is not a educational concern. Counties and cities are both manned and funded to provide this care.

    All the best. Bob.
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    Oct 26 2012: You will probably find that you will have to rely on volunteers more than ever now, just like my countries public health system does.
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    Oct 26 2012: I think schools are a natural vehicle for providing free and reduced price breakfasts and lunches. Children need to be at school right after breakfast and are at school at lunchtime five days per week.

    Providing these meals at school provides the best assurance that school children will have food to eat and provides an extra inducement to get to school.

    I have no familiarity with school districts that offer a dinner program.

    Is there another institution, Randy, that you think is better positioned to make sure these kids are eating?

    Or is your question not so much about who should provide the service as where the budget for food services should come from?
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      Oct 26 2012: Fritzie,

      My reasons for the question stem from the shift that has occurred over the past 10-15 years in which schools play an increasingly large role in the social education and raising of students. I may have once been a believer that "schools should just stick with teaching math, science and reading", however as I have grown in experience as an educational leader, I see the power and positive influence a school district can have. For example, the district that I lead offers universal breakfast to all students and a supper program to students who participate in after school academic enrichment activities. I serve a school district with 85% Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility and our families can struggle with basic needs such as food. I am seeing first-hand that the services we offer as a school, are having a real impact on the lives of families. I believe this philosophy can and will expand to other areas, health-care, etc. My question really is, should public schools take on the responsibility of being a community center in which the access that we have to various services will take on an active approach to providing a re-birth to a community that suffers from low socio-economics.
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        Oct 26 2012: I think the model of providing supplementary food and the sorts of medical care kids tend to require at school makes good sense. Limited counseling services also are sensible.

        After school programs that engage kids in safe and enriching activities are a great add on as well that make good use of the school building after hours.

        I don't think providing meal, health, or social services to those who are not students is a good fit with serving children. I think school should give kids some respite from adults' issues and problems.

        An exception is that I think it is highly valuable to offer evening opportunities to students' parents to come in and learn how best to support their children's learning.