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– In the above video, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said something that really bothered me:

“My parents borrowed $1,000 from each my grandmothers to put a $2,000 down payment on a house in Livingston. They did it because they wanted me to get the best public education I could. I know if they hadn’t done that and I had gone to Newark public schools, I probably would not be standing here as governor today.”

Aside from implying an entire generation of children in Newark will likely be failures, his statement is problematic.

I went to a low-performing urban school – John Marshall High School – and went to Cornell. I had great teachers and access to advanced courses. In other words, the education was there for the taking.

The worst part about going to Marshall was seeing classmates not achieve their potential. Was that the school’s fault? There were low expectations and dysfunction, but that doesn’t fully explain why some kids did well and others didn’t. Family, community and personal choices also play a big role.

If you think my Marshall example is too dated, check out East High School. It’s been on the state’s bad schools list for a while now, but consistently sends students to the Ivy League.

Would Chris Christie have been governor had he attended Marshall? My guess is yes.

– Speaking of Governor Christie, he and Governor Cuomo are on a list of most popular governors.

– The Democrat and Chronicle has a new electronic edition of the newspaper, free for a short time. I don’t see the need for this product, which is akin to a PDF version of the paper. 

This week’s food column in City Newspaper is full of great tidbits, such as Tap and Mallet opening a place in Corn Hill Landing. There are also details on a local restaurant week.

22 Responses to Yes, You Would Be Governor

  1. April 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    Rachel, I really believe that your background and intelligence makes you uniquely qualified for analyzing the issue of urban schools. Your experience should give people hope. The point I’m most in agreement with is that city schools can give a great education to a student who’s trying and has some level of support at home. The other side of the coin though… if a kid is more of a follower than a leader, not so strong and independent as you, they might benefit from being in a school where the student body has more support at home. But back to the quality of schools and teachers. I believed that at least 95% of the teachers are great, but I’d still like their to be a way to get rid of the few bad apples.

  2. April 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm Steve M responds:

    Comparing inner-city Rochester to inner-city Newark, NJ is quite a stretch. But, in general your point is a valid one. I would like to understand the greater context of his comments though.

  3. April 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm James Simons responds:

    Couldn’t agree with you more with regards to urban education! Shame on Governor Christie for not giving credit to all of the great urban school achievers, like yourself.

    I also don’t see the point of the D&C’s e-edition. Is it for people who are afraid of online news, so it tries to replicate an actual paper?

  4. April 12, 2012 at 12:53 am Edward Richards responds:

    Well, he does have a valid arguement, does he not? His point, unfortunate as it is, IS valid. You do not need a study to prove it.

    When parents are educated, they make educated decisions. And appareantly, Cities (including Rochester) are not a part of those.

  5. April 12, 2012 at 8:44 am Reggie Henderson responds:

    I think inner-city Rochester and inner-city Newark are comparable, and that Rachel’s experiences prove that Governor Christie’s argument is not valid. I guess Governor Christie’s parents recognized that he wouldn’t be strong and independent enough to succeed around students from disadvantaged backgrounds. But it’s a very odd thing for a Governor to say, people that care about their kids shouldn’t live Trenton NJ?

  6. One of the many (and really, I cannot believe how often we still want to make the issue one dimensional) problems for inner city schools is concentrated poverty. Too many parents do not have the time to sit with their kids because they are at work when their children are home. Or they have any number of personal/mental health issues of their own that stem from living in poverty. If Governor Christie’s parents really cared that much about his education, they would have spent the time working with his teachers and counselors regardless of where he was going to school. Students in suburban schools get a leg up because at least one parent is usually home to make sure they do their work, and suburban schools generally have a smaller student to teacher ratio. It is easier, as a teacher, to make up for those (rarer) cases where a child has little to no supervision when you have less students to worry about.

    I would also point out, Rachel, that while you have every right to be proud of your drive, talent and the accomplishments that they have allowed you to achieve, you also benefited from having a parent who was an educator. One that, from what I have been told by former students of his, taught with particular zeal.

    • April 12, 2012 at 9:35 am Rachel responds:

      No question I had advantages. That’s kind of the point I’m making.

      • April 12, 2012 at 9:53 am Mo Blounte responds:

        So you don’t think there’s an advantage to a kid attending Brighton vs Marshall?

        • April 12, 2012 at 11:00 am Rachel responds:

          I do think there’s an advantage because poverty is not concentrated. That’s not to Brighton’s credit or the fault of the RCSD, as Christie would have you believe.

          • April 12, 2012 at 11:57 am Mo Blounte responds:

            I can kinda relate to Gov Christie. I was in a large public school and labels/tracks are prevalent. It’s nearly impossible to change that once it happens. My parents were by far not rich, but they sent me to private school. If I ever become governor or when I reflect on how successful my life has been I will certainly point to that as being why I am where I am. It was way to easy to fall out or never get into the Ivy league track at the public school.

            I’ve been studying the school grades you posted the other day and Brighton’s are almost unbelievably high. Much better than fairport, penfield, and even pittsford. It’s hard to say there is much of a difference poverty wise between those places. It really makes you wonder just how much of a difference it would make. And the opposite, How many governors don’t make it out of Marshall.

  7. April 12, 2012 at 9:59 am Mary S. responds:

    I know you don’t want to believe it, but its absolutely true. You’re one of the lucky ones Rachel, but statistics shows there’s a huge difference in outcomes between inner city schools and suburban education, whatever the reason may be (poverty, parents education, transportation, safety…). I was in the urban-suburban program, and I know if I hadn’t gotten in to it, I wouldnt be where I’m at now (educated, doing well, and maybe governor one day). So instead of being bothered by his comments, I rather see what we can do to change the validity of it.

  8. I’m not sure how you feel as though you’re qualified to report on Newark schools. Yes, you went through the Rochester, NY public school system but Rochester’s schools would be considered good when compared to many Newark schools. Have you ever spent a significant amount of time in Newark? Met with members of the community? Toured the Newark school system and interviewed parents, teachers, and students? If you did I think You’d be amazed just how serious the issue is and just how much more worse off Newark students are then Rochester students.

    • April 12, 2012 at 10:58 am Rachel responds:

      I’m not “reporting” on anything. I’m making an observation about a comment. And the profile of both districts are similar…high poverty and high need. But this isn’t a comparison. It’s pointing out the school systems are not wholly to blame for poor performance.

  9. April 12, 2012 at 11:25 am Reggie Henderson responds:

    ok, so now i actually watched the video of Chris Christie. It starts out so strong pointing out what a disadvantage it is for kids in blighted urban areas. I’m thinking, “holy cow, this guys a Democrat, he’s going to talk about how much support needs to be given those kids”. Then… he blames it on the schools. What a slap in the face to educated people who decided to actually help those kids instead of abandoning them. The downward spiral of striking out at those that actually want to help that Christie proposes in my mind could lead to a “Hunger Games society” where everything is in a few select areas and just utter poverty exist everywhere else. (oh wait… are we already there?)

  10. April 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm Lynn E responds:

    No matter what, it is the poverty in Newark that causes problems in the schools. I’m not sure if you had the same poverty that other students at Marshall were experiencing but the amount of poverty of families and neighborhoods causes academic failure for most schools. I worked at East High School for awhile and there are a core group of teachers’ kids and others who take the AP classes, etc. and they often go to good schools but they are a school within a school. Cut off from a lot of what goes on around them.

  11. As Rachel’s mother I can tell you that her father and I made a clear decision that we wanted our children to attend city schools. We believed in the schools, and we believed that our children could be well educated in a multicultural environment. It seemed hypocritical to us to be educators in the RCSD and not support the product.

    That said, there was a core of students in Rachel’s classes who were honors students and got an education second to none, with AP courses that were true AP courses and college acceptances to Cornell, U of R, Brown University, and RIT.

    With my son’s experience, there was resentment that all his neighborhood friends went to Aquinas, and he thought, perhaps, we didn’t love him enough, because we made him go to City schools. It was difficult to explain our point of view and explain that each family makes the decision they feel is best for them. However, he also received a good education and thrived on the section 5 football team as well.

    But that was then and this is now,and it is my opinion that the large level of poverty, absent of a solid middle class, makes competition at the college readiness level very difficult to achieve. My former students were capable, yet often clueless about what children in the suburbs are accomplishing academically, and not aware of their deficits with regard to reading, writing, math and analysis at higher levels of thought. Efforts to take the Algebra 2 or Chemistry Regents classes were met with resistance by students and parents, because “they are not needed to graduate.” The few that did take these classes often didn’t put the time in for homework that is needed to master the topics. They didn’t pass the state regents exams for these reasons, not understanding or caring that an hour a night for math homework is not unreasonable.

    And of course, the school is blamed if the students are not at a four year college readiness level. This breaks my heart, because I know the students have the brain power to achieve so much more. But they don’t have the will or motivation to do more because they don’t see from other students what that “more ” means.

    Bottom line in my opinion.. an entirely new paradigm is needed, instead of putting money into a broken system, and it needs to start at birth.

    • April 13, 2012 at 11:11 am Reggie Henderson responds:

      susan, thank you so much for sharing that. You are my hero and a better person than me. Congratulations on your tremendous success with Rachel. And there’s nothing I would love more than to here what you would propose as a new paradigm.

      • My ideas are very radical, and would cost money, but not necessarily more than we presently spend on urban education. The first idea would be to dissolve urban school districts in their entirety. This idea is very unpopular politically, because the suburbs purposely want to keep impoverished children away from them. The students would be divided up among the suburban districts. There may be some families who could volunteer to be “after school families” for one or two students each, in case a student misses the school bus home, or needs a kitchen table to do homework, and for other situations like schools closing early.

        My second idea is to lease land in the country and have a communal living system including dormitories and family apartments. On a strictly voluntary basis with consent of family, babies would come at birth or close to it, and their parents can come as well, if they want to live and work on the commune. Food would be grown and cooked on the property, and any family members would work at a job commensurate with their abilities, including day care and medical centers, food service, landscaping, etc. Parents can only stay if they are law abiding, but they don’t have to be there, because there would be folks to be surrogate parents and raise the children. There are many retired folks who may like to help out with this concept as well.This concept embraces the idea of “it takes a village to raise a family.”

        The concept here is that children come at birth and can be exposed to all the things they need early in life, like language acquisition, nurturing and stimulation, and a feeling of security out of crime ridden areas. I believe this model could thrive and be replicated all over the country, and potentially break the cycle of poverty as we presently know it.

        These are ideas that I am sure need lots of discussion and tweaking, but if anyone is reading this who has political clout and perhaps a few million dollars seed money for the second concept, I am listening. Rachel, please feel free to blog on my concepts.

        • April 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

          Sounds like someone’s been reading BF Skinner’s Walden Two. I guess there’s still idealist out there! Anyway, your success with Rachel is certainly a good “proof of concept” that the city school district can produce success!

  12. April 13, 2012 at 9:07 am ikejames responds:

    I think this was also a shot at Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Booker’s star is on the rise in Jersey, and Christie probably perceives him as a threat. Christie has shown a thugish approach to handling opposition, so this was probably more about bad mouthing Newark than anything else.

    • April 13, 2012 at 11:09 am Reggie Henderson responds:

      ikejames, I believe you’re correct. Governor Christie’s callous disregard for really helping those in need is shocking.

  13. Ikejames,

    I was just thinking the same thing when listening to the news this morning. Can you blame Christie for being worried about the comparison after stories like this?


    Just take a look at him. You know Christie would have problems going up those stairs in normal circumstances let alone something like this.

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