September 08, 2007

News Journal provides forum for what we all knew

"Section 8 recipients change face of city's neighborhoods" is the headline in today's News Journal, and it provides a voice for those who state the obvious: That Section 8 housing usually results in a neighborhood going down the tubes.

Some City Council members and their longtime constituents contend the influx of new, low-income renters from the projects has been as bad for their already-struggling communities as the influx of expensive new neighborhoods has been good for downtown and the Riverfront. Nuisance crimes, litter, noise, loitering and poor yard care have increased as new Section 8 tenants moved in, they said.

No studies have been conducted that validate such contentions or suggest that crimes have spiked in those neighborhoods.

Actually, there has been a [related] study, and it says that there are little to no schooling benefits for low income children whose families happen to move into higher income neighborhoods. But really, why do you think there has been a dearth of such studies? Easy: No one wants to be called a racist or a classist when they report the results, especially ivory tower academics, the ones who usually do such "studies." Anyone with common sense already knows what these council members have said, and it's actually pretty amazing that the ridiculously PC News Journal allowed these sentiments to see print.

People will even outright ignore the on-ground reality to make their "case." Educationists like Richard Rothstein, who, in order to improve academic performance of poorer children advocates integrating whole neighborhoods by income level, is just one such "theorist." The recent study noted above refutes him. (Not surprisingly, it was the News Journal that provided the forum for Rothstein's out-there theories, as well as those of sociologist James Coleman. But the Journal never bothered to find out that Coleman actually changed his mind about the so-called benefits of forced social engineering, in his case busing.)

Granted, to be clear, not all Section 8 recipients fall into the category of those "dragging down" a neighborhood. But as many voucher recipients have never known anything but public assistance, it is difficult to get them to start appreciating what it means to maintain a decent residence -- especially when there is no incentive to do so. As Howard Husock, a housing expert at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government says, "If your rent is paid forever, then you don’t have an incentive to improve your living situation.” As I noted, it's basic common sense: You appreciate what you have when you've worked for it. If you get [keep getting] stuff for free, such appreciation and value is nil. Check out here for such Section 8 horror stories.

What is the solution? I don't know; however, I recall seeing a "60 Minutes" episode many years ago when Jack Kemp was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He had what I thought was an ingenious plan that offered just such needed incentives for public housing residents. Maybe it's time to bring that idea back.

Posted by Hube at September 8, 2007 09:03 PM | TrackBack

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You've been in education a while, do you think grouping students by ability and/or sex is a good idea? That is; are lower performing student better served with like peers or with better performers?

Posted by: Duffy at September 11, 2007 01:04 PM

Yes to both, Duff. The problem with gender separation is that it's usually judged illegal in public schools. Total heterogeneous [ability] grouping in classes is a mistake, IMO. The only way in which it can possibly function adequately is to make sure a special ed. teacher can be in the room to assist lower-end ability students. But in my experience, this hasn't occurred very often.

The "prevailing wisdom" seems to indicate that lower ability kids' self-esteem will suffer if they are grouped apart from higher-performing kids. I don't know of any studies which conclusively prove this; however, if the lower-end students are "mainstreamed" (as it's called) w/o adequate support, they get frustrated by not being able to do the work, and tune out. That doesn't hurt self-esteem? Sure it does.

Mind you, I'm referring to special education-level kids and maybe slightly above -- kids that need extra attention. I've seen many "grade level" students manage to do quite well when in classes with above-grade level (or "honor") students. (Of course, I've seen many students labeled "honors" that weren't deserving of that label, but that's another story.)

Posted by: Hube at September 11, 2007 04:11 PM