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Neighborhood Schools Segregation; Brand Yourself, Our Future

Aired April 23, 2011 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Congratulations. Class of 2011 graduates have a better chance of getting a job. But are America's public schools preparing all our kids to get to that degree in the first place? Good morning. Welcome to YOUR BOTTOM LINE, I'm Christine Romans. The National Association of Colleges and Employers this week listed the top careers for the most recent crop of bachelor degree candidates. You can see them right there and how much they pay, four of the top five jobs are in engineering. The fifth is computer science.

CNN contributor Bill Bennett is a former secretary of education under the Reagan administration and Pedro Noguera a professor at NYU Steinhart School of Education.

Bill Bennett, I want to start with you. Is a public school education enough to prepare a student for an engineering course of study? Are we giving them the tools to get that job?

BILL BENNETT, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Some public school educations are and many others aren't. It all depends. If you're at the Veritas Academies in Phoenix, you're going to be ready. If you're in Harlem at the Harlem Promise Academy or the Harlem Village Academy or KIP schools around the country, you're probably getting a good education. I can take you to schools that are excellent. I can also take you to schools where not a single child is reading or performing at grade level.

The problem is we don't have an accountable system and throughout all of those schools teachers are being paid the same, contracts are the same, and there's no differentiation in the system, no reward for success, no penalty for failure. That's our problem.

ROMANS: You know, Pedro, we talk on this program about the gap, the gap between the kids who are going to go on and get a job right out of school that's going to pay $66,000 a year and the kid who can't get out of high school, the kid who falls into another statistic, which is a very big statistic, they don't graduate. Or they go to one of the 2,000 dropout factories. Is it how we're spending our money? Is how we're setting our curriculum? You study this.

PEDRO NOGUERA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Sure. A lot is about how we invest our resources in public education. We spend a lot of money on public education, right now, but not a lot is well used. We should be putting much more money into career and technical education. Young people are getting not just work experience, but the skills that will be marketable later on. There are countries that provide kids with a background in computer science while they're still in high school. We should be doing that too. And there are some schools, as former secretary Bennett said, that are doing that already and we should use those as models for how to do that well.

ROMANS: How do you make sure you're in a district making that happen, though? I mean, people who are desperate to get in the right school district, public school district.

NOGUERA: Sure. And that's why parents being involved and the business community being involved in looking at what's going on in schools, holding schools accountable because accountability works best when it's done locally, not by the state or the federal government, and it works best when there's real investment and engagement with schools. We need more businesses to be involved with schools to form partnerships to create internships and access to jobs.

ROMANS: Let's talk about how much money we're spending. You know Bill, a recent report from the NAACP and Americans for Tax Reforms, actually unlikely partners here, a liberal and a conservative group saying that we need to focus on how much we're spending on education when you compare it with prisons. Our priorities straight. Higher education spending up 21 percent from 1987 to 2007, correction spending up 127 percent, and there's a lot of handwringing right now Bill, about how we're going to be spending money in the future. Are we spending money smartly?

BENNETT: No, we're not spending money smartly. Of course if you want to look at incubator of a lot of this, whether you're talking about educational problems or prison issues you're looking at families and the decline of the American family. That's a very, very serious issue which we can talk about its implications for education and for prisons. But no, we don't use money smartly.

Let me just say, because the profess are and I probably disagree on some things, but I couldn't agree more, there's a certain snobbism -- snobbishness about vocational education, about learning how to do something with your hands and that's a terrible thing. It haunts a lot of education. There are a lot of kids who just are not cut out for the liberal arts. They can learn literacy and they can learn numeracy, but they don't have to do it through Shakespeare's Sonnets, they can do it another way, by learning how to write a business letter, but learning electrical circuitry, by a host of things. We are not smart in the way we're spending the money. I believe we're spending enough, $700 billion, ought to buy us a good product, but we're not spending it smart and we don't allow the things to happen that should happen. Kids are different and we shouldn't have one curriculum that fits everybody.

ROMANS: The NAACP report with the tax group also found where you look at where there are high concentrations of imprisoned people, there are dropout factories and bad schools. And we can see it. We can see it on the map. So why can't we fix it? Why can't we fix it?

NOGUERA: Well, what we've got to do is intervene early with kids. If we can prevent kids from getting into middle and high school, not reading, we could deter the number of people who end up behind bars. When you go into prisons, and I actually have done work in some of the correction facilities here in New York City where we sponsor debate programs, what you find is large numbers of the young people who are incarcerated, can't read. They have -- lacked basic skills and so even when they get out, what kind of jobs can those people find. So really, education is our best strategy for deterring crime and ensuring that we have a greater number of Americans who are productive citizens.

ROMANS: And guys, I'm always really amazed by what parents and grandparents and family goes through to try to get that quality public school education. A report from Northeastern University found that schools across the country, are actually more segregated than ever. Here's why. In several major cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, 80 percent of students would have to move to another school system for the metro to be completely desegregated.

CNN's special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien, takes a look at what's happening in one school system and why this is such an issue.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joshua is two, his sister Malia one, but their great grandmother, Geraldine Alshamy, is already worried about their education. Six years ago, she moved her extended family to wake county, North Carolina, because she didn't like the school system where she lived.

GERALDINE ASLHAMY, GRANDMOTHER: We moved to what they call neighborhood schools and it was basically just segregation.

O'BRIEN: Segregation because "neighborhood schools" means students attend school closest to where they live. A black neighborhood means a black school, a white neighborhood, a white school. Since 2000, Wake County's been mixing students from families of all income levels to create fully integrated schools. Then, 13 months ago, a mostly new school board voted to replace that system in favor of neighborhood schools.

REV WILLIAM BARBER, NAACP: They argue that diversity is the enemy of student achievement when we know that almost 100 percent of the research of the last 50 years says that diversity and resources are keys to student achievement and excellence.

O'BRIEN: The NAACP complained to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which says re-segregation is a growing trend nationally.

RUSSLYNN ALI, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: In schools that are racially isolated they tend to have fewer of the things that we know make the difference in public education. They are far more likely to have more than their fair share of our least effective teachers, we don't see the access to the rigorous curriculum that we know they'll need to succeed.

O'BRIEN: Critics of the proposed changes in Wake County worry that schools in poor neighborhoods will be neglected and fail. The new school superintendent says he's aware of concerns.

ANTHONY TATA, WAKE COUNTY, NC, PUBLIC SCHOOLS: We're trying to make sure that we avoid the problem of high poverty schools.

O'BRIEN: By 2012, they'll decide how to assign students. Geraldine Alshamy is unhappy.

ALSHAMY: When we go back to neighborhood schools we are facing segregation all over again and everything that has been done will be undone.

O'BRIEN: Soledad O'Brien, CNN.


ROMANS: She wants a quality education for her great-grandkids and willing to try to move -- should -- I know we all can agree on this, Bill Bennett, too -- we shouldn't have to move to go to a good school in this country. That's the bottom line.

NOGUERA: Absolutely. And it should be that good schools are available to all Americans, regardless of where they live. The sad thing about Wake County's case is that it was a successful plan for voluntary integration. They were using income as the basis for integrating students across this vast county and it was working and it was working not only in terms of creating schools that were integrated and diverse, but also in terms of academic outcomes. So, to have them go backwards is a bad sign. We have a lot of research showing our kids benefit when they attend schools that are integrated and it also is true that our society is becoming more and more diverse. So this is an issue that's going to have a real impact on our future.

ROMANS: Bill, I'm going to let you finish up your thoughts on that.

BENNETT: Yeah. I'm an old integrationist; I have been from the beginning. Never the less, the single most important thing in the school is the quality of instruction, and the quality of the work that the child does. I am for parental choice here and if local community -- if parents want to send their kids to a local school, then I think they should be allowed to do so, they shouldn't be told they cannot do that. Bussing was a failure in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, close to Wake County. Voluntary programs, such as what we've talked about, can be very successful. I'm sorry to see it go.

But this is a very complicated issue. The key here is quality of instruction, quality of materials. It matters less what the race of that teacher is and the race of the kids sitting around you. What matters is the quality of that teacher and whether they are insisting on the same expectations and demands in your local neighborhood as they are in the affluent neighborhood.

ROMANS: You're absolutely right, it is a complicated issue and I think if we can chip away at it as much as we can and keep talking about it and trying to fix the situation and help the situation, I think talking about it helps. Bill Bennett and Pedro Noguera, I'm lucky to have both of you because both of you, you think on this and the big picture. You've both also been in front of a classroom of itchy kids, so you know it from top to bottom from policy and from the classroom perspective. Thank you both of you for joining us, today. Have a great weekend, guys.

NOGUERA: Thanks Christine.

ROMANS: You can catch Soledad's report, "Don't Fail Me: Education in American" in its entirety on May 15 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Soledad's going to examine this crisis in our public education system and why America's financial future is at risk if our students can't excel at math and science.

A good public education really should be a birth right for anyone in this country to prepare them for the ultimate goal, a job to build a middle class existence. And it's not just enough anymore just to show up at work, these days, now you have to brand yourself and get that job and keep it.


ROMANS: When you walk into the boardroom, when you walk into the job interview, when you walk into the dining room, are you now a brand like Lady Gaga or a can of Coke? Are we all becoming brands? I put that question to Bill Taylor, who has a following in work place and management circles.


BILL TAYLOR, PRACTICALLY RADICAL: Well, I think you know, being a brand is not being flamboyant, it works for Lady Gaga, it wouldn't work for you in your organization. Being a brand, as everybody knows that when I meet Christine Romans, this is what she stands for, this is the impact she's trying to have.


ROMANS: Catharine Kaputa is a personal brand strategist and our good friend Wendy Walsh, here with us in the studio, is a doctor of psychology. Let's talk, Catherine, about your personal guide to branding. Do we need to be a brand, for example, when we walk into a job interview? Do we need to project a brand to a person?

CATHERINE KAPUTA, PERSONAL BRAND STRATEGIST: I think everyone needs to think in terms of being a brand, because if you don't brand yourself other people will, and I can assure you that they're not going to brand you as well as you're going to brand yourself. That's why, you know, an important thing to think about in job interviews is first impressions. And first impressions are very powerful.

ROMANS: You say you get 15 words and 15 seconds.

KAPUTA: Yeah 15 words, 15 seconds because --

ROMANS: Is that terrifying.

KAPUTA: Well yeah, I mean, it's not fair people in the first few seconds decide whether they're going to hire you or not, you know? So it's very important to leverage that yourself and to develop a strong visual identity for yourself and a strong verbal identity with how you position yourself, those first 15 words of who you say you are and what you do. You know, a lot of people flub it by saying, you know, I'm a marketing executive with 25 years of experience. Well that's totally generic. That's just like everyone else.

ROMANS: Right, there's two million people right now trying to get that job. So, have three accomplishments and have three stories or anecdotes, something that you're going to be able to define yourself with right away.

KAPUTA: Right, because I think you want to tell a story, and think of a narrative in a plot line, you know, sort of bring it to life to people. Don't say, you know, I led xyz team, but say -- tell them about a project, you know? Even, you know, I got a call at 9:00 at night from a client and the deadline had to be moved up a month and here's how the team and I solved the problem. So, bring a story, you know, David versus Goliath or you know, against all odds. Think of a Hollywood kind of story.

ROMANS: Wendy, you say be shameless.


ROMANS: What do you mean?

WALSH: Because before you get to those 15 words in 15 seconds, believe me they've Googled you, so you need to manage that electronic footprint. It needs to be narrow, specialized and full of pride which means that you're going to --

ROMANS: That's branding.

WALSH: That's branding.

ROMANS: What is the brand you want people to see when they Google your name or they look at you on Facebook or LinkedIn?

WALSH: So, if you've taken time off to have children, for instance, and the only thing -- or you've been pushed out to have children, the only thing that they might find are you ranting on some mommy blogs, that's not going to be good. Go and get some books on Amazon in your industry, read them and write really intelligent reader reviews. They show up on Google searches, too.

ROMANS: They do.

WALSH: Find ways to manipulate Google. And of course, do it with your Facebook and Twitter pages.

ROMANS: There's a way too, you know you need to rock the resume, I always say, and got to downplay the gap if you've been out of the work place, you got to downplay the gap on the resume, fill it with other things, you always need to tailor your goals like you said, Catherine. You can't say, you know, I've got 25 years experience marketing executive. And these bad buzz words: transition, facilitate, utilize, everyone says that. Everyone also says, "I'm a team player." If you have to say "I'm a team player," that's like saying "I breathe air." That's just wasting space on the resume. How can you really come out of the gate --

KAPUTA: Well, you know, one of the cardinal rules of branding is be different and be memorable and that's what you want to think about. Your resume, think of it as like an ad for brand you. And you want to own a sentence. Sort of have an interesting sentence that really defiance your brand in an interesting way. You know, put that at the top of your resume before a little profile paragraph and tell a story. And everything in the resume should tell your brand story. And you might have things you did in your background that lead people in the wrong direction. Well, jettison things like that, include the dots that lead people in the right direction.

ROMANS: Catherine Kaputa, Wendy Walsh, thank you so much for a fascinating -- and have a great weekend. Thank you.

All right, most of the times, says my next guest, it's logical to tune out the tomfoolery in Washington and focus on more immediate things like your kid's homework, the price of gas or your own office politics. But the growing battle over America's mounting debt is one matter worth paying attention to.


ROMANS: Three-quarters of every tax dollar in this country goes to fund four things: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on our debt, a debt that just keeps on growing. If nothing changes by the year 2020, we'll have 11 cents of every tax dollar to fund everything from the IRS to the Department of Defense, to education, everything. And my next guest says understanding this issue now could help you prepare for a future when the government is less generous and citizens need to contribute more.

Rick Newman is the chief business correspondent for u."U.S. News & World Report."

Five things that all citizens should know about our debt, you say it's a real problem that won't solve itself.

RICK NEWMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: We love to tune out what goes on in Washington. It seem unintelligible to so many people and it's so tempting to tune this out. The dollar figures are in the trillions, nobody knows what $14 trillion is. But this is important. I mean, this is going to affect our kids' future, it's probably going to affect our future in the next couple of years and it just pays to understand what's going on and what you might want to be able to do about it.

ROMANS: So, we're running huge deficits, the country continues to spend more money than it's bringing in, people are loaning -- other countries are loaning us money to do that, but the U.S. isn't technically broke. NEWMAN: That's right. The problem is that the government is spending more money than it takes in. It's borrowing a lot of money to make up the difference. But we got to remember America is an extremely rich country, still one of the richest countries in the world, I know a lot of people don't feel that way. But, if they were a crisis, we would certainly have the resources we could tap. The whole argument, right now, is mainly about who's going to pay for this. That doesn't mean we can't pay for it, it just means we don't want to and everybody is trying to shift the burden onto somebody else. That's what this whole battle's about, right now.

ROMANS: I'm reminded of the old joke about a guy who's trying to raise money to build a new church building, Right? And he stands in front of the congratulation, he says, "Congratulations, we've raised the $2 million for the new building." The whole congregation says, fantastic, and the man says, "And it's in your pocket." I mean, I feel like maybe, is that one of the solutions, here?

NEWMAN: I'm afraid so. I mean, we keep hearing about how we're going to cut spending in some place and everybody tries to say it's going to happen often, the corner where nobody's really going to notice or President Obama says we just need to raise taxes on the wealthy. The math on this basically comes down to this, taxes are going to have to go up on most people and most people are going to have to make do with getting a little bit less from the government. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow, probably won't happen tomorrow, but that's just how the math comes out.

ROMANS: If you were a politician, though, you can't say that.

NEWMAN: That's right. That's a conundrum. And that's why this has become such a big problem. If we had a kind of a pay as you go mentality and politicians didn't get punished for doing responsible things, the way families have to do, pay for it as you go, most of the time, anyway, we wouldn't be in this problem, but we're pushing it off until the very last minute and as a lot of people say it's going to take a crisis to solve the problem.

ROMANS: Politicians won't talk about it because it's not palatable. And you know, and Kenn Rogroff (ph), from Harvard, last week, he told me, look, we're part of the problem, too, because we like low taxes and we like spending on lots of stuff because it makes the American life good, but this is a problem that's going to affect most Americans.

NEWMAN: That's right. And the polls show this as clear as can be, most Americans want government to be smaller, they want taxes to stay low, but nobody wants Medicare spending to get cut or social security spending to get cut, so we just haven't rally reconciled these two things.

ROMANS: It doesn't need to happen immediately. You know, we talk about crisis, crisis, and you get all this argument that there isn't a crisis in Social Security, the crisis is in Medicare, the crisis is 20 years out, it's 30 years out. If you start fixing it know slowly, you can fix it. NEWMAN: The sooner we start to deal with this, the easier the solution is going to be. If we could come up with a plan that could implement gradually and there would be clear targets that couldn't get undermined by lobbyists in Washington who are going to get a discount for themselves, some special treatment, so on, markets would say that is great, confidence in the united states would go up and we would have a reversal of what we saw recently which is Standard & Poor's Rating Agency said We've now considering downgrading the debt of the united states. But that just is not the way our political rally systems, So, it's going to -- We're probably, unfortunately, take politicians pushed to the limit and they say, finally we have no choice, tax increases, spending cuts, it has to happen.

ROMANS: All right, Rick Newman, U.S. News and World Report," nice to see you, have a great weekend.

NEWMAN: Thanks, Christine: number, thank you.

ROMANS: Why do smart people make dumb decisions with their money? The answer might surprise you.


ROMANS: We've all been there, splurged on something we shouldn't with money we couldn't afford to spend. So, why can't we control ourselves? It might be because of the way we're wired.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mega millions.

ROMANS (voice-over): The odds of you standing there with the big check are just north of zero. So, why do we buy a ticket?


ROMANS: Scott Huettel is part of Duke University's neuroeconomics team, exploring among other things, why smart people make foolish decisions with their money.

SCOTT HUETTEL, DUKE UNIVERSITY: People don't buy a lottery ticket just because they have a chance of winning. They'll buy a lottery ticket because over the next couple of days it allows them to fantasize about what they would do if they won the lottery. You know, since they're paying for the experience rather than for the chance for the lottery itself.

ROMANS: And it's not just the lottery, Jason Zweig, author of "Your Money and Your Brain" knows firsthand. He put his brain to the test with Scott's team at Duke.

JASON ZWEIG, AUTHOR: It's a combination of neuroscience and economics, basically using the tools of scanning and other measurement technology that neuroscientists have used for years, to study how the human brain evaluates risk and reward over time which is what investing is all about. ROMANS: From investing to buying a home to why and how often we go on a spending spree, what researchers are learning is that when it comes to money, our brains are in some ways stuck in the Stone Age.



ROMANS: Now, cavemen didn't have to deal with credit default swaps and adjustable rate mortgages and all the complex financial decisions we now have to make on a daily basis. Next week on a special edition of YOUR BOTTOM LINE, "Your Money and Your Mind," we look at how to take on your inner caveman, beat your brain and come out ahead.

That wraps things up for us this morning. Back now to "CNN SATURDAY" for other stories making new, right now.