The Agricultural Revolution Arrived
People and Business Adapted
Schools Were Born
The Industrial Revolution Came
People and Business Adapted
The Schools Remained The Same
The Technology Revolution Arrived
People and Business Adapted
The Schools Remained The Same
The Communications Revolution Arrived
People and Business Adapted
The Schools Began to Change
A Liberal Union Takeover of the Schools Arrived
People and Business Suffered
And the Schools May Never be the Same
For the past Five Years I made a point to spend some time with a group of what I consider “average” teenagers at a local high school. These are middle class students, in what is supposed to be one of the better schools in the area.
I am appalled by their lack of knowledge of things they will need when they hit the real world.
Here is what I found in my latest unofficial, non-sanctioned and unscientific survey of 100 randomly chosen students, 50 Boys & 50 Girls, in grades 10-12.
- For the first time in Five years, all 100 knew the name of the President of the United States.
- 59, however, did not know the President’s middle name.
- 38 did not know the name of the Vice-president
- 62 did not know the Governor of their state
- 65 were stumped when asked (trick question) the capitol of South America (Many of those tricked guessed Mexico, and the majority who did get the joke were Hispanic.)
- 84 could not locate Libya on an unmarked world map
- 62 did not know who assassinated John Kennedy
- 78 could not name Dr. Martin Luther King’s killer.
- 41 could not name one cabinet member.
- 67 could not name a Supreme Court Justice.
- 22 could not figure the sales tax on a $100.00 sale in their head.
- 74 did not know the value of Pi to one decimal point (3.1)
- 38 couldn’t name at least Five elements.
- 26 did not know which document begins with “When In the course …” vs. “We the People…”
This is just a sampling of the people who will be voting and attempting to enter the job market in a few years.
It’s Not the Student’s Fault!
It’s a systemic disease of the school system, and the accompanying bureaucracy.
The system is not just sick, it is terminally ill.
It can’t be repaired, we must replace it before it rots to kill us all.
It’s Not a Lack of Money
The U.S. Leads the world in per-student spending yet we are far behind in the quality of education.
Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the nation, yet Chicago schools are the lowest in performance
The Federal Government
Eliminate the Federal Department of Education
There is no Constitutional basis for this agency. Why should the states send their education money to the feds, just to have it plundered by an inefficient and corrupt political bureaucracy before the remainder is returned to them with numerous strings attached?
The NEA and Teacher’s Unions
Today’s classroom teacher is arguably the one profession on which our future depends more than any other.
When the quality of early education is improved, a larger, more well-prepared supply of technicians, scientists, salespeople, engineers, health care, finance, law and other professionals, executives and small-business owners will automatically and naturally follow.
Why is this critical profession unique in providing lifetime job security, insurance and retirement, even for practitioners who do not perform?
Teachers must be held accountable for their performance.
The concept of tenure, guaranteed job security within a few years, regardless of their performance and effectiveness is in direct conflict with both common sense, good business practice and worker motivation.
Only teachers and politicians are not subject to performance based evaluation, and even politicians can be ‘fired’ when they don’t perform. (Why we don’t do that is another topic.)
The world depends on each successive crop of graduates being just a bit more prepared than the last. Unfortunately we are regressing.
Of course, there are dedicated teachers who are outstanding, primarily because of their scarcity. They make the substandard teachers even more obvious by comparison.
Can you believe that one state actually ruled: “If a student is assigned a substandard teacher in any two consecutive years, they must be assigned a competent teacher for the following year.”
I have a better idea … Fire the Substandard Teachers!
Until the students, and not the unions and politicians are at the center of the process, this can’t happen.
The Parent’s Responsibility
I’ve been a fly on the wall at PTA meetings in a school of about 800 students. The turnout at the PTA meetings was usually 20 to 30 people. During the meetings, there were half a dozen or so administrative types, skulking around talking on walkie-talkies like undercover operatives.
These self-important people were at the vice-principal level, and the very people who needed to be participating, not playing James Bond on our time. During most of the meetings that I attended, education was never mentioned. The hot topics were.
- The poor quality of the school pictures.
- New uniforms for the football team (The band uniforms, old and ratty were not mentioned),
- The litter problem on the school grounds
- Suggestions for keeping the graffiti off of the rest room walls
- Whether students should be required to wear school uniforms
- It was, however, resolved that students would need written permission from their parents to enroll in “family education.”
- How to deal with the “problem” of unauthorized gifts of supplies, computers and science project kits directly to teachers — (It seems that all gifts must go to the school “system” which would determine where they go.)
- A fund raising drive to buy some new books for the library lasted about five minutes and was voted down.
- This last item was a noble effort, but if they got rid of just one of the walkie-talkie types they could fund the library for years.
- This very brief discussion of new books was followed up by a heated discussion of which books were no longer appropriate for the school library, and should be removed. Among those mentioned were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It seems that these somehow ‘became’ blatantly racist).One (Black) parent did have a creative and novel idea. Why not FEATURE the ‘racist’ books as the center of a student discussion of how attitudes have and have not changed since they were written.
- Three religious texts, specifically The Bible, Book of Mormon and Torah was suggested for removal, but no one mentioned the Qur’an. Further discussion disclosed that the former three volumes should best be studied at home, but the latter (Qur’an) was necessary because of current events.
Why not design a class around comparative religion, featuring all available texts?
These books all take on a new interest when presented together, as literature rather than gospel, and more so when placed into historical perspective.Why was the suggestion that the alleged ‘racist’ literature be used as cultural and historical learning tool so quickly dismissed?
Funding The Schools
When additional money is given to a school system, it is usually used to hire another junior deputy assistant to the senior deputy assistant to the junior assistant to the secretary of the vice-principal for the 10th. grade. More for bureaucrats and more paperwork.
The school system should exist as a support mechanism for the duties of the classroom teacher.
Teachers who perform should receive the respect and the remuneration due a person who has had at least five years of specialized education. Those who do not should be forced to look for work elsewhere.
Having said that, however, along with great respect comes great responsibility.
Our teachers must fulfill this responsibility to their ultimate clients, the students.
The School Term
For the most part, the family farm is dead. They have been foreclosed into easy prey for the big conglomerates. The need for a National Summer Vacation is gone. Most children don’t have to plant and harvest. (In fact, most wouldn’t know how.)
Would you like to increase available classroom and lab space by 25% immediately? — Year Round Schools!. Even if a vacation is given, keep the buildings open all year. We’re paying for them, let’s use them. Rotate classes in and out over the year, after all, 25% of the school year is “off time.”
The School Day
Every hour (or in many cases, less) everyone in the school gets up and moves. This is not just inefficient, it’s plain stupid. By the time a kid gets to class, sits down, gets prepared, socializes and settles into what can only be loosely described as ‘learning mode,’ 10 to 15 minutes have passed. (From 15 to 25% of an hour long class.)
Ten minutes or so before the class ends the student’s minds begin to wander toward the forthcoming bell, and the next class. (Another 15% of an hour long class.)
What this means is that 30% to 40% of the classroom time is wasted. Extending class time could easily result in an immediate gain of 20 to 25 minutes. Multiply this by Three classes per day, and we have just added 60 to 75 minutes of teacher contact hours.
No one denies that a solid core curriculum, firmly grounded in real world skills is a necessity. The way that curriculum is defined and delivered, however, must change.
Too much emphasis on rote memorization of obscure facts that will only come in handy should the student be a contestant on Jeopardy.
Who cares that the battle of Hastings was in 1066? “Around the year 1000,” is probably close enough.
What is truly important to place government and history into an accurate coherent time-line of cause and effect. How many of you could tell me the exact dates of the US Civil War. Isn’t “Eighteen Sixtyish” good enough?
The emphasis on memorization of minor details is primarily for the benfit of the “system” to enable standardized testing and facilitate easy grading.
Why is learning so much fun on The Discovery Channel, and such a task in the classroom?
It’s because The Learning Channel and similar media, make subjects interesting by exposing what really matters, the reasons, personalities, politics and sociology behind an event.
Outdated Age-based Grade Level System
As any parent or teacher can tell you, different children learn differently, and at different rates. Studies (and adventurous parents) have shown that children can read and comprehend simple text as young as age Two.
Expecting every child in a room of 25-30 Ten year olds to be on the same reading or math level is not just unrealistic, it’s absurd.
Some speculate that putting younger children in a class with older ones will result in bullying and violence. That’s also what they said about mixing races in the classroom. The only significant violence was perpetrated by the adults. (And I use the term adult loosely)
When the history class is studying Medieval Europe, why isn’t geography there as well? Math and science classes could be studying the challenge of building a catapult, and actually using it, calculating trajectories and the like. That’s when you bring in computers as advanced computational tools, to make life easier only after the basic math skills are learned. (More on this later in the Computer Labs Section.) Other classes should be studying the arts, science and music of the same period.
Yes, this creates a huge coordination problem. These problems, however, are just solutions that have yet to be uncovered.
There are a few progressive schools breaking new ground in this area, but they are far from mainstream, and the NEA doesn’t like them one bit..
Real World Education
How about a class Skills for Living. Here students do their taxes, balance a checkbook, build a mailing list, or “buy” a house or car.
In the home buying exercise, they would have to fill out a credit application, negotiate a deal, understand the contract, figure the interest and deal with the lawyers. Students would take turns being buyers, sellers, bankers and lawyers.
These are skills that will serve them, and society well. I’m certain that many banks, businesses, law firms, real-estate agents and even used car dealers would love to volunteer and/or donate resources for this venture.
Some schools are attempting this now, but only as far as it fits into the “existing system” and in most cases it’s an elective rather than required class.
If the existing system does not permit easy integration of this type of “spot learning”, then the system is the problem, and must be replaced, not repaired.
Strong computer skills are an absolute necessity today. Most school systems, however, treat computers as an end unto themselves. The average graduating student has no concept about how these tools are used on the job.
We tend to believe that all kids are techno-guru’s. That’s probably because the few that are even marginally conversant with computers are spectacular compared to much of the over 50 set.
Skills like sending text messages to your BFFs, posting photos to a FaceBook page or killing aliens in a video game, however, are generally not in high demand by employers.
The computer is a tool, a means to an end, and nothing else. Please stop teaching kids to write programs in obscure languages on outdated computers.
Teach them instead, to install and use a spreadsheet or project organizer. If a student wants to go into computer science, then teach them the internals of computing. Make sure, however, that the teacher is qualified.
In my high school typing class, (age alert) we didn’t spend half the year learning how the typewriter worked, or the history of typing, we learned how to use them. That’s why they have both driver’s education and auto mechanics. One is for the end users, the other for the fixers and builders.
“I hear Bill has a computer at home, we’ll let him run the computer lab.” So Bill does the best he can, and teaches outdated folklore as absolute truth.
Freedom of Choice — Privatize Education — Charter Schools Work!
Here’s a touchy subject, privatization of schools, home schooling and school vouchers.
In some areas it costs over fifteen thousand dollars per student, for a year of substandard public education. Many private schools provide a better quality of education at a lower or comparable cost.
Why do we continue to reward our public schools for substandard performance?
One place that we can hit them is in their pocketbooks and bank accounts.
If a school knew that when students move to another school the money would follow, they would certainly go the extra mile to hold on to those students.
People will whine about the under-performing inner city schools that will have to close. GOOD! Of course, these same people are slow to pick up on the fact that those schools just might decide to fight for their survival.
How would they do that?
By providing a better quality of service to the community, and attracting students rather than driving them away.
I’ll admit that some of your tax money would be used to send Catholic kids to Catholic school, Jewish kids to Hebrew school, and the like. This fine constitutional line has been drawn in the sand and we have been dared to cross it. The consequences for crossing it, however, are largely academic. (no pun intended).
If these schools can and do turn out a better educated student, more prepared to contribute to prosperity, why not?
Religious institutions are tax exempt not because of some fictional “separation of church and state” but so the government can’t use taxes to force them out of existence.
If you don’t want your taxes funding religious entities, you are in for a rude awakening.
The Cathedral or Synagogue sitting on the best piece of prime real-estate on Main Street pays no taxes.
You are subsidizing them, along with the one room church in Appalachia, the tent revival that just went up at the fairgrounds, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Mosque on the corner and the Snake-handling fundamentalists back in the mountains.
I would not choose send my child to a parochial school, but I don’t care if you do.
The Constitution guarantees you the right to raise your family as you see fit.
I’ll feel better if I know that my tax money is going to provide a quality education for a child. This will hold true whether that child is Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic or atheist.
Lets get our priorities in order.
We need to light the competitive fires under our status-quo system, and continuing to give them our money after we throw in the towel is not the way.
The results are in on Charter Schools — They Work!
Students attending charter and “free-market” schools perform, on average, far better than those doomed to suffer the failures of the public education system.
The same can be said for those who choose to home school their children.
Good teachers and administrators willingly work longer, harder and at a lower cost in a competitive, free-enterprise environment than those in the public/union sector.
They do so without many of the benefits and lifetime job security afforded those funded by the taxpayers, because they not only love what they do, but are allowed to do what they love — educate our children.
What breaks my heart is when children graduate with diplomas in political correctness but can’t read them without help.
I realize that I have raised more questions than I have answered. Not the least of which are how to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers, and evaluate student performance in a subjective rather than objective environment. But we have to start somewhere.