Category Archives: Education Reform

A Proposal for the Model Public School

Frank black and whiteThere was a time in America when, if one graduated from an ordinary high school, he got a very substantial education in the process. He could read, write research papers, do fairly advanced math, and clearly communicate with others. His opportunities expanded among potential employers and, if he was able to go on to higher education, with college professors. But that era is gone.

Now, the public schools in the US, especially in the inner city, are in real trouble. My wife is a high school English Literature teacher in an urban public school. Many of her students cannot read on a fourth grade level, much less write comprehensible sentences, and constructing logical, cogent paragraphs is mostly beyond them. My wife is an extraordinary teacher and has managed to teach some of them to construct a persuasive essay, but this has been an arduous task taking months.

Yet, teachers are vilified in the media so that their strength, which lies in teaching students, has been seriously and negatively impacted by political correctness and a litigious mindset among parents and the public in general. The fix for this undesirable situation does not lie in Dewey-modeled “education reforms” of the sort proposed by the so-called experts, whose idea is to dumb down education or to advocate radically increased standardized testing to support fictitious statistics and keep their overgrown budgets.

In the pernicious interests of Political Correctness practices are imposed on teachers which strangle their initiative and motivation, but they are threatened not to have high failing rates, lest their paychecks suffer. All this as though it were the fault of the teachers that students fail. In the system where my wife teaches, it is common practice to give students a minimum average grade of 50% even if they rarely show up to class or have real grades of 15% or even 0% as in the case of one student.

Teachers are told that, if attacked physically by a student, they are NOT allowed to defend themselves, on pain of losing their jobs. Instead, are told they will receive large benefits for the abuse they tolerate. If we are to restore sanity to the classroom, we must:

  1. Get the big money out of education.
  2. Get the Federal Government out of education.
  3. Get rid of most of the useless and expensive bureaucracy.
  4. Get rid of Political Correctness and replace it with order and civility.

These changes will not be made by the existing establishment, who, like the Federal and State bureaucracies themselves, will continue to feed off the carcass of a dying system until it is nothing but bare bones. Then where will the hope of our children’s education lie?

Changes must come from a co-operative network of teachers, parents, and students, who want a future, a universal movement among teaching professionals and other parties in support of the restoration of traditional American public education along the following principles.

First, public education should be essentially not-for-profit. While private enterprise may provide textbooks, technology and other educational support, no authority, including control of content, should be exerted by any private organization, corporation or other such entity in public education.

Second, all public education must remain local. No national or state entity may control either the standards or content of material taught in the classroom. This must remain in the control of local authorities, including local school boards, PTAs and like organizations whose sole interest is in providing quality education to public school students. The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate, a power too easily abused by politicians on every level. It must be kept in the control of teachers, local administrators and parents immediately concerned with local school issues. Teachers should take an integral part in executing such authority. There must be no national curriculum, the content of which is controlled on any level by government.

Third, the public education should be Teacher-Student-Parent centered. The process of Education is a 200% relationship of teacher to student, each putting in 100% effort, dedication, and commitment. The student seeks learning; the teacher offers the tools to learn. In this regard, the teacher is the incontrovertible core of the learning relationship. Administrators must be secondary, always acting to support the Teacher-Student unit. Outside consultants, educational philosophers and those seeking grant money to write about education, especially when they have had no direct classroom experience, should be entirely excluded. Ideas are always welcome, but they must support the concept of traditional education, which has proven for centuries to be the most workable system.

This is based on the assumption that teachers are committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest principles in the delivery of educational methods and practices. We recognize that there will be situations in which a teacher may deviate from strict adherence to traditional practice, but the purpose of any and all lessons must be to educate students toward the highest levels of knowledge, ethics and morality. Students are not experiments or laboratory creatures.

Fourth, we must recognize and encourage the role of parents and taxpayers in all phases of education, providing that role does not interfere with the traditional process of educating students, but instead ensures adherence to the established guidelines. When parents fail to take an active role with their students and teachers, they should be called to account. We must reject and abhor the practice of litigating grades. Grades must be based entirely on the performance of the student as he/she follows the study plans provided to him in the classroom by the teacher.

Fifth, it must be recognized that the classroom is not a democracy. The teacher must be in authority at all times and students must be respectful of that authority. Too often, the teacher is unprotected in adversary discussions with parents and other agents. The job of the principal and other administrative staff should always be to protect the teacher from unfair treatment. Likewise, the principle or agents of the principle must also safeguard the interests of the student and to maintain fairness in dealings between teachers and students or parents.

Order must be restored to the classroom in the form of civility, common courtesy and classroom etiquette. Rules for conduct must be clearly established from the outset and students must be held to standards of behavior. Those students who do not comply with established standards should be disciplined without exception. Where applicable, school dress codes must be considered part of the rules.

We must return to teaching and imparting the basics: basic civility, core knowledge, and core facts about America, including American Exceptionalism, thus restoring traditional American values to American education.

Sixth, we must return to a vertical plan that is developed by teachers and includes realistic goals at all grade levels. These goals should include Standard English grammar and composition, basic arithmetic and mathematics, fact-based world and American history (not politically correct or interpreted versions in which facts are ignored and bias introduced to create false narratives) and factual rather than “consensus” science. This vertical plan may be universal, but not federally mandated, controlled or influenced.

Last, we must recognize that teaching is equally a calling and a profession. An effort must be made to restore respect and dignity to the profession of teaching, thus encouraging once again a desire to enter that profession which we consider so noble.

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BOOK REVIEW: The New School by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

TheNewSchoolRating: 4/5 Stars

Suggested Audience: High school students who are contemplating college and feel that something is wrong, parents of high school students who are contemplating college and feel that something is wrong, every person in America that is concerned about education.

I recently won a copy of The New School on Twitter from TheBlaze Books (and, by the way, if you are a reader, you are truly missing out if you are not following what they are doing).

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee. You can check out his blog over at InstaPundit.com.

Reynolds’ basic premise in this book is that American education system, both the K-12 public system and college, is due for a revolution brought on by both market forces and improving technologies. One of the things I really like about this book is that it’s short and concise, yet quite profound in the point it is making.

The book is split up into five chapters. Reynolds’ starts off with a brief history of education in America. Basically, we imported a 19th century Prussian education model. For many years, this system worked quite well for America, but its usefulness is starting to wain.

I definitely agree with that point of view. As someone who has two traditional university degrees and works inside of the belly of the K-12 beast, I am starting to see large indicators that the old model needs to change.

In the second chapter, Reynolds takes a look at higher education. His overarching argument is that college is a “bursting bubble.”  I was impressed with his honest assessment of the system that he works inside of and agreed with many of his conclusions.

I thought this chapter was quite refreshing. Finally, someone is saying something that I keep thinking. College is overpriced and overvalued, and all we do as a society is continue to tell all students that it is worth their time and money. Sadly, college is often purchased with significant chunks of future time and money in the form of debt payments. I am a big Dave Ramsey fan. He often jokes that we tell kids that if they want to go get a BA in German polka dancing history, or some equally worthless degree, it is okay because college debt is “good debt.”

No!

As Reynolds points out, American student loan debt has surpassed the trillion-dollar mark. The number of student-loan debtors actually equals the number of people with college degrees. This is a big problem (and a gigantic debt bubble), and it worries me that it is going to have a negative impact on the economy as a whole.

So what happens when the bubble bursts? According to Reynolds, administrators will first do what administrators do best, deny and try to protect the status quo. (I was especially taken aback at the discussion of how administrator laden many colleges are in this country. Nationally, administrators are coming to outnumber faculty!) Administrators will try to create more revenue by raising tuition, but eventually there will be market forces that cause things to move in the other direction. Expect colleges to begin discounting tuition, and once that begins, expect destruction to begin. Reynolds anticipates a race to the bottom. Some colleges will be forced to close their doors, but overall, you should see cheaper college rates as the system begins to normalize.

What to do? First, and I couldn’t agree more, don’t go into debt for college. If you are still going to go to college, consider lower cost colleges. You may want to even reconsider the whole idea of attending college. Apprenticeships may be a viable alternative. He gives evidence that there may be a growing trend here.

With regards to reform of the college system itself, Reynolds encourages universities to not go on spending binges. Colleges have to think about curriculum and delivery reform (i.e. better use of web based classes). He also thinks colleges need to raise their level of rigor. Another thought, and one that I thought was a great idea, encourage budget transparency of both public and private universities. I’d love to see the books ripped open in my state colleges for all to see. One other intriguing suggestion was to make college loans bankruptable after 10 years and make the institutions that got the loan money responsible for a small percentage of the loss. As Reynolds states, our current system puts all the risks of the loans on the student and taxpayer. That is not right, and I agree it should change.

Finally, Reynolds closes the chapter with a look at the politics of the issue. He also takes a look at some future scenarios of how this all plays out. The common thread that runs through them is that higher education will not be as well off as it has been in the past.

The next chapter of the book focused on lower education in America. I was not as impressed with this part of the book. I found Reynolds’ research lacking. When I say this, I’m not saying Reynolds is completely wrong. As mentioned above, I am a public educator, and I can see it from inside the system. The traditional K-12 system has to change to become better, but I’m not sure there is enough political pressure to get it to change.

Politically and culturally the traditional model of K-12 education is entrenched in this society. Survey research conducted by Gallup has shown for some time now (and see this) that Americans view something wrong with the K-12 system as a whole, but when asked about their school system they often respond with more favorable results. Ask them about their child’s school and they are even happier.

I’m not confident that there is enough parents that actually want the K-12 system to change. I about fell out of my seat with this statement, “with changing societal attitudes toward parenting, many of today’s parents are more involved and interested in their kid’s education.”

Ummm….uhhhhh….yeah, right….come spend a couple weeks with me in my classroom. I have been in a couple different districts in my short tenure in public schools. Parents are so not involved it’s startling at times. If anything, the movement in this country among the mass populace is towards less involvement in their child’s life. Those parents that are involved tend to do what Reynolds’ acknowledges, vote with their feet. Of course, that just usually just involves moving to another school district they like more.

I am hopeful that the political chaos that Common Core is causing may be a catalyst for change. I also think that the implosion of the Code Red monetary policies in the next 5-10 years may force some reform as well. When money starts to get tight again, many public districts are going to be up a creek without a paddle.

Despite my qualms with his chapter on K-12, this is an excellent book and well worth the read. It’s a discussion more people need to be having. If you have an interest in education, I think this book is a must-read for you.

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, College Education, Economics, Education Reform

The Current School Reform Landscape

h/t to COMMON CORE: Education Without Representation

Excellent video from Christopher Tienken discussing education reform. He addresses Common Core State Standards, calling it an anti-intellectual, illogical version of “imitate and regurgitate.” We tend to agree here.

 

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Filed under Education Reform, National Standards (Common Core), Videos