Guest Commentary – A View on Education

For guest commentary this evening, we have someone new to offering his insight to the readers at SUFA. The next week or so will include a couple of different articles on education and the problems that we face in that arena here in the US. Tonight’s author is a regular commenter over at the Huffington Post, where he ran into SUFA regular Just A Citizen. A good conversation ensued and JAC convinced him to write a guest article for us to discuss here. As always, I am excited to have another voice offering their thoughts and insight into the mix for all of us to discuss. The author may not be able to check in and join the conversation as often as he would probably like. AS is the case with many of us, he does have to work for a living, and that gets in the way of checking in all throughout the day. I do believe that he will be checking in when he can though, so feel free to ask any questions in your comments about what he has offered. Rather than my introducing tonight’s guest author, I will allow JAC to do the honor, as he is responsible for GrafZeppelin being here…

Ladies and Gentlemen of SUFA, I would like to introduce Graf Zeppelin. I met Graf over at Huffington Post. As with many here, Graf and I don’t come from the same side of the political fence, but we have had some very good discussions. A couple of weeks ago I contacted Graf about some comments made on the problems with our education system. Graf agreed to put together some thoughts and allow USW to post them here for SUFA to kick around. Graf was a school teacher and is now an attorney. As you might expect from such a background, Graf is pretty sharp and I think will contribute immensely to our discussions of this issue. Graf has visited the site before and told me the civil discourse was refreshing but the site might be a little right wing. Sorry Graf, I just had to share that with everyone here. Right now the regulars are laughing.

Who’s on the right and left is a constant point of debate, but on this issue of education I saw the Graf’s experience and thoughts were not contained within the usual right/left, or democrat/republican paradigm. So without further adieu, I give you Graf Zeppelin’s views on issues detrimental to our education system.

RUMINATIONS ON EDUCATION
by GrafZeppelin127
September 19, 2010

I was a high school English teacher for 13 years; from November 1997 until January 2010. After bouncing from school to school for a couple of years in the early 2000s (a story for another day), I decided that I had to do something else. I went to law school and became an attorney.

There are two questions that always come up at this point. One, why did you give up teaching to become a lawyer? Quite simply, I gave up teaching because I came to realize that I was never going to be happy as a teacher. I got sick of two things: (1) teenagers, and (2) fighting uphill battles in a system that seems purposefully designed to prevent kids from learning.

The second question, in one way or another, typically asks me to elaborate on that second item, since the first is so obvious. What is wrong with the school system? In what way is it “purposefully designed to prevent kids from learning”?

It’s important to note that I only write from the perspective of my own experience, as a high school teacher of English Language Arts. Also, I write in purely apolitical terms. I never thought of education as a political issue and nothing I’ve ever said, written or thought about it has anything at all to do with which political party I prefer, which one is presently in power, or what their respective policy prescriptions for education are. The problems with education as I see them are conceptual, not political.

The education system in the U.S. will never be fixed by politicians. Neither will it be fixed by either political party’s boilerplate prescriptions for it. It can only be fixed if there is a fundamental shift in just about everyone’s perception of what education, learning, and teaching actually are, what they’re supposed to look like, what everyone involved is supposed to do and should be expected to do.

There are four groups of stakeholders in education: Parents, students, teachers, and administrators. All four of them, in my view, fundamentally misunderstand what their role in school and in the learning process ought to be. The result is a system that does not function as it should because the wrong people have the wrong interest in, and the wrong accountability for, the wrong things. A system in which teachers are virtually powerless against the other three stakeholders, where parents send their kids to school not to learn but to be showered with praise and adulation for what they already know, where students’ grades and grade averages are completely disconnected from their actual ability and performance, where kids are not only enabled but actively encouraged to be selfish, narcissistic and dishonest, and where smart, dedicated, conscientious educators find themselves fed up with all of the arbitrary and counter- intuitive restraints on their ability to actually teach.

One thing about studying the law: it makes the world a heck of a lot easier to sort out. It also helps provide answers to those questions kids ask, to which one might normally answer, “Because I said so.” Why do I get to tell you what you can and can’t do in my classroom?

Because I can be held liable for anything that happens to you. I am legally responsible for everything that happens in that room. If I can be held liable, then I get to make the rules. But studying the law also makes it crystal clear that there are a lot of things that go on in schools, a lot of things that all four stakeholders believe and do, that simply don’t make any sense. They don’t make sense because they’re not reasonable, because they’re not efficient, because they don’t maximize available resources, and they don’t encourage productive behavior or good decision-making.

As I mentioned above, schools are no longer institutions of learning; they are institutions of validation. Parents and students don’t want to hear anything from teachers except how utterly magnificent they, everything they say and do, and every piece of work they submit, are. Heaven forbid you tell a student that he needs to write clearer sentences, or include more textual evidence in her discussion paragraphs. Before you know it, the parent will be on the phone with the principal, saying that the teacher told the child that she was stupid and that everything she does is wrong, and demanding that the child be placed in another teacher’s class or that the teacher be fired.

Most people who have studied child psychology know that adolescents typically do not remember things the way they actually happened. They remember them in a way that casts themselves as completely blameless, heroic, innocent victims of the arbitrary meanness of others, particularly adults. It’s not unusual for high school kids to think of their teachers as either objects of ridicule, or as nefariously evil Bond villains. But parents believe everything their kids tell them, as literal unembellished truth. And administrators tend to believe everything parents tell them, leaving teachers powerless to effect either learning or classroom discipline.

Teenagers have always been selfish, narcissistic and dishonest. Parents of teenagers have not always been enablers.

In ordinary disputes between students and teachers, parents and administrators always give the student the benefit of the doubt. As a result, the teacher always bears the burden of proof, which in many cases she can never satisfy. If a student fails or receives a low grade for not submitting a required assignment, all he needs to do is claim that he didn’t know about it, or that he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. The teacher then has to prove that she did everything she possibly could to make sure the child knew about the assignment and knew how to do it. When she inevitably cannot do so to the parent’s satisfaction, the parent demands that the child be given the grade that he would have received if he had done the assignment (which the parent, of course, assumes would have been an “A”); to substitute that made-up scenario for what actually happened. The child doesn’t have to demonstrate that he can even do the work, let alone do it well; it is presumed that he could have, and would have, if the obviously-incompetent teacher had done her job.

The result? Kids learn not only that they don’t have to pay attention to assignments and deadlines; they learn to actively avoid knowing what they are. The first three words out of any student’s mouth when confronted with the fact that they failed because of a missed assignment, 99% of the time, are “I didn’t know.” Parents do the same thing. Parents insist on being notified any time a child breathes the wrong way. If a child fails, the parent will protest that she was not told that the child was failing or was in danger of failing, therefore he must be given a passing grade. Never mind that my calling her up on the telephone to tell her that the child had missed the exam would not have changed that fact. I actually got to the point, my last few years teaching, that I actually sent a letter home every time a child did not hand in an assignment. Reams upon reams of paper, thousands of dollars in postage. The only alternative would have been hundreds of hours per month on the phone, hours that I simply did not have, especially during the four years I was in law school.

In the end, it wasn’t the letters or the phone calls or the complaints that bothered me. All of that goes with the territory of being a teacher. It was the staggering, mind-numbing illogic of the contention that a student must be given a passing grade, which he did not earn, and thereby be declared proficient in a subject area in which he has not demonstrated such proficiency, because his parent was not aware, or notified in advance, that there was a possibility that he might fail. “If I had known,” many parents would tell me, “I would have made sure he did his work.” I suppose it never occurred to them that they ought to be doing that anyway.

Of course, none of this would matter if teachers and administrators, by and large, were inclined to do the correct thing in these situations, which is to stand their ground, hold the students’ feet to the fire and require them to actually demonstrate actual learning and ability through actual academic performance, before they are praised and rewarded for doing so, and not cave in to the unreasonable and self-serving demands of narcissistic parents who can’t handle the truth. Instead, we have a system that enables and perpetuates these awful behaviors; where students, not teachers, decide what behaviors are appropriate and what can and should be expected of them academically; where parents, not teachers, decide what grades their children deserve and ultimately receive; and where administrators can substitute their own judgment (or political cowardice) for teachers’ experience and expertise.

Two specific things we do wrong in schools that, if done correctly, would go a long way toward repairing the damage: subjective standards and entitlement grading. I’ll address each separately, and briefly.

Subjective standards refers to the idea that academic standards and expectations should be adjusted to meet the individual ability level of each student. Using the six-level New York ELA Regents rubric as an example: if a student writes an essay that meets the criteria for level 4, he would normally receive a C; a 5 would be a B, a 6 would be an A, a 3 would be a D, a 1 or a 2 would be an F. This would be an objective standard. But if the child is not very bright or capable, and can’t do any better than a 4, we’ll lower the bar for him; if he produces a level-4 essay, we’ll give him an A, because that’s the best he can do, whereas the “smarter” student sitting next to him gets a C for an essay of the same objective quality, because we deem him capable of writing at level 6.

The rationale here is that we don’t want kids who are less capable to “feel bad about themselves” and “turn off to learning.” The obvious problem is that it eliminates any incentive for the student to learn and improve. If I get an A for writing a level-4 essay, what incentive do I have to learn to write a level-5 essay? We need to get rid of this misguided and completely counter-intuitive belief that it is somehow “unfair” for a student who is intelligent and capable to receive a higher grade than one who is less intelligent and less capable, to say nothing of one who consciously chooses not to do his work.

And this has led to the most ridiculous, illogical idea of all, maybe the one single idea that pervades the schools and prevents kids from learning more than any other: That a student who cannot do the required work, who is incapable of producing work product that meets grade-level standards and class requirements, should pass that class, BECAUSE she cannot do it. I’ve actually had kids and parents tell me this; that it was wrong for them to fail, because they could neither do the assigned writing nor “understand” the assigned literature (the latter being another topic for another day). My response to such claims was simple, and should always be the response in this situation: If you cannot do the work, expect to fail until you can. Otherwise, what’s the point?

How can anyone learn in an environment where one can pass one’s courses by virtue of being either ignorant or incompetent, or both?

Entitlement grading refers to the model of starting every student off in September with a 100 average, before any work has been assigned, submitted or evaluated. The idea here is that everyone is an A student by default; students therefore approach school from a defensive posture, trying to avoid losing points. I, on the other hand, always used what I call the economic grading model, wherein the student starts the school year with zero points, having yet to demonstrate learning or proficiency through work product. The student needs to focus on earning as many points as she can, rather than avoiding the loss thereof. Submitting work earns points; the higher the quality of the work, the more points it garners. Simple logic.

The problem I often had was that students had grown so accustomed to the illogical, counter- intuitive entitlement model that they failed to appreciate, or even perceive, the risk of choosing not to do their work or submit assignments, or to behave properly in class, when working under the economic model. They figured they might lose points, but not enough to fail the class. What they didn’t realize was, if their job was to earn points instead of to avoid losing them, doing and/or submitting nothing was the worst choice they could possibly make. For years I tried to convince kids that a “D” or even an “F” was better than a zero; something is always better than nothing. It was harder than you might imagine to convince them of that.

The entitlement model prevents kids from learning not only by making them think they are high achievers by default, but by turning “pass” and “fail” into transitive verbs; i.e., into laudatory or punitive action by the teacher instead of the result of the student’s ability and performance. Hence the ubiquitous question, “Why did you fail me?” instead of “Why did I fail?” Even if they don’t fail, under the entitlement model the grade is more the product of the teacher’s conscious and often subjective decision to “take points off” than the student’s actual, objectively- measurable performance; what the teacher gave him instead of what he earned. It takes both failure and achievement out of the student’s hands.

There is an obvious downside to objective standards and economic grading: A lot of students will fail. Both subjective standards and entitlement grading seem designed not to produce or even measure actual learning, but to arrive at a number, even if it’s entirely arbitrary, that will satisfy students, parents and administrators. The goal is that the students pass, not that they learn. The latter is no longer a prerequisite to the former. The subjective/entitlement model gives us the former without necessarily engendering the latter; the objective/economic model does the opposite. And we’ve decided, for the most part, that the former, not the latter, is what we really care about.

In the end, students don’t learn because they know they don’t have to. What’s worse, the adults in their lives, both in and out of school, actively see to it that they don’t have to. That’s the tragedy of the American educational system.

I did my best to go back and add the italics and bolding that GZ had put into his version of the article. I hope that I caught them all, as when I copied the article over, it was in PDF format which is difficult to do and doesn’t bring any formatting with it (just a small note to all who want to submit guest articles here, Word documents are far easier to use here). I want to thank GrafZeppelin for taking the time to write this article and share his thoughts and insight with us here at SUFA. And as always with these guest commentary articles, remember that if you don’t like the pictures and cartoons, blame me, not the author. I am the one that adds them!

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Comments

  1. Good Evening SUFA,

    When JAC contacted me about this guest commentary, he was also aware that he would not be around to participate in the discussion. As such, he forwarded me some of the conversation that he and Graf had and asked me to add it into the discussion. So I will do so beginning with the #2 comment thread to the article. I intend to do what JAC suggested and post this article this evening, and then no article on Monday night so that GrafZeppelin has some time to respond to stuff in what I am sure is a busy schedule. So the next new article will be the open mic on Tuesday night.

    USW

  2. GrafZeppelin127 says:

    Hi, JAC.

    I don’t really know much about Montessori; I was never exposed to it in grad school or in the NYC public schools. My ideas about education are based entirely on practical experience, as well as on my understanding of law and public policy, not on theories or particular methodologies.

    Graf

    • Just A Citizen says:

      I finally got to your article. Holy crap batman…………..

      There is one other person from HuffPo that has joined my request for dialogue on this topic. I assume it is OK with you, so I will share this with him. When I get the go ahead from him I will forward his previous comments to you as well.

      Lets just say there are eerie similarities.

      I will notify USW of SUFA about the article and get some idea of when he might post it. I know he will want to schedule that for a time when you would be available to participate in the discussion. He usually posts guest pieces on Friday but I doubt you want to hang around on the net on a fine fall Saturday.

      When would be the best time for you to be available for interactive discussion?

      I do have one question for you regarding your comment that this is not “political”. What you describe, and our other HuffPo guest, is entirely different from my educational experience. So what happened? How and why did it change? I was under the impression this started with direction from the “political types” as in the Dept of Ed. Do you have any thoughts or information on this part of the equation?

      JAC

      • GrafZeppelin127 says:

        JAC

        I’ll take that to mean you liked it.

        I will be busy this Saturday morning and probably much of the afternoon as well; not sure when I’ll be available. Sunday should be better. By “interactive discussion” you mean a live chat (text, not voice/video)?

        What I mean by “not political” is precisely what I said in the article. It has absolutely nothing to do with which political party controls state or federal governments, which one I prefer to vote for, what
        their respective policy prescriptions for education are, or what their respective socio-political ideologies are. What goes on in the schools, in my view, is the result and responsibility of the four stakeholders I mentioned, and no one else. How and why it changed I really don’t know; the culture just gradually evolved into one where parents and kids became more and more full of themselves, and more and more resentful of the kind of authority represented by schools, teachers, principals, etc., less and less respectful of educators and their expertise (both pedagogical and substantive), and the more all four stakeholders came to focus on students’ and parents’ “rights,” the less they were able to understand or acknowledge students’ and parents’ responsibilities.

        This did not “start with direction from the ‘political types’ as in the Dept of Ed.” (which, I assume, refers to the Federal DOE, not the NYC DOE, which is the one I’m most familiar with). No one in Albany or Washington, or even at Tweed/110 Livingston, ordered the schools to emphasize the kids’ self-esteem over actual learning, to consider their feelings but not their choices, to start every student off in September with a 100 average, etc. The people who are involved in schools, i.e. the four stakeholders, saw to that. In my experience, the only real, tangible, meaningful influence the “political types” or the “government” have with respect to the schools is funding. Politicians and elected officials have negligible, if any, influence or impact on any of the practical, real-world, day-to-day issues and policies I raised in my article, and the federal DOE has absolutely none.  State and local departments or boards of education may set broad curriculum outlines, performance standards and standardized tests, but issues about day-to-day instruction, teaching methods, grading and assessment, classroom management, school discipline, etc. are handled within each individual school. Nothing that happens at Tweed, in Albany, or in Washington has any meaningful effect on the four stakeholders getting their ideas about and approach to those things wrong on a day-to-day basis. I never felt that any of the problems I was having came from anyone or anywhere beyond the school’s walls, with the exception of one particular pedagogical issue I didn’t mention that supposedly came from the borough Superintendent (although the principal who told me that was a demented, lying sack of sh**, so it could just as easily have been his ridiculous idea).

        This is about how the four stakeholders approach school and education, what they think their rights and responsibilities are, what they think “education,” “teaching” and “learning” mean, and how they deal with the kinds of situations, academic and disciplinary, that arise in school, and in individual classrooms, every minute of every day. Where unreasonable policies and mandates do come into a school from the outside, they are generally outcome-oriented (passing and graduation rates, test scores, etc.) and come from local school boards, district superintendencies, or city Boards/Departments of Education like the NYCDOE, not the state capital and certainly not Washington.

        Look forward to hearing back from you.

        Graf

        • Just A Citizen says:

          Very interesting, and YES I really liked your article.

          My experience with my kids schools is a little different but some of the same stuff was creeping in with a migration of younger parents from California and other big places. I lived in northern Idaho at the time. Values were still a big thing from K-12 and kids were for the most part expected to perform to pass.

          I do wonder if the changes came from the one factor you didn’t mention. Academia. After all, the teachers, Administrators and Parents started getting all these new ideas somewhere. I do kind of remember back in the 70’s when some of these “student rights” issues started heating up. First thing to go was discipline.

          Regarding the article and “interactive” it is kind of like a chat but not as immediate. He uses wordpress for the site and it is similar to HuffPo in that you can reply to a specific person and then back and forth. Others jump in. Everyone tries to shift discussions to the left because older computers squeeze the discussions into little boxes that run on and on. You should check out the most recent post to see how it works. Folks like to have the author around some on the day it is published so they can ask question, argue, debate or what ever.

          If you are around Sunday and perhaps drop in some on Monday then a Sat night post would work. He puts up new articles in the middle of the night. Otherwise maybe a Sunday night/Monday morning running until Tuesday night. That would give monday and tuesday for folks to discuss.

          Your comments below would make a good addition. You might want to save them and copy into a reply. I am sure someone is going to blame Govt for the problems. Some of us are radical right wing liberals remember……………LOL.

          Back to you a little later.
          JAC

          • GrafZeppelin127 says:

            JAC –

            You raise a good point with respect to academia, in the sense that a lot of this is what teachers are being taught at teacher’s colleges and M.S. Ed. programs in various places. I was supervising a student teacher a few years back; she told me she had been taught to never, ever tell a child that there was anything wrong with anything (s)he said in class. She had been taught that to do so would be, quote, “psychologically damaging.”

            What I don’t know is if aspiring teachers are being taught this crap because that’s what the schools want, and hence what they need to do to get and keep a job, or if it crept into the schools because the colleges are teaching teachers to teach this way. I was not taught to teach that way, and if I had been I probably wouldn’t have done it for very long. Amazingly, I ended up being a lot more effective by treating kids with contempt (not real contempt; think Don Rickles) than I ever did by blowing smoke up their butts and pretending to care about their personal lives.

            – GZ

  3. What you are describing is a not just part of the education system, but a completely cultural shift to entitlement and a namby-pamby approach to parenting where “time-outs” and pleading take the place of discipline. I’m not sure where it came from, but it infects our whole society.

    I think there are other problems with the education system, but as for kids graduating without having even the most basic of skills I think you probably hit it. We could debate systems of teaching and text books, but when it comes right down to it kids simply don’t have to try. Maybe it’s connected to their parents not having to pay. If schools were firm and parents had to pay for repeat classes, I bet a lot fewer kids would be repeating classes.

    • Michelle,

      That is a very interesting point about the fact that parents don’t have to pay. On one hand, I remind everyone that we are all paying for public education whether you have a child in it or not. But I think your point is still valid. Because it is in the form of taxes, it is not a prevalent thought in the minds of parents, because they will be paying the same no matter what happens.

      Perhaps if parents were forced to pay for their child’s education instead of the current system, they would have a more vested interest in the success of their children in school. There is little doubt that one of the major problems that we have to day is a lack of parental involvement. There are obviously multitudes of reasons for this (working parents, uneducated parents, etc.). But many who could if they wanted to, simply do not assist in their child’s education. My son struggled with an advanced math class last year, and he has a father that went to school for engineering, so it made sense for him to ask for help. He lives three states away, but we literally spent an hour on the phone every single night for 4 months working through the math so that he could learn it. It is time consuming and difficult, but so very important that parents be involved in their child’s education.

      I believe that you mentioned in the past that you home school. If that is the case, I am sure you understand what I am talking about here better than most.

      On the flip side of the argument though, if we, as parents were forced to pay for our child’s education in the way that you are talking about, how many children would fall through the cracks because their parents simply cannot afford to do so. With a growing percentage of people in America barely scraping by, could we afford to move to a system where that is the basis?

      USW

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      Somehow I doubt it has much to do with parents not having to pay for, inter alia, summer school and repeating courses or grade levels. All that would do, I think, is increase their outrage and indignation at the teacher and make them more prone to take action against him or her, or the school, to change the outcome in the child’s favor.

      When I was a kid, if I did poorly in school, my parents would turn to me and ask me why; they wanted to know what I did wrong. Today’s parents turn to the teacher and ask him why; they want to know what he did wrong.

      I don’t like to use the word “blame” in this context, because it’s not about “blaming” the teacher or the student. There’s a general unwillingness on just about everyone’s part to require kids, even high school kids, to take some responsibility for their own learning. Kids complain to their parents, and the parents complain to the teacher, that the child is “lost” and “has no idea what’s going on” and “doesn’t understand the work” or whatever. What no one, least of all the parent, wants to ask the student at that point is, “What have you done about it?”

    • Great idea to have parents pay for repeat classes. The taxpayers pay for the first round. Parents need to make it their business that their child learns. Some more skin in the game would go a long way to solving some problems.

      Our charter school has a good aproach also. Mix the students up according to ability/willingness to learn. A ‘smarter’ 6th grade student gets mixed in with 7th grade average students. Same thing with a ‘slower learner’ in the 8th grade. He gets mixed in with average 7th grade students. Win/win for the 6th & 8th grade student. The 6th grade student has the advantage of older kids helping him learn and sees it as cool that he’s able to keep up at a 7th grade level. Same thing for the 8th grade student..not so much pressure to be able to keep up with the faster learners.

      • That mixing does a lot more than just help faster or more motivated students progress quickly. It does more than group the slower children so that they can be taught at their pace. It allows children to see the perspectives of a broader range of peers. A 6th grader and an 8th grader are a lot different in physical and psychological maturity, the issues that they consider important vary. One of the issues I see in the schools is that all the kids see no one but the kids at the exact stage of life as themselves. More range of interaction is a good thing, it teaches a lot about people in general, and it helps adjust perspectives of what is important.

      • GrafZeppelin127 says:

        Good idea in theory, maybe. But from a practical standpoint, what do you do with respect to the student if the parent refuses, fails, or is unable to pay? You can’t keep the child out of school; he’s coming back in September whether the parent pays or not, and it takes months or even years to enforce collection liens (assuming they are legal to begin with), so what do you do with him? What classes do you put on his program? Do you give him the repeat classes anyway, making the lien meaningless? Or do you give him the next-level classes, making the failure meaningless?

        • hmmm thinking….keep him behind for that particular class? Then no diploma until all fees/minimum class requirements are met? Not sure how to answer.

  4. 8)

  5. Enjoyed the article. It is the first article I’ve read in years (not only on education) in which the bold, cold truth is being spoken. No soft peddling. Straight forward and plainly spoken. Thank you.

    The article covers the very sense of why my wife and I began homeschooling our daughter in her third grade year. She wasn’t being pushed. She wasn’t being held to a high enough standard of performance in a school system that oriented the class to the lowest learner’s level and speed. She wasn’t moving forward. So we pulled her and began home schooling.

    We just don’t feel that the government, teachers unions, administrators, politicians, and the majority of teachers will succeed in getting the public education system back to a standard that turns out educated kids with a future before them.

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      They can, if they get it right, but not unless it motivates the four stakeholders to change their thinking. Government and teacher’s unions can’t really do much about how the four stakeholders think about teaching and learning. They may be able to set the tone and lay the groundwork for shifting education away from the self-esteem-based/entitlement model and back to a performance-based/responsibility model, but they can’t make that happen directly. As long as the four stakeholders continue to believe that the way to satisfy whatever outcome-based mandates are provided it by state and local governments is to continue to promote self-esteem and hope that kids learn, instead of enforcing objective standards and making sure that kids learn, we’re not going to get anywhere.

      Of course, you could always get lucky. I was fortunate to be in a school for the last 6+ years of my teaching career that allowed me to do things the right way, and to have supervisors who “got it.” In the end, what matters is the people in in the particular school, not the “system” at large.

      • Indeed, it is always about the people. Some parents are doing things right, and the system is blocking them. Some teachers are doing thigns right, and parents are blocking them. Some kids are really trying and doing things right, but they are forced to stay at the pace of everyeon else, some adminsitrators are granting the freedom, but the parents or teachers or others are blockading them.

        Ultimately, however, the centralization of structure and the standardization are a problem. Kids are all different, standardization is a failed concept, one born of a desire to control and manage, rather htna a desire to teach and nurture.

    • I was homeschooled for nearly all of my time in school, starting from the second grade to graduation. Academically, it was vastly superior to anything else. I grew up a little too sheltered, but that was more a result of our rural location and the religion-motivated sheltering than because of homeschooling itself. I do not regret it for a moment.

  6. This is definitely a good analysis of the non-political issues with education. It is a problem, not only because of the poor quality of education, but because it produces adults that are just as weak minded and entitlement oriented as one might imagine given the mindset the students are being taught. If government were removed entirely from education, there is a possibility that the quality of education would not improve at all if the attitude towards it does not change as well.

    this is a big issue for me, I look forward to commenting further when I have more time.

    • Jon,

      I think this is well written and hits a couple of points, but skips others that are equally important. We know teachers unions are having a negative
      effect, protecting poor teachers from firing. Many administrators are paid over 100K, which might be OK if they are successful, but why pay large salaries for failure, year after year?

      Reality is, education has become a racket. Johnny can’t read, let’s spend more money until he can. What if Johnny doesn’t want to learn? Is he one of the many being raised by a mother only? 75% of our prison population come from those type homes.

      What about Jennie? (Johnny’s (insert slang term)) Jennie’s grandmother told her she was the families breadwinner at 14 (true story, happened this year), because she could make babies, Grandma would then raise, and Jennie didn’t need to worry none about passing anything, and they won’t let the school punish her.

      • GrafZeppelin127 says:

        What you’re talking about, LoI, is the forces that exist outside of schools, and outside of the four stakeholders, which are largely political and which I therefore purposefully avoided, and that for the purposes of this discussion I would like to continue to avoid.

        I think we start to run into trouble when we do things like characterize “teacher’s unions” as “protecting poor teachers from firing,” as if that is all they do or that is their main function. Teacher’s unions are like lawyers, in the sense that everyone hates them until they need one. Having worked for a truly despicable, fundamentally dishonest, blindly ideological, sociopathic principal, I might argue that we need teacher’s unions to protect good teachers from people like that.

        Again, I don’t want to launch a political discussion or pursue this topic any further. The real issue I’m getting at here is, whom do we give the benefit of the doubt? The quality of a teacher is difficult to measure objectively, as everyone has their own ideas about what a “good teacher” (or a “bad teacher”) is. I had kids tell me I was the best teacher they ever had; I had kids tell me I was the worst teacher they ever had. And both, essentially, for the same reasons. I had a parent at Open School conferences complain vociferously about a homework policy that she felt was completely unreasonable and wrong, then the very next parent who came in praised the same policy with great enthusiasm.

        In short, we need to get it right in school before we can get it right at the political level.

        • GrafZeppelin127,

          I am the father of two that are attending public school. Where one of my children has failed, we held him accountable. We met with his teacher, principal, doctor, and got him help. Most of our friends are also involved with their kids, and do the same as us, meet with the teachers, interact and stay involved. We also see the parents that do not, and know many of their children perform poorly.

          I see much truth in your article, but from my perspective, think it hits only a small part of the problem. But I am OK with requiring kids to earn their grades, or flunk them.
          And if the parents do not know their child is failing, I think it’s the parents fault, unless a teacher lied to them.

          • My son chose to be the class clown. I ended up in the classroom to keep my eye on him. I got in trouble for helping him with the classwork. The teacher called me out saying I couldn’t help him since none of the other students had their parents in there helping their children. What’s up with that?

            So I started attacking the problem (behavior problem leading to grade problem) from the homework angle. I sat with him every day to make sure the homework got done, and I do mean every day. I assure you he understood the coursework and always asked relevant questions. The result: still bad grades because homework only resulted in 10% of the grade. Again I ask What’s up with that?

            So now I can’t help him in the classroom and homework gets him nowhere so how am I supposed to make any headway? This is just a rhetorical question but it’s what I see as a roadblock to having parents involved. I haven’t given in and never will.

            • Anita,

              While I can see the teacher’s point, it doesn’t sound like he/she was very helpful.
              I was disappointed in how the school handled some of our problems, we went around them to a doctor and testing for his ADHD. The school then had to do their own tests, took weeks to get things moving. After exhausting every other option, went with a ritalin patch. Was very anti-drug, and hard to convince, but am 100% pleased with results, and no side affects. Homework used to take hours, now 20-30 min’s.

              • Good news for the Illusions. My son’s problem started 1/4 way thru last year, so I’m not going with the ADHD theory.
                I posted in response to VH that I don’t buy into that angle..no offense to the Illusions.

      • LOI, my point was that there are cultural issues iwth the schools/education system. We can debate over which is more important, but the fact remains that there are issues with school structure and techniques that are not political so much as cultural climate.

        I would argue that many of those attitudes cam from centralized, cookie cutter education, which is a necessity of government run education systems if they are to be in control. However, there is a lot of crap on child rearing and avoiding stress and conduct around children that has crept into society that is not necessarily political. If we do not address both aspects, even total privatization will not fix all the issues.

        The issues described in Graf’s article are real and are a major issue, particuarly in the “yuppie” schools where parents take an interest in the school, but not the kids. It is born of a materialistic mindset, where the paper result means more than the abstract concept of actual learning. The parents decide that “getting involved” means pressing their influence on the school and seeking preferential treatment.

        On top of that we have a “Dangerous Minds” attitude of the “you all start with an A, you just have to keep it” and it gets applied out of context to how that actual story went. Worse, we have the same fearful attitude that has crept into the society as a whole. Fear of psychological harm to our children or whatever else that justifies them sitting around getting obese and not having to work hard at anything in school or otherwise. Fear is, indeed, the mind-killer.

        • Jon,

          I see you point, and can agree. I have never experienced the
          yuppie schools, so will have to trust you on that. Here in the Natural State, there aren’t so many yuppies as to be an influence. BTW, the reason we don’t wear shoes is to improve our math scores.

          “Fear of psychological harm to our children or whatever else that justifies them sitting around getting obese”

          http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/09/make_way_for_the_milk_monitors.html

          • Yea, thats the thing, its not about the sugar levels like the current nutjobs imply. They are just using it as an excuse to control. The fear and lockdown of activity is more a cause by far than the food sources. So once again they cause an issue with their controls and try to solve it with even more controls.

  7. Excellant analysis. Having gone through 12 yrs Catholic school myself, I see a big problem with the public school teachers not being able to disciplne the kids without being flogged by the parents. I also see the parents not being involved enough on the academic end but they are sure in the bleachers cheering for the kid to do well on the court. I could keep going but it’s a school night and even the parents have a bedtime on school nights. Looking forward to the discussion tomorrow.

  8. The best solution: Separate school and state.

    • Great reference site Kent. Didn’t know there was that big of a flight happening from public education.

    • Kent,

      You had me just stating it, without the link. Maybe the government should provide standard tests, (3,6,9 & 12 makes sense to me) like ACT. Each school should decide to take them or not.

      • That wouldn’t bother me. Of course good schools, or parents, could devise even better tests than the government ones- if that is a part of the educational experience they wish for their kids.

  9. Graf, good article. Had not heard of the 100- grading method. I have always known the 0+ method. My kids started school in NJ then we moved to CA. What a difference. After 1 month my seventh grade daughter came home in a huff. She was bored. When we asked her what was wrong, she said she had done in it all already. Next day we were at the school. A day later she was in in eigth grade. Ended up second in her HS class and with a degree in EECS from UC Berkeley.
    CA schools stink mostly because of the lack of expectations. Praise everthing don’t criticize, make the student feel good. No wonder so many of them smoke funny tobacco. That is the only way the feel good about their own achievements.
    We had the most trouble with our youngest. He would not turn in assignments, sometimes he even did them and still did not turn them in. Most of the time we would not find out about the problems until grades came out. We never asked for a change in grade. What we asked for was a phone call when something was late or missing. What we got was absolutely no cooperation. Our solution was to make him do the assignment even if it was late but the teachers made no effort to help us or to demand that he do the work. It wasn’t an intellegence issue as he is the brightest of the our 3 which was a big part of the problem. He too was bored with it all. It did cost him opportunites as some doors were closed to him that were not closed to the other 2. Like his older siblings, he too will soon have his EECS degree.
    When I student taught 40 yrs ago, we went by the traditional methods. Hence my experience in HS and teaching college level are quite different then yours. However, I did coach rec and comp soccer for many years. Again starting in NJ then moving to CA. In soccer, the attitudes between NJ and CA were dramatic. In NJ, learning the game was the primary goal, fun was second. In CA fun came first. In terms of soccer skills, the CA kids are 1-2 years behind because of this attitude. I had several parents blast me for expecting the kids to learn the game rather than play bunch ball and have fun. The kids knew the difference. They really started having fun when they did start play team soccer and had some success as a result.

    Did you encounter the writing method used here in the early grades? The idea is for the kids to write in any fashion they wish. Grammer, spelling, coherence, punctuation, etc. are ignored. What is important is that they “express” there thoughts. The net result is that bad gammer, spelling, etc. become learned rather than corrected. In the end it is much harder to unlearn the mistakes and relearn it correctly. Again the child must always feel good. Good feelings that result from real accomplishments are thus made meaningless.
    Throughout our culture, failure is blamed on someone else. I see failure in many areas, schools, politics, media… It is always someone elses fault, the teacher, the previous administration, stupid readers,… Like Pogo, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

    • T-Ray,

      “The net result is that bad grammer, spelling, etc. become learned rather than corrected. In the end it is much harder to unlearn the mistakes and relearn it correctly.”

      Reminds me about practicing golf, if you have a problem with your swing, and practice wrong, you re-enforce the bad behavior. The longer you do it wrong, the deeper it gets ingrained, and more difficult to correct.

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      I learned about affective writing in grad school and taught it right from the beginning, but I learned fairly quickly that you really need to do both. You have to teach kids to express their thoughts in writing (emphasizing the inescapable fact that thought = language and language = thought, preserved), but you also need to be aware, and make kids aware, of the difference between writing-to-think and writing-to-communicate.

      One of the first questions I would always ask kids at the beginning of the school year was, “What’s the purpose of language?” The obvious answer I always got was, “to communicate,” to which I always made the point that communication is a function of language, but not its ultimate purpose. Why? Because you can’t have communication without language, but you can have language without communication. The purpose of language is to give recognizable form to thought.

      I don’t want to get off on a philosophical rant here; suffice it to say that both affective and communicative writing are important and need to be taught. I had a supervisor once who couldn’t understand why I was giving kids such low scores on their essays. I pointed out that their sentences were wordy, awkward and occasionally nonsensical. She said, “Well, if you can pretty much understand what they mean, that’s good enough.”

      No, it’s not good enough. And it never seems to occur to anyone that this might be the reason why kids can’t write with any degree of precision.

  10. Ray Hawkins says:

    @USW – correct me if I’m wrong – but where you and I went to school – in GF’s words we used the economic / objective system no?

  11. Ray Hawkins says:

    @GrafZeppelin – excellent article and thanks for posting herein.

    Your article is demonstrative in my mind that education really is local (for the most part). By way of disclosure I am one of the few who consider myself to be left of center AND believe the Department of Education (Federal) should be eliminated in favor of a system that pushes educational responsibility, accountability, money, authority,….. all the way down to the local level. Your article does not so much support that, but it doesn’t dissuade it either.

    As a technologist at heart and in practice, I am disappointed that Blackboard and others have not provided better technology thus far to provide both more visibility for parents and non-repudiation on performance. I know we’re all busy as bejesus everyday – but your kids education should trump watching the latest TV premieres or catching up on whatever “Jersey-blahblahblah” show is polluting the airwaves.

    As the Dad of an almost 16 month old I’ll offer some additional perspective – we have him enrolled in a day program through one of the chain-style schools. M-F he is there from 8-ish to around 5-ish. We get daily reports on everything he did and participated in as well as the areas to work on with him to help support programmatic what they do during the day (e.g. baby sign language). Is the whole thing perfect? Nope. We pay more for his daycare then we do on our mortgage (daycare in metro-philly is supposedly top 5 expensive in the nation – oh well). Some days, by the time we eat dinner, we are exhausted and he is exhausted – there is more fun to be had in chasing the two dogs and pulling their tails versus learning how to say “jelly” in Italian, Spanish, Polish or Mandarin. I sure as hell do not want him growing up in a system as you describe GZ – I do wonder if the “approach and methodology” are different for toddlers than teens? Maybe. Maybe not.

    As with most things the answer should rest within and is local – right in front of us. The best teachers I ever had were the toughest ones. Hell – the Prof who taught my MBA class in Negotiations Strategy made it boldly clear that he didn’t give two shits if he lost the popularity contest on Rate My Teacher or Rate My Professor – he would gladly fail us all if we didn’t earn our keep.

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      I did my best teaching, I think, when I had the luxury of not having to care what kids thought of me personally. Amazingly, and perhaps ironically, I developed the best rapport with kids that I ever had by treating them with Don Rickles-esque contempt; by making it clear that I didn’t care about their “feelings” or their out-of-the-classroom “problems,” and that they had only two choices: Do your work, or fail.

      • SK Trynosky Sr/. says:

        Now, that’s the way to go. As a Scoutmaster, I find that that’s the way to get and keep their attention as well as respect.

  12. As a former teacher-what effect did all the cases of ADHD have on a teachers ability to teach in a crowded class room. Was policy changed? Did the kids effected get help or did everyone get hurt?

    • V, I’m jumping in here even though you adressed the question to GZ. I see crowded classrooms as a problem. There really should be a set # of students per classroom. Maybe 20-25. Me son has had 30-35 classmates every year so far. On top of that, in his particular grade there has been a high percentage of the class who are deemed ADHD and are on Ritalin or whatever. First of all, I don’t buy into the ADHD problem as being as true as “they” say. I see it more of of a problem with the parents not wanting to put up with an overactive child so there must be a medication to calm him down. Further, why not move the ADHD kids into their own classroom and deal with them as a group? It’s no wonder the teachers get frustrated, parents like me are frustrated also.

  13. GZ,

    Good article! Education has been discussed in length here on a few occasions, and your personnal understanding of the system just reaffirms what many think. As a youth, the best teacher I had was my 10th grade American History teacher. Each day, he would stand behind his podium, and teach that weeks chapter, and would ask many thought provoking questions about why the historical actions were needed, what an individual was thinking, etc. It was the only class I ever got straight “A’s” in. Despite my hatred of public speaking, I carried his teaching methods into adulthood and became a USAF instructor on the subject of Combat Arms Training and Maintenance. Not the most interesting classroom subject, but, using his teaching methods, I/we had a great deal of success in getting our objectives achieved.

    Today, as you stated, it isn’t about learning, it’s about not hurting the childs feelings. It’s more important that the child attends school for the funding, rather than the education. As you had mentioned what your student teacher had learned in colloege, this attitude may be far more “political” than what many want to believe.

    As my 10th Grade teacher would frequently say, “Let’s use the cause and effect method” If the colleges are teaching the “no psychological damage” approach to teaching, what are the longterm effects of this method? If these effects are negative, then we must return to the cause.

    I’ll hold my theory on this to see if it’s affirmed.

    Peace!

    G!

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      I like the phrase “cause and effect method.” I made it a point to constantly reinforce the idea to students that the results they were seeing were caused by their choices, not anything that I had done. You chose, I told them, not to do your work; you chose to take your cell phone out in the middle of class; you chose to talk to your neighbor instead of writing your response; you chose to wait until the night before the exam to start working on your essay. Kids become so accustomed to being forgiven for their bad choices and absolved of the undesired outcome thereof that they simply assume that outcome will be undone and abrogated for them. As a result, they see no risk in making those bad choices.

      It’s one of the biggest mistakes we make as educators. We teach kids that their feelings matter, but their choices don’t.

      • Sadly, I can only name one “educator” in all of my school years. Now, we those who want to educate, only to be stifled by the system. Since the effect is negative, what is the cause?

  14. I’m wondering how you feel about the business end of the school system. Here I’m more familiar with the community college system in New York and New Jersey wherein kids who clearly do not belong in college level courses are offered “remedial” classes while paying for college credits (even though they earn no credit). I find it repulsive, especially when kids are permitted to drop “remedial” courses and retake them (so long as they’re willing to pay the freight). It not only dilutes the legitimate degrees out there (which has been going on since I went to college 30 years ago), but it also legitimizes a school system that permits kids to graduate without the skills required of them.

    It seems to me that the only beneficiaries of this are the professors who get to keep their jobs and institutions that hire them. I come from the left politically, but I’m no fool. Tenure is abhorrent to me. So is the bureaucracy that enhances the crap described above. My parent switched me to a catholic school after the 5th grade and the torture in that system only took hold because my old man was paying $400 a year in tuition and he would’ve killed me if I didn’t achieve basic success. That said, my three kids all attended public schools and did wonderfully (but make no mistake, fear played a great role in that, as well as total family support and aid).

    Do you feel that college institutions today are businesses first (which I wouldn’t mind if they weren’t scamming so many students on the one hand and diluting the kids who work hard to achieve their success on the other)?

  15. Gang,

    Away for a few days breathing crisp mountain air..!

    On topic:

    Graf,

    What is wrong with the school system? In what way is it “purposefully designed to prevent kids from learning”?

    What is wrong with the school system? Absolutely nothing is wrong with it

    Yep, you heard me right.

    Nothing is wrong with it because it is accomplishing precisely the goal it was intended to create

    Public school systems are not designed to educate your children to be independent, creative, thoughtful, self-thinkers.

    It exists to create human robots who know just enough to be competent at a task, but not enough to question the task.

    There are four groups of stakeholders in education: Parents, students, teachers, and administrators. All four of them, in my view, fundamentally misunderstand what their role in school and in the learning process ought to be.

    Graf, here lies the root of the problem.

    There are only two stakeholders – the parents and the children. No one else has a stake.

    Today’s parents have been trained by their parents who were trained by their parents who were sold on a belief that professional schooling was beneficial.

    What those original parents did not know was the plan.

    The plan, from day one, was to take the children away from their parents and put them into the hands of the State.

    Thus, the State, in command, determines who are the stakeholders and it is not the parents nor the children!. The sole stakeholder is the State.

    There is no “fixing” this system since it is not broken. The system is working as designed.

    If there are parents who disagree with the State; who claim that they and their children are the only real “stakeholders” in their own lives; then there is only one answer available:

    Leave the system

    • BF,

      In many ways I agree with what you have written here. I do believe that the system, at this point, is intended by those who ultimately are in charge to create good citizens who don’t question authority and are unable to think critically.

      That being said, I also believe that you are wrong when identifying the stakeholders. Sure, the parents and kids are true stakeholders. However, the teachers are stakeholders as well, in the same way that employees at a factory are stakeholders.

      More important, I think that it is a flawed way of thinking to believe that the system is not broken because it is “doing what it is designed to do.” True if we accept that what the state wants it to do trumps all else. But I don’t believe that the state’s desire is the trump card. The purpose of education is to teach people to think, to learn, to improve. That is what the PARENTS want the system to be. Why do we have to accept that the system is working properly if it is not meeting the parents definition of satisfactory performance? Don’t the desires of the consumer trump the desire of the producer? If we believe that the market works, that in truth the desires of the consumer are king, doesn’t this apply to public education as well?

      USW

      • USWep,

        However, the teachers are stakeholders as well, in the same way that employees at a factory are stakeholders.

        Not even the same.

        A teacher has no stake in the “product” – the child’s future.

        IF the child becomes President or mass murder has no impact upon the teacher.

        His salary or job prospects do not change.

        Therefore, the teacher’s personal success is directly tied to the system, not the child.

        The success of Aristotle completely depended on the success of his students.

        He got more students to tutor because the parents of his previous students were successful. Thus, other parents sent their children to him to learn.

        This is not at all the process of modern public education.

        But I don’t believe that the state’s desire is the trump card.

        It isn’t the trump card. The parents own the trump card.

        However, the game is this:
        “You cannot play your trump card while in the game

        You have to leave the game – leave the system – and then voila! the trump card is unnecessary!

        At this time, the American State allows you to leave the system. This is not the case for example in Germany.

        There, the only play is to leave the country.

        America is not far from that situation. It’s not there, but …..

        The purpose of education is to teach people to think, to learn, to improve.

        T

        Educate comes from the root Latin word dūcere “to lead”.

        This is not modern public schooling – this is the problem.

        Parents believe they send their kids to school to educate them.

        But school does not educate.

        It gives “learning”. def: 2. To fix in the mind or memory; memorize.

        It may appear I am playing games by definition – but I am not. My point is incredibly important.

        It is the mistake of parents to confuse learning with education

        If we believe that the market works, that in truth the desires of the consumer are king, doesn’t this apply to public education as well?

        First and foremost, parents must decide what they desire for their children.

        Until parents are clear minded then they will be manipulated by forces outside of themselves.

        Parents (IMO, incorrectly) plan their children. They have dreams of the future of their kids; they think they will be a doctor, or lawyer, or businessman, or solider, etc…. while their kids are toddlers. Then they design that path. IMO, this is a path to manipulation.

        Parent (IMO) need to merely create a tool kit for their children – so that when they chose for themselves, they will be capable of learning at that point.

      • I do believe that the system, at this point, is intended by those who ultimately are in charge to create good citizens who don’t question authority and are unable to think critically.

        Holy Conspiracy theory, batman!

        Me thinks you guys take this statist nonsense way too far … again.

        On the one hand, you claim it can’t do anything right (which I tend to agree), then on the other hand they’re managing to program the education system to their benefit.

        It’s a failed system, no doubt … and I’m sure there are several reasons for it, but a managed conspiracy?

        That’s a riddle I can’t solve.

    • Good Day BF 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed the mountains!

      It is interesting that there have always been “problems” with the education system. A historical look at Federal Govt. involvement:

      http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/role.html

      Even today, the it seems they want even more involvement.

      http://www.thefoxnation.com/american-schools/2010/09/27/obama-extend-school-year-one-month

      The Dumbing Down of America in progress.

      G!

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      An interesting angle, BF, not quite the same as mine. My argument is basically that public education is intended, but not designed, “to educate your children to be independent, creative, thoughtful, self-thinkers.” You’re saying it’s not even intended to do that, rendering the design problems I’ve described irrelevant or moot.

      You may be right about that, although it’s a bit too cynical for my taste, however it does conform to your idea that the adults who work in and for schools have no “stake” therein, an idea that as a former teacher I can’t really agree with. If it’s true that educators have no stake in education, then I suppose the system could be intended as you suggest. I remember feeling that way during the brief time I taught in the suburbs, where all I was allowed to do was have the kids jump through hoops and then congratulate them for doing it so well.

      Is this because educators (teachers and administrators) have themselves given up on the idea of education as intended “to educate your children to be independent, creative, thoughtful, self-thinkers”? I’ve had a lot of teachers and administrators, particularly the Department Chairperson in the suburban school, tell me that “kids can’t” do that and can’t be expected to do that. I was specifically told not to challenge the kids to think or learn when I taught in the suburbs. It was like the Bizarro World out there. I was unable to function.

      Maybe the self-esteem/entitlement model I’ve been describing, and that experience I had in the suburbs, demonstrates your point, and I am the exception that proves the rule.

      • Graf,

        Excellent article, btw.

        My argument is basically that public education is intended, but not designed, “to educate your children to be independent, creative, thoughtful, self-thinkers.” You’re saying it’s not even intended to do that, rendering the design problems I’ve described irrelevant or moot.

        You understood my point well.

        After Napoleon defeated the Prussian armies, Prussian statesmen held that it was no longer optional to have an “undisciplined” population.

        From the history of public schooling in America:


        The Prussian mind held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver:
        1) Obedient soldiers to the army;
        2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms;
        3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function;
        4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry;
        5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues;
        6) National uniformity in thought, word, and deed.

        Through forced schooling, everyone would learn that “work makes free,” and working for the State, even laying down one’s life to its commands, was the greatest freedom of all.

        Here in the genius of semantic redefinition1 lay the power to cloud men’s minds, a power later packaged and sold by public relations pioneers Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee in the seedtime of American forced schooling.

        In 1844, Horace Mann wrote in his Seventh Annual Report to the Boston School Committee. On a visit to Prussia the year before, he had been much impressed with the ease by which Prussian calculations could determine precisely how many thinkers, problem-solvers, and working stiffs the State would require over the coming decade, then how it offered the precise categories of training required to develop the percentages of human resource needed.

        All this was much fairer to Mann than England’s repulsive episcopal system – schooling based on social class; Prussia, he thought, was republican in the desirable, manly, Roman sense.

        Massachusetts must take the same direction.

        The roots of American Public Schools was set.

        You may be right about that, although it’s a bit too cynical for my taste, however it does conform to your idea that the adults who work in and for schools have no “stake” therein, an idea that as a former teacher I can’t really agree with. If it’s true that educators have no stake in education, then I suppose the system could be intended as you suggest.

        The question I ask of you…
        Is your success directly impacted by the success or failure of your students in their life?

        If it is not, you have no stake in your students outcome in their life.

        You have a stake in the system, however for by its measures, you become successful or a failure.

        Is this because educators (teachers and administrators) have themselves given up on the idea of education as intended “to educate your children to be independent, creative, thoughtful, self-thinkers”?

        I cannot say they have “given up”.

        I say that they, too, have been “learned” to know where their bread gets its butter.

        It was like the Bizarro World out there. I was unable to function.

        Your problem: you wanted to be (and were) an “educator”…. that is, “a leader”. An Aristotle-type who probably was thrilled by challenging questions from curious minds. My wife (we homeschool) is the family’s primary educator. She is not a teacher.

        The system demanded you to be a teacher, to instruct.

        I am the exception that proves the rule.

        …and your only route was for you to leave the system.

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          “Is your success directly impacted by the success or failure of your students in their life?”

          Not in a material sense, no. An emotional one, maybe; I am certainly gratified to see my former students succeed, especially when they tell me that I played a part in it. I see what you’re saying, though.

          I would suggest that there’s a difference between having a stake in education and having a stake in the outcome of students’ lives. Without parsing the meaning of the word “education,” “educator” or “teacher,” a teacher (meaning, someone who is employed as such by a school) at a very minimum has a stake in doing, and keeping, his job. He also has a stake in his, for lack of a better term, professional satisfaction, i.e., being able to get up each morning, walk into that classroom, face those kids for 45 minutes five times per day, put correcting pen to student-work paper, etc., and to do so with a sense of purpose, a sense that he’s doing it well, a sense that he knows and understands what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, etc. This is all very abstract and philosophical, yes, and it depends very much on the individual. But it does matter.

          When I taught in the suburbs, in that “Bizarro world” I mentioned, I found myself so disturbed and troubled by what I was seeing and hearing, what I was being compelled to do and forbidden from doing, and how I was being treated by students and adults alike, that I actually suffered from physical as well as psychological distress the entire time I was there. It was only eight months, but it felt like forever. Having suffered through that, persevered (I never missed a day of school even though I woke up every morning consumed with dread), and engaged in so much reflection on it since then, I can’t agree that teachers do not, per se, have “a stake in education.”

          I suppose that teachers who care about kids, care about teaching, care about education, etc. “have a stake” because they choose to do so; they could just as easily say, “f*** it,” do what they’re told, collect a paycheck and never think about it. That’s a whole separate discussion, though.

          • Graf,

            I was public schooled, and many decades later, I still suffer the “September” anxiety – dreading of having to “go back to school”.

            How traumatic those few years were…..and I had, by any measure, an incredibly successful school ‘career’.

            I can only imagine what others who truly suffered in those years must have felt.

            So, I believe we are talking about two different things, though.

            (1) You, and your anguish in trying to educate in a system that worked hard to prevent it.

            (2) Creating or fixing this system.

            In (1), you have my respect.

            In (2), it is impossible. The system, as it is, exists purposely. To “fix” it means you must “break it”, and powerful forces will do whatever it takes to prevent your “breaking”.

            The public school system exists specifically in America to:

            * Citizens who thought alike on most issues;

            * National uniformity in thought, word, and deed.

            It is very successful in doing this (the other Prussian goals are merely sugar coating for America).

            One need only to see the flag on cars and T-shirts and on homes and businesses.

            One need only to hear the “My America – right or wrong!” chants and the like.

            One need only to see the Nationalism the pours out of every blood cell of an American-born person…. the “US vs. Them”… mentality.

            How could a population of 300 million plus, over an area of 3.8 million sq. mi., dozens of ethnic cultures, all salute at the same time, the same things and sing the same song.

            This was the goal of public schooling.

            It works.

            It will resist you or anyone else from tampering with it.

    • Flag,

      “There are only two stakeholders – the parents and the children. No one else has a stake.”

      People have a stake when you start talking about money.

      http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/education-administration/13900577-1.html

      • LOI,

        Exactly.

        The stakeholders in the children =
        (1) the child
        (2) the parents.

        The stakeholders in the system =
        (1) the State
        (2) the teachers
        (3) the public schools and administration
        (4) the community
        (5) the child (in so far as the community, not themselves)
        (6) the parent (in so far as the community, not themselves)

  16. Good article GZ. Thanks for posting. Also, I’m looking forward to you and Black Flag engaging. Don’t mind him, he does it everybody. None of us are safe, 😉

  17. The Latin word “educate”

    ..comes from the root “to lead” and “to raise”.

    It meant “to raise (or make) leaders”.

    Contrast that with the public schooling system, and the difference is clear.

    • An interesting entry from the Encyclopedia Mathius:

      A degree in Liberal Arts is not what it once was. In Ye Olden Times, most Romans were educated to some degree or another. However, slaves were only educated in what they needed to know for purposes of their service (ie, farming, animal husbandry, construction, et cetera). Only free men were allowed to learn the arts, history, theater, oration, politics, et cetera. Liber/libero/libera = Free in Latin. Thus they became known as the Liberal Arts.

  18. I know a lawyer who once substituted as a high school history teacher in a southern California school system. These high school seniors could not read nor write in any language, yet he was REQUIRED to give them a passing grade. Why? Because the school system got PAID for EACH student they graduated. THAT is how the public school system got screwed. Cash strapped school districts and schools need to get paid for each student that attends and each student graduated in order to have the money to put out for building maintenance and equipment. What do we do about it? First we need to change the attitude of parents. How do we do that? Short of smacking them upside the noggin with a baseball bat, I haven’t a clue.

    What this guy writes about here is nothing short of a total nightmare. Evidently this guy was raised in the New York public school system himself and cannot see the forest for the trees. The problem is and always has been the progressive political climate and the Marxist attitudes and teachings in our college and university systems. I don’t know why, but everyone I have ever met that was an artist of one sort or another has always believed that they were much more intelligent than the “rank and file” average American citizen. Entertainers, educators, singers, songwriters, lawyers, and actors have always considered themselves artists of one sort or another and thereby fall into this trap of thinking that they are the elite of the human race. The cure, I believe, is getting back to admiring and promoting something called “COMMON SENSE”.

    There you have my two cents worth.

    • Dread Pirate Mathius says:

      90+ percent of the country thinks they’re middle class (including almost the entirety of the lower class).

      Nearly everyone considers themselves to be above average intelligence, yet we know this is blatantly impossible.

      Why? Well I’m sure we could dig into it and come up with some theories, but I’d like to hazard a guess.

      Young children are told that they can grow up to be anything they want, that the world is their oyster. They are told that nothing is their fault. They are given a trophy even when they lose. Last place? Well, that’s ok, here’s an award for a good effort. Everything is child proofed and no hard lessons are ever learned. Their self esteem is coddled to the point where a positive self-image is a birthright and anything that disputes that “fact” is a egregious, offensive, and outrageous occurrence.

      Can’t read? It’s your teacher’s fault?
      Can’t hold a job? It’s probably society’s fault for not being accepting of your uniqueness.
      Can’t pay your bills? It’s evil corporations faults for suckering you into buying crap you can’t afford.
      Can’t find a date? It’s the world’s fault for imposing a bias against people like you which renders you undesirable.
      Can’t lose weight? It’s the food industry’s fault for selling unhealthy food.

      NO!

      NO, GODDAMN IT! NO!

      It’s your fault. Try harder or go to a library. Conform, put on a suit and comb your hair, be polite and work hard, do not get a tribal tattoo on your neck if you want to ever earn above the minimum wage. Manage your money, spend less than you earn, save money in the good times for use in the bad times. Learn social skills. Hit the gym, put the fork down and step away from the lasagna. Maybe you’re just dumb, maybe you’re lazy, maybe you’re a slob, maybe you give off a vile and offensive odor, maybe, just maybe you have a real disability. The world owes you nothing and you have no right to respect and wealth. You have no right to the “good life.” The bubble everyone these days lives in where their inviolable ego is immune to criticism and all faults belong to someone else leads to a victimhood mentality that never did anyone any good.

      When I was a younger may (the DPM is 90-something years old), men and women worked their hands to the bone, and busted their humps to achieve The American Dream(tm). They skrimped and saved and did without. They worked hard and longer than anyone today and they did it without complaint. All failing were your own fault and you learned or you were trampled into dust and forgotten.

      That, my friends, is what’s wrong with America’s schools. That is what’s wrong with America today. They’ve made themselves weak.

      Y’AARRRGH!

      • Whoa!!!…And a good afternoon ARRGHHHHHH to you , sir. Nice retort.

        • Dread Pirate Mathius says:

          Me starboard cannons be a-loaded with 9-pounders for just such a day as this.

          I just received a longboat full of Dr. Pepper as tribute from a weak and pathetic city I was blockading (**cough** Paris **cough**). Now to mix it in the appropriate ratio with some quality grog..

          I miss SUFA – stupid raptors at work are keeping me too busy lately..

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      Actually, no, I was not raised in the New York public school system. As the rest of your argument is purely political, I will refrain from responding thereto.

      • psssttt… it’s a political blog.. if you don’t respond to political comments, you probably won’t be saying much..

        Adding, I was raised in LA, but in private school, because the public school was (is?) overcrowded and useless. I was an awful and lazy student. It wasn’t until grad school that I ever put in a single iota of effort. I coasted the first 22 years of my life and it got me only so far. I felt that I hat a right to success.

        Eventually I figured it out though. I wanted to go further, make more money, have more toys, drive a fancy car, have a nice home, command the respect of my peers. It was my own job to get me there, not society’s. Nobody owed me anything.

        Except you.

        You owe me a Red Bull.

        • Red Bull? To give you wings? Better take DPM along to sail you home 😉

          • GA, have a sip of this Red Bull here *pop*.. I promise you’ll like it.. come on, all the cool kids are doing it. Don’t you want wings?

            You owe me a backhoe to help move all these empty cans before they crush me to death.

            • No backhoe . . . and no thanks on the red bull. (Ye gots ta dig yerself outa this one, laddie, cuz yer th’ one that dug yerself into it!)

              I had my last taste of alcohol on March 15th 1986.

              However, the Red Bull sponsored air races are real cool!

      • No argument, just merely a statement. Actually, a rather opinionated statement.

        As for me, I was whelped and raised in Seattle (educated partly in a Catholic school, mostly in public schools). A long, long time ago. Now live in Arizona.

  19. Thanks for sharing Graf. Realizing that school districts around the country can vary greatly, I’ll offer what I see here in surburban Wisconsin.

    I do now agree with (most of) BF’s take in this area. We are getting out of the education system exactly what is expected, it’s just that many involved don’t even realize what the end game is. I certainly didn’t.

    I have two adult children that are through college and one high school junior. An area that I’ve seen as being a huge time grabber for kids, is sports. Year round kids are playing, practicing, travelling. It is nuts. My son plays HS football and we have a successful program. He gets report cards for weight lifting (must be in there 4x/ week), and his current practice schedule gets him home between 6:30 and 7:30 M-W. Lighter schedule on Th; game night on Fri; film on Sat am. Then homework on top of this schedule. Adults would not put up with this and it is not unique to this sport or our school. If anything, football is probably easier than some because it’s a short schedule and you don’t travel but to other schools.

    Parents’ priorities are often messed up. A week ago today was HS Open House. Very cool – you come to school for 2 hours and literally go through your child’s schedule, meet the teachers, hear a little bit about the class, etc. We’ve never missed it for any of our kids and even though by our 3rd, we have some of the same classes and teachers, we still went. In some classes there were as few as 5 students represented by parents. Very pathetic effort. P/T conferences the same – have never missed regardless of grades.

    I do want to comment on your effort to remain apolitical. I’m not sure you can leave unions out of a discussion on education and I see others have mentioned them above. You also talk about entitlement – this is just part of the whole social justice concept that is so much a part of the political picture. Don’t you know, everyone is equal and needs to feel good.

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      I appreciate your response, but I shall respectfully decline to discuss politics in this forum. I’ve said all I’m going to say about teacher’s unions in a comment upthread.

      • Graf,

        As the resident liberal in these part, I would ask you to reconsider. I’ve been around for a little over a year and have found the political debate extremely enlightening.

        And I can’t argue with everyone all by my lonesome.

        Anyway, welcome to the asylum!

        Mathius

    • 15 Chicago schools could see longer days
      By Azam Ahmed, Tribune reporter | August 23, 2010

      In an effort to extend what is one of the nation’s shortest school days, Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the schedules of 15 elementary schools using online courses and nonteachers, sources said. By employing nonteachers at a minimal cost to oversee the students, the district can save money and get around the teachers’ contract, which limits the length of the school day. Mayor Richard Daley has scheduled an announcement about the “Additional Learning Opportunities” pilot program at Walsh Elementary School in the Pilsen neighborhood.

      http://articles.chicagotribune.com/keyword/chicago-public-schools/recent/4

      • LOI,

        Articles like this make me shake my head.

        My daughter, now 14 (the mountain trip was her birthday present), would be in “Grade 8” in the school system.

        She currently is solving Grade 10/11 level math, physics and chemistry. Her reading would be about Grade 7, but accelerating recently.

        We (by that I mean my wife) spends less than an hour a day educating.

        …and the public school system believes putting in MORE time to train their robots is the answer….

  20. Video for Anita … not so much dramatic as ugly … but he’s my good right wing friend Doc, so I gotta let him have at it (yous have to go to the bottom of his post for the song/video–something tells me yous gals and pals here know this one):

    http://temporaryknucksline.blogspot.com/2010/09/doc-says-and-sings-oy-vey.html

    • ROTFLMAO !!!!!!! Thanks Charlie. I love it. Long live DOC! Ask him to join us in person.

      FTR: My video represented all the people against all the govt.

      • I will, but he’ll only come here to break my shoes. He’s hilarious. He waits for me to post and then he sends me what to post in response. He’s the only person I let comment on my blog (me from the left-anarchist-fascist side and Doc from the extreme right). Even when we don’t agree (which is most often), he always makes me laugh. When we get together, much beer flows …

        • Charlie,

          Yeah, I don’t see Doc posting here.

          It is obvious he is very thoughtful and puts concentration into his wit. He is not one to fire off a poorly worded post (like, say, ME!).

          • I’ll try, BF … he’s been out of work almost 2 years now (enjoying those unemployment benefits as I like to remind him). His job was outsourced.

            I’ll egg him on …

  21. The public schools constitute the #1 threat to liberty.

    If it were my choice to kill the public schools or the Federal bureaucracy, I’d choose the public schools.

    Yet most Americans love them.

    If the root of the design of the public school system is not enough to convince people of abandoning them, then consider this further argument:

    Public schools change the primary social influences upon the child away from parents and family and onto impersonal authority of peers and teachers

    Graf comments about attitudes of teenagers.

    But when did the “teenager” as an age exist? Where in history have we ever heard of teenagers?

    Examples of teenagers:
    Farragut was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy on Dec 10, 1810, at the age of nine, and served under Porter during the War of 1812.

    Francis Drake became owner-master of the ship at the age of twenty after the death of its previous captain, who bequeathed it to him. At age twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the New World

    Horatio Nelson joined the Navy at age 12, and became a captain at age 20.

    When Alexander became sixteen years old, his tutorship under Aristotle came to an end. Philip, the king, departed to wage war against Byzantium, and Alexander was left in charge as regent of the kingdom.

    The concept of “teenager” is very recent – 20th Century – and a direct consequence of the public education system.

    • You really think it was the education system-I would think it was more the change in needing the children to work to help support the family on farms and such.

  22. I do not think a teacher can be graded just by their pass/fail numbers. Some teachers are set-up to fail by being given a higher ratio of apathetic students/parents.

    “Parents and former students described him as a mentor to youth tempted to join gangs and a tireless booster that low-income children could make it to college. He often stayed after school to tutor struggling kids and offer counseling so they stayed on the straight and narrow.” RIP, Rigoberto.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gWPvyAFlYCJSuFjMApjZbgORWhTAD9IGQNG81?docId=D9IGQNG81

    LA teacher suicide sparks test-score pushback

    By CHRISTINA HOAG (AP) – 3 hours ago

    SOUTH GATE, Calif. — The Los Angeles Times should remove teacher performance ratings from its website after the apparent suicide of a teacher despondent over his score, which was published in August, the union representing Los Angeles school teachers said.

    United Teachers Los Angeles has also asked school administrators to join with them in the request to the newspaper, union president AJ Duffy said.

    The body of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, was found Sunday at the foot of a remote forest bridge. Investigators believe he jumped to his death, although the inquiry is continuing, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

    The motive for Ruelas taking his own life is far from clear. But union officials said he had been upset since the Times published his district ranking as a “less effective” teacher based on his students’ standardized English and math test scores.

    Ruelas scored “average” in getting his students up to acceptable levels in English, but “less effective” in math, and “less effective” overall. The school itself ranked as “least effective” in raising test scores, and only five of Miramonte’s 35 teachers were ranked as average.

    The Times’ publication of individual rankings for elementary school teachers sparked widespread outrage among teachers. The rankings ranged from least and less effective to average, more effective and most effective.

    The union protested in front of the newspaper’s downtown headquarters and called for a boycott of the Times, which published the rankings as part of a push for a better method to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

    Although other factors may have been at play in Ruelas’ death, union official Mathew Taylor said Monday he believed the ranking was a contributing factor based on conversations with teachers at the school. Principals have been using the rankings to crack down on teachers, he said.

    “He was a very well-respected teacher,” Taylor said. “He took the pressure being applied to him to heart.”

    Ruelas was last seen Sept. 19 when he dropped off a birthday gift for his sister. He notified the school to get a substitute for his classes Monday and Tuesday, but he did not return to work Wednesday and his family reported him missing.

    In a brief statement Sunday, the Times extended its condolences to the family and noted the death is under investigation.

    Superintendent Ramon Cortines has said the type of teacher rankings published by the Times, known as “value-added,” shouldn’t be used as the sole criteria to measure effectiveness.

    The school board last month authorized the district to start developing a new method for evaluating teachers that incorporates value-added rankings, as well as in-classroom observation and other measures.

    Detractors say value-added rankings place too much emphasis on test-score teaching, especially in schools like Miramonte, a large school in an impoverished, gang-plagued neighborhood about six miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. About 60 percent of Miramonte students are Spanish-speaking English-language learners.

    “Test scores are directly related to the socio-economic status of the student population,” said Taylor. “The best teachers are given the toughest kids. This man had won many awards.”

    By all accounts, Ruelas did not shy away from problem kids.

    Parents and former students described him as a mentor to youth tempted to join gangs and a tireless booster that low-income children could make it to college. He often stayed after school to tutor struggling kids and offer counseling so they stayed on the straight and narrow.

    “He took the worse students and tried to change their lives,” said Ismael Delgado, a 20-year-old former student. “I had friends who wanted to be gangsters, but he talked them out of it. He treated you like family.”

    • Oh for goodness sakes.

      A “bad” job review and ends it all?

      • LA teachers protest union bashing
        Tuesday, September 21, 2010
        By: David Feldman

        City’s major newspaper continues attack on teachers

        On Sept. 14, hundreds of teachers held a rally in front of the downtown Los Angeles Times building. The cause of the protest was the long-standing teacher bashing agenda of the LA Times. The LA teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, called the protest, attended by supporters including members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation..

        The LA Times has recently intensified a campaign against teachers, publishing the student test scores of each individual teacher, which are widely known to be considerably flawed, and rating a teacher’s effectiveness based on a formula called value-added analysis. This method of judging teachers is opposed by a broad array of civil rights groups and teacher unions across the United States. The method is so convoluted that The LA Times itself wrote in an Aug. 15 article that a person would need a doctorate to understand it.

        Many hard-working and dedicated LA teachers have been labeled “less than effective” because of their value-added analysis scores, and have had their names printed on the LA Times Web site for all to see. The LA Times has so far printed the names of 6,000 teachers of grades three to five, next to their value-added analysis, and promises to print thousands more soon. The names of junior high and high school teachers will be printed in the coming months.

        UTLA members first marched together in a large picket line chanting, “We teach to the kids, not to the test!” and “LA Times bottom line, nothing but a dollar sign!” Afterwards there was a rally where UTLA President A.J. Duffy told the crowd that the LA Times “is full of s—.” Teachers then proceeded to point at the LA Times and shout “Shame, shame, shame!”

        The modestly sized crowd was militant, and the movement against value-added analysis has the potential to grow as more teachers in the coming months have their names slandered in LA’s major newspaper.

        Teachers must recognize what the current attacks are—attempts to divide UTLA members and take away the rights that earlier generations of teachers struggled for. Ultimately the goal of the LA Times as a mouthpiece for the capitalists is to assist in the elimination of health care benefits and job security altogether. Value-added analysis is a divide-and-conquer tactic used to achieve that end.

        Capitalists aim to make education more like the corporate world.

        http://www.pslweb.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=14492&news_iv_ctrl=1030

  23. ‘Waiting for Superman’: Is it the next hard-hitting documentary?

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2010-09-22-waitingforsuperman22_CV_N.htm

    Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, Waiting for Superman, is set to open Friday, to considerable advance chatter. No surprise: Teachers unions take most of the hits in this examination of why so many public schools are failing and how it affects five students and their families.

    Educators and experts who study education are not entirely convinced that Guggenheim’s film will be any more successful at effecting change than all the other documentaries that have come before it; in fact, filmmakers have been wringing hands over public schools for decades, especially on public television.

    “The challenge for Superman will be if all that happens is people walk out angry at the teachers unions,” says Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “I can imagine more people feeling the need to do better by kids, but I’m not sure how that gets channeled.”

    Guggenheim does supply specific prescriptions — what viewers can do. The marketing campaign for the film includes a website, a book, local panel discussions and town-hall meetings, and a campaign to get people to pledge to see the film in return for corporate donations to education causes.

    ‘Inspire and inform’

    Superman is one of four recent what’s-wrong-with-schools films released with the aim of spurring people to action. These films attest to the power of what Lesley Chilcott, one of the producers of Superman, calls “heartbreaking entertainment.”

    • I will pay to see this film.

      • I will likely rent it at some time. Wife would never sit with me for this. The director is the same as for “An Inconvenient Truth”, so I don’t want to support him any more than I have to, and think it will have extreme bias. I am not pro-union, but I don’t think they are the only problem in education, just a part of it.

  24. Top ‘o the Morning 🙂

    Here’s a great and funny example of the failure of our education system. Sorry Matt, tell us ain’t true, but it’s from California.

    http://www.thefoxnation.com/american-schools/2010/09/28/must-watch-california-america

    The best part was that Lincoln was our fifth President, because he’s on the 5 dollar bill :LOL:

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      My personal favorite, from a 10th grader:

      “Martin Luther King freed all the Native Americans from slavery.”

      This is not surprising in the least, and it’s obvious why it happens. Teachers in most places are simply not allowed to tell kinds they’re wrong. “Psychologically damaging,” and all that. A kid gets to 10th grade believing this because no one has ever told him that it (or anything else he says or believes) simply isn’t true.

      What’s more, and perhaps even more importantly, teachers are not allowed to expect kids to know anything. Of course kids will reflexively claim that whatever it is they don’t know about happened before they were born, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to know about it, but I’m talking about the adults. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told by other adults, including parents, administrators and even other teachers, that “You can’t expect kids to know that.” It never occurs to anyone that this is the reason why they don’t know things; because no one expects them to know things, there is no risk and no consequences to them for not knowing things, as they are less likely to get into trouble for not knowing than the teacher is for expecting them to know. If a kid doesn’t know something or can’t do something, we change the assessment and change the standard so he can be rewarded for what he already does know, and already can do. If she doesn’t know it or can’t do it, then it’s too much to ask.

      The failure of teachers vis-à-vis kids not knowing things is that they either (a.) buy into this never-tell-them-they’re-wrong-or-you’ll-damage-them-psychologically pablum, or (b.) their hands are tied by parents and administrators who make them practice it, and won’t allow them to raise expectations. In the end, kids don’t know things because they know they don’t have to know things, and don’t see any value in knowing things.

      In a way, from the student’s perspective, school has become a race to the bottom. The less you know, and the less you can do, the lower the expectations; the easier it is to pass and get good grades without having to actually learn anything. No student wants to demonstrate knowledge and skill if he knows that if he does, the work will be harder and the standards higher. So kids are actually motivated to know and be able to do as little as possible; that way the work will be easier and less time-consuming, the standards lower, and grades higher.

      • Good assessment Graf. You have seen this firsthand and it’s an important subject as to where will this country be after two or three generations of poorly educated, unmotivated adults coming into the workforce and parenthood.

        What is really sad is that adults today, with all the resources like the internet available to expose this activity, most people just ignore it, approve of it and shelter their kids, or, as you did, and as Black Flag promotes, leave the system. I think those that homeschool have the best idea, and those that don’t/can’t are stuck.

        Graf, if education, from start to finish, was run in the free market system vs. Govt. run, would we all be better off? I’m inclined to say yes.

        • Brawndo has what plants crave..

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          “Graf, if education, from start to finish, was run in the free market system vs. Govt. run, would we all be better off?”

          I doubt it, but it depends on what you mean by “better off.” Public schooling is probably the most efficient way to make sure that as many people as possible get at least an opportunity for a basic education, if that’s what we want. But the forces that have driven the public schools into this validation/self-esteem-based paradigm would have driven (and very likely have driven) private schools to the same place. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the people working in schools, not who pays their salaries. Tax dollars or tuition dollars, the parents are going to get what they want and the schools are going to give it to them.

          I think maybe if public education were offered as a public service instead of required, if it were not mandatory and not an entitlement, we might be able to get more out of it. Kids by and large don’t want to go to school and don’t like to go to school, mainly because they see their favorite recreational activities (whatever they may be) as the only other thing they could possibly be doing with their time. And the schools, for their part, can’t get rid of kids who don’t perform, who disrupt the learning process and generally make things very, very difficult for teachers and administrators to do their jobs.

          The most obvious problem with this is that, if school were not mandatory and not an entitlement, what do you do with all of the kids who (a.) choose not to go, or (b.) get kicked out? Is the state still responsible for them, i.e., should the state create something else for them to do, such as public-works apprenticeships? Or, are they and their parents on their own, and what would the social consequences of that be?

          In a 21st-century economy, what would the economic incentives be if education were purely a product to be bought and sold on the open market? Who would the producers and consumers be? How do you monetize it? How do you make sure that as many people as possible get educated, if that’s your goal? If it’s not, then what is, and what would the consequences be of excluding people?

          • Not to get political, but let’s keep in mind that schools are funded by property taxes. That is, everyone in the community pays. If you switch to a private system, the payers are only the people with students in the schools.

            What this means in effect is that, instead of having the cost subsidized by everyone who doesn’t have school-aged children, the whole cost would be borne by parents seeking to educate their child.

            I believe this would push the price of education out of the reach of the lower classes. The result is that the lower classes would not have the education to become successful (by and large, obviously exceptions apply). These children would be lower class and they would have children of their own. These children would not have an education so they, too would stay lower class.

            Eventually the Eloi would diverge from the Morlochs.

            • Matt,

              To quote you: “The result is that the lower classes would not have the education to become successful (by and large, obviously exceptions apply).

              So how is what you fear would become under a free market system different from what is in place today?

              • At least they’re getting something and the opportunity is there for those who want it to still achieve a quality education.

          • Graf,

            You may have discovered the root of the problem. I was raised to know that everything in my childrens upbringing was my responsibility along with the mother of the children. Many parents shirk that responsibilty because the State is believed to be responsible for the educational aspect of their kids. As you asked about the optional vs. mandatory :
            “Is the state still responsible for them,…”

            The State should have never been allowed to be in this position. Remove the State, and the taxes that go with it, put the burden back on the shoulders of the parent. Parents can then choose to homeschool, or “shop” for the best education available. This however doesn’t answer all your questions, and could bring about many more. The question I have is why anyone wants the State to have the authority to tell a parent how to educate his/her child.

            In a free market, most parents would ensure that the most important courses would be taught their child, and then the parents and the child can pick other courses that would interest the child. With parents forkin out the bucks, they would surely be involved more.

            Just my humble opinion. As with most subjects, there are always more questions than answers.

            Peace!

            G!

      • Graf,

        Can you explain why “good grades” are important to a student?

        • Good grades are (viewed as) indicative of intelligence and/or high achievement. My father was proud of the fact that I knew as much as I did, but he was always upset about my mediocre grades. Why? Because poor grades translate to a lesser college (how else does a school know if you’re a good pick or not?). Worse college means worse job (how else does an employer know if you’re a good pick or not?). Worse job means a whole host of bad things.

          That’s why parents care about kid’s grades.

          Student’s care because their parent’s reward/punish them accordingly.

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          I think it’s important to their self-esteem, if nothing else, and since self-esteem seems to be the only thing that matters anymore, kids seem to care about “good grades” exclusive of what they may or may not actually mean.

          Of course, if kids genuinely cared about their grades, i.e., if the grade was the primary motivating factor for kids’ day-to-day behavior and moment-to-moment decisionmaking, I wouldn’t have had any problems in school. If the possibility of failure or a low grade was enough to motivate kids to learn, to do their work and to behave properly, a teacher’s job would be easy.

          But in my experience, kids only “cared” about their grades on the day they got their report cards. They could neither see nor detect nor comprehend that there was any connection at all between the quality of their work, the effort they put into the class, and the way they conducted themselves in class, and the number they saw printed on that piece of paper however many times during the school year. The number they expect to see is, in their minds, connected to nothing other than their own sense of self-worth; the more highly they think of themselves, the higher they expect that number to be.

          • Graf,

            My mother was relating when I was in school, I brought home a math test where I scored an appalling 75% …. even though I got every question right.

            She was puzzled… (I didn’t care about tests so it really didn’t bother me).

            They deducted marks because “I didn’t show my work”. I could do complex algebra in my head – and the way I did it didn’t lend itself well to “showing my method”. So I just wrote down the answers. I was also usually the first one finished.

            Mom stormed down to the teacher and demanded answers. She said “I don’t give a damn what grade you give him, as long as he passes – But don’t you dare stand in his way or try to change him.

            (I didn’t know she did this at the time – I was blissfully beginning not to care much about grades and tests so this whole episode was forgotten by me – oh, I got an “A” even though I never got a mark higher than 80%)

            My daughter has never written a school test in her 14 years of life. I doubt she will for at least another 3-4 years.

            I am very surprised you have a touch of skepticism on the value of grades – very interesting as you’ve been a teacher and a student.

            Mathius,
            Ya know, I found out an interesting tidbit about college and universities. They don’t “really” care about grades either.

            I had “great” grades but not spectacular – 12 other students out of 5,500 beat my aggregated “grade”. I wasn’t valedictorian either.

            But I found the university is a bit close to real life – that “word of mouth” is as valuable as an “A”.

            I had plenty of offers for university. I was so lazy I didn’t actually apply until 2 weeks before start of class.

            Of course, all the class I wanted were all full.

            But, of course, no, they were not. There is always room for “special” people.

            • GrafZeppelin127 says:

              I’m not skeptical about the value of grades per se; I just think kids and parents have the wrong idea about what they mean, how they are arrived at, etc. As a teacher I always thought of grades in purely economic terms, i.e., the number of points you earned by producing work product, measured against objective performance criteria; the ratio of what you produced to what you were expected to produce. I used an Excel spreadsheet with a simple mathematical formula to compute the grade average, which updated automatically every time a grade (or a zero) was entered for an assessment.

              Kids and parents, on the other hand, see grades as a symbol of some vague idea of “good”-ness (not goodness) and self-worth; a reflection of what kind of student/person they feel they are in a general sense, instead of an objective measure of a specific set of performances (or non-performances). They don’t connect grades with performance, or with the choices they’ve made; they simply decide, subjectively and arbitrarily, what grade they feel they should get and expect to see that number on the report card.

              My only “skepticism” about the value of grades is in the fact that it’s not the only factor that motivates student behavior in school, which I see as the only flaw in my strict, objective, economic grading model. That said, I tend to differ with other teachers is in whether or how to consider those “other factors” in ultimately determining a student’s grade.

              • Graf

                Whereas I see (saw) grades as merely a measure of:

                (1) degree of favor with the teacher

                (2) ability to write tests – techniques in taking tests probably accounts for 25% of the grade

                Actual understanding and knowledge was not truly measured – yes, important – but – the key – not critical to getting a “good” grade.

      • I’d like to share something with you.

        In my high school, students were divided into tracts where Track 0 was for the elite students and Track 4 was for the remedial students.

        I earned a good GPA in Track 0, but as I said earlier, I was coasting. The valedictorian earned a 4.0 in Track 0, taking all of the hardest courses and electives (and beating me out a few high scores on tests along the way). At the same time, two students (for want of a better word) in Track 4 also earned 4.0’s. I am not lying when I tell you that I walked past a senior level English class and saw them being taught about the silent “K” in the word “knife.” Seniors.

        These two Track 4 students shared valedictorian status with the Track 0 student.

        Let that sink in. Two total idiots in my school who didn’t know how to spell common household utensils until 12th grade got the distinction of being valedictorians (literally the highest honor a school gives to it’s best and brightest). One of them* went to Berkley. The Track 0 valedictorian did not get into Berkley.

        This sounds eerily similar to your complaint about Subjective Grading.

        *This student was also allowed to take the SAT untimed** with the assistance of a “helper”*** on the grounds that he suffered from ADHD. He miraculously had one of the highest scores in the grade (20 points higher than mine).

        **I would have scored a 1600 if I could have taken all day. Most moderately intelligent people would.

        ***The helper’s official role was to keep the ADHD student on task and help him stay focused, in practice, by the student’s own admission, the helper wound up doing the lion’s share of the test. Obviously.

        The system is broken. Bah.

        ——–

        Now I’d like to ask you a question on something that reoccurred in some way or another dozens upon dozens of times throughout my academic career.

        I once (ok, maybe more than once) failed a math test for not showing my work despite the fact that I got every answer correct and could easily do the the problems in my head. I was the first to finish.

        I got a C in a physics class despite having the highest grade on every quiz and every test for the entire year, because I did not do my homework. I had perfect attendance and class participation.

        I was forced to repeat my US Gov class because I did not turn in an mandatory essay despite my teacher’s acknowledgment that I was easily the most knowledgeable student in my class. I had frequently stayed after class and discussed more advanced topics that interested me.

        Though I take complete responsibility for my actions, do you deem these results to be “correct” given that the true goal should be to learn and demonstrate knowledge?

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          The “Tracks” you mentioned are analogous to “subjective grading,” and they also bring to mind the latest anti-educational nightmare virus to infect the schools, “differentiated instruction.” The basic idea of differentiation is to take the IEP concept from Special Ed. and apply it to general ed., essentially giving every student in every class his/her own informal, unwritten IEP. Supervisors don’t want to see teachers teaching a single lesson to the whole class, or have the whole class reading the same book. They want to see 6, 7, 8, 20, 30 different lessons being taught at the same time.

          As for the anecdotes, I would say that for each the outcome is “correct” if it is in line with whatever objective criteria you were given in advance of the assessment.

          The math test outcome is correct if you were told to show your work, and that doing so was worth a large enough percentage of the grade that you would fail if you didn’t do it even if you got all the questions correct; i.e., if the teacher was assessing your method as much as, if not more than, the result.

          The physics class outcome is correct if the value of the homework as a percentage of the overall grade was sufficient to lower your average to that level, and you knew that when you made the decision not to do it.

          The same applies to the U.S. Gov class. You have to expect to fail if you choose not to produce and submit something that is required, no matter what the teacher’s subjective feelings about your intelligence and ability. At least, that’s how I always approached it.

          • My wife is a special educator for 3rd grade in a Bronx charter school. She does differentiation among other things.

            The way she describes it is that the students in need of differentiation will be left behind by the class without it. So, while I have not discussed the long term outcome with her, the near term outcome is that they still learn 90% of what the other students learn as opposed to 0%. Some is better than nothing.

            I do see the harm in allowing a student to “pass” without sufficient expertise though. To be honest, I’m somewhat torn on the whole thing.

            I wonder if, logically, the best way to do it would be to get rid of grades levels entirely. Every subject is taught at an individual’s (differentiated) level, progressing until it is “passed” at an objective level. Once a student has “passed” all required subjects, then they may graduate. Thus no one is ever held back, no one is ever rushed past their abilities, but no one graduates without learning. This is just off the cuff, but I’d be interested in your impression.

            As for your take on my experiences, I must respectfully disagree. Either the purpose of school is to learn or it is not. A demonstration by any means which convinces the teacher that a pupil has a high caliber of understanding in the subject should equate absolutely to a high caliber grade. Similarly, a student who does all his homework and shows all his work (ie, tries hard), but still can never arrive at a correct answer should not pass. Otherwise, it is a tacit admission that school is not about learning, but about something else entirely.

            • GrafZeppelin127 says:

              “A demonstration by any means which convinces the teacher that a pupil has a high caliber of understanding in the subject should equate absolutely to a high caliber grade.”

              The only problem with that is that it is, essentially, what I was complaining about in the original article, which is subjective grading. Although your idea takes a slightly different form than what I was talking about, what you’re actually saying is that students should be able to decide what is, and should be, required of them, and that teachers should base their grades on their own subjective impressions of the child’s ability instead of an objective assessment of his performance based on a set of criteria.

              The idea is really more one of fairness than anything else. When you start requiring different things of different kids to get the same grade in the same class, you open yourself up to, inter alia, all kinds of grief from kids and parents, along the lines of “Why did I/my kid have to do X when that kid only had to do Y?”

              I understand your giving yourself the benefit of the doubt here; I did the same thing with respect to myself, and by extension teachers generally, vis-à-vis supervisors. There may be some environments where you can let kids set their own standards, choose their own curricula and design their own assessments. In most places, though, the standards and requirements are like a contract. Kids need to know, and parents will insist upon knowing, in advance, precisely what the student is expected and required to do to earn a grade. Any deviation from that, even if it’s favorable, can get the teacher into trouble. I actually once had a parent angrily yell at me because I started accepting late homework when I had previously said that I wouldn’t. I had a colleague who told me that, in his former school, if you told the kids in September that there would be four quizzes, and you gave them five (or three, or none), then they had to pass.

              Obviously that last example is ridiculous, because that’s the sort of thing that a teacher should be able to adjust on the fly if it becomes necessary. But we can’t make it OK for students to choose not to do the work they are assigned. One thing no one ever accused me of is preferential treatment. “I don’t have favorites,” I used to say, tongue-in-cheek, “I have equal disdain for all of you.”

          • Mathius,

            I can relate on never getting 100% because I didn’t show my work, or do homework.

            In my final year of high school, I got the highest mark in Chemistry in a field of 25,000+ students. We took the test 3/4 through a semester.

            My teacher, who loved and hated me, of course was so proud that “her” student was #1 – but she was so angry! She blurted out ..”Now, you’ll NEVER do your homework, will you???!”

            • BF,

              I’ve noticed in your posts the last couple years that you do extensive “homework” to support your positions on the many subjects. Interesting how maturity can change a person.

              OH! I never did homework either, hated it with a passion. Made up for it with the tests. I pissed many teachers off because I could ace their tests on Friday, while not appearing the other 4 days.

              Peace my Friend!

              G!

            • I wonder if this plan should work in reverse- should the teacher decide that the slow student just can’t do the work and grade him based on his assumptions-This sounds a little elitist to me guys-give me what I haven’t earned-just because you know I’m smart. Being smart doesn’t bring success-applying that knowledge brings success. Something students need to learn-something that they obviously aren’t learning in school per this article.

              • V.H

                Elitist? Hardly. I detest overtime as an adult (except for emergencies) at the workplace. Piss poor time management = homework. A kids attention span is only so long. Besides, I had OTHER things to learn that they don’t teach in school, like real life.

                I managed to do pretty well, in real life, so I can’t complain.

                Hope your day is a good one! 🙂

                G!

              • I wasn’t debating whether or not kids should have homework. This should have been under Mathius above statement.

              • My apologies.

              • I think that would be-My apologies 🙂

              • I wasn’t saying they should give you credit for something you haven’t earned. I was saying demonstrating proficiency is tantamount to earning.

                The point is to learn. If the teacher knows I’ve learned it, so what if I didn’t make an effort?

                Oh, and hell yea, I’m an elitist. Proud of it, too.

              • HEE Hee hee 🙂

            • Flag, stop being similar to me. It creeps me out.

              • Carefull Matt

                You may “really” change sides politically! 👿

              • Mathius

                You are a “sleeper” like me

                No one sees you coming – you don’t fill in the right form – you didn’t get the trophy.

                But real life is all about getting the right answers.

                I earn thousands an hour doing work for companies that would never hire me for $35/hr because I don’t have the “paper work” behind me.

                But as a consultant, their only question is: Can you fix the problem?. And they pay me a ton of cash if I do.

                And I do.

                The irony, every day, never escapes me.

                They would never hire me as an employee – but can’t get enough of me as a consultant!

              • Thousands an hour? How do I get in on a gig like that?

              • Mathius,

                You get a gig like that by solving impossible problems more often then not.

      • Just curious Graf, what is it that you might be thinking is the root cause of all this?

        How and why did this downgrading of the educational system start?

        I am really curious to read your thoughts on this.

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          I don’t know how it “started,” per se. I think it has a lot to do with the self-esteem movement of the ’70s, and the anti-intellectualism that has arisen in more recent decades. The fact that electronic media have overtaken reading and imaginative play as children’s main means of occupying themselves outside of school is probably the biggest culprit, but that didn’t happen all at once. More on that in a moment…

          If I had to trace it back to a single event, I think it would be the Supreme Court’s ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969). [Read the opinion here.] This was the case where a group of students planned to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam war, the school prohibited it, and the students sued the school for violating their First Amendment rights. The Court, I think rightfully, held that students have a right to this sort of free speech in school, but failed spectacularly to define the boundaries of free speech in school as a general matter, coming up only with the vague and insurmountable “substantial disruption” test. Justice Black pointed out the many, many flaws in the Court’s approach in his dissenting opinion, and Justice Harlan proposed a much more workable constitutional rule in a brief, one-paragraph dissent.

          What the Tinker decision essentially did was begin the process of handing the asylum over to the inmates, so to speak. The long-term result has been essentially what Justice Black predicted. Students and parents have come to use the First Amendment as a sword instead of a shield; to justify conduct that would otherwise be unjustifiable by characterizing it as “free speech” or “expression.” The Court’s recent ruling in Morse v. Frederick (the “BoNG HiTS 4 JESUS” case) also had the correct result for the wrong reason; again, the Court completely missed the point.

          The Tinker ruling helped create the mindset that if you are a student, you walk into school with what feels like unlimited rights and no real responsibilities. Kids and parents have come to view the undesired outcomes of their ill-considered choices not as the natural result of having taken a calculated risk, but as a violation of their “rights.” Hence the entitlement grading model; the idea that students are entitled to outcomes as opposed to opportunities.

          Now, as electronic media have overtaken reading and imaginative play, kids have gradually become, to put it bluntly, stupider. They become stupider because they become passive observers of other people’s creativity, instead of developing active, curious and imaginative minds. They become stupider, but they and their parents still feel entitled to high grades and other academic rewards. Yet the inevitable result as kids become dumber is that they become less and less able to perform up to academic standards; if their performance is measured objectively, their grades inevitably go down.

          At some point, and I have no idea when, the schools reached a crossroads: Do we keep standards high, as grades drop and failure rates increase, and challenge these kids to reverse this dumbing-down trend and do better? Or, do we lower the standards to reflect what we’re seeing that kids are no longer capable of and start expecting less from them, in order to keep grades up and failure rates down?

          Since the latter leads to the more politically-desirable and non-controversial outcome of high grades, high passing and graduation rates, and happy parents, that’s the one the schools collectively chose. And that, I think, is why we are where we are.

    • Stunning..

      Don’t look at me though.. I went to private school..

      Did you watch the full interview? It’s actually worse.

      Q. Why did Lincoln free the slaves?
      A. Taxation without representation.

      Q. And that capital [of California] is..?
      A. San Francisco!

      Q. What’s the name of the National Anthem?
      A. America the Beautiful.

      Oy gevalt!

      • Hi Matt 🙂

        Matt said: Don’t look at me though.. I went to private school..

        In California! Not to worry, I was not knocking your education. 😉

        • Why? You should knock it. I went to a smallish school (approx 70 students in my grade). There were maybe, MAYBE, five of us with brains in our heads. The rest were sent there by rich parents to buy good grades for their stupid children.

          And it worked.

          There was a good education available if you wanted it, but 65 out of 70 got nothing but expensive baby-siting.

          • Matt: that extend(ed) to college. I attended Hofstra for 2 semesters (couldn’t afford it once I was done playing football) and the majority of the students I came to know where rich kids going through the motions. In fact I made extra money writing papers for a few of them. That’s what I meant about the business of education these days. My stepson attended a private school (grades 5 & 6) and it was flushing money down the toilet (he didn’t want to be there and they were more concerned with being a friend than teacher).

            • So what’s the cure? If private schools want to be friends with your son, not teach him, then the free market fails. If public schools fail as well, then the Big Government approach fails (I just think it needs a good firm kick in the rear, but that’s a different matter). Should everyone home school? Should the less intelligent and less motivated simply forsake education entirely?

              • No, you’re 1000% right. Kick in the rear/Keep fear alive (at least regarding education). We have to have both (private and public) obviously, but public need to be brought up to speed (including the teachers/methodologies, etc.) but I suspect home will take first priority in any education matter. I’m not a fan of home schooling … not saying it doesn’t work, but I’d be much more fearful of conspiracies/brainwashing there than out in public.

    • G-Man,

      Also remember, they EDIT these clips to provide a certain propaganda.

      They cut out those that get the right answers and focus only on those that don’t.

  25. stuck in ohio says:

    Graf,

    Checking in on this way late as I could not get on line yesterday, but as an ex teacher myself I have to say that your post was one of the best I have ever read about the problems in our education system. Dead on target.

  26. Gold $1305+

  27. SK Trynosky Sr/. says:

    Thank you Mr. Zeppelin for your insight. I find myself agreeing with most of what you are saying. My wife is a former public school teacher in NYC who spent eight years teaching primary grades in arguably one of the worst districts of the City. She then took a break raising our children and returned to the Catholic School system where she has been the past 25 years..

    She , I and her friends have spent a lot of time on the issue. Here are a few of my thoughts.

    Administrators are part of what I consider “The Education Industrial Complex”. Eisenhower did not warn us about them but should have. There is money to be made in this system. There are the program handbooks, the text books, the “new” way to teach children to read or do math. The new buildings to be built. The opportunity to retire early and be an educational consultant. The opportunity to return to academia and the opportunity, to as an adult, be taken seriously when you tell other adults DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO. Their stake in the system, with exceptions of course is different than anyone elses.

    Administrators these days are not people who have spent twenty years in a classroom (which they should). If you are close enough to enough teachers you constantly hear the story of new teachers taking their Masters degrees in Administration. I actually know a 29 yar old who spent three yeaars in a classroom, became an assistant principal for two years and was named principal this year of a NJ Middle School. In your case, this boob would be telling you what to do. His parents, by the way, are very proud of him.

    Administrators are either born cowards or have cultivated the role. Parochial or Public, when a crazed parent makes a complaint, nine times out of ten it is the teacher thrown under the bus. The Administrator is constantly on the make for the next job, they cannot have controversy dog them. An Administartors theme song might be, “To Rock the Boat , Don’t Rock the Boat Baby” by the Hues Corporation.

    The Administrator either understands and does not care or does not understand that when you consistantly side with the parent and indirectly the child, you diminish the teacher’s authority to the point of destroying their morale or their entire vocation. But, what does the Administrator care? They are already shopping for their next gig.

    I would assume you are getting my drift here. I see the problem as being more of a failure in professionalism of the Administrators rather than the teachers. Most teachers I know become teachers for the best of reasdons. What I have seen is how the system beats them down. The good ones stay, develop ulcers and possibly burn out or leave to start other careers. The bad ones who could probably improve, surrender early stay for the salary and benefits giving only a part of themselves to the job wearing a short timers calender on their helmets (sorry, Viet-Nam reference, couldn’t resist it).

    Since this is your first time here fully participating, you have probably not seen me ask my favorite question. Why in the name of God do we have Junior High’s/Middle Schools? Believe it or not it is a serious question and harkens back to the above. The only rational reason I can ever come up with is to build more buildings and hire more administrators. The teachers we would need anyway but the administrators are superfulous if we went K-8 and 9-12. I have never received any answer to this question which makes any sense.

    Regarding Flag’s take, he is absolutely on target, right on the money no ifs, ands, or buts. What he fails to do though is remember that in Public Educations’ infancy, our parents and grandparents, who had no educations themselves turned us over to be educated by people who did know how to do it. This was the only game in town. Certainly today people like Flag and myself could easily educate our children far more thoroughly but that cannot be compared to my barely literate, non-English speaking grandparents from Slovakia and Galicia.

    I’ve been absent from this site for the past few weeks while I worked on the final stages of my 50th Grammar School reunion. Incarnation School in upper Manhattan produced some really great success stories from a completely working poor neighborhood. It was amazing what discipline, constancy and parental involvement were capable of accomplishing back in a time when we were all pulling the cart in the same direction. Mr. Flag should note, that despite that regimented existance we suffered in that system, enforced by the threat of physical punishment, we turned out quite diverse politically. You see Flag, they gave us the ability to think!

    Regarding his claims of, for want of a better word, “brainwashing” by the system, he is on the money again. Catholic Education was fostered and flourished in NYC because of Cardinal Hayes who did not accept what bhe considered to be the Protestant indoctrination of the Public Schools. Catholic Orphanages and Hospitals were founded for the same reasons.

    Thanks again for a great piece.

    • “There is money to be made in this system. the text books, the “new” way to teach children to read or do math.”

      I have been told text book publishers sometimes change a few math problems in order to print new editions, making obsolete a book that has years of use left, to force new business. And we probably need a interpretation of Shakespeare.

    • S.K.

      In our time, bad grades meant a certain ass whoopin at home. In our time, teachers used paddles to get kids inline, and the parents approved, I know, I took a few 🙂 My motivation from age ten was even one bad grade, no deer hunting. I never missed a deer season or got whooped cause of my grades. It is SOOO different now, the teachers have no chance at success, as you have noted.

      G!

    • SK,

      “Administrators are either born cowards or have cultivated the role.”

      I would not write off all administrators. There might be a few good one’s.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/23/AR2010072303093.html

      Rhee dismisses 241 D.C. teachers; union vows to contest firings

      By Bill Turque
      Saturday, July 24, 2010

      D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced Friday that she has fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor appraisals under a new evaluation system that for the first time holds some educators accountable for students’ standardized test scores.

      “Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher — in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this City,” Rhee said in a statement, announcing the first year of results from the revamped evaluation, known as IMPACT. “That is our commitment. Today . . . we take another step toward making that commitment a reality.”

      Dismissals for performance are exceedingly rare in D.C. schools — and in school systems nationwide. Friday’s firings mark the beginning of Rhee’s bid to make student achievement a high-stakes proposition for teachers, establishing job loss as a possible consequence of poor classroom results.

      The Washington Teachers’ Union said Friday that it will contest the terminations.

      The firings also are likely to spark a new round of debate about Rhee’s treatment of teachers. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who is challenging Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, has not committed to retaining Rhee if elected and has made her hard-edged management style part of his critique of Fenty’s education policy. Gray said Friday that he “wanted to look further at the basis for the dismissals” before drawing conclusions and added that there is “still controversy” regarding IMPACT.

      • SK Trynosky Sr/. says:

        You are right…..except, this was an action initiated by the Chancellor of the entire District of Columbia. It should have been done by the individual principals who are either A. In cahoots with the unions B. afraid of the repercussions.

        To use a military analogy, It’s equivilent to Eisenhower firing Cpl. Jones. I love sticking to the chain of command, that’s why we have a chain of command. I would rather be corrected by my direct supervisor than someone four levels up who has no clue what’s going on but is operating on heresay.

        I am sure that the chancellor is 100% correct here and that they have 20 years of chapter and verse on these perople but a defense will be, “why didn’t you say something earlier when he/she could have changed how they were doing things”? Why wait till now? There are lunkheads who will buy that one.

        Note the final paragraph in the story. That basically says, rock the boat and you are gone. What kind of message does that send to district supers, Principals and AP’s?

  28. My daughters last few years of school-they started using web sites . Students and parents could go to these sites and have access to grades and assignments. My daughter couldn’t claim she didn’t know or forgot her assignments. It was wonderful -I could communicate with the teachers on-line when necessary -and they could communicate with me. This system seems like a great way to protect the teacher and a great way to help parents be more involved. The main problem was that not all the teachers kept the sites up to date and I assume some parents would ignore the site. But overall it seems like a good system to follow.

    • Yep. We have that here too V. It’s a helpful tool but as you said it’s a drag when the teachers wont keep it updated. It’s better than not knowing until the report card comes in though.

      • I suspect it is alot of extra work for the teachers but it would eliminate a parents claim that they didn’t know. It also eliminated missed homework-and poor grades where seen before they developed into a fail for the whole semester. My daughter didn’t like the system 🙂 so I know it was a good idea.

    • SK Trynosky Sr/. says:

      My wife’s problem with it is the time factor. She does lesson plans every night after dinner to about eight or nine PM. She takes calls at home and makes them for problems. She is in the classroom on weekends preparing. Where is the time?

      back in the days when dinosaurs walked the earth and Lincoln was president, we had something called an “assignment pad”. A teachers pet was responsible for writing the next days assignments on the blackboard. we, in turn, were responsible for writing it in our assignment books. Every six weeks or so the assignment books were collected in grades 5-8 and the principal went through them affixing his hubber stamp o n the last page. If they were not up to date and kept properly we were summoned to his office. Trust me, you did not want to be summoned to Brother Columbans office.

      part of the problem is the irresponsibility of the kids brought on by the irresponsibility of the parents. Writing things down is considered akin to corporal punishment these days.

      • “Brother Columban’s” office was Sister Gertrude’s office in my day. We thought that was like going to see Satan himself. On top of that you were assured that your parents would find out which resulted in a week of hell on earth. Didn’t hurt us a bit in the end. 🙂

      • Those assignment books worked great with my son but my daughter had ADHD. I was never certain if all those assignments were in her book, short of calling the teacher. The web site was a blessing. I do however understand the extra work and time that it entails. I sometimes wonder if it would be better to dismiss classes a couple hours earlier each day. That way the teachers would have work hours to do more of the extra work that is necessary to prepare for the next days classes. The children would also have a couple hours to spend on homework too.

        • SK Trynosky Sr says:

          Interesting idea but you would have to work to prevent:

          1. the Coffee Klatch.

          2. The principal using the time to get the teachers to do his/her work

      • I’m not sure it is a time issue. When they do their lesson plans, they do them right online. Coming from open house here a week ago, heard from several teachers it actually saved them a bunch of time and put accountability where it belongs – with the kids and parents.

        We have two sites to stay on top of – the lesson plan site – I can see what’s in the lesson plan for tomorrow and for one month from tomorrow (realizing some things may change), then can stop at another site to see assignments in, grades, etc.

        Some of this we’ve had and some was upgraded and expanded this year. At registration, each student and parent needed to sign-off on receiving their access information. “I didn’t know” won’t work.

    • GrafZeppelin127 says:

      I did that too. While in some cases it helped me defuse the phony “I didn’t know” meme, most of the time the student (or the parent) would claim that (s)he had no computer at home and therefore no ability to access the Internet.

      As I wrote in the article, kids try very, very hard to not know what they’re supposed to do. And parents try very, very hard to enable that behavior.

      • Nothing is ever perfect. Do you feel that the extra work involved was worth the effort?

        • GrafZeppelin127 says:

          Yes. Just knowing that I was doing everything I could, more even than could reasonably be expected, and that in the end neither the parent nor the student would have a leg to stand on, was enough. Plus the fact that a lot of students did use it, or at least eventually came to realize that they could not evade their responsibilities in my class by sticking their heads in the sand, and so began on their own to do the right thing.

          • I thank you and all the other teachers who made and make the effort. From my side of the computer it helps alot. It put me in the classroom on a day to day basis-something which wasn’t possible before the computer. It taught my child that excuses, even if they are sometimes legit, have an expiration date. You simply have to find a way to overcome them.

  29. Kathy

    You better give your boys a pep talk in short order before they head toward East Lansing in a couple days 🙂

  30. NBC Nightly News Shows Young Teacher Touching ‘Third Rail’ Complaining About Union Rules
    By Krista West

    It’s not quite “earth shaking,” but we can be sure it caused a tremor at the National Education Association office in downtown D.C.

    On Sept.27, President Obama admitted on NBC’s “Today” show that Washington, D.C.’s “struggling” public schools wouldn’t educate his daughters as well as the posh, private Sidwell Friends school they currently attend. That night, NBC Nightly News delivered the second half of a one-two punch at public education.

    That night, as part of it’s “Education Nation” series, Nightly News highlighted a comment from a young teacher at the meeting hosted the day before by NBC anchor Brian Williams. But unlike predictable calls for more government spending or blaming dysfunctional homes and neighborhoods, she spoke out about the damaging effects that teacher’s unions are having on the American education system.

    “I think we don’t understand tenure. I don’t see a need for it. I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me I have to be hired each year. And I think as younger teachers we’re seeing a lot of things we need and the union contract is getting in the way,” she said.

    “I know in the south Bronx, my kids who don’t speak English need an extra vocabulary bloc. I need extra time to do extra test prep, but we have a union contract that says a school day is 8:20am to 3:30pm. That’s what is so attractive about charter schools. They can do what their kids need. If they need an extra hour on Saturday, they bring them in on Saturday. I’m not allowed to do that. The reality is the union contract is in the way.”

    Acknowledging the importance of a teacher so publicly taking sides against her union, Williams said, “Whoa. So a new generation comes into education. She just goes over to that third rail and touches it. What do you think?”

    Nightly News education correspondent Rehema Ellis responded, “It’s a generational divide. These folks want to do their job, that’s all they want to do. They get into the business of education to do what? Make money? No. They get in to teach kids. And to see kids learn. She’s saying get out of my way, let me do my job.”

    Kudos to Nightly News for offering airtime to a viewpoint antithetical to the liberal media’s worldview.

    Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/krista-west/2010/09/28/nbc-nightly-news-shows-young-teacher-touching-third-rail-complaining-ab#ixzz10rG2Y7Vh

    • SK Trynosky Sr says:

      Beware of the Liberal-Progressives!

      They are not adverse to throwing part of their constituency under the bus if it will save them. Right now they need saving and may turn on teachers like the Democratic Legislature in NJ did. that way they seem “reasonable”. The union leaders know that once the tables are turned again they will be magically “rehabilitated”. I don’t put NBC News beyond that cynicism.

  31. Yesterday the United Nations Human Rights Council released their report on Israel’s attack on the International Aid Flotilla, concluding that the Gaza blockade is a violation of international law and that Israeli soldiers willfully murdered aid workers, during the illegal seizure of ships.

    • You are quoting from and giving relevance to the UN?

      • Seriously, is there anyone on here who couldn’t have foretold what their decision would be months ago. I give no credence to anything the UN says.

        • V.H.
          …yet, if they said differently, you would trumpet them….

          • Nope-I would pass out from shock !!

          • I take issue with this statement. Perhaps I cannot speak for V, but I do not call upon those I otherwise discredit simply because they happen to support one point I agree with. If I point it out at all, I simply say that we are surprisingly on the same side for once. I do not “trumpet” liars to seek support for my point, nor appreciate accusations that I would. I know that was not directed at me, but I find it unlikely that V would either.

            Of course, in my case it could just be that I don’t pay enough attention to the UN fools to even know what they are saying about issues such as this. Not my business, really.

        • V.H.,

          And yes, it was a conclusion noted months ago because it was so clear and obvious to be without question…. except by those whose designs are confounded by such truth.

          • At least admit that both sides on this issue has a bias based on more than truth. If truth actually figures into their votes at all.

      • Kathy,

        It is a decision that all but 4 world nations agree with….

        • Only info I could find said that a report had been put together by 3 people and I didn’t see where any type of vote has been taken. Do you have a link I can read.

          GENEVA, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza could end up as a case before the International Criminal Court (ICC), a lawyer who investigated the May raid for the United Nations Human Rights Council said on Tuesday.

          The mission investigating the raid was not asked to make any recommendations and did not do so. But the suggestion that the case could end up at the ICC — to which Israel is not a signatory — maintains pressure on Israel over the incident.

          Pakistan, on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), proposed a resolution on Monday at the council calling on the U.N. General Assembly to consider the report of the three-member fact-finding mission.

          The council will vote on the resolution on Friday and it is likely to pass because the OIC and its allies have a majority in the 47-member body

          http://af.reuters.com/article/comorosNews/idAFLDE68R1U120100928

          • I need to go to bed-3-member not 3 people 🙂

          • US criticises ‘unbalanced’ flotilla probe

            (AFP) – 15 hours ago

            GENEVA — The United States on Tuesday criticised a UN probe into Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, urging the Human Rights Council to prevent the report from being used to torpedo peace talks.

            “We are concerned by the report’s unbalanced language, tone and conclusions,” US ambassador Eileen Donahoe told the Human Rights Council.

            “We urge that this report not be used for actions that could disrupt the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks now underway or actions that could make it harder,” she added.

            A probe ordered by the UN Human Rights Council said last week there was clear evidence to back a prosecution against Israel for killing and torture when troops stormed the flotilla in May, leaving nine Turkish activists dead.

            The report also threw out Israel’s argument that the activists were violent, thereby justifying the decision by soldiers to open fire.

            It found that no offensive weapons were taken on board any of the vessels of the flotilla except a few catapults.

            From the outset, Israel has rejected the probe as biased.

            Other Western states however, called for the report to be transmitted to the a separate United Nations probe into the incident which was set up by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

            Switzerland said it hopes that the separate inquiry “would take into account the analysis and conclusions of the Human Rights Council’s probe.”

            The European Union also “encouraged Israel to follow-up on the conclusions” of the rights inquiry.

            The Israeli and Palestinian leaders relaunched peace negotiations earlier this month but the fledgling process is already in danger after the expiry of a moratorium on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

        • You, BF, are agreeing many governments, to make this decision. Not that the decision is wrong, but the fact that it came from government, and you agree.

          Things that make one go HMMMM! 😉

          • G-Man,

            Not so fast.

            An act of a government condemned by a vast majority of governments as being even beyond their own twisted version of propriety is a statement worth noting

            It is similar to the Mafia being revolted by the slaughter at the hands of the Drug Lords – it is significant.

            • SO, a whole lot of evil, calling one evil is OK? Your right, the Mafia condemning drug lords is the equivelent of contradiction. Go figure!

              • G-Man,

                No, “not OK”…

                “…telling…”

                When a murderer is appalled by the brutality of another murderer, one must take into account that level of brutality.

            • BF,

              Of all people, you know the history of Israel, which was established in 1947, and have been under attack ever since. I’m not condoning Israels actions, but the mistake was made by the UN to begin with, by doing this. In essence, the UN, caused this problem. Just a thought.

              • G-Man,

                First mistake: give 52% of land to a 32% (Jewish) population and leave the rest to the vast majority.

                Never would work.

                Both the Jewish delegations (who wanted more) and the Palestinian delegation (who questioned why THEIR homes were being surrendered) dismissed the partition plan.

                First, it was established in 1948 by self-declaration after orchestrating a civil war upon an essentially defenseless people.

                Second, it has not been under attack.

                Haganah expanded its assaults on other Palestinian enclaves, and when the US and USSR gave tacit recognition of the Israeli State, the Arabs knew the “fix” was in.

                The Arabs had pleaded with the UN to interevene and was blocked by US/UK.

                Only after the obvious duplicity did the Arabs mount a disorganized and outnumbered assault upon the recognition of the Israeli State established in defiance against any charter.

                The Haganah (forerunner to the IDF) easily outnumbered any forces from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordon and only when Iraq entered the war and sent in its first divisions (across Syria) were the Haganah turned back. Only then did the UN impose a cease fire.

                The duplicity of the US/UK was already apparent.

                So, 1948 the violence of partition was extended by the Haganah into all-out civil and territorial war.

                On Oct. 29, 1956, Israeli forces, directed by Moshe Dayan, launched a combined air and ground assault and attacked Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

                In 1967, Israel attacked the surrounding nations in the Six day war.

                In 1973, after years of impotent UN action (blocked by the US), Egypt and Syria attacked Israel.

                In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and again in 2006.

                It is a serious error to claim Israel has been “under” attack. She has been the instigator of the strive in the region for over 50 years, and continues to be such today.

                And sadly for all, she will not exist in 50 years either.

              • Then I am correct, the UN is at fault. Hence, any claim to correctness on their part should be dismissed. (Damn, you have me on your side, govt sucks)!

              • G-Man,

                It is beyond the UN.

                World War One – the Great War – is the root of much of the troubles we suffer today – and for the foreseeable future.

                It was absolutely shattering in its consequences.

                It destroyed empires and created “Nation States” as the standard political organization.

                It reorganized the world into lines on a map.
                No continent was spared a redrawing, but the most grievous and malevolent redraws were in the Balkans – ripping apart Hungry-Austria and the Ottoman Empire – Middle East, destroying the Ottoman Empire, and Africa – cut up and shared by Europeans for its riches.

                It established a New World Order – the domination of America in world affairs – establishment of global governance – and the hubris of “scientific-ism” as a political movement.

                It hearlded the great war to establish which form of Nation State would dominate – mercantilist or communist.

                And with that battle, it created the capability for the human race to extinguish itself.

                If there was one change in history that as a time traveler I would influence, it would be preventing the US entry into WW1.

    • I have refrained from getting into a discussion about the Jews, Isreal or any thing related to that subject, mainly due to lack of absolute knowledge of the facts on the matter in our present time. So, I offer some pictures from the past and ask, would anyone let this happen again?

      http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/album_Auschwitz/mutimedia/index.HTML

  32. The Obsolete Man

    • You guys keep arguing Israel v Palestine ( both states shut up and stay behind your own line and live happily ever after), I wanna know what this is about.

      • It’s about the State. The last words spoken are very meaningfull and very true. Good find BF! 🙂

      • Anita,

        G-man is correct. The State is obsolete.

        Further, it implies even a more powerful lesson:

        Ideas have power

        Wordsworth’s words (say that three times fast 🙂 ) had power, even though they failed to save his life, his words defeated the State when the other people listened and then acted upon them.

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