RANGER AGAINST WAR: Killing Fields <

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Killing Fields

You teach a child to read,
and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test

--George W. Bush

_______
________

Amidst the current electioneering, one topic which seems to get short shrift is the U.S. public education system. The Bush boys' "No Child Left Behind (NCLB)" initiative has been a spectacular failure.

It degrades the teacher, handcuffing him or her to a system which allows little room for creativity. It demands the proverbial "teaching to a test," which pleases only the teachers who find comfort in rote recitation.


The students are placed in a nearly constant state of anxiety, as they now know they are part of a herd, which will be thinned via failure if they fail to tick off the state-mandated road markers. Analytical thinking is not as prized as rote memorization and drill.


This week marks the 25th anniversary of a national report, "Nation at Risk," which warned in 1983 about the deteriorating state of public schools. Today, our society is showing the returns on roughly 40 years of failed academic experiments, first committed in the name of raising student's self-esteem (letting students find their "own their voice," no matter how pitiful the grammar with which they expressed it), now in the name of raising the state's self-esteem (or more correctly, ability to earn funds.)


The problem is heartbreaking, and maybe even nation-breaking. But for those who will fill the nation's boots, higher thinking may not be a priority.


In an insidious aside, the Air Force recently said their slick ad campaign was really aimed more at adults, who might then speak with the younger generation about the service. And next week we've got a "BG from the Pentagon" coming right here to River City. Gonna visit one of our toughest high schools next Tuesday to give ROTC members a pep talk. 10:1 the talk is not going to be about book learnin'.


There is no formula for creating an excellent teacher, nor an excellent student. It has something to do with preparation and care, and outside support.


Students do not arrive at school in a vacuum. Social milieu matters.
It is a far different thing to walk to school past armed guards and through a metal detector than it is to pass smiling moms volunteering with coffee dollies, two extremes in our town. The high school the BG will be visiting is one of the former (surprised?) No coffee for him, but maybe a Coke from the padlocked vending machine.

The Head Start program helps mitigate the disparity, and it is a crying shame that such programs are continually nickled and dimed while there is always money for the killing business.


in "Education Lessons We Left Behind," George Will quotes Chester Finn, author of,
Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik", who says NCLB "got things backward":

"'The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best.' Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier."

Bob Herbert also wrote an excellent piece on the topic, "Clueless in America," in which he says,

"Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education."

A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

He ends saying, "We've got work to do." But that work does not seem to be prized nor prioritized. There are educational initiatives in place, such as Americorps and Teach for America, but these programs which could actually do some good always get the short end of the funding stick.

Working in an urban classroom must not be as romantic as fighting halfway across the world.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure were your confusion is but this says it all.

A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

This what has been planned so the chosen ones kept power and $ of this nation
jo6pac
Everything is on schedule, please move along.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 10:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

The problem is that working in an inner city classroom *is* romantic. Our inner city classrooms are clogged with idealistic young white teachers who haven't a fuggin' clue. Other than a few natural-born teachers, it takes about five years for a newly-minted teacher to really get a good grip on the job and start doing it well (this is not unusual for any professional job, BTW -- in my current profession, software engineering, it takes about five years for us to turn some newbie out of college into someone who can actually work independently), so what this means is that inner city classrooms are clogged with people who cannot teach.

Because there's no multi-year contract upon penalty of charging them with desertion if they leave like with the military, they end up leaving within a couple of years to be replaced by yet *another* generation of clueless young idealistic white teachers. And so the cycle continues. Those who can, transfer to the suburbs and have long teaching careers. Those who can't, either leave, or stay but sorta retire on the job because who is going to show them up, after all? Those young idealistic white kids who think teaching would be, like cool? Puh-LEEZE! (Disclaimer: I was one of those idealistic young white teachers in an inner city classroom at one point in time, so this isn't second-hand knowledge speaking :-).

- Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin

Friday, April 25, 2008 at 3:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Alright Badtux, I, too, speak from experience, and you've got some of it right.

Per this: "idealistic young white teachers who haven't a fuggin' clue....it takes about five years for a newly-minted teacher to really get a good grip on the job and start doing it well (this is not unusual for any professional job, BTW...)"--

This holds for blacks, too, and as you acknowledge, there is a learning curve in any industry.

Problem is, most blacks who get their degrees are feted by industry, and there's a whole lot less heartache and more money to be made there. That's an old problem: blacks who make good leave the hood.

Now, what do you do with the whites who you claim are "w/o a fuggin' clue," but sweatin' in those classrooms?

Friday, April 25, 2008 at 3:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

BTW--I find this terribly patronizing:

"Those young idealistic white kids who think teaching would be, like cool? Puh-LEEZE!"

Getting to teach in any assignment isn't like a trip to the mall. There is intent behind the choice. It's like going through med school and deciding to specialize, or slog it out in a rural post as a GP.

Friday, April 25, 2008 at 3:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

or slog it out in a rural post as a GP.

which is exactly my daughter's plan when she graduates medskool next spring. i love that girl!

Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 10:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

MB,

Bravo to your daughter, who sounds like she is on the right side of things, too.

I have a friend from St. Kitt (who bitterly rejected being labeled "African American") who came up in difficult circumstances, and pledged to do the same with his med school training. However, the lure of big money with one of the big pharma companies was too great, and he went that way instead.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 10:57:00 AM GMT-5  

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