The end of the world? No... just the next day.
Response to Draginol's
Published on October 18, 2006 By Lotherius In US Domestic
I'm quoting Draginol's post here: Link a bit. I'm responding to his issues from a point of view of how they affect education.

#3 Corporate Tax cuts.
Of course Draginol wants this - he is a businessperson. People in a position to vote themselves larger pieces of the pie will by human nature almost always choose to vote themselves the larger piece of pie. And, I can't totally disagree that huge taxes place a burden on business. However, simple math is, SOMEBODY has to pay for this country. It is better to spread the burden where it can be bourne than to slap it where it cannot. Does Brad pay to educate his employees in basic reading/writing/arithmetic? Programming? No, he expects them to come to him already in owndership of those skills. Chances are, most of his employees benefited from a public school education. Even if they had a private education, some of their teachers probably benefited from public schools. Fact is, the majority of American families couldn't afford private schooling for their children. Say what you will about public schools or voucher programs, either way somebody has to pay. If businesses don't want to pay their share, they will reap the penalties 18 years down the line (and are reaping said penalties already) when people come out of underfunded schools lacking basic skills, making it harder and harder to find qualified candidates. Corporate tax cuts should be done with care - and ONLY in places where the tax is extraordinarily burdensome on a particular industry. I don't see the software industry as one of these places. Greed is greed.

#6 CUT SPENDING / BALANCE BUDGET.
Can't say I disagree here. This is common sense (not being currently applied). However, the swipe at education and Teachers Unions is uncalled for. Let me tell you something MISTER: Teachers Unions do no harm. Why? Because they can do NOTHING! In most states, teachers cannot strike. When they do, their demands are rarely if ever met. Working conditions for teachers are DEPLORABLE. Have YOU EVER TAUGHT IN A LARGE HIGH SCHOOL? I bet you haven't. It isn't pleasant. Most people cut and run on the FIRST WEEK. It isn't uncommon for someone to spend their entire lives planning to teach, to make excellent grades in college, and hit the first week in the classroom, and they're up for career change. They up and quit, and abandon the kids. Why? Because they're weak? NO - because teaching is an underpaid, undersupported, overworked, stressful and dangerous occupation. Teachers are often submited to a constant barrage of verbal abuse from their students, if not physical abuse/assault. Administration will not do anything effective to stop bad student behaviour, nor will parents. Teachers are expected to put up with behaviours in their classroom that would get adults thrown in jail. And through all this, they are somehow expected to teach. And you blame the UNIONS for this? No, the ball is SQARELY in the public's court, for demanding tax cut after tax cut, and for lobbies that make sure those cuts don't cut defense dept budgets and other pork barrels. Education has no effective lobby - not even unions - so when taxes get cut, so too does funding for education. Privatization? Only works when students are selected, not with a general population. Private schools work now because those students attending them generally are doing so because they care about their educations and so do their families. If you put the general population in Private schools, you will have general population problems. It cannot be avoided. That said, public schools with a majority of population that cares about education do as well or better than many private schools! It depends on population, not private or public.

#7 REAL "Progressive" EDUCATION.
"Allow people to send their kids to other schools." - Problematic. This causes schools with poor performance to only get worse. Fact is, the teachers in poor performing schools work many times harder than teachers in higher performing schools. People think the problem is the school, when it is really the student population and the parents. If that isn't fixed, then we're simply shuffling the problem around. You get a few good students in a good school, and everyone else is dumped on. I can understand why you wouldn't want your kids in a bad school - neither would I - but in the long term, this is not a viable solution.

"Make schools compete for funding." - HUGE problem here. If you start penalizing a school's funding, you might as well just shut it down on day one. Cutting funding to underperforming schools does not improve academics. Never has, never will. Simple fucking fact here folks - different schools have to deal with different student populations, different community attitudes toward education, and many other factors. This isn't a case of "Business A produces an inferior product, Business B produces a fine product, so Business A should just shut down". Fact is, the raw materials (students) vary in quality. Business A is stuck with raw materials that are not of the fit and finish available to Business B, the outcome is always going to be inferior. In fact, the artisans (teachers) at Business A will have to work triply hard with their inferior raw materials to produce something that even comes close to what Business B produces with little to no effort at all. Public schools don't get to choose who comes to them. People are acting like you punish the teachers for doing a bad job, as if all children were the same when they came to the school. They aren't! Their parents and community have much more say in what they'll achieve as their teachers do.

I can tell you from personal experience that working in a school from a community that does not believe in education is the biggest challenge I've ever faced in my life. I'm not sure if I'm even going to stay in teaching because of it. I have a 150 IQ, and I'm not smart enough to figure out how to get these kids to learn. They resent teachers even being there. Only about 5% of students will do homework if assigned. Usually 1-5% will pass a multiple choice test given on material covered in class. This isn't just my experience, it is the majority of teachers at the school. Most students who pass do so based on huge curves, which are given because parents refuse to accept that their child doesn't give a shit, and threaten the school. The few students who do care (and they do exist) cannot pay attention in class because the rest of the classes are so troublesome. I was assaulted last year by a student who was afraid to face me personally (since I'm 6'1" and built), so he had a buddy turn off the light, and he threw a 25 lb textbook at my face before he broke and ran. My offense? I asked him politely - once - to please be quiet and do his worksheet, or at least be quiet so that those who wanted to work could do so.

How does blaming the teachers and faculty help here? It hurts - by causing public sentiment to go against the teachers. Parents in most cases simply do not believe us when we tell them how their child behaves in school. This year, funding was finally made available to install cameras in a few hallways in our school. Parents who see their children get caught on camera are flabberghasted. They didn't know their child was so... I won't use the words some parents use here. Yet the FUNDING is not there to provide more cameras. Why are cameras so important? Sadly, not really for student safety. They are important because without them, parents do not believe that their children are so badly behaved, and defend their children against any discipline from the schools. Kids tell their parents "Mr. Soandso doesn't teach us. He just constantly tells us how bad we are, and writes us up if we even so much as drop a pencil"... When in reality, he spent the entire class shouting over everyone trying to present material, that is also on an overhead, and was also on a handout that most students simply tossed on the floor. One student kept getting up dozen times to sexually harass a girl next to him. The teacher warned him numerous times to stay seated, and finally wrote him up after the 10th warning. The student claimed "I was only getting up to get my pencil that I dropped!".. And, the parents, not wanting to see their child as a little hellraiser, storm to the office and demand their child be protected against the evil, nasty teacher. In fact, in one case, I had a student that I reported to the office for sexually harassing a girl in class. He was using offensive language, gestures, and touching her inappropriately, while she was objecting. I had him removed from class that day. The parents came up and complained, so I was called in to the office to defend my accusation. I was asked if he was trying to have sex with her. I honestly said "No, I don't think he was trying to have sex with her. He was just harassing her."... I was told later that I was wrong for not backing up the office. They thought he was trying to rape her! Apparently anything less serious didn't deserve reporting. And, is this the office's fault? Apparently the problem is that they can't prove anything to parents who won't believe anything. If they had suspended the kid for harassment, my word wasn't good enough. And, since students don't press these issues (it is uncool), it would have just been my word. A threat of a lawsuit from the parent caused them to send the kid back to class with no punishment.

Funding would provide in-class cameras so that this kind of disruption of the learning process would not continue. Yet, the high school I work at does not get this funding. Why? They haven't passed their TAKS test in 5 years. They are no longer allowed to hire teachers under provisional status either (meaning new teachers still earning their certification). They cannot pay salaries high enough to attract experienced teachers either, most of whom refuse to work in such a school without a high enough salary. Teachers are being expected to teach 6 classes a day of 30 to 35 students each, with only one 45 minute prep period to do all of their administrative work. The typical night for a dedicated teacher at this high school involves staying after work until 6 or 7 PM (12 hour workdays, that is) doing work that there isn't time to do during the day. Teachers who don't do that have simply given up. It doesn't really make a difference, honestly, in their student performance. The only teachers whose classes do well are those who have enough seniority to demand all honors or AP classes. They dump the "hard" classes (those with a general student population) on new teachers.

Do you see how privatization of schools would fix this? Can they pay teachers enough to put up with these abuses? Where would the get the money, when the public sees education as a leech? They can't simply refuse education to the poor, just as public schools cannot.

I can tell you what will fix the school system, but it is a hard row to hoe, and I don't know if the support would be there. Reorganize the education system to be an Education Corps. New teachers enroll in the Corps., and are sent to BOOT CAMP. Here they will be given practical skills in classroom management. These skills will consist of defusing dangerous situations, psychology of troubled adolescents, self-defense tactics, and the like. They will observe the worst classrooms in the U.S., inner city minority schools. The emphasis here will not be on picking apart the teacher's inability to inspire the students imagination (as it is currently when observing classrooms), but instead on practical admission that sometimes the teacher will be out of control, and here are strong-arm tactics for teachers to establish AUTHORITY in the classroom (apparently Authority is a bad word in my school, as students react negatively to authority, as do parents. I used the word in front of a parent once as in "The student undermined my authority" and I was chastised later for doing so). Teachers will learn tecniques from standup comedians on how to respond to hecklers, as you will be heckled constantly as a teacher. Nowhere in this Corps will the word Pedagogy be mentioned. Why? You cannot teach students who you do not have control of. It sounds awfully old-school, but it is true. No amount of pedagogy helps if the kids are busy harassing you and each other. Then, and most importantly, comes the job search. Teachers will not choose their job, it will be chosen for them. In this Education Corps., teachers will be assigned a school to teach at. New teachers, having seen the worst in Boot Camp, will be assigned to Training Schools. Training Schools have students from communities that are self-motivated and interested in education. One day of each week, however, teachers at Training Schools will be required to provide tutoring services at an underperforming school. This will provide both an opportunity for students at the underperforming school to have tutoring from a teacher who has higher expectations of them, as well as for the teacher to have experience with students to whom education is not a priority. After two years in a Training School, a teacher earns a "rank", let's call this Instructor. Depending upon her evaluation, the Corps. will now assign her to where she can best be utilized. She does not pick her school. If her evaluations show that she is strong in establishing control in the classroom, she will be sent to a difficult school where her skills will be put to good use. Currently, teachers with the highest skills get hired by schools were those skills are the least useful. This would change. Difficult students require the most gifted of teachers to achieve their potential, and they should get them. However, not to forget the gifted students, teachers whose academics excel but whose abilities in dealing with troubled students are lacking might get assigned as well to where their skills would be most beneficial, to work with gifted students. In essence, the Corps. would ensure that the teacher workforce was spread out to where each teacher could do the most good. You could choose region, but not specific school. In some cases, a move might be required. In essence, it would be like the army. Your moving/travel espenses would all be covered. If you are sent to a difficult school, you would get pay bonuses. (Currently you take LESS pay when working in difficult schools, which is why nobody good will do it). Student loans would be paid off on the SAME TERMS AS THE GI BILL... That is, for every year you work as a teacher, you pay off a % of your student loans, regardless of how much they are, over and beyond your pay. This would apply to ALL student loans regardless of what school you work at. Currently it only applies to Perkins loans (most loans are Stafford), and only at low income schools.

Why an Education Corps. like that? The biggest problem facing education currently is that the resources are not where we need them. Money is given to the schools that are already doing the best, the best teachers choose the easiest jobs, and the most challenging jobs pay the least. Teachers find that they can make significantly more money by simply not teaching, and going to some other industry. The worst teachers end up at the worst schools, because the worst schools are so desperate for teachers (since the best can demand better jobs) that they have to hire whoever they can get.

Look at the Peace Corps - their motto is something along the lines of "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love"... That should be the Education Corp. Motto... In the Peace Corps., you don't (as I understand it) get to say exactly what you'll do when you join. They look at your attributes, and say "We can best use you here". That's the way education needs to be. Money and talent need to be spent where they will produce the most benefits.

Will fixing education take a lot of work? Yes it will. It will take constitutional changes in many states, as local control is one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Problem is, in communities with the best resources and attitudes toward education, local control is great, but for 80% (number pulled out of my ass) of the US, it means that resources are divided unequally. People in wealthy districts fear equality, since they equate it with "Robin Hood", that is, in the end, there will only be poor schools. The solution, however, isn't to keep resources divided to ensure a few have enough, but to spread them evenly, and increase the overall pie, so that EACH SLICE is enough. It will take an increased education budget. We can't afford NOT to accept that.


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