Libs love to talk about root causes. Normally it absolves them from accepting personal responsibility for the problems caused by their policies – they just change the subject and blame some larger, undefinable, amorphous group. The root cause of American decline sits in every American community: the teachers at your local school. Liberals have owned all major metro school districts since FDR, and all are worse. Newsflash: It isn’t the buildings.
Start with Critical Thinking – you know, what’s required to vote intelligently. Life is not multiple choice. It’s an essay. As long as K-12 teachers only test multiple choice and don’t require critical thinking, voters will continue choosing A) MORE STUFF) over B) LESS STUFF because they never were taught to think that A) MORE STUFF today = C) EVEN LESS STUFF tomorrow.
There simply is no other way to develop critical thinking skills than to assign papers and to test with essays. If America wants – again – educated voters (and educated citizens, including the kind who don’t pay themselves $90M to quit a job or invade foreign countries for no good reason), America is going to have to get serious about K-12. And THAT means critical thinking and ESSAYS.
This seems “duh,” but a big problem exists in implementation.
I’ve put three kids though public school and have heard too many teachers say too many times that it takes too long to grade essays for 30 kids.
Tough. In the words of Super Chicken, “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”
I was in K-12 from 1960-1972. My teachers didn’t seem to have a problem assigning and grading papers and essays. Yes, this was public school. In California, of all places…
And all my classes were 25-30 kids. And just as many adults sat around listening to the radio or watching TV as now; it isn’t as though human behavior has changed in 50 years. Blaming all poor performance by kids on their parents is facile nonsense.
So what’s changed? Two things.
1. Unionization. If you can’t fire the dreck, you’re gonna get lotsa dreck. Partly because dreck thinks they’re superior, and partly because no intelligent person will work with a bunch of dreck; life’s too short. If school districts want better teachers, they need to write better contracts, or just refuse unionization. Several years ago in FL, the teachers in a District struck. For a year. Moms got fed-up and filled-in for the unionized teachers. Guess what? The performance was better across-the-board than in a neighboring District with unionized teachers which functioned as an informal “Control” group. Shocked? Yeah, neither was I when I read it. So the nonsense about how unions are good for education is pure 100% unadulterated crap. America will not get better results FROM education until America recognizes that unions are a net negative TO education.
2. Teacher quality. Exceptions exist, but, for the most part, our teachers are dumb. The college cohort with the lowest average SAT scores? The students of the School of Education. In 1984 the then-Dean of the Boston College School of Education penned an OpEd I read in the SF Chronicle. The students in the schools of education are “the laughingstock of” the academic students on campus. He went on, but you get the idea. I’d offer to those in rebellion that a former Dean of a School of Education has forgotten more about the kids they teach than any of us ever will know. So calling into question his evaluation of the students he’d observed for an entire career would have no credibility.
Think back to when you were in college. What kids did you run into talking about getting their summers off the rest of their lives? Working only until 2:00 or 3:00? The kids in the Ed Dept. Their motivation was NOT teaching; it was laziness. With good pay and great benefits.
(Common Core, by the way, is a direct result of stupid teachers with enlarged egos. Because THEY couldn’t figure out how to add fractions as kids, they assumed no one else could, either. Now that they are in charge, they come up with these cockamamie methods & procedures to do what the rest of us did in a heartbeat, driving intelligent parents nuts. There is a reason for this. It’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect, based on a detailed study by the authors. (Summary: If smart people know they’re smart, why don’t stupid people know they’re stupid?))
Which brings us to the third item, one without which it may not be possible to bring schools and education where they need to be in the Information Age in a Great Power, and that’s the school calendar.
Many of us have heard that the school calendar is a relic of an agrarian society; that kids needed to be out of school to bring in the crops. Fine. You may have noticed… America has not been an agrarian society for, oh, over a century. Times change.
If part of the change that must occur in K-12 is to get smarter teachers, another consideration is this: How many bright, energetic, self-starters have you met that want to not work for three straight months? None? Exactly.
If America wants educated voters, we’ll need educated, energetic teachers, and that likely will require moving to a year-round calendar.
Do we take off a month in summer so that everyone gets a vacation – kids and teachers? Is it the same month for all grade levels so families can vacay together? What will be the impact on travel & hospitality businesses? On National Parks? On Disneyland? On airlines?
Do we take two weeks at Christmas, a week at Thanksgiving, a week at Easter? Do we divide the year into trimesters, with 2-4 weeks between each and that’s all the vacay time allotted?
There are many logistical questions. These can be dealt with professionally… but perhaps only without a union.
One more issue remains, of course, and that’s teacher pay. We don’t spend enough on teachers. Notice how I worded that. I did NOT say we don’t spend enough on education – we do. I did not say we don’t overpay dreck – we do. And I did NOT say that we need to give unions more money – we don’t; we need to abolish them if we’re serious about fixing education.
How did this come to pass? Fixated on taxes, the GOP refused to notice that the Women’s Liberation movement gave smart, motivated women opportunities far more exciting and higher-paying than teaching. Conservatives, of all people, refused to understand the market and so refused to pay teachers what they were worth.
The best exited the profession, the dimmest entered, and the disaster is evident.
K-12 CAN be fixed. If we want to remain a free country, it MUST be fixed. But no amount of fiddling around the edges of the current regime can accomplish the wholesale changes that are needed to prepare Information Age voters to vote on America’s role in the world or what we spend to achieve that role.