Warning: Political rant about education ahead!

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Education was a major theme of the “State of the Union Address” shared by the current U.S President this past Monday night. Unfortunately, many of the assertions made during the speech are contradicted by the experiences and observations I’ve made working in our midwest schools during the past 13 years. Although my blog is NOT explicitly a political blog, I will not hide nor make excuses for my personal and professional advocacy agenda which involves working to transform our schools into learning environments which serve the interests of both our students as well as our nation in the 21st century, rather than the narrow interests of politicians and a political party seeking to advance a contrary agenda. (For more about my views on including or not including political and religious issues in this blog, see my comment from January 11th in response to commenter “Vet.”)

In starting the section of his speech which addressed education, our current President stated:

On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance, and empower parents to demand results from our schools. In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams — and a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.

NCLB has nothing to do with empowering parents. Instead, it is all about discrediting teachers and schools, and encouraging parents to distrust public schools and the educators which serve children within them. It is, of course, absolutely true our schools are filled with “boys and girls with dreams.” Sadly, the fear-dominated environment encouraged by high-stakes accountability achieves the OPPOSITE effect of providing “a decent education” for our students.

Before analyzing in further detail comments made by our President to the nation about the status of public education, it is worthwhile to reflect on how many of the children and grandchildren of our elected representatives are currently enrolled in public schools. What is this statistic? I do not know, but I am inclined to believe the percentage is very small. Even in the state of Texas, where “school accountability” rose to new heights of intellectual destructiveness, how many legislators have their own children and grandchildren in private schools rather than public schools myopically focused on raising test scores? I’m not sure.

Would those parents and grandparents (our elected officials) want to send their own offspring to schools where recess has been cancelled after second grade, because there is no time for recess amidst the constant environment of test preparation? Do our elected representatives send their own precious children and grandchildren into classrooms where students have been normatively valued predominantly by the test scores which they can or cannot produce for the school’s aggregate statistical rating, rather than for the ideas and unique contributions which they can and want to make to their communities? We are living in an increasingly immoral educational and political culture, and the assumptions which are presented as “facts” by our political leaders regarding a “quality education” should both offend and enrage our population.

Our President asserted next in his speech:

Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs. (Applause.) Now we must work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools.

This is WRONG. I, personally, deny its results as being positive and constructive. And I am not alone. Rather than look to the results of widely variable state test scores, we should look to NAEP scores. It is ridiculous to claim in the context of NCLB that “no one can deny its results.” While the very name of the initiative was crafted to try and prevent opposition (since someone against it seems to be supporting the untenable position of “leaving children behind”) it is patently false to claim that the alleged positive results of NCLB are undeniable.

The testing regime of NCLB, like the testing regime of TAAS and the TEKS exams in Texas which our President established while the governor of Texas, were created to achieve two primary goals:

  • To discredit schools and educators, to demonize the status quo and establish “an enemy” which could be attacked and allegedly “fixed” through political mandates.
  • To create standardized assessments which could be instituted and emphasized in such a way that gradual progress could be demonstrated and “success” therefore declared.

To find out what students know and what they are learning, you need to talk to them. NCLB has advanced a destructive agenda which feeds into the same tendencies Neil Postman detailed in his book “Technopoly,” where the general public comes to believe an idea because it is visually represented with charts and graphs in the newspaper. Is educational quality adequately indicated and represented by test scores? Absolutely not. More than anything, numerous research reports have validated the contention that test scores represent the socio-economic status of parents more than any other factor. Is this mentioned by our President in his most important speech of the year? Of course not. The purpose of this speech was not to share insights into the truth about the state of public education in our nation, rather, the purpose of this speech was to justify the actions and policies of a misdirected and destructive political regime which has done far more to HURT the causes of authentic assessment, project based learning, differentiated learning, and the encouragement of educational cultures of creativity and experimentation than it has HELPED the educational needs of learners in our nation.

It is wholly disingenuous to claim NCLB and the political direction of the high-stakes accountability movement can “add flexibility for states and districts.” NCLB has done exactly the opposite: It has forced the states of our nation to impose high-stakes tests upon learners as well as educators, irrespective of the lessons of their prior professional training or experiences.

I vehemently disagree with the proposition that “we must work together to increase accountability.” If you own or have invested in an educational testing company, perhaps I can understand your support of this proposal. Just as times have never been better for our oil and gas industry as well as our military-industrial complex during our current administration, times have never been better for commercial interests dedicated to creating standardized test materials for schools and states. If you happen to be a parent interested in a worthwhile education for your own children, however, or a moral educator committed to the cause of doing what is right for children rather than what is politically expedient for elected leaders principally concerned with the maintenance of their own power, understanding support for this proposal becomes much more difficult. Rather than work together to increase accountability as it has been understood under NCLB, we need to work to dismantle this destructive political movement which has done immeasurable harm (gasp, you mean something could actually DEFY measurement in our era of technopoly?) to our students and our educational culture.

Our President continued to reveal his agenda of discrediting public schools and working to open the coffers of public education to private, commercial interests by stating:

Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation’s Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America’s inner cities… Now let us apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools.

Our “failing public schools” are not failing because they have not been threatened enough with harsh punishments and closure. They are not failing because they need a stronger emphasis on “accountability.” Our educational system DOES need reform and change, but the solution is not to privatize public education and set groups whose focus is profit and the bottom line loose amidst our public education dollars. The path we have followed under NCLB is the WRONG path, and I have not yet heard ANY of our current political leaders or aspiring presidential candidates articulate a vision for U.S. schools which breaks with the failed patterns of the past and charts the visionary course for the future which our learners and communities so desperately need.

Following his statements about education, our current President referenced the global nature of our economy and the environment for which our schools are ostensibly preparing students to enter after graduation by stating:

On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas.

Unfortunately, as he has in the past, our President failed to acknowledge the basic disconnect which exists between the skills and dispositions emphasized in our schools dominated by the mania inspired by high-stakes testing, and the workforce skills required in the 21st century:

Mutually Exclusive?

Let’s not mince words. NCLB has been a destructive failure, and we desperately need leadership in our nation which recognizes this situation and stops pretending that the interests of learners or the interests of the nation are served by creating classrooms filled with fearful teachers, students, and administrators. I am sick of fear-driven politics. Of course we have enemies abroad and must maintain a vigilant military to protect our interests, but the idea that our domestic as well as foreign policy agenda should be dominated by the rhetoric of fear is ridiculous as well as counterproductive.

Let’s hope the next State of the Union address we hear will include tidings of great joy, rather than disingenuous, misleading, and unsupported assertions based on fear and the selfish politics of misinformed and misdirected leaders.

Is my attitude OK here?

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On this day..

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  • http://txbluebonnetwp.org/bluebonnet/Blog/Blog.html Scott S. Floyd

    I would say your attitude is spot on.

  • http://www.smeech.net Scott Meech

    Rants like these are important and they need to happen more from prominent educators like yourself… Most of the candidates are talking about a need for change… I think this needs to happen in regard to our educational leadership in this country as well!

    I would like to advocate for Wes Fryer to be nominated as the next Secretary of Education under the new Presdient-elect of the United States (TBD). I am completely serious. We need educators like Wes Fryer in prominent positions in stead of the “yes” men and women we currently have in place.

    I blame myself and the entire educational community for not demanding that education be a central issue in the current election. Most of all though, I blame our most prominent educational leaders for not advocating well enough. Education is not a hot topic in the current race for the presidency because we lack good educational leadership.

    A professor of mine, who is a current superintendent in Illinois, once said that educational change needs to come from a ground swell of educators. While I agree to a certain extent, I think education is a low priority because of the lack of leadership from our superintendents and administrators.

    The biggest problem with NCLB is that it is set up for failure, focuses on the wrong goals and objectives needed for our youth today, and is an initiative created by out of touch politicians who like the rhetoric for their sound bytes.

    This is a very well written piece Wes that I think can and should be tweaked as a major portion of your acceptance for nomination as Secretary of Education, 2009. I ask everyone who reads Wes on a regular basis to tell me why he wouldn’t be a better choice than recycling another “yes” edutician. Let me just say… Can you “Spell” that?

    I am tired of the “eduticians” like Mrs. Spelling who sound more like a politician than an educator: http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/01/01102008.html Get someone in there with an understanding how education needs to change… and do it!

  • http://originalgeek.blogspot.com Diane Main

    I heard a teacher (in a rather well-off public school district here in Northern California) once refer to NCLB as “Teacher, It’s YOUR Behind.”

    I work in a private school. I get paid a LOT less than the teachers who work in public schools. But I also don’t have to fear the government’s control (ineffective control, mind you) of my classroom.

    You know why the kids in my school do so well on our standardized tests? They don’t come to school hungry. Their parents, on average, are well-educated and very involved in their children’s education. They don’t live in the same street or apartment building as gang members who terrorize the neighborhood. No one is selling drugs mere feet from their doorsteps. If our students don’t get enough sleep, it’s because they’re staying up late doing school work (not that I support this practice). We have physical education two or three days a week, recess mid-morning and after lunch every day, and music and computers classes once per week. (Twice a week for computers in middle school.)

    The biggest difference between my students and their public school counterparts is the positive emphasis on education made by their parents. And these parents are people who can afford to have such a worldview. Many public school parents in this country don’t have much of a choice. They’re struggling to hold it together. Most public schools and their teachers are doing the best they can with what they’re given. I used to teach in the inner city near Newark, New Jersey. Back to School Nights meant nearly empty school buildings. Parental involvement is the biggest deal-maker or deal-breaker in education. And until we fix the problems in society that prevent many parents from becoming actively involved in their children’s education, no acronym is going to come along and fix anything.

    Daniel Pink is telling the nation that right-brained folks are becoming the most successful in the career force. But our schools are making our students less and less well-rounded because they need to pass a test that, in truth, tests nothing but their ability to take tests. When is the last time the best-paying employers in this country sat their workers down and made them take tests?

  • http://dasdtips.blogspot.com Ken Pruitt

    Rants are often filled with opinions and angry reaction. You have crafted an argument full of data that supports your side. Unfortunately we know that the opposite can also be proven if given a different set of numbers.

    Great post. Let’s just hope that we can all get past big bad unions vs. big bad government and allow the boots on the ground to have input on the direction of education.

    Let the trained professionals do their jobs!

  • http://hosmerot.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Lloyd

    Here here, Wes! You wrote a dense and provocative post (luckily I had my two cups of coffee before reading it)! I have watched the shift of school focus ever since testing became a priority in education. Creativity is traded for worksheets and drills. I hear stories of public schools eliminating art, music and even social studies and science in order to concentrate on boosting test scores in math and reading. I feel for the students who are faced with their weaknesses all day without opportunities to build their strengths and explore their interests. I cringe at recess and physical education being traded for test prep. Haven’t they heard of the mind-body connection and embodied cognition (read Don’t Just Stand There, Think http://tinyurl.com/yrktyl)? Demanding results from our schools based on test scores has narrowed our focus. We are missing many opportunities to develop young minds.

  • http://tryangulation.typepad.com tom

    Wes, thanks for thinking so hard on this and for writing so clearly. This is an excellent piece that deserves to appear on some prominent op-ed pages.

    Looking at this from outside the US, people elsewhere want to emulate the US’ successes, without seeing how important creative work, team work, reflective work, and even recess, have been, in addition to class work, in fueling US productivity (and how irrelevant test scores are in the big picture). But now those values are being left behind, and so is the US’ competitive edge, and a hefty chunk of our investment in our own future.

    Over here, a big share of high school curriculum is centered around the university entrance exam (which covers material only through grade 10). No recess, no creative projects, no time for homework beyond cutting and pasting from wikipedia. Kids spend years of after school time (no after school jobs here) in university entrance exam prep courses, a billion dollar racket here, focused on a single 3 hour multiple choice exam. High school seniors all get fake medical excuses and then vanish from school starting in April, as they devote themselves to full time exam prep for one exam that determines which schools, and which majors, they are eligible for.

    Is that where the US is headed??? People need to get a good look at how a generation of that kind of education affects society before thinking that they know what’s best.

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  • http://www.practicaltheory.org Chris Lehmann

    Well done, Wes!

  • http://kevinhoneycutt.org Kevin Honeycutt

    Yes Wes!!
    I have watched for too long as good teachers have been dispirited by the current environment of punitive, big-brother control. I hear teachers telling me that they know the right things to do for kids but no longer have the time or the freedom to do them. The cynical approach that NCLB is designed to enforce has nearly destroyed not only the atmosphere at schools but the profession as a whole. I hope as the damn breaks and people begin to re-imagine ways to support, rather than punish schools, that our leaders actually ask educators what they think might be best for American education.

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    Wes, I encourage you to keep writing politically about education.

    As a Yank in Korea, I need writings like this to give me more understanding of the politics of education in the US.

    I’d especially like to read a follow-up which addresses your impressions so far of the presidential candidates’ positions and attitudes on education reform. How can I bribe you to take me up on that? ;)

  • http://www.futura.edublogs.org Carolyn Foote

    Wes,

    Well said. I had much the same reaction to the comments in the State of the Union address.

    And I feel like the fear of touching the issue of NCLB has paralyzed the upcoming candidates from having serious conversations about education, which would be a terrible thing for our schools.

    Thanks for writing this, for all of us.

  • http://[email protected] Harold Shaw

    Wes – A well spoken rebuttal regarding NCLB…I believe that the present administration is looking at the success of “standardized testing” that the Military uses to help rank order “successful” candidates for advancement. But even that military environment uses multiple other factors to assist in judging a candidates readiness for promotion. Unfortunately, NCLB only uses one factor to measure a student, a teacher, a school or a state, a single annual standardized test to determine who is making adequate (I hate that word) progress.

    SOAPBOX: What is wrong with expecting phenomenal progress from our student and phenomenal being based upon their individual capabilities and skills (multiple intelligences) versus some generic, broad-based test that many in power today would have difficulty making adequate process on. I believe that if we can get rid of the mentality that our schools are failing (which most really are not), properly fund (yes it is somewhat about money), and help – not punish those schools that need the help, then we will properly prepare our students for the new world economy.

    But if we maintain the status quo of NCLB we are dooming our country to mediocrity and a second class economy in 20-30 years. Which if you believe conspiracy theorists, that is what some may want, bring us back to the rest of the world, none better, none worse. I don’t believe that, but many do.

    Wes – again this was a great post – well done. Harold

  • http://brunsell.edublogs.org Eric Brunsell

    Well written Wes-

    “but the solution is not to privatize public education.”
    One can look to Milwaukee, WI to see how that works. I believe Milwaukee has the LARGEST (or at least very close) acheivement gap between whites and non-whites in the U.S. even though they have had a choice / voucher program for 10 years. The most disgusting part of this is that when the politiciants initially approved this voucher program, they included a program evaluation by a reputable evaluator. So, when the evaluators came back neutral (not enough time to see effects), what did the Republican controlled legislature do? Of course, they cancelled the evaluation. So, our schools have to be accountable, but the experimental do not? Once the evaluators were gone, things went downhill fast. Private schools popped-up to collect money and didn’t buy textbooks, materials or pay their teachers. After quite a few scandals, the legislature re-instated financial accountability, but still NO EVALUATION of the quality of education at the private schools. NCLB’s formula almost garauntees that eventually (by 2012 or so) that all schools will be deemed “failing” because in order to have progress, 100% of students pust pass. It is a direct attack on public schooling with an aim of demonizing public schools as failures and ushering in more and more privatization. Can anyone explain how Sen. Kennedy couldn’t see this when he co-sponsored NCLB?

    On a related note, Congressman Kind (D-WI) and Burmaster (WI Superintendent of Schools) held a Q&A at a local school regardign re-authorization of NCLB. One of my students (a future elementary teacher) asked, “How are we supposed to instill a love of learning, creativity, and exploration into our students when they are faced with a testing regime that promotes memorizing facts as the end-all of education?” She got a standing ovation from the parents in attendance.

  • http://brunsell.edublogs.org Eric Brunsell

    Wes-
    Your post got me worked up. I’m embarrased by the number of typos in my reply…

  • Gregg

    You hit the nail on the head. Regarding your attitude, the most disconcerting thing is that more Americans are not sharing it, and raising our voices to demand a change.

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  • http://pelgin.edublogs.org Pam Elgin

    Very well spoken, Wes, but are you preaching to the choir here? Your message needs to extend to governmental leaders, including the President of the U.S. We need to get this message out to those beyond our ed tech circles. I am in total agreement with Scott Meech’s comment about your nomination for Secretary of Education. With someone with your experiences in that office, we may finally see some much needed change in the educational institutions in this country.

  • http://www.melanielewis.org Melanie Lewis

    Wes,

    Thank you for your well written article. I think educators need to be political animals. If more of us would take the vocal stance at election time, perhaps we could make the changes that are so dreadfully needed.

    I am as ultra-conservative as they could come. I hate to down the national leader once they are in office. I may vote for a different person but after the leader has been put in place, I try my best to be supportive. However, I am very saddened, dismayed, and discouraged by the restraints that NCLB has placed on our classrooms. I too would love to know the stats on where our national leaders are having their children educated.

    I LOVE working in the public schools. Yes, our students have more of an uphill struggle than those that go to private schools. Yes, our public schools need reform but NO we do not need to privatize the public education system.

    I am an instructional technology resource teacher for my division. I serve 3 elementary schools. Daily I hear teachers say they are hesitant to take time away from the almighty pacing guides in order to work in a technology lesson. They do know the right things to do; there is no time to do them.

    One of my schools seems to always be facing non-accreditation. I wish politicians could have been at school this year on the very first day that the kids were back. One student asked me about the SOL scores; they weren’t back yet. (SOL-Standards of Learning-our test) This child was really scared and told me that they really did try to do their best. This particular school has the highest percentage of SPED children in the division. This school also has the highest percentage of students at poverty level.

    Our students are working really hard. They have made significant progress in their learning. Can’t we find a better way to assess this progress rather than having them bubble in a bubble sheet? They do understand that according to NCLB, they are failures. The truth is, our students are not failures! Our teachers are not failures! NCLB is the failure.

  • http://txbluebonnetwp.org/bluebonnet/Blog/Blog.html Scott S. Floyd

    I just Twittered Barack to see if he would share any insight into who is SoE would be. Interesting to see if he replies.

  • http://jlerman.wordpress.com Jim Lerman

    Please see the post on my blog that addresses some of the same issues in a rather different way: http://jlerman.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/what-are-we-aiming-for-2/

    Wes, I commend you for your passion, perseverance, and perspicacity. You are helping us all do a better job.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Connie Sitterley

    Wes,

    Thank you for the post. I am sharing this article with the administrators in my district because you have articulated so well what I have frequently ranted about to them in a much less collected and supported way. Not sure what their thoughts will be, but hopefully some discussion might open up. Love to see someone like you as SOE, but would hate to see you have to deal with that job.

  • http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com/ Benjamin Baxter

    Whose leadership will best remove that kind of rhetoric? Obama uses the “getting rid of the politics of fear” angle but he hasn’t stumped on education nearly as hard as health care or other issues.

    Lone among the candidates in terms of a good, solid stance on education is Mike Huckabee, but there are plenty of non-ed reasons we shouldn’t want him as president.

    It’s going to be a good, long time before we have that sort of leadership.

    http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com/

  • http://snapshots.techforschool.org MaryAnn Sansonetti

    YES! You said it well!!!! This is right on the money!!!

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  • http://ci212-08.21classes.com/?slsid=1203370916911 Ben Hubert

    Your attitude is passionate out of concern and a calling to incite some form of a movement for which to reform the education system. Having said that, by using emotional appeal to stimulate your audience the unavoidable decline in being objective had occurred. Counter-argumentation with citations from President Bush’s speech was the first step in being objective; however, continuing to do so and mentioning why elected officials’ children stay in private and not public schools brought appeal for the audience to wonder why that is so, but leads the audience away from your attack on No Child Left Behind itself somewhat. I do agree that high-stakes testing are not right to use, for that puts a lot of pressure on the students to attempt to graduate, making learning pointless and memorization a trademark tool to get through education or simply cheat, and puts a lot of pressure (accountability) on the teacher and their administration to potentially produce falsified information (e.g. the “Texas Miracle” fraud) just to keep their jobs under the harsh NCLB ruling. I also agree that fear tactics are not right to use either. Why would a student learn any concept if the teacher’s scaffolding technique is negative (e.g. 1-3 sec. break for a teacher to give students to answer the detailed question, possibly no further guidance to answer the question, and getting upset and possibly yelling for not getting the answer “on time”), since the sensory memory can only retain information for 1-3 seconds, and the working memory can only hold information for 5-20 seconds with a 1-2 +/- 7 item capacity to hold such information, creating a deprivation of those seconds of memory to learn because of the distraction from the teacher’s negative attitude? With fear-based tactics trickle down from the government, students won’t have much of an intrinsic motivation to learn if they’re threatened with a pop quiz or moving the test date sooner, and again, teachers and administrations potentially will produce falsified information if sacrificed curriculum to study for specific tests did little to achieve NCLB?s potentially unrealistic high standards.

    My main concern with the presentation was the minimum usage of objective citation to counter-argue NCLB itself as a document. Using the State of the Union Address speech to counter what Bush was saying is fine, but since your saying that “[t]he path we have followed under the NCLB is the WRONG path,” being able to find a few sentences or a couple paragraphs from the NCLB document to prove your point could greatly improve your argument for the need to have a more immediate education reform. Maybe perhaps some political candidate will be reasoned with such information and argumentation. Granted I just pulled some information from what’s in the back of my mind and notes from my Educational Psychology course last semester and what I’m learning in my Curriculum and Instruction class earlier, but overall though, your presentation is good. Surely many people have rethought about how education is being operated and know what the potential dangers education itself is treading these days. Again, using more citations from the source your mainly attacking can, and probably, will enhance your presentation even more. I hope the extensive feed back was beneficial to your question.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Ben: I certainly agree that the arguments against NCLB need to be much more fully articulated than I attempted to in this post. I am not optimistic that we’ll see a Presidential candidate in our current US race emerge with the educational change agenda we need, but I still hold out some hope. Language has become entrenched that now, to suggest the standards movement and the accountability movement are counterproductive to the goal of providing students with a world-class education seems like heresy. I would like to write these ideas out much more fully in a book at some point… not that writing it would change a lot, but at least it would provide a more thorough and less disjointed format to explain ideas as well as cite resources / references than I’m able to here on the blog. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Pam Hansen

    My favorite bumper sticker reads “It will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber”. I have had numerous people com up to me in parking lots and drive-thru lines to tell me how right on that sentiment is. The problem is, no matter how we dislike the government is running our lives; failing our children, families and the elderly; as a people we are inherently afraid of our government. In other countries around the world people rise up, demand change and the government, being afraid of their people, comply. It is time that we as people, rise up and tell the government how we really feel, not just by voting but by taking to the streets and not allowing government policies like NCLB to ruin our teacher’s spirit and abilities, our children’s education and eventually our country. We cannot let groups we belong to speak for us-we need to speak-out with them and make a bigger stand. What kind of a message would it be if, on the dates of our next standardized testing mandated by NCLB, all teachers, parents, and students took to the streets and protested these tests and the punishment they inflict on our children and their schools. Consider the wonderful hands-on learning experience this would provide as well as the empowering spirit left for those involved. Could the government really punish every single school across the country? Taking this kind of action often and consistently, we can really teach our children by example what government of the people, by the people, and for the people really is and hopefully create a new paradigm in educational excellence.

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  • http://www.thinkersjam.com Dave Paulson

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. Public education in America is in dire need of real reform, not another round of punitive tinkering. Our system was designed to produce factory workers, and since we have very few factories left in the U.S.A., we might want to consider an update designed to fill our real needs. If that new design focuses first on how to make school relevant to the largest number of students, then there might actually be some hope.

    Not every kid is going to go to college, but they are all going to be adults. Let our schools teach them how to read as part of a program that teaches them how to be productive citizens, how to earn a living, how to have a voice in their government. Let them learn math as it applies to their interests: music, mechanics, money and finances — all have the capacity to foster a sense of relevancy for both math and reading.
    Let’s prepare our students to be responsible adults, and while we’re at it, let’s revisit the best means to promote real learning (not test scoring). Let’s apply what we know to be true: parents and teachers are important, but the most important influence on a student’s learning is their peer group. Increasing relevancy for more students is the quick route to a virtuous circle of ascent for all.

    Some students will be small business owners, and others will be mechanics. They will be teachers and politicians and nurses, and they will be carpenters and actors and clerks. Some will be scientists and others engineers, but they won’t all need to be college graduates.

    America needs people to fill a wide variety of occupations, why not do everything we can to match them with their vocation. Academics have driven the objectives for education for far too long. It’s time for our society to step up and demand the reform we need to overhaul public education and serve the real needs of our country.

    __________________
    Dave Paulson
    I think, therefore I jam

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