Sunday, August 19, 2007

Education, Democrat, and Black Myths

Janks Morton was interviewed on C-Span's Q & A program this evening. He is a documentary filmmaker responsible for "What Black Men Think". He explodes the imprinted hubris that saturates and stifles the American dialog about black culture and racial progress.

For example he randomly asks groups of black teens, "Are there are more blacks in college or jail?" Almost to a person they respond with the politically imprinted answer, "In jail." Of course the answer is wrong and he offers the real numbers but the response he received is what Stephen Colbert refers to as "truthiness". Most people believe there are more black men in jail than in college.

This documentary is far richer than I can describe here and deserves serious consideration by anyone interested in changing the game because it shatters the knee-jerk stupidity of how Americans perceive black men. But his contribution is more important than even that. Morton demonstrates that a greater truth is possible to discover.

I also watched the Democratic Presidential debate and could not help but be disappointed with the volume of knee-jerk platitudes expressed on too many issues. On education - what to do with NCLB - only Bill Richardson had the courage to give the best answer - "SCRAP IT!". Far too many candidates pledged to "reform NCLB" which is Washington weasel words for BUSINESS AS USUAL. That is unacceptable.

Democrats can no longer bloviate the platitudes of the past. Only Clinton was thinking out of the democratic playbook thimble. She said, "We can't continue to run schools like we did when I was in school. Things have changed. We need to bring technology and innovation to the classroom."

YES. THANK YOU GOD! At least two candidates get it or at least some of it.

Teachers are not, by and large, underpaid. That is bullshit.

Smaller class sizes are not necessarily better than larger class sizes except in very specific contexts.

More spending is not the answer to better education.

Schools cannot fail and teachers in poor schools are not inferior teachers. Teachers and their competence is not the problem.

The system either needs to be overhauled top to bottom -OR- we need to end public school education in favor of something else. The system is the problem - not the kids, not the parents, not the teachers, not the pay.


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Tom Hoffman said...

There are places teachers are underpaid. Mostly those places aren't in Connecticut, however. Although there are certainly districts in Connecticut where a new teacher gets the shaft compared to high seniority teachers.

The Caretaker said...

The trouble with teacher salary comparisons is the demographic differences in this country. Twenty years ago, a book called "The Nine Nations of North America" explained what we looked like then. Today it may be even more eclectic. To say "every" teacher needs to be paid, say, $40K misses the substantial differences in local economies.

In 1975, I taught in rural NE and made a whopping $6870 for my first year of teaching which included special activity pay. My parents had to send me money to get by.

In CT, twenty years ago teacher salaries were upgraded to serious dollars and today teachers have never taken pay cuts and they clock 4% pay increases as a matter of fact while non-government employees take serious pay cuts, lose their jobs, and are lucky to see 2% raises every few years.

That's not to mention defined benefit pensions for life (almost non-existent for free enterprise jobs these days).

Yes, the tyranny of seniority is a drag economically for young teachers who get the shaft from fellow teachers.

There are far too many short-timers who are mailing it in, stone-walling innovation, and short-changing the kids and their profession. One of our Board members blurted out in amazement, "Why does change in this school move so glacially?"

I don't think our school is unusual but it is an American disgrace that workers are expected to change and grow - kids are expected to change and grow - yet teachers refuse to grow without a cash incentive, refuse to change with the times, and refuse to negotiate the flexibility to fire the incompetent or manage resources to the benefit of the community, and so on.

I'm all for fair pay, security and so on. But where's the professional responsibility to the students these days?

The Caretaker said...
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