Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Primer on Public Education

I want to address a number of phony education talking points that everybody gets tangled up in because the discussions about education are intended to end in paralysis rather than epiphany.

The primary beneficiaries of such state are teachers, administrators, and lawyers (or lawyers disguised as legislators). The losers are children, taxpayers, and parents.

Bogus issue #1: Volume of Homework.

Studies indicate that the younger the child the lighter the total homework load (THL)should be. Because teachers rarely collaborate, children and parents confront cumulative homework loads that can be as great as THL x (number of teachers) per night.

Yet, insipid politicians and people without children insist children are not burdened enough.

Bogus Issue #2: Unexpected (but predictable) consequences of homework.

Parents who work all day and come home to make meals then need to repeat a failed classroom lesson (whatever that may have been) with their child. The progressive demand that student and parent do busy work erodes all confidence in the usefulness of homework. The progessive erosion of confidence in homework lessens the effectiveness of truly useful homework exercises that commit essential factoids to memory (like multiplication tables).

The state needs to monetarily reimburse parents for such tutoring since parents are taxed for education and expected to supplement it; double jeopardy.

Bogus Issue #3: Children have too much free time.

The tsunami of pointless homework assignments has robbed generations of children from developing a healthy inquiry into their own interests be they reading, learning via electronic media, or play.

The ubiquitous piling on of homework is endless. Parents who want to vacation often can't because of homework. Teachers vacation. Politicians vacation. Administrators vacation. Parents and children are never allowed a break.

Bogus Issue #4: Small schools are good.

Small schools can be good. Small schools practicing NCLB mandates suck as badly as big schools practicing NCLB mandates.

Inner city huge schools pretending they have schools within schools are kidding themselves. The big athletic hard-on that drives the building of huge inner city schools makes for bad education and distorts the small school vision (which can be very effective).

Bogus Issue #5: Small classes are good.

The concept behind small classes is individualized instruction. Small classes guarantee no such thing. A teacher lecturing to 25 students is no more or less effective than a teacher lecturing to two students.

Certain classes are exceptions to this. Art is individualized because no two students create art the same way. Math on the other hand is absolute: 2 + 2 = 4.

Small class sizes are expensive ways to deliver uniform information.

Today's NCLB generation of teachers like small class sizes because it reduces the volume of busy work. Generally speaking and acknowledging exceptions, it does nothing for the student. Nothing.

Reasonable teacher student load per week is different from small class size discussions.

A very good small class teacher may be a lousy big class teacher and vice versa.

Bogus Issue #6: Passing standardized curriculum and high-stress tests is accountability.

No. It is an expensive perversion of the purpose of a high school degree. Public education guarantees two things; A.) The public school provided a safe, competent learning environment. and B.) the student learned to the best of their ability.

The corporations and politicians have no Constitutional right to void a students inalienable right to become a citizen which in the United States means a free-thinking human being. By imposing a testing regime that maliciously ignores free-thinking, the sanctity of individuality, and the will to become one's chosen destiny, schools violate the Constitution and ensure the brain-washing of generations of children.

Bogus Issue #7: Standardized tests or chaos.

Simple minded critics insist that if students don't all meet certain standards at a certain time they are failures or remedial or misfits and that recognizing individual differences in learning ensures unqualified graduates.

Schools in America did fine before high-stakes, high-stress testing and artificial standards were nationalized. In fact the country was in much better condition then than in the wake of NCLB.

Eliminating NCLB, government testing mandates, and the elimination of the Departments of Education can only improve schools. It's true.

Bogus Issue #8: Qualified teachers.

Teachers currently teaching to tests are no longer qualified to teach children in a humane school setting and need to be re-certified.

Uncertified individuals over 30 with no criminal record and a passion for teaching should be certified after one year of demonstrable success in a classroom as a paraprofessional teaching candidate.

University education departments need to be eliminated for failure to advance the profession and ensure humane teaching practice.

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