August 30, 2016

Forum: Does Education Need Reform?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question:Does Education Need Reform?

 Fausta’s Blog : Yes, education thoroughly needs reform.

All schools must be answerable to the parents, who should have freedom to choose what schools they want for their children.

Elementary schooling is most important in a child’s development. For instance, substantial research on the brain’s neuroplasticity shows the importance of learning cursive handwriting during childhood. My experience is that few elementary school teachers are even aware of such research – and teaching cursive is a long, hard process which is not favored by the “teach for the test” environment.

In today’s society, schools are called to do many functions that parents should. At the same time, most teachers’ colleges favor a politically-correct approach of “everybody gets a trophy” instead of focusing on a sense of the value of virtue, a work ethic, and thorough respect and familiarity with the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, all of which are American values.

As the mother of a boy, I can attest to the fact that most schools – public and private – are oriented to teaching in a way that does not foster the way male students learn. Luckily we were able to place my son in an all-boy’s school that encouraged hands-on learning, and where recess was never cancelled (in fact, the youngest grades had two brief recesses in the morning). He graduated from college with honors.

Current curricula is affected by the latest trends. I remember when the local school board proposed to change (at great expense to the taxpayer) the math curriculum years ago. My husband asked “were any studies done comparing the new plan’s effectiveness to the current one?” Not one member of the board had even thought of such a study. Now we have Common Core, with murky math exercises that I cannot understand even after having completed nine semesters of college and graduate school statistics, calculus, and economics.

I also believe that one of the most important things a good educator can have is a sense of the value of learning-from-failure, which goes hand-in-hand with understanding the value of healthy competition. It is tragic that the present educational environment can not comprehend either. As ever, it falls to us parents to make sure our children do.

Maggie’s Notebook : We first need the will to change education. To do that we need parents insisting on it and finding a way to sacrifice whatever is necessary to put their children in good schools when their public school is failing. Most importantly, we need teachers willing to stand up for truthful text books and honest methods of teaching, grading and passing pupils. Today’s teachers come out of their own education taught to hate and be victims. We are on a merry-gro-round. When our kids fall off, the merry-go-round continues to spin.

How do we get truth into textbooks? The only answer I have is that educators and parents must insist on it. If we find a way to provide truthful civics and history textbooks, then can our children CANNOT pass the SAT, aligned to Common Core, and testing is not going away anytime soon. For decades, Liberals have tried to bring racism and victimization into everyday life so that every school child is turned into that community’s organizer.

We barely teach English and Math. Neither are considered important today –– nor is it important to know how to balance a checkbook or understand the stability behind a bank account yielding profit. It’s more important to learn how to put a condom on a banana, or create a flier showing support for Islam. History is so obscenely distorted, we may not be able to reconcile the decades of damage already done. After all, many of our schools are staffed with those who themselves were taught to feel victimized.

Spend some time with Fox News’ Jessie Watters on beaches in very influential communities, or on some of the university campuses considered the finest in the country, and you’ll understand how little our children know or care about liberty and freedom.

Some parents believe their efforts have removed Common Core from their schools, but as long as English, History and Mathematics are taught to pass the current testing, Common Core lives.

The crux of all evil in our schools are the two major teacher’s unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We can’t fire them, even when they molest our children. Such a teacher may be removed from the classroom, but not removed from the payroll and retirement benefits. To be sure, there are excellent teachers, who suffer over this problem every day of the school year, but in our current and common environment, good teachers can do only so much.

Then there are the lawsuits –– dropped on schools on a whim –– costing thousands to defend. It’s easier to give in. Banish the child that chews his pop tart into the shape of a gun. Praise the child bringing a suitcase with the guts of a clock inside that clearly looks like a bomb. That early teenage child has been told that MIT will welcome him.

Does education need reform? Such a disturbing question. I don’t think there’s an answer to fix it. I don’t think there are enough aware parents to shield their children. I don’t think there enough good teachers to fight their unions. I think there are far too many teachers/administrators teaching the poor to continue to be poor, to continue to hate others for their plight.

Laura Rambeau Lee,Right Reason : Many people today are surprised to discover the U. S. Department of Education was created during the administration of President Carter in 1979. Until then, the control of our public education resided within the states. Our Constitution makes no mention of the federal government having any duties or responsibilities related to education, and as such the DoED is an unconstitutional agency. In the past thirty-five years, the federal government has taken control of the education of our children by enticing states and counties with funding. Unfortunately these funds come with strings that have shaped everything from the curricula to what our children are eating for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner in some districts. School districts compete for these funds and policies enacted in order to receive these funds.

Right now we have the federal government colluding with private corporations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, taking our tax dollars and turning our education system over to entities not as much interested in providing our children the best education as they are making money and pursuing the social engineering of generations of our youth. Our schools should not be laboratories and our children should not be guinea pigs to untested and unproven standards such as Common Core. The Common Core State Standards is the latest incarnation of the old No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top programs, all promising to improve standards and turn out children who are college or career ready. Charter schools and magnet schools are being sold to parents as an attractive alternative to low performing schools, but again, people must realize this is the taking of public tax money which should be going to public education and putting it in the pockets of private corporations. The states have no oversight over these charter schools and the curricula is proprietary, meaning no one is able to see or review what our children are being taught. An early charter school, International Baccalaureate, has direct ties to the United Nations through UNESCO, and promises to promote “rigorous” study and create young people who embrace multiculturalism and diversity as “global citizens” and where, as they say on their website “These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” IB started out as a high school diploma programme, but now includes primary and middle year programmes as well as a career related programme. The Common Core State Standards appear in many ways to be fashioned after the International Baccalaureate programme.

In the 2016 presidential election we must get behind a candidate who promises to abolish the DoED and return education to the states and local districts. The future of our country resides in taking back control of our education system at the local and state levels and assuring our children are being taught the basic knowledge and skills that will carry them into being productive, competent and capable citizens into their adult lives and professions.

 JoshuaPundit : I think a great many people have finally become aware of how poorly our education system works over the last decade, and that’s been underlined by the nonsense that’s been making headlines lately at our universities.Fixing this is going to involve several steps,and it’s going to be necessary to look at the origin of the problems, break down the root causes and solve them in increments.And since part of the solution is obviously political, a lot is going to depend on the national will.

Let’s look at K-12 first.

School choice is important, even vital but it merely underlines the fact that the enormous amount of money spent on public education has largely been a waste, since parents, given the choice, overwhelmingly choose private schools whom are normally able to educate students for less money per pupil  and at a much higher level than majority of the public schools. My own experience is that the average 12th grader in private schools is at least 3 years or more ahead in terms of the work they’re doing.

Private schools usually have these things in common  – parents whom care very much about their children’s education and are willing to invest in it, high standards of discipline, work ethic  and conduct for the students themselves (frequently including religious and moral education as well as sex segregated classes), non-unionized teaching staffs and a much lower ratio of administrators to teachers than the large public school districts. Teachers also have much more freedom to gear the pace of learning to the classes’ level rather than having to devote set amounts of time to mandatory programs that bore the more intelligent children  or overwhelm those whom need more time and help. And teachers are likewise judged by their empirical results rather than tenure or other considerations.

Once public education became unionized and the Left took control of it, most of not all of the above qualities including scholastic ones  were degraded over time  as education became indoctrination, standards were lowered and bureaucracy became an end in itself. The tool the Left used to accomplish this was federal and state money, which is why the attendance head count in the morning has become the most important part of the day. Ironically, it’s also a tool that can be used to reform the system in the right hands.

To fix K-12, the following steps are necessary in my view: Breaking apart  the larger urban school districts into smaller units, de-unionizing teachers by making public employee unions voluntary and regulating the involvement of public employee unions as organizations in political campaigns, getting rid of tenure and enforcing much  higher standards in teachers are the first steps.

The Federal Department of Education and the threat of withdrawing federal money can be used to accomplish much of this, and federal school choice  legislation would be needed for the rest.

The next steps are more difficult, because they involve changes in attitude. First, the pernicious influence of the Left needs to be curtailed. A good start would be for textbooks to need to be approved by a new Bureau of Standards as a part of the DoE before they could be used in the public schools, and for standardized tests to be administered at different grade levels for tracking purposes of both teacher fitness and individual academic progress. And yes, I’m talking about British-style O-levels. Some children are university material and some are better served by good vocational training. Moral education also needs to be taught again at an early age in the public schools as it once was, and discipline re-established.  This unfortunately is vital nowadays.

Public education should not be thought of as a right but as the privilege it is. Children and teenagers who habitually disrupt classrooms, act out in school  and show disrespect for teachers should be removed to a single facility in the district more geared to their special needs so that they do not deprive the other children who actually came to be educated.

Dealing with the Universities is an extension of this.

Even private ones receive public money and subsidies as well as student loan funds. This can likewise be used as a lever to effect change.

College has become an overpriced scam particularly in the Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, which these days are anything but liberal. This could be changed with the following policies.

First, any university receiving federal funds of any kind would have to eliminate tenure, base admissions on a race neutral basis, have its curriculum meet certain federal standards as established by standardized yearly testing and allow ROTC training and military recruiters on campus in accordance with the Solomon Amendment.

In addition, the Federal DoE could easily create college curricula for various majors that could be available online at a fraction of the cost of what college costs today, and some universities already offer such programs. My daughter is now working as a special ed teaching assistant in the field she wants to make her career while taking online courses that will give her a BA in a year’s time at a fraction of what even a state university would cost, and minus the indoctrination and ethos that entails nowadays.When she gets ready to start her career, it will be with actual job experience on her resume and zero debt.

Those students who want ‘the college experience’ as a prolonged adolescence, are legacies with wealthy alumni parents who are seeking contacts or want to use college as a talent showcase for the professional sports franchises will still likely want a typical high priced brick and mortar university, but the opportunity to obtain the same degrees at a fraction of the cost is going to appeal to a lot of young Americans.

The DoE could also enable a rebirth of vocational colleges and paid apprenticeships in various trades that would be far more practical, useful and cost less than some of the ridiculous majors many students are currently pursuing while bankrupting themselves or their parents at the same time.

Implementing these changes would take time, but the results would be seen fairly quickly. And they would revolutionize education as it is today.

Well, there you have it.

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