Thursday, July 28, 2011

#22 He Talks Politics

I have to put up with a lot of political conversations with my husband. I admit, he also has to put up with a lot of conversations about shoes, purses, and farms, but here is the one major difference: Most of his political conversations spark to mind when it is already an hour past bedtime and I am lying in bed ready to be out.

Does your spouse do this? If so, you feel my pain.

But I have to give him credit. While half of our nation (let's face it, more than half) is bantering about political issues that they clearly have no knowledge or education on, he educates himself. Instead of looking like an idiot talking about a topic he clearly is only basing his opinion on according to what the news, his favorite celebrity, or his family tells him, he instead subscribes to newsletters and reads an outrageous number of books on subjects that would make me want to either fall asleep or knock my head against the wall until I'm granted a concussion.

But, despite the midnight conversations on topics I have to speculate answers for, I love that this is his passion. I love that he cares about the state of our nation enough to have a strong standpoint.

Occasionally, there is a topic I can contribute to in a more educated fashion, my personal favorite being public education. (The word 'favorite' here can go many ways. Interestingly enough, sometimes, it also means despised).

Recently he forwarded this article to me (and was super excited to discuss it):

The writer of this article is amazed that college students are constantly complaining about having "too much to read". He later discovers this really means, "I can't read these books". After his research, the realization of the writer is that because schools took phonics instruction out and based reading on whole word recognition, students were reaching fourth grade and only able to recognize 1,600 words. This number 1,600 did not reach any higher as the students went through their high school years. Therefore, teachers were either having to teach words, through whole word recognition again, or dumb down their subject matter.

However, a phonics-trained student by fourth grade could recognize 24,000 words. (That is 15 times the amount the whole word students learned).

Today the public school can't seem to get their act together in regards to the subject of Reading. Some schools have gone back to phonics instruction, others stick to the whole word recognition, while other schools will do a little of both. One would think after years and years of a public school system being around we could decide on the best option, right?

Here is part of the conclusion of the article which can't be written any better:

"To cover up all the failure, everything was dumbed down and bureaucratic displacement took over. More and more money was thrown at education, not to solve the underlying problem, but rather to hide the problem from everyone."

The major problem in the education system is that there are these suits over in Washington who think they know what is best for education, yet they have not a clue of what goes into actually teaching children. Because the government controls public education, the schools must do what the government dictates to them. Even if it is not for the best of the students.

If you think this topic of Reading is bad, you must watch the documentary titled, "Waiting for Superman". I say must, because you must. If you haven't seen it and want to see how truly messed up things are---get it this minute, this second.

(See how helpful I am? All you need to do is click this little link :)

Buy it. Because chances are, you are going to want to share it with someone in this country after you watch it.

The movie covers the public education system in a fantastic way as the viewer travels along with five children who are in a lottery to gain entrance into different charter schools. Because of the failing public schools (at least in the areas these children lived in) they feel the charter school is their only option for success.

Charter schools are fairly new. From what I've seen of them, some work, some don't. They are still public schools, but are supposed to be better. The problem is that in some areas they remain of the same quality as public school, or worse.

There are four main reasons I have a problem with public schools. I believe all but one are addressed in the movie.

1. (Most) Children Aren't Learning (What They Should Be Learning)

Whamo! This one takes up about 75% of my problem with public schools. If students were coming out of our school system better educated my last three points wouldn't bother me so.
I could throw statistics at you to show why children aren't learning, but seriously just watch the movie. There are overwhelming amounts of research that point to the fact that our public education is failing our students. (Again, suits trying to dictate what should be done is not the answer).
This past April, while I was at my doctor's for a check up, my doc shared with me a story about a man she knew who was starting a charter school. He was doing everything he could to raise money for the school and couldn't get any kind of support in America. He went to China to ask an acquaintance for money and he was more than generous. The man couldn't understand why someone in China would give support for an American school, especially so much more than Americans. When asked why, the benefactor replied that America owed China so much he was hoping that his investment would help to better educate the American children so that when they grew up and went into the working world they would be able to control their money (and pay their debts).
Note: There are some excellent public school teachers who are doing their jobs to the fullest. Unfortunately, when one looks at the education of our population as a whole, clearly, the population of great teachers has dwindled. And why? See #4.

2. The Rising Number of Classified Students

While it's true that the number of classified students is rising, the question is, do all these
students really need to be classified? Ask this to a child study team member and they will go up in arms about how they do everything to ensure the students who are classified truly need the help they are receiving. They'll explain to you that without the pull-out instruction or in-class support that these students would just be mixed in and forgotten.
Okay, some of our kids need classification. Clearly those who have disabilities like Autism and Down syndrome need to be placed in skills classes where they can get the best attention. But students who just "have a hard time concentrating"? I'm sorry, tell me if those kids were cut any slack in the 70s.
I'll tell you the answer, they weren't. We've gotten into this habit of trying to make excuses for children for why they aren't succeeding when perhaps the problem is that we are consistently dumbing things down, lowering our expectations, and getting little or no support at home. In turn with this comes the thought in some schools where a teacher can't say 'no' to a child when they have given the wrong answer. (No, I'm not kidding).

3. Teachers and Administration are Overpaid

Public School Teacher: Starting salary: $48,000/per year
Median salary: $57,000/ per year

Public School Principal: Starting salary: $82,000/per year
Median salary: $105,000/per year

(*These salaries are based on my local school district)

This makes me just want to puke my guts out. Seriously. I hate to put it in such a disgusting manner, but that is literally how I feel. Please remember something very important about the public school teacher: they get a solid two months (and then some) off in the summer. They have a week off for Christmas, a week off for spring break, every patriotic holiday and every random holiday that won't offend the religious make-up of their school. So, in essence, they work, probably, truly, only nine months a year, and make what many hard working, or even harder working, Americans make for a solid year of work (where they only are granted 2-4 weeks vacation total).

Want to hear the really gross part? Despite all this, most teachers and administration making this obnoxious amount of money complain about it each year. Not only do they complain about it verbally among one another, but they complain right in your face each year with their "Vote Yes" signs encouraging you to vote for the school budget. Sure, they'll tell you that the school budget saves and adds jobs, but it also guarantees that this glorious pay scale will not change.

4. Tenure
I honestly don't even want to talk about this one. The fact that after working three-four years somewhere you could become untouchable is absurd. Again, watch the movie. One spot shows videotape of high school teachers going into the classroom reading newspapers and doing anything and everything but teaching. When it was brought to the administration, they were horrified and the big guy fired all the teachers caught on film. The next day they all were brought back because they could not be fired due to their tenure.

Do you think if my husband tried that at his accounting job that they would keep him around
very long? His job security relies on one thing: his work ethic. If someone comes around who can
do his job faster and better he'll be laid off before he knows what hit him. But in the public school
all you need to do is serve a few years and then you are granted security for life. Security that will keep you from being fired even if you choose to be horrible at your job. Security that will continue awarding you pay raises and summers off. Security where you would have to go out of your mind and do something like sexual assault in order to be fired.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If we do not educate ourselves about things that go on around us daily and do not realize the truth that hides behind something as simple as a "Say Yes" sign on the corner of our street, we may be blindly allowing things that should not be happening to go on. I do not hope to tell anyone what they should think about matters like this, but would hope that if you do or if you don't have an opinion on it already that you would:

1. read the article, and search for more
2. get the movie and watch it.

My issues lie in the system. We can change the system, but must first realize the problems within the system, and educate others on it.

"A genius is precisely a man who defies all schools and rules, who deviates from the traditional roads of routine and opens up new paths through land inaccessible before. A genius is always a teacher, never a pupil; he is always self-made."
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy

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