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Mike Rose
Mike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and author of a number of books, including "The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker." His latest book is "Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education"...



The Questions Education Reformers Aren’t Asking

Education is moving to domestic policy center stage. The first round of competition for federal “Race to the Top” funds is over, and that competition generated a flurry of school reform activity across the nation. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia were selected and are now preparing for a winnowing round two.

In addition, the Department of Education just released its proposal to revamp the important Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is up for reauthorization. (Its last incarnation brought us No Child Left Behind.) This proposal is already fueling local and national debate about the particulars of school reform: how to assess teacher quality, for example, or the promulgation of charter schools, or how to remedy failing schools.

So far, our discussions and debates about education have been focused on these particulars, frequently sparking more heat than light. But there seems to be little alternative thinking in the approach to school reform itself. And both elite and mainstream media have pretty much fallen in line with the reigning policy talk about the problems with our schools and how to fix them. As well, no one in power is asking the more fundamental questions like: What is the purpose of education in a democracy, and are our reforms enhancing—or possibly restricting—that purpose?

I wrote the following essays over the last year to address some of these broader questions.



Part One: Education ‘Miracles’ Don’t Survive Scrutiny

Despite a childhood of incantations and incense, of holy cards and stories of crutches being tossed, I don’t believe in miracles. So it is with less than wonderment that I watch as a language of miracles—along with a search for academic cure-alls and magic bullets—infuses our educational discourse and policy.

We started off the new century with the Texas Miracle, the phenomenal closing of the achievement gap and reduction of dropout rates through a program of high-stakes standardized tests. (The Texas Miracle would then spawn the federal No Child Left Behind Act.) Politicians and media-savvy administrators have also found the miraculous; the governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, referred to an Oakland charter school as an “education miracle.” And the pundits have appropriated the lingo. A recent New York Times column by David Brooks on the charter school of the Harlem Children’s Zone was titled “The Harlem Miracle.” And so it goes. 

Upon closer examination, some of these miracles turn out to be suspect, the result of questionable assessments and manipulated numbers. The Texas Miracle didn’t hold up under scrutiny. And some, like the Harlem Children’s Zone—which is a commendable place—gain their excellence through hard work along multiple dimensions, from teaching and mentoring to utilizing outside resources and fundraising. There’s nothing miraculous about their successes.

Along with talk of miracles, we have the belief in educational wonder drugs and magic bullets—single-shot solutions to complicated problems: high-stakes testing, standards, charter schools, small schools, alternative teacher recruitment, slash-and-burn CEO management and so on. Each of these solutions has potential merit. Standards can bring coherence to a curriculum; small schools can result in increased student contact; alternative recruitment and credentialing bring new blood into the teaching force; some districts need the serious administrative shake-up that managerial housecleaning can provide. All good. But for these efforts to work, to increase the quality of education, other factors have to be present as well.

The structural change that leads to the small school needs to be accompanied by a robust philosophy of education, a set of beliefs about ability, learning, knowledge and the purpose of education. As well, you’ll need a decent teaching force with opportunity built in for ongoing development. And what about curriculum? Or a set of ideas on how to connect school with community? The structural move of creating the small school may be central in all this—truly important—but, at its best, it will be a necessary but not sufficient condition for educational renewal. As small-schools pioneer Deborah Meier once said, you can have crappy small schools, too.

Research on charter schools—most recently a comprehensive study from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes—demonstrates the kind of variability you would expect if you didn’t believe in miracle cures: Some charters are terrific, some are average, and some are awful. The same set of issues I raise for small schools applies here: What you do within the new school structure matters immensely.

The kick-ass-and-take-names managerial cleanup that we’ve seen in places like Washington, D.C., and New Orleans has indeed disrupted the status quo, and I’ll leave it to those who know those districts well to judge the legitimacy of the shakeup. But what interests me is what happens once the new broom sweeps clean. Then the same weighty questions emerge, questions involving curriculum, teacher quality and development, remediation, school-community connections and the like. To address these crucial issues, the school manager will need knowledge of human development, of teaching and learning, of the wisdom of the classroom. Because few of the new CEO types possess such knowledge, you have the rush to the magic bullet.

Let me consider one more magic bullet, since recently it has been making its way through opinion pages and commentaries: alternative teacher recruitment, most notably Teach for America. (See, for example, Thomas Friedman’s April 21 New York Times column or the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” for July 7.)

I admire Teach for America and the public service spirit that drives its recruits. In the early ’90s, I met with founder Wendy Kopp and participated in TFA summer training in Los Angeles, and I’ve taught students who have gone into the program or came out of it. Furthermore, my own introduction to education came via an earlier alternative program, Teacher Corps. So my concern is not with Teach for America itself but with the way it has been defined as yet another wonder drug, the ingredients of which are the idealistic energy of youth and an elite education. Sadly, Teach for America has become a weapon in the education wars, rather than a laudable vehicle through which young people can contribute to the education of a nation.

I’m all for idealistic, hardworking enthusiasm, and I welcome into the nation’s classrooms these graduates of fine schools. But most of them teach for two years (and possibly a third) and then move on to the careers they went to college to pursue.

I’m troubled by two more issues related to the magic-bullet discourse here. First, many who champion TFA seem to affirm an idiosyncratic model of professional development: that these young people’s elite undergraduate educations and their energy trump extended training and experience. There is no other kind of work, from styling hair to surgery to the pro football defensive backfield, where experience is so discounted. No TFA booster, I’d wager, would choose a med student fresh out of a cardiology rotation over a cardiologist who had been in practice for 15 years.

I also want to consider the assumptions about knowledge and teaching here—or more precisely the use of the status of one’s undergraduate institution as a proxy for being able to teach what one knows. Knowing history or chemistry or literature is essential to teach these subjects, but—again this is common sense—knowing something does not mean you are able to teach it, as countless undergraduates who have sat through bad lectures can verify.

Let’s consider this elite-school proxy for pedagogical expertise from one more perspective. I went through two books that profile first-rate teaching: my “Possible Lives” and Karin Chenoweth’s new “How It’s Being Done.” I also looked at the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year program. Only a handful of these top-flight teachers got their bachelor’s degrees from institutions typically defined as elite. A number hail from state universities. And a considerable number come from small local colleges with teacher education programs. Expertise in teaching is more than a function of one’s undergraduate pedigree.

What miracle talk and magic-bullet solutions share is the reduction of complexity, of the many levels of hard, creative work necessary to make schooling successful in the United States.

More so than many other domains of public policy, education is bedeviled by a binary polemics, a tendency to define an issue in either/or terms and then wage a pitched battle over the (exaggerated) differences. So we have the math wars, the whole-language versus phonics explosion, the knowledge versus process clash, and so on. These are fierce battles in which each side reduces the other’s argument—often to the point of caricature—and then assails it.

The miracle/magic-bullet discourse plays right into this state of affairs, and both emerges from and contributes to it. Part of believing in this single-shot causality requires a simplification of difficult issues and a dismissal of other possible variables and remedies. If you have the single truth, then everything else is a target.

There’s one more concern, and that has to do with failure. What happens when the miracle fades, when the magic bullet doesn’t cure the disease? For some who are ideologically inclined, there is despair, a throwing up of the hands and retreat to the dismissal of public education that we’ve witnessed over the past two or three decades.

I propose that we leave the holy cards at the schoolhouse door, that we admit that educational excellence is achieved through dedicated effort along multiple dimensions—structural, curricular and pedagogical—and that we call a moratorium on the demonizing either/or polemics that create more heat than light. Unfortunately, that moratorium would probably require a miracle—but it’s one I’m ready to pray for. 

Continued: Business Goes to School
Dig last updated on Mar. 19, 2010

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, February 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment

So the species Canis domesticatus were held as low down creatures
by Jesus?  Or was that after he allegedly arose from the dead to
become the Christ? In his incarnation as a man or in his deification? 
What exactly does the belief that Christ often addressed his enemies
as dogs have to do with intellectual decay as rotted guilt through
inhibited compulsion to outright lie?  And what exactly do the
terms intellectual decay and rotted guilt mean?  hogorina, your
post reads like supercilious dogmatic rotted bull crap, or is that
rotted hog crap?

There is no ancient religion Gautama.  There was a person Siddhartha
Gautama.  He did not start the religion called Buddhism.  His disciples
started the religion.  Before you blather on a forum you might study
some history.

Siddhartha Gautama was born about 583 BCE, was raised in a wealthy
environoment, his father was a King, and also a Brahmin, which is a

In the romantic writing skills of Herman Hesse, the tale of Siddhartha
revels in fantastic mythbuilding just as all religious founders are
enveloped.  When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, a Hindu
Brahmin prophesied the Prince would be either a great military
conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. What holds Siddhartha separate
from all the religious founders/leaders is that he did not claim to be a
god nor had he any supernatural powers.  He was not the founder of
the religion.  Achieving awakening is the task of a Buddha, and anyone
can become a Buddha.

What the Buddha taught was a philosophy and this philosophy is a kind
of therapy.  There are eight steps to health.  Buddhism is often thought
of as a religion, which without question it became from the concerted
actions of his disciples, but Siddhartha Gautama was less concerned
with theology or ritual or prayer as he was with providing a tool for
individuals to use to escape suffering which is caused by desires
and one’s attachment to one’s self.  Once one has understood the
true nature of the universe and comes to devote one’s life to selfless,
charitable, compassionate actions and to finally lose all sense of one’s
self, by losing all one’s desires, one then passes into a state of mind
called Nirvana.  The word means “snuffed out” in the way a fire is
snuffed out or extinguished.  At this point, the self no longer exists.  It
is not folded into a higher reality.  The self is not transported to a land
of bliss, it simply ceases to exist. This is the state that the Buddha
passed into at his death. The Buddha tirelessly traveled and taught until
his death at age 80.  His last words to his followers:  “Behold, O monks,
this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are
changeable.  They are not lasting.  Work hard to gain your own

Am I a Buddhist?  No.  But I agree with Siddhartha, “Things are not
lasting.  Work hard to gain your own salvation.”  Clear thinking helps.

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By CitizenWhy, February 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

Questions not being asked:

Where has reform worked? How? What were the results?

1. How did the Canadian province of Alberta reform its educational system with
very positive international test ranking results? For one thing, teachers were
invited to be actively involved i the process, but so were others: government
officials, parents, students. Through research. discussion, and cooperation they
came up with a very good system. This system was not handed down as a
mandate and a pre-set structure from a central government.

2. How did Finland go about reforming its educational system, with top
international test ranking results? Maybe Alberta imitated Finland, maybe not,
but Alberta and Finland used similar approaches.

We know what has worked. But, as usual, we ignore what has worked in favor of
abstractions and grand opinions.

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By Tom Edgar, February 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment


Polysyllabic ramblings are no substitute for a clearly enunciated and direct argument.

To my certain knowledge there is no such religion as Gautama. The Hindu, Prince Gautama, or as he was later known.“The Buddha.” was the initiator of the Buddhist faith although he would never have agreed to that.

Therein lies a similarity to Christianity and J C.  He too never founded Christianity, Followers and Disciples invented both those faiths.  Buddha was still searching, and Jesus actually preached a return to the “Fundamentals” of Judaism.

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By hogorina, February 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


P.S. Transubstantiation of neurotic personalties is
implanted within barking dogs. Individuals surrounded
by barking dogs ( at all hours ) relieves masochistic
yearnings. This is another measure of erotic
behaviour. Usually religious confliction.

If one will look around, there will be hundreds of
little booklets knocking everything, and what evolves
from the publication of sewage, in the line of ever
supporting Protestantism, with its break from
Catholicis­m. Only the ignorant misunderstand that
Protestantism evolved from Catholicism. This being
true, designates that both are wrong or one is wrong
and the other is correct. With such consideration, it
is necessary to do some investigation, of earlier
Oriental fundamentalists beliefs, of one ancient
religion known as Gautama. This ancient Gautama was
the very basis for Oriental religious
fundamentalists. All of us wear thinking caps over
intelligen­t brains. Generally, money is the very root
of many world religious movements. Have you ever
considered that great opposition to western
Christiani­ty. Yes, it originated in the Orient. Have
you ever been informed that the seed line of Abraham
is God’s chosen seed line. Do you know from whence
one of Noah’s sons that you have descended through.
Try searching the origins of Ham, Japhet and Shem.
Have you ever taken the time in discoverin­g just who
controls the commie
run news media in our country. Learn these things
about Christian civilizati­on, and
then pick faults from other’s insinuatio­ns and
reason, in trying to influence many to think with a
one way mind. Having never seen nor read the hand
book mentioned-­-tells me that you are finding fault
without qualificat­ion. Please keep an open mind
for we have many avenues of contrary truths, that the
world is only a fool’s paradise.

Further, when searching out modern Christology, the
national religious empire, take into the historicity
of religious ties to the national treasury. Here we
have a double standard contrary to our Constitution.
No doubt about it, the control over all religions are
state orientated. In America when things go wrong,
one runs from one denomination to another, in order
to reconcile guilt complexes. Here Satan is drug up,
in trying to palm off self-induced, personality

Its been a long waiting period for the great Parousia
( God’s earthly return )to take place. More than
likely, much longer before the expansive
eschalogical, false man made teachings, will come to
the truth voluntarily. The world is under the
influence of an invisible society, that is supportive
of global Pan Theosophy, Pan finance, Pan Russia and
Pan Orientalism. America is headed in this direction.
Since the national publishing industry is a tool, and
a product, on the threshing floor of universal
socialism, it would be wise to ignore off-color
information and lean out the true Gospel of of an
unseen Creator.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 1, 2011 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

During my years as school psychologist, I learned
that two groups of students did better than average.
Children who enjoyed learning did better.  Children
who had a dream of a job or profession did better. 

Too many have a developmental history similar to that
of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  Only a
partial percentage of whom receive adequate social
support in adolescence and early adulthood so as to
enable them to eventually obtain a doctorate from any
university; much less an ivy-league such as Yale. 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of which
“fortunates” seem to acquire a pair of new shoes. 
Which shoes lead them into the ivy league of
political dishonesty and illegal machinations.  Into
forgetfulness of the children and folk who are caught
in the same developmental process in which they grew up. 
Which someone(s) assisted them to walk away from.

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By James, January 23, 2011 at 1:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. So goes the same thing with students. If students don’t want to learn what schools have to offer then what are you going to do? With the economy the way it is today, most students are saying what is the use. if I can’t get a decent job after I graduate, why should I learn what society thinks I need to be successful? This especially true for college students who are getting saddled with huge loans and debts, and no job to earn money to pay them back.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment

You are right, Tom Edgar, the forum has taken what seems like a
digressive track away from the specific problem of the quality of
education.  But, when it comes to funding education in the United
States which in turn determines to a great extent whether there is
an egalitarian mind of the government, or if it is cosmetic like when
the conservative political element in this country has the reins and
give only lip service to the importance of education. That then
affects the quality of education and whether it intends to produce
excellent critical thinking and knowledgeable people upon high
school graduation.  That factor alone would get minimal support in
conservative concerns but a very high rate in the liberal camp. It
does matter which economic philosophy is at work as to what kind
of education is supported by those who have to power to fund it. 

The reality of competing with students of the world does not depend
solely on whether the US is a capitalistic or socialistic based economy,
but also on which political party is in power as attitudes towards the
quality of the minds of the population is crucial for certain kinds of
political agendas.  Keeping a certain percentage of the public ignorant
serves the corporate world by keeping salaries and benefits on the low

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By Kathy Summers, January 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Really want to make education better? Six of our children are better. Divide kids by
intelligence. Only have ten kids in a class. Have a helper teacher in every class.
Really have time to help smart kids excell and less smart kids to grasp all they can.
Have the arts in school and PE everyday. Pay teachers more so the best people
would go into teaching. Build beautiful schools for kids. Show them in all these
ways that you really care about them. It is simple to makes smarter if you really
care. I promise you it will really work.

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By Tom Edgar, January 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment

It appears that the discussion is veering away from purely discussing education. I daresay that the particular type of Government will have a great bearing on the kind of education that is delivered and, indeed, the emphasis.

But if the people of the U S A desiring improvements in education are going to wait for a change in governmental style, then it will be a very long wait.

In the meantime those countries with a left leaning, not necessarily Socialist, administration will inexorably, and progressively go further ahead.

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By CitizenWhy, January 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment


While the Soviet Union lasted, US capitalists were eager to advance, along with
government, the theory and practice of “Consumer Democracy.” In essence tis
meant that the US capitalist system, equated with democracy, needed to prove
that it could produce a much higher material standard of living for its citizens,
especially US citizens.

Once the Soviet Union’s threat disappeared, US capitalists were much more
interested in globalism (consumer democracy, ie, thriving capitalism,

Globalism would come at the cost of ratcheting up of US poverty/exclusion
from the economy of many more American citizens and the reduction in the
relative wages of many more.

This tamping down of US consumer democracy would not cause political
problems because ...

1. No more competition from Communism/Socialism ...

2.  Far higher rewards for US elites, including the upper middle class of
professionals and executives and Ivy League graduates (including liberals) ...

3. A stronger pro-corporate lobbying system, and a more right wing US
Chamber of Commerce ...

4. More effective and well funded conservative propaganda disparaging any
progressive opposition ...

5. A much more activist conservative movement that would capture the
constant attention of the media, and a more discussion-oriented left ...

6. A credit system that would allow families to make up for wage shortfalls with

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By Dennis Szilak, January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Control out of Control.
When heart rhythm is somewhat chaotic, and it dances between different rhythmic states, this is an indication of health, but when it becomes consistent, it’s an indicator of impending death. The same is true of the brain; when its impulses become totally regular, this is known as an epileptic seizure.

The emphasis and weight given to “assessment” at basic levels of instruction are an obstacle to instruction. Forms of quality control or assessment rubrics necessarily damage instruction by taking time away from class preparation and the production of instructional resources. Some forms of control do incidental damage, many of them do much more. Multiplication of controls are, to put it politely, organizational auto-stimulation, which exists only to serve controllers.
The proliferation of educational assessments and evaluations belongs in the category of what systems theorist Russ Ackoff describes as “doing the wrong thing righter. The righter we do the wrong thing,” he explains, “the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.”
Our current neglect of instructional issues are the result of assessment policies that waste resources to do the wrong things right.
Instructional central planning doesn’t - can’t - work. But, that never stops people trying. The result is that each effort to control the uncontrollable does further damage, provoking more efforts to get things in order. So the function of management becomes control rather than creation of resources. When Peter Drucker lamented that so much of management consists in making it difficult for people to work, he meant it literally.
Inherent in obsessive command and control is the assumption that human beings can’t be trusted on their own to do what’s needed. Hierarchy and tight supervision are required to tell them what to do. So, fear-driven, hierarchical organizations turn people into untrustworthy opportunists. Doing the right thing instructionally requires less centralized assessment, less emphasis on evaluation and less fussy interference, not more. The way to improve controls is to eliminate most and reduce all.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 21, 2011 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

But the horses are out of the barn.  It is the same droning litany as
heard since Marx from intellectuals who just don’t understand the
human mind, the ordinary human mind.  Not that I am against
intellectualism, as I would eulogize the development of the mind,
and as the constant and immutable liberal I am not against all
aspects of socialism, it is just that socialism and all of its extreme
forms which because human nature being what it is, lamentably but
inexorably fall into tyranny just as much as is claimed of capitalism. 
In America, the reality is, everyone is a member of the Capitalist Class. 
Whether they are in the Upper Elites, Middle, or Poor.  And so yes, the
Capitalist Class will do everything possible to protect their status quo
and every American, rich or poor cling to the American Dream.  As a
teacher who had gone into the public school environment for nearly a
decade, I have seen poor children and their poor parents who would
not trade the imagined possibility of wealth for a collectivist situation
for anything.  They march to the local liquor store, not just to buy their
whiskey or tequila but to buy those lottery tickets, having the
permanent idea that Chance, Lady Luck, Destiny, Karma, Kismet, Fluke
will allow them to ride around in a Cadillac and have a big house, not
just a little one mind you, and all the Nikes you can put into a closet at
one time.  Why do you think they risk their lives to come in droves from
countries like Mexico or Asia or Europe or Africa or, or, or wherever, to
America if not to find a ‘free’ life to be able to earn all that they can,
and to get that pathetic education you denigrate.  I do believe you have
a parochial view.

The best form of economics would combine socialism and capitalism. 
And that cannot, will not, happen at any level but the grass roots. 
Healthy collectivism, where constitutional democracy protects all human
bodies regardless of their income, can only work where individual
achievement is possible and applauded, but where individuals realize
that life is too hard to go at it by oneself.  That is the ancient,
primitive, primordial understanding the human organism has actually
realized upon birth physically, and knew it subliminally but unregulated
capitalism and tribal hierarchy influenced how humanity developed from
the feudal condition up through the mercantilism to the capitalism and
dawning of the imagined benefits of socialism of the 19th century.

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By Tom Edgar, January 21, 2011 at 3:28 am Link to this comment


I might have taken less time to say it, but I couldn’t have analysed it any better.

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By Robert Rjinsueguer, January 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Roots of Student Learning Deficits in America

While capitalism has indeed raised the standard of living over the last half century, especially after WW II ; America’s workforce, out of which came the nuclear family and the social contract, has experienced a flood tide of erosion of those values by the Capitalist class segment of our society who hold 40% of the entire worlds wealth.
It is thus the Capitalist class of our nation and the Western Economic Capitalist Model that evolved out of the European Enlightenment and Feudal Era that continued the exploitation and dispossession of our human and natural resource capital, (profit surplus labor commodities) which facilitated the cultivation of American working families to become compliant cookie cut little consumers to serve the interests of self, and support the same conceptual framework of human activity that governs every capitalist society making the capitalist class rich while the labor class is in a perpetual state of struggle to satisfy the corporate boardrooms of the planets captains of industry so American families spend themselves into eternal debt leaving them to now work 3 and 4 jobs so shareholders get a nice dividend and you spend the latter years of your life in perpetual slavery trying to pay off huge medical expenses as you age, that were largely brought on by having bought into this lifestyle to begin with and maintain a dignified standard of living and keep their families intact.
Essentially my argument is that this organizational form in which Americans now find themselves has taxed the health of our communities, and the families that live within them by the enormous negative impacts due to stresses on their spiritual, physical and mental well-being which has eroded the fabric of the nuclear family leaving them isolated fragments of increasingly socially isolated lives with broken and divorced families where avenues of alcohol and drug addiction take hold in a futile effort to cope.

All of which invites into our families greater fracturing and a dysfunction of family bonds, ripe for violence clashes between friends, spouses and siblings, and between significant others, which ultimately leads to broken families,  broken value systems, and a broken human family within this nation.

Leaving our children blighted and damaged.
So imagine our nation’s children growing up in this environment and you begin to realize that it becomes a recipe for exactly what we are now experiencing with symptoms appearing in student behaviors with low student achievement; it is an absolute disgrace by any standards.

So when I saw that the teachers of America were going to become the most convenient scapegoat for the failings of our national character to address this problem, it was clear that the ruling class of America was certainly not going to allow for the truth to ever see the light of day as we have this public discussion on reforming the nations educational system to raise student achievement.

Clearly the Capitalist class will do everything possible to protect their status quo of reaping the benefits of surplus labor from working families across America and thereby exacerbate further gaps in income inequality, as the rest of American families suffer to survive in a cascading Capitalist system that is crushing families across this nation.

There has not been any leadership towards addressing this truth as President Obama and the leadership of the political class in this country is AWOL as they take their marching orders from the Capitalist Class to enact regulations and adopt policy strategies designed to do everything short of examining the truth in order to improve student achievement.

Does anyone else recognize the truth for what it is?

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By Tom Edgar, January 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

CitizenWhy. Which is paramount.  Thinking to learn or Learning to think? Or does the first lead to the other?

Most authoritarians consider both dangerous.

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By CitizenWhy, January 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment

Forgot to mention. Finland used a collaborative approach similar to Alberta’s in
reforming its educational system. Very positive results. Finland attributes its
economic success to this reform of education, but careerism was not the prime
purpose of the reform. Learning to think was. That’s because teachers played a
major role.

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By CitizenWhy, January 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment

The province of Alberta Canada used a collaborative approach to deciding how to
reform its schools. Involved all affected parties, including teachers. Results have
been positive.

Of course Alberta does not have an active cult of the CEO and the MBA, nor was
reform led by Ivy League graduates, who currently rule Wall Street, where they are
famous for doing great public service for America, aren’t they?

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By CitizenWhy, January 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

Why should we ask what is the purpose of education? We do not ever ask what is
the purpose of the war in Afghanistan. We only ask about strategies and tactics.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 12, 2011 at 7:41 am Link to this comment

Oh my god, I just about laughed my head off after reading Tom
Edgar’s newest post and having to reread the previous one to see
why he called out Mea Culpa!  It is about his father’s quote, “Don’t
do as I do, do as I say” as a remark often made by Police, Politicians,
and Priests.  It is hysterical because and I’ll tell you a very anecdote. 
In the town where I grew up, the Catholics gathered together a lot of
money especially from the gambling gangsters in the area (who no
doubt wanted to buy off God with a lot of indulgence money), and
they built a church.  A big Catholic church that was the biggest church
in the entire region.  Almost a cathedral!  Well some years later, the
priest, Father “A” was found to be quite the gambler and familiar with
the local branch of Mafioso and when confronted by some of the
congregation about the morality of his actions, what do you think he
said?  “Don’t do as I do, do as I say”!  It became such a famous line that
everyone in town was saying it and all us children too!  It was very
funny.  Tom’s comment made me wonder if priests were not taught
that retort in seminary school!  It is a small world isn’t it if such a
defense is learned in a small provincial town in the US and in, and I’m
guessing here about Tom’s, also as provincial a town in Australia?

I will wax philosophical about education.  It is for me the single most
important act a society can be concerned with.  This is not to minimize
the need to pay attention to the food supply, the health of its citizens,
and morals!  Education is the way humans realize their potential
cognitive powers that other animals cannot do and probably never will. 
Now whether or not that is important in the vastness of the universe I
really cannot say.  But as long as humans do live, I think it is their
evolutionary destiny to advance as the organism that they are
regardless of the politics that will interfere, secular or religious.  How
we go about that is really our business and a function of our
consciousness.  There is so much to learn that it is impossible for one
human to assimilate most likely even a fraction, a thousandth would be
too large a number, to take it in regardless of how much capacity our
brains have, as it is said we use only about a 10th of its abilities.  But it
isn’t just the learning I’m talking about, it is the quality of that learning
and the quality of what we do with it, to apprehend the beauty of what
is integrated and how we negotiate our lives among the madding crowd
of the many.  Au revoir.

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By Tom Edgar, January 12, 2011 at 4:25 am Link to this comment

Mea Culpa I should have remembered that Americans have little understanding of the subtler uses of irony.

That you should take “Better Rhetoric” on only the face value is bad enough, but surely it was obvious to anybody that the point being made was that the more educated, and I add education concerned, were visiting this site compared to the other.  In itself this is at the root of the problems for America now, and in the future.

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By Lafayette, January 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm Link to this comment


After all, do you as an American who was educated abroad want to put up with a manservant who doesn’t know his place

If there were medals given in this forum for each bit of specious argument, you’d walk bent forward.

I had to stop finally at the above tad of inanity to make a comment. Whatever point your are trying to make with the statement ... it is beyond the pale of comprehension.

Why should anyone in this world want to treat another human being as a manservant, just because they were hierarchically superior? Is there no dignity in all humans, regardless of their position in life?

It is not the purpose of education to make Business Superstars idolized by Fortune or Forbes. America employs reductio-ad-absurdo when it puts a monetary metric to everything. Largely because we are so fixated on the stuff it has become the gear-works of our thought processes.

Think out of the box. What are the attributes of a society that makes it work or function? Money in fact is not the key ingredient, but values are. However, to have values one must be taught them.

It’s not just the readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic that count, but they’re pretty good for starters. A good education is well-rounded and teaches people how to think rationally - free of emotion, dogma and constraint.

And if one is not taught the values of morality, honesty, care and compassion for one’s fellow human being—then all that is left of an individual is the value-sum of their parts. Which, last I heard, was about 9000 dollars in terms of the medical retail value of our usable organs.

An education is much more than just an MBA that propels one into a great-paying job. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet will one day be long forgotten regardless of the fortunes they give away - but Mozart, a true genius, will live in our memories forever.

Like Shakespeare, like Newton and a whole host of long-since dead artists/writers/philosophers/scientists/academics who gave us the tools with which to appreciate life’s intrinsic values.

We are no more nor any less than the sum of their knowledge and savoir-faire. But only if we are educated properly.

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By Shenonymous, January 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment

Your inclination to call people names shows a certain troubling
immaturity, garth, and a clue to the shallow depth of insight into
the problem of education you think you have. 

Trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and to check out your
condemnation of her, I went searching for criticisms of Rhee and
her approach.  Reading a “So Educated” website article that
referenced a Washington Post Feb. 2009 critique article on Rhee
then checking out the links in that article one can easily see a gross
distortion of Rhee’s actions and “revelations.”  Journalists cherry pick
whatever line of reportage that suits their thesis of the moment.  One
must not gloss over the admissions of the author of the So Education
article the specific problems that exist and that Rhee addressed in her
Chancellorship in D.C.  They are slipped in so that they can easily be
missed in lieu of more “juicy” criticism.  For instance, the author admits
there is a mandate to improve evaluation for teachers and to base merit
pay on those evaluations.  The question arises as to the criteria for
evaluation and that is what the dialogue ought to be about rather than
fielding the criticism in a cloud of prejudice-laced fault-finding.  Again
the author accuses Rhee of advocating alternatives to basing teacher
layoffs based on seniority referring to a system that does not implicate
her in the least.  The praised system doesn’t say whether she approved
or disapproved of it so had no relationship to her view.  I think one has
to be very careful in what one reports and how one interprets what is
reported to get at real truth. 

Again, and loudly, I am not saying there ought not to be criticism. But
how the basis of criticism is gathered and then interpreted sans pre-
conditioned biases is the only way to slog through the murky problem
that has a national student body of 49.4 million students in elementary
and secondary public schools.  In other words, a rational approach
rather than a reactive and emotional one.  The hardship of which you
wish on Rhee and Duncan is a fallacy that says one cannot fathom the
effects of poverty unless one were destitute.  To say that precludes any
notion of empathy and if that is true then you are speaking only to the
wind and without any meaning to those millions who have not been
destitute as not being able to have an intellectual identification or
vicarious experience (otherwise known as understanding), the feelings,
thoughts, and attitudes of others who are.

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By garth, January 7, 2011 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

I thought I’d you two going.  Are you peas in a pod?  As for better rhetoric, that’s just about all we need is better rhetoric.

What this argument fails to take into account is the never-ending problem of educatiing the ‘yutes’.

Ed Demers of GE fame and later the rise of the Japanese economy, noted that when you pay attention to a problem it tends to improve.

If you look at Education as an ‘X+Y=2’ sort of dilemma, you’re going down the wrong path, and if you have some idea that there is a short cut to the answer to educating the young ‘uns well may God have mercy on us all.

We spend about $1 Trillion on weaponry in this country and precious little on education, yet this is where we show our ‘yutes’ how to behave. how toi think (though little of that comes across), and how to live in a 21st Century global society with 7 billion people.

From what I’ve heard from Michell Rhee and Arne Diuncan, they need to face a little hardship in their lives to fully grasp the gravity of the situation.  A touch of humanity might help.

Anyway, the point I was making is that the solution is beyonfd me and from what I’ve read beyond most of you.

It would be nice if in the future everyon attended schools in a small Pennsylvania town where everyon fi the stereotype, walked to school, had teachers who cared and wore a white shit anf tie or white blouse with a pleatted palaid skirt.  But that ain’t what’s in store and that ain’t what’s really going to happen

What whores like Rhee and pimps like Duncan are selling is the complete takeover of education by Private enterprise.  You pays your taxes, send your kids off to an education factory and you shut up.

You are an American.  It end with I can.

And I know what I am talking about.

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By Shenonymous, January 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment

I have no doubt about your earnest regard for the state of education
in this country, garth.  I do have questions, though, about the
vagueness with which you broadly criticize the manifold.  I don’t
really mind if people like Arne Duncan or Michelle Rhee are faulted
for some reason or other, they are in the headlights and are tackling
the “complex” problem of education.  But to accuse them of being
manipulators without showing how they are smacks of cheap shotism. 

Please elaborate for I happen to think highly of Michelle Rhee.  I don’t
see anything Duncan has done that would warrant your calling him a

And the accusation of crap that you say you have read on this forum is
so indistinct that it nullifies itself.  Uh, yes…we need thinkers, maybe
you can demonstrate what you mean by that?  Show us some thinking.

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By Tom Edgar, January 6, 2011 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

I daresay Lafayette will be able to defend himself. But Garth I re read his submission, and nowhere could I find that he said he was EDUCATED in France, most specifically he said American educated and lived in France.

There is another site dealing with “The(American)  Left has nowhere to go.” This site has a better class of rhetoric but I think the telling point is the interest,or lack of it.  This site is outnumbered by the contributors of the purely “Political” debate by about twenty, or more, to one.
I think that tells the whole story really. Until Education is paramount in American thinking the Finns will remain our intellectual superiors.

Education is not only the acquisition of knowledge but, more importantly, how to evaluate that knowledge, and then to use it constructively.
That is we shouldn’t be taught WHAT to think, but HOW to think,  not WHAT to learn but HOW to learn.

Oops that won’t go down to well with the Fundamentalist Christians. Reminds me of my dear departed father’s often quoted, remarks of Police, Politicians, and Priests.  “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

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By garth, January 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment


The problems of education in the US are manifold.  And as Bobby Jones said, “You gotta play it where it lays.”

Right now, the onslaught on teachers and on the teacher’s unions is coming to a crescendo.

All this republican talk about the survival of the Republic belies the question:  Who has benefited thus far from the largesse of the American taxpayer?

Well, I’ll tell you.  You have.  The rich and their blowhards, the free loaders?  The lazy and well dressed.

Education is not an easy problem and it is not by any means simple.  I’ve noticed that the dreams of all these Educational schemers envision a world where students file on the left and heed the up/down staircase rules.  Fuck the learning!

In short, you and most of the crap I’ve read here doesn’t get it either.

We need thinkers.  Smart people.  Not the manipulators like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee.

After all, do you as an American who was educated abroad want to put up with a manservant who doesn’t know his place?

I don’t think so.  But right now I am with him, the manservant, and the rest of the city-folk who’ll wind up paying your freight.

Unions! Unions! Unions!

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By Lafayette, January 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment


TE: In short all I said was that, private or public, then equality of opportunity for the pupils is paramount

Well put.

I had an American education. I have lived in France and am familiar with the French version. The two could not be more dissimilar.

The American version is decentralized (and handled by the states and the communities within the state. The French is national, with a Ministry of Education that plans everything and for whom all work. (Yes, France has private schools and they are expensive.)

But what they share in common is just about the same scores as reported by PISA (the OECD Program for International Student Assessment). The 2009 results of the Reading, Writing and Arithmetic assessments can be accessed here.

And the scoring shared is nothing to crow about.


US - 500 (above average)
France - 496 (average)

But how about the steps necessary in a process of reasoning, which is one of the most important job-skills that one can have (regardless of their level in an organization) nowadays?

1) Assessment of how well students access and retrieve information:
Korea - 1st place
Finland - 4th
Canada - 6th
US - 26th
France - 31

How nice nice that our children are above-average in Reading skills. Is it “nice”, however, that their ranking is so far below other countries in a skill so necessary in our transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age (which is fully upon us)?

More so, if reading is a basic skill, information access and retrieval is far more important.

2) So, how well do students perform in the “integrate and interpretation “of information assessment?

The results:
Shanghai-China – 1st place
Korea – 2nd
Finland – 3rd
Canada - 5th
US – 30th
France – 33rd

3) Going further in the reasoning process … what about the ability to “reflect upon and evaluate” the information they retrieve?
Shanghai-China – 1st place
Korea – 2nd
Finland – 3rd
Canada - 5th
US – 12th (wow!)
France – 29th (Oh, merde!)

Each of the above is a step towards the ability to reason. Do we see the continuous pattern in the results?

The US can clearly do better. And somebody from the Department of Education had better high-tail it to Canada and find out what in heaven’s name they are doing up there to achieve such high scores!

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By Tom Edgar, January 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

I’ll not now, nor did I previously, include Europe in my musings. I have said on previous occasions my old Head Master emphasised he was there to teach us to learn, in other words think for ourselves, which is really to philosophise.  Philosophy as a serious subject? I can see great advantages here, but those in power would no doubt be horrified at the thought of people knowing how to think for themselves.

Private versus Public education? The pros and cons are endless.  The system prevailing in many countries, and the U S in particular means that low socio/economic areas have poor schools which in turn, invariably perpetuate the worst aspects of the system. It is this inequality of facilities, quality Teachers and standards that is at the heart of the problem with most public/private schools.

The U K, immediately after WW2, had a surge in “Free” education brought about by the post war change in government.  For the first time the working classes had bright students attending higher education which benefited the country and the people.
It also benefited the U S A when thousands of “Brits” with higher degrees shot through to that country for a better way of life and pay. Sadly the idea, eventually, was emasculated by the very Politicians who had been beneficiaries of the experiment.

In short all I said was that, private or public, then equality of opportunity for the pupils is paramount,  In Australia private schooling is disproportionally financed, by the State, in favour of “Private” schools to the detriment of the “Public” system. If you can afford it then the former is definitely advantageous with better buildings, Teachers, facilities, and very sadly, prestige. and it shouldn’t be.

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By garth, January 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

Hmmmm.  Why does expat in Germany enter new posts after complaining about the length of this thread?  Heaven knows.

I am a Troll, one who enters non-related posts to the article at hand, a Scandanavian imp in full bore s WikiPedia describes.

But what has become of news and actual reporting?

Aimee Goodman spent her hour upon the stage interviewing two Ivorians about the Ivory Coast.

Thommy Boy Hartmann’s first interview was with some crackpot and his speech in Las Vegas about who knows what.

The facts are these:  that Issa was once a car thief while growing up in San Diego.  He later developed the Lojak and walked off with $300 million. 

Now, he’s going to take the government of the USA for a joy ride.  That’s you and me.

Francis Fuckupyourama said the democracies don’t attack each other.  What about Israel’s attack on Lebanon?

What about your stopping doing the drugs that you are doing that comes up with this ‘dyed-in-the-opium-den’ ideas and put forth with Harvard’s Imprimatur.

I might add Samuel Huntington.  And also, I don’t speak evil of the dead.

You gotta watch, watch, watch, listen, listen, listen and reason, reason, reson, reason.

I hope this gets to enough readers.

Google and read Webster Tarpley.  You can’t go wrong.

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By Shenonymous, January 4, 2011 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Due to the gravity of the subject and with all due respect, in two
parts, I will disagree with Lafayette and Tom Edgar.  Money comes
up because all fundamental problems such as education are
dependent on the economic system with which this or any country
works.  First of all Europe is not one big country, so to speak of a
Europe the way you do is a blind fallacy.  Europe is composed of
many sovereign countries, like 42 to 50 depending on who is count-
ing if certain states are counted or not such as Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.  Each
country has its own economic and education system.  Have either of
you two gentlemen checked each country out?  It is always so romantic
to consider Europe as a united front as if the EU was similar to the USA. 
It is not and for many reasons.  The school system in Britain is different
than that in Italy, or Romania, and so forth.  And lest a small species of
nationalism biases one’s eye, Australia has its economic problems and
so has its education program.  To see a definitive and telling report on
endemic problems found there check out

The tendency to privatize education is obviously and at least relieving
the cost to the nation.  They have the similar problems to the US with
what to do with inept teachers as found anywhere.  While a real
problem, let it be understood capable teachers are predominant in both
countries.  Nevertheless, the Conclusion section of this report is most

Education here has not been a sporadic navel-gazing activity. 
Education is a constant topic of discussion if not addressed by the
Federales.  Let’s be reminded of John Dewey’s lifetime effort and
profound influence until about the end of the 60s.  The last federal
attention given ended up in the No Child Left Behind program of George
Bush’s administration with the help of Ted Kennedy that has caused all
kinds of havoc.

The fact is that even though the federal government puts money into
states that meet NCLB assessment directives, by constitutional law each
state is sovereign and has the final authority and sets the standards for
education in their state.  While there has been some favorable results
such as some progress made by 9-year olds reading and 13-year olds
incrementally better at math scoring, the statistics are deceptive
because the record of increasing scores are compared to unqualified
years prior to NCLB.  Politicians bend statistics however they want to
pretend particular results, everyone knows that!

The argument given for federal involvement, mediation, is the failure of
local government failure to provide acceptable outcomes in basic skills.
Some politicians argued that teacher competency was the problem. 
While it is only reasonable to admit some of this is true, it has not been
evidentially shown to be true across the field, and little other study has
been done to ferret out reasons for any “American” low learning

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By Shenonymous, January 4, 2011 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

2.  A great deal of money was put into the IDEA program
(Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that paid attention
to students with physical disabilities, and, particularly, those with
learning disabilities. The last fact is telling. It says there is an
overwhelming number of children who are not able to learn under
normal circumstances. This remedial is excruciatingly costly. Not
that it ought not to be done, surely it does, but attention paid is
needed when looking at the entire funding of education and where
the money goes. There are only a finite number of dollars dedicated
to the entire education program, NCLB and IDEA. The claim is that
NCLB improved the perception of public education by the public is
completely false. Current discussion is proof.

Certain “supporting” NCLB statistics are skewed because to report
effective instruction states lowered achievement goals and required
the practice of teaching to the test.  100% proficiency is not feasibly
obtained due to the variables of child-to-child assessment. All children
at the same grade level are not alike. The manipulation of test results
by schools reporting from the penalties imposed as well as the
incentives to get more money shows states are seduced into lowering
official standards to qualify for more bucks.

Standardized testing has inherent problems such as a curriculum that
is narrowed to a strict set of skills. Generalized thinking is not fostered
so that the skills learned would permeate all life experiences. Teaching
to read is not teaching to think. Cultural biases also enter into the
picture in that tests can be set up towards particular ethnic views of
life, e.g., white, middle class, or the converse, black, poor, that would
have different values for the content of the course of study. Incentives
get screwed up.  Nothing beyond reading and math skills are mandated
to achieve minimum skills therefore the arts are essentially unfunded. 
They become part of the frills curriculum and not teaching them
precludes much in the way of critical thinking or values education. 
Aesthetic and ethics are part of the axiological understanding of the
relative values found in living as a human being. Values education is
where morals are understood for their essentiality in societal life. This
is usually left up to religions that number many variations in a mixed
society such as the US. Thus, while a few universal morals such as
killing and stealing are seen as wrong across the board, there is no
whole-society understanding of what is moral or not.

What Lafayette suggests is utopian and idealistic.  It is not practical nor
even possible given the kind of population of the US, 310,579,509. 
You and Tom have misunderstood the essence of my reporting the kind
of education that was my experience. As one who has a couple of
degrees in philosophy I would wholeheartedly support and have
advocated philosophy be taught in schools.  I know of only one high
school in Southern California that did have it included in the curriculum,
as an elective, and only one teacher in all of my professional experience
who was hired to teach it in the high school environment.  There is a
journal for teaching philosophy to children, Thinking: The Journal of
Philosophy for Children
. And contrary to what Lafayette says, teach-
ing philosophy before high school is relatively unusual around the
world. This suggests that a certain level of cognitive development is not
yet mature enough, and it is claimed that such abstract thinking is a
distraction from the pragmatic subjects needed to be learned. While I
would disagree with both of these reasons, it is the view of most of the
world. Those who can challenge these reticences to teach philosophy
from the cradle onward are the ones who need to take the banner and
spread the word.

Read entirely:

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By Tom Edgar, January 4, 2011 at 4:14 am Link to this comment

I wouldn’t a/dis agree with “She” for reasons I’ll not say.  But Lafayette’s entry here is so spot on.

When entry to EDUCATION is unencumbered by pecuniary restrictions then those with the abilities to further the educational standards, and eventually the country’s
will come forward.

Why is MONEY so important in America? Simple. It is how they appoint their own aristocracy. Money is “GOD”

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By Lafayette, January 4, 2011 at 3:08 am Link to this comment


She: The problem that emerged was that students were put into tracks they may not really have wanted to go even though they tested for the aptitude.  Some were just too poor to go into college prep or a science track knowing their families could not put any money into it for them. 

Why in heaven’s name does “money” come up whenever the US starts navel-gazing about a fundamental problem like public education?

The Europeans solved this problem decades ago, as they did for Health Care, by assuring that both were free, gratis and for nothing. Business may have a role to play in tertiary education, where important skills must be learned to adapt people to market needs in order to assure viable jobs at decent salaries.

But business is not a better choice for primary and secondary education, where the need is to develop well-rounded individuals, with both character and a sense of moral integrity—both of which are so lacking in our present class of politicians.

And to make the point more clear, as an American teacher at the Sorbonne in Paris recently opined in a French newspaper, (and I paraphrase) “What a marvel it is that students in France must pass a separate exam in the subject of “philosophy” in order to obtain a secondary-school diploma”.

That phrase sent me running to the dictionary. What is the study of philosophy?  Philosophy = the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. And I clearly think our mental orientation could do well to embrace such studies.

Why are we here on earth and as human beings? Why and how have we come into existence? What is the purpose of congregating into “collectives” (communities, towns, cities, states, nations)? Furthermore, what is the sense of sending our children off to die in order to protect those collectives?

Did God really “invent the universe and mankind” five thousand years ago? (Scientific evidence clearly says no, it was much longer ago – hundreds of millions of years - that it all began.) What is the purpose of mankind? From the labor of all those who are members of the collective, to have certain individuals privileged in the amassing of the benefits of our collective existence? (After becoming sedentary, mankind gathered in collectives, like all animals out of a need for self-protection.)

These are the types of questions that mankind should be asking itself, and the responses should assure that life is not just a crap-game or the survival of the fittest. If we have any respect for ourselves and our loved ones - those most close to us - then existence is surely a collective matter. A moment in time where we all share fairly in the fruits of a market economy – which is, yes, free.

Free for us to enter, free for us to participate to the best of our skills, free for us to enjoy the rewards of our work – but not free for us to plunder and thus throw fellow individuals into an existence that is unbearable.

That is not what our founding fathers had in mind. And they were amongst the most privileged of their lot when they gathered together to envisage a nation liberated from a monarchy that plundered America’s economic riches for its own specific benefit.

We’ve merely replaced one hegemony (a monarchic aristocracy) with another (a plutocracy benefiting uniquely those who can manipulate economic levers). Where is mankind’s progress in such an inane outcome?

Quo vadis?

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By Shenonymous, January 3, 2011 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

Mitch C and bonobo are both right.  Unfortunately, discipline is
too large a part of teaching and there are several approaches.  If
one googles discipline in the classroom, 11,100,000 (yeah, eleven
million+) related articles are listed.  It is nearly impossible to view
each and every article but the first 37 pages (400!) that I checked
give a good breadth of what are the philosophies of class-room
management.  It is not difficult to come up with a personal attitude
and practice.  The three public school districts where I taught prior
to teaching at the university level, had a section in their handbook of
what was considered appropriate discipline.  The hiring authority also
needs to interview prospective teachers for their personal philosophy
on discipline.  Also it is advisable that the teacher-to-be take at least
one psych class in their teacher prep program in order to understand
how the human brain works and why it does from pre-K to the end of
high school (then on to college if that is the level of teaching).  My
teacher prep program in college had two classes devoted to discipline
for without proper control of the classroom the teacher is lost before
they even begin to teach course content.

From middle school on through high school besides teaching content
teachers need to deal with teenage hormones that are all whacked out
to hopefully find their healthy place. The teacher is called upon to help
channel students’ minds to learn to integrate knowledge and social
skills towards becoming a successful human being regardless of what
direction professionally is taken.

Recalling my high school experience, four major tracks of study were
offered.  Student were tested in middle school to see what tendencies
and kind of mind they had in terms of interest and ability in life skills. 
The four programs were General that had two tracks where just a
liberal general education was provided in all content areas and a shop
program learning woodworking and other related skills, and auto shop
which is self-explanatory.  The fine and performing arts and sports
were more or less electives across all directed programs.  The college
prep track was designed for the student who wanted a career in
teaching or non-science professions, literary arts, journalism, etc., the
science track prepared those who were going to go into any of the
sciences including the medical field, then there was the secretarial
program set up for those interested in accounting skills, i.e.,
bookkeeping, stenography, etc.  Parents were required to be involved in
the choice of tracks and apprised of the testing outcomes to help them
come to some decision.  This array of career paths seemed to have
covered the gamut of all directions. I don’t think this is the case
anymore.  I scanned the high school programs that were described on
the internet and I did not see anything equivalent anymore.  Three
tracks were the most I found. 

The problem that emerged was that students were put into tracks they
may not really have wanted to go even though they tested for the
aptitude.  Some were just too poor to go into college prep or a science
track knowing their families could not put any money into it for them. 
They would have to work their way through college.  Many do exactly
that.  Some had really fine minds or talents but saw no future for
themselves and opted for unskilled work.  Of course there are lots of
jobs for unskilled workers and the world needs people who would be
satisfied to do such work not having the interest to have better jobs as
that would require more acquired skills.  There is no absolute direction
not so much where people ought to go but where they do go.  Life

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By expat in germany, January 3, 2011 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bonobo, I agree with a lot of what you say, but your idea will be unpopular because it is politically incorrect to suggest that young people have different learning aptitudes. Our son has struggled through school because of his high IQ, but he gets no support because it is anathema to call him “gifted” or “highly intelligent.” If he were among the slowest, however, or otherwise handicapped, there are “special education” programs for that. As a society, we don’t value the brightest; we value the “Forrest Gumps.”

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By bonobo, January 3, 2011 at 5:18 am Link to this comment

I taught high school for several years. The research has shown that only 30% of human beings are geared, intellectually or temperamentally, for university learning. Accordingly, we need to devise a two track system: one leading to university studies, the other to technical education/apprenticeship. 
The two tracks can diverge in junior high.  I am sure we can devise a litany of tests to measure aptitude and attitude. We can test throughout primary school; the results will determine the student’s track.  Throughout junior high school and high school, kids should be allowed to retest if they want to change their tracks.
The university track high schools should be extremely challenging and strict. They should enforce a no B.S. policy.  Students with disciplinary problems should be kicked out. They should have the option of being home-schooled or attending a technical school where they learn a marketable trade.
There should be video cameras in every classroom to observe students and teachers alike. Also, unions and tenure should be abolished.  Furthermore, class sizes should be restricted to 20 students max.     
We are a delusional society that thinks everyone should go on to post-secondary.  Not everyone is designed for higher education. Teachers are forced to dumb down the curriculum because they are pressured to ensure that even the slowest kids can pass.  No child left behind means that every kid is forced behind.
We live in a degenerate culture that devalues learning. Just look at popular culture.  It is base and crude.

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By Mitch C, January 2, 2011 at 4:01 am Link to this comment
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I’ve been teaching for 15 years (the last ten at the college level) and the two major issues I saw in the public schools are in-class discipline and curriculum, and they have more to do with each other than you might imagine.

When students are given bs curriculum, they know it and act out.  If teachers aren’t in control of their curriculum (or at least buying into it), they can’t control their classroom.

These two issues (discipline and curriculum) are both ADMINISTRATIVE issues.  This is where the finger must be pointed - at the administrators and school boards.

One of the few commentators I’ve seen on this is Laurie Rogers detailing the mess in the Spokane public schools.

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By Shenonymous, December 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Again, Michelle Rhee is the shining leader for “fixing” education in
this country.  She has bravely taken on the mantle to lead this effort.
This will be the year, I believe, that education will come into proper
focus with her intelligent campaign of putting students first.  To put
money with the mouth, visit to see
how you, whoever you are, may become part of reconstructing the
education system. 

Contrary to those who think this is a tired-old subject and forum,
I hope it is always in the forefront of consciousness and actively
discussed here and wherever it becomes appropriate.  Until humans,
and we ought to be very concerned with American humans as those are
the ones we can affect the most and the quickest, are sufficiently
educated to be able to participate intelligently in the life of their
country, education is a priority.

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By Tom Edgar, December 26, 2010 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment

The last post, from which I do not dissent, raises the question. “What is education”  I am well into my eighties still trying to learn, could say I don’t know why,  but the truth is that I do, it is a lifelong habit inculcated into me by a very good Head Master. His attitude, oft repeated. “I am not here to do anything but teach you to learn.”

I didn’t go to an elite primary school nor lived in a salubrious neighbourhood, they didn’t exist in inner S E London. Nevertheless I can not recall a student who could neither read, nor write when we left school. At least twice a week the whole class would read one paragraph individually from a book, once finished the next boy would stand up, and take over from the previous reader.  It was impossible to fake it. One of the most popular playground activities was SPELLING competitions, such was the indoctrination into a love of words and reading. 

The education curriculum should, through primary and secondary, schools be uniform throughout the country, with equal (good) pay, and facilities for the teachers, and students, which will level the playing field for all. The American system, with its emphasis on locally administered, and financed schools results in privileged areas being better served than the poorer, usually non white, sections of society, to the detriment of the country when the potentialities of gifted children are not nurtured and realised.  It can be argued that wealthier and privileged schools often, because of quality teachers and facilities, still manage to graduate mentally substandard students to the detriment of the country. I could name a U S President, and many present day Politicians that fit.

The U S A could, and should, be in the top five nations educationally instead of the bottom .
In Australia it was said many years ago by a wise lady.  “Education and schools will be better when we don’t have to raise money from “Raffles” for school facilities, but will have to do that to buy guns and war planes for the army.”  I think that is so pertinent to the present day U S A.

Education is the key to everything. The U S A should turn that key unlocking its potentiality for the good of the country and the people.

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By aacme88, December 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

It is easy to screw up education, as the Texas School Board and No Child Left Behind amply illustrate, but it’s hard to “fix” education, because much of it doesn’t happen in the schools.
I used to have two friends who graduated in the same class at the same provincial New Mexico school. One of them was functionally illiterate, until almost into middle age when he met a good woman who taught him to read and then to appreciate literature. The other went on from high school to Yale and then Columbia graduate school. Was one an idiot and one a genius? No, both were enjoyable, intelligent friends.
Did they have different teachers? No. It was a small school.
They had different families. The first was from a working -class cracker family who scorned education and thought they did just fine without it. The second was from a professional family with routes going back in New Mexico history, who considered education basic to civilization.
When trying to plan a curriculum that will essentially halt the collapse of a civilization, account must be taken of that ongoing collapse on the homelife of the child. The school cannot do it alone.
And when that collapse reaches a point at which having a job is the privilege of a lucky few, education needs to bring back the idea of education for its own sake, as a means of enhancing inner life, rather than as a means of obtaining a degree/meal ticket. This society is not failing in its technical achievement, but in it’s philosophical development.

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By Tom Edgar, December 24, 2010 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment

I believe there are as many systems of education in the U S as there are districts administering.

Here in Queensland Australia, generally it doesn’t matter if you have one or more University degrees if you wish to teach you still have to go to “Teachers College” for three months.  Makes sense.

I was a part time lecturer at tertiary level, and my full time compatriots who had been lecturing for over twenty five years had to go to the college and receive a certificate to qualify them for what they had always been doing.

All the qualifications in the world will not make a successful educator.  Teaching at any level requires
a similar thing to a sales person. The willingness to give part of yourself, in sales it is selling yourself before the product, in teaching it is giving your knowledge, or part of you.  Success in either only means you have gained the trust of the recipients.

It was nice to see, once again, some of the names I encountered so often before.  Shenon,Garth, Reit, et al.Wish you well. 

Universal education can be dangerous, especially   to the powerful, be they secular or religious. When the Priests and the Aristocracy were the only educated ones then the peasants were easily manipulated. Once universal education is achieved questions are asked. It ceases to be Why me? then becomes Why NOT me? “Ignorance is bliss.” as long as it is you and not me.

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By expat in germany, December 17, 2010 at 3:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hmmm, mental masturbation for a year or the real thing for 2 minutes? I’ll take the latter.

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By expat in germany, December 13, 2010 at 5:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article has been here for, what, one year?

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By Shenonymous, December 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

What effect did the wave of immigrants have on Lynn schools? 
How about the economics of the town? Or commerce and housing? 
What are the politicians like?  The school board? If the administration
does not support the teaching staff then the board needs to make a
change in administrators. 

The reason why children resort to violence is because first of all they
were taught that violence is a solution, and second, that they can
achieve power that way and then take care of themselves whatever
way it manifests. 

I don’t know exactly how to solve Lynn’s apparent problems, but one
thing is for sure, the people as a cohesive group need to try.  A lassez-
faire attitude by individuals doesn’t work within a society that needs to
work together in order for it to hold together.  Don’t you think?

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By garth, December 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment


You asked about Lynn.  It’s city about 10 miles North of Boston.  It used to be a working class city, home of Shoe manufacturing and the General Electic.

It has four high schools, Classical, English, Vocational Technical and St. Marys.

In the 70s the waves of immigrants came.  First from Puerto Rico and then from the rest of the Central American counties:  Guatamala, Nicauragua (fleeing the oppresive regimes that the US set up there), then came the southeast Asians, the Cambodians, Thais and Vietnamese.

Unlike, Somerville, MA, which prepared for this change in demographics, Lynn ignored it.

Somerville schools adjusted.  Lynn’s schools kept on with their ways.  It became more and more political.

The news article I posted is an example of the shoddy reporting provided by the Lynn Item.

Today’s headline said that the child who KO’d the teacher is in deep trouble with the courts.

The war for education is on-going.  It was always tough in Lynn.  The level of violence in the schools there started rising in the early 70s.

Teachers get very little support from the administration.  The administration consists of dreamers.  Connivers who want to get to their pension. 

The first rule of teaching in Lynn was to get out of the classroom and get into administration.

My take on this incident is that children can tell when they are being treated as second-class citizens, that no one really cares, and the only thing left for them to do is to go with their impulses.

It took them* 40 years to set this up, but they know their subjects and they know how to start trouble.  That is all they do. 

It keeps the peasants jumpy.

‘Them’ refers to the power structure:  From the GE and the banks on down to the lowly school administator/politician.  They decide what happens in Lynn, MA.

It is only now that I realize these people are knuckleheads.

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By garth, December 10, 2010 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

There’s much to talk about in your post.

I agree with what you say.  American schools, in general, I think, are doing a great job.

They invested a ton of money in one of these experimental schools, and Voila, it was successful.  Active parent-teachers, school lunches, medical adjunct.

As Bill Ayers brother, a professor at UC Berkeley, pointed out.  This pointed to what is needed to make our schools successful.  Involvement, investment.  Tapping into the expertise of ex-educators like you who are well meaning and right-minded.

The goal should be to educate not to rob the city coffers of tax money that went to schools.

Schools always will have problems. It’s not like cracking the DNA code or solving some mathematical dilemma.  It’s on-going.

Yes, I tried to be Human when I taught.  I wasn’t a professional like a Dentist or a Doctor who focused on one tooth or one ailment.  It was demanding and in the end it was too much for the likes of me.

As an example, I wrote a letter of recommendation for a student, named Lisa, to a coveted position in the MIT Summer Science Program.  In it I mentioned how Lisa stood her ground during one of my ‘less than professional moments’ in a physiology lab. 

She was right and she knew it.

She was accepted and after graduation she went out of her way to thanks me for the recommendation.
And as a teacher, that is the high point of my career.

I was not a good student, and when I think about it, I don’t have good memories about my experiences in high school, but there were and many who did and they are many have memories of the days in their enrichment process when they became Human.

Happy Holidays.

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By Shenonymous, December 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

”Now, they want, sixty in a classroom, diminished qualifications
for teachers. And that won’t cut it.”
  Maybe in some places but
certainly not all schools in America. One of the biggest problems is
parent attitude and what role they play in students’ achievement. 
That’s a topic all of its own.

Atticus was never the norm, he was a paradigm.  garth, when you
taught school, were you an Atticus?  I try to be. I give the kids much
to think about beyond the textbook work, this was true at the college
level as well: A sense of decent conduct towards others, both human
and non as well as kindness to the same, to learn the meaning of the
word cherish and to practice it to build their own happiness.  He taught
to stand up for one’s beliefs and to tolerate what is different from one’s
own. That “You never really understand a person until you consider
things from his point of view,” to not pre-judge people before getting
to know them, and that those who have nothing material may not be
able to give anything tangible but it is very possible they have
knowledge about many things and what it means to love somebody. 
Extraordinary sentiments to be sure, but teaching academic content
must not be overlooked in lieu of sociological concerns. Then the arts
need to be understood for what they are and their importance in
teaching valuing…valuing anything.

I would agree without question that education is a difficult Art to
master. But your criticism does not represent the majority of schools. 
Some of this… “so they relegated it to the most intellectually inferior” is
as true in education as it is in any profession from science to cooking
schools and it might be true that some Schools of Education deserve a
low ranking among universities, but there are superior colleges who do
have standards of excellence not only for their teachers but for their

Michigan State U’s College of Ed is the top rated program in the
country having a programs that collaborates with local school districts.
So does the college where I graduated. I went on into a different branch
of study as well as education and moved quickly from public school
teaching to the university level since that is what I most wanted to do,
to help mould new teachers to be high quality thinkers and educators. 
The following other colleges are also highly rated: Pennsylvania State U.,
Ohio University, Ohio State U., Stanford, Univ. of Virginia, Columbia,
Indiana U., Univ. of Michigan Ann Arbor, Vanderbilt U., and a myriad of
others. The ones mentioned provide high quality teaching education
bent on nurturing a love of learning holding excellence and integrity
equally important as academic skills. Those further interested ought to
check out the education programs of these and other teaching colleges.

The problem isn’t really Schools of Education it is the nature of school
districts, how rich or poor they are, what the composition is of the
school boards and their attitude towards teachers and students
achievement and how willing they are to put more than cursory effort
into requiring excellence as the standard. Poverty has a staggering
effect on the quality of schools.

Education is big news with Michelle Rhee taking the lead bringing it to
the attention of the nation.  Education is going to get a major
restoration because there are people working to do it, taking action to
make education better.

The incident at Washington Elementary, if as reported, is not a usual
occurrence.  I have worked with remedial and behavioral problem
students, K-12. The report is much too scant to make any rational
judgment but if the teacher was taken to a medical facility then it was a
serious issue.  As said it is being further investigated.  Unknown is the
age of the violent student or what was the circumstance under way at
the time the teacher was kicked. Where is Lynn by the way?

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By garth, December 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment


In answer to your last post:

That’s what was taught in the 50s and 60s.

Are you saying Garth that public school teachers were teaching violence and rebellion then?  I was in school in a very educationally progressive
state, Pennsylvania, then, and I do not recall that at all.  Aren’t you exaggerating a bit much? 

No, my dear, they were teaching us what was considered the truth at the time while still keeping their jobs.  As a result came the wave of the 60s and 70s in civil rights, anti-war protests, women’s liberation.  All of these have made us what we are today.

The stodgy, the afraid and those who are left to their own devices would probably try to see their way clear to returning to their Golden Era.

It’s over.  And so will this era come to an end. 

History is a force!  And it has a name.

Now, they want, sixty in a classroom, diminished qualifications for teachers.  And that won’t cut it.

Educated people, in the spirit of Atticus Finch are not just fiction.

Education is the most difficult Art to master so they relegated it to the most intellectually inferior—Schools of Education are the lowest ranking of all universities.

Here’s a news note:

LYNN - A student allegedly kicked a teacher at Washington Elementary School in the head, knocking her out, according to Superintendent Catherine Latham.

Classes resumed for the rest of the day and the student was placed in “time-out,” after the incident at around 1 p.m., said Latham.

The teacher was briefly knocked unconscious and got dizzy after a student she was working with kicked her, Latham said.

Lynn Police declined to identify the teacher involved, who was taken to North Shore Medical Center for treatment.

Lynn Schools Security Officer Bob Ferrari is further investigating the situation.

Washington Elementary School serves children with remedial and behavioral issues in grades PK-6.

Instead of coming to a quick conclusion. Take a look at what happened.

If you are who you purport to be I admire you.

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By garth, December 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

A lot of drivel and dross.

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By Shenonymous, December 7, 2010 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

That’s what was taught in the 50s and 60s. Are you saying
Garth that public school teachers were teaching violence and
rebellion then?  I was in school in a very educationally progressive
state, Pennsylvania, then, and I do not recall that at all.  Aren’t you
exaggerating a bit much? 

-Not sure what is meant by teaching the bastards how to rebel. ——
They are all bastards. Keeps the teacher’s sane.
This is most cynical. 
No hope expressed here.  Then might as well just capitulate; pack up
your briefcase, if you even have one, and go live in a cave.  The rest of
us will carry on and try to develop a decent society. 

It is way too nebulous.?(I think you need a map. Let’s see you are
saying: you are an Educator who hasn’t yet experienced the vagaries of
a class of human minds.) You should go into insurance.  Much easier to
  Can’t imagine why you would say this.  Of course I’ve
experienced the eccentricities of various human minds in classes.  Every
human has a unique mind.  Perhaps you were an insurance salesman? 
To you take issue with my pointing out your vaguity? 

It could mean teach children to take up arms!  Knock ?down the
teachers.  Be violent.  Are the teachers to teach rebellion?——Yes, by all
means, then get out of the way.we are talking about much more that a
peaceful lassroom here.
  Are you recommending violence by
children?  I think that is a sick mind at work here and you completely
contradict your following statement about respecting elders!  A lot of
drivel and dross.

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By garth, December 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment

“Not sure what is meant by teaching the bastards how to rebel.  It is way too nebulous.  It could mean teach children to take up arms!  Knock down the teachers.  Be violent.  Are the teachers to teach rebellion?”
That’s what was taught in the 50s and 60s. If you were in front of a million or more of young minds, what would you tell them? 

Tell them the party line. And it led to rebellion. In a way, the advice is, “Keep it up.”

Generation gap is not a misnomer.

Would the message be: Go with the flow as it was in the earlier years.  (With the proviso that if you grew up in a certain part of town or wore a certain type of clothes to school then you’re in like Flynn?)

It is an always has been: Do unto others as you’d like your economic masters to do. Fall in line. Get rich. Grow a familey.  Stay at home.  Watch TV or pursue some crafts.  Anything just stop.

If you are lucky, then you are lucky you.

There’s plenty to rebel against without tipping over the lunch trays and making the custodial workes pay for it.

-Not sure what is meant by teaching the bastards how to rebel. ——They are all bastards. Keeps the teacher’s sane.

It is way too nebulous.
(I think you need a map. Let’s see you are saying: you are an Educator who hasn’t yet experienced the vagaries of a class of human minds.) You should go into insurance.  Much easier to read.

It could mean teach children to take up arms!  Knock
down the teachers.  Be violent.  Are the teachers to teach rebellion?——Yes, by all means, then get out of the way.we are talking about much more that a peaceful lassroom here.

I aver, teach one thing. 

Respect for your elders.  We were once the seed, and now we are the persons in front of you when you want to go fast.

You’ll be where we are soon.

That is the hardest lesson to learn.

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By Shenonymous, December 6, 2010 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

While I can appreciate those who are concerned with education of
American kids when they do not really get competing programs
compared with a few European, even Canadian programs. 

Teaching children (K through 12) do need to be taught to be
numerate, that seems to be the emphasis these days so do not
really need to be encouraged even more as that is what is on the
dais and has been for at least a decade.  And that has not brought
up the standards and results expected.  Of course history and how
one approaches it either now to ancient or the other direction is not
so important as long as it is shown to be connected and how it is.
What matters is the level of thinking it takes so each grade textbooks
and lesson plans need to be geared to that.  Most text books are
developed with that in mind.  I used to review textbooks for publishers
and know what they contain.  The next thing is for school districts to
approve and just as importantly buy the books for students.  This is a
lot of the problem with teaching.  As I roam the various schools I see
that books are vintage.  That can be assuaged somewhat if the teachers
have command of the subjects covered.  The teacher who invests their
own interpretation could be one who has a particular religious or
political point of view.  So I would rather see objective teaching of
disciplines.  Especially science classes. 

Not sure what is meant by teaching the bastards how to rebel.  It is way
too nebulous.  It could mean teach children to take up arms!  Knock
down the teachers.  Be violent.  Are the teachers to teach rebellion? 
Seems counter to their whole efforts.  Teaching the kids to be
somewhat independent in their thinking is a good thing but discipline
to stay with a subject is also necessary.  Being able to focus is a real
problem these days with so many electronic distractions.  Also what is
meant by letting them learn the rest by themselves?  Like what in
particular? How to make cutesy artsy fartsy stuff?  Ugh.  What of social
skills?  Learning how to get along with others seems to be an
imperative in this multicultural world.  There are excellent curriculums
available but school administrators and school districts and state
education programs are all involved.  It is really just too complex to
offer simplistic answers.

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By garth, December 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

I think you should teach chldren how to read.  I think you should teach children how to write. I also think you should teach them: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division.

Teach History as well by starting at the ‘Now’. Try teaching history by going backwards, starting from here.  Then retrace the steps back.

Historians are fine for jumping back and telling us what George Washington did and what Thomas Jefferson said, but are they willing to show us, unabridged, what they actually wrote and what they actually said?

I don’t think so.

I ight sound like a tea bagger.  But I don’t mean it that way.

I would like a learned woman or man to step forward and say, “This is what I think they were saying.”

Other than that, you should teach the bastards how to rebel.

Let them learn the rest by themselves. Via Curiosity.

I, for one, always loved a teacher.

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By morristhewise, December 6, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

Genius is in short supply and is desperately needed by the US in this age of scientific and information technology.  A billion intellectually or psychologically challenged minds cannot design one pencil or nail clipper.  Instead of wasting money trying to jump start an economy bogged down in brawn, the US should use it by importing hundreds of thousands of the quickest thinking and smartest scientists. The offer of government supplemented jobs paying 200 thousand dollars a year will flood the US with the genius it needs. One of the first tasks of the imported geniuses would be to solve the problem of how to speed up the thinking processes of the millions who are less than smart. No mind should be left behind in the quest for an economy propelled by quick thinkers.

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By Shenonymous, December 4, 2010 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

lexicron is right.  But to get more specific, reading and writing skills
need to be honed and intensified in the intermediate years.  Before that
kids are just beginning to understand individual words.  Second graders
show signs of understanding vocabulary.  But between 3rd and 5th
grades vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation must become embedded
in the students’ minds that by the time they get to middle school, 6th
through 8, they are able to read and speak fluently then they would be
fairly well prepared to handle high school academics. 

In view of the specter of reduced retirement and health benefits, I
recently took an early retirement from teaching university freshmen
through graduate level classes but I recall it being almost staggering
that some students would come into class who obviously could not
handle college level thinking.  Among other subjects, I mainly taught
critical thinking skills and aesthetics: How they are to begin to think
abstractly and synthetically is beyond me.  It takes a great deal of effort
and work by these students to remediate their lack of skills if they want
to graduate with a decent GPA, which is required in the teaching field,
or it is supposed to be!  I returned to the workforce in post-retirement
and now sub at all levels of public school and see exactly where the
problem begins.  It is as I first stated.  Kids at the intermediate level, at
least within the district in which I work, are not being taught the
language and communication skills so that when they get to middle
school they are able to deal with the reading and verbal articulation
skills needed.  It really is a travesty.  I see the frustration of the middle
school teachers who shake their head and commence to teach skills
that should already have been acquired.  If not learned by then, high
school would be a disaster.  Needless to say their regularly taught
subject has to be truncated to fit the school year.

As a long time teacher at a teaching college (12 years, with more than a
decade and a half prior experience in public school) it was our campus
edict to make sure our graduating new teachers had command of their
language.  I am not sure what is going on in the hiring practices of
public schools but emphasis on the best language arts teachers for
intermediate school is decidedly what will go a long way towards
repairing the near illiteracy that we see in education.  I think the
problem starts in the teaching colleges then descends to the
intermediate level for skills building in the youngsters.  That however
does not absolve all the other grades from stressing language skills.  It
is an ongoing and concerted effort that all teachers must understand
themselves, then work together to inculcate it in their students.  And,
ironically, it must be done in deeds and not merely in words.  We need
teachers who have the talent to help students develop a love of reading
and writing and better speaking will go along with that.  Of course that
means they themselves have that love which is fostered in college

It is not a simple problem.  The workload that includes a ton of
administration work as well as teaching overcrowded classes is a
problem brought on by very short funded education programs in the
state budgets.  Teachers’ personal disgust and exhaustion at all that is
expected not directly related to teaching does not give much room to
love anything except maybe their families.  Seems to me I see much
expediency happening that precludes satisfying and productive
education experiences for both teachers and students.

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By lexicron, December 3, 2010 at 5:33 am Link to this comment
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All these years of education reform, and this country’s schools have not yet figured out how to teach kids to read! I joined a Teacher Corps-type program thinking that my master’s degree plus the intensive 6-week training I’d receive would teach me how to teach the fundamentals—reading, writing, and math—in elementary school. Not so! Instead, new teachers are “allowed” to figure it out themselves…which is supposedly what they prefer, according to a number of wrong-headed, lazy administrators. Same experience in at LA Unified school district. Fifth graders read at kindergarten levels, and new teachers do not receive texts unless they buy them themselves. Even if they do, though, there’s no consensus, in the district or even school-wide—on which of a zillion self-interested methods to adopt. It’s chaos. I left public schools believing, against my own history as a student, that we need to start from scratch—just have a national curriculum of basics, teach that to teachers, and cut the crap.

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By Conden, December 3, 2010 at 12:17 am Link to this comment

One of the top priorities for school reform needs to be banning corporal punishment in all schools, public and private—there are still about 12 states who still beat students at school, primarily boys (with emphasis on minorities) this sick, small-minded practice clearly destroys the child’s natural ability to learn.  Other abusive measures need to be thrown out—no busy work or punishments, but an open environment that allows children to gravitate towards their own interests, express their creativity and explore the things they want to, not what some idiotic adult has decided that ‘have’ to know.  Free schools give great examples of this, going beyond paternalism and authoritarianism into democratic, dynamic, active learning environments.

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By savanna, November 26, 2010 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Words, words, words” (Shakespeare, of course)
    One thing I know for sure-after many years in the US, my chosen land):
    Why our educational system doesn’t work ?—Because key decision makers
want it this way (Fish starts smelling from the head). And the citizens don’t
know what they want.  Pure and simple.
      The ideal solution?—CHANGING IT ALL AT ONCE. That’s how:
      1.The government (all approprate levels) makes the right decisions.
      2. Business people are employed to head the school systems and
individual schools like businesses. Not to lose sight of key educational goals
and time they must cooperate with bright intellectuals (not only teachers) and
follow Key directions of the three top educational systems in the world.
      3 (Simultaneously with 2) The media moguls will devote every day A FEW
AND W H Y ? No time and space?—Don’t make me laugh. Giving up publishing
made up or trivial stories of some celebrities sexual romps, sex changes,
plastic surgeries, cellulite on the butt etc would be enough.
  4.  The Wall Street plutocrats who enriched themselves with billions of
government bail money will be forced to return every penny so a strong
educational/social fund can be created. It should support a/ the school system
itself b/ poor and disfunctional families and their environments where
educational failure originates.
    The above ideal solution is a dream. Yes, my American dream. And it will
not become reality.
    You guys still want to change the educational system in America?
Do you REALLY want to do it?—So get started and do it with the above
scenario in front of you—but start small. The only way possible. Step by step.
Start small: with one school. One environment. Don’t tell me or anybody else it
is impossible.
    You have seen the movie “Stand and Deliver”, haven’t you.
    You know how the crime rate dropped in Kosciuszko after the Boys and
Girls Club funded by Oprah Winfrey became active, taking the trouble youth off
the streets.
    If you have done nothing of the kind and are not planning to—stop
pretend you want CHANGE. You don’t.

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By garth, November 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment

From Monsieur Lafayette,

“Tell us about it, garth. Make a resumé. Give us an opinion. Make a point. But don’t tell us to go “read a book”.

That’s a no-go in a forum the purpose of which is “exchange”.

It’s also lazy ...

Since I left teaching I feel responible only for my own ignorance.

Dr Dianne Ravitch spells out the disastrous effects of the $10 or so million that the Gates Foundation gave to education. 

At that time the push was to boutique schools.  Boutique schools were the big deal—break up these big city schools into smaller more ‘manageable’ one.

The problem was that these boutiques could not offer the wide range of courses that the larger ones could, so students who wanted to take home economics were fine, but the exceptional ones, the ones who were more mathematically and scientifically inclined were cut short.  Buses!  Remember them?

If you knew what you you were talking about, you’d know that education is still going on in this country. In town and city schools all over, teachers and students are learning.  There is learning going on there.

Read the posts just before me.  They say it all.  It’s all a plan.  And it was set in motion in the 70s. 

And you seem to be part of that plan.  Which is, turn education over on its head.  Turn city government upside down.  Have them listen to the corporate interest.  Don’t educate.  Train.

And the end is the privatization of communal responsibilities into prigvate wealth.  Look at NYC and the City Bond sales after it went bankrupt in the 70s.  NYC schools were once the gem of Education in the US.  PS this number or that number, all meant that this student was well educated.  And maybe bright.

I was a victim of the US education, or should I call it Indoctrination, but I wouldn’t have been able to see the problem as clearly as I do now if I were trained instead of educated.

All your nonsense, if you choose to reveal it instead of hiding behind slurs, is just that ‘nonsense.’

Your calling me lazy struck a chord. 

That’s what one becomes when they haven’t swallowed the Dr. Faustian Kool-Aid that you obvioulsy have.  You might know everything; I know I never will.

There is no quick or easy solution to the question of Education.  That is the dilemma, you dope.

PS. Maybe you have read a book. Or maybe you read the Sunday New Times Book review section.  That used to be common amongst pseudo-intellectuals.  I guess it still is.

Doncha just love it when someone says they want to get a glass of wine and sit in acomfortable chair and curl up around a good book? 

Reading is hard work.  The better the author, the more interesting the topic, the easier it is to read.  But most books are 99% are pure bleary eyed bullshit.

For Chrisakes you Authors:  Say something.

Don’t be like Edmund Morris.

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By Salome, November 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Apparently, President Obama wants to be known in history as the President who broke the teachers’ union, the way Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers.
Charter Schools?  Divide and Conquer.

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By Daniel Geery, November 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Clearly one could write a book about this topic, and
probably many thousands have. I’ll stick with helping
confirm one item, from the last post: “Since the 70s,
I have noticed a growing direspect for teachers. 
Where is that coming from?”

Society in general. I know that’s a broad stroke
answer, but take a look at our priorities, as shown
in this informative chart:
It is easy to see where our priorities are by noting
where our money goes.

Secondly, on a more personal note—but also one that
I would argue is highly symptomatic and symbolic—I
would point to the primary teachers’ union, the National Education Association
(whose ideas I generally embrace, but whose actions
belie those words). I also recommend this latter link
to make up for my sins of getting so many teachers to
join the NEA, when I was an extremely active member.

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By Lafayette, November 20, 2010 at 2:08 am Link to this comment

But look up Dr. Ravitch’s book and her comments on the way new money found its way to education reform and the effect it had.

Tell us about it, garth. Make a resumé. Give us an opinion. Make a point. But don’t tell us to go “read a book”.

That’s a no-go in a forum the purpose of which is “exchange”.

It’s also lazy ...

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By garth, November 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Monsieur Lafayette, it is expected that you’ve done a little reading.

But that doesn’t seem to have stood in your way in other areas.  But look up Dr. Ravitch’s book and her comments on the way new money found its way to education reform and the effect it had.

Talk about presumption.  Geez.

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By Lafayette, November 19, 2010 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

garth: Look at the money that the Bill Gates foundation spent to artificially cteate a successful school.

OK, show me where it is ... instead of just posting the presumption in a blog and walking off.

Thanks in advance.

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By Lafayette, November 19, 2010 at 7:07 am Link to this comment


Excerpted from here:

Rodney Gernert, 39, was not persuaded by the success of roundabouts in countries like France, which has more than 30,000.

“Just because something works in one culture, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in another culture,” said Mr. Gernert, who teaches about world cultures at nearby Cedar Crest High School. “In our country, we don’t hang animals in our storefronts like other cultures. Food is different. Transportation, patience, people, their temperaments, are different from country to country.”

The above sums up fairly well American myopia, from the point of view of an American who has lived decades abroad, of the Mentality Pit into which a great many Americans have fallen.

I witnessed this recently in the debate for a Public Option Health Care system. Despite the mounds and mounds—a veritable mountain - of data and empiric information that abounds (most of it from the reputable OECD) Americans seemingly cannot be convinced that a National Health Care System is more of a benefit to their personal health and the financial health of the nation than the present private-insurance system.

Same argument as regards introducing roundabouts into America as the above quotation demonstrates. Worse yet, this is from a teacher of “cultural differences” in high-school.

Americans, despite their supposed sense of pragmatism, can see beyond America’s borders but they cannot perceive. Meaning that, when they come to Europe, they see its historical patrimony but they do not understand the great strides—far beyond those of the US—that Europe has made in Public Services that renders Life’s Playing Field far more level than that in the US.

Yes, maybe I prefer French cuisine to that American. But cuisine is not the point. The point is:
* Do people abroad do something/anything better than we do?
* Is what they do important to their lifestyle?
* Would the US doing the same be such a burden to understanding, usage and custom?
* Especially if the superior result is patently evident?

Is it important to your lifestyle that your Health Insurance costs an arm and leg - about $3500 per person more than - for the equivalent (and often better) service in France?

Is it important that not only is primary and secondary-education free, but tertiary education (2-year) and university and vocational trainging are almost all tuition-fee. No saving up for a child’s university education for day 1 of his birth?

None of that is important. It’s important that abortion (free, gratis and for nothing in France) is forbidden in the US?

Oh, pardon me. I didn’t realize you were troglodyte.  (Look it up yourself ...)

My point: If we can’t assimilate a traffic convention as simplistic as replacing stop-light intersections with roundabouts, how are we ever going to accept a National Health Care System?

Probably never. So, the pain (both personal and tax burden) will continue, because people cannot see beyond their noses.


French myopia is the same but different.

They think that they deserve to have a work-week limited by law to 35-hours and a work year of only 1540 hours (in the US the average worker spends 1630 hours annually on the job) ... and still have all the goodies that the Yanks have. Including a 4-week vacation, more often than not, in Tahiti (a French province).

What can you do? Stupidly dumb socialists, the French!

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By garth, November 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

Look at the money that the Bill Gates foundation spent to artificially cteate a successful school. 

Well that’s the kind of money we have to spend.

If you’re worried about your grandchildren and their Social Security, worry first about their education.

Don’t fall for the Obama bull, though.  He, of all all peope is an example of one who was mis-educated.

Arneson?  Do you want to entrust your child to an ex-professional basketball player?

I don’t think so.

Do really want your little shines to be a dummy like you?

I don’t think so.

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By cokids, November 15, 2010 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Interestingly, Mr. Rose has come to the conclusions I have had for years, but seldom read!! Yes, pay a living wage, give people the ability to get medical care, feed their families and BE parents (have time to spend with children rather than working multiple jobs to survive), and you’ll have kids ready to learn and the schools you say you want!

But it will cost money and it will strain your beliefs about people and our ‘system.’ Yes, medical care DOES make a difference! Yes, a living wage DOES make a difference. Yes, social services DO make a difference. Yes, family values ARE pegged to time and work. Yes, EDUCATION is improvable, but not if you aren’t willing to look at other factors as well….ones that will challenge your way of doing business!

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By Shenonymous, October 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

After reading a couple of comments since early October, it seems a
lot of ranting is going on but nothing substantial. finn, it is known
that Finland has an excellent education system and in comparison
with the world has high scores of achievement and is considered the
top-ranked school system in the world, that was in 2007.  Although
I have no stats, I would not think that status has changed in three
years, check out…,3343,en_2649_201185_3970073

You might have to copy/paste these long links into a website.

And from the Education System of Finland’s website, comes a little
taste of their education philosophy regarding teachers:
“Competent teachers On all school levels, teachers are highly qualified
and committed. Master’s degree is a requirement, and teacher
education includes teaching practice. Teaching profession is very
popular in Finland, and hence universities can select the most
motivated and talented applicants. Teachers work independently and
enjoy full autonomy in the classroom.”

And on student assessment…

“Encouraging assessment and evaluation The student assessment and
evaluation of education and learning outcomes are encouraging and
supportive by nature. The aim is to produce information that supports
both schools and students to develop. National testing, school ranking
lists and inspection systems do not exist.”

Furthermore, all teacher training and degrees are fully paid for by
the government
.  This makes teaching an attractive profession,
therefore a highly competitive career.  They do not have a huge teacher
turnover crisis but instead has excellence at the forefront of their hiring
minds.  Well-trained and naturally talented are what highlights their
faculty.  This kind of thought would stick in the throats of the American
right wing conservatives who scream bloody murder at any
government-supported teacher training programs. 

Finland smartly and clearly and politically recognizes that a strong
society is one that understands the value of providing a rigorously
assessed education system that infuses the kind of intrigue fostered
in students that gives them a desire to learn.

Dan Brown, not the best-selling author of occult-ridden mystery
novels, but an English teacher in Washington, D.C., extols the virtues
of Finland’s education system and notes that it is ranked by Forbes a
the second-happiest country in the world sliding in behind Denmark
but ahead of the Netherlands.
And It has, by the way, a single-payer public health care and reported
88% of the citizenry are satisfied with it.

What real, not wishful, or grouching, thinking, constructive action can
we Americans take to move us up into at least the top ten?  This article
on the world’s happiest places is very interesting and I recommend that
it be read to help possibly instigate some creative thinking on our part.

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By garth, October 18, 2010 at 8:10 am Link to this comment

One of the questions not being asked is, “What’s going to happen to the property tax money that goes to Education?”  Do you think your property taxes will go down?  You’ve got another think coming.
They are going to downgrade Teaching from a Profession to a skill.  All one needs to teach a class of 60 of these little urchins, say, chemistry, physics, English, languages, or anything, will be a two year certificate.

Of course, the chemistry curriclulum will be based on traing to be a coffee barrista.  Physics classes will stress heavy lifting. English will include how to read directions.

Shiny clean faces, shirts and ties, skirts and blouses. That’s all that will be required.  We provide the drug-laden lunch.

‘But what about sports?’  the angry parent might cry.

Don’t worry.  We’ll have plenty of sports for the manly men.  Foo’ ball, backetball, ‘ockey ball, you name it.  The girls can do some sports, too.  Horizontal rhumba-ball Excitation.  Have babies produce a future work\war force.  Get with the program. You’ll be soo proud.

It’s not edumacation we are after; it’s indocrination.  So each American child can participate and as Bill Gates’s Foundation ad ‘used to say’ so each person can have at least one break.

You just have to open your eyes and ears from the age of 5 on to recognize that break and take advantage of it.

Meanwhile, French classes in Holliston, MA are taught in total immersion.  From the 7th grade on, only French is used for an elite group of students.

I just need to find out how to undo my past, learn to speak with a mouthful of potatoes and get on the upper-class gravy train that is set aside for otherwise ne’er-do-wellers.

Chauncey will not return my calls.

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By finn, October 16, 2010 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am from finland an in our country education is prettygood we dont have any private schools so that makes the goverment and administration to make sure education stays as a priority because their kids will have to go to the same schools as the rest. and as far as the administration of schools they make reasonable salaries and the students elect a group of students in highschools who hasa say in administrative matter. Teachers still here in pre and middle dont enjoy reasonable salaries and deserve much more but they all are univercity educated teachers who are respected for their knowledge in early education.
only people right now who should not deserve pay rises get them and those people are our representatives infinnish parlamet who decided to increase salaries by 8percent while people are getting higher tax precentages next year and the cost rises and ubemployment is at 9percent so if public education and childrens education hasn’t been priorised by law years ago it probably would not be.

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By Shenonymous, October 2, 2010 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

Historicalcontext, October 2 at 5:24 am
You have provided no references, only claims.  I’m not saying your
claims are not true, but you provide nothing to show they are.

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By Historicalcontext, October 2, 2010 at 1:24 am Link to this comment

Top five problems with education (from someone who has taught middle/high school for 10 years, and additionally worked two years in educational administration):
1)  Administration siphoning off billions of tax dollars that never reaches classroom, oftentimes this abhorrent waste is mandated by state and federal governmental programs.  Teachers and students suffer while administrators and government bureaucracies “bask in the sun.”  As a result, teachers succumb quickly to “burnout syndrome.”  Hundreds of schools in Arizona alone have no books and overloaded classrooms.
2)  A systematic suppression of teaching historical fact (in art, history and government classes) which alienates millions of students, especially “minorities,” (who have now become the majority at schools in most states) and causes them to disrespect the educational system, often leading them to drop out altogether.
3)  The U.S. leading the world in per capita incarceration rate.  Parental incarceration for trivial non-violent violations — resultant parental absence has immediate and direct effect on kids not getting help they need with doing their homework and staying focused and encouraged to do schoolwork, and therefore being completely out of control at both home and school.  The number of these kids has become so great that their presence causes the entire school to “unravel,” while even the good students get discouraged with the frequent distractions.  Arizona one-party rule cutting education massively, while at same time pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into building more privatized prisons, which is apparently their vision for the future of our kids.
4)  Welfare system that punishes women for having father at home.
5)  Poverty, lack of health care, lack of hope of future jobs can deflate a student’s spirit, rendering them apathetic to life in general.
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By garth, September 27, 2010 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

I can only speak to my limited knowlege of the American Educational system.

It is not about education; it’s about indoctrination.

I was indocrinated, and it takes years and who knows what else to break the spell.

I attribute a lot of the breaking of the spell to Truthdig, especially to one commenter, Folktruther.

Back to the general, the media controls education;  Texas controls the contents on school books.

I remember Mr. Wilkenson, my French teacher in high school who said he never watched tv.

We thought, “How pretentious.”

Wilkenson was right.

His advice would be:

Find the writers you can trust and discard the rest when they don’t don’t make sense or they contradict themselves.

You know what I mean by ‘make sense’.

The media is in the business of selling product and stupefying the Americans. 

The Arne Duncan scheme (now the NBC scheme) is in the business of indoctinating Americans to the new for form of ‘belief’.  That we are a right-center populace, conservative in nature.


All the while, the FBI is looking for associates of Folktruther in Chicago.

Chicago, Chicago, a toddling town.

Which reminds me: Frank Sinatra was an FBI informant.

You’d a never thunk it, would you?

But it’s true.

He was a whimpy, skinny, little, mama’s boy, and a bully, as all of them are.

He was dead long before they announced it.  They had to get the credit card and the merchandise sales in order before they announced the ‘dreaded news.’

Don’t you see?

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By christian96, September 27, 2010 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

4mula1——Speaking of Cancer research I think you
will find the following article interesting at today’s 

Diesel Dangers: Mining Companies Get First Look at Government Cancer Study

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By 4mula1, September 25, 2010 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

before funding any charity. please visit, reform march of (learn how charities misspend research dollars) &, animal research has NEVER been validated. “work on prevention of polio was LONG DELAYED by an erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on MISLEADING experimental models of the disease in monkeys” albert sabin, m.d., during a 1984 house subcommittee. (cancer) “there is a laundry list of problems with mouse models of cancer research” dr.bob weinburg, director of the ludwig center for cancer research at m.i.t.

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By Shenonymous, September 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

Lafayette - “In North America there is a country that has better scores
in international secondary school testing than the US. It is Canada.
Why not go up there and have a look?

See OECD PISA scoring here. Note that Canada has significantly
better results than the US. What are they doing right?”

I would like to see a comparison of K-12 curriculum between the
USA and Canada.

While it is not all kisses and roses in Canadian public schools,

Canada does, as Lafayette says, outscore the US.  For reasons why see

In the USA, supposedly the states are responsible for education, but the
federal government stepped in and stepped it up with the Bush No Child
Left Behind nosing in even more.  While an argument can be made that
equilibrium among American students can only be achieved by federally
standardizing content, there is an equally good argument that less
federal intervention the better which does not say there cannot be
some standard expectations.  It would seem that NCLB was antithetical
to Republican less government dogma but it was made mandatory and
it wrecked havoc in the schools creating counter to what it had thought
would happen: better education.  It just made delivery of education

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By Lafayette, September 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

{This proposal is already fueling local and national debate about the particulars of school reform: how to assess teacher quality, for example, or the promulgation of charter schools, or how to remedy failing schools. }

In North America there is a country that has better scores in international secondary school testing than the US. It is Canada.

Why not go up there and have a look?

See OECD PISA scoring here. Note that Canada has significantly better results than the US. What are they doing right?

Not only that, but why not task school districts on the percentage of high schools that throughput their graduating youth into tertiary level education (vocational, college, university. And give them Federal subsidies in relation to their results?

This requires constant attention by trained school psychologist who follow the advancement of children throughout their secondary school education. Yes, it is costly.

But even more costly is a nation of dunces.

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By Shenonymous, August 27, 2010 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

End of story. Not really bpawk.  Obama is a target for
pathological malcontents and so are his kids especially since in
public school there would be little protection otherwise it would
scare the hell out of the other kids and their parents to have secret
service around all the time.  So your point is not well taken.  As to
what they do after he is through being president?  Well do you have
a reliable crystal ball?

My guess is that because he’s made lots of white enemies, and
probably before the end of it he will have made some terrorist Islamists
enemies as well, his kids would still be targets, as will he.  So again
your point is not well-taken.

The reason why I think education is lower on the list of “things to take
care of “ by this Democrat’s Administration, is because of the 10
elephants already being carried on his shoulders, and the impediments
vigorously exercised by the Republican Party for every problem Obama
faces. Do we have to list them over and over?  Is the partisan collective
conscious short term memory so bad?  It is one thing to complain that
the situation is dreadful, but another thing to understand why education
is not on the top of the list.  How about jobs now as being number 1? 
Without a job school doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot to more than
many folks.  The economy was on the brink of falling off the edge of
the world.  Health care became a cause since if you don’t have a healthy
country education hardly matters.  The war, the oil spill, life and death
problems that need immediate attention.  As an educator, for about
thirty years, I too am very concerned about whether teachers keep their
jobs because without enough teachers students’ education suffers and
by extension, the country suffers.  I am very concerned that Americans
get educated for a number of reasons but mainly because with an
education one has a conscious interest in freedoms and liberty and
justice for all that would otherwise not even be known.

I mean look at the poster who has to ask “But what exactly is critical
thinking?” Mark Edmondson (aka Egomet Bonmot)  How many
Americans would even know what a bonmot was?  LOL.  As a teacher of
critical thinking I could give a brief course right now:  First of all just
ask yourself a question:  Why are some people better than others at
solving problems and making decisions, especially major life-affecting
decisions that might involve other people, one at a time or a whole
population?  The obvious answer is that there simply are smarter ones
than others.  But just being smart is not adequate.  If widely
encompassing rules are narrowly followed, decision making becomes
much too safe, because there invariably are things that are improbable,
i.e., doing a bomb search from consulting a crystal ball or a psychic
even when there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever.  Or flipping a
coin or checking the length of lines on one’s hand, or watching the
flight of birds to decide whether to go to war or not.  Sometimes these
occult methods waste valuable and crucial time.  Even for perhaps
minor personal matters.  Like which political party one ought to join. 
Or whether to sign up to join the Marines.  Or even more mundane
matters.  Much more can be said about relying on faulty knowledge we
all know is common and has flaws.  It is not arcane to think critically,
but it is simply not done as a rule, not only by the uneducated, but
those who are very educated who rush to judgments.  It must become
second nature to stop and think through the elements of a problem. 
When one thinks critically you use knowledge and intelligence effectively
to arrive at the most reasonable, and equally important, justifiable
position possible.  To think critically is to guarantee, as far as possible,
that your beliefs and actions, especially actions, are taken that can
withstand the test of rational judgment and are appropriate.

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By bpawk, August 27, 2010 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

Look - if you want any indication as to how much Obama’s heart is into fixing the public education system, look no further than his own family - his kids are in private schools and will continue to be after he’s kicked out of his presidency - he’s not stupid - he knows the public education system is no good and shows that by not putting his own kids into the public education system. The adage ‘It’s not what I say - it’s what I do’ is what you should go by. End of story.

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By garth, August 26, 2010 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Obbop.

I remember in the 60s, a student in high school spoke out against the draft and the Deputy Superintendent had the boy thrown out of school, in his senior year.

A court case ensued.  The boy was granted a diploma, but he could not go to the graduation ceremony with the rest of his class.

At that time, any discipline problems were met with the advice from the administration to throw the kid out of school and make him enlist in the military.

We haven’t come very far from that mindset.  We seem to prepare each generation to give a certain number of its members as fodder for war.

The majority of the survivors and the ones who avoided that fate can pursue technical jobs in companies that suck off the taxpayer by means of Defense contracts.  Or else, ‘will that fries with that?’

John Gould, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor, said he could tell when the tide shifted from heading East to the moment ti began to return to rise on our shores.  He said there was a stillness that one could sense.

I am waiting for that stillness to occur.  A stillness in our madness to rush to the East to create havoc.  I am waiting for it to return to our shores, accompanied with a bit of karma.  That’s just to keep the balance of humanity.  It’s called justice.

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By Obbop, August 24, 2010 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Entered then departed the K-12 educational field.

Entered believing and departed firmly convinced that most aspects of the USA’s K-12 educational systems/bureaucracies are merely a venue to indoctrinate / brainwash the masses of commoners to obey their socio-economic betters.

Some schools are better / worse than others with the schools having a populace lower down the pyramid-shaped socio-economic hierarchy subjected to the most intensive brainwashing.

There are reasons why the higher classes, the ruling class, our masters seldom send their vile spawn to public schools and only a few select private schools.

Our future masters are not allowed to be brainwashed.

“There’s class warfare, all right, Mr. (Warren) Buffett said, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

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By garth, August 21, 2010 at 10:38 am Link to this comment

Rehema Ellis reported with unbridled enthusiasm about the Obama-Duncan Rush to the Top Initiative.  Their lead in story was about the low percentage of blacks who graduate high school. 

The targets for this Privatization-Charter School-Corporate takeover are: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami.

Teachers will be judged on their ability to teach to a test. 

The takeover will use the African-Americans has their ‘spare carriers.’  The racist nature of their plan is on them.

To succeed in American business, one only needs to be a megalomaniacal sociopath.  Acumen and a proven success record has nothing to do with it.  Note the Wall Street investment banks.

It took them 40 years to destroy public education beginning with an attack on teachers in the early 70s.  Now, they are about to go to the next phase:  Charter School political hacks making $500,000 a year as administrators, teachers being harassed to ensure rapid turnaround of faculty, and the property tax of residents in the cities to pay for it all. 

If it’s possible, watch who buys the municipal bonds.

Right now, they feel as though they are unstoppable.  In the end, the same ones will bear the heaviest burden—the students.

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By Shift, July 31, 2010 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Public Education Rx

1.  Change the management (administration) of public schools.  Principals and superintendents are chosen almost exclusively from the ranks of the coaching staff.  So, the people who manage our public schools are physical educators, not academic educators.  Most physical educators are simplistic in their thinking; and, the result is dependence upon standardized testing.  Standardized testing fails to measure creativity, higher level problem solving skills, and higher level thinking skills.  Teaching to pass a standardized test completely eliminates dynamism in the classroom.  Solution: Place effective academic master teachers in positions of school management. They have the understanding and skills to evaluate quality teaching and teachers.  They also have the knowledge to guide individual teachers along a path to effectiveness.

2.  Effective teachers have good classroom management skills and ineffective teachers lack those skills.  Both new teachers and ineffective teachers should be placed in a program, taught by master teachers, on effective classroom management skills. Effectiveness in the classroom should be measured by those master teachers and an academic principal until the teacher becomes effective or is dismissed.

3.  Government laws requiring that emotionally disturbed students be placed in a normal classroom need to be challenged.  Five or six emotionally disturbed children in a classroom can seriously damage the effective teaching of all children.  Then when scores on standardized tests are low, the teacher is blamed.  This is a critical element.  If emotionally disturbed children are to be mainstreamed in the classroom there needs to be a special needs teacher assigned to that individual classroom full time or effective education will be seriously damaged for all. 

4.  The reason that the cost per student is so high in American public schools is directly related to the sports program.  Building and maintaining playing fields, swimming pools, indoor gym’s, and sports programs is extremely high.  Schools should not be strapped with expensive non-academic physical education facilities and programs, including large staffing needs.  Then the cost per student would decrease very substantially.  Physical education in the classroom is fine; and, anything beyond that should be handled by the community at different facilities such as parks and recreation etc. 

5.  Use some of the savings from the decoupling of sports and physical education from the schools to lower class sizes and allow higher teacher salaries.

Public education is central to maintaining a democracy.  Privatizing schools with public funds is a scam.

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By Egomet Bonmot, July 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment

“In general, critical thinking is the art of using terms one does not believe in (Foucault’s, Marx’s) to debunk worldviews that one does not wish to be challenged by…”

“Critical thinking is now much revered in humanities departments.  We pride ourselves on dispensing it.  But what exactly is critical thinking?  Often it is no more than the power to debunk various human visions.  It is, purportedly, the power to see their limits and faults.  But what good is this power of critical
thought if you do not yourself believe something and are not open to having these beliefs modified.  What’s called critical thought generally takes place from no set position at all.  There is no committed vantage, however transient.  Rather, one attacks from any spot that one likes, so everything is susceptible
to denunciation.  “One is clever and knows everything that has ever happened,” as Nietzsche puts it in his passage on the Last Man, “so there is no end of derision.”  For the critical thinker there is no end of derision.  When one thinks critically in behalf of creating a Final Narrative, that is something else again. 
Then you are sifting visions for their applications to life.  A great deal is at stake.  But most of what now passes as critical thinking takes place in a void.”

—Mark Edmundson

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By Egomet Bonmot, July 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment

MAN I wish Truthdig would give John Taylor Gatto a platform.  Readers would just be
insane for him. 

What Mencken is to the booboise, what Vidal is to imperial America, Gatto is to

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By christian96, July 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm Link to this comment

MeHere—-The children who would be taught the
marketing strategies of commericals will become
parents someday and will hopefully undertand how
to guide their children during the developmental
stages.  Our society has involved into a narcisstic
one generally speaking.  Our economic woes have
only contributed to the narcissim. People are worrying about what is going to happen to ME,
MY family, etc.  Like you I’m not very optomistic
our government can help.  I do have a gut feeling
that President Obama and Michelle are genuinely
concerned about improving society.  Trying to
convince big business he is concerned about all
people he has made decisions to benefit big business.
I’m not sure big business is buying it.  They seem
to be using the media to paint him as anti-business
in an attempt to influence votes in upcoming elections and get their puppets into office.  They
already have most of their puppets in office.  Trying
to find intelligent good hearted people to run for
office is becoming more difficult and once they are
elected they are crushed by the puppets already in
office along with the media controlled by big business.  I’m not very positive in the near future
but I do have hope for the future.  We need to get
our children(our next leaders) educated about the
nature and negative influences of our extant society
and hope we can find positive leaders develop from

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By MeHere, July 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment


You make very good points. I think that many educators, on an individual basis,
are already trying to do some of the things you mention. But, when it comes to
children, we need to remember that children don’t buy food and other items for
the home, and that they’re greatly influenced by the habits of their parents. If
the TV is on 24 hrs/day and entertainment means spending hours at the malls,
you can bet that corporate business wins—and not just about what people eat
but about how much they over-consume, how they think politically, etc. I don’t
think Michelle O. is going to speak against the industrial and business practices that produce all kinds of junk and reinforces people’s spending habits. Nobody in the kind of government we have is going to do that. Most lawmakers are supported by big business so they won’t pass the right legislation. For any productive change, we are going to need substantial political change.

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By christian96, July 26, 2010 at 1:04 am Link to this comment

MeHere—-I agree with your assessment of education.
However, education is the one institution where
change can take place.  For example, Michelle Obama
seeks to decrease the number of obese children in
our society. One significant way would be to education children not only about nutrition but also
about how the media, especially television, influences their choices of foods they consume.  I
would like to see technology used more in classrooms.  For example, a simple way would be to
record commericals and play them in classrooms and
discuss with children HOW the commerical seeks to
influence their cognitions and behaviors in relation
to food choices. While education does often reflect
the values of society it is an institution where it
can influence the values of society.  It will not
be easy but it can be done.  It will take a lot of
work to do so.

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By MeHere, July 25, 2010 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

I’m not an educator but here are some observations:

The state of education, like the state of everything else, simply reflects the general values of the culture we live in. The most ideal educational system cannot compete with the values that the corporate world has promoted and most homes in the US have embraced. It is unrealistic to expect that good educators can change things all by themselves.  It seems that $ucces$ by whatever means, entertainment, and consuming -not knowledge and critical thinking- have become the prevailing goals.

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By Shenonymous, July 7, 2010 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment

So I will stick my neck out.  I read Jim Mamer’s post and my
immediate response was one of incredulity and insult and thought
“hmmph!”  As if we had not been dealing with the topic of
  But, as I reflected on my posts, and others, I realized
I really had not read Rose’s article very well.  I had skimmed it and
then went directly to the comments and picked up on an issue that
had been introduced by one of the participants. While I think the
comments are relevant and important and don’t regret any comment I
made, I am duly embarrassed and apologetic that I did not deal directly
with the article.  I am guilty… and contrite.  How dare I not deal with
the article as written?  So I went back and read the entire article which
is truly a very fine and more than adequate article and covers a four-
pronged serious dilemma in education.  The participants on this forum
are obviously intelligent human beings able to think critically and offer
opinions that ought to be considered, which for the most part they have
been.  To be fair to the commenters, I will go back and reread their
posts to see if I have not been too quick to include them in not
addressing the problems Mike Rose presents.

Jim Mamer’s point is well taken.  But with all due respect, I shall offer a
criticism of Mr. Mamer.  If you had noticed, Jim Marmer, there was not
any relevant discussion offered about Mike Rose’s article, then it is your
responsibility to introduce at least one issue!  I am quite sure had you
done that instead of just shooting us in the head (even though we may
have deserved it), I can guarantee someone would have taken up the
gauntlet and engaged you in a discussion.  Can you explain why you
would have to wait for someone else to do the work?  To hit and run
does not show much integrity.

That being said, in an additional post I will address, briefly, at least one
issue Mike Rose writes about.  A 20th c. skill.  No, I do not mean a 21st
c. skill.  Rose makes the point that many of the skills of the 21st c. are
actually skills that were part of 20th c. skills or even older!  I agree with

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By Shenonymous, July 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

Among a few others, I teach a critical thinking course for teacher
track majors.  It is a course that teaches how to critically evaluate
ideas as expressed in the visual and performing arts: fine arts, theater,
dance, music, and film.  A humanities course, the course is the only
one in critical thinking that is offered to graduating seniors, teacher
preparation students in their entire program, so my colleagues and I
feel incredible responsibility to teach evaluative thinking skills. Everyone
thinks almost all the time but not everyone thinks critically and we think
it is critical for them to be able to think critically regardless of course
content.  So our course syllabi is about that, how to think critically as a
teacher and how to get their students to also think critically. To satisfy
our course content, it covers the visual and performing arts but because
these areas can involve every domain of learning, the sciences, natural
and social as well as mathematics, literature, etc., we teachers, besides
our own specialities, have to have a working knowledge of all these
subjects as well as the humanities of the arts: truly a broad liberal arts
education.  That is why I can converse on almost any subject.  I’ve had
to learn many different areas of knowledge in order to deal with the
papers and presentations students are liable to come up with and
questions in classroom discussion.  As an added benefit, because each
student has a major in a particular domain of knowledge, the entire
class benefits with the exchange of the different knowledges that come
up in the truly creative lesson plans.

So we agree in philosophy with Mike Rose about what is important to
teach the teachers of K-12 schools.  Part of the course does teach how
to write a comprehensive lesson plan that involves not only a particular
item to learn but the history and milieu of the art, the aesthetics, the
principles of the art itself that include imaginative experimentation, and
appreciation or how to increase pleasure in artful things that
encourages questions about further exploration, and a practice of the
art (making an artwork, or a performance), the value of even making
such a work, as well as critical assessment of how well the work was
executed, all these things must be included.  It seems like a lot but
once an understanding is set in a coherent lesson plan, the knowledge
reveals itself for the deep significance a plan like this offers.  That kind
of understanding makes it easier to create further similar lesson plans. 
Interactive presentations of plans are given by several students so the
class may see how to implement the plans. 

To put it concisely but to kind of center what I’ve been talking about,
what exactly does it mean to think critically?  Most people think they
know but when put to the question it quickly becomes apparent they
have only a vague notion, and don’t really use this skill in dealing with
the world at large, or in everyday encounters.  Learning critical thinking
becomes infused as a way of thinking in general and involves analyzing
and evaluating information that is offered as true.  Truth of about life
or our world is often offered in works of arts.  Reflecting on the
meaning of the premises, offering evidence for the premises,
determining the significance or worth or quality of the evidence
provided or obtained, reasoning and forming judgments about what is
discovered as facts are all part of the exercise.

So on reflection, Mike Rose’s article is important and lays on the table
an intelligent, broad array of the problems that plague education as
well as what can be done about it.  It would do every teacher well to
take the essay seriously.

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By Jim Mamer, July 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Mike Rose, for a wonderful series of
articles. I tried reading the posted comments
hoping to find readers engaged in a discussion
of various points made in your piece. But there
was little connection made and no coherent-
connected discussion to engage in. Thus my
“comment” is limited to a thank you note…

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By christian96, July 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm Link to this comment

Shift—-That’s the way it is and that’s the way it
is going to be!  Education changes very Sloooooowly.
The reasoning seems to be since a coach can lead
a group of athletes he can lead a group of students
and teachers.  WRONG!  Generally speaking coaches
aren’t the brightest of humans thus not possessing
the knowledge and skills to lead a junior and/or
senior high school. Part of my job responsibilities
while teaching Ed. Psy at a couple of universities
was to supervise student teachers.  I would have
the student prepare a lesson plan then I would film
their presentation.  Afterwards we would discuss how well they achieved their goals.  The camera should
be used more often in education but sadly it isn’t.
Sports should most definitely be removed from public shools.  A complete waste of money and time.  Sports programs serve as the minor leagues for professional baseball, football, and basketball.  Let professional sports support their own minor leagues. When I retired more women were becoming princials
on the elementary level.  This should eventually
evolve into more woment becoming junior and/or senior high principals.  I hope sports is going the
way of the dinosaurs.  I could go into the many
negative influences psychologically and sociologically sports has upon students but for lack
of space I’ll wait until another time.  Years ago
I read articles by Buckminister Fuller in which he
predicted education would evolve away from a crowded classroom into the home.  With the advent of computers each home should have an educational room
where learning takes place.  A crowded classroom is
the worst place for education to take place.  Too
many distractions.  With the average student-teacher ratio ranging from 25 to 35, teachers just do not have time to give individual attention to students.  Thus the bright ones keep up but the slower students fall further and further behind.  As they fall behind school becomes very painful for them and they want to avoid it.  There is much need for improveent in education but sorely a lack of leadership.

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By Myronh, July 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

Shift, Your July 2, comments should be published as a Letter-to-the-Editor in every newspaper in the USA. I graduated from High School in 1952, and at that time I was convinced that too much time and money was devoted to athletics, with academics being a distant second.

A Coach turned Principal then was a disaster in making, which has only been proven by time.

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By Shift, July 2, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

Kerryrose wrote: “No phys ed teacher without an advanced degree above their certification will be a principle.”

Principal is spelled with an “al” not an “le.”  I rest my case. 

The coaches who wish to advance must take administrative courses, not academic courses.  Their primary interest is still athletics, not academics.  Coach/Principals do not have the depth of understanding in academics to properly evaluate a teacher.  It is not uncommon for Coach/Principals to evaluate “cute conformists” much better than serious academics.  The system is so corrupt that coaches at the University level teach coaches at the high school level.  I took an administrative course taught by a college coach and it was both simple minded and butt-slapping.  The soul of a University is lost when coach/administrators are elevated to positions of power.  University summer academic teaching jobs are awarded to their buddies who are high school coach/principals. 

The administration of public schools is peopled almost exclusively by coach/assistant principals, coach principals, and coach superintendents.  That is why the cost per student is so high in the United States compared to other countries.  It takes large sums of money to build gyms, athletic fields,  major athletic departments, and to provide uniforms and bus athletes to and from away games.  The money is NOT spent on academic teachers or teacher in-service education. 

No matter how much reform is introduced into the schools, schools will continue to be mediocre absent a reshuffling of school administration replacing coaches with academically trained administrators. 

I am in favor of privatizing athletics and removing competitive sports from the schools.  Business will support their local town teams.  Let business employ the coaches and their teams and release captive schools from the non-academic influence of competitive athletics and coach-principals.

Private schools do not employ coach/principals, and they are successful at achieving high academic performance. 

The culture of the public school must be changed from an athletic culture to an academic culture or nothing will change.

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By Shenonymous, June 27, 2010 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

christian96, June 27 at 10:41 am – excellent idea, that is one easy
way to improve education without even adding a dollar to the
budgets!  Socratic questioning needs to be incorporated in liberal
studies courses that teach teachers.  I use it myself but it ought to
be required curriculum.  I’ll try to codify it enough so that I can
present it to the faculty at the next meeting to see how it flies.
Anything new always seems to meet with resistance (it is the
conservative principle we all naturally have!).  Perhaps it needs to be
demonstrated to them first? LOL

Teachers are conditioned to prepare syllabi, and then write lesson plans
that adhere to their respective syllabus.  Allowing freedom of discussion
using a method where questioning could take digressions, I would
guess many teachers would prefer to stick to their regimented syllabi. 
Part of the original Socratic method gently guided the thinking but
allowed the full bloom of thought to happen.  So part of their training
would be to learn to let their syllabi become living instruments of
teaching where they are flexible enough to allow those rolling brains to
happen?  It takes a kind of courage to allow an unknown quantity
(questions and answers format is difficult to constrain timewise) to
become a principle of teaching, especially when control has been the

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By christian96, June 27, 2010 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

I am pragmatic about educational curriculum.  What
is taught in school needs to relate to what happens
in everyday life.  Students need to understand how interest on credit cards is calculated and how
that relates to their purchases and budget.  To
stimulate thinking I would use the socratic method
of asking questions.  For example a teacher might
ask, “Why did congress turn down extension on
unemployment benefits after awarding great sums of
money to Wall Street and banking?”  That should get
those brains rolling.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, June 26, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Given that obesity has become such a problem among young people today I would think that pe teachers would be an important part of any faculty.  I still use things every day which I learned in pe classes.  I can’t say that about many other classes I took.

For me the main issue here is the deliberate dumbing down of American citizens which starts in our schools.  Some decisions were made and continue to be made toward that end.

I recently saw the requirements for admission to most good universities at the turn of the 20th century.  Today’s high school grads would be hopelessly lost.

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By Shenonymous, June 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment

Since sovereign states have the responsibility of public schools
and set the qualifications for certification, it is possible there is
not homogeneity among the states, and one state’s credential
requirement for either teaching or administration may be different
than another’s.  All the states where I’ve taught have had
requirements such as kerryrose lists. And all the schools where
I’ve taught had principals who had the Ed.D. doctorate degrees.  I
wouldn’t depreciate PE teachers as many of them hold doctorates
and even more of them have a master’s.  I’ve known lots of PE teachers
and I never found one who was a dolt or who didn’t have a degree in
another major area of learning.  I don’t doubt that some are not of the
highest caliber but then that level of accomplishment is found in just
about any career area.

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By kerryrose, June 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

Education; teachers and administrators

1. Graduate or undergraduate degree in Education

2.  A concentration in content area which you go through separate classes and student teaching to become certified in that area.

3.  Master’s degree within 5 years in Education

4.  Administration consists of 4-6 years teaching and curriculum education on top of previous.  It awards an EdD which is a teaching doctorate.

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