Sunday, August 21, 2005

S.O.S. (Save Our Schools)

Before you start hitting up your friends and neighbors for money for a PUBLIC school, you need to ask yourself: What would more money accomplish?

If you are unhappy with the quality of education your daughter is getting, I suggest to you that the problem is NOT a lack of money. Teachers, even in Utica, are already well paid for their work - paid almost as well, if not BETTER, than attorneys and engineers in Public Service - professions that require more rigorous training - when hours actually worked are taken into consideration. This is even more true for administrators. Class sizes also are significantly smaller than 40 years ago (when students actually were able to leave 8th grade with life skills, and when there was no such thing as a teaching assistant/teacher aide). There is also no shortage of money for constructing schools since 90+% of the cost is reimbursed by the state. How would you spend the money you want to raise?

Quality in education results from HOW money is spent, not How Much. Unfortunately, much of what passes for "education" these days is more akin to group therapy, social engineering and "attitude adjustment" than education. Ineffective methods result in too many students graduating who are functionally illiterate and computationally inept.

Go to your school and see how things are done. Are the students sitting in rows facing the front or are they in groups? (Which arrangement do you think lends itself to discipline problems?) Does the teacher relate his/her knowledge directly to the children, or do students work in groups to "construct" their own knowledge with the teacher "facilitating"? (Which approach do you think leads to confusion and numbers of children falling behind their peers?) Are the classroom walls and ceiling covered with colorful posters and hanging things, or are displays low key and simple? (Which do you think is distracting?) Are students repeatedly drilled on their math facts and required to do math in their heads, or are they handed a calculator? (Which approach do you think leads to students graduating who are unable to make change, balance a check book, or unable to comparison shop?) Do students spend time learning the intricacies of Microsoft Word or learning the rules of grammar? (After 5 years when the software has completely changed, which students do you think will be better able to write a gramatically correct paragraph?)

Teaching reading and math is NOT rocket science, but the educrats will have you believing otherwise because they are justifying their jobs. Unfortunately, such people populate our administrative staffs, state education departments, and teaching colleges. The education business is constantly beset by "fads" that come and go -- usually making someone rich -- but do damage along the way. In the 70's it was the "open classroom" where entire schools were built without interior walls. You don't need a teaching degree to know that this created distractions for students and did nothing for achievement. In the 80s it was "racial balance," "magnet schools," and doing away with neighborhood schools. This not only failed to accomplish the well-intended social goals, it led to students spending time on buses rather than studying or playing, greater discipline problems, reduction in parental involvement, all of which led to reduction in education achievement -- harming EVERYONE. Now it's "higher" standards -- but if you look beyond the noble sounding standards and try to discern exactly WHAT students are expected to KNOW, you will be totally confused. Take a look at the threads posted on the Millenium Project and on Safe Schools to see how the latest "fads" are wasting our tax money and your childrens' time.

Rather than wasting time raising good money to throw after bad, ask questions on how your children are being taught, know exactly what they are being taught, don't accept the answers you get without doing some independent research of your own, and, most important, DEMAND SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIABLE RESULTS.

Good Luck!


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