Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Grade It an F

Since I emailed my state representative about online charter school funding being cut, I guess I am now on her mailing list. I got an email from her a couple of days ago which is long on style but short on substance. Maybe representatives don't want to go into detail in an email, but this email did not thrill me.

"It is vitally important for our children to have the best education possible. I believe that preparing every student for the 21st century is the only way we can improve our current economic situation." If people really wanted children to have the best education possible, they would go with the methods that have actually been proven to work, instead of whatever is new and shiny. And I can think of many other good ways to improve our current economic situation.
1. Don't spend our money like a drunken sailor and do work on cutting the deficit.
2. Cut taxes so businesses will want to be in your area. (See Cleveland, Ohio for what not to do)
3. Quit trying to hurt small businesses with things like high taxes and inflated minimum wage. Also, don't hurt cottage industries with ridiculous restrictions like CPSIA.
What exactly does "preparing every student for the 21st century" really mean? I can't even say it sounds good any more as I am immune to catchphrases and buzzwords.

"While this is a significant reformation, a transition phase of ten years will make sure school districts have adequate time to adjust to all aspects of the new education plan." Okay, *what kind* of significant reformation are we talking about? That was not made clear at all. And ten years is long enough for schools to weasel out of changes for as long as possible and hope something new gets passed later. What on earth is so difficult to implement anyway that it will take ten years to do so?

All-day kindergarten will eventually be required. That's good. You are already doing a poor job in education, so let's require the students to receive this poor education for longer periods. Haven't they read that "advantages" like Head Start eventually are lost a few years down the road? How exactly will extra school hours for little ones, who should still have more free hours, help?

"We must continue to discuss Ohio's diverse education needs." Again as a good Lutheran I must ask, say it with me, "What does this mean?" All kids need to learn, and to retain at least some of what they learned. I say at least retain some of, because I certainly have not retained a great deal of what I was taught in school over the course of years. This is evidenced by my inability to help the Equestrienne with all of her grade school math, at least off the top of my own head. How much real "diversity" is required?

In the email there is a link to the governor's Conversation on Education. Sadly, my alarm bells are being set off here. For example: "A modern education must be directly linked to economic prosperity. Ohio cannot thrive without understanding that world class schools will produce a talented workforce, and a talented workforce will attract and create jobs." Ding, ding, ding! Yes, let's get that little proletariat started young. I don't think people are fleeing Ohio in droves because they don't have work skills. I think they are leaving because Ohio is doing its best to kill local jobs. (see above)

"We cannot address our education challenges without strengthening our commitment to public education. As a practical matter, the vast majority of Ohio children are and always will be educated in the public school system." Always will be? Goodness, I hope not. There are wonderful options such as homeschooling, charter schools, parochial schools and private schools. Let's think outside the box, people! Okay, charter schools are technically public, but they have a much better track record *overall* than your average public school.

"We must strive to develop a specific, personalized education program that identifies how each individual student learns and use the teaching methods appropriate to that student's needs and abilities." You're joking, right? A homeschool mom can do that, although not so much out of an inherent superiority (giving dues to public school teachers) as the fact that she has fewer students, and she knows them very well. The parochial school my daughter was in years ago offered personalized education. They didn't follow through.

"Our schools must excel internationally in our ability to foster creativity and innovation. Our educators must teach students to think past the limits of what's been done, and imagine what could be done." How about we just give them an education with a solid foundation, and they can grow and imagine from there? D-Ed Reckoning is a good place to go to find out how poorly trying to "foster creativity" works out in actual use. You can also read lots of discussions, as well as collected data, on what kinds of education work and what doesn't.

"We must educate the whole student. Education must be viewed as a joint responsibility of families, educators and communities." I'm all for a family being invested in its own children's education, although many teachers and schools really don't appreciate parental input. However, what are communities to do to help educate "the whole student"? I'm afraid "provide money" is largely the idea here. Maybe not.

Lastly, "we will reduce the property tax burden on local taxpayers by increasing the state share of school funding to 61 percent when the reform plan is fully phased-in." So, you're reducing local taxes only to increase state taxes. This helps me how?? Not to mention creating another layer of unneeded bureaucracy.

Children get the best education right now because parents either have enough knowledge in a subject to help their child out, or because parents are wealthy enough to afford tutors. For story after story on this subject, check out Kitchen Table Math. Is this fair? No. Should we depend on bureaucrats to fix everything? Definitely not. Honestly, I don't know for sure whether parental investment is necessary in a child's education. If so, there will always be children who just have parents who aren't willing to put in the effort. Yes, some parents did not get a good education themselves, and obviously most families can not afford to hire tutors. But there will always be some parents who just don't care. For those who do care about the education of children, I think I would tell them to look to the example of homeschoolers. Many parents teaching their children at home are doing so on a shoestring, without a fancy curriculum or lots of field trips. There is such a wealth of free information available to all, that those who want to learn can do so. And this goes along with my whole philosophy of not depending on the government. Why trust a suit in the capital building to take care of you? Nobody is as invested in your child, and what is best for them, as you!


Karen said...

Great article. I've been working with our local school district to improve the education in the public school. It took over 3 years before the school members on the committee felt that homeschooler outside-the-box thinking had anything to offer the public schools.

A big problem with making changes in the public school is that educators have so much ego wrapped up in the status quo. Any changes are viewed as condemnation of public school teachers.

Many of the opportunites that are now available to children from all educational choices in our area are through involvement of community members. A musician who loves teaching music has opened up his studio every Friday to teach and encourage young musicians. Their progress is impressive. Their excitement is contagious.

Another community organization is offering video classes and communication opportunities for the "Youth Media" group. The local newspaper publishes articles and blogs from the youth in the area. This same organization is offering paid internships at various local companies.

The answers to the public school educational problems cannot and will not be solved by public school administrators or government officials. It will be solved by people whose egos aren't tied to the job of education.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I'm glad community members are reaching out to school kids there! It should definitely not be government funded or coerced, however. As you say, keep the educrats out.

skatey katie said...

Governor Barb, you have my vote.

unfortunately, economics and education are inseparable. in NZ there was "free milk in schools" for thirty (oops, i originally typed "thirsty" lol) years.
i had thought it so wonderful all these years, until one of my lecturers pointed out that it was a political move to harness votes from farmers. (the gov't buys milk from farmers and gives it to children to drink at playtime). duh. it sounded so good. my dad used to nick two bottles, underprivilieged childhood - think oliver twist.

now, with a government switch in NZ, the politicians are favouring the rich - ditching funding for adult re-education (you know, night school classes etc) and pouring millions into Private Schools (like the parents can't afford it?).
makes me so mad. maybe mad enough to write a letter.

i hope you email your state rep back - i'll be fascinated to see how she responds X

Susan B. said...

Hi Barb,

Pardon the off topic comment...

I emailed you back but I guess it got caught up in spam. I searched your name on Facebook but I found several matches and wasn't sure which one was you. Could you email me again with a direct link to your page? Thanks! :-)

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Kate, I'm glad you were okay with what I wrote, since you and your husband are both in education, although I'm sure the NZ education system is different. I think we could get a lot of the economics out of education if we went to more input at the local level instead of less. The more bureaucracy involved, the more money is wasted.