1.13.2006

20/20's "Stupid in America"

Tonight's segment on ABC's 20/20 about education in the United States was not enlightening to me - I had already known everything that was reported in that segment. It reinforced how desperately un-fixable the education system is here in our country. I watched teacher after teacher demand MORE MONEY!!! MORE MORE MORE!! for education, while John Stossel visited one high-school aged kid who remained stuck reading at 4th Grade level. During a meeting, the principal of his school felt he was performing satisfactorily. I wanted to bonk that principal on the head.

After a few hours with Sylvan Learning tutorials, the student jumped several grade levels in reading.

If you missed "Stupid in America" you can visit 20/20's website and view clips from the segment.

3 comments:

Chris said...

There are those who mischaracterize many as being "anti-education." This label is inaccurately conveyed, as it should be labeled "pro-education reform". So to use "anti-education." and denominate those is misinforming.

The "War on Public Education" is a straw man. There has never been such a war. Any time spent defending against it is time that diverts much-needed time and energy away from the real issues. If there's no war, then what's the fuss? Who are these imaginary soldiers? They are simply observers, who pointedly remind us of the many facets of public education which can use serious reform. They however, are very interested in the views and observations of intelligent peers who can contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Part of the debate is calling a spade a spade, shining a light on egregious examples of the misdeeds of public educators, their union, administrators, and aspects of the system itself.

Yes, there are many public schools where excellence is part of the daily culture, where students are given the best chances to lead productive lives after graduation. There are countless public educators who nobly fight the good fight against ignorance and poverty, and who, despite terrible obstacles, defeat these foes daily.

It should not be offensive to truly dedicated teachers and administration to point out the ugly truth where it may lie. These blemishes aren't just isolated in a system that is by far mostly good; they are endemic. Some examples of serious issues, in need of reform: teacher unions, political activism, teacher certification, mediocrity, opposition to competition, home schooling opposition, zero tolerance, and lack of accountability.

There are four kinds of teachers and administrators staffing public schools. First, there are dedicated teachers and administrators who are effective. Second, there are dedicated folks who aren't. Third, there are people for whom "it's just a job," lastly, and most seriously, there are incompetent teachers and administrators.

Members of the first group should take no offense at any criticisms of the other three groups; they should be leading the charge for reform. The second group, (due to curriculum or techniques), can be retrained, the third group needs to be weeded out, and last group need to be fired, period.

These reforms along with tax credits and free market choice will provide the best environment. True competition can cure most of these ills.

Don’t fall for the ‘We are Great!’ mantra.

Calletta said...

Rats. I missed this report. I'm really reluctant to put Alexander in the public school system. I'm just not convinced he'll get what he needs. I can't help but think I did well *despite* the system, and maybe Alexander could, too, but. . . Do I really want to take that chance? Why should I, if there are better options?

la Maitresse said...

Chris has a point - competition can only help.

And for Calletta - I think you will see a familiar scenario reinforced in the segment featuring Belgian schools. The teachers in the Belgium segment stated that they felt they were under enormous pressure to perform. If they did not perform well or offer courses that the parents and students were seeking, their schools could lose government money, or worse, close. Guess what? The students are literate, speak multiple languages, and the standards in education are highly competitive all around, regardless of a student's economic status.