Friday, October 17, 2008

The presidential debate and education: Same old, same old!

I watched the debate the other night, and I was depressed but not surprised by the discussion about education. Bob Schieffer got in the media's points about how much the U.S. spends on education and how terrible our test scores are, and of course, he phrased it all in crisis terms. Both candidates seemed to sadly nod their heads and look concerned.

I doubt that many viewers understood that the media and politicans have been referring to American education as being in crisis since the 1950s, and that the people who attended those schools continue to be the heart of what is considered the most productive workforce in the world. I doubt that many viewers realized that, as Jay Matthews pointed out, 70 percent of American public schools are actually quite good. Many parents and other viewers could probably figure out that in order to improve our test scores compared to other nations, we would have to put more emphasis on academics. They might not have thought about it enough, however, to realize that in order to do that we might have to de-emphasize high school football, basketball, hockey, etc., and their kids might not be able to have after school jobs. And there is no way that a politician running for office would tell them that.

Overall, I liked what Obama had to say about education more than McCain, especially about parents taking responsibility, but I don't think either candidate will make much of a difference to our schools. How many times and for how many years have I heard that we should recruit better teachers? I don't know for sure, but that sure wasn't the first time. I do have to agree with McCain, however, that throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. Oh, if you put the money in the right places, it might help somewhat, but it won't have us suddenly kicking the Korean's backsides on international math tests.

McCain is very big on vouchers, and I don't like that, but I have to admit that his position on them is more "honest" than Obama's. Both of the candidates are well-off financially, so both of them could afford to live in nice neighborhoods where the best public schools would be. Neither of them, however, thinks that those good public schools are good enough for their kids. I think they're wrong, but as I said, at least McCain is honest about it. When McCain says to Obama that more parents should have the opportunity to send kids away from the public school system that neither of them really believe in, it's tough for Obama to answer.

I'm not knocking private schools here, but it does bother me that so many liberals who pose as great supporters of public schools won't put their kids enrollment where their mouths are. To tell the truth, I don't think either McCain or Obama have a clue about what the real problems are in public schools.

32 Comments:

Blogger andyesquivel@yahoo.com said...

I was hoping they had more to say, too, but it was all rhetoric.

Obama:
1. Wants us to invest in our children's education because they are our future. (This is an obvious and safe statement.)

2. Wants to set up a pay-for-performance for teachers; many teacher unions don't agree with him on this.

3. Mentioned the "Achievement Gap" in passing, but said nothing significant about it.

McCain:
1. Wants vouchers in place, the idea being that we should be able to choose where our kids go to school because it's our money.

2. Wants Troops To Teachers programs emphasized by eliminating or simplifying certification process for soldiers.


Neither of them discussed NCLB and its shortcomings.

Neither of them discussed the effect of standardized tests on education.

Neither of them discussed the roles of parents in their respective children's educations.

There's a lot to be discussed, but education is not on the forefront (again).

10/17/2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

How can anyone expect "better teachers" if teachers receive no training? Education schools are such trash that it's unbelievable that they haven't been all burned down.

I entered teaching physics from a career in engineering and IT and the three years that I spent taking education course could have been better spent smashing my head with a hammer. I started teaching equipped with a piece of paper that says "masters" on it, but with no effective training whatsoever. If other professions trained people the way teachers are "trained" we'd still be living in caves.

The same goes for "supervision" of teachers by assistant principals and principals.

Try this on for logic: Airliners are vehicles. Cars are vehicles. I've had a driver's license for 30 years. I have, therefore, 30 years experience operating a vehicle. I therefore am qualified to drop in on a pair of airline pilots and critique their skills and possibly recommend them for dismissal. Sound logical?

Welcome to teaching.

My boss is a former English teacher. She has no clue how much math is required to do well in physics and she has no idea of how horribly unprepared most students are to take physics.

To improve education in America we need to fix (or completely rebuild) education schools as well as the supervisory structure in schools. I'm surprised that this issue is rarely raised by anyone.

10/17/2008 10:52 AM  
Blogger mazenko said...

Physics teacher correctly argues that we need re-structuring of education programs as well as supervisory structure, though I'm not surprised that no one raises that issue. The only ones who know that well enough to raise it are teachers, and teachers are rarely asked because we are "part of the problem."

Realistically, we need a re-structuring of the entire system, and I'm not opposed to some of the recommendations from "Tough Choices, Tough Times" which argues for some adaption of European and Asian systems that don't automatically assume or even allow college for everyone. I'd like to continue the freedom of choice for higher ed while at the same acknowledging that colleges are just taking money from many kids for no good reason.

While we are now approaching three-quarters of high school students going on to college, we're at the same percentage (40%) of those actually earning a degree that we were at in 1950. Nearly twice as many go on to college, but the same actually finish. That is a travesty, and both students and parents should be aware of that.

10/17/2008 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people can talk until you're blue in the face about what should be done to improve education, but as long as education is funded by taxes the politicians will be the ones to decide how our education system is run. It doesn't matter, Dennis, if you think the politicians are clueless about what needs to be done to improve education in this country (and you're right - they are clueless about that and most other things). By advocating that education be provided as a public good you have handed the keys to the politicians to make all of the decisions about how you and your colleagues do your job of educating children. As far as your teaching career goes, the politicians own you. You can't do anything without their permission.

10/17/2008 7:21 PM  
Blogger Art said...

Why should they understand what goes on in a school? What are the odds that either of them knows a secondary or elementary school teacher well enough to just talk about it with them. And for sure they don't have policy advisers who are or recently were classroom teachers.

Teachers are pretty much always the last people anyone wants to hear from about education. After all, if we had any brains and/or ambition why would we still be teachers and not doing something "more important"?

Must stop now. Feel a rant coming on.

10/17/2008 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Peace said...

American Teacher's Rally In Washington ! NCLB and 10% isn't working !Read the book "Manufactured Crisis" and you'll feel better !The good news is, Clinton's on the NCLB re-authorization team and she's the only one that's raised her hand on the stump and said,end the mandates ! See VOICES ACROSS AMERICA and question #1 ! We worked it until the sun came up !They all know and changes will be made !What's the next holiday in education ? Merry Christmas ! It's a march on for our students and the location is DC !Where's the HS marching band ?Every teacher from the USA !Let's get the re-authorization team to speak and find out what the solution % is going to be !"Fire all the bad teacher's?" Oh really ? Say it ain't so !Gotta clear it with the attorney general's office for a permission slip !Work on Clinton and see if she'll speak and get us a permission slip !Maybe Bill Clinton and he said end that NCLB and get rid of it, cause it's not working !We'll never forget the day Hillary Clinton raised her hand and yelled end the mandates on NCLB ! The crowd went wild every where she said it! Obama is the one that's going to help us more in public education !Get a date for clear sailing and the place !We'll get the word out !Maybe the next president will speak at the teacher rally in DC !We need a fire truck and we'll play music via the speakers !Then we'll all go for hamburgers at the White House !Laugh on that one ! Light that big White house up blue for public education week and school teachers in America !"Fire it up and let's go !" How much money on that $700 billion dollar pie do we get ? Go after the green chip stocks !Cold call the companies fast now !

10/17/2008 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Peace said...

Obama's sister is a school teacher and Senator Biden's wife is a Dr. of Education. Palin's mom and dad worked in an K-5 school ! Either way, we'll score !Let's throw a little Guskey and Mazano in to close the deal ! Motivate the self-system to engage ! How about that United States teacher's rally !We'd never leave a child behind !

10/17/2008 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Peace said...

Physics !You're 100% right! We gotta get up and fight for the changes we need and it's time !Call your Senators and send letters !Seriously and it does make a difference, because think we're all where you are !Energy Independence and National Security and review a science book !Go to T. Boone Pickins.com and find the Kentucky team!Some principles don't have enough books in their buildings for the students. It's unreal with a list of needs a mile long !Are the copy machines working today ? Operational needs have got to be met in school buildings for teacher's prior to all this radical reform blame game!End the mandates on NCLB !Among other areas and how's your list as we all have one !Do the Orginal Hampster dance !We need a rally !Write the next Physics text book for education !Keep the faith !

10/18/2008 12:05 AM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

>Annonymous said
>You people can talk until you're blue in the face
>about what should be done to improve education,
>but as long as education is funded by taxes the
>politicians will be the ones to decide how our
>education system is run. It doesn't matter,

The FAA is funded by taxes, air traffic controllers are federal employees, pilots all fly according to rules enacted by the FAA, and yet tens of thousands of flights arrive safely each day in spite of outrageous congestion.

And...the average politician knows far less about aviation than he/she does about education.

>Dennis, if you think the politicians are clueless
>about what needs to be done to improve education
>in this country (and you're right - they are
>clueless about that and most other things). By
>advocating that education be provided as a public
>good you have handed the keys to the politicians
>to make all of the decisions about how you and
>your colleagues do your job of educating children.
>As far as your teaching career goes, the
>politicians own you. You can't do anything without
>their permission.

And what kind of alternative do you suggest? Corporations maximizing quarterly profits?

10/18/2008 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My alternative is a society where each of us is equal in authority and no one may rule over another. Where each of us has the right to determine the course of our own life instead of having others force us to do what they think is right for us. Where people who have children assume full responsibility for the needs of those children (including their education) and cannot place that responsibility on anyone else. Where some arrogant, self-righteous people cannot use the claim that an educated population is in our best interest as an excuse to force their idea of what constitutes a good education on other people.

What is your alternative, physics teacher? Or do you think that the politicians are doing just fine making all your professional decisions for you? Like I said before, the politicians own you.

10/18/2008 7:06 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/18/2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

>My alternative is a society where each of us is
>equal in authority and no one may rule over
>another. Where each of us has the right to
>determine the course of our own life instead of
>having others force us to do what they think is
>right for us. Where people who have children
>assume full responsibility for the needs of those
>children (including their education) and cannot
>place that responsibility on anyone else. Where
>some arrogant, self-righteous people cannot use
>the claim that an educated population is in our
>best interest as an excuse to force their idea of
>what constitutes a good education on other people.

Does Ayn Rand know you're parroting her ideas? Oh, wait. She's dead.

Without public education this country will fall to a staggering illiteracy rate in a generation or two. It'll be like Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

People like you won't have an internet through which to promote your ideas.


>What is your alternative, physics teacher? Or do

In case you haven't realized it, countries kicking our asses in education have successful public education systems. There's no reason this couldn't work here.

>you think that the politicians are doing just fine
>making all your professional decisions for you?
>Like I said before, the politicians own you.

Guess the FAA owns you. Perhaps you'd rather have a free for all up in the friendly skies.

Are you really so naive as to think that if a politician doesn't "own" you, no one does? Grow up.

10/18/2008 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad that some people think that the only way society can survive is if we are under the rule of our government masters. You remind me of people who said that slaves couldn't make it if they were given their freedom, that they needed their masters. I need to grow up? No, you need to open your closed mind. I believe in freedom, you believe in slavery. And I think you like being a slave.

10/18/2008 8:28 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

Show me where on earth, throughout human history, has a society like you seem to envision, ever existed?

Apart from stating your little manifesto, you've said essentially nothing.

If you feel so strongly, buy yourself a barge, park it in the middle of the ocean, and declare your independence. No one is stopping you.

I doubt that most people reading this blog care for that kind of "non-slavery". In that kind of a world nobody would care about the quality of education anyway.

10/18/2008 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's obvious that I've said nothing that you understand, physics teacher. But it's been entertaining.

10/18/2008 9:07 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

Vizzini Lives!

Man in black: You're that smart?
Vizzini: Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard or Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
Man in black: Yes.
Vizzini: Morons!
Man in black: Really! In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.
Vizzini: For the princess? To the death? I accept!

10/18/2008 10:25 PM  
Blogger Tressa said...

I liked what McCain had to say about making it easier for troops to become teachers. My husband is military, finished his degree, and wanted to teach when he retired. It doesn't matter that he has been teaching Junior sailors for the past 10 years, he has to take classes about classroom management and other silly things for 18 months before he can become a teacher. There is no way he can take care of us and go to school full time, pay for school and the certification process, and then be willing to take a pay cut just to teach. Unfortunately, he doesn't see teaching in his future anymore, and that is really too bad because he is very good at it.

10/19/2008 8:40 AM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

>I liked what McCain had to say about making it
>easier for troops to become teachers. My husband

While I understand what you're saying, McCain's proposal is no different than saying "easier to for redheads to become firefighters", or "easier for people named Bob to become brain surgeons", etc.

Making it easier for troops to become teachers will not make teaching jobs appear from nothing.

I too was in an "alternative certification" program to "make it easier" for "career switchers" to become teachers. Yet it was impossible for me to find a job because teaching jobs are few and far between and no one would even talk to me because I never even student-taught (the alt-cert program "conveniently" eliminated that)

>is military, finished his degree, and wanted to
>teach when he retired. It doesn't matter that he
>has been teaching Junior sailors for the past 10
>years, he has to take classes about classroom
>management and other silly things for 18 months
>before he can become a teacher. There is no way he

This wouldn't be bad if these courses actually taught you something. They're all learning-by-make-believe course.

>Unfortunately, he doesn't see teaching in his
>future anymore, and that is really too bad because
>he is very good at it.

I took classes when I was a civilian working for the military. Teaching sailors is a very different ball game than teaching teenagers in a school. I suspect that your husband wouldn't really like it as much as teaching sailors.

10/19/2008 11:53 AM  
Blogger Tressa said...

physics teacher,
I agree with you that he probably wouldn't enjoy it as much and have told him so, but thanks to the insane certification process we will never know if he would enjoy it. Will we?

10/19/2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

Tressa,

It's not the certification process that's the problem, it's the availability of jobs. We could hand out certifications in cracker jack boxes and the end result would be the same.

In fact, the easier it is for your husband to become certified, the easier it is for many other people to become certified, and the easier it is for administrators to treat him like crap because they know there are boatloads of fresh meat for them to pressure.

McCain and many others are buying into the grand myth that there is this shortage of teachers out there and that if we create shortcuts we'll have more teachers. I myself haven't seen very many ongoing teacher vacancies. There are war zones out there where people refuse to teach, but the solution there isn't more rookie teacher candidates, but improved conditions for these people to work in.

10/19/2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

Physics teacher,

There do seem to be some fields where there is a shortage of teachers. E.g., the one that forms half your name.

10/20/2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger Physics Teacher said...

Dear Roger,

If there is a shortage of physics teachers, could you explain why I had to move three states away to get a physics teaching job and give nearly all my salary just to pay my rent?

When I was in the alt cert program it was perfectly legal for public school districts to hire me because the program is a state-sanctioned pathway to certification. Not a single school district within hundreds of miles gave me an interview.

I got one interview with some school in Kingman AZ. The school itself is in the middle of the desert and the teachers are bussed in. The pay is crap. I didn't get the job.

Saying there's a shortage of physics teachers is like saying that it's a sellers' market in real estate.

10/20/2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,
I actually stumbled across your history test you posted in 2006. I am intrigued by this and am wondering if you have a list of the answers somewhere? I know most of them but would like to make sure my answers match yours. Thanks. If you have the answers you can e-mail them to me at Becmom24@yahoo.com

10/20/2008 8:45 PM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

Physics teacher,

I teach high school physics in the Boston area, where there must be 100 newly certified elementary teachers for every job opening. But every summer, I get a few emails or letters or phone calls from systems looking for a physics teacher.

It may be significant that all three physics teachers at my ordinary suburban high school came through alternative certification.

I'm sorry to learn you've had such a hard time on the other coast.

10/21/2008 2:41 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Anonymous, I will get that to you. I'll be taking off to the Twin Cities for a meeting this weekend, but I'll get on it.

10/21/2008 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Allan said...

Public school wasn't good enough for me. But I had no choice.

11/01/2008 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"NCLB has done more to stigmatize and demoralize our students and teachers in struggling schools than it has to marshal the talent and determination with the resources to turn them around." Mancheister,NH 11/20/07.Obama !How is Bill 16-250 viewing the School Modernization Act 2005 going for DC schools ? Where does Mayor Fenty post dollars exact spent and where expenditures viewing the $60,000.000 per annum being spent ? Are building operations and resources being provided as needed for teachers,principles and their students ?Reilly&Brown 1996 is an interesting read and case study about Educational leadership.Just doesn't seem to be an administration that leadership unites acedemic unionson,equality with democratic spirit.See the Pennsylvania Gazette,May 9,1774.The disunited state of the British Colonies.Exhaustion of impasse and so much for collective contractual bargaining of which appears to have taken a turn for crisis bargaining entering complete control to Rhee's educational reform.Gees,this is to Benjamin Franklins,Join or die in 1764.Thanks but no thanks and appreciate the 14th Amendment and due process for the tenure provisions of the school code.Please refrain from re-writing our Constitution and educational laws as you go along and direct efforts to reflect the re-thinking of effective remedies.No democratic self-governance in DC ? Systemic conditions of effective strategic steering ? What is going on with the distribution od decision-making authority between different levels and actors in educational management ? Will have hope for decentralization and transformation of governance with American democratic spirit. If not, view icebergs ahead as democracy shall not be denied !Our founding father's worked hard for it and we need to stick to it for America ! We'll all pray for fair balance of interests !

11/07/2008 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pardon the typo's and riding fast!Mrs. Obama can't start packing that house fast enough and we hired a sharp man for president!When is the US Public School Teacher Rally ? Let's get a marching band and give those charter,voucher folks a run for their the money !Public Education will rise from the ashes and we've had some bad press on NCLB and 10% with increased accountability !Read Manufactured Crisis !Whatever, and free thinking independently ! It's called the Declaration of Independence,not dependence !

11/07/2008 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ACADEMIC REGULATIONS FIELD STUDY !If you can't spell,you can't be a teacher.Where is the revise department buttom on this blog ? We don't have time to write this before we type it !Call it a rough draft and you guys stay in the saddle and lean with the trees ! Admire what you do !Can you spell academic ? No,ain't got no english teacher and she quit but the history teacher helps me !Ha !

11/07/2008 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't find the revise "button" teachers and was born with rocks in my head.The teachers told me I was dumb as a door knob but kept right on turning it anyway.It could be transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.Got prions in my brain and no revise "buttom". Need rest, more coffee and political detoxification after election 08.Every survival kit keeps a sense of humor !We going get the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists on this Rhee reform !When Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828,his opponents tried to label him a "jack ass" for his populist views and his slogan,"Let the Teacher's Rule?" Now look up a Modern Baalim and his Ass.Turn that contract of crisis into your advantage !Good luck !

11/07/2008 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are going to get the three R's !

11/07/2008 2:54 PM  
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