Monday, April 19, 2010

Could the Liberal Stranglehold on Education Go Away?

In what is shockingly good news to education, we have a ray of hope to get the stranglehold of left thinking education mills out of education itself.

The New York Times reports (an unusual place for such good news) that the New York State Board of Regents is poised to pass a measure that will allow alternative programs to certify teachers as opposed to tradition education colleges and universities.

Such programs already exist, like Teach America, but the state wants to expand the program to allow people that haven't been indoctrinated by such liberal education schools, but instead come from the real world, with real world experiences. This means people that actually had to work in the capitalist system as opposed to the cloistered civil service union cultures that has bred our current situation.

According to The Times, "Under the Regents’ proposal, which the board is expected to approve on Tuesday and does not need the approval of the State Legislature, Teach for America and similar groups could create their own master’s programs, and the Regents would award the master’s degree, two powers that are now the sole domain of academia.

The Regents are looking for academic programs that would be grounded in practical teaching skills and would require teachers to commit to working in a high-needs school for four years." 

I believe this will serve its purpose in getting not only more worldly and experienced teachers in the classroom, but better qualified people that have a more well rounded background than just theoretical education.

The Times continues:

"Education school deans say they are grateful that groups like Teach for America, which recruits heavily among recent college graduates, and N.Y.C. Teaching Fellows, which attracts young professionals seeking to change careers, have managed to rebrand teaching as both sexy and noble. Some in New York have formed partnerships with these programs.

But the deans also say that the charge that they are mired in theory is outdated. Geoffrey L. Brackett, provost of Pace University in Manhattan, pointed to Pace High School in Chinatown, which the university created in 2003 and functions as something of a laboratory for the university’s education school. “You have our students at the graduate level being placed in that high school, but you also have current teachers working with our faculty on best practices and innovation,” he said."

While some will decry that the research part of teacher education and cutting edge research will not be part of these "teacher mills", there seems to be room to try something different.

"Susan H. Fuhrman, president of Teachers College, said she had another concern — the potential separation of teacher training from what she called an “explosion of new research” into how children learn. Teachers College has chosen not to team up with alternative programs, in part because of philosophical differences over the concept of anointing a neophyte to be the “teacher of record” — the one responsible for a classroom — from the first day of school."

I would ask Susan, excluding special education, how has how children learn changed over the last 10, 20, 50 or 100 years? I am not talking about the medium or methodology, but how people really learn. The basics haven't changed at all. Thinking so would mean humans have evolved beyond what they were then and I would say rubbish. Sure, we have different tools, but the house gets built the same way. Instead, we have school systems that try these different methods like throwing spaghetti on a wall to see what sticks. That is like Edison going through 2500 iterations of the light bulb until he got to the right prototype. Tesla said if Edison only understood the scientific method, Edison would have do it in less than 25 tries.  What these schools have forgotten is the basics that do work.

I will say, if I have any axe to grind in terms of improvement in the classroom is that schools don't tailor their programs to allow individual students advance in areas of their strengths irrespective of how they do in areas they are weak. A couple real world examples.

One of my daughters is 95th percentile on standardized math tests. She wanted to take an advanced section of math, but was told she couldn't because she isn't advanced in her other subjects. I had to break balls to get her in the advanced section of math, but I did do it. The reason I pushed was from my own experience. I took three languages in junior/senior high school. Two years of French, two years of Italian and four years of Spanish. In my first year of Italian in the 11th grade, I wanted to take the second year final at the end of the first year. My reason was I had a 103 average in Italian, I wanted another regents sequence and I knew I could pass it. I was told it wouldn't be fair to the kids in the second year. So goes socialist thinking on their part and the beginning of the classical liberal in mine. If I can earn it, why not? All holding me back did was bore me to death with the putana that wouldn't let me take the test. This type of tracking and limiting mentality is rife in education and I went to school in NY over 30 years ago and my daughter is going to school in Iowa now. May be if they get people in the schools that haven't been indoctrinated in what Bruce Lee called "The Classical Mess", may be this will change. I hope so.

Thank you for reading this blog.


Anonymous said...

"I would ask Susan, excluding special education, how has how children learn changed over the last 10, 20, 50 or 100 years?"

It's not that children have changed it's that our understanding of how they learn has. It would be like asking a doctor "how do people heal differently than they did 100 years ago? They don't, therefore we don't need to do medical research". People heal the same, we just have a better understanding of how they heal. Same with learning. We now understand that different children learn in different ways. The "one size fits all" method of teaching doesn't work for everyone.

The Right Guy said...

I never proposed a one size fits all approach, and in fact, if you actually read the whole article, you'd know that by my admonishment of my own high school and my daughter's school. Just another example of no real choice because of compulsory support of a public school system.

Yes you have a point in that we find out new things on how people learn, but we also know what works for most people. I work in education (not as an educator) and from what I have seen, every 3-5 years there is some new theory or fad in learning that will eventually get discarded. It's as if there is no test environment to see what works, just throw the beta into production as it were. None of it has made much of a difference to most students and from my perspective a lot of this serves academia in terms of grants and basically legitimizing sinecure positions.

On top of this we have a federal government that comes up with new ideas every 4-8 years on how to measure what schools are doing in order to justify why so much money gets thrown down the drain.

In spite of all the new technology, new ideas, what my kids learn in school and the level they are taught isn't what it was when I went to school. It's not rigorous anymore and it's more topical and broad as opposed to anything in any real depth. This is a disservice.

So, the bottom line is that with all the research, study and theory, we are no better off than we were 10, 20 or 30 years ago for the average student. Special Ed has benefitted for sure, but that's about it. If someone has something that really works for 100% of the students, I'd like to see it, but I don't think it'll happen because unions and civil service have corrupted the teaching profession as they'd never stand for what it would take to get it done. Just my opinion.

The Right Guy said...

One more thing:
If you are going to post, at least use your real name and who you are.

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