November 23, 2005

"They didn't expect the assignment to cause any problems, because it was part of a social studies project asking for peace."

The news from Madison, Wisconsin:
"We didn't intend to offend anyone, and I hope we haven't offended anyone," said Julie Fitzpatrick, Frank Allis 3rd grade teacher.

Fitzpatrick is one of five teachers at Madison's Frank Allis elementary school, who says some parents are upset over their message of peace....

Last Friday, third grade teachers at Frank Allis sent home this letter.

It explained a project, where the students would write letters to lawmakers, other students ... even to the president ... asking for an immediate withdrawal of U–S troops from Iraq.

Fitzpatrick says they didn't expect the assignment to cause any problems, because it was part of a social studies project asking for peace.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue ... I really don't," said Fitzpatrick.
The project was cancelled -- school district policy prohibits teachers from presenting controversial issues with bias and promoting their personal political views.

I wonder how well that policy is enforced. That a group of five teachers thought this was an acceptable assignment suggests that it's hardly enforced at all.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue." I love that. It's so it depends on what the meaning of controversial is. Community standards seem to apply to that. And we're all here in Madison, Wisconsin.

UPDATE: I did a little local TV segment on this story and the effect of blogging about it. You can watch the video -- with a commercial and quite grainy -- here.

56 comments:

Goesh said...

- muddy their wee brains with social relativism, then send them out ot hustle money for more school computers - it seems many children never get to take off the halloween costume. I hope the social activists directed the children to write to Missy-Miss Liberal Hillary who is saying there should be no early troop withdrawal from Iraq. She is it appears a bit of a thorn in the Liberal peace camp. I thought the duties of children were simple? Mind their parents and teachers, do their little chores and play and have lots of fun? Give 'em a cell phone and a brown shirt and who cares if they can cipher, speak intelligently and read?

bearbee said...

Would be interesting to hear what the '5' had to say in explanation to the children......

Next topic...censorship?

Matt Brown said...

Bill Clinton would say that it also depends upon what your definition of "is" is.

Pogo said...

1. Were the 5 teachers to have required the students to write their congressmen to abolish abortion, I wonder how that would have gone over? Would the excuse "I don't see it as a controversial issue ... I really don't," have been received as benignly?

2. What with all the new mandates on teachers, one would think that they'd hardly have time for non-controversial topics like this. WF Buckley once pointed out that teachers had but one duty: to teach. Most parents wouldn't include political activism of any stripe in that directive.

XWL said...

Is this an example of a new teacher lead insurgency against the No Child Left Behind Act?

I'm guessing the operation is entitled 'No Child Left with their Own Mind'

Mark Daniels said...

The statement of the teacher is nothing less than bizarre. How could she possibly have thought the project wouldn't be controversial?

Pogo said...

Re: "How could she possibly have thought the project wouldn't be controversial?"

Once you've lived in a largely liberal town, you understand that certain positions are given. Not controversial. No thought need be expended on the issue because only bad people would think otherwise.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let's see. Teachers give assignment to kids to write to Congress, President, etc. saying that we should cut and run in the middle of a war, and they think it is a noncontroversial message of peace for Thanksgiving. Makes sense to me.

I do wonder though how, on a time line, this ties in with Rep. John Murtha and his national prominence for suggesting a pullout, followed by the House motion for withdrawl that he himself voted against.

If the Murtha thing really got going before the school assignment was given, then the teachers would have even less credibility. But if they gave the assignment before Murtha started being touted by the MSM a week or two ago, then maybe they are honest.

JBlog said...

Idiots.

That anyone that senseless would be hired to teach anyone anything is mindboggling.

Pete said...

Bearbee,

“Next topic...censorship?”

Wha? You mean to say that objecting to the forced adoption of a particular political point of view is now censorship?

I don’t follow you’re reasoning.

Pete said...

D'oh! That should be "your," not "you're" reasoning.

Darn spelling skillz.

XWL said...

I missed the chance for a pun, the school is Frank Allis Elementary, so this is just a case of Madison Uber Allis.

From the linked article I found this instructive:

Already, local, conservative–radio-talk–show hosts have picked up on the third graders' assignment.

And Brighouse says, using third graders to promote political beliefs, is exactly the type of story those talk show hosts want, to make a push for peace seem ridiculous.

"That kind of reaction makes it harder to have a reasonable and rational debate," said Brighouse. "And it makes it harder to get the view point, which I think is the right view point, across."



So in summary the 'expert' they interviewed who did say this was a bad idea, wasn't disturbed by the indoctrination, just that it was so blatant that it drew attention to itself. If those five teachers had been more subtle they could have lead those third graders to the 'right view point' without inflaming those awful conservative-radio-talk-show hosts.

(let's see how the left of center folks justify this one, so far I'm hearing crickets chirp from that side of the aisle)

LizrdGizrd said...

My wife recently finished her Master's in Education. One of her assigned readings was a book on how teachers should use activism to teach their children "social responsibility".

This is one reason why some teachers feel justified in foisting their political agendas on their kids.

Jimmac said...

Let us know when the children write letters to Zarqawi et al asking them to cease the blowing up of Iraqi civilians.

paulfrommpls said...

Wow.

paulfrommpls said...

Betond that, maybe he would say: I'm sure there are student projects writing in support of the troops. Letters to the troops. Maybe these letters even express support for "the mission." That's political speech. That's controversial.

But mainly: wow. What liberal third grade?

Bruce Hayden said...

There are several problems with teaching activism and social responsibility in public schools, esp. at that age.

For one, I think they should be concentrating on the three R's.

The other though is that this appears, at least to me, to be a way of pushing, if not imposing, a left leaning ideology at the public expense on a vulnerable captive audience.

And that somewhat reminds me of a previous thread awhile back where a kid was in essence penalized for tying Jesus to environmental activism.

I have not doubt that all activism in the eyes of the teachers is not equal. For example, I seriously doubt that very many of the public school teachers pushing social responsibility and activism would be supportive of a kid who decided to activate against abortion. Or, probably even in favor of the war and/or our troops fighting it.

anselm said...

Bruce: For one, I think they should be concentrating on the three R's.

Now that would truly be controversial.

PatCA said...

"I have not doubt that all activism in the eyes of the teachers is not equal."

That's right, Bruce and other commenters.

What we are seeing is a use of language in service to an agenda so dishonest it's (hate to use the word) Orwellian. Surrender is Peace. Activism is leftism.

John(classic) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John(classic) said...

Just another example of overloading young minds.

Grades 1-4 should concentrate on teaching the virtues of recycling, the evils of capitalism, and the importance of multi-culturalism. An advanced topic like taking on the military machine should wait till grade 4, just bfore swinging into concentration on evils created by Christianity in the 5th grade.

richard mcenroe said...

XWL — There are no leftists in this country. Their need to be both right and moral is so utterly entwined (I'm a good person BECAUSE I believe this) that they have to tell themselves theirs is the majority, and well as the moral position, even if the odds are, say, 400-3 against their being correct.

reader_iam said...

mark daniels, unfortunately, I don't find the teacher's reponse bizarre, but sadly predictable.

I don't know what the exact statistics are today, but it used to be, anyway, that education majors were actually pretty close to the bottom in SAT scores. It's not something people want to talk about--and I know that SATs aren't the be-all and end-all--but the unpretty truth is that in the aggreggate, it's not the cream of the crop that go into teaching K-12. Of course, there are exceptions.

And wasn't there a flapdoodle a while back about how literature/creative types actually scored significantly better in math skills than education majors who intended to teach that subject to kids? I may not have that precisely right, but I think I'm close.

In college, I found a scary proportion of the ed majors I knew to be long on theory, but short on substantive content. And they helped put me through college by hiring me to help them with their papers (that's HELP, not DO), not just in terms of the writing (though that's alarming enough), but also the actual critical thinking and analysis skills required to put together decent work.

As an adult, I've edited many freelance newspaper articles by both active teachers and ex-teachers. I've also spent significant time helping to coordinate writer/editors in putting together and editing corporate training materials. This is an area toward which ex-teachers, logically enough, gravitate, so I worked with a number of them. Hands down, of all the backgrounds of the consultants with whom I worked, the teachers (especially k-8) tended to be the hardest to work with, the least skilled in writing and editing, the slowest to learn unfamiliar material, the poorest at "implicational" thinking, and the worst at deadlines. (Again, there are always exceptions.)

The kicker is that they were also the people who displayed the highest amount of misplaced self-esteem and arrogance!

You can have no idea how much this deeply saddens me. I was raised to value education above all else and to respect the Teaching Profession as among the highest callings and its practitioners as among the most valuable members of society. My own father is a retired college professor (although teachers at the college-plus level are distinct from k-12).

I will also tell you that since my child started in Pre-K (he's now in K), I have been treated to an unending stream of badly written and sometimes inaccurate send-home material. I have walked into classrooms where basic reading skills are being taught to find misspelled words on the dry erase board (more than once or twice).

In walking around the school, I have heard children being incorrectly instructed in grammar. I've heard historical figures being incorrectly identified. I've heard children being corrected on things they've said--when the kids actually were right. (For example, one child was reprimanded for saying that scientists have identified a "10th planet.") I've heard the process of a bill becoming a law misstated (that teacher must've missed out on "Schoolhouse Rock"). I've seen and heard examples of junk history, junk science, and junk social science.

So no, this doesn't surprise me at all.

All I can say is, it's going to be a loooooooonnnnnng 12 years ...

Pat Patterson said...

It only beame controversial when the teachers had to explain the assignment to adults. Children being much smarter and able to pick up on the nuances of early troop withdrawal and a new millenium of peace. Shoot, teaching would be so much more fun and rewarding if teachers didn't have to deal with principals, school boards and mainly the rest of the adult community.

Bruce Hayden said...

Pat,

But they aren't the teachers' kids, and, by and large, the teachers aren't the ones paying for the schools.

That said, I found it interesting that the parents involved were apparently not nearly as upset as the media was, esp. the "right wing" media. Apparently, conservative talk show hosts are having a field day over this.

One parent interviewed didn't have any problem with the assignment, but did think she might if it had been pro-war instead of anti-war.

JBlog said...

"One parent interviewed didn't have any problem with the assignment, but did think she might if it had been pro-war instead of anti-war."

Most people don't have a problem with things that support their viewpoint.

At least this parent was willing to admit her opinion of the assignment was influenced by her bias.

bearbee said...

*I don’t follow you’re reasoning.*

My failed attempt at sardonic humor..........

Ross said...

What I don't understand is this. I think it's not a bad idea to give kids the experience of writing a letter to their representative in Congress. It's a civics lesson. (And hopefully the'll get the lesson of receiving a non-sequitor-filled form letter in response -- that's a lesson they should get early.)

But how stinkin' hard is it for the teacher to let 'em pick their topic? Yeah, they're in third-grade and all, but if they're not savvy enough to understand the issues on at least a basic level, what's the point in having them engage in political advocacy in the first place?

But maybe I'm crediting the teachers for too much though here ...

Old Dad said...

Time was when third graders would be writing to Santa Claus.

What the hell are we doing to our kids?

Starless said...

reader_iam, I have a hard time believing that the dismal picture you're painting can be applied generally. It depends on the state and the district, of course, but at a bare minimum, teachers are required to take a certain number of annual courses to maintain their license and to complete a specific number of post graduate credits in order to move up to higher compensation tracks. As a result, you tend to find more educators with Master's degrees than say business people with advanced degrees.

Of course, you find idiot primary ed teachers just as you find idiot business people, but I think you find fewer idiots in the former group than you do in the latter.

As for teacher activism, I'm not surprised in the least to see it going on. Social study activist lessons have been taught in primary schools since the '70s. The teacher picks the subject because 3rd graders aren't at a place where they can pick something that's socially relevant yet.

Lefty-leaning public school teachers? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? To be surprised/shocked/angered by it seems kind of naive.

Pat Patterson said...

Bruce,

I assume irony is not spoken here. O f course teachers are responsible to the parents. Unfortunately sometimes, I've noticed, that my fellow teachers seem to think that they are not reponsible to anyone and plan accordingly.

dick said...

Starless,

I am alarmed that you equate a master's degree with intelligence. Getting a master's degree in education compared to running a company that employs 5000 people successfully and you think the master's degree trumps that for intelligence?

The more things I read about what is going on in schools and what the educational establishment is trying to do, the more I think parents need to really get down in the trenches with these teachers. When I was young, 50 years ago when things were very different, all my teachers were older except one and she was the worst teacher I had in all my years in school. I can remember a class where she was trying to teach us to peddle a bicycle and pedal foods at the market. The older teachers demanded that we get the work done on time and really pushed the information out to us. Twenty years later I was working with a young woman going for a degree at Pace College here in New York and the material she was studying was the same kind of stuff I had in high school and it was all new to her.

The other point was that until I went to college I never had any idea of what kind of politics any of my teachers had. That was never brought up and even when we discussed history and civics and social studies it was taught from a neutral position. When did it become accepted to indoctrinate kids politically? It seems to me that all politics should be out of the school just as they have forced all religion out of the school.

JimHer said...

During the first Iraq war under Bush I, my wife was teaching fourth grade. She decided to do a socal studies unit on the Middle East covering climate, family structure, economics etc.. As there was a school referendum comming up she took great care to depolitise the lessons, stricty facts. One of the jr. high secretaries had spent time in the Middle East when her husband was working for Aramco, and she came and talked about life in arab
countries and brought robes and other apparel. This being a photo op. the principal called the weekly newspaper which ran a story with photos of the children in arab dress. The story was accurate and did have a line on how the children were writing letters to friends, relatives, and neighbors. The next week a letter from a functional illiterate peace group member appeared accusing the Quaker schoolmarm of being a "Hittler Youth leader".

Buck Pennington said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Buck Pennington said...

Starless said: Lefty-leaning public school teachers? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? To be surprised/shocked/angered by it seems kind of naive.

Agreed in part, Starless. I'm not shocked, nor surprised, but it would make me angry as all get out if my son were in that class.

That said, I'm pleased my eight year old just returned to public school after being homeschooled for 18 months by my ex-, a self-described "academic liberal," who'll defend the indefensible, e.g., Ward Churchill. The public schools, even in Madison, can do no worse when it comes to political indoctrination.

Icepick said...

Starless, most teachers are taking education classes to meet the ongoing education requirement. Functionally, they're learning nothing.

Back when my wife and I were in graduate school (Me: Mathematics. She: Medieval Lit.) ridiculing the Ed. School was common. Every grad student NOT in the Ed. School considered them to be a joke. It was a repository of students who should have never been let into college in the first place, much less allowed to graduate and 'advance' to graduate work. Of course, this was back in the bad old days, all of five years ago now. I'm sure things are much better now....

Starless said...

dick said...
I am alarmed that you equate a master's degree with intelligence.

I really don't. I've talked to many people who's Master's should have been printed on toilet paper and heard many others who seem to have gotten their PhD out of a Cracker Jack box.

But when people pull out the old, "people who can, do, and people who can't, teach", I have to say that I've seen far more idiots in business than I've seen in education. Formal education isn't an end-all or be-all, but I think to say that it has no correlation with how "smart" a person is is ignoring the obvious.

Getting a master's degree in education compared to running a company that employs 5000 people successfully and you think the master's degree trumps that for intelligence?

No, I don't. Then again, I've seen successful companies run on nothing but pure bullying.

The more things I read about what is going on in schools and what the educational establishment is trying to do, the more I think parents need to really get down in the trenches with these teachers.

They absolutely do. And you'll find that most sincere teachers want those parents getting into the trenches and giving a damn about what's going on in their child's education. Involved parents make any teacher's job easier.

When I was young, 50 years ago when things were very different...

This is the thing. Everyone brings their own personal baggage with them about public education. "When I was in school, my experience was such-and-such so my opinion about how schools should be run is X." Add to that the fact that their children are in the process, and you get very emotional responses from people about the way they think things should be done.

I've said it a million times and I'll keep saying it: public educators are under incredible pressure from pretty much every interest group you can think of and they're not generally that well compensated for the work they do. When one school district or one teacher does something stupid, they all get jumped on as though that one instance represents the totality of the state of public education. But for every one or two idiots, you'll find a dozen more teachers who are working pretty hard at a very difficult job.

a neutral position. When did it become accepted to indoctrinate kids politically? It seems to me that all politics should be out of the school just as they have forced all religion out of the school.

I don't think it's seen as "acceptable", but as with anywhere, you'll see some people push boundaries. Public school teachers trend Left and sometimes that attitude leaks out. When that happens, parents have a responsibility (to their children) to step up and say something about it.

Starless said...

Icepick said...
Starless, most teachers are taking education classes to meet the ongoing education requirement. Functionally, they're learning nothing.

Education is actually a skill in itself. To say that education classes teach "nothing" is to say that educating children takes no skill.

And again, it depends on the state and sometimes the district, but the ongoing education requirement and the requirement for advancement isn't limited to education classes--they do actually have to learn more about their chosen subject.

Back when my wife and I were in graduate school (Me: Mathematics. She: Medieval Lit.) ridiculing the Ed. School was common.

That's great that you found the time to ridicule the people who would later go on to educate your children. I'm sure it was very helpful.

Again, we come back to this presumption that somehow educating children isn't a skill in itself. Anyone who can babysit can do it.

It was a repository of students who should have never been let into college in the first place, much less allowed to graduate and 'advance' to graduate work.

I could say the same for every poli-sci, international business, and government policy grad. So what's your point? Because they were not like you that makes them stupid?

dick said...

Starless,

You think the teachers weren't always under the gun? They have always been under the gun and until the ed establishment decided to put more emphasis on "feel good" and political matters, they did a pretty good job of educating the young. Now, granted they are under pressure from groups to do political things. However, at some point the teachers themselves as a profession have to say that politics is not a germane part of the education process and we should not push it. The unions that the teachers belong to also need to do the same thing. Until that happens, then I will hold onto my belief that there is something very wrong with the schools today and I do not see the profession doing f*ck all to fix it.

SippicanCottage said...

Ahem.

Words mean things. Or, they used to.

Unilateral disarmament is not peace.

Unilateral disarmament is surrender. Unilateral disarmament is appeasement. Unilateral disarmament is cowardice, perhaps, fecklessness definitely.

But it ain't peace.

Starless said...

dick said...
You think the teachers weren't always under the gun? They have

Sure they have, but now it's instantaneous and nationwide. It ups the ante quite a bit.

always been under the gun and until the ed establishment decided to put more emphasis on "feel good" and political matters, they did a pretty good job of educating the young. Now, granted they are

I agree that the '70s feel-good free-to-be-you-and-me attitude has been a hindrance and that the increased egg-headism of pedagogical theory implementation hasn't helped either. Conservatives aren't happy with this and that's fine--they should have a say in what goes on in public schools. At the same time, taking a punitive or dismissive approach isn't helpful either. Most people form their opinions from the student or parent side of the desk, not so many see "how the sausage is made".

So, by all means, if you aren't happy with the way public education is being handled, get involved, see how things are really done, who is really involved, and say something. But to make sweeping generalizations about how most teachers are incompetent or how education has gone completely down the tubes is uninformed.

under pressure from groups to do political things. However, at some point the teachers themselves as a profession have to say that politics is not a germane part of the education process and we should not push it.

Most teachers don't have time to "push" politics.

The unions that the teachers belong to also need to do the same thing. Until that happens, then I will hold onto my belief that there is something very wrong with the schools today and I do not see the profession doing f*ck all to fix it.

The point about unions is a valid one--the NEA sticks its nose too far into politics. But, not all members of NEA adhere to the political leanings of their union. Of course, the problem with breaking teachers' unions is that teachers would be left with no one to defend their (already low) salaries. It's a big problem and no one has figured out a decent solution yet.

dick said...

Starless,

Dealing with the results of what the teachers are producing is enough to make me informed as to whether the ed establishment is doing its job and since I was working with the higher end of the stick when it came to students it makes me even more aware of what is not happening.

My staff was made up of people who graduated in the top 10% of their classes from some of the best schools in Boston and in New York both. The gaps in what they were taught was astounding. While I cannot speak for the ed in Wisconsin, I can speak from the standpoint of NYC, Brooklyn, Queens, Riverdale, Long Island, Boston and its northern suburbs, Montclair, NJ, etc. The results were dismal. The students knew how to game their computers and their cell phones, etc. They had absolutely no idea of the logic behind how business works or how to follow a problem back to its root causes. They were very good at putting bandaids on the various problems but not at fixing it at the beginning so it was no longer a problem. The concept of cause and effect was missing. I know that when the grad schools get to them they finally learn this but it surely was not a part of the general education and that is fundamental to how to think.

Icepick said...

Starless in italics:

Education is actually a skill in itself. To say that education classes teach "nothing" is to say that educating children takes no skill.

No, to say that education classes teach nothing is NOT the same thing as saying that educating children takes no skill. Your inference does not follow.

[Teachers] do actually have to learn more about their chosen subject.

That would be a novel concept.

That's great that you found the time to ridicule the people who would later go on to educate your children. I'm sure it was very helpful.

I would NEVER subject my children to a public school.

Again, we come back to this presumption that somehow educating children isn't a skill in itself. Anyone who can babysit can do it.

Lots of people educate children without any degrees at all. Walking, talking, knowing where & when to crap, etc. You will of course say these are trivial tasks. But ask people in the field of robotics and AI how easy these tasks are.

As far as academic teaching, I am assuming that first one must understand the subject matter. So I want to be taught mathematics by someone who has actually studied mathematics. I do not want to be taught mathematics by someone who has taken a class on how to teach mathematics but has never cracked open a calculus book.

Because they were not like you that makes them stupid?

No. I have two points.

First, I am stating that the education major is largely worthless.

Second, I am stating that as a class college students who only get degrees in education are generally less intelligent than their college peer group.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Education is just too large topic. The teachers were wrong, and show that lack of complex thinking (and world awareness) found in so many teachers below the high school level.

As for master's degrees in education (of which my sister has one from Columbia Teacher's College), many people in the field feel that it is a waste. However, if you don't have one, your salary does not progress to peak levels. I am sure there are a certain number of teachers who would love to totally revamp the system, as they have a keen understanding of the problems.

And finally, comments like Icepick's:

I would NEVER subject my children to a public school.

are fundamentally lacking in any sort of import. I would bet that most of the great achievers in American society (in addition to members of Ivy League colleges) come from those "awful" public schools. I am a great believer in school choice, and even home schooling, but I also am inclined to avoid simplistic views about public schools or the teachers there. I wonder here how many people attended public school? (Or have all 50 of us made it "despite" going to public school). Hmmmm.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I do not want to be taught mathematics by someone who has taken a class on how to teach mathematics but has never cracked open a calculus book.

While not impossible, it almost never works quite like that.

howzerdo said...

I teach in the school of education at the university level. In many states, in order to teach, the trend is toward students having to receive undergraduate degrees in a discipline, followed by master's degrees in education. In New York, since 2004 it has not been possible for new graduates to teach in public schools without having a master's degree. In fact, where I teach (even if I am teaching nothing to morons, according to some here), we only have an undergraduate minor in educational studies. In terms of politics creeping into K-12, this is anecdotal, but I do remember a few teachers allowing their personal views to creep into the classroom, though nothing as blatant as this example. But teacher as activist is not exactly new. This is just one 20th Century example, but the educational philosophy reconstructivism was started because of frustration with progressives being silent about the Great Depression.
Gina

Starless said...

dick said...
Dealing with the results of what the teachers are producing is enough to make me informed as to whether the ed establishment is doing its job and since I was working with the higher end of the stick when it came to students it makes me even more aware of what is not happening.

And these results are entirely on the head of public education? A downward trend of parental involvement and cultural factors have absolutely nothing to do with your employees' inability to problem solve?

Icepick said...
No, to say that education classes teach nothing is NOT the same thing as saying that educating children takes no skill. Your inference does not follow.

Education class is one of the places where teachers learn the skill of teaching. So, yeah, I think it follows.

I would NEVER subject my children to a public school.

Good for you. Send them to private school.

Lots of people educate children without any degrees at all. Walking, talking, knowing where & when to crap, etc. You will of course say these are trivial tasks. But ask people in the field of robotics and AI how easy these tasks are.

I don't think they're trivial tasks, but they're also things that are hardwired into our brains. The history of the United States, for example, isn't hardwired into our brains. It needs to be taught systematically, and the same person who taught you how to walk isn't necessarily qualified to teach you the history of the United States.

I do not want to be taught mathematics by someone who has taken a class on how to teach mathematics but has never cracked open a calculus book.

I don't know what school district you're living in, but the ones I'm familiar with wouldn't have someone like that teaching math.

First, I am stating that the education major is largely worthless.

Second, I am stating that as a class college students who only get degrees in education are generally less intelligent than their college peer group.


Okay, well, I think international business and poli-sci students are idiots. Hurray.

finn kristiansen said...
I also am inclined to avoid simplistic views about public schools or the teachers there.

This is very important for understanding and dealing with the problem of public education. That any students are able to leave public education illiterate is unconscionable. But to turn around and only pound on school teachers isn't taking into account everything involved in getting that child educated.

ShadyCharacter said...

Starless,

You appear to be taking some of the comments here very personally. The smartest person I know is my older sister, who has a masters in education from BU. However, it's stories of her experience getting that degree (her other degree is a masters in one of the hard sciences) that convinces me that Dick and Icepick have the upper hand in this argument.

Academically rigorous? No. Actually she found it laughable. A veritable creampuff of a degree. And while well intentioned, her descriptions of her classmates and even professors leads me to believe, again, that Icepick and Dick have it right...

There's absolutely nothing of value conveyed in modern ed schools. If you want to teach chemistry, you need to know chemistry, not spend time studying ed "theory", which is at best about as useful in creating good teachers as watching tv or taking a nap.

Joe Baby said...

Love how the standard response to fixing a system of poorly motivated teachers, political correctness, administrative hornswaggling, and plummeting standards is that we all need to pay more.

The other teacher-centric viewpoint you frequently hear is that the public and parents need to get involved more, that we need to do something. It's pretty clear that the public has done their job -- they have paid the price tag, yet are now told they need to ante up more money and also find time to volunteer on the side.

Forgive me if I don't laugh at these fantastic ideas for reform. The same people who deconstructed truancy, touted social promotion, and polyrazzmahtazzed Special Ed and Bilingual Ed into an industry now want us to trust them. No, sorry -- public institutions serve the public, not the other way around. And no, telling me that I can now pay for every teacher to have a worthless Master's degree doesn't give me much confidence.

And by the way, is there an industry that complains as much about pay as teachers? And for those who work an 8 mo. work year, have no chance of being fired, and can exist for 30 yrs w/o a real performance review -- you want all that and high pay?

I guess if you repeat it enough you might start believing it. Don't expect the rest of us to be so gullible, however.

Starless said...

ShadyCharacter said...
You appear to be taking some of the comments here very personally.

I wouldn't say that I'm taking it that personally. I'm not in education myself, so that isn't an issue. But I have known many, many educators outside of the classroom over the past few decades and most all of them have been very intelligent people who were very dedicated to their jobs. It also may seem like I'm taking it personally because I seem to be in the minority in suggesting that maybe all of our public school teachers aren't stupid and incompetent.

There's absolutely nothing of value conveyed in modern ed schools. If you want to teach chemistry, you need to know chemistry, not spend time studying ed "theory", which is at best about as useful in creating good teachers as watching tv or taking a nap.

It's these utterly dismissive arguments based almost purely on anecdotal evidence that I find annoying and similar to a lot of Lefty arguments.

The Left has attributed their losing streak to Bush cheating or Bush having some sort of evil spell over people or "fly-over" voters being ignorant. Well, these are simplistic arguments that don't examine their own role in the process. If you ever point that out to them, they turn on you like a rabid dog.

Similarly, when it comes to public education, conservatives will argue that its those dirty Left wing teachers and their Left wing conspiracy to indoctrinate our children which is the reason Johnny can't read. To suggest that maybe public educators aren't nearly as incompetent as conservatives seem to think they are is tantamount to heresy.

To suggest that maybe continually cutting education funds and piling on curriculum requirements might have something to do with it is going to put them in a position where maybe they're going to have to look critically at their own role in the process.

A lot of people don't like to hear that kind of stuff.

XWL said...

Government does a few things well (very few) and many things badly (though some of those things they do badly, only government can do).

It's my opinion that education is one of the things government does badly, and not exclusively.

There are many terrific public schools with dedicated teachers, administrators producing many fine citizens. That doesn't mean the system isn't still broken and that a purely private system couldn't provide better service to more children at lower cost.

Oddly enough the feminist revolution in this country can take some of the blame for the poorer performance of schools now compared to schools of the past.

School teacher was one of the few acceptable professions for women. Therefore even exceptionally bright and talented women were forced to teach rather than be CEOs or lawyers or any the many other better compensated profession.

I'm in no way saying this was a good thing, it was a very bad thing, but the net effect was that it improved the talent pool of available teachers and depressed the cost of hiring them (nursing benefitted similarly in the past).

I only mention the subject cause public education has already gone through tremendous changes over the past 40 years (and not many of those changes have been beneficial). Changes come whether we like them or not, and incidents like what those five teachers were doing with their third graders points to a broken system, in my opinion.

The fix is to let parents understand the true cost of educating their children by privatizing the system. Public schools are wasteful, inefficient, and indoctrinaire. A wholly private education system will be more responsive, cheaper, and given the nature of markets more diverse (in methodology and viewpoint, that is).

(and I still say education should not only be private, but also elective and not compulsory)

reader_iam said...

Um.

Regarding the private vs. public school issue:

What, you think the teachers, in the aggregate, automatically come from different levels of schools and academic backgrounds than public educators? That somehow private-school teachers automatically come from a different statistical group, that they aren't graduates of the same type of ed program, and so forth? That you won't find the same kinds of things I've observed in public and private schools alike?

(And yes, there are exceptions, and some geographical areas have more competition with regard to private schools, but I suspect there's surprisingly less variation among private- vs. public-school teachers than people would like to think in terms of their backgrounds, from the purely initial academic talent, and subject-depth point of view.)

And, believe me, parents don't necessarily have more influence in the private setting: perhaps, counterintuitively, because the norm IS high parental involvement. Involvement doesn't necessarily constitute "squeaky wheel" in that setting, where it otherwise might--only might, I grant you--in the public-school realm. And there can be a whole lot more pressure for (misplaced) conformity.

Respectfully, think again ...

XWL said...

Generally private schools that serve similar populations as public schools (Catholic schools being the main example) in general pay less, have less credentials and went to less well regarded schools.

Yet they outperform public schools, why might this be.

Cause when parents actually have to write a check each semester they are conscious consumers of a product that they expect to get some value from. Even poor parents who have their child's instruction heavily subsidized value that subsidy and watch their child's progress more carefully due to the clarity of the financial obligations of educating their children and this awareness of demanding value for their dollar is passed on to the child, which is more important than any Masters of Education or bright, shiny new trend in methodology.

Also the entrenched bureaucracy infecting public schools is a massive drain on performance, morale and standards that will never be destroyed with the current system. Some structures are so rotten that they must be torn down so that a replacement can be built.

Private schools that are designed to provide service in poorer areas have outperformed comparable public schools worldwide, and at lower costs, read this if you like. (sorry, it's from the Hoover Institute, therefore it's all LIES!)

This is all besides the point of the original post, but I do think the entrenchment of a specific set of ideologies within public education is an outgrowth of the distorting effect of government intervention and is yet another reason for dismantling the system as it currently exists.

Yet, should I have kids I will most likely send them to public schools. An involved parent and a bright child can overcome all the obstacles that the current system presents.(and since I have to pay into this corrupted system anyway I might as well get some return)

peter hoh said...

From reading this thread, I wonder why anyone other than a dimwit do-gooder would want to become a K-12 teacher.

And for all the gnashing of teeth, there are still plenty of people who willingly spend extra to buy a house in an area with "good" public schools.

Good teachers and good schools would seem to go together. My sense is that a good school will help an average teacher get better. I think it's a lot harder for a good teacher to help an average school become better. School culture fits into this, too, but that's a tricky dynamic -- and rather hard to turn around.

Anybody want to raise teacher salaries to the point where the "best and the brightest" want to become teachers? It might help increase the number of College Republicans who enter the teaching profession, but it might not transform schools anytime soon.

On the other hand, if we figure out how to reform underperforming schools, we'll get better results with the teachers we already have.

Vouchers are an interesting idea, but understand that it's a choice program, not a money-saving program. There are parochial schools that charge very low tuitions, but they won't be able to handle a large influx of students. And high-end private schools will likely opt out of any voucher program. At least in the short term, the current public schools will be competing for the vast majority of voucher students.

But I don't think that it's just teachers' unions that stand in the way. Vouchers would create a lot of upheaval, and that's the real reason politicians won't get behind statewide voucher programs.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: The schools in question there are in Madison, Wisconsin. They are very well-funded!

peter hoh said...

Sorry Ann. I was trying to address so many of the points raised in this thread that I wasn't really addressing the issue you posted about.

This was a brain fart on the part of the teachers involved. That they did not perceive the controversial aspect of their assignment boggles my mind, and clearly says something about their (the teachers') world view. But that doesn't mean that I'm ready to flog them.