Thursday, July 24, 2014

Liberals Want Education to Fail?

I tried to reply at MinnPost, however I apparently ran afoul of the mediator again...  My comment went something  like the statements that follow these interesting perspectives from Paul and Matt.
Now you are in my world of expertise. Natural variability and surprises occur in all aspects of design, manufacture and test. The most successful companies and employees are those that manage it most effectively. I am amused by the idea that Apple controls Google Motorola and Samsung. If they do, they are doing a poor job.

As for indifference, it seems to me that many of the commenters here want to double down on a system that has left millions and millions of children behind.

Many Superintendents, Administrators and Teachers get buy outs to make them go away. The current system has delivered millions of adults who are not academically capable enough to get a good paying job. I think a change is worth the risk.

Nobody demands that the education system "teach to the test", but the students had better be able to answer the questions on the test if they want to go to college, a good technical college or get a high paying job." G2A

"You need to decouple your mind from the notion that the only purpose of education is to A. Provide the business community with skilled labor and B. Provide the means for individuals to accumulate wealth. Now to be clear, those are both ancillary effects of a strong education system,
but they cannot be its focus. Education is what provides us civilization itself. It is a base level necessity lest we descend into dystopian savagery. You see into quantify, to commoditze knowledge and wisdom to parcel it out in the smallest, cheapest possible form necessary to satisfy your narrow needs. In so doing you by necessity homogenize and standardize as much as you can, as is dictated by the god of efficiency so many of you technocratic conservatives worship. Unfortunately, that isn't how learning works, it requires many differing approaches across the wide spectrum of students, from a wide spectrum of educators. In practical terms this means expense, more teachers, more materials, more schools to achieve smaller classrooms, more individualized learning, more technology, more everything. To which, the answer from your side has always been, and will always be, NO! Far from indifferent, I am simply actively opposed to all the solutions you propose, as I see no good faith from your side that your end goals are anything but self serving. You want my solution? Compulsory, taxpayer funded education pre-k through a bachelor's or technical equivalent (with those equivalents requiring a certain proportion of non-technical for lack of a better term "liberal arts" based coursework, the civilization stuff J mentioned earlier) Come up with the money however you like. Make a degree or equivalent or progress toward one a feature of every prison sentence handed out. Make business pay for the retraining of every employee they lay off without cause. In short, make a good education the baseline expectation for every citizen and put forth the resources to do so. You can quibble all you like about the price, tell me how throwing money at the problem won't work, what have you. The biggest portion of the change I seek is the transition of thought from believing education is a NICs thing to have if you can afford it, to thinking orbit as a baseline necessity, like air, food, water, shelter, and treating it accordingly. From asking "why should we spend so much money on educating our kids?" to "how could we ever think to spend LESS to educate our kids?" Matt
 "I am not sure what is self serving about demanding that every child has the knowledge and capabilities to earn a middle class or better living in our modern competitive world. I am thinking reading, writing, math and basic science capabilities would be an acceptable minimum standard. The challenge is that we spend a great deal of money on education in the US and have many many students who can not even meet this minimal threshold.

How would you know the education system was successful in your version?

Or does society just give unlimited funds to the system and trust them when they say it is excellent?

Remember that we have done that for decades and the academic achivement gap still is huge." G2A

"I don't care if ones education leads to employment, middle class or otherwise. As eleoquently stated by Mr. Udstrand below, education is not a commodity to be sold for a return. My standard for success would be functioning citizens, capable of engaging in the day to day business of society, capable of playing an active role in their own governance, capable of resisting persuasion from any number of interests whose goals do not align with their own. The ends you strive for, a skilled workforce for the minimum input cost possible, addresses none of this. Malleable corporate drones might make for a useful business investment, but also a disastrous society." Matt

"A lot of conservatives really don't understand the fundamental purpose of education, and that's why it was a huge mistake to consider their agenda. First we abandoned innovation in the public schools because conservatives demanded that we get "back to basics". Then we developed amnesia regarding the aforementioned innovations and decided that entrepreneurs were the only people on the planet who could possible save our educational system.... with charter schools and vouchers. Standardized tests are the legacy of the back to basics movement, and most people now agree that No Child Left Behind program that made those tests a central feature is a dud. The result is that we've made almost no progress and in many ways rolled backwards over the last three decades. It shouldn't surprise anyone because on a very basic level a lot of powerful conservatives never really believed in public education in the first place. Historically they've been fighting it one way or another since the time of Thomas Jefferson.

What many conservatives don't get, is that education is about developing good intellects, teaching people how to think, not WHAT to think. A good education system trains people how to think, not what to believe. You pick up diplomas and degrees along the way, and you can specialize in later stages of education, but the degree is product of intellect, not merely ticket to affluence.

The problem is we've moved away from a model of an education system that produces good intellects into a market based education system that sees degrees as tickets to affluence. We have a degree "market" that sells education. The result is that we graduate more and more people who have degrees... and poor intellects. I had a friend who used to say we were becoming a nation of people who were increasingly "degreed" but not educated. You can see that in the recent polls that have found that Americans who are ignorant about a variety of issues are NOT uneducated in the sense that they've graduated high school and gotten more advanced degrees. They've gotten the degrees they need to enter the job market, but they don't have the intellect to sort out or recognize reliable information and evidence.

And of course the chamber of commerce always supports the wrong approach to education :)" Paul

"So your answer is send the education system more money and trust that they will take care of things.

And send more checks to the adults who are unable to get jobs, because the education system failed them.

Interesting concept... Now I understand why the war on poverty is failing." G2A
Based on Matt and Paul's comments, I am beginning to believe that Liberals truly aren't interested in helping all children escape poverty by ensuring that they learn skills and knowledge that will help them attain a middle class or better life. Maybe the Conservatives are correct that Liberals truly want to keep them poor and voting Democrat.

I certainly hope not.  Thoughts?

Ps. As you know, I enjoy philosophy, psychology, critical thinking, creative thinking, team work, communication and many other areas as much as most other people.  However these need to be in addition to a basic knowledge of math, english and science, not instead of them...


Laurie said...

How do you select which person's viewpoints are representative of all liberal's? I consider my self very liberal, yet I disagree with liberals frequently.

I might summarize the comments you feature with this header: 2 guys have lofty views re the purpose of public education.

While I don't disagree with their big picture view, I am in more agreement with you about ensuring all students reach an acceptable level of reading, writing, and math proficiency.

At my K-8 school full of highly at risk kids that is almost our exclusive focus.

And with more money we could do it better.

John said...

I agree with you completely. I am very aware that Paul and Matt are fairly special. That is why I added the question mark.

I was wondering what my other Liberal readers think of the statements.

Sean said...

I didn't have time to respond yesterday, so here are my thoughts:

Certainly, Apple doesn't control its competitive environment, but it does control its processes. It controls which components go into its products. If it gets a bad batch of processors, it rejects them and sends them back. They have complete control over what comes out at the end of their assembly line, and what they choose to deliver to the market.

Public schools don't have that same capability. Yes, they need to build competencies in dealing with students with varying abilities and home circumstances, but in the end, they don't control everything that goes into the end result of their process.

By saying "Liberals Want Education to Fail?" you are trolling. I think you're better than that.

John said...

Based on what Paul and Matt wrote, I seriously think they want the education system to fail and the poor to stay poor.

If one can not define what success is and measure it, it is pretty much impossible for a large team to deliver results and improve their performance. (ie herding cats)

Imagine if Apple said creating new stuff is what we do... It may be fun seeking enlightenment, but soon they would be bankrupt.

I knew a guy that loved experimenting and trying new things. The problem was that he rarely turned things into viable products.

John said...

Your example about Apple and the processors works for me. It explains that they know the quality of their inputs, and have processes and resources available to manage the variation and resolve the issues.

So what if schools actually knew where a child was at soon after they walked in the door. And they had processes in place to focus on and resolve the issues. (ie scrapping not an option)

Possibly longer school days, tutors, year round school, reduced "other" content, etc for these children that are not at the level they should be?

Of course this requires treating them differently and prioritizing what is critical for them to catch up on. Definitely different from the "everything is important" view of Paul and Matt.

However if these poor kids can not communicate well and do basic math, it really won't matter if they know history, art, or the other soft topics. They will likely end up in dead end jobs that keep them trapped in generational poverty.

Which brings us back to the question of this post.

Sean said...

"Possibly longer school days, tutors, year round school, reduced "other" content, etc for these children that are not at the level they should be?"

Those are all fine ideas, but they aren't free.

John said...

Back to priorities...

I have seen that whenever districts get extra money, it often gets side tracked to the areas of interest of the most vocal parents and teachers. That means it goes to sports, arts, enrichment, advanced classes, magnets/extra transportation, etc.

Now I understand theat districts need some of these things to keep the more discerning and student focused parents in their district. (ie keep their money) However at some point when 50% of your kids can not read, write or do math, it seems to me that the prioritization of these trumps the other areas of expenditure.

Sean said...

Can you provide some evidence of that? Minneapolis and St. Paul schools, for instance, have rather meager athletic programs left these days.

Sean said...

And, of course, legislatively you can force districts to spend state money on certain things. That's why we have 13 different categories of state K-12 education funding already.

John said...

Sorry I don't know much about Mpls. Questions I would ask:

How many magnets are they running?
Do they pay for full district transport to these?
How full are their schools? Are they paying extra to keep more schools open than needed?

Sean said...

Maybe you should answer those questions before you make the assertion.

John said...

Maybe, however you have to admit it makes sense in our world of the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The Supt and Board need to retain or attract as many students as they can. I mean this is how they get funding... No Students = No Revenue...

Now there are students that are stuck in that neighborhood/ district. Their families can not or choose to not afford better/ different. So the students will be there no matter what.

Then there are those students who are free to select their school based on what it offers, what the demographics are, etc.

Therefore to maximize revenue for the benefit of all, it makes sense that the school spend more of their limited funds on things that attract the "non-trapped"... I mean the trapped aren't going anywhere...

Then you add the fact that the most experienced Teachers choose to work with the non-trapped and the union rules allow them to. No wonder the achievement gap persists.

John said...

Maybe that is why schools like Laurie's are so popular?

Most all of the kids and families are in the same boat. And the funds get focused more towards advancing the development of the kids. (fewer politics, less overhead, etc)

Laurie said...

It seems that the schools with the most at risk students in a large district do not get the most $. I would be in favor of a law that says the funds designated to serve at risk students (title 1, ELL, etc) actually make it to the schools where these students attend, so more staff or more experienced staff can be hired. I think this is a problem even in my small charter district, that some of the funds brought in by students at my school get used to support another program with lower enrollment.

At MPS, data on teachers raise resource-equity questions

John said...

I understand that you welcome working with challenged kids. (ie Thank God for special needs Teachers)

Unfortunately most people run from those intense challenges. I I don't think the experienced Teachers work at the easier schools because those schools have the money... I think they work there because the union negotiated work rules allow them to pick those easier jobs.

When Pilgrim Lane Elementary closed in Plymouth, they had a very experienced Principal. Yet for some reason he was allowed to bump a younger Principal at Zachary Lane Elementary. That younger Principal was then forced to go to one of our most challenging district schools, Northport Elementary.

Now who did the Northport kids need, the experienced guy or the new guy.

Laurie said...

I think you are missing my point that in mpls the money follows the teachers rather than the students. The least at risk schools have the biggest budget to pay for their their experienced staff. The most at risk schools have the smallest budget due to their inexperienced staff. I think the money should follow the students and staffing patterns would change significantly.

jerrye92002 said...

John said, "So what if schools actually knew where a child was at soon after they walked in the door. And they had processes in place to focus on and resolve the issues. (ie scrapping not an option)"

Now you know why some Mississippi schools were so much better than Minnesota; they DID exactly that. Incoming 1st graders (no public K) were tested, then divided into 4 groups-A,B,C,D-- depending on what they knew. The A group got the new teacher, who divided them further into 4 sub-groups groups (28 kids in 1st grade), and the top group there were self-starters and readers, so this new teacher could spend more time with the A2-A4 groups. The D group got the most experienced and "best" teacher. By the time 3rd grade came around, these kids were assigned more or less randomly, the D kids having been "brought up to speed" in just two years. Where is the equivalent in the MN schools? Nowhere. And I ought to point out that I can PROVE that, among MN school districts, the higher the per-pupil spending, the worse the academic performance gets. There are, literally, districts which do twice as well at half the cost, so money isn't the answer.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, thank you for your service, and I think I agree with you all the way around. Let me state it my way to check. I think the (equalized state) money should follow the student to any school their parents choose, and that teachers should be paid based on merit, part of which is based on the "percentage" their students improve, i.e. how much more they know at year end compared to where they started. I think schools and teachers should be given a lot more freedom to innovate within their budget as to means of educating, but still have to pass some sort of standardized tests so parents can be assured of real learning, and compare schools and results to make their choice. OK?