Well, my tenure with public education is through, and I would be a sorry libertarian if I didn't reflect upon the state of affairs I've seen while teaching seventh grade mathematics. As a disclaimer, credit is not without due. There are heroes in our schools who deserve the tip of our hat. They are talented individuals who enjoy their job and bring countless smiles to the little faces that walk into their classroom.
Of course, the dilemma is that any public school teacher reading those lines will smile with an air of self-importance. Educators seem to naturally scarf up any broad complements and outsource all criticisms. Indeed, modesty is not a common trait within the classroom. The majority of public school educators, within their mind, are Mr. Holland in due of their Opus. They are benefactors, philanthropists, Gandhi's of society. If for some reason you find yourself not going anywhere for awhile, just inquire these individuals' opinions on education or child philosophy, unwrap your Snickers, and listen to the sounds of normatives spilling from their omniscient minds. The world is their classroom! Never have you witnessed such an extensive array of platitudes and head bobbing till you have taken seat at a public school faculty meeting.
They are a sorry lot of saps for sure, yet, my arrogance aside, let me serve some of my opinions of the mishaps within our school system.
Exposure, not Mastery
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Somewhere in route, the field of education substituted quantity of classes for quality of classes. Education has become a walkthrough, a cursory glance at the subjects. Our leaders are obsessed with exposure, not mastery. Students finish three or more years of high school math with little to no retention. These individuals must then spend the first few years of college paying for remedial math classes. Certainly I'm not knocking the need for Algebra or Geometry; they are vital subjects of study and many of the students who struggle in college are the ones who possess the weakest quantitative skills. Yet the solution is more mastery not more exposure.
It is my opinion that merely an eighth-grade education of mathematics, in which the student surveys and masters the basics of statistics, algebra, geometry and arithmetic, would easily prepare a student for college liberal arts mathematics; much more so then three years of additional high school math given the average percentage of retention. In time, with this trend in rushing of exposure, our middle school students will be dabbling in integrals and derivatives as they hear, not learn calculus. It is quite an unfunny joke.
The Pretense of Knowledge
Yes, Hayek's pretense of knowledge cannot be any more apparent then within our nearly 100,000 publicly controlled schools throughout our nation. Each school, with its vast arrays of diversity in geography, funding, community, parent presence, academic ability, salary, etc., is governed from the same men, wearing the same black suits, with the same American flag pin. Each, from the comforts of their Mont Blanc pen delegates what they believe to be priorities. And the schools, competing for that federal funding, practice the art form of bureaucratic submission.
After years of failed attempts these talking heads now believe they have found the recipe for educational success.
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- coupled with perks for those who show progress
- add a pinch of math targeting.
- Finally set some arbitrary pass rates
- And… cook until burned!
What's in an Age?
Age seems too arbitrary of a characteristic to be the focal point of learning. Again, what's with the ambiguity? If we’re simply going to choose an arbitrary characteristic for clustering students, why not choose hair color, IQ or height? At least if you clustered students based on height you would probably have less bullying within the classroom.
Why not cluster based on ability?
Sure it may be weird to have a 13-year-old learning 4th grade math, but only because the 13-year-old believes he should be with other 13-year-olds. You may have a 4th grade math room with a mixture of 6–13-year-olds, whereas a 13-year-old may feel behind, but this same individual may be in an 11th grade English room and feel they are advanced. It would certainly require much restructure and the elimination of many of the educational taboos — and certainly not without the "yeah, but what about…" questions, but at least it would be a better system of deciphering learning.
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Lower (if not eliminate) all College Requirements for Teaching Primary Education
You don't need them to be a good teacher.
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Currently, the average teacher maintains five years of education coupled with a semester of student-teacher training. In addition, teachers must continue their training efforts (be it through college classes, workshops, lectures or book readings) in order to maintain their teacher licensure. Imagine a replacement teacher with less required educational barriers of entry to compare to our existing teacher.
To form a successful teaching lesson, one that is characterized by student learning and information retention takes a compilation of experience, training and preparation time — of which experience is most significant. Of the following mentioned, our replacement teacher falls short in one category: training.
It may be contested that a degree in education also contributes toward experience. Yet, for those who have had the luxury of watching a newly inexperienced educator fresh out of his or her program for the first time in the classroom can attest, education degrees offer little in terms of experience.
In reality teachers are overqualified given the nature of their work. It is within all likelihood that individuals of lesser education may choose to work year-round for the same pay or work the same hours for less salary. Furthermore, given that the supply of potential teachers would increase as barriers of entry decrease, it is also within all likelihood that increased competition would translate into increased learning.
In conclusion, my tenure in the arena of public schools has convinced me that my child can only receive an education from the walls of my own home. Even a part-time home school education would set your child miles apart from his peers.
July 2, 2010