Memo to the New Secretary of Education and John Stossel: American students are NOT stupid
Two educators take on controversial topics: A memo to the new Secretary of Education on how to re-design American schools and a response to John Stossel: "American students are NOT stupid!"
Regular Feature in the Gazette
February 1, 2008
Memo to the New Secretary of Education
Posted by L. Swilley on the Teachers.Net Politics Board
Considering particularly our peculiar American disregard or distrust of any education but what might produce the means of making money - we should find it amazing that the current curricula still include History, Literature, Sociology, Art and any of the extra-curricular activities, especially sports, none of which immediately or even remotely prepare the student for any world of work beyond the field of education itself, the domain of the teacher.
When we further consider that these subjects and activities themselves are hardly remembered at all by any student beyond his need of their facts for terminal exams, we wonder how it is possible that such subjects continue to be required. The very teachers, the intellectual models for the students, have forgotten most of what they have learned in any subject other than the one each teaches, this underlining the enormous time- and money-waste on learning what will not be remembered and cannot serve to enhance the competence of the worker.
Yet we continue to require these subjects, filling our classrooms with resistant students and building more stately mansions of schools with the apparent belief that endless elaboration of the "physical plants" will fool the public and make them believe, against all common sense, that material improvements constitute educational advance.
One might note that the American public does not really care what the schools do; the public dares not disturb an institution that provides baby-sitting services - in high schools, zoo-keeping services - while they absent themselves in the felicity of their workday; the more the subjects required, the longer the school-day extended by more after-school activities, the less time the parents need deal with the children at home.
If the new Secretary of Education designate really wants to change the American educational system for the better, he will use his available funds to persuade state and local districts to do things like:
1) make any subject beyond reading, writing, speaking, simply enumerating and the knowledge of rights and duties of the citizen, should be made a high-school *elective*, the student and his parents deciding which subjects are to be taken and from which teachers;
2) abandon any new construction or refurbishing that is purchased at the expense of improvement of teachers (Ask any student: would he not rather be taught in a boxcar by the best teacher he has ever had than by a poorer one in the Taj Mahal?);
3) stop moving students by the meaningless category of *grade* or age; instead, place every student in regular or remedial classes or tutorials, according to his competence in the particular subject (this is desperately needed for the students learning to read, write, speak, and enumerate );
4) require every principal to visit every classroom regularly, evaluating the teacher there, not by judging the teacher's dress or her bulletin board, but by reacting as a student might to the teacher's knowledge and love of subject, her infectious enthusiasm for learning and other serious and important aspects of teacher-competence;
5) make it a requirement rather than a crime for every teacher to remove from his/her class any student who is continuously disruptive, thus stealing from willing students their right to learn;
6) stop the tyranny of meaningless certification of teachers, freeing principals to choose anyone, on probation, who indicates he/she will be competent to teach;
7) encourage (with supplementary funds for their budgets) those principals and their districts who "take the hit" of reduced per-capita funds when they readily expel students for the welfare of the group;
8) financially encourage teachers unions to establish and publish - as other unions establish and publish - a graded estimate of the competence of the teachers they represent. etc.
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