Letters to the Editor...
Is Public Education Providing Product, Service, or Religion?
I have been trying to understand more about
the current state of education by reading
posts on this chatboard. I have attended
both private and public schools as well as
have my children (now grown). My wife has
been a teacher during the twenty years that
I was in business. This year is the first
time that we have taught together.
During my time in the Air Force and in
business, I was able to visit over twenty
different countries and all states except
Alaska. My wife and I like to travel, see,
and experience new things.
In my visits to this board, I have been
trying to learn as much as I can about
different views about things. Here are a
few comments that I wold like to make.
I find it dismaying, but understandable,
that business and education are so ignorant
of each other. What is worse is how many
teachers I have found with a real bias
against business. This animus can run quite
deep. I have six years of public school
teaching in math, computers, and science at
the secondary level. I have taught low and
high ability students and have been a
supervising teacher for student teachers. I
also spent many years in business, large and
small, from employee to upper management. I
have tried to share here what I personally
have found to work in my experiences.
Few, if any, would disagree that schools
(physical plant, etc., not the education
part) should be run like a business or at
least business-like. Yet, businesses are
profit- oriented. They provide either a
product, a service, or both. If education
was a business, it would have to provide a
product, a service, or both. If it is not a
business then it doesn't need to do so,
does it? If it does provide something, what
Are you able to tell a good teacher for a
bad one? If not, how can the public be
expected to ever discern? If you can, what
criteria are you using? Even if it is
subjective, if it is consistent and
duplicatible, then it can be a basis for
measuring education. If it is not, then
maybe we should think of education as some
kind of religion, beyond the ken of
mortals, the exclusive domain of educators.
Accountability and its specter, high stakes
testing, are often demonized here. There is
a saying about the military, it's always
preparing to fight the last war. Are we not
doing the same. Enough people are interested
in education "reform" to attract
involvement by politicians. People and
their needs change. The BCL experts can
point to MRI research that shows today's
children have their brains "wired"
differently that the non-MTV generation.
Are we advocating yesterday's learning for
My district now has over twenty thousand
students. Many years ago, when I was a
teacher here, I bought computers for use in
my math classes. They were the first
computers ever to be used teaching in the
schools. I used them in individualizing
instruction. My efforts to accelerate the
district to get computers for the schools
resulted in me being yanked in the middle
of teaching a class by my principal and
being driven to to a personal meeting with
the superintendent. They were not happy with
what I was doing, and tried to intimidate
me into stopping.
What they did not know was that I was
prepared for such a response. I had zero
reputation as an activist and was not
intimidated by them. (I was on my leg of my
plan to teach five years then use the GI
Bill to go back to school and become a
principal.) The other part of my efforts
(the marketing part) was halted just short
of its completion. (I was and am a lawful
employee who will obey as much as possible
lawful order.) Nevertheless, I got over one
hundred and fifty students signed up for
the computer classes and it was too late to
stop the results. Computers were ordered.
When they found out that I was planning to
leave, they threatened to withdraw funding,
so I agreed to stay and the computers were
delivered at the last moment. I returned
this year and chose a classroom room next to
the math department's computer lab. I sat
down to the desk in my classroom and had a
school computer with broadband access to
the Internet. So why have I only once per
trimester used the lab? The war has
The level of teaching that I have observed
so far at my school is more professional
and effective in general than when I was
last here. I have been both student and
teacher at this school. Don't get me wrong,
in no way is this to imply that there is
not room for improvement.
It is ironic, I have spent most of my
business career heavily involved in
computers and technology, I played a part
in the beginning of computer use here, have
a classroom next door to a computer lab,
and don't use it except to get my "uses
computers" done. There is no way that I
would have envisioned what I am trying to do
now those many years ago.
As teachers, we need to have as broad a
vision as possible. Not only to enhance our
own lives, but to shape the future of our
students by our examples and experiences.
When I came back to this school this year, I
visited each math teacher, introduced
myself, and asked two questions. What can
you tell me about the students and what
would you like to be told if this was your
first year here. I got some good intel, but
I picked up the definite feeling that my
visits were not SOP and that they did not
see much reason in them. It saddened me that
teachers had such an insular view of their
As the year passed, I have kept meeting more
teachers and that includes studying on this
board. There are some extraordinary
teachers in terms of attitudes,
capabilities, and experiences. I have
learned a lot. I have always enabled return
e-mail on my posts and have used my real
name. This is an open forum and its allowing
anonymous posting encourages sensitive
subjects. However, humans being humans, it
also enables flaming with impunity. To all
who have remained above demeaning,
hysterical, or paranoiac responses - my
admiration and congratulations.
This month's letters:
Is Public Education Providing Product, Service, or Religion?, 1/27/01, by Roger Fuller.
Computer problems, 1/27/01, by Olga Campuzano.
Happyteachers.com for Technical and Vocational Education , 1/27/01, by Jory Pai.
new poster ideas for direct instruction language area, 1/25/01, by raven smith.
Accidentally Pushed NJ Teacher Denied Disability Pension , 1/10/01, by M.DeVour.
Thanks so much for the article on NBPTS!!, 1/09/01, by Kim/NC.
remedial reading help?, 1/09/01, by deborah.