Home > Education > Open thread 2 on poverty: Education

Open thread 2 on poverty: Education

July 27, 2006

The amount of wealth in the world is not fixed.  The ‘distribution’ of wealth should not be treated as a zero-sum game, ‘knocking back what the rich get and bumping up what the poor get’.  Instead, the whole society needs to be empowered to generate wealth.

The way for this to happen, as BookJunky says, is education.  But rather than (as Webs05 suggests) pouring more money into the same broken system by putting everyone through junior college, I propose certain reforms in the system we have…

The first school reform is to bring back failure.  Without failure, there cannot be much progress.

Teachers cannot fail because even the incompetent or dangerous ones are protected by their unions.  This is a recipe for mediocrity.

Students cannot fail because it might make them feel bad.  But we need to hand out f’s for nonperformance and yes, use RED ink on the papers.  It does a student no kindness to prepare them for a “real world” which does not really exist.  Of course, when students do well, they need to be rewarded with recognition.  But only when they do well.

It is also very difficult for students to be expelled.  We liberals are constantly trying to be fair but seem unconcerned about how unfair this is to kids who are really trying to get an education.

Mainstreaming handicapped children with the rest, also seems like a bad idea to me but I am still chewing on that concept.

School districts cannot fail because they have a govenment-assured monopoly.  Only the wealthiest parents have any choice but to send their children to the government-sponsored mediocrity factories.  If parents could apply their kids’ public-education dollars somewhere else…

On purpose, I have said nothing about John Dewey vs. B.F. Skinner, or ‘new math’ vs ‘old math, etc.  If parents had choices, many methods could compete and the results would begin to show.  As an aside I would like to say that overemphasis on tests is poisonous to understanding.  It is a paean to ‘efficiency’ reminiscent of the Taylorism that engulfed the education business ‘round the beginning of the 20th century.  Yes I want kids to learn facts but more importantly I want them to feel the need to learn way down in their guts. 

The second school reform is to devalue school sports.  I have no objection to kids playing kickball on the playground or tag football in PE class, but schools’ entire identity is tied up in their sports mascots.  Newsflash, jocks; no one gives a crap how well you threw a ball when you were in school

The third school reform is to put the emphasis back on real subjects.  Reading, writing, arithmetic, science, geography, history.  And when I say “writing”, I mean creating coherent sentences and paragraphs.  I don’t give a damn if a kid ever learns cursive or not. 

I might add a course called; “Drawing as a communication skill” which would teach kids how to make clear line drawings of real objects including people. Cartooning, if you will.  Sometimes a clear drawing can convey an idea far more efficiently than pages of text.

(Trust me, you will not need to “encourage creativity” if you equip children with with an ability like that.  If kids are not creative it is because we have deprived them of the tools to be creative with.  How creative can you be if your reading comprehension is poor, you can’t write a clear sentence, you don’t know anything, and you can’t draw?)

The fourth school reform is to kick out all the sensitivity activists who worry about whether kids might be offended by reading about historical events or literature, or if a child who grew up in the plains would have his self-esteem hurt by reading a story about a child who lives in the mountains.  You might think these examples are made-up, but sadly, they’re not.  We do children no favors by teaching them that they are victims of something or other if they hear a word that troubles them.

With these reforms it is very possible that, as GUYK recalls from his childhood, a high-school education would actually be worth something.  Give everyone more quality, not more years in a mediocre system.

Notes: See also

  1. Capitalism vs Socialism

  2. Education
  3. Health care
  4. Social programs
Categories: Education
  1. July 27, 2006 at 21:22 | #1

    I think you got my idea on education all wrong.  My idea FOR THE POOR or at least one of them, is to educate them.  A good idea would be to pay for them to get an associates degree.  As for my idea for EDUCATION (This one is for higher education because DOF’s ideas on lower education are outstanding): Make all of the land grant schools free for students, paid for by the gov.  And make their admittance standards really strict.  Then the other schools that are easier to get in would fall under the same paying standards we have now.  This creates an incentive for students to do good in school, and would help out the poorer students that want an opportunity.  That is my idea for fixing education.

  2. July 28, 2006 at 20:17 | #2

    I concur. But I would add that a couple of tings. First return the control of public schools back to the communities the way it used to be. That means geting the Federal government out of the public school K12 business. There are just too many unfunded Federal mandates that create problems. Any time a middle school of 600 students needs a principal and two a or three vice-principals to handle the administrative work something is badly wrong. And, instead of a office manager and a couple of clerks now the school office is staffed like a business..seven or even eight clerks just to handle the paperwork.

    The next thing is to bust the teachers unions. Too many tenured teachers are getting a free ride.

    I taught adult education for a number of years while I was on active duty as well as supervised instructors. I came to realize that there are a whole more ‘bad’ teachers than there are bad students.

    Classroom discipline is not politically correct anymore. The left wing has convinced us that little Johnnie’s self esteem is a lot more important than him learning to read and making him stand in the corner will lower that self esteem. Yeah, right.

    I am not in favor of a free ride to college. The facts are that currently anyone who wants a college education can get one. Government grants and government backed loans as well as help in obtaining part time work or even getting the part time work at the college gets a hell of a lot of students through school. And you can bet they are better students than the ones who have the free ride from daddy. If government gives the free ride you will see a lot more parties and a lot less study. It is kind of like that free lunch..it will not really be appreciated.

    Another thing about free higher education is that college is just not for everyone. And as I stated on the other thread, if everyone had a PHD there would be PHDs digging ditches. The fact is that everyone was not born equal. Yes, I agree that everyone should have equal opportunity but what they do with that opportunity is up to them. Those who are not capable of doing college work will go to collage if it is free. Why not? four or five years that they can slide at government expense?

    One thing I would like to see is more emphasis on technical training. Trained technicians of all kinds equal are exceed the earnings of the majority of BA and BS trained labor. If you don’t think so hire an electrician for 40 hours.

  3. July 29, 2006 at 12:11 | #3

    If government gives the free ride you will see a lot more parties and a lot less study. It is kind of like that free lunch..it will not really be appreciated.

    Not in my solution.  If this is the case, they will quickly flunk out of the free college (which not only will have high standards, but stricter rules and will force students to have a strong work ethic), and have to go to the paid college.  This will fix the free lunch, which I think is currently a huge problem right now.

    You got to remember, I am not talking bout graduate work here.  There is a huge difference between graduate and undergraduate school.  In my scenario I am only referrin to undergradute work.  Those schools that have reimbursed tuition, will only use that money on the undergrads, not the graduate students.  So no, you will not have people digging ditches with PHD’s, and regardless, the most important thing about people going to college, at least in my eyes, isn’t so that they get a degree, but that they GET AN EDUCATION.  An educated society will always be better off than a wealthy one.

  4. July 29, 2006 at 13:35 | #4

    GUYK – I agree with you on less federal influence in schooling, especially unfunded mandates.  But I am worried by the example of Kansas and Florida, which seem intent on weakening science education for carefully hidden religious reasons.  I’m open to suggestions from anyone about that head-scratcher.

    Webs – what reforms do you propose for K-12?  The quality of our K-12 education is beneath mediocre.  Not much of a foundation to build on.  Fix the foundation! 

    We already have free or reduced-cost education for top performers.

  5. July 29, 2006 at 15:38 | #5

    Like I said, I thought your K-12 examples were pretty strong.  The only thing I could add, is maybe having an even stronger focus on the arts, more so than you alluded to.  But other than that, I thought you did a good job.

  6. July 31, 2006 at 12:51 | #6

    Education is a big bucks buisness. School systems are constantly being fed the latest and greatest methods of teaching this or that or whatever. How many different ways to teach math or reading have been pushed on the education system by the people selling books or systems? There a scores of different text books teaching math for third graders each with its own technique. Each company trying to sell an easier, faster method of teaching something we all know is rote memorization. The new math, alternate math, and any other kind of math was created to support a text book or a research grant. Did it change the basics of math, no, a mulitiplication table is still rote memorization and will always be that way. I can’t count the number of times my ex wife was given a new and better improved method of teaching reading. Each of these so called new systems was directed by the school board and each had a life cycle of about 3 years then the new hot system was created. This required the county to buy all new books, class’s for the teachers, explaing the new method to parents and for what gain? No gain.  So why all the changes? The almight chase for the dollar, the children be damned, we have a new, better, faster, whiz bang method of teaching 1+1 = 2 and it will only cost a few million for new books and training. The majority of the people in this country over 50 were taught in the same way their parents were taught using the same methods. It as boring, it wasn’t exciting, and it worked.  I am not saying no change but change has to be tempered with common sense and we seem to have lost that in the shuffle.  If you really want to fix the big problem, one set of text books for all grades for the whole country. You have just leveled the playing field. One standard for education,you have just fixed your teacher problem.  Some book companies will go out of buisness, so what. Some fancy theories with no support will go away, who cares. Is this too simple? Unless something has changed, math is the same in California as it is in Japan or South Carolina. The english language is the same in Indiana and Texas. Now take this and move it on up to higher education.

  7. August 1, 2006 at 07:27 | #7

    Webs, you say we need to give people a chance to get an education.  We already have a chance to give them an education, and we’re not taking it.  We grab 12 prime developmental years of every citizen’s life, and somehow manage not to give them an education.  More is better?

    None of the skills you describe are beyond the pervue of a reformed high school.  But our public schools have completely muffed the opportunity.

    You overestimate the desire of poor people for education.  But it would help if they’d ever seen a really good textbook, which is unlikely if they went to public schools.  Show them something – anything – that isn’t crappy, and they might have a reason to look higher.

    JOG, you are right about the big business aspect.  Textbooks alone are $4.3bn/yr and the system by which they are created guarantees they will turn out junk.  Your suggestion of a standard textbook set is pretty close to what the George Lucas educational foundation recommends.  (Very informative article link: “The Muddle Machine” on this topic)

    One of my kids functioned very well with rote memorization and the other two worked better with analytical methods.  But the school system monopoly forced me to send all three of them to the same schools. End the monopoly!

    I am not opposed to introducing innovative instruction methods, but into an open education market with school choice, please.  That way, if a new method turns out well, it can succeed and be imitated.  If it is crap (as most new theories are) it can fail without being foisted on an entire nation at once by an entrenched bureaucracy that can’t admit mistakes.

  8. August 1, 2006 at 11:18 | #8

    Webs, you say we need to give people a chance to get an education.  We already have a chance to give them an education, and we’re not taking it.  We grab 12 prime developmental years of every citizen’s life, and somehow manage not to give them an education.  More is better?

    None of the skills you describe are beyond the pervue of a reformed high school.  But our public schools have completely muffed the opportunity.

    I think we are talking around each other.  HERE IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO SAY ON THIS ISSUE:
    Take the under-educated lower classes and anyone in the higher classes that do not have a job and only have at most a high school education.  Then have them go to the local community colleges, or junior colleges and give them a chance to be educated. 

    If we only do what your suggesting (which I like), then only those now going into K-12 will have a good education and be prepared for the real world.  And those that are poor and have nothing will have no opportunity and will continue to be poor.  This kind of a system only makes the class sub-divide even greater.

    In my proposal, those that waste the governments money by not showing up to classes and getting piss-poor grades will not get the reimbursement.  For the next semester.  What I am proposing are changes on top of your plan.  And also to reform the higher education sector with making completely free schools really competitive, and paid schools that work the same as they do now.  When dealing with education, you cannot look at one small area and say, “Bam, we fix that and the problem is solved.”  The whole entire system needs changes.

    I absolutely do not over-estimate the desire of the poor to get educated.  I am simply stating to give them a chance.  If they do not want to take the opportunity, then the government won’t have to spend any extra money on them, and no money is wasted.  Out of the ones that want to take the chance, those that succeed and graduate now have an associates degree and an opportunity to succeed.  Those that don’t will not waste any more of the government’s money than need be.

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