This is not a “how to reform schools” rant. That is another web page of mine. This is more like WHY IS IT SO EFFING HARD TO EVEN TALK ABOUT REFORM IN THIS FUCKING COUNTRY.
All discussions of reform seem to get hung up on 2 issues, both defined by the American right: unions and religion in schools.
These polarizing issues are enough to stall any meaningful discussion, so the other 98 aspects of this very difficult problem never get talked about!
My parents are teachers. And not just any teachers: my Dad taught at a institutional foster-home for kids who had basically been thrown out by their parents. I really respect him for that, since it would have been much easier for him to teach public school kids without so many issues.
And yet at the same time some of the people I most want to get revenge on are also teachers. Still. Right-wingers complain that teachers get paid too much, and yet support wars and private insurance companies. But just because right-wingers are insane doesn’t mean they are wrong. Wait, yes it does. Because the problem isn’t that certain teachers need a pay-cut, the problem is certain teachers need to be fired. Because they are assholes.
(ALSO: why all the repubs concentrating on TEACHERS’ salaries? We should concentrate on firing all the extra administrators. Who knows what the fuck those people even do all day! That’s the way to save money: either fire the pencil-pushers or reform the education bureaucracy so that there is not a NEED for 1,000 forms to be filled out in the first place)
But unions can’t say “OK we’ll allow you to sack the burn-outs, the bullies, and the incompetents, in exchange for more wages for good teachers.” They can’t say this because there is no way to measure who is a good teacher.
That’s the central problem. And this sets teachers totally apart from other government bureaucrats, who are supposed to be interchangeable parts. As long as the dude from DMV knows the manual and all the rules, he is a good employee. But teaching is not like that! There is no manual for motivating students to have self-worth and aspire to go far in life!
How to separate good teachers from bad?
You can’t use standardized tests because, as the last 10 years of No Child Left Behind has shown, a) teachers will just help the kids cheat, b) they will force problem kids to drop out or put them in jail , because they drag down the average class test score, c) the teachers just “teach to the test” instead of teaching the non-quantafiable life lessons which , let’s face it, are what all of us remember about our favorite teachers.
How about popularity with students? All really good teachers are popular, but some of the most burn-out teachers are also popular, because they let you fuck around in class and give everyone a B.
Should we let the administrators and principals decide? Hell no! since the life-changing teachers almost universally stir up shit and are hated by the school administrators, who will use any bureaucratic tool to get rid of them?
How about we let the parents decide. Are you nuts? The bible-thumpers would flip out and within a week there would be no science or literature teachers left in the country.
At the unspoken center of the debate: what makes a teacher really life-changing and inspiring for students is NOT RANKABLE OR QUANTAFIABLE.
The race to space! (aka the race to have LRBMs). Back in the ‘50s, when Russia launched sputnik (demonstrating it had the technology to lob a fucking nuke missile at us from across the ocean), science and smarts became an immediate matter of national survival. It’s difficult to imagine, but it used to be the most right-wing, General Jack D. Ripper type Crusty anti-commies that were pushing the HARDEST for more education. Smart kids were seen as vital for national defense. WWII vets got the GI bill to repay them for being good warriors. If a modern right-winger went back in time to the ‘50s and started talking about reducing teacher salaries and sending all the kids off to private religious schools to learn about Jesus, they would be laughed out of the fucking Republican party, if not called a Commie agent!
WHY DOESN'T OUR TAX MONEY BUY RESULTS??
Liberals like to point out that “we spend more on each prisoner than each student.” But the fact is: USA still spends more on education per-pupil than most industrialized countries. The problem is, we aren’t getting good results for the dough. So why the fuck is that????
Throwing more money at a problem without finding out who is wasting the existing money is just gonna guarantee that the culprits will simply have more money to steal!
you can’t teach poor kids who are mostly worried about having to quit school to get money, or if their parents are sick and the insurance isn’t covering it, and they have to take care of their parents. Or if they ‘re mostly worried about doing all the household grown-up stuff their parents don’t have time to do because the parents are working 2 jobs each. You can’t teach kids who are mostly worried about gang violence, or their family being in jail. Or if the parents are on drugs and they have to deal with that. They have other shit on their minds. But because of our separation of bureaucracies, the school system doesn’t have the power to fix poverty. And the social welfare bureaucrat says, “It’s not our problem if poor kids can’t learn, it’s the schools’ problem.”
In other words: When you try to fix schools, you quickly run into half-a-dozen systemic problems that you have no power to fix: poverty, the penal system, the drug-treatment system, the health-care system, religion, labor law, and so on. And then when the kids don’t learn because the welfare system, penal, health-care, labor, and drug-treatment systems don’t work and the kids can’t concentrate on schoolwork, who gets blamed? The school systems! Better cut their budget, since they are crappy teachers!!!!
And when I say poor neighborhoods, I don’t mean Compton or Detroit. for every Compton or Detroit there are like a dozen white towns in the middle of nowhere, where there is nothing to do and all the jobs left because factories move to china, and so the parents re unemployed hillbillies strung out on meth.
But on the other hand, a lot of kids are assholes, too. They need to go to that special school where they will be the bullied, not the bullies. Talking about juvie. Later for all that “he is just misunderstood” crap. Remember that rolling stone article about the Michelle Bachmann school where the gay kids kept suiciding one after the other? It didn’t even mention penalties for the bullies. Not even to argue against the idea. Just not even on the fucking table. Can you believe that shit?
SCHOOL REFORM WITHOUT CURRICULUM REFORM?!?
Also: even when someone tries to reform schools, like michelle rhee, there is a lot of controversy. She’s great! She’s a fraud! The righties scream “But more kids are graduating, barely!” and the lefties scream, “But she’s firing teachers!”
But even given all the media time debating it and all the public, grass-roots protests, NOT ONE MENTION ON EITHER SIDE of the actual CURRICULUM!! No one on either side cares what THE KIDS ARE ACTUALLY SPENDING ALL DAY LEARNING UNDER MS. RHEE.
And yet that subject is not even up for discussion in the media. It’s like reporters and pundits were never kids themselves, who never had to sit for 5 hours a week memorizing the exports of Chad or the life cycle of the common fern. Fucking adults, man.
“YAYYY!! OUR KIDS ARE GRADUATING AT A SLIGHTLY HIGHER RATE!!! THEY ARE JUST BARELY SMART ENOUGH TO PASS THE GRADUATION TEST WITHOUT BEING SHOT DEAD IN CLASS!! USA #1!”
What the fuck. Is that where we are at, as a country?
That is just sad. It doesn’t matter if you are a indie, repub or dem,. . .that should be saddening.
Is our shit that small-time now? Cmon. Let’s talk about curriculum. Parents should ask themselves (regardless of politics) ARE MY KIDS LEARNING THE SAME RANDOM OUT OF CONTEXT FACTOIDS THAT I PROMPTLY FORGOT AS SOON AS I GRADUATED, OR ARE THEY LEARNING THE SHIT ABOUT LIFE THAT I JUST LEARNED AT 30 AND WISHED I HAD LEARNED SOONER?
Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?????
Fucking weird as hell . .. unless you remember exactly how much work it is being a parent!
Every parent, whether repub, dem, or indie, knows damn well that 90% of the shit they were forced to learn had no practical application and they forgot it as soon as they graduated. You’d think that being loving parents , preventing their own kids from undergoing these 10,000s of wasted hours would be a huge priority! And yet by the time people get older and busy and spend 5 years changing diapers, they are so worn down! By the time their kids are old enough to go to school, the parents say JUST TAKE THEM OFF MY HANDS FOR 8 HOURS A DAY, I COULD GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU TEACH THEM. JUST LET ME HAVE SOME QUIET TIME.
And that’s sad.
TO SUM UP
Repubs are like FIRE all the teachers! Public schools are government socialism! Everything kids need to know they can learn from goldman sachs and jerry fallwell!!
Dems are like union power! Never fire any teachers!
And yet, ALL the adults had that one teacher: that taught much more about life than what their official state-mandated course was. That opened their eyes to new ways of thinking. All the adults had that one teacher that gave them more self esteem that taught them: you are capable of so much more than what your environment expects you to be. You have so many unique qualities that can be a boon to you an those around you. And ALL the adults had like 5 or 6 teachers that were burn outs bullies or just plain didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about, teachers that deserved the sack.
I’m pretty sure if a person on one political side talked in detail about the teachers who changed their life for the better, the people on the other side would be like, “That teacher sounds great. We can agree that the system needs more people like that.”
And if a person on the other political side talked about a teacher who was a dick or a waste-case, I’m sure their political opponents would remember the asshole teachers from their OWN youth and say, “Hey I agree with you too! That teacher was a clown! We need less teachers like that in the system!” And then we could fucking get down to business.
And yet adults grow up and pretend everything is black-and-white, and use crappy schools to make political points about unions or privatization, rather than trying to help the kids.
And then we wonder why kids hate adults.