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Grove. He was the founder of Intel and an engineer. He said, ³. . . engineers are a peculiar breed. They are eager to solve whatever problems they encounter.´ As a trained and experienced engineer I can tell you it is true. The whole rigorous program we go through in our training is based on providing the tools and importantly the mindset to objectively define and solve problems. We learn in no uncertain terms that you can¶t solve a problem that you refuse to face objectively. If the truth is you made a mistake, even a whopper, the shortest road to fixing it is acknowledging your mistake, correcting it and moving on vowing to not make that mistake again. I mention that because I have been analyzing our education system and its poor performance for over 7 years now. I have come at it from the engineering perspective. That is, what is the truth of the problems and what solutions make sense? This intellectually honest approach is nowhere to be seen in education. I am sure you have heard all of the hysteria about emergency legislation considered and passed to save our education system from cuts. You know the type, this $10 billion to save 17 teacher jobs and so forth. I believe it is time to look objectively at what we are getting for the torrent of money going to public schools. My answer is not nearly enough. We have proven over the last decades that increasing education funding does not improve performance at least as measured objectively. I say objectively because the vast majority of ³good news´ stories that come out of the education fiefdom are grossly slanted, reported out of important context or just plain untrue. If you look at the performance that matters such as how our kids compare competitively with their most competent peers you will have to admit our performance is not improving at all but declining. And it is against the competition that our performance matters not as measured in a vacuum and touted by our educators as if we live in an insular society on a different planet where competition doesn¶t matter. Thus, the tiny improvements in state or federal achievement test results that are cherished so much as a positive sign of improvement are really saying if you provide context, we are becoming less competitive globally each year. You see, our best competitors are improving at a faster rate than we are and that is an important fact. The achievement gap performance is abysmal and inexcusable. Yet, when I attended a meeting where a superintendent of a large district was speaking to a minority coalition group of Black and Hispanic community leaders when an audience member who was a college admissions counselor asked why so many kids were coming to college unprepared to do college level work the response from the superintendent was lame in the extreme. He asked (as if it were a surprise) if the counselor could get a specific example or two so that the district could look at the detail history and try to troubleshoot the problem. Oh, how school administrators have learned to tap dance to distract our attention from the obvious problems. The remediation rate (percent of
college students who have to take a year or more remedial classes to become fully admitted to their desired area of study) is high at about 30% in Colorado. It has not improved materially in years. The question to ask is why has the greatly increased spending over the past decades not improved things for our kids. Short answer, ³The education process being used is wrong.´ It is the process developed by Dewey and his progressive friends that replaced the much more effective ³American Common School´ movement that Horace Mann and others developed in the nineteenth century. The progressives desired an education system that educated students minimally so that they would be good fits for work in regimented settings like automotive factories. And to progressive ideologues who believed that their expert control of our lives was necessary, the low education levels resulting made for a more easily swayed and credulous populace. Thus, the constructivist methods of the progressives became the norm in education schools virtually universally starting in the 1930s. The progressives¶ technique amounts to emphasizing experiential learning without a basis of knowledge to allow understanding of the lessons supposedly learned. A perfect example of the current system¶s faulty approach is that every district in the land brags about teaching students to be critical thinkers. Yes, they teach a process but they provide no content knowledge of any rigor which is a necessary condition to being able to be a critical thinker. This penchant for saying they are preparing students to be good citizens and productive members of our society is all a lie. The proof is in fact that the progressive approach has resulted in dumbed down curricula with no content rigor. The education school training spends the vast majority of its time on process with no real subject knowledge rigor at all. By the time newly minted and brainwashed in the progressive catechism teachers were turned loose on the school systems with only process in their toolkits and no subject knowledge, the progressive program could kick into high gear. When kids began graduating from high school in the mid to late sixties with full 12 year exposure to the progressive system, achievement plummeted. The SAT verbal scores are a good example and the data stream goes back far enough to see the ³step function´ down in performance among all classes of students. That is a point to remember. The education fiefdom members all blame the drop on more minority students in the mix. However, that doesn¶t explain at all the universal drop in white verbal skills as well. Our best performing competitor nations are using an education philosophy much closer to the common school approach and that is why they are beating us so handily. You see, they are far more interested in serving the kids with a quality education than in fighting a political power motivated philosophical battle. In other words they are tending to their knitting while our schools are consuming huge levels of valuable resources refusing to admit that the brainwashing they received in their worthless education school training is harmful to kids. The most damning
indictment is that the progressive system harms the minority and economically challenged students the most. While most educators are well meaning individuals they are also stubbornly committed to political correctness and not rocking the boat. This is the three monkeys story writ large; see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, especially if you are mired in evil that harms kids. You can¶t identify problems and solve them in that environment. You notice I call the American education system, the Fiefdom. I term it delusional, defensive, insular and inbred. I could also add effective at continuing to harm kids. That is, they have developed remarkably effective techniques to maintain the status quo especially including the increase of money flow into the system. I have no problem with spending money on education, but I do want to get what we pay for. Sadly, the only people benefiting from the huge amount of money being thrown at the system are the adults who work there, the teachers, administrators, the ed school faculties, the ed insider researchers, the textbook publishers, the state and federal bureaucrats and the politicians who gain funding for their campaigns by pandering to ed power groups aiming to maintain the status quo. Thus, continuing to feed the beast does not benefit the kids or our society. My thesis is that the only way to truly reform the system is to cut the money flow dramatically. Only in this way will educators get the message that productivity is vital and required. The result per dollar spent is the ultimate measure of their success. One huge tragedy is that billions and billions is spent on pseudo research to ³learn how to improve our education performance.´ What a travesty. We know how to fix the problem. Stop using the constructivist curricula and replace them with content-rich curricula. Start training teachers to understand the subject matter. Train education leaders to lead versus maintain. I am not saying it will be easy but let¶s show some sanity and quit throwing money down esoteric rat holes and start working on the real problems. I estimate that the amount of money being expended on the total education fiefdom could pretty easily be cut by 25% or more and that huge benefits would accrue to the kids. After all, we are supposedly doing this for the kids, aren¶t we? Thus some major initial steps in my recommended program includey The poison being injected into the education system by the ed schools must stop now. Decertify every education school in the land except those who require content knowledge rigor BEFORE they grant one more teacher or graduate degree. A couple of positive examples I am familiar with are U. of Virginia and Hillsdale College. However, they are the exception. Cut federal and state ed bureaucracy funding for staff in half immediately and maintain with no increases even for inflation for at least 10 years. Require each school district in the land to cut central administration salary and benefits budgets by ten percent a year until the achievement gap, measured objectively, is cut in half. Preserve school related overhead at current levels. Do not allow districts to transfer
central office admin personnel to the schools to avoid cuts. Also do not allow cuts in school based admin to compensate for the required central office budget cuts. For any year where the gap is not reduced by at least 10% begin the 10% per year reduction in central office admin salaries again. Retrain education leaders with site-based training including coaching to transform the leadership from ineffective to real change leaders. That is, teach them what they should have learned in their education school masters and doctorates but did not. Replace professional development activities that currently focus exclusively on more harmful pedagogy theory based on the false foundation of the progressive mantra with subject knowledge courses. Require teachers to pass rigorous subject tests within two years to maintain certification. Repeat every two years.
All of this and more could be done for less money and much more benefit to the kids. The question we must ask is, ³Do we continue abusing the kids because we are too timid to face the reality that the current system and many of its employees are not worth their funding levels?´ That is tough medicine but can we in good conscience continue to allow our kids to be subjected to attenuated future prospects? I say no. The bottom line is that when the system is doing the wrong things and is harming kids, reducing their resource levels can only reduce the harm being done. Oh, I know there will be loud moaning and complaining at first as educators are forced to face reality. That will be painful for them but ultimately positive for the kids and our country. In the long run it will also free educators from the false doctrine they were taught in ed school and on the job allowing them to contribute to their full ability.
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