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Does The Way We Approach Education Really Promote Learning?


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#1 Jane515

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 03:19 PM

It seems to me that our schools have two functions. One is to serve as a place where children can be supervised while their parents are at work, and the other is as a project politicians can use to get elected and gain support. 

 

Schools do not seem to be designed for actually helping children learn or even teaching them how to learn. 

 

Was it always this way, or did something happen to create this situation? Or am I wrong? 



#2 Buffy

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 03:37 PM

Schools were being promoted back when kids were primarily free labor for parents, so that theory goes out the window.

 

Schools were among the first big expenditures in democratic societies, and caused politicians some grief for raising taxes.

 

But the reason they became a standard was that our very socialist founding fathers--especially Thomas Jefferson--insisted that democracy would not work unless the electorate was educated so that they could think critically about the decisions they make in voting for their representatives.

 

And of course even if you don't discount the 1 in 10 people who are sociopaths out there, the vast majority of parents want their kids to have a good education so that they become productive and successful members of society, if for no other reason to make sure that they're not still living at home when they're 35.

 

I think you'll find lots of studies that show that these things have not really changed much, with the exception that the upper classes and libertarians don't like the competition, nor do they like people knowing that the politicians they've bought off can be voted out by people who realize they're not doing things that are good for them. Thus major initiatives to trash the schools by what in most cases boils down to the argument that you can improve the schools by paying teachers less.

 

I wouldn't say you're wrong exactly, just a little bit more cynical than is warranted.

 

 

When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained, :phones:

Buffy



#3 arissa

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 06:44 AM

I am having a huge issue with the school my daughter goes to now, the teacher knows that she is bored out of her little noggin, completly agrees that she is not able to teach those kids who are ahead of others yet the schools do nothing about it. The things she is reading now (in the first grade) are things she read 3-4 years ago.



#4 Jane515

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 08:15 AM

I guess it depends on your opinion of what it means to be educated. I suppose it's true that most, but definitely not all, people graduate from high school knowing how to read, do basic math and have the skills to support themselves in some way. But I don't believe that schools teach critical thinking, at least not on purpose. 

 

Arissa, that's how I felt  in school too. I felt like it was one giant waste of time. I was like your daughter, and I was basically ignored. 



#5 Buffy

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 03:30 PM

I am having a huge issue with the school my daughter goes to now, the teacher knows that she is bored out of her little noggin, completly agrees that she is not able to teach those kids who are ahead of others yet the schools do nothing about it. The things she is reading now (in the first grade) are things she read 3-4 years ago.

 

My daughter went to school in one of the best school districts in California, and she still had this problem, but it's much worse in the poor school districts. 

 

The fact is that school budgets have been decimated. Even the best ones where locals willingly support increases in property taxes are getting 75% or less of what they once were. Poor districts are teaching more students on half the budgets they once had. Federal funds have been slashed, state funds have been slashed, and only the rich school systems have even some semblance of what they once were.

 

Moreover the concentration on testing means that anything that does not improve the schools test scores is a meaningless frill, so academics and extra curricular stuff has gone out the window. What used to be free when I was a kid--like band, sports, arts, pep squad--are all now activities that come with fees.

 

Whose fault is this? It's not the teachers: they don't make these decisions, and in fact they do try to go out of their way in many cases to try to help kids out when they can, but they've got to both leverage their limited time (focusing on things where they can help multiple kids at the same time) while avoiding being scolded for expending any energy on things that do not improve those sacred test scores (test scores by the way are specifically designed to foster mediocrity because the thing that affects the averages is the performance of the two middle quadrants of the bell curve, not the high or low end).

 

The school administrators are the ones who've hacked back the offerings and cut back the teachers and increased their workload to the point where there isn't a whole lot of free time, but they're simply trying to deal with the fact that those budgets have been slashed to the "life support" levels.

 

So what's left? It's those budgets that the politicians have been driving through the floor, knowing that it's only the parents with kids in school who care, and even they can be swept up at election time with promises of lowering taxes without detailing what the costs of that cutting is.

 

...I suppose it's true that most, but definitely not all, people graduate from high school knowing how to read, do basic math and have the skills to support themselves in some way. But I don't believe that schools teach critical thinking, at least not on purpose. ...

 

Interestingly enough, Critical Thinking is the biggest change in the new Common Core standards that are being instituted this year in many states. The biggest problem with it so far is that the standards are being instituted *without* any curriculum being developed yet, so all of the teacher's spare time this year is being sucked up by having to develop course content from scratch. School districts used to have specialists who developed this material using material from the state, but those positions at both the state and local levels were long ago cut down to nothing, so it's the teachers that have this second full time job added to their existing teaching job.

 

What's the solution? Well there's been lots of talk from conservatives about charter schools and vouchers. Ignoring the contentious issue of having the state fund religious schools through vouchers, these solutions have two main foundational principles: 

  • Teachers Unions keep bad teachers on the job, and private/charter schools eliminate unions and lower costs.
  • Private/Charter schools let students who have the abilities and really want to learn the opportunity to do so without distraction.

This sounds fabulous in isolation, but the devil is in the implementation details:

 

  • While there are certainly lots of bad teachers (again even in a top 10 California High School, my daughter had a slew of them), there really aren't any more percentage wise than you'd find in any non-union business: I've had to deal with hundreds of direct reports in my life in supposedly choosy, high paying, "meritocracy" of high tech, and I can't tell you how difficult it is to get rid of people even when there is no union involved. An obnoxious, lazy employee who at least knows what they're doing is always hard to replace, and you put up with it. Unions can do better at cleaning up their act, pushing tenured teachers to "stop making the union look bad," but I get the same pressure from my executive team and it's the same problem. Where this theory really goes wrong is in saying that eliminating the unions will lower costs: Teachers are not assembly line workers, the job they do is equivalent to middle management, having direct reports (students), a budget, amorphous goals (get good scores doing whatever you need to do), coordinating programs with other managers (teachers in the same grade in other departments), etc. and yet there's this assumption that they're so easily replaceable that if it weren't for the union there'd be plenty of teachers to choose from at a much lower wage. Of course anyone who has taken Econ 101 knows that if you want to improve quality of the labor you have access to, you need to pay *more*. The largest exodus out of the teaching profession has come from the fact that there are much better paying jobs with the same skill requirements (complex middle management, with excellent communications skills).
  • The interesting thing about the second argument is the way that it's worded, glossing over the fact that the result of "cherry picking" students from the public schools is that the worst students are then left dumped in the public schools. It should of course then be a self-fulfilling prophecy that the charters get better test scores, but you know what's happening? Because the Charters are picking up the teachers that can't make it into the higher paying public schools, the test scores are at best the same and in many cases *worse* than the public schools. This is the core of the backlash against charters that is not only coming from the evil unions but from parents as well, especially when they are in a position of having to pay more for a poorer education.

This is not a pretty situation and it is certainly going to take some work to fix, but the bottom line is that paying less and getting more is not a realistic assumption and that's the first place we have to go to start making schools better.

 

The main thing that needs to be remembered though is that we all need to recognize that our society will fail if we don't make every effort to ensure everyone has at least a minimal education and the opportunity to do more not based solely on one's economic status.

 

 

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education, :phones:

Buffy


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#6 pagetheoracle

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 07:39 AM

Does blanket education work? Are schools any better than cattle markets aimed at getting conformity of mind and uniformity of appearance? Children learn as individuals and that means some will above others in their class work and others below, so is inclusiveness a practical reality?

#7 ErlyRisa

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 09:31 AM

I think there is a little bit too much whinging. Never has there been a time in the world where/when it has been so EASY to acquire skills, data, and raw fact (raw fact may actually not be fact due to the nature of data acquisition in the west, but none-the less there is enough now to occupy you for centuries, or at the least decades) The problem is no longer the teaching, and what is being taught. The problem is: For the very first time people are actually scared...not for a lack of nourishment for our bodies, but for a lack of "worthy" occupations for our children. Science in itself is starting too peak (thankyou computation) Politics is becoming less important (thankyou, internet (Fbook/Twitter/Similar future concept) Purchase-ing , ie shopping is a flooded market, with so much available, all "NEW" ideas just seem like hashing something that has already been seen and done. Entertainment: Entire Populations are conversing in "unison" now; not only are ideas all old, but enjoying entertainment has become something we provide for children, not ourselves anymore...its actually difficult to entertain an adult...they have seen it all. Sooo to the point. Does the child NEED to be over educated, is their a goal we are trying too achieve? The computer techs have done it: We are living in Eden and we just don't know it. It's time our children weren't treated as Rats to race against each other, and too finally procure, what maybe the first truly happy generation of humans.
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#8 pagetheoracle

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 01:22 AM

Education is needed for physical subjects (hardware) and also because hands-on stuff sticks in your mind and gives better understanding than subjective experience but life can give you this just as the internet gives you software (subjective) knowledge. Schools don't teach you how to learn, desire spurs this. Teaching can give you tools in how to handle this knowledge but if you don't want to learn, you won't.

#9 arissa

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 01:53 PM

That is the thing Buffy, we are not in a bad area at all. We checked out a bunch of schools before we even purchased our house to make sure the school would be good. We have spoken with the teachers and other staff but we always get the same answer: "our hands are tied". :(

#10 Buffy

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 04:00 PM

That is the thing Buffy, we are not in a bad area at all. We checked out a bunch of schools before we even purchased our house to make sure the school would be good. We have spoken with the teachers and other staff but we always get the same answer: "our hands are tied". :(

Sure, I know the specific problem you're in that you mentioned in your previous post. When I was in elementary school they even had special classes for "gifted" children. Unfortunately with conservatives starving schools to the point where 1/4 as much money is being spent to teach twice the number of kids (the rough ratios compared to when I was in school: I'm old), there is basically nothing for the smart kids at all even at the highest end schools: my daughter's school is in the top 1% in the entire state, and gets tons of additional money not only from locals increasing their own property taxes, but through contributions (the local school donation drive raises millions every year).

We're lucky to be in a fairly liberal state and school district, but what has happened over the last 30 years is drastic cuts to federal funding, meaning that states that used to have a giant chunk of their school budgets paid through federal taxes now get almost nothing. In California we had Proposition 13 that resulted in a huge cut in taxes and capped them, which has starved the state's ability to keep up with the growth in the population and consequently the schools: because it's a constitutional amendment, it's proven impossible to rescind or modify, although we're getting there. When I was in college I got 2 degrees in 6 years at the University of California and the total cost for the whole thing was $6000. Now the annual cost of just those fees are $12000 PER YEAR for undergrad, and $40,000 PER YEAR for the MBA I got. Just for undergrad that's a 1200% increase which is almost 4.5 times the actual nominal inflation rate over that time.

Meanwhile we continue to starve the teachers and professors. Tenured professors get paid well, but most of them make their money doing consulting, but most teaching in colleges is being done by part time adjunct professors who often make only $25k per year. There has been a huge shift in the economics of it all:

o-ADJUNCT-FACULTY-570.jpg

Source: 9 Reasons Why Being An Adjunct Faculty Member Is Terrible, Tyler Kingkade, 11/11/2013


This torture is better in the K-12 space ONLY because of unions, and even there, the unions have been squeezed on salary and benefits to the point where being a teacher is not very attractive given the equivalent role is a highly skilled middle management role in any private company. If you want good teachers, you have to pay them well, something that most other first-world countries do.

So as I was saying earlier, it's the anti-tax crusades that have really killed the schools. If you want to change them, we need to change attitudes about schools being and "investment in the commons" and that if we give everyone a good education FOR FREE, we as a country will benefit.

Now this does not help you much right now. The benefit of going to a good public school means you can spend your own funds on enrichment the schools used to be able to do. Private schools are NOT better, in fact they often pay the teachers less than they do in private schools, so you rarely get what you pay for unless you get your kids into the very most exclusive schools that will set you back $20k+/year (so voucher programs really are not a solution).

The saddest thing in my mind is that moving to a "good school district" is mostly about living in a rich neighborhood, which will benefit your kids not so much because they have better teachers, but that the friends they have from high school will be invaluable in later life because there is no socio-economic mobility anymore, and their rich friends will provide connections to help their careers.


Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success, :phones:
Buffy

#11 ErlyRisa

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 08:04 AM


The saddest thing in my mind is that moving to a "good school district" is mostly about living in a rich neighborhood, which will benefit your kids not so much because they have better teachers, but that the friends they have from high school will be invaluable in later life because there is no socio-economic mobility anymore, and their rich friends will provide connections to help their careers.


Buffy


...and Facebook just fueled the division even more.

It's like imaginary borders are being built between the haves and have nots --? so that one day the have nots can feel proud that they have?

I'm not into Oprah!!!
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