Brainy Quote of the Day

Sunday, February 17, 2013


The Safari Guide
This one's for all the teachers "in the trenches"...

The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

What I witnessed teaching math and physics: in my brief time at two campuses, I saw education become more entertainment-based, you almost had to "trick them into learning" (a direct quote). I saw teachers passionate about their subjects battered mercilessly into "teaching to the test," else risk their careers. (Legally, they can't tell you to do that, but practically that's all you have time to do.)

In a "reverse Robin Hood," districts that perform well on said tests get the most monies, and frankly due to socio-economic factors, need the least help. The failures get: warnings, three-strikes, total staff replacement...same neighborhoods and conditions. Wash-rinse-dry-repeat.

A high school student in grades 9 - 11 has the following to look forward to in a calendar year:
  • Classroom drill [baby, drill] designed for the state standardized exam
  • Fall semester all day/week practice of the state standardized exam (@ least 2)
  • Religious organizations with retired teachers to help you drill [baby, drill]
  • Education businesses designed to take your money to help you drill [baby, drill]
  • Regular homework (if any), quizzes and tests mandated by their districts
  • Midterm exams
  • Final exams
  • Repeat above regimen in the spring
  • Actual all day/week state standardized exam
  • End-of-course exams in all classes
  • Final exams in all classes
SQUEEZE in: sports, dating, dances...a life (somewhere in this).

Twelfth graders that want to graduate with a diploma have to continue this schedule as well as ordering cap and gowns, sending out invitations that may or may not be to their graduations.

I recall, on the other hand:
  • Homework
  • Quizzes, tests
  • Leading up to midterms and finals each semester
  • Sports, dating, dances...a life
And, we WONDER why there's a problem in US education?

The teacher has to maintain a passing rate of 85 - 90%, dependent on the campus and district. In a class of twenty students, that means only 2 can fail, and it be acceptable. Your career is determined by a young man or woman that may not be "feeling it" on test day, blast through it in 15 minutes and put their heads on the table (I'm a living witness).

Kenneth Bernstein is a retired social studies teacher. His Mea Culpa is titled: "Warnings from the Trenches." He explains what college educators can expect in the aftermath of No Child Left Behind and as he states, its progeny Race to the Top.

We are ALL victims of "the TIC": testing industrial complex, a, b, c, d, e, f, g ad nauseum. We are enamored with every huckster selling computer programs to districts for "academic credit recovery" (what used to be after school/summer school with teachers).

The TIC is sucking the life's blood out of education; burning out teachers; not preparing our youth for critical thinking skills, or higher advancement and well-paying jobs, with NO evidence that this draconian, market-as-deity-driven approach has worked anywhere else on the planet! We are preparing them for nothing but a future of dependency and hopelessness. It is pursuing Chimera; dueling quixotic windmills, whistling nervously as the reason for education other than an informed citizenry - jobs - is outsourced to other academically prepared shores.

"Students Lack the Knowledge Necessary for Responsible Citizenship due to Decreased Exposure to the Founding Documents" (PDF)

"Why Does a Free Press Matter?" (PDF)

Without such knowledge, we cannot have scientific advancement, or a functional democracy.


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