Airport Ed. Talk

While in the Las Vegas airport preparing to come home, a traveler sitting at a table next to my wife and I realized we were teachers and launched into quite a debate. I like debates but not rants. He stated (at length) that unions are the root cause of education’s failings (and I disagree as I have stated before), and he then proceeded to make quite a few assumptions about educators and education in general.

However, my biggest beef with his comments were his notions that only when schools compete will they be successful. I have written in papers in college and had talks about capitalism where I contend that when capitalism is accepted, so is a tacit acceptance that some will never have enough (i.e. poverty is guaranteed for some). Since everything is about competition, not everyone can win. And I don’t like a system which guarantees some don’t succeed (at what point is enough profit earned, especially to the detriment of others?). I’m under no illusion that failures will be eliminated, but I don’t want to guarantee failures. My fellow traveler is a businessman. It’s what he knows.

My other major contention with my fellow traveler’s ideas is one I hear often: “We need to have an accountability system for educators [to measure teachers against one another], but I don’t know what we should use.” To me, this is the non-solution solution. “I know what is needed to solve education’s problems, but don’t know what it is” is what seems to be said. It’s easy to propose a solution without having any details to support it and without having any way to do it.

I think people feel they know the anwers to education’s problems because everyone has gone to school.


3 thoughts on “Airport Ed. Talk

  1. Mrs. Chili

    The REAL change in education is going to happen when we start to understand that NOT EVERYONE CAN SUCCEED AT THE SAME LEVEL. Expecting ALL students to be able to perform to the SAME requirements ignores our very nature. Not everyone can be above average, and we need to stop thinking that they can (and we need to stop behaving like average is something to be ashamed of).

    How about we start valuing what the kids CAN do, instead of focusing on what they can’t? For some students, a basic understanding of math is going to be plenty to get them through their lives (I, for example, don’t NEED to understand calculus; as long as I can balance my checkbook and leave a good tip, I’m doing okay). Let’s value the kid who maybe doesn’t understand the nuances of Shakespeare, but who can take apart and fix the photocopier without so much as a hitch (and can read the manual and write a report about the work he’s done). It takes ALL kinds to make a world, and expecting that everyone know – and be able to demonstrate mastery in – the same things is patently unreasonable. Once we get that into our thick heads, we’ll be a lot better off, methinks.

  2. McSwain

    I LOVE what Ms. Chili said. Too many parents act like a “C” in any subject is the end of the world. It’s average. Most of us are average, at least in most things.

    Also, so many people act like kids are not succeeding at dumbed-down standards. I believe that may be true in HS, but it is not true in elementary school. I was a top student, and somehow made it through HS without hearing of algebra prior to 8th grade or the Cartesian Plane prior to sophomore trig. Yet, my fourth-grade students are supposed to graph equations on the Cartesian Plane. And in 5th grade, they are supposed to learn about the periodic table of the elements. Which once again, I wasn’t exposed to until HS sophomore chemistry. Don’t even get me started on homework in primary school. And all this pushing has shown in study after study to be ineffective in the long-term.

    We need to stop expecting too much too soon in elementary school, too little too late in HS, and for everyone to have the same ability and to be ready to achieve on the same developmental schedule. Our schools are failing because we are setting them up to do so. Teachers themselves have little to do with that, nor do their unions.

  3. Nuss

    “I think people feel they know the anwers to education’s problems because everyone has gone to school.”

    [Touches finger to nose.]


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