Thursday, November 20, 2008

politics aside ... this is good!

I found this article this afternoon: "First Steps to a GOP Recovery" on written by Mort Kondracke. Putting politics aside -- because "left" and "right", "Republican" and "Democrat" shouldn't matter when it comes to education -- the author of this article makes a fantastic point in his item #3 for the Republican party. (portions in blue and blockquotes are copied directly ...)
"And the third -- maybe the biggest one -- would be for GOP governors to use their posts to show the country how conservatives can solve problems, especially the dismal state of American education and its menacing cousin, lagging American competitiveness."
Then, if you skip all the content about Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts and pragmatism of the parties, he goes on to say:

"Three governors -- Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. (Utah) and Democrats Deval Patrick (Mass.) and John Lynch (N.H.) -- have set up pilot projects partially implementing proposals of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, issued last year."

"Significantly, their initiatives have been blessed by leaders of the National Education Association, though its rival, the American Federation of Teachers, opposes them."

Teacher unions are going to oppose this because too many teachers would lose their jobs if they had to live up to the higher expectations that being a professional would require. Every time our union has some kind of rally, guess where most of the good teachers are ... at school -- grading papers, working with students, preparing lessons. Guess who hauls butt out of the building to demonstrate for a bigger paycheck so that they can continue to sit on their butts all day long doing nothing but collecting benefits and wages and allowing our students' brains to dwindle and soften.

"Under the proposal, states would take over schools from local boards, teachers would form corporations to run schools on contract and hire principals, salaries would go up significantly to attract first-rate teachers and standards would be set to international norms."

Thank god! School boards are ridiculous. Parents in the community in which I teach use the "going to the school board" as a daily threat to get administration to bow down to their ludicrous demands. It is hard to stick to enforce policies under the constant threat of being dragged through hearings with school boards. The administration at my school must always consider this when making a decision.

For example: I also coach a sport. One of my athletes refused to do her required fundraising despite the fact that she and her parents signed all kinds of forms acknowledging that this fundraising is a part of her responsibility. Her parents are insisting on meeting after meeting all under the threat of "going to the school board" if we don't comply. I am actually going to have to bring my young infant to school with me to participate in one of these meetings all because a parent feels that her daughter is special and shouldn't have to sell 52 candy bars. The best part is that our administration is obviously so spineless that they cannot even stand up to this parent and say "Sorry. Rules are rules." No, instead they have to waste their time, my time, and my assistant coach's time, and the athletic director's time ... This is just one example that is happening right now.

I have so many more examples ... but that's a can of worms I don't have time to open right now. The overall lesson to be learned is that the power should most definitely be taken away from the school boards who have to pander to the parents. That way the individual school administrations can stop pandering to the parents. The parents have been given too much power without having any of wisdom needed.

There is a reason why teachers need to be treated as professionals. We are professionals. At least in my community, the parents as a collective whole seem to think that they know better than the teachers. As a result, students no longer respect teachers because the general message that they get is that teachers aren't to be respected, that if a teacher does something with which a student/parent disagrees then the teacher is wrong and a spectacle should be made with administration and the school board.

Of course schools should be operated by many of the same principles that dictate successful business practices. Make teaching a job worthy of aspiration. If teaching becomes competitive like so many other professions, then we will see a rise in the quality of the educators. If a teacher's job (salary and benefits included) becomes enviable, we will see a rise in the quality of educators. Imagine if teacher was an esteemed profession. Imagine the shift that would take place in the hallways of our schools, in the classrooms, in the conferences ...

Many of my friends who are teachers have to work second jobs. No wonder we aren't respected by parents or students any longer! If a student can see his or her teacher waiting tables on the weekends, what does that say about the value of the occupation of teacher? Not much. (Nothing against waiters ... one of my friends is the example I'm using there ... another works the desk at a gym, several others work as camp counselors, I design web pages, etc.)

"Most students would graduate after 10th grade and go on to upgraded trade or tech schools, while others stayed and took college-level courses. And money saved would also fund preschool for needy kids."

"If one governor fully implemented the proposal, his or her state could be a competitiveness juggernaut, set a model for the nation -- and begin solving America's biggest long-term problem.

So, I guess a few people out there are starting to see the light on this subject, but that doesn't really matter ... does it?"
In case anyone is out there reading ... (I've gotten a few comments now which is highly exciting for me!!) I hope that I'm not coming off as a whiner and complainer. That is not my intention. I guess there is a good deal of venting going on, though. I just think that the whole country needs to change its perspective on this key issue. It is sooooo important for every single person in the U.S. to want to fix this.

So, can we stop talking about Obama's BlackBerry and start talking about the things that matter!

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