These are NOT Your Parents’ Public Schools

Public schools today are not the same places American children attended in the 1940s or 50s.  They are alien environments to those that went through school in the 1960s and 70s.  While vaguely familiar, they are still quite mutated from the educational environment of even the 1980s. …And not for the better!

A Conservative Teacher offers an insider’s view of public education with a pair of excellent, in-depth articles on how public schools work today, and how public education policy is created in Michigan. With our recent election battle over school funding in Washtenaw County, this Designated Conservative thought that A Conservative Teacher‘s comments were right on point.  Here are some excerpts (click here or on the headlines to read the entire articles):

Teachers Professional Development Day

Every couple months, teachers in public schools around the nation have a day set aside for ‘professional development.’ Maybe sometimes these days are used in a professional manner that develops the teacher into a better teacher, but in my years of teaching in various districts I have been forced to give myself a full frontal lobotomy during these days just so that I didn’t go crazy from frustration, anger, and boredom.

After sitting for an hour complaining about students, the economy, and other teachers, we get to the issue at hand, which is figuring out whether the classes that we are teaching are meeting the benchmarks that the state asks us to meet.

Teachers are driven by the system, I believe, to design classes that accomplish as little as possible, so the very first thing to do is to shame and harass any teacher that feels that the standards are too low and too easy to accomplish.

If there is a teacher in the district who is having students do more, and getting high test scores, and going above and beyond, they are a threat to all the other teachers, and rather than find out what the best practices are and how that teacher is doing so well, the group savagely attacks these teachers and drags them back to the rest of the herd.

Oh, I know, I am really venting and some of this is unfair or unreasonable, but you really should know that because education is a government-run business, it does not respond at all to your child’s concerns, it does not use time or money or resources in an economical manner, and the goal is not to leave no child behind and drive to the top, but to drag every child behind and drive towards the bottom.

Education Policy in Michigan and How It is Created

One of my brothers recently was invited by the Michigan House Republican Strategic Task Force on Education to come and discuss the long range vision of education policy in the state of Michigan. … What the task force does is get input from parent teacher associations, student council members, administrator, teachers, board members, and students, from public schools, special education, alternative education, charter and private schools.

The result of these task force meetings is predictable and an indication of everything that is wrong with education in our state.  Three hours of discussion produced all the wrong policy suggestions for education, suggestions politicians should not consider.

The first step in the discussion was to answer the question “What is the purpose of education?” Do that right now in your head- think about what you want the education system in our state to look like and do.

  • Is it prepare students for college?
  • Prepare them for future jobs?
  • Mold good citizens?
  • Give all students a broad base of knowledge?
  • Or did you, like most people at this forum, say “everything!”

The mission of education needs to be focused, clear, and consistent, and it can not be everything to everybody all at the same time.

The next question the group that came to this task force meeting was asked is “what are we doing well right now in education?” Think about this question. Education is doing a lot of things well-

  • babysitting students 8 hours a day,
  • running great sports programs,
  • educating a lot of top students,
  • running a good special needs program,
  • helping students learn how to think,
  • giving students opportunities,
  • offering many innovative learning styles, and
  • nationally our K-5 program is the best in the world.

The next question the task force had us think about was “what do you want the education system to look like 10 years from now?” I think the overall consensus of the task force was that we want education

  • to do more to teach students critical thinking skills,
  • to learn how to be innovative and creative,
  • to teach entrepreneurship and job creation, and
  • to have students focus more on the career paths that they are headed into after school rather than just focus on school.

The last step is the most important step, and the step that resulted in disaster for this task force and that produced information the Michigan House Republican Strategic Task Force on Education should utterly disregard. The question that was posed to us was “how do we build on what we are doing well to make our education system look like we want it to look 10 years from now?

Here is the information the task force received, and it is a good lesson on why sometimes special interest groups should not be the ones designing the policies in our nation.

  • The task force was told to drop all standardized testing and to just hand the money to districts with no more accountability.
  • The task force was told that one way to increase the education levels in our state was to give more funding to teachers, have them work shorter hours, and give them more training.
  • The task force was told that students should teach classes, as if they were subject matter and teaching experts.

The task force produced a lot of garbage ideas, and in every hearing they conducted they pretty much got the same garbage.

This is why the state should not be trusted with running any sort of service industry.  The failures in education are the failures of government planning and funding.

Education needs to run more like a business, with the service provided being learning and the learning delivered by skilled professionals.

The Designated Conservative is a regular reader of A Conservative Teacher‘s blog, and if you are interested in public education in Michigan, you should be too.

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