Are we wasting billions on unrealistic educational goals?

Comments

Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

While the discussion over Prop 204 was going on a comment was made that I believe needs to be addressed.

Quote: “We are last in the U.S. at state funding per student. We’re 25th in math, 21st in science and 15th in reading. Why accept mediocrity?”

Please forget Prop 204. It did not pass. But please ask yourself something about that comment: Do we have our priorities wrong when it comes to who should learn what?

In what way could they be wrong?

Are we asking schools, and kids, to do the impossible? Are we running around in circles decrying the state of education, moaning about schools and kids, and ignoring simple truths?

Here's a simple truth: If we line up all the kids in school and ask each of them to reach up and touch the rim of the basket in the basketball court, some of them will not be able to do it.

Some of them won't be able to do it even if we let them jump up and try it.

We can teach then until we--and they--turn blue in the face. We can create programs with fancy names and run them for decades. We can spend billions of dollars. We can point fingers. But those who can't do it still won't be able to do it.

It's called the bell curve of abilities.

Perhaps we should accept the fact that kids are each different. Perhaps we should not test all students against some arbitrarily set standard, some goal that "everyone" should reach. Perhaps we should test students against:

• Native ability.

• The need to know some subject in order to function in their chosen roles in life.

• The value of the subject from the student's point of view.

If we did that, if each child were measured against what he or she needs to learn, adapted to the reality of what he or she is capable of doing, could we finally turn education into what it should be?

What should education be?

• A benefit to society.

• A benefit to each individual.

• A path to a good self-image for all kids.

What is it now?

I see it as a failing program built on false premises.

I see it as an attempt to force children to learn things they cannot learn, things they do not need to to learn to become useful citizens, and things they do not want to learn.

I see it as a program where children are criticized by adults for the failure of the adults to create a sensible and realistic program.

I see it as a program where the adults inside the program are criticized by adults outside the program who know even less about education than they do.

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Ronald Hamric 1 year, 4 months ago

Tom, This is one of those topics that I am very conflicted about. In all the elections in which I have participated, both in Californai and Arizona, I can't remember a time when the "education system" wasn't requesting more $$$$ . And the approach used was always the same " Your children are never going to be able to compete in this world if you don't pass this funding increase!" I believe if throwing money at the problem were the solution, then we should have reasonably prepaired kids for the world in which they will enter. As a matter of fact, it seems that it is reverse of that. The more money we throw at the problem, the poorer the student performance on whatever scale they are evaluated against.

For one, I would suggest simply going "back to the basics" and leave all the "social engineering" to the parents of the students. I have long been in favor of the "German" model when it comes to education. That being, not expecting every kid to be bright enough to attend a college or university. They screen them during their middle years and make the determination as to whether they should take subjects that would prepair them for college or redirect them into a "trade skill". As you indicated with the "basketball hoop" illustration, not every kid is going to be"uber intelligent" no matter how much effort is put into them. I also sense that the "American" approach as compaired, let's say , to the "India" approach is partially rooted in our culture. Success in this world almost seems to be a "right" that American kids feel they have as a birthright. Other cultures kid's know that in order to survive in an ever more global and competitive world, they need to apply themselves and make study and skills their foremost goal in life.

Not a subject that I have any real answers for, only thoughts. We definately desparately need to try another approach, as the current one seems to be failing the kids and the country.

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Kim Chittick 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree with both of you. I too, am very concerned about the direction our country is going with regard to education. And I also can recognize that not all kids are going to grow up to be rocket scientists.

What I don't understand is this constant push for money, money and more money for education. I hear about young families having to scrimp and scrape to find money so that their kids can be in athletics, or band, or extra classes. And I can only wonder...where is the money that the schools receive, going?

Now I am going to sound like one of those nasty old ladies talking about, "when I was young...". But... when I was in school, we had band, home economics, wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, choir, graphics, drama, and...oh gosh, so many other "elective" classes that I can't even remember them all. Of course we had the basics: English, literature, math (and all of the other "math" classes, algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry), science, history, civics, and, of course, physical education. The basics were required. One class out of each section per semester, and P.E. was also required. We had many choices for P.E., swimming, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, dance, softball, baseball, football, basketball, track.

I personally took Home Ec classes, where I learned to sew, by hand and by machine; I learned to cook, and can still make a fabulous snickerdoodle! We learned about managing a home and a budget. I took Wood and Metal Shop, where I learned to use power and hand tools, and I built a very cool wooden box with hinges, a handle, and locking latch that I fabricated myself, and which I still have and use, 35+ years later! In Auto Shop, I learned how an engine works and how to change a tire, change the oil, and properly maintain a car. I participated in Drama and Dance programs, and I played Powder Puff football. I also took business courses, where I learned to type, and how to take shorthand, as well as how to manage a business. In Graphics class, I learned how to silkscreen, and how to use a commercial printer.

All of these classes and experiences were during Junior High, and High School. And the one thing that I remember...there was NEVER a request, demand, or requirement that supplemental funding was required from my parents. The only time that separate funding was required was for a Senior trip to Sacramento as part of our Civics class. Our parents did have to pay $50.00 for our airline ticket. I also remember that parents saved up for Senior year, because that was an expensive year: Senior pictures, a yearbook, letterman jacket, graduation gown and cap.

continued...

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Kim Chittick 1 year, 4 months ago

continued...

Now, I can unequivocally state that my academic education did not suffer for all of the "fun" classes I took; as a students' class schedule had certain requirements. A student was required to complete so many credits for graduation. One had all 4 years of High School to complete those credits; however, there were also requirements for each semester. A student had typically 4-5 required classes, ie; Mathematics, English, history, science and p.e., the student then selected 2-3 "elective" classes, which rounded out a 6-8 period day. If a student planned well during their High School years, by the second semester of Junior year, and all of Senior year, they could only attend school half day and either work or attend college courses in the afternoon.

I hear about families now, who are constantly being barraged with requirements or demands for supplemental funding for activities. And, on a daily basis I see the shortcomings of our education system. Students who cannot spell or write if their life depends on it. Young people who cannot compute simple mathematical equations, such as making change. Young adults who do not understand our political or judicial system. And people who do not understand the concept that in life there are always going to be winners and losers; everybody does not, and should not, get a trophy.

The CEO has to have someone who is willing to be his secretary, the manager has to have people working for him, and there has to be workers for there to be a boss.

Our education system, as well as our society, is failing our young people, and I fear for the future of our country.

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Ronald Hamric 1 year, 4 months ago

Well summarized Kim. You described precisely what I was inferring when I mentioned "going back to the basics". We all know that this nation's Public Education System has been subtly and gradually taken over in the last 50 years by the Progressive/Socialist movement in this country. I must hand it to them. They were very patient and methodical in their undertaking and their approach had many aspects. I'm not proposing that it was some giant conspiracy, but simply one ideological group who saw what they needed to do to further their agenda in this nation, and took the appropriate course of action to see it to fruition. Their payoff was the 2008 Presidental election and the one just ended. I know you have heard the old adage " Give me the children, and I will rule the world". They put that theory to the test and have proven it accurate. School is no longer a place we send our children to become "educated" with life skills they will need to become successful as they step out on their own. They are actually, and purposely "dumbed down" so that they cannot easily recognize their own manipulation as regards a specific socio/political mindset. We as parents are really to blame. We were so busy pursuing "materialism" for ourselves and our kids, theat we literally turned them over to that "social engineering " environment that used to teach basic skills. Those moral and social issues that used to be taught in the home, by the parents, were relegated to the Public Education System. We all know and recognize the results. Elementary kids having sex, birth control and condoms freely available at the nurses office. No kid fails. There is a lot of emphasis on diversity, equality, "I'm okay, you're okay". All feel good approaches so we don't dare harm their fragile personalities or ego. Personal responsibility and the laws of consequences are as strange to them as that old , stale history of WW2.

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

Wow!

I've never seen the problem described so well, or the solutions so clearly outlined.

First of all, Ron, you are right. We are wasting immense amounts of money on things we do not need. But the odd part is that the "things we do not need" are exactly the ones that are constantly shoved in our face.

"Oh, dear me!" we hear. "Oh, me! Our kids can't do tensor calculus! The world is coming to an end!"

The sad part is that we HAD the German system--or a more rational form of it--and it was taken away from us by people who lacked the brains to understand that giving children what they need--and want--is NOT the same as depriving them of an education.

In the high school I attended in Connecticut each class was divided up into groups according the average of their scores in previous years. This allowed--say--an English teacher to push the brightest kids farther and faster than the slower ones, while the kids in lower levels were allowed to proceed at their own best pace, and were relieved of the need to take certain elements of English. For example, the slower kids were not forced to die of boredom as they Shakespearean plays in class.

But a bunch of do-gooders came along, called this "tracking," and claimed that it was not fair to the slower kids. It was utter nonsense, but it was swallowed, as are so many other bad ideas, by people who did not understand that the range of subjects should match the range of abilities and interests. There were people in education who gained by the additional funds that came into the system to support an impossible program; that was another cause of the problem. And, of course, there were grandstanding politicians who added to the problem by yelling that schools needed more money and that they were "by God!" going to see that they got it.

We have to sit back, look at what we have, understand what is good, what is bad, and what is unnecessary, and make vast cuts in spending.

First to go should be overblown graduation requirements that are the same for all children. Instead, what we should have is a "foundation system" which offers, and requires, a set of courses which cover the minimum that children of at least average intelligence need to function in the real world.

I have a LOT more to say, but I have other things to do today, so I'll try to get back to this later or tomorrow. You have no idea how many simple, practical, money-saving, time-saving changes could be made to education. We could perhaps cut the cost by as much as 75%. I know that will scare the hell out of teachers and administrators. And it should. We have created a frankenstein monster which is killing us. The solution is to kill it.

Please forgive any typos. Am dying to get out to the workshop and use muscles instead of brain. Thanks!

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

Whew!

Finally got time to post all this stuff. I'll start with the numbers--the real numbers--so that you can see what the problem is. Then I'll discuss them just very shortly, and leave it up to you folks to come to some conclusions.

I warn you in advance, you are going to go nuts when you read these numbers.

Before we start talking about fixing education we have to ask ourselves what's broken. One way to answer that is to look at the rising costs.

Let's start with 1920:

In 1920 we had 23 million school children and 678 thousand teachers, for an average of 33 kids per classroom, and a total cost of $970 million for the entire nation, or $53 per student.

By 1940 we had 25 million school children and 912 thousand teachers, for an average of 27 kids per classroom, and a total cost of $2 billion, or $88 per student.

By 1960 the national population had grown, and the cost of education had increased, but not all that much if we change the numbers to 1920 dollars. For example, the cost per student in 1960, in 1920 dollars, was still just $175 apiece. One look at the fact that in 1920 there were 33 kids in each classroom and in 1960 there were two thirds as many explains 33% of the rise in costs. Much of the rest can be attributed to higher wages paid across the board for American workers. Fair enough.

Here are the actual 1960 numbers: 36 million school children and 1,457,000 teachers, for an average of 24 per classroom, a total cost of $14 billion, or $375 per student.

As you can see, the cost of educating a child had doubled, but $14 billion for the cost of education over the entire nation was something we could afford.

But then came an era, under LBJ and his great society, when the idea of segregating low ability children into separate classrooms, in itself not a bad idea. But breaking them down into almost twenty categories of "learning modes," and a massive change in the student/teacher ratio combined to put education costs out of sight. Note in particular that the number of children rose by 25% while the number of teachers doubled and the cost of education tripled.

Here are the 1970 numbers: 45 million school children and 2,286,000 teachers, for an average of 19 per classroom, a total cost of $40 billion, or $816 per student.

You ain't seen nothin yet!

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

Brace yourself, taxpayers. This is nothing less than obscene.

The most shocking and revealing statistics are those for 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. Notice that the number of school children actually drops between 1970 and 1990, and that when it again increases it only rises by 10%, while the number of teachers more than doubles, and the cost of education becomes twelve times what it was in 1970, and the comparison with 1960 may cause you a heart attack.

1980: 41 million school children and 2,406,000 teachers, for an average of 17 per classroom, a total cost of $97 billion, or $2,272 per student.

1990 numbers: 40 million school children and 2,986,000 teachers, for an average of 13 per classroom, a total cost of $205 billion, or $4,980 per student.

2000 numbers: 46 million school children and 3,819,000 teachers, for an average of 12 per classroom, a total cost of $372 billion, or $7,394 per student.

2010 numbers: 49 million school children and 4,187,000 teachers, for an average of 11 per classroom, a total cost of $562 billion, or $10,337 per student.

In the 1960's, a time I remember well, a time when I was closely involved with education, and a time when I thought we were doing very well in our schools, we spent only $14 billion, or $375 per student, but by 2010 we were spending $562 billion, or $10,337 per student.

Why? You'd have to be blind not to see the answer in those statistics. Too few children in each classroom, resulting in too many teachers and aides and a resulting 27 time increase in the cost of education.

Again we have to ask, "Why?"

And along with that we have to ask ourselves, "Are getting what we are paying for?"

I will hold my comments until you've had a chance to digest those almost unbelievable numbers and say whatever you'd like to say about them.

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Kim Chittick 1 year, 4 months ago

Whew! Those numbers are staggering, and almost sickening. To answer your question...no, we are most definitely NOT getting what we are paying for. In my previous post, I digressed a bit too much. The point that I was trying to make is that there was a time when schools were able to offer programs that would teach kids basic life skills. As I stated, home ec, wood, metal and auto shop, business, and graphics, are all vocations that a person could make a career out of without going to college. Of course we all know that not all students are college material; but that is ok, because carpenters, mechanics, cooks, and secretaries are just as essential to a successful society as are CEO's. I personally maintain that most of the problems in education today, are entirely due to the degradation of moral and ethical values in our society. I don't go along with the "dumbing down" of our education system, or with the whole, "I'm ok, you're ok" philosophy. There has to be losers for there to be winners, we don't all get trophies, and if we don't keep score, why would anybody make an effort? Loss, failure and rejection are all experiences that make us stronger, more resolute, and able to face down adversity and succeed. More teachers, fewer students per class, and more money per student, and our school systems are still turning out kids who can't read, write or calculate...perhaps because many of those students have grown up in a society and household where the philosophy is, "I don't have to bust my butt to support myself, because the government will do it for me. I can sit and watch crap tv all day and play video games, and still receive a nice check, an ebt card (which preserves my dignity, unlike the old food stamps), and medical care." As long as the entitlements come with better benefits than actually working for a living, said entitlements are going to look much more attractive.
Oh shoot, now I have gotten myself worked into a dither and I have to go to church and try to be peaceful!! Hope you all have a beautiful day!!

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm going to make this as short as I can and still suggest an overall program .

The direct cause of most of our ridiculously fat one half trillion dollar educational budget is the abuse of special education legislation.

The more kids you have declared "special," the more money you get. In every school there are people who spend their time writing special ed requests. That is what most "counselors" do. They do not counsel; they push paper. Add in school psychologists. Add in 451 employees of the AZ State Education department who do nothing but work on such requests.

It is cheating, plain and simple, but we cannot blame the schools. Special ed legislation enables such cheating. The simple truth is that a law which was intended to provide a fair education for slow kids (and in some cases for truly handicapped kids) has been abused.

The main flaw? So simple! Slow kids cannot learn what other kids can learn. They max out at a young age. I know. I've been in such classes, seen the utter waste of time, and spoken to special ed teachers who frankly admitted to me that what they were doing was a farce.

Solution: Revise the law, but FIRST do a careful, thoughtful study whose purpose is to find out how many kids in special ed classes actually belong there.

Another thing that MUST be done is to eliminate the idea that special ed kids (with some very real exceptions) should be in classes that have only four, six, or eight kiddos in them. That is one cause of the bloated budget. Think of the cost of having four kids in a class with a full time teacher and aide.

Furthermore, we must attack the false belief that behavioral problems can always be directly attributed to a disability. Not true. Some kids are simply antisocial. They may not belong in school. It is not the duty of society to teach everyone. Sad as it may be, some mental illnesses arise at birth.

Another problem is trying to teach everything to everyone. We MUST go back to a concept that says that we will teach advanced studies only to those who are able to handle them and want to take them. It makes no sense to be teaching algebra to kids who can't even use 3rd grade math in their chosen careers.

We MUST get social engineering out of schools. We must NOT allow do-gooders to dictate the curriculum. PE, for example, must be an elective; every study ever done shows NO health effects for PE, but we are continuously fed that lie. There should be a weekly half day time used for sports practice, band practice, choir, release time for religious instruction, intern programs with local business, school newspapers, and so on. Students who do not participate in such programs will use the time as a study hall and homework will be assigned with this half day in mind, and reduced on all other days to an absolute minimum.

And finally, the number and type of required academic classes should be matched to individuals needs and desires.

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

To put in plain English (which I learned in school), here are some simple thoughts:

a. We should accept reality: Think tanks are like gas tanks; some are smaller than others.

b. We should teach each child as much as is needed to function in everyday life.

c. We should seek to prepare children for the jobs they will hold as adults.

d. We should teach potential rocket scientists enough to become rocket scientists.

e. The decision who falls in b, c, and d should be a child/parent decision.

f. When b, c, and d are accomplished school is out; enjoy the prom.

To help to accomplish a. through f. we should keep these things in mind.

• Knowing how to use a wrench is as important as knowing how to find a square root.

• There is always more that can be to taught to anyone.

• Children suffer instead of benefitting from overkill; love them, don't torture them.

• All children earn a pat on the back for learning as much as they can.

• It takes more years to learn rocket science than it does to learn to flip burgers.

• We only need so many rocket scientists, but we still love a good burger-flipper.

• Beware of allowing mathematicians to set mathematical goals.

• What is true of mathematicians is equally true of English majors--or anyone else.

• The line beyond which we cannot go in educational funds is about $100 billion.

• Education must be tailored to the amount we can afford, not to some utopian vision.

• State legislators who increase graduation requirements are the enemy.

• Sports are fun, but few of us earn a living doing them; they are extra.

• Music, art, band, and dance fall into the same classification as sports.

• There is such a thing as an incorrigible child; money does not cure mental illness.

• Nothing is perfect, therefore education will never be perfect.

• If education were perfect, we would find some way to screw it up.

Thank you, and good day.

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

We are so tied up with the PSWID incident that with your permission I am going to put this string and elk "poaching"m on hold for a while. I know you all have more to say on each of them, but I think we will gain by holding onto our thoughts in the face of so many comments on something that strikes so close to home.

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