Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Education, the real silver bullet...

Education is IT for me. My father taught me the love of reading, of discovery, of questioning; and the joys of challenging the common notion of things. To this day I thank him for investing so much time in my personal education.

Libertarians like me are always harping about choices, about freedom and liberties, about the power of the individual versus the intellectually lazy way (to us) of depending on the grander schemes or Government "anythings" to make things better. But I wonder, is Education the one exception to my self-imposed ideology; is it the aberration? Allow me to give a little perspective to my quagmire.

Most of the time, I believe in the power of choice. Choice is good. Choice allows me to pick the best from that which the market offers me. The question in my mind? Is the sacred chalice of Education something to be seen with a "market" prism? or does it fall under -what I call- the "social aberrations" of our culture; meaning things like the Military.

In the military there is no choice. Over a period of more than 200 years, the military has forged a system of conduct, protocols, ideals and -for better or for worse- a culture of being that makes the marching in lock-step a virtue, and not a place for questioning of authority or methods. From the birth of our nation, we drove towards that single ideal. It needed to be done, and it worked. There are no million roads to China there, only one path. No dissent, no discourse. There is one military, one ideal.... , and most importantly, one standard. Stop for a second and contemplate what I just said, ... one standard. Is a standard more important in education than choice? (shudders...). Should we as a nation trade the ideals of choice when it comes to educating our kids, for an agreed-upon standard?

I am beginning to believe that to be true. For as much as I applaud people who take the challenge of home-schooling their kids, and knowing personal successes of home-schooling myself, I cannot deny that there are plenty of home-school parents who have no idea what they are doing and are thus harming the chalice of education for their kids. Regular schooling? I know, I know. For every good school there's a few crappy ones, for every excellent teacher there is one less able to teach, even a bad apple here and there. Heck, in states like California it takes the proverbial act of legislature to fire a teacher who has shown time and time again that he is incapable of teaching. The unions are that strong....., but be that as it may, and in spite of these challenges, education should not fly in the winds of whimsical market shifts. Education HAS to be standardized; there HAS to be a methodology from which any, repeat ANY child can start to fulfil whatever potential was written in his or her genetic code. The level playing field starts right there, in the solace and temple of that classroom. Is education a place for experimentation? for deviations of curriculum to adjust to the nuances of regional and cultural idiosyncrasies? Maybe,... but I am going to admit that I just don't know; and when I don't know, I play the conservative card. The Education a child receives at the hands of his parents or caretakers, what he is taught about life, morality and the culture around him will be variation enough. Religion will stick its finger in there somewhere, pop culture will weigh-in to the child, and on and on will these factors take part in the life-education of a child. Nevertheless, the "scholarly" education in a child's life should be the lifesaver from which these plebes can hang onto when the ocean around them is stormy, when the home life is un-safe, and when there is no hope left. Education should be that silver bullet that kills that big bad wolf of poverty and social despair.

So the question is, does Government get more involved?... or less...,

One of the tenants of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" initiative involves the testing of teachers and schools; and "grading" them for the success, or lack thereof of the system it employs to teach. When I first heard of this, I was like "hell yeah!, I get tested, graded and evaluated for every flipping thing I do in my job, what's wrong with Teacher's tasting the same sauce everybody else has to suck on?" If they can't take the heat, fire their asses I said...

(at this point my posting was stewing on draft status until...)

Today, I was blog-hopping around my usual suspects when I happened to drop into
QuakerDave's blog. Anybody who's perused both our blogs knows that besides an affinity for music, the state of New Jersey, and the obvious love for our children; there is little in common as to ideology. A libertarian he is not. Nevertheless, he laid down one of the funniest, most sarcastic and full-of-true-ism postings I've read in some time. I beg you, take a read of it; you won't be disappointed, no matter what side of the fence your watching this from. At the very least you will admire the irony of things. The very notion of events I want to happen, -the standardization of things and testing to make teachers and schools "better"-, he finds to be a flagrant intrusion of government, the very thing I hate the most... ironic indeed. (nice rant QD).

Can you feel my pain?.... have I ever been more torn?......, Let me end with this. There is a 5 year-old girl, in a little town in western Pennsylvania, going to a public school, and hoping to learn the joys of reading, the joys of discovery and the joys of learning; just like I did back in the day. That little girl is my daughter. Maybe my ethos of choice is skewed when it comes to my kid, whose isn't?... Am I am being naive in thinking that the interests of Teacher's unions, home-schools, school districts and public and private institutions of all methods can somehow put aside their own unique interests for the sake of my kid's future? Maybe they can,... and maybe it will even happen in my lifetime,..... a libertarian can dream, can't he?...


QuakerDave said...

Thanks for the link.

Seriously: this proves one thing. Ideologies set aside, partisan emotions doused down for a moment, everybody wants what's best for children. And folks can work together to get there.

We just gotta get over ourselves.

Truth-Pain said...

Somehow, someway, Mother America has to find a way to get politics out of both Education and Health-care. I don't know what the final matrix is going to look like, (and maybe I'm hoping it is not yet another monster beaurocracy in the making)but here's to hoping it happens sooner rather than later.

There should, at the very least, be afforded full dignity to the process. Human beings deserve no less.

Brooke said...

I don't know... Homeschooling is fairly regulated now, with testing standards that must be reviewed by the state, so I don't see it as harmful, so long as the kids in question are able to pass the knowledge requirement tests.

That said, I could never have the patience to do it, and I laud those who can.

As for public schooling... There are a good many teachers who are excellent professionals, but there are also those who don't, as you fear with the HS parents, really know what they are doing, or they bring an agenda to the table, be it lib or conservative.

My belief is that schools must take a "just the facts, ma'am" approach.

Robert said...

Mind if I bore you with some examples of education gone to left field?

We should test teachers, evaluate their presentation and their ability to convey information. We should also evaluate their intelligence in being able to assume both positions in a debate and articulate the various points to each. My oldest daughter refuses to eat seafood because she was taught in a public school science class that mankind was polluting the oceans with medical wastes and such that fish are poisonous. We no longer live in that school system's jurisdiction.

My 14 year old came home last week and said that her science class was cool that day because they got to watch a movie. It was "An Inconvenient Truth" so I asked her thought of the movie. She told me that it was terrible that man was ruining the earth, and that her kids might not be able to enjoy the world as we do now. It is terrible that we are killing the polar bears and the seals.

I then asked her what the oposing viewpoint said about the movie. She said, and I quote "There is no other side. The movie was nothing but facts." The movie was presented as the gospel of environmental science. I have no problem with the movie, per se, but the denial of contay views on ANY subject tick me off.

Finally, the standardized tests that are taken periodically (called SAT here) at different grades are a joke. The classes take two weeks prior to th tests to study the material that is presented on the tests.

It is my opinion that teachers should teach so that the students know the material and can be tested at a moment's notice. The same concept should apply to all levels of education that applied during my grad school. After a semester, we took one test that covered the semester. My grade was comprised 50% for my research paper, and 50% for the final.

Renegade Eye said...

Much to ponder.

The "No Child Left Behind" concept, promotes rigid conformity and lack of creative thinking. You can't argue with a multiple choice test.

You are correct that education is not a libertarian issue in the sense of choice. It is in the sense of rights.

Obob said...

My comment on this disapoeared.
Testing is for real estate agents and politicians. But the shameful pride of unions, teachers and admin has led us to the point it is necessary. What pisses off them off is it is a necessay evil. They led us down this path and they need to be steered back. That is what I love about NCLB, it scares the hell out of them. I have to teach ten times better, for jack pay, to make sure my school is "excemplory." I teach Social Studies, Religion, Technology, & Foriegn Language, but I can't spell to save my life and refuse to get a dictionary.
But I teach an open class, encourage debate and am unafraid to taunt a child into really expressing thier beliefs. If I have to bully a child to get the truth academically from them, I will harrass them to the end of the world if it will make them a better student.
enough of my manifesto,

QuakerDave said...

The "No Child Left Behind" concept, promotes rigid conformity and lack of creative thinking. You can't argue with a multiple choice test.

Trouble is, as soon as you start trying to teach creatively, folks start calling you a liberal...

QuakerDave said...

NCLB doesn't "scare" me. It frustrates me because, as I said in my little rant, which T-P so kindly linked to, it is so rigid as to be absurd. It was an anti-antidote designed by politicians who hadn't spent a day in a classroom since they themselves left school. And some of them weren't doing much learnin' themselves, apparently.

Education can never be one-size-fits-all. Kids aren't made that way, and if they ever are, we are all in a heck of a lot of trouble.

Obob said...

to quaker dave, you are right, education is not one size fits all. Student learn differntly though rote, Q & A, or hands on. But to be creative in the classroom is not a liberal birthright or private ownership. My teaching style is very free market based, free speech centered, objective lessons(except for packer fans who are dirty commie trust fund babies), zero-entitlement, and any other strategies that get the best out of my kids.
But as I didn't state before on NCLB, it brings a form of accountatibilty that never existed. If you want the best, then push for the best. Never settle for the least effort. I know my expectations for my children's teachers exceed NCLB and I hope the parents of my students expect the same from me. But I praise your post, and TP's, because it is thought proking and should be read by admininstators, and teachers alike. In fact ... I have an idea that may get me fired.

Truth-Pain said...

I think I am turning into an idealist... scary!

Thanks to everybody for their opinions, seriously. I've learned a lot. I especially appreciate the teachers in the House of Pain who gave me their views based on their unique experiences.

I gotta digest this, I tell ya. A lot to ponder,... a lot of things that are not necessarily consistent,... I think I am more confused than when I started the damn rant. But dangit you guys are intelligent in your own ways....

Thanks for stopping by...

D.Daddio Al-Ozarka said...


This world is in such a stae that I trust my God and myself more than any other...including majorities....ESPECIALLY majorities!

Education is not the key, T-P...CHARACTER is the key.

Character breeds education...not the other way around.

In today's society, education does nothing to build character!

Reckon we can put the chaos genie back in its bottle in this day and age?

Besides, isn't setting standards unifiying in a sense?

If all schools were successful in building character as well as educating...there would hardly be any home-schooling.

The genie has been will remain that way.

Until One who truly has authority over all creation binds the genie and casts it into a bottomless pit!

Always On Watch Two said...

I was working on a long comment here. Then my computer froze, and I lost the comment. **sigh**

Do whatever it takes to ensure that your daughter gets a good education. Books such as THIS ONE, available in several levels, will help you to keep a finger on the pulse of your child's education.