Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Education and Elections

Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense. That is my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet. - Sam, The West Wing

So, I was channel surfing today, and ran across the GOP debate (sadly, on Fox). The topic that came up was education (getting sadly little attention in this election).

Some thoughts came to my mind whilst watching the crazy (Of course, no one mentions the option of taking the money they'd throw into "choice" and vouchers and actually improving inner city schools):

There was a suggestion (by grandpa Fred) that we get rid of qualifications for teachers and bring people from various jobs into the classroom. Not that there aren't people all over the country who have valuable experience that should be shared with students, but this was one of the many points that was made that shows an utter ignorance of education. These candidates talk about removing standards for teachers, increasing home schooling, "returning" oversight of education to parents, and how education is not a federal issue, but a state issue (this last one I don't understand at all). As a teacher (although not at the K-12 level they were talking about), I can say with some level of expertise that these people are full of it.

Education is not an enterprise that should taken lightly, and too many do so. Recall the old, and frightful, adage "Those who can't do, teach." This suggests the idea that just about anybody (even, or perhaps especially, the incompetent) can walk into a classroom and be an effective teacher. That anyone can develop a curriculum which prepares students for all of the challenges they will face educationally and professionally. That teaching, unlike so many other professions in this country, is not based on skill and training and passion and experience, but rather something anyone can do.

Anyone who has tried to teach knows that is patently absurd. Not that there aren't bad teachers, or teachers who don't care, or teachers who are more concerned about their paycheck than whether their students learn a darned thing - of course, there are those people in every profession. But turning education over to people without training, without an understanding of learning, without true depth of expertise in specific disciplines as well as in the practice of teaching, to pretend that heck, anyone can do this, so let's get government out of it, is insulting, dangerous, and destructive.

Oh, and Alan Keyes is still a fucking nutball.

1 comment:

I'm Not Ned said...

I didn't have the pleasure of watching the debates, but here is my take on the education system from someone on the outside.

Many conservatives feel unions are a burden on the economy. The neo-cons (not true conservatives) also understand that if you educate the low end of the economic spectrum you risk losing the low end of the economic spectrum to exploit.

Education also teaches people how to formulate intelligent ideas that resist manipulation.

So how perfect is it for the neo-con to denounce the teachers union and "blame" them for state of education? This leads to funding cuts and further criticism. From there it's a downward spiral until the school system must supplement their funding with corporate money, say in the form of a PizzaHut/McDonalds/Coca-Cola intervention. Now we've got fat and dumb kids. And as we all know, "fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son."