Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is the Tide Turning?

Education is a topic that I feel very passionately about. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum or age group you fall into, this is something that needs to matter to every American. We cannot stay competitive on the world stage if we are raising a generation of idiots.

Some of our school systems are more interested in the coddling of our young than they are in educating them. Part of the educational system in this country needs to concentrate on preparing these kids for the real world. I recently posted on one of my local schools that put a system into place that disallowed failing grades. The school didn't even bother to inform the parents of this until the end of October. A full two months after the school year started. An update to that post is that the parents were outraged to the point that the school has backed down and gotten rid of that program.

Some of our schools that are the worst are the ones in the inner cities. These particular schools are teaching some of America's poorest and neediest. All children deserve a good education, but it is of particular importance to teach these children. A good education is the only way out of the life of poverty that many of them face, some of these kids from generational poverty and public assistance. Sadly, many of these kids see gangs and drug dealing as the only way out. It doesn't need to be this way.

I came across two articles from poorer school systems in California where real questions are being asked about why the schools are failing our young. The first article is about the public school system in Compton. Compton is one of our poorest neighborhoods. Violence is commonplace and it is a life that is very difficult to get out of. A new law in California allows parents to force the school system to make the necessary changes to improve the school system. The parents of McKinley Elementary School have gotten the required signatures to force the school system to become a privately run Charter School. The Parent Trigger Law allows parents to band together and force the lowest performing schools to make this change.

One of the meme's that you hear so often is that there is not enough parental involvement in our schools. While I do believe this to be the case in some instances, obviously these parents are involved and want to see their children and grandchildren to get the education that they deserve.

Ismenia Guzman frets that her 6-year-old daughter is at least a year behind in reading. Victor Barela is worried that his fifth-grade grandson still doesn't know his multiplication and division tables. And Shemika Murphy is determined that her younger daughter get a better education than her older one, who seemed to be doing well in elementary school only to bring home Ds and Fs in middle school.

The Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, wrote an OP-ED piece on Huffington Post requesting that Teacher's Unions get on board for school reform. A full 25% of students in the Los Angeles school system fail to graduate. A number that no one can feel is acceptable. The vast majority of the drop-outs become a drag on the finances of the rest of the country. Many will spend time in jail and others will end up on public assistance in order to survive. Villaraigosa is no right-wing conservative; he is a democrat and strongly supports unions. Matter of fact he was once a union organizer and a former school teacher. It will be very difficult to paint him as someone who is just against unions.

Along the way, there has been one, unwavering roadblock to reform: teacher union leadership.

When we fought to change the seniority-based layoff system that was disproportionately hurting our neediest students, the teachers union fought back.

When we fought to empower parents to turn around failing schools and bring in outside school operators with proven records of success, the teachers union fought back.

And now, while we try to measure teacher effectiveness in order to reward the best teachers and replace the tiny portion who aren't helping our kids learn, the teachers union fights back.

It is a major problem when the unions stick by teachers who are just not performing. In the real world, when your performance is not up to par, you lose your job. There is no reason that teachers should be treated any differently than the rest of us. Especially when you consider what is at stake when they are incapable of doing their jobs. Sadly, they don't see that they lose all creditability when the fight to keep poor teachers. The leadership also falsely claims that reformers are trying to attack all teachers, when that simply is not the case. It is simply the leadership of the unions who keep standing in the way of the real reforms that are necessary in order to right this ship.

Al Sharpton has called education "the civil rights issue" of the day. What I find so hypocritical of him is that he is unwilling to work with the right on this fight as it is in his DNA to stick up for the union employees. There are individual tea parties around the country that are taking up education reform as an issue that they are going to pour energy into in order to obtain awareness. A Tea Party in Arizona rented out theatres in order to air "Waiting for Superman". The hope was to galvanize the community to start pressuring the school boards to make the necessary improvements.

The amount of money that we spend on education in this country we should be getting much more than the lackluster results that we are currently experiencing. The country's resources are limited, so we need to spend our money wisely. There is no one magic answer to the problems our school systems face. The problems differ depending on the individual community. It is time that we start thinking outside of the box and allow individuals to make the fixes that best fit their particular needs instead of forcing these one size fits all answers that have been failing our kids for more than 40 years.

Cross posted at PotLuck


Starsplash said...

Yeah we are not doing them any favors are we?

Opus #6 said...

Jewish writings say that if a man does not teach his child a trade, he is in effect teaching him to steal.

Anonymous said...

Public education is one of my major issues. I really struggled as a child. I figured out by the forth grade that it was best not to appear too smart, most teacher were threatened by it. I also learned that I could learn more in one day of personal study than I could learn from months of school.

I think this experience played a major part in the development of my more libertarian views. I would like to see the control given back to state and local leaders.

rashid1891 said...

When we fought to empower parents to turn around failing schools and bring in outside school operators with proven records of success, the teachers union fought back.

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