Sunday, January 20, 2013

Following, Then Veering Away From, Diane Ravitch

I followed Diane Ravitch's blog for less than a week.  She has around 20 new posts a day, and it was domineering my feed, so I unfollowed it.  For those of you who don't know, she is a "historian", but she specializes in education.  Many of the education blogs that I read mention her often, so I felt, as a good educator, I should follow her, too.  But, it seems that I just cannot process that many blog entries a day, nor am I as incensed about the shabby treatment of teachers these days.  I just cannot be that invested in the anger anymore.

Slaves would risk their lives
to receive an education.

As fate would have it, the book that I am reading, School, has an introduction written by Diane Ravitch.  I learned a lot from this short prelude; for instance, that middle schools were established because, during the industrial revolution, people wanted some children to be able to enter the workforce before the eighth grade, which was the typical age of graduation.  But, she seems to be a proponent of universal education for all until age eighteen, regardless of ability or even desire.  The lack of interest in education is one of the huge untold story of our times.  Not long ago, everyone from frontier settlers, to slaves, to women, to immigrants, all craved an education as a way of bettering themselves as individuals and as a people.  Today, I'm afraid that some people emphasize a good start in life to the point of absurdity, but a ever-growing number do not care at all, and they assume that the school will take care of all things educational.  And this is one reason why our nation is in a free-fall decline.  

In many places, children still
do risk their lives to obtain
an education.
The job of engaging students currently falls on the teacher.  I say this is not part of our job, and it is time to stop trying to educate the mass of apathetic and disinterested.  Sorry, Ms. Ravitch, but our public school system is clogged with unruly troublemakers and unenthusiastic learners, who come to school, unprepared and unwilling to learn, either because they are compelled by law to do so, or so that their parents will not have to bother with them and their poor behavior for the better part of the day. And this is lowering the amount of learning that occurs, because the pace of a classroom filled with only one of these disruptive students is slowed, but a classroom with five, six or more of these types generally has no flow or learning occurring at all.

I have previously proposed, unrealistically, but wishfully, that we adopt a three-strikes-your-out program for public schools.  If a child cannot seem to sit and behave and allow learning to take place, then after three disruptions, he or she is expelled permanently.  If we want school to still be compulsary, then the parents will then be responsible for their child's education.  That will likely make 99% of students toe the line enough for the level of education to rise across the board.  I know, I know, it will never catch on because it is anti-child and anti-liberty and so on.  Who cares that what's currently happening is also anti-child and anti-liberty, since we're doing no one any favors by allow children to act out in school, and our very liberty is at stake because an uneducated populace is easily manipulated.  I can't help but think that if parents are threatened with either footing a private education bill or, heaven forbid, their child staying home with them all day interfering with their television viewing, that they will become much, much more interested in their child's progress in school.  One can dream, right?

But, I came up with another idea, one inspired by Ms. Ravitch, although unintentionally, since she called it anti-intellectual.  In the early part of the twentieth century, there were many proponents of IQ testing and then tracking students in either college prep (top 20%), vocational training (middle 20%) or life-skill classes (bottom 60%).  The difference I suggest is that, rather than have the students selected by IQ, to have them choosen by the teachers.  This would give educators some leverage in discipline, of which we have none today.  I have often thought how the dullards could really use training in just how to handle basic life tasks, such as balancing a check book, how not to have more children than you can take care of, how to feed those children something other than soda and candy, and other things that the ruling and middle class assume everyone knows.  Not everyone knows these things.  Some people do need to be protected from themselves and their stupidity, and if some children can't seem to follow basic classroom protocol, maybe a course in how to act in school, public, and life is just what they need instead of fractions.


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