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Thursday, May 24, 2012

3 Bullshit Arguments About Education

I love to argue about education. It is what I do. However, I would greatly appreciate it if society would no longer resort to following three bullshit arguments.

1. My Enemy Obviously Doesn't Care About Education Because He Does Not Hold Instruction Time Sacred.

Concerns about instruction time are legitimate when is comes to extending the school year. Some studies show that it would be the most effective means of school reform. But I am not talking about reasoned debate concerning the school year. My issue is with people that use it as an ad homonym attack essentially calling their opponent a instruction-time-taker-awayer. They then drop the microphone and walk off the stage.

These boys have been in school since 1941 and score an average of .002% higher on the latest state math test.

It comes up frequently during contract negotiations when each side claims that the other side doesn't care about the students. Administration believes that teachers are a bunch of slacking tenured blobs, while the faculty views the leardership as dictatorial facists more interested in saving a buck than a child.

The argument would work if either side would offer a solution that would increase instruction time while being financially feasible. Which brings me to the next bullshit argument.

2. You Can't Just Throw Money At The Problem.

We were going to hire Dr. Dre as superintendent, but he can't make it rain like Dr? Fat Joe.

Yes, you can. As I pointed out above, more instruction time means more capable students, but this would require an increase of funds. Studies of instructional time have been historically difficult because the schools with the most instructional time have also been the schools with the most money.

Keeping a building open when you are worried about making the electric bill is not a viable solution. Students would then be leaving a home in which the bills are not always paid to go to a school with the same problem. Cooling a school to make it a proper learning environment is a costly proposition.

Teachers won't, nor should they be asked to, work additional days without an increase in pay. "But wait," you say, "aren't teachers in it for the children?" We are, but it is not a volunteer position.

So, what is the solution. I don't know. Throw money at it?

3. Tenure Makes Teacher Lazy. After Five Years They Just Put It On Cruise Control.

Bullshit. This is a horrible argument to make about anyone, but especially teachers. We enter the job because we love to learn, read, create, analyse, solve and synthesize. The stereotypes of "Ditto" or the Ben Stein character from Ferris Beuller are misremembered, hormone infused images created by adolescents and amplified by adults to create hyperbolic characters that we can laugh at.

To a teenager a history teacher may seem the epitome of monotony,  a gym teacher may be the high school equivalent of a Sith Lord, or a math teacher could become a rule bound robot on the verge of a melt down when confronted with a little congnitive dissonence. In reality they are historians, athletes, and mathmeticians eager to share all of the amazing aspects of the thing they love the most.

All tenure says is that administration has to give a reason for firing a teacher and not just get rid of them because of a difference in pedagogy.

There are a million places I can think of that would be more pleasurable to become a fat ass on cruise control than a high school classroom. Number one on the list? Conservative talk show host.

Can't somebody take his tenure away? What? No, you are going to honor him with a bust instead?


Anonymous said...

Well, all someone making the counter argument is going to do is point to Kansas City schools as "proof positive" that throwing money at education doesn't work.

Dan Holden said...

Don't know the specifics that you are talking about, but I was making an argument for ample and targeted money throwing.

I know the stories of missing grand pianos and swimming pool debacles. I am talking about getting textbooks, food, environmental controls, and student support staff (social workers, nurses, counselors, tutors).

Noodler said...

The original poster may be referring to this 14-year-old document: Of course, the Cato Institute has a very libertarian bias and if those people were in charge there probably wouldn't be any public education at all. To them, it appears that we are spending an insane amount of money on education when compared to other countries and getting very little in return.

A Dutch friend told me that in the Netherlands, the public funds for education follow the student rather than being directed toward school districts. Students decide which schools they will attend. The result seems to be a very high quality education. I am really not sure what the problem would be with doing that here.

Dan Holden said...

The Cato Inst. stuff is depressing. However, if we do straight school choice, it will end up limiting choice unless we regulated like we do in every other industry.