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Democrats Condemn Kids to Ignorance and Poverty

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As President Obama's kids are settling in at Sidwell Friends, one of the best private schools in the nation, Congress is preparing to pass a budget which takes away funding from Washington DC's Opportunity Scholarship Program, which makes it possible for 1700 kids a year — mostly African-American — to escape from the worst public school system in the country and attend a charter school or a private school, thus giving them a chance at a better future.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program is only four years old and has barely had a chance to prove itself, but it stands little chance of continuing when the federal funds backing it are eliminated from the budget by Democratic legislators eager to keep campaign contributions from the teachers unions flowing. Teachers unions don't like any kind of program which gives kids a chance to escape from government-run schools, and even this relatively modest voucher program is too much of a threat to be allowed to survive now that they have some clout. The funding was in the budget coming out of the last session, but has now been removed and is unlikely to be added back in with Democrats in control.

The program provides $7500 vouchers to about 1700 DC public school students chosen by lottery with which they can change schools, attend a charter school or attend an area private school. Every student who uses a voucher releases more money for other students who stay behind in public school because their voucher is underwritten by the federal government and is considerably less than the $14,400 per student spent by the DC public school system, which has the sad distinction of being the one of the most expensive and lowest performing school systems in the nation. DC ranks last in the nation in math and reading, 4th lowest in SAT scores and 6th worst in graduation rate,

Perhaps most important and almost always overlooked by those doing studies on voucher programs is how many graduates go to college and the quality of the colleges they end up attending. In the DC public school system only 59% of high school students even graduate. Of those only 36% have completed the course work necessary to qualify to go to a 4-year college degree program. Only 52.8% of those who take the SAT in DC go to college. Of those, 86.2% attend in-state colleges, which in the overwhelming majority of cases means that they attend the University of the District of Columbia.  UDC offers 4-year degrees, but is basically comparable to a decent community college. That means that of entering freshmen, only about a fifth will end up going to college and most of those will go to a second-rate institution.

In comparison, at the top private schools in DC like St. Albans, National Cathedral and Sidwell Friends, virtually all of the students graduate and about 99% of those graduates go on to college and more than 25% of those graduates go to one of the top 10 colleges in the country — like Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Princeton and Stanford. In other words, the private schools send more graduates to the very best colleges in the world than even manage to get to college at all after graduating a public high-school in DC.

Now admittedly, the $7500 which this program provides to students isn't enough by itself to pay for a private school, which costs $15,000 to $30,000 a year. But all of these private schools also have endowments for scholarships, some of them quite substantial and targeting kids from the poorer parts of DC. On average, for every 3 students who come with a $7500 voucher, another student is able to attend one of these schools for free; between vouchers and private endowments a lot more poor students can attend some of the best private schools in the nation than could have otherwise.

In addition, these vouchers can also be used at charter schools in DC, whose performance is much closer to private schools than public schools. DC charter schools graduate 91% of their students — almost double the rate at DC public schools. 83% of those students attend college; close to three times the number of DC public school students going to college. As a group, in 2007, DC charter school graduates received $11 million in college scholarship awards — a vital advantage when so many of them come from an underprivileged background.

High school graduation and the chance to go to college can make all the difference in the world for a poor kid from the inner city. It massively reduces the chance that they will be involved in crime, reduces their chance of using drugs, more than doubles their long-term earning potential and even raises up others in the community around them. It also substantially reduces their chance of a violent death. DC has a rate of violent crime which is three times the national average, and its poor neighborhoods are among the poorest in the nation. Unemployment is high, drug use is widespread in the poor communities and for many there is no way out. Kids born into this environment are born doomed.

Access to better educational opportunities is the key to saving children from poverty and social disadvantage. A public school system which sends only a small fraction of its graduates to college and is rated third worst in the nation is not providing that opportunity. But for almost 2000 students a year, the Opportunity Scholarship Program does offer hope of a much better education and a very good chance at a degree from a good four-year college. By taking this program away, Democrats in congress are reminding us that they don't really care about helping the most needy in our society. They just want to keep getting their votes, while pandering to the special interests for whom keeping the people poor and undereducated is politically advantageous.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Well, they’ll be in poverty with the rest of our kids (and grandkids). This problem is not confined to DC, but is a malaise that is spreading everywhere.

    Makes me almost happy that I won’t be around to witness the chaos.

  • Baronius

    Dave, this is a peculiar question to ask a charter-school supporter, but what is the argument used by the other side? I’ve never heard anyone argue against vouchers and charter schools. They just talk about the standard NEA bullet points: smaller classes are good, standardized tests are bad, et cetera.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The argument against charter schools that I find most convincing is that they have a mixed track record as far as producing results. They also have a real history of financial and management problems. In states where there is a charter school system the oversight is often inadequate and a lot of people try to get into the business and can’t hack it and leave the students high and dry when they go belly up. The failure rate is much higher than it really ought to be.

    The other argument the NEA will bring up is that charter schools don’t improve test scores that much. On standardized tests charter school students do only a couple of points better than public school students and where the public schools are good they may perform worse or at the same level. But the bit of data they always gloss over is the far superior graduation and college placement rates, and in the end I think that matters a lot more than test scores.

    Oh, and another IMO spurious argument against them is the old chicken and the egg question. Did the students with more involved parents all transfer to the charter schools thereby causing superior performance for the charter schools and lower performance for the public schools?

    smaller classes are good, standardized tests are bad, et cetera.

    Of course, actual studies don’t support the “smaller classes are good” old wives tale – at least up to a point. And the NEA’s members love standardized tests because they reduce the actual work they have to do.

    Dave

  • Baronius

    Yeah, that seems right. Because public schools are models of efficiency and oversight. And pre-K has a proven track record.

    I’ll say this, Dave: before you write an article you actually learn about the subject. Kudos.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    “And the NEA’s members love standardized tests because they reduce the actual work they have to do.”

    Over the course of the last several years, including 5 years during which my wife taught in the Indianapolis Public Schools, I have yet to converse with any teacher who “love standardized tests.” Contrary to your blanket accusation, most teachers in all schools hate prepping for and administering standardized tests. These tests eliminate the possibility of any real teaching happening in the classroom.

    I, myself, have taught in inner-city public schools. Before you remount your high horse to condescend to public school teachers, I’d suggest you spend a year or two giving it a try. In this regard, it’s clear that you haven’t a clue of what you speak.

    B

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Since Obama supports charter schools, but has been less vocal about vouchers, I assume there will be significant efforts to expand government support for charters.

    Of course, it shouldn’t be the case that only a select few kids get to go to good schools. The real challenge is to raise the quality of all schools, not just a tiny percentage.

  • Clavos

    These tests eliminate the possibility of any real teaching happening in the classroom.

    Not that most PS teachers know how…

    When I was in college, one year I worked for the university’s Audio/Visual department. My job was to show films requested by profs to their classes. Our biggest customers were the Education department, and the films were often about such vital teacher skills as designing bulletin boards, or assigning seating.

    Ed majors studying to become English teachers were required to take only one quarter of the semester hours in English courses as I, an English major, was required to take; yet, upon graduation, because I did not have the bulletin board decoration credits, I couldn’t teach literature to grade or high school students, while they could.

    My mother in law, a college prof (in three different states), had to teach at least one section of remedial English (reading comprehension, grammar and writing) to incoming Freshmen every quarter.

    It’s no wonder US students rank so far below those of other developed countries.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    My mother in law, a college prof (in three different states), had to teach at least one section of remedial English (reading comprehension, grammar and writing) to incoming Freshmen every quarter.

    It beggars belief. What are people who can’t read, write, do basic math or think for themselves even doing in college?

    Imagine the uproar if the Navy were teaching introductory firearms and self-defense courses to its SEALS…

  • serflo

    I think is time for those bona fide advocates of vouchers and charter schools who think that these alternatives may be part of the “solution” for public schools”failure” to reconsider their support.
    To start of, I invite every one to challenge the premise that public schools are failing their student population. I consider this idea unwarranted. To what extent the students and their parents have been shortchanged by public schools? And are we to believe that public schools are guilty as charged and condemned to destruction? It is hard to believe if we consider that the average teacher holds a teaching credentials and many of them master degrees. Moreover, why are we to believe that charter schools and private schools should be the future of schooling in America? School districts are run by democratically elected board members. Do we want to get rid of democracy? Why?
    Secondly, the suggestion that competition with private and charter schools may improve public school performance is equally implausible. Considering competition for customers, like fast food chains do, on the same level as competing for producing better educated citizens is a poor analogy at best.
    Furthermore, the past federal administration’s economic support for charter schools and vouchers opened the door for business people to enter education. Tax payers money, that should have been used in public education, was made avaiable for the first time to private corporations.
    Are charter schools better that public schools? The numbers produced by independent research comparing performances of both public and private systems do not conclude that charter schools do better. How much more public money do we want to spend in charter schools? Why?
    Instead of trying to persuade people that charter schools or/and vouchers (which are untested alternatives) solve the arbitrarily defined problem of offering quality education,I think people in the media would do a better service to Americans by opening a constructive debate.
    Rather than continue critizising and condemning public schools, people in the media could create an oportunity to see public education in a social and economic context that must include all its stakeholders.
    After all, what is the ultimate or most desirable goal in educating our present and future generations? I believe that we all should think about public education as an institution created for the benefit of all. To improve the education of some(for whatever reason or excuse), instead of improving it for all, does not seem like the goal this or any other country should promote.

  • Mr Dock Ellis

    The charter school in my county was just shanghied from their new school building into the oldest, most distant school building in the district. The principle in the school there before was transferred because the old deteriorating building made her sick. The local school board threatened to pull their charter unless they moved into the dump. Next year, the public school will take over the the nice new former charter school building. Extinction for this charter school is just around the corner

    War has been declared on Charter Schools by Dems and the Union of Soviet Socialist Teachers.

    BTW anybody notice the tepid response to Obama’s declaration of support for charter schools in the state of the union? No doofy Pelosi cheerleading on that one.
    The fix is in for Charter schools.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I stand corrected, B-Tone. My experience is all in teaching at the college level and I assumed that the same dynamic applied in high schools. In that context my observation has been that standardized tests were the refuge of the slackers and burnouts. And I wasn’t alone in this observation. Our department eventually banned standardized tests entirely because of this problem.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dr. D. Teaching introductory history courses in college we were expected to provide a certain amount of remedial English instruction as a matter of course. About 20% of our students hadn’t passed the English language skills qualifying test, but they got admitted anyway.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    To start of, I invite every one to challenge the premise that public schools are failing their student population. I consider this idea unwarranted.

    Did you even look at the graduation and matriculation stats I provided in this article?

    To what extent the students and their parents have been shortchanged by public schools? And are we to believe that public schools are guilty as charged and condemned to destruction?

    Again, who said anything about destruction? Most studies show that charter schools and vouchers introduce competition which causes public schools to improve in response. Plus voucher systems like the one in DC actually put MORE money into the public schools for each student who gets a voucher.

    It is hard to believe if we consider that the average teacher holds a teaching credentials and many of them master degrees.

    Usually in education, which is basically worthless.

    Moreover, why are we to believe that charter schools and private schools should be the future of schooling in America? School districts are run by democratically elected board members. Do we want to get rid of democracy? Why?

    Because it’s a terrible way to run anything that’s supposed to be effective.

    Secondly, the suggestion that competition with private and charter schools may improve public school performance is equally implausible.

    Except that it’s suported statistically by the studies I cite in the article, though I didn’t discuss it.

    Furthermore, the past federal administration’s economic support for charter schools and vouchers opened the door for business people to enter education.

    And business people are evil, right?

    Tax payers money, that should have been used in public education, was made avaiable for the first time to private corporations.

    With good results in most cases, until the teachers unions found ways to destroy the efforts.

    Are charter schools better that public schools? The numbers produced by independent research comparing performances of both public and private systems do not conclude that charter schools do better. How much more public money do we want to spend in charter schools? Why?

    Again, you didn’t read the article. You’re providing pre-programmed responses from a talking points list.

    Remainder of the NEA shill stock response deleted…

    Dave

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Teaching at the college level has virtually no relationship to teaching K-12.

    My wife taught junior high English. She was expected to provide 30 to 35 kids per class – 6 classes a day. In her first year for all of those kids she was provided a total of around 18 or 20 books. She was provided 1 ream of paper that was to last the entire year. During her tenure she had a dozen or more pregnant 7th & 8th grade girls. A number of kids – boys and girls routinely came to school armed with knives and even a few guns. (This was at a time prior to the advent of the school shootings that began a few years after she left teaching.) Her principal told her to keep the guns and knives in her desk during class and return them at the end of the day.

    Drug dealers were usually standing near the school exits at when school let out. I was approached a number of times when I went to pick my wife up. A majority of her students came from single parent homes. Many of the kids had one or more parents and/or siblings in jail.

    And this is just mild mannered midwestern Indianapolis. So, yes, that these kids didn’t do well in school, didn’t go to college, didn’t become pillars of the community was my wife’s fault. She was just one of those slacker burn outs.

    Her experience is not simply anecdotal. Nor is it the worst of situations faced by many teachers. The wife of a college friend of ours was raped in her classroom in Milwaukee – during a class by the father of one of her students. But, again, she must have been a lousy teacher to let that happen.

    I taught junior high English at a local catholic school, and the conditions were only slightly better. I have taught both theatre arts and real estate courses as an adjunct professor at 2 different schools here in Indy. It was a different world entirely.

    Many in this country have always despised teachers in the belief that if you can, you do, if you can’t, you teach.

    Could the problems possibly be caused by the constant fight that conservatives mount against money for public education? Could it sourced from the mind-set of those who would do away with the Dept. of Education? Yay, Ronnie!

    B

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    A apologize for the garbled comment above. I mistakenly hit publish in the midst of doing some editing. But, I suppose you get my drift.

    B

  • bliffle

    “Dr. D. Teaching introductory history courses in college we were expected to provide a certain amount of remedial English instruction as a matter of course. About 20% of our students hadn’t passed the English language skills qualifying test, but they got admitted anyway.

    Dave”

    Worse: they’re graduating from college with little improvement. The last few years I’ve read many reports by grads that looked like they were written by 8th graders: incomprehensible spelling and grammar. And they don’t care. They are defiant” “it’s the ideas that are important, not the words”. But the ideas are even worse!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But bliffle. You’ve been accused on the other thread of having no appreciation of “book knowledge.”

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    B-tone, you’re right, but you’re also wrong. You’re right that in many schools conditions are horrendous, but you’re putting the blame in the wrong place.

    My uncle taught in the DC public schools under conditions even worse than those you describe and I have friends who teach in the relatively good Austin public schools. I was also on our Campus Advisory Council (kind of like a mini school board) when my kids were in public school, so I have some idea how things are and how they work.

    As a general rule blame shouldn’t be put on the teachers. Though some may be complacent time-servers, most are not. Most are dedicated and devoted to their jobs — and leave in frustration in less than 5 years on average.

    The problem is not republicans or Ronnie or GWB and his NCLB. The problem is excessive administrative overhead and bureaucratic bullshit which strangles the system. I’ve seen the figures. In too many school districts more than 50% of the money spent goes to administrative overhead, to hiring unnecessary bureaucrats in central administration instead of purchasing books. Then, to justify their existence the bureaucrats impose reams of unnecessary paperwork and bogus rules on the teachers and spend money heedlessly on capital projects which have little or nothing to do with quality of education.

    This is why private and charter schools are a threat, because for even a paltry half of what is spent per student in a regular public school they can provide the same or better services if they are run intelligently. And teachers will leave the public school system to teach at them just to get away from the bureaucratic hassles.

    I’ll give you an example. My youngest daughter attends a private school with about 600 students in it. There are a total of 3 full-time administrative employees. The rest of the work is done by parent volunteers and the teachers. Most of the teachers are former public school teachers who left because they wanted more autonomy in the classroom. The cost per student is about 2/3 what it is per student in local public schools. Teacher pay and benefits are comparable to the local public schools. There’s even some money left over for capital improvements and a few scholarships. This particular school is run as a non-profit, but other schools are run similarly on a for-profit basis and do pretty well too.

    The teachers are as much victims of the public school system as anyone else. Plus they are doubly victimized by unions which perpetuate the system and defend it out of a misguided belief that the system and not their members are what’s important.

    Dave

  • serflo

    To start of, I invite every one to challenge the premise that public schools are failing their student population. I consider this idea unwarranted.

    Did you even look at the graduation and matriculation stats I provided in this article?
    Yes. It is you who fail to see my point, which is to consider a plan to improve education for all, not for some. I find more important and worthy of a government effort to provide a better education to all, than to a few. That program in DC does not provide the same opportunity to all the DC students. How many can be saved from poverty? Would you better consider an alternative to save them all?

    To what extent the students and their parents have been shortchanged by public schools? And are we to believe that public schools are guilty as charged and condemned to destruction?

    Again, who said anything about destruction? Most studies show that charter schools and vouchers introduce competition which causes public schools to improve in response. Plus voucher systems like the one in DC actually put MORE money into the public schools for each student who gets a voucher.
    The dismantling of public education is explained in NCLB. The process is spelled like this. Schools that do not show improvement in certain time are penalized until they succeed or they will eventually can be taken over by the state and converted in charter schools. The money provided in vouchers is money that could have gone to public education. I don’t think anyone believe that this money used for vouchers is in addition to the public education funds; It is money taken away from PE. Look at the federal government budget and you will see that the decision to take that money is made with PE funds. It so happens that it is not sustainable to continue with this program at this time.

    It is hard to believe if we consider that the average teacher holds a teaching credentials and many of them master degrees.

    Usually in education, which is basically worthless.
    Up to this point I thought you were a reasonable person. I cannot counter argue such a baseless opinion.

    Moreover, why are we to believe that charter schools and private schools should be the future of schooling in America? School districts are run by democratically elected board members. Do we want to get rid of democracy? Why?

    Because it’s a terrible way to run anything that’s supposed to be effective.
    With the present situation around the world, the ideology of free and unregulated market has shown its dangers and harmful effects. I don’t think your statement should be considered as factual. I think we should all consider the implications of being selective in who deserves education and who doesn’t. A democratic system is inclusive, any other system isn’t. If we value democracy, we should ponder about the importance of this

    Secondly, the suggestion that competition with private and charter schools may improve public school performance is equally implausible.

    Except that it’s supported statistically by the studies I cite in the article, though I didn’t discuss it. I am no expert, but I have read some studies. None of them show statistically significant result in favor of charter schools or private schools. Again, we are dealing here with a problem defined within a particular frame that does not account for the socio-economic conditions, among others.

    Furthermore, the past federal administration’s economic support for charter schools and vouchers opened the door for business people to enter education.

    And business people are evil, right?
    No. Business people are after profits, not improving education. That is a simple statement. If we are going to based the future of generations on education providers that think profits as the main goal of their existence, we have to think twice what we are getting ourselves into.

    Tax payers money, that should have been used in public education, was made avaiable for the first time to private corporations.

    With good results in most cases, until the teachers unions found ways to destroy the efforts. Teachers Unions have not destroyed the efforts to improve public education. To the contrary. TU have consistently tried to provide ideas, suggestions, and plans to do so. If we are to solve problems we need to be inclusive. It would be absurd to impede the TU participation in the process to improve public education. In the same way, business people and every stakeholder should have a place and a voice in the discussion.

    Are charter schools better that public schools? The numbers produced by independent research comparing performances of both public and private systems do not conclude that charter schools do better. How much more public money do we want to spend in charter schools? Why?

    Again, you didn’t read the article. You’re providing pre-programmed responses from a talking points list.
    Again, you didn’t do an objective research. (By the way, I don’t have talking points from no one.) I start from the point that we need to improve public education for all, and finish with the plan to include everyone to study and know more about the problem. Do we really care about saving people from poverty? Whom? I do. Everyone.

  • Cindy

    There is an old adage that goes something like this:

    Pour a bunch of facts into a person and she’ll forget them right after the test. Teach a person to think and she’ll have a skill to rely on for a lifetime.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Very good!

  • Cindy

    It’s really absurd to me. Children are naturally interested in learning. You can observe this from the minute they are born. They never stop. Then they get stuck in a school–a place where that inclination is mostly crushed.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Something is out of whack.

  • Baronius

    Serflo, you don’t seem to be interested in a constructive debate at all. How realistic is it to try to improve everyone’s education by doing exactly what we’ve been doing, without admitting that there’s even a problem? You say that public schools aren’t failing – I can’t imagine a statistic that would support that. Then you say that charter schools don’t improve education, and only improve it for a few. But we need to do more (unspecified). Because all children can gain equally from education.

    There’s nothing in any of that that makes sense.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “In too many school districts more than 50% of the money spent goes to administrative overhead, to hiring unnecessary bureaucrats in central administration instead of purchasing books. Then, to justify their existence the bureaucrats impose reams of unnecessary paperwork and bogus rules on the teachers and spend money heedlessly on capital projects which have little or nothing to do with quality of education.”

    This is a great point.

  • Hope and Change?

    Ignorance and Poverty….this is the Democrats plan to grow and retain party members…

    They are building on their success of the election of King Barry….He won the election by to main voter blocks….

    1. Poor and stupid – “He’s black… we have to vote for him!”

    2. Rich and stupid – “He’s black! we have to give him money and vote for him!”

    So the more poor and ingorant Americans there are the better off the democrats will be!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “I find more important and worthy of a government effort to provide a better education to all, than to a few.”

    You may be right, serflo, about the main objective. But you also have to consider that they system shouldn’t present the obstacle to “the few.” There had been some valid objections, way in a past, that catering to the lowest common denominator does have the effect of reducing the level of education in general.

  • Baronius

    Dave and Bar – I’m suspicious of teachers who don’t want to “teach to the test”. Are there so many more facts than there were in my day? Teachers used to be able to instruct us in the essentials and teach us how to learn.

    If the standardized tests cover the essentials, then teachers shouldn’t be complaining about having to teach the material. If the tests cover nonsense, then the problem isn’t teaching to the test; it’s the test itself.

    I know that Bar is right about K12 teachers hating standardized tests. I assume that Dave is right about colleges loving them, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m unfairly sympathetic to standardized tests, because I was always pretty good at them. I suspect that teachers who oppose them are doing so because they document teachers’ failures.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I suppose part of the objection to “standardized testing” has to do with unequal starting points. What if you inherit a class of dumbbells? How do you bring them then to the national average? It’d seem you would have to do it in stages. One way or another, it doesn’t speaks well to the education system. It gets diluted.
    Why not hold the dumbbells for a term or two before promoting them to the next class level? Anything wrong with that idea?

    Correct me if I’m wrong with this analysis.

  • Cindy

    Baronius,

    How very odd and disturbing to read that coming from someone who said this:

    Imagine, though, if we could teach history as it occurred, with millions of people fighting over God and empire and money and freedom, all the things that drive human behaviour. If we taught children poems about love and death. If we showed science as a fight between great minds about the nature of the universe. If, in short, we showed kids what the world really is, instead of the sanitized version that gives no offense. Imagine if we confirmed what children intuitively know, that there are ideas worth fighting for.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Who said that?

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    The objection to standardized testing comes basically because of this:

    No Child Left a Dime made it so schools cannot get money from the fed unless they prove they are teaching according to some “standard”. This “standard”, whatever the fuck that means…is constantly tested for now.

    Teachers (despite how bad they were at actual teaching in the first place) are no longer able to use their own ideas. It’s all about trying to stuff some facts into the kids and have them regurgitate them to measure if they are “learning”, so the school can meet its budget.

    It is like taking what was originally one of the the problems with education and accelerating it to warp speed.

  • Cindy

    Re #31

    Baronius.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t see anything wrong with those comments of his. Do you?

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    Try rereading #28 and then #30.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Re #32:

    In that case, the problem (apart from the politics issue which I abhor) seems to be with the quality of those tests. Why can’t they be upgraded so they mean something? The exit exams should be pretty much uniform/standard, IMO, because we’re talking about college admissions further down the line, don’t we? Besides, why can’t the standardized tests allow for flexibility as well for individual teachers to be able to exercise their own initiative.

    Am I missing something?

  • Cindy

    Am I missing something?

    Just everything.

    How are you gong to inspire thinking and debate and argument and a love of learning by stuffing empty vessels with facts you determine to be important?

  • Cindy

    They don’t like it–very rightly so! If they rebel I support them. Sadly, most just either comply or acquiesce in the removal of their minds.

    I’ve rarely met a child who went through school unscathed emotionally, who turned into anyone I’d feel comfortable with as an adult.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s not my experience. There’s room for facts and dialogue too. Facts are subject to interpretation, especially in the humanities; less so in the hard sciences. Why make such a dichotomy?

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    Because the “facts” are generally owned by the teacher. The students are the vessels into which the “facts” are poured.

    When in reality, the teachers don’t have the facts. It’s an illusion. It’s based on authority.

    It’s been demonstrated, for example, in that we have well over 100 years of studies that clearly show that teaching grammar does not promote, help or encourage literacy.* Yet, teachers are taught, and schools still work by, and people insist on thinking that teaching grammar is important and is what needs more of doing.

    *You won’t see those studies brought up in the education of English teachers (unless you are lucky to actually get an excellent professor).

  • Cindy

    It’s B.S. look at Dave’s “history”. Seems sort of selective at times, wouldn’t you say?

    Do I want Dave giving children those “facts”?

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I’m not changing my tune at all. We should teach kids to read, and expose them to the classics. We should teach them the facts of history, because what could be more inspiring than the story of man? The numbers and syntax are essential for sharing great thoughts. If the standard is sound, it won’t be confining for teachers. You put the word in quotes dismissively, but it’s all about the standard.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Standarized tests are an attempt to bring fairness to education. A gifted teacher can give a child a huge boost in life, but how is that fair to the kid who ends up with the bad teacher – the one who’s cynical, or who’s a tyrant and a bully, or who can’t impose discipline in the classroom? At least with a standard curriculum you can ensure that each child receives more or less the same information.

    But, conversely, how is it fair to sacrifice the opportunity for a kid to benefit from that gifted teacher’s personal input for the sake of the tests?

    As a kid, I loved to draw and paint and it was one of my favourite subjects all the way up through the first year of secondary school (equivalent to your 6th grade). Then in my second year I had the bad luck to get a teacher who took a dislike to me and systematically belittled my efforts, to the extent that I became convinced that I was crap at art, dropped the subject at the first opportunity and didn’t take it up again until a few years ago.

    I discovered that I was still quite good at it – and in hindsight, I could quite possibly have chosen to go to art college.

    I think that while standardized tests have a place, the focus needs to shift towards identifying bad teachers while they’re still in college, or at the very latest while they’re in training, and steering them away from the profession.

  • Cindy

    All I can say is it’s a good thing we don’t take over thinking we know better how to “teach” children to crawl and walk.

    They’d all be lame.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s an old, even classical tradition that grammar teaching, at least at elementary levels, instructs the mind about the logic of language and thought. I’m not saying now that it’s not boring; but it has its values. Any subject can be made interesting depending on who presents it. Besides, I think you’re putting too great a value on what high school education can possibly accomplish. Those days are long gone. All one can possibly hope for is steer some minds with a taste for more. A real growth, I daresay, can take place only at the college level. And it’s got to be humanities, liberal arts, all that – no science courses. It’s only then that a mind really awakens and, hopefully, some people “find themselves.”

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    There is evidence that teaching grammar harms literacy. I recommend you have a look at it. It might influence your opinion.

    Or not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Regarding “grammar teacher,” get hold of one of the first books by John Barth, The End of the Road. It’s hilarious.

  • Cindy

    It’s an old, even classical tradition that grammar teaching, at least at elementary levels, instructs the mind about the logic of language and thought.

    And it’s wrong. Flat out dead wrong.

    And as far as that goes. Ask me who I’m going to believe. The man who is responsible for revolutionizing the entire field of linguistics? The 100 years of evidence that gets ignored? Or the old classic tradition.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Why should I take Dave as an example?

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I believe that grammar teaches clarity of thought. I know that it improves clarity of communication. Both those things are important for furthering education. So maybe grammar doesn’t improve literacy (a point I’m not granting), but it improves learning.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sorry, Cindy. The great classical tradition had produced great minds. We are on a downhill. This kind of argument will never convince me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Besides, grammar instills discipline and rigor. But enough said.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    PS: Only once you learn it, then you can creatively discard it – as all great novelists are apt to do. But not before. Creative writing is a course which properly belongs at the college level.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Absolutely, Roger. Playing with English and breaking its rules is great fun (not to mention that it’s one of the ways in which the language changes and develops). But you have to know what those rules are in the first place, otherwise it’s just a mess.

    The problem with classical grammar training is that its proponents tried to impose Latin grammar rules on English*, which works in a completely different way.

    * Which is where the ‘rule’ about not splitting infinitives comes from. Ironically, it’s not even possible to split an infinitive in Latin; therefore, the reasoning went, you shouldn’t be able to do it in English either.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    To amplify point made earlier. Graduating from high school is not supposed to produce geniuses – only a certain level of competence and basic skills and generalized kind of knowledge (so as to make you different from a complete idiot). So again, the most one can hope for here is to stimulate the minds so they they be hungry for knowledge and learning (to include here more than just “facts”). Critical thinking is a development that rarely occurs early in life. It’s a product of long exposure to education, great teachers, and the desire. And that’s what liberal arts colleges and universities are for.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Doc #54:

    That’s exactly right – no imposition of any kind here, especially with respect to English which is more liberated from Latin than any other Romance language (although Latin and Greek grammar have their own strong points). But English, of all tongues, is so free from those restrictions like word order, for one, that it’s the most fun and the most innovative and open-ended language there is. But to be able to break “the rules,” you’ve got to know them first.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Which doesn’t negate Cindy’s point about Chomsky’s idea of “innate language” (Cartesian linguistics). The same point could well be made in connected with Aristotle. His rules of syllogism and deductive argument were extrapolations from the rules native speakers already employ when they speak the language. He’d only made explicit what was implicit before. And good for Aristotle, I should say.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    I wouldn’t expect you to believe me. I would hope that you’d read how Chomsky revolutionized linguistics, or even ask for the studies, that maybe you’d be curious to challenge your own beliefs. But, I see your mind is made up. That’s fine. Most people’s are. I try to point things out is all.

    Shinichi Suzuki influenced me a great deal when I was young. It’s because of him I read Tolstoy’s journals/diary. Suzuki is known for the Suzuki method of teaching violin. He intuitively discerned, through observation, how children learn language and sought to apply this knowledge so that music, like language could be had by any child from a very young age (preschool). Very successful, he was. Literally any child can play a violin and have music just like language.

    How he teaches a child to play violin models how he saw children learn language. It has a lot to do with a nurturing environment, modeling, immersion, small steps, and love.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Read #57. I’m a Wittgensteinian, remember.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    German is pretty creative as well (and they actually do have a valid rule against splitting infinitives!). It has the smallest vocabulary of any of the Indo-European languages, yet an almost infinite number of compound words can be built to suit the particular circumstance.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, we can do compounds as well. The problem with German, though, all those compounds created nouns – and therefore “objectified” the subjects so named to the level of metaphysics – bad, bad, for philosophy. “Verb” should be the heart of all confusion-free thinking. It’s difficult to go wrong with a verb. But convert it into a noun form and you’re asking for trouble.

  • Cindy

    But to be able to break “the rules,” you’ve got to know them first.

    Grammar is the making up of rules, after the fact, and applying them in a very non-intuitive way, to things that we already know. They don’t fit well and they can interfere with understanding what our brains are designed to understand. Let me see if I can find you one example.

    When they aren’t doing that particular disservice, they are influencing children against loving language and reading and writing. Children learn grammar by talking and reading and then writing.

    The more they read, the better they understand grammar. It’s automatically transferred. The key is to inspire a love of reading. (This is not often accomplished by way of force.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    People don’t believe me when I say that English commands a vocabulary of over 1.2 million words. They think French is richer (only about 500,000). Although French expressions and turns of phrase are so apropos. I love it for that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Again, reread my #57.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #62: As an adherent of Chomsky, you should know better. The “rules” are already inherent in the “language faculty” a native speaker is endowed. It’s inseparable and comes part and parcel with the native speaker learning the language. The benefit here is only of making explicit what is already in use and bring it into the person’s awareness. And it’s all to the good to know what we already do intuitively and naturally. For only then we can be free and start improvising.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And how can I argue about inspiring persons to read?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Correction:

    “comes part and parcel with the native speaker Learning the language”

    According to Chomsky, “learning” would be a wrong terms here, since the language faculty is already there.

  • Cindy

    Yes, I remember your love of “W” Roger. But since you like “thought experiments” I’ll give you one of Patrick Hartwell’s. (The person I suggest minimally reading on the subject of literacy.)

    This might be fun for anyone who want to try it. So, here is the definition, before the experiment.

    Grammar 1 definition: The first thing we mean by “grammar” is “the set of formal patterns in which the words of a language are arranged in order to convey larger meanings.” It is not necessary that we be able to discuss these patterns self-consciously in order to he able to use them. In fact, all speakers of a language above the age of five or six know how to use its complex forms of organization with considerable skill; in this sense of the word—call it “Grammar 1″—they are thoroughly familiar with its grammar.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Chomsky’s problem, though, has to do with i-language, which is to say, language that is individuated rather than shared in common with all native speakers.

  • Cindy

    Arrange the following words in a natural order:

    French

    the

    young

    girls

    four

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t have any problem, offhand, with this definition. Why do you suppose that I would? Again, you’re missing what I said in earlier comments.

  • Cindy

    Are you planning to cooperate with the thought experiment?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There isn’t a natural order here to speak of – not unless you provide me with a verb – unless you wan’t me to come up with a composite noun:

    The four young French girls

  • Cindy

    ooops, I did it backwards… I wrecked the experiment. I should have asked for the rule first, then gave the ordering part 2nd.
    So, I’ll just tell you what Hartwell found:

    “I have asked members of a number of different groups—from sixth graders to college freshmen to high-school teachers—to give me the rule for ordering adjectives of nationality, age, and number in English. The response is always the same: “We don’t know the rule.” Yet when I ask these groups to perform an active language task, they show productive control…”

    “I have never seen a native speaker of English who did not immediately produce the natural order, “the four young French girls.” The rule is that in English the order of adjectives is first, number, second, age, and third, nationality. Native speakers can create analogous phrases using the rule—”the seventy-three aged Scandinavian lechers”; and the drive for meaning is so great that they will create contexts to make sense out of violations of the rule, as in foregrounding for emphasis: “I want to talk to the French four young girls.” (I immediately envision a large room, perhaps a banquet hall, filled with tables at which are seated groups of four young girls, each group of a different nationality.) So Grammar 1 is eminently usable knowledge—the way we make our life through language–but it is not accessible knowledge; in a profound sense, we do not know that we have it.”

    “Thus neurolinguist Z. N. Pylyshyn speaks of Grammar 1 as “autonomous,” separate from common-sense reasoning, and as “cognitively impenetrable,” not available for direct examination. In philosophy and linguistics, the distinction is made between formal, conscious, “knowing about” knowledge (like Grammar 2 knowledge) and tacit, unconscious, “knowing how” knowledge (like Grammar 1 knowledge). The importance of this distinction for the teaching of composition—it provides a powerful theoretical justification for mistrusting the ability of Grammar 2 (or Grammar 4) knowledge to affect Grammar 1 performance—was pointed out in this journal by Martin Steinmann, Jr., in 1966 (“Rhetorical Research,” CE, 27 [1966], 278-285).”

  • M ark

    Billy, sitting at the back of the class, nudges Pete and points over at the group of girls sitting up front and whispers, “the four young girls French”.

  • Baronius

    Cindy, you and Roger are getting theoretical again, which is fine for you but not my field of interest. You two also are far more likely to respect the name Chomsky than I am. So please cite a study that shows that grammar isn’t helpful or is actually harmful.

  • Baronius

    correction, “studying grammar”

  • Cindy

    lol

  • Baronius

    Mark, I went with the command, “French the four young girls”.

  • Cindy

    The four young girls know what’s what, I’d think.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Baronius, I didn’t argue against the usefulness of “knowing” grammar (see earlier comments)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m glad, Mark, you provided the context. Without it, it’s just words.

  • Cindy

    Okay Bar, let me see if I can find you something.

  • Cindy

    Just words Roger, yet you did it.

    (like everyone else does)

  • Cindy

    And that’s my fault wrecking the experiment to begin with. You should have been asked about the rule first.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Roger,

    German (as well as other Germanic languages) has the capability to compound not just nouns, but adjectives, verbs and adverbs as well – and to keep and use them in that form.

    As for language directing a culture’s thought and experience in that way, well, it’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Thought and experience also directs language – think of the hackneyed old example of the Eskimo language having dozens of words for snow.

    That’s the great thing I love about languages: quite aside from their beauty in and of themselves, the more you learn about how they work the more you understand how their uniqueness is intertwined with the character and culture of the peoples who speak them.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I realize I’m wasting my time, but once more for Serflo.

    To start of, I invite every one to challenge the premise that public schools are failing their student population. I consider this idea unwarranted.

    Because you’re in complete denial of reality? They don’t graduate students, they don’t educate students, they don’t qualify students to go to decent colleges. They fail to achieve the basic purpose for which they exist.

    Yes. It is you who fail to see my point, which is to consider a plan to improve education for all, not for some. I find more important and worthy of a government effort to provide a better education to all, than to a few. That program in DC does not provide the same opportunity to all the DC students. How many can be saved from poverty? Would you better consider an alternative to save them all?

    No one is offering a solution to save them all. It’s a miracle we had a program even briefly to save any of them. The system as it exists is hostile to learning and to students and it is too powerful to be fixed by normal means.

    To what extent the students and their parents have been shortchanged by public schools? And are we to believe that public schools are guilty as charged and condemned to destruction?

    Destroying them and starting over is probably the only way to fix them on a system wide basis, if that’s what you really want.

    The money provided in vouchers is money that could have gone to public education. I don’t think anyone believe that this money used for vouchers is in addition to the public education funds; It is money taken away from PE.

    No, it’s not. The math is simple. Perhaps they didn’t teach it to you in school. If you take the student out of the public school then the amount that would have been spent on him is available to spend on other students. If you give him a voucher for half that money, the other half is STILL available as surplus income for the public school. So every student you take out of a public school and put in a charter school enriches the public school.

    Usually in education, which is basically worthless.
    Up to this point I thought you were a reasonable person. I cannot counter argue such a baseless opinion.

    Clearly you have no experience with the teaching of education. Having taken education courses, let me assure you that they are nearly worthless in preparing someone to be anything but a jailer for students.

    With the present situation around the world, the ideology of free and unregulated market has shown its dangers and harmful effects.

    Here come the talking points again. Utter twaddle. The fact that some people engaged in abusive business practices in a controlled market which was badly supervised says nothing about the free market or capitalism in general.

    I don’t think your statement should be considered as factual. I think we should all consider the implications of being selective in who deserves education and who doesn’t. A democratic system is inclusive, any other system isn’t. If we value democracy, we should ponder about the importance of this

    You seem to have missed the abuse of power which is inherent in democracy. Do you have access to any news sources?

    None of them show statistically significant result in favor of charter schools or private schools. Again, we are dealing here with a problem defined within a particular frame that does not account for the socio-economic conditions, among others.

    Actually, they all show statistically significant improvements in performance, even if they are not dramatic. But the record on graduation and college placement is what’s really significant.

    No. Business people are after profits, not improving education. That is a simple statement.

    And if their profits are based on their abilitty to improve education then education will be improved.

    If we are going to based the future of generations on education providers that think profits as the main goal of their existence, we have to think twice what we are getting ourselves into.

    We would be getting into a situation where competition produces better results.

    Teachers Unions have not destroyed the efforts to improve public education. To the contrary. TU have consistently tried to provide ideas, suggestions, and plans to do so. If we are to solve problems we need to be inclusive. It would be absurd to impede the TU participation in the process to improve public education. In the same way, business people and every stakeholder should have a place and a voice in the discussion.

    Teachers unions consistently lobby against any effort to improve or reform schools or look for educational alternatives. That’s just reality. Stop shilling for them.

    I start from the point that we need to improve public education for all, and finish with the plan to include everyone to study and know more about the problem. Do we really care about saving people from poverty? Whom? I do. Everyone.

    Where is this plan? I don’t see a plan. You don’t have a plan. It’s been long enough repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. You want to reject capitalism because it has failed. Well nothing has failed so completely as public education. It’s time for change.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    They’re the mind’s eye, Doc. The greatest miracle defining us humans.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But “rule,” in these cases, are simply an extrapolation of the “logic/structure of the mind” as it exhibits itself through (a given) language. And a language is a repository/record of that structure.

  • Baronius

    The Secretary of Education just spoke up in support of the DC voucher system. I don’t know the details.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m all for keeping the options open.

  • http://www.serflo1.com serflo

    Serflo, you don’t seem to be interested in a constructive debate at all. How realistic is it to try to improve everyone’s education by doing exactly what we’ve been doing, without admitting that there’s even a problem? You say that public schools aren’t failing – I can’t imagine a statistic that would support that. Then you say that charter schools don’t improve education, and only improve it for a few. But we need to do more (unspecified). Because all children can gain equally from education.

    There’s nothing in any of that that makes sense.
    Baronious,
    I am not saying we have to do exactly what we have done (whatever you mean) so far. I am saying that we have to be serious about defining a problem and then proposing solutions. Looking at how many students graduate from each school is one thing, another different is to conclude from that piece of information that schools are failing. That is why I started my comments pleading for openmindedness.
    When I say we have to do more I mean exactly what I have said before: we need to look at the situation from as many perspectives as possible -students’, teachers’, parents’, business people’s, etc. and come up with as thourough analysis as possible. From there, it would be plausible to get to a constructive solution. To follow a recipee like we have done in the past six years has not produce any possible solution.
    There are plenty of charter school research to draw solid conclusions. If by now, we had found any of them so succesful and worthy of being duplicated, we would have done it. Looking at the large picture instead of the particular ones, any reasonable person can conclude that charter schools and vouchers have not done much to “solve the “problem” of public education. At best, they have “save” some. I think we should do better than that.
    Since the problem is not defined, it is unlikely that we have a right answer. If we cannot identify the illness, how can we cure a patient?
    All I want from good intended people is to take a fresh look at what we call “failing pubic schools” and see if we are correct in our assessment of the situation. It would be of benefit to all if we could do something like that, instead on insisting on doing something just because it seems common sense.

  • Cindy

    Bar,

    I am gonna cheat, for a few reasons.

    1) I’m not likely to convince anyone of much. Regardless if I spent a year giving out research and it was actually read, so,

    2) This little list would get anyone started if they wanted to commence their own search to find out more info. (clearly I’m not going to sum up 100 years of research here on blogcritics)

    On the teaching of grammar.

    I do have a 480 page review of the literature if you’d like it. I’m afraid no one’s going to be interested in reading this though, including me*.

    (though in the past I’ve read some of those individual studies)

    3) What guides me mostly is my own experience with children and with my own education. (Part of which was in an open school). And with children–in various situations, but including volunteering to help in after-school programs as a homework helper.

    It’s anecdotal evidence. But, it’s my experience. I have mostly found that there are too many people who seem to want more to shut kids up and make them submit than inspire love of learning. Because when I was successful in helping kids to be excited and involved in learning even what the teachers wanted–I was thwarted. Told that this age kid can’t help that age kid. We were having too much fun. Talking too much. Kids, after all should just shut up and do dittos.

    Sometimes they were given these dittos as punishment–great idea! Punish kids with homework cuz they hate it…nice inspiration.

    Trouble is all the teachers went through the same system. How could most of them know what they’re doing? It’s all follow the leader–so, what happens if the leader is wrong?

    Answer: Problems in schools. Guess what?

  • Cindy

    BTW, I found that kids have better ideas about how to help each other with material than I had. It only takes helping them think of themselves as competent human beings who have something to offer. Instead of empty things to be filled by someone who knows more.

    Not likely you’re going to find that out by feeding them “facts”.

  • Cindy

    Bar,

    On Chomsky though. His linguistics contributions are quite separate from his politics.

    I doubt you’d be very warm to the politics of Einstein either–or his views on god.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m glad you’re not addressing this to me. He IS a linguist first and foremost. Politics is a sideline, though still an affair of the heart.

  • Baronius

    Yikes, Cindy, I’m not trying to shut kids up, I’m trying to learn something here. If some teaching method works better, I’m all for it.

    Just don’t disparage facts. There’s a saying in football that only losing teams care about statistics. People who are failing want to be measured in any way that makes them look better. When an educator doesn’t want to be measured in terms of his students’ learning of facts, it raises a red flag.

  • Cindy

    No Bar! Not you!

    The teacher aids hired in the after school program. And some of the teachers, judging by the homework.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The whole idea ought to be to keep minds alive and kicking. I still fail to see the nature of the dispute. It’s all about the teacher in the classroom (and parents) to make it happen. Fuck the rest.

  • Cindy

    The biggest problem with the standardized testing, (besides all the other problems I have with it) is it became practically all there was time for.

    Teachers were able to only teach in prep for these tests. So, if they had any other ideas, there was no place to use them. Test stats became the end all goal, not the measure of anything but ability to endure rote memorization and fill out little circles.

  • Cindy

    No prep for tests, no tenure Roger, no money from the fed, no school. Lotta pressure there.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    My observation – also anecdotal – is that kids learn more at home than they do at school and sometimes more from young and enthusiastic aftercare teachers than from the official, jaded classroom teacher.

    As for grammar my impression is that the best way to learn it is by talking with people who use language properly and by reading well written books. Trying to learn it by rote is too frustrating and discouraging.

    Dave

  • Cindy

    Bar,

    These are two writings that you can get a lot from more easily than pouring through an eon of studies.

    (Though that can be useful too.)

    Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell (pdf)

    Sixty Years of Reading Research–But Who’s Listening by Steve Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, Marilyn Bizar

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I still don’t have a clear picture. What’s exactly about standardized testing that’s most deplorable? Name one, two, three elements.

  • Cindy

    If I can get to it sometime soon, I will. But, between other things I want to answer Mark Schannon, which has been a bunch of thinking in itself.

    If you are interested, here is a google search on problems of standardized testing.

  • Clavos

    My observation – also anecdotal – is that kids learn more at home than they do at school…

    I agree. I did not learn to read in school, a doting grandmother taught me, well before I even started school.

  • STM

    My observation – not anecdotal – is that they don’t learn much of anything at either place that is immediately obvious to a parent struggling to make sense of it all.

    Teenagers learn mostly from their peers, which can be good or bad depending. One thing I do know: it’s nothing like the sitcoms.

    In school, unless they are among the small percentage topping the classes, what they’ve learned all comes to light a few years later.

  • Doug Hunter

    STM,

    Yes, it’s peers, family and then way down the list comes school. Here we always get the sob story how education is underfunded when we’re spending double per pupil in real terms (and as a percentage of GDP) that we were 40 years ago with no better results.

    98% of science hasn’t changed in the last ten years – buying new books isn’t the answer. A computer running windows 2000 with 500 meg of RAM will teach basic computer literacy as well as a new Vista Machine with all the bells and whistles. The age of the building used has little to do with anything. It’s not about school spending, it’as about the family and community the school exists in.

    Good families and communities create children who could receive instruction from an aide in a trailer with hand me down books and still do better than their counterparts in bad situations regardless of the amount of spending.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Re #108 and other comments:

    That’s why all the hoopla about “standardized testing” or any other single issue affecting educations is blown out of proportion. Sorry, Cindy. The problem runs deeper, many layers deeper and the factors are myriad – school being only one of them. Parents aren’t interested enough, nor are communities, the entire culture is not exactly favoring education. And the computer revolution, while promoting computer literacy, detracts from literacy proper.

    There is also a misconception/model at work – as though it all should be easy. But all young minds need to be instilled with rigor and discipline in order to eventually flourish and blossom. Nothing comes easy, without hard work and plenty of pain; and if it does, it ain’t worth much. The proper analogy here is one of “training.” Just as you can’t improve your physical condition without rigorous training (it won’t happen naturally), the same with mental disciplines/endeavors. The youth have always rebelled against discipline of any kind – it’s only natural, and this generation is no exception – but rebel or not, you have to go along with the program or you just won’t make it. Tough! Why, even graduate schools are in effect “programs” designed to instill these habits of work and discipline in the mind, so that once you get your sheepskin, you’ll finally be free and clear. Same with learning a trade – from journeyman or an apprentice and so on.

    There are other things to consider: the college admission requirements, SAT scores – all those things – and they are not going to go away. So yes, one may have to “learn” some “irrelevant” facts in the process, but that’s the price one must pay in order to move on. Besides, some of the arguments employed suggest there is no such a thing as “objective knowledge.” Baloney. To insist on this is to commit just as great a sin – of hopeless relativism. Anything goes.

    Again, the problems concerning educations are myriad, and to focus just on “standardized testing,” as though it alone could provide a viable solution, is a great folly.

    The above remarks should be taken in the context of earlier comments – for I do believe the job of education (“forming” someone, from Latin) should go beyond instilling knowledge but just as importantly, encourage thinking. Ideally, it should make one hungry for knowledge and instill love of learning. But on some accounts here, even learning is a discounted term, because if there’s no such thing as knowledge, what’s there to learn.

    Sorry. I’m not buying into this proposition. The entire issue is a misguided one – perhaps nothing more than a smokescreen.

  • Cindy

    Re #109

    Roger,

    If I had any children, I wouldn’t let you teach them. Well, maybe I would, but you’d have to undergo a whole bunch of rigorous training first.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I have, Cindy, believe me. However much all children are naturally curious and eager to learn, that’s only the first stage. Hard work comes later. I was rebellious too, until I realized the value of education. And it was only once I got into college. That’s when I became motivated, on my own – not because anyone was pushing me. Even so, it’s a long road. You have to be lucky to have good teachers, fellow students. It’s a long and arduous road, much harder than most people realize. It takes a long time for the mind to come unto its own.

  • Cindy

    BTW, your whole paragraph #2 is the crux of what I consider wrong with the thinking of most teachers.

    You’ll have to find me a child to work with who doesn’t respond to respect, engagement as a co-traveler, and unconditional love.

    Discipline problems are mostly a result of what adults do.

    I’ve known parents who have constant yelling matches with their children. It’s always turned out to be very difficult to nearly impossible to work with the parent who is exhibiting such bad behavior.

    The children always respond.

  • Cindy

    Re # 111

    B.S.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And as to your #110, I’d match your ability to establish rapport with kids/young people in any learning environment ANYTIME. Besides, it’s awfully imprudent of you to make such hard and fast judgments on the basis of my disagreement with you on this particular issue – for you do not know me at all.

  • Cindy

    Schools had been arbitrarily set up in a certain way. It had nothing to do with how children best learn. It had everything to do with imposing something on them that adults thought should be imposed. It had been done in a very authoritarian way. “You do what I say, because I am the authority, and I know what’s best.”

    It the same structure now. Just a little more humane. What makes adults think kids “need” to be subjected to whatever adults dream up for anything to work?

    Whenever I work with kids, mostly I am undoing the harm this does to them.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    I’m judging you based on your views. Your views are pretty typical.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You have nothing to tell me here. You’re not even a careful reader and at times are capable of responding only emotionally. The discipline and rigor referred to all throughout had to do with discipline, rigor and training of the mind – none of the things you imagine or care to imagine. And don’t talk to me either about respecting young people, engagement, etc. There was nothing about my remarks to justify your encroaching on this territory. You’re being totally on the defensive here, and I won’t hear it.

  • Cindy

    So, tell me then…why does the mind have to undergo this rigorous molding, or however you envision this idea?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t put words in my mouth. “Molding” is your term, not mine.

  • Cindy

    I’m biting my tongue on the who get’s too emotional comment.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    Try to read carefully. I said “or however you envision this idea”.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    My views are anything but typical. They’re mine and not patterned on anyone but my own thinking. If you want to characterize them as “typical,” fine with me. Why don’t you have a conversation then which a typical person. I’ll suit your purposes better.

  • Cindy

    Okay, that’s fair. I’m wrong to make that presumption.

    So, what did you mean then? About training.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You still used the word “molding,” however you may wish to couch your intent, and I don’t care for it. I placed the whole issue of “standardized testing” in a larger context, but you choose to ignore it. It’s you who is being myopic and ideological here, not I. And yes, you are being emotional here, not I, because you feel there’s something you must defend. I don’t carry this burden.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I provided the training example in connection with physical conditioning. I believe the analogy is a useful one when it comes to mental conditioning. Just an aid to help us think here – nothing more, nothing less.

  • Cindy

    Okay. What does the training entail? How does one go about it?

  • Hope and Change?

    Obama Team Claims Early Success in The Economic Strategy

    A record 31.8 million Americans received food stamps at the latest count, an increase of 700,000 people in one month.

    The administration claimed that their plan to run the capitalist system into the ground and turn the US into a pathetic population of government workers and welfare recipients…is progresssing faster than their projections.

    There ya go…more proof of Hope and Change!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ll address it only on a general level. Young minds are naturally fertile and active and eager, but they’re also chaotic. If you had gone through a graduate school – even in part – you should have a general idea of what a “program” is. There are certain accepted way of doing things, and there are other ways that are less acceptable. Every scientific community abides by certain rules and procedures as regards the form of presentation, argument, etc. You may disagree with it, but in order to become a member of that community, you must play the game. I had a problem with it and I checked out, but that’s neither here nor there. Again, my agreement or disagreement here is of no importance. Facts of life.

  • Cindy

    There are certain accepted way of doing things, and there are other ways that are less acceptable. Every scientific community abides by certain rules and procedures as regards the form of presentation, argument, etc.

    This is very interesting to me Roger. Do you know what autoethnography is?

    It’s something that was not permitted in scholarly writing. Until some people changed the status quo.

    (no graduate school, so things related would have to be explained to me)

  • Cindy

    I do understand the process of research design in social science. And I can examine studies for potential design flaws. I don’t know about defending a thesis.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not saying that standards are fixed in stone forever. They can change. But there’ll always be certain standards.

  • Cindy

    Yes, there are standards. I’m not sure what this has to do with how children learn things.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t discuss here how children learn things. (Socrates’s example of teaching geometry to a slave is one way.) They do until their reach a certain age – pre-adolescence, whatever, and then different things take over. There’s still learning but in a different way. So the there quite a few stages in a person’s intellectual growth. You should know that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ve got to go. Have a haircut appointment. Later.

  • Clavos

    So…Roger and Cindy:

    How long have y’all been married?

  • Cindy
  • Cindy

    I’d last in a marriage of such conflict for about 42 seconds.

  • Baronius

    Doug (#108) – There are some serious problems in school infrastructure, but they have more to do with leaky roofs than “open learning spaces”. You’re completely right that family and social structure are affecting more kids negatively than school infrastructure.

    A computer running Vista won’t teach children anything but patience.

  • Baronius

    Clavos, it’s not what Cindy’s saying, it’s the way she looks at Roger when she says it…

  • Cindy

    A computer running Vista won’t teach children anything but patience.

    Or the usefulness of profanities (something my mother refers to as “computer language”.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’d like to see what that look is.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And I had just prettied myself up for her.
    Wasted effort.

  • Cindy

    lol Roger :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good. You’ve got Piaget in there. Might also mention Erik Erikson, Stages of Development.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    I didn’t find Erikson that inspiring. I like John Bolby‘s work. I liked Piaget’s work with infants and very young children. If you notice, philosophy for children is contradicting Piaget’s ideas about cognitive stages. It’s why I gave you that link.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Probably because he was a Neo-Freudian.

    Anyway, here is a quote from Wikipedia:

    Scientific support

    “Most empirical research into Erikson’s theories has focused on his views regarding the attempt to establish identity during adolescence. His theoretical approach has been studied and supported, particularly regarding adolescence, by James Marcia [10]. Marcia’s work extended Erikson’s by distinguishing different forms of identity, and there is some empirical evidence that those people who form the most coherent self-concept in adolescence are those who are most able to make intimate attachments in early adulthood. This supports Eriksonian theory, in that it suggests that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence.”

    I don’t have a dog in this fight.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The one who did some good work on children, can’t think of the book’s name now, is Robert Jay Lifton.

    You’ve read of course some of R.D. Laing and Thomas Szasz.

  • Cindy

    Yes, Lifton I’ve read mostly in relation to studying cults.

    I don’t like Szasz. Szasz involved himself with the Scientology cult. Besides I think he wrong. Denying biological aspects of mental illnesses is something I only used to do before I met people with them.

    Laing is great for his compassion.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But the idea then was to show to what extent what we call “deviancy/social deviancy” is a matter of labeling. Even today, we should be aware of this practice. So his work were very illuminating at the time, along with the work of Ervin Goffman, I mentioned earlier, “The Asylums.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And Stigma.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Did you get my comment on “Stigma”? Somehow, it fails to register in the comment section.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Paul Simon said it rather well:

    When I look back at all the crap I learned in high school
    It’s a wonder I can think at all

    He wrote that, in fact, while I was in high school. I learned significant things only in AP courses in math and Latin and English. Many teachers were jokes, even then. Yet I and many of my peers did well in college anyway.

    However, anecdotal evidence from my nieces and nephews, who attend public schools in the suburbs of Nashville, indicate that a lot more is expected of kids now. A lot of homework, a lot of reading, a lot of subject matter covered, and much of it earlier than when I was in school.

    So there are probably pockets of excellence, from which the rest of the system could learn. Of course, my siblings are raising their kids in the suburbs, outside of Nashville’s city public schools, because the latter are allegedly awful.

    PS Nashville is nicknamed “The Athens of the South” because of…education [lotsa colleges]. [And its replica of the Parthenon.]

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Are you anywhere near? I’m only 50 miles away.

  • Baronius

    Handy, I’ve heard similar stories about the academic challenges facing kids today, and it doesn’t ring true. Every generation thinks that it’s uniquely overworked. When you hear the percentages of kids who don’t know basic history or math, you’ve got to wonder about all this supposed achievement.

    I can believe that kids are getting more homework. They’re learning less during classroom time. On balance, if you look at test scores, it’s a net loss in learning. I fervently agree with Cindy (why she can’t see it, I don’t know) that if there’s a better method of educating students, we need to use it. Kids in other countries are running rings around us. Home-schoolers are running rings around us. I doubt that the problem in public schools is too much learning of too many facts.

  • Cindy

    Ervin Goffman, whom I have never heard of, sounds interesting from looking briefly, Roger. I once revered Thomas Szasz, when I was maybe 16.

    …what we call “deviancy/social deviancy” is a matter of labeling. Even today, we should be aware of this practice.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    When I look back at all the crap I learned in high school

    It’s a wonder I can think at all

    I’m with handy (and Paul Simon).

    More homework and demands and pressure doesn’t equal a better education. It is almost the opposite in my experience. Before I got to college I had 1 intro algebra class (with a grade of F), 1 science class (F). In my open school I had geometry (no grades) and I liked it. I didn’t take SATs. But I excelled in college. Someone can say it’s not all bullshit, but its not my experience.

    Bar,

    I do see it. :-)

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    The amount of extracurricular activity — i.e. soccer soccer and more soccer — is fairly mind-boggling as well.

    It’s probably a mistake to tar all schools with the same accusations. There are bound to be differences in quality and success. Learn from good practices abroad, yes, and from good schools and teachers here also. The bad statistics are an average, after all.

    Arne Duncan has been given quite a gift — there has never been so much federal education money available. I know you don’t approve, but the money is already appropriated. Let’s hope it’s used wisely. He even gets praise from conservative Republicans, so maybe he’s the man to do it.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Roger, did you mean you are near Nashville? I grew up there but live in NYC now. My family is all still down there.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Shoot. I can’t visit you then. I’m in Hopkinsville, a decrepit town, hundred years back. Nashville’s the only place of culture around. I’m stagnated.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    One thing about tests and exams. Bitch that they are, they make you work and when you succeed, you’re elated. It’s a kind of motivation (artificially inspired perhaps, but motivation nonetheless). I’m being philosophical about it – taking the good with the bad.

    I don’t need tests anymore. I’ve arrived.

  • Cindy

    Hey, what do you know Roger. You’ve hit on one of the problems with standardized testing right there. The first Holt link explains better than I could.

    How Children Fail – John Holt

    How Children Learn – John Holt

    …this book can be summed up in two words – Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple – or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves – and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.

    Compulsory Miseducation (pdf) – Paul Goodman

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I grew up just across the state line from Hopkinsville, KY, in Clarksville, TN, which is now over 100,000 in population [more than double what it was when I lived there], thanks mostly to nearby Ft Campbell.

    My parents have told me about some place in Hoptown that serves 2-inch-thick pork chops with all the fixin’s.

    Nashvegas is not a bad place. It’s gotten to be very trafficky, like a smaller Atlanta. I do recommend the Country Music Hall of Fame…it’s a world class museum. And there are actually a few decent restaurants there.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, I like Nashville, especially the downtown part next to the Vanderbilt. But it’s an hour drive.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “…this book can be summed up in two words – Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple – or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves – and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

    Nobody disagrees with this, so I don’t see why you keep on hammering the point. Besides, your analysis omits the necessary input from/involvement of parents. And regardless of what you do with kids in the interim, there are still exit exams to be dealt with – and they’re got to be more or less standard.

    Any subject matter can be taught in an interesting way, and that’s the teacher’s role. So I wouldn’t be so ready to get the teacher off the hook as you seem to be because of the curricula constrictions. There are always ways to be innovative and challenging, and that’s where the biggest brunt ought to like – on individuals.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    How long ago was it, Handy, when you moved out?

  • Doug Hunter

    “And regardless of what you do with kids in the interim, there are still exit exams to be dealt with – and they’re got to be more or less standard.”

    From the links provided it sounds like the author (one of them at least) was pushing towards no formal education which indeed means no testing, a decrease in organized work and the corresponding standard of living in a commune type existence.

    Pretty failed stuff there, as always in our free system you are able to explore that lifestyle with the likeminded as you wish. I will certainly fight for your freedom to do so, just don’t push your commie crap on me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Believe me, Doug. The Soviets were very serious about education – especially in the sciences. They were in a dogfight with the West. So whatever their ideology, they made sure to produce as many great minds as possible. They wouldn’t just take a moron and try to school them. And their weeding process started very early – in all areas, even in sports. The Communist countries are still doing that – the program in gymnastics, e.g., Romania, China, etc.

  • Cindy

    lol at least Doug got the point.

    handy,

    you have a southern accent?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I last lived in Nashville in 1985. I visit twice a year. I can turn the accent on and off like a switch, as required, unless I am [a] drunk or [b] talking to my parents on the phone, when it takes over completely.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, let me know when you’ll be visiting next. We might go to a local tavern somewhere and have a few. It’d be worthwhile to find out that not everyone who posts on BC is a ghost.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Will do, Rog. How on earth did you end up in Hopkinsville, KY, anyhow?

  • Zedd

    Republicans seem to be condemned to perpetual ignorance and continue to drive the nation into poverty.

  • Clavos

    Republicans seem to be condemned to perpetual ignorance and continue to drive the nation into poverty.

    As well they should; there’s too much income disparity between the US and the rest of the world.

    The Stimulator should send some of those trillions to the really poor corners of the world and stimulate them; we don’t need it all.

    Where’s the fairness in the US being the richest country in the world?

  • Zedd

    Clav

    Sobber up.

  • Cindy

    Is Clav crying?

    Hiya Zedd :-)

  • Clavos

    Cindy,

    You’re sharper than most folks on here.

    Said it before, and I’m sayin’ it again…

    (And I’m not even sobbing)

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Where’s the fairness in the US being the richest country in the world?

    With Chinese-owned mortgages, I don’t think so.

  • Clavos

    With Chinese-owned mortgages, I don’t think so.

    Good.

    It was horribly unfair to all those cute little Third World countries.

    It would be even better if the US were to descend to their level, then we’d have worldwide equality, by gum.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Clav, this nation is dangerously close to being reduced to an amalgam of fractured “Third-world” countries. The Constitution is in peril, the closest it has been in history and that is no laughing matter.

  • Clavos

    Silas,

    I was born, raised and am still a citizen of a Third World country (as well as of the US).

    I don’t find that prospect as appalling as you do.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Contrary to popular belief, I don’t find it appalling. We reap what we sow, Clav.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    If we’re going to be a third world country I’d actually prefer that we break up into several separate third world countries rather than one big one. I just don’t want to be a citizen of the Peoples Republic of the Really Depressed Great Lakes Paradise.

    Dave

  • Cindy

    Dave,

    Good Idea! I call Hawaii.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Except that the trend is toward centralization, not decentralization. Smaller entities are going to be gobbled up. Druthers have little to do with what is likely to happen.

  • Clavos

    I’ll keep South Florida, thanks (we’ll be our own little city-state), they speak my language here.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Roger, have you looked at the Balkans or Russia lately? If the trend is for smaller states to get gobbled up rather than larger states splitting up all of the examples seem to run the other way.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s not lately. If and when it’s going to come to the dog-eat-dog type of scenario, I’ll willing to bet you’re going see great deal of consolidation and power brokering.

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