Monday, July 03, 2006

Every Once in a While

Generally, I believe that the la times is the weak sister of the infamously liberal and traitorous ny times. (Neither rag deserves capitol letters. Thanks to Col. Dave for the idea). I won’t go so far as Ann Coulter who stated that her only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building. (Ann’s new book Godless, The Church of Liberalism, is a runaway best-seller.)

But I do agree with Michael Reagan who calls the ny times Treason Central and has this to say: This latest episode of the Times revealing information vital to the government's ability to protect the American people from new 9/11s is just another example of the Times' contempt for the security of the people of the United States of America in a time of war. What they have done is sheer and outright treason, and it's the third time the Times has adopted Benedict Arnold as its role model.

Bring on the grand jury.

However, every once in a while the la times publishes something intelligent. Today, underneath a piece about frustrated teachers and administrators being lured by independent (charter) schools with the promise of more support and freedom (some good stuff here) was a piece by Bob Sipchen entitled “Are Public Schools Worth the Effort.” Of course the answer is NO, and Sipchen goes to the fount of wisdom to find out why.

Milton Friedman, one of America's most respected and reviled educational reform advocates, attended public schools himself relates Sipchen. And here is what Friedman said:

The schooling system was in much better shape 50 years ago than it is now.

It's very clear that the people who suffer most in our present system are people in the slums — blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the underclass.

They are running a system that maximizes the gap in performance. Tell me, where is the gap between the poor and rich wider than it is in schooling? A more sensible education system, one that is based on the market, would stave off the division of this country into haves and have-nots; it would make for a more egalitarian society because you'd have more equal opportunities for education.

In the last 10 years, the amount spent per child on schooling has more than doubled after allowing for inflation. There's been absolutely no improvement as far as I can see in the quality of education. The system you have is like a sponge. It will absorb the extra money. Because the incentives are wrong.

The fundamental thing that's wrong with our present setup of elementary and secondary schooling is that it's a case in which the government is subsidizing a product. If you subsidize the producers, as we do in schooling, they have every incentive to have a status quo, and a non-progressive system, because they are a monopoly.

Would you really rather have your automobile produced by a government agency? Do you really prefer the post office to FedEx? Why do people have this irrational attachment to a socialist system?

Vouchers should have been a Democratic proposal. I don't think the unions can continue to succeed in making it an act of faith that if you're a Democrat you're against vouchers. That's resting on a pile of straw.It's not going to last. It's impossible, really, literally impossible for me to conceive that you can keep on sticking to this failing system, this terrible system that does so much injustice.

If you love America, you’ve got to love that man. He and Bill Cosby should join up to take on the teachers unions and the misguided politicians who put their own well being ahead of the kids.

A tiny step in the right direction is the charter school movement. In the latest wave of departures, dozens of frustrated Los Angeles Unified School District staffers have been courted away by Green Dot Public Schools — one of the city's leading charter operators. Working within the nation's second-largest school district, with its slow pace of reforms and convoluted layers of authority, they say, has left them disillusioned.

But what is the response from LA Unified’s Board? It is not a healthy competition. It's not healthy for us at all, said board member Julie Korenstein, a staunch critic of charters.

Where is that McVeigh character when you need him? (Just KIDDING)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just have to ask, I know everyone has been beating up the NY times and the LA times, but what about the WSJ? Didn't they also print the story on terrorist financing?

2:21 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Ah, the golden age. Way back when. . . . We can all remember those days as if they were yesterday. At least we can remember what we want from those good ol’ days. What we remember, of course, is what best serves as a positive foil to our reading of the bad ol’ present, the world going to hell in a hand basket, etc., etc..

What was good about public education 50, 60 years ago was dedicated teachers in the primary grades (the deciding years on the education ladder for most students). And these dedicated teachers were 90% women. These women were the cream of the crop. They had to overcome and/or juggle the obstacles of discrimination and the heavy, quick to censor pull of tradition (the pressure to opt for marriage and family) in order to pursue careers in education. The only other professions fully open to women at this time were nursing, stewardess, public librarian and secretarial work. Deciding on a bachelors degree in education and a career as a teacher was a major leap across an abyss and a winding through a sexist jungle. The women who took these leaps and steps were amazing–and public schools in general, and Milton Friedman in particular, were rewarded for their courage and perseverance.

Times have changed and after a hard struggle (not yet finished) so have the opportunities for women. Do we still attract and hold these very best women (and men as well) to the teaching profession? Particularly at the primary grade level? If you were one of the best and the brightest starting out in college, what field would be the object of your ambitions? If you chose education, would you envision a career of thirty, forty, fifty years teaching reading in first and second grade? What would be needed to make this your passionate life career goal? When it was time to add a graduate degree to your bachelors, would you focus on a subject matter degree--math, science, history, literature? Or would the siren call of an “easier” (usually, not always) Masters or EdD in “Educational Administration” be the way to go for you? And remember, you’re the top student type and one of the best teachers at your school.

Rewards and recognition are as out of whack in the field of education as they are in major corporations. Educational administrative czars don’t come near to matching the out of the ball park and into the yachts salaries CEOs pull down, but the gulf between the big corner office that gets redecorated every couple of years and the classroom in need of basic teaching tools is wide and galling.

More importantly, this all demonstrates again the public’s failure to put their money where it really counts. Note how every public discussion of teacher’s salaries inevitably includes comments about teaching being a “calling,” a profession not to be sullied by a discussion of filthy lucre. “_Our_ teachers are above all of that.” Try that “it’s a calling” business on a lawyer, engineer, or MBA and see what kind of reaction you get if you’re trying to hire one of these important professionals–men, and now women, who study hard, and work hard. Men and women just like teachers, except they don’t have the responsibility of educating your children and grandchildren.

I have no assurance or evidence that vouchers or charter schools or faith based initiatives would change any of this. I absolutely know the “magic” of the market place and the “No Child Left Behind” testing of kids into the ground are not the answer. Every day I read about this or that business failure, ethical scandal, shareholder fraud, or just plain dumb decision that is the doing of high placed pooh-bahs in the private sector. Every day I read about the failings and flaws and mind deadening drill that goes along with incessant testing–the latest quick and cheap fix that will not work, that makes things even worse for teachers who have not yet burned out.

The market and shareholders and test makers of the private sector may be able to absorb these failures, for our children and our country this is not an option.

The problems of education in this country are complex. But the answer starts with failures at the top of the administrative pyramid and lack of support at the base. Smart legislation is needed to deal with the top rungs and the smart use of money, big TAX dollars, is needed at the base–you know, where teachers and students come together every day of the week.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are on the money as usual Bill!!!! By the way I bought Anns book and I LOVE it. I agree with her most of the time.


9:56 PM  

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