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Education falling through the cracks

Posted by Texas Education on August 28, 2008

This is more national than Texas, but technically, anything national is certainly Texas, at least for the time being. Again, reasons I’m here (blogging) – not enough emphasis is being put on educating our future leaders (or lack there of.) Kathleen McCartney, a dean at Harvard says we all must share the blame for the current state of education in America. I agree, in part, only because I feel there have been steps taken, laws made, and major neglect on those in charge, making the rules.

Kathleen McCartney is the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development. She is a developmental psychologist whose research informs theoretical questions on early experience and development as well as policy questions on child care, early childhood education, poverty and parenting.

Kathleen McCartney

“All must share the blame for the current state of education in America,” says Kathleen McCartney, a dean at Harvard.

Ms. McCartney has some pretty valid points in her piece for CNN, below. I too feel compelled to voice my concerns as to why this is not even an issue in the presidential elections. I supposed we will always battle the who’s, why’s and wherefore’s when it comes to educating our young.

As we enter the final months of the longest presidential campaign in American history, it seems clear that the issue of the education of our nation’s children is virtually absent from John McCain and Barack Obama’s rhetoric.

During the primary season, throughout the stump speeches, the daily press opportunities and the countless television and print ads, I have wondered about the lack of attention to education. National polls reflect Americans’ priorities: the war, the economy and escalating energy costs. There is no question that these are critical issues.

But so, too, is public education, a system that serves as the very foundation of our democracy. In its present state, it is unclear how public education will shape today’s children into tomorrow’s workers — with the skills, knowledge and capacity to solve tomorrow’s problems.

Are we concerned enough about the next generation to invest today’s scarce resources in their success?

In my role, I am frequently called upon to speak about the state of U.S. education. I typically frame the problems by citing some well-known statistics, such as low high school graduation rates for large cities like Washington, where only 58 percent of students graduate in four years, or New York, where the number is 45 percent.

Then there is America’s disappointing international ranking on math and science tests, 25th and 21st respectively. In the Education Olympics, we’re nowhere near the medal stand.

Meanwhile, our international peers from Finland to Singapore have made significant strides, gaining ground where we have lost it. Somehow, such concerns — and the proposed policies to address them — have eluded the campaign platforms. iReport.com: What issues are important for you in Election 2008?

The people I speak with on both sides of the political aisle blame parents, teachers, school boards, school districts or schools of education. But in truth, the blame must be shared by all.

Public education has some powerful allies, including the Gates and Broad foundations. They have banded together to support ED in ’08, a nonpartisan awareness campaign that seeks to inform the public about the critical need to improve U.S. education. But this campaign has met with only limited success.

If we, the people, decide we are serious about supporting our public education system, what might we do?

We need to recognize that there isn’t a single solution, such as creating small schools or charter schools. We need to rely on good data and good judgment about what works. And we need to have the patience to support sustained efforts.

Here are three examples of worthwhile initiatives.

We know that early childhood education sets the stage for school success, especially for children living in poverty. We know that an extended day in school provides students with more time to learn, a lesson culled from other countries like China and India. And we know that children learn more when they are taught by qualified teachers. Public pre-kindergarten, longer school days and teacher work force development all make good sense. We must invest in good practice.

Still, we do not know everything, and serious investment in education will be required to conduct scientific research to get more of the answers we need.

Consider that the annual budget for the Institute for Education Sciences is $594 million, a small fraction of the $28 billion allocated in 2008 for the National Institutes of Health. It is little wonder that medical breakthroughs have outpaced advances in education. We must invest in rigorous research.

I know the power of education because I’ve lived it. Unlike my parents, who struggled to make ends meet, I profited from good public schools and access to higher education through financial aid and fellowships.

Sadly, not all American children are as fortunate as I was.

Much is a stake regarding the decisions we make for all our children, and it is nothing less than our democratic way of life. If we decide that we want to invest in education, the results for the country will be great: global competitiveness, scientific discoveries and productive citizens.

We, the people, must acknowledge our responsibility in driving the issues of this election cycle. And then needed presidential leadership will follow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About EducationU.S. Presidential ElectionJohn McCainBarack Obama

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Teacher banned for using ‘Freedom Writers’ book

Posted by Texas Education on June 30, 2008

Just stepping outside Texas Education for a bit. I thought this was, at least, newsworthy. CNN reported about a teacher who decided to teach/read the book “Freedom Writers,” a book by Erin Gruwell and later a movie was made (a must see by any teacher.)

Here’s what one person wrote concerning the story:

Technically, she was fired because she was insubordinate.
Realistically, she was fired because the book was banned from

She did deliberately not collect the books from her students
after she got an email from the district telling her to. So
that’s the insubordination.

She waited three months before that to hear about using the
book, and when nothing happened, got permission from 149 of
150 students’ parents to use the book.

It’s in the school library, but they said there’s a ‘lesser
standard’ for books that go in the library. That’s funny to
me, because at least with a teacher, the kids would have an
adult to discuss the ideas with.

One of the district board members said that the teacher set a
bad example by doing something she was told not to do. I
think she set the example that you do something in good
conscience, even if you know that the result for you will be
negative–civil disobedience and all that.

Ellen Gruwell even testified at the hearing. (from teachers.net)

Also, one of the anonymouses from detentionslip.org (I just love this site) said:

Welcome to America. Land of the free. Home of th…ose afraid of books. She went to the parents – there is no higher authority for a child’s learning than a parent. Breaking the rules for the right reasons is better than doing the ‘correct’ thing. I think that those freeing slaves illegally and the Founders of America might have something to say about “the ends do *not* justify the means”.

and T said:

This woman has shown that she is a very passionate teacher who wanted to do right by her students and to engage them to be better people. It seems to me that she is also standing by her principles.

149/150 parents gave permission to read this book. The parents spoke. The school board should listen.

You can go to that website to get more of the smart comments, along with the not so smart ones (I just love this one):

Just another ‘glowing example’ of why Homeschooling is the only sane and necessary alternative to the socialist ‘youth indoctrination camps'(gov. schools) that infest our once fair country. Read ‘Dumbing Us Down’ by John Taylor Gatto if you need insight into why ‘public schools’ are nothing more than training grounds for our young to fail in life. Yours In Liberty!

Wow, public schools are nothing more than training grounds for our young to fail in life? I guess that would include me. I guess I’m a total failure, along with, well, almost everyone I know. I honestly can’t think of anyone (off hand) that I know who went to a private, or Catholic school. Oh, I take that back, I may know of a few that went to Catholic schools, but a lot of them ended up going to public high schools, I do know that. I enrolled my son in our Catholic school for kindergarten, but had heard our public schools were better. I never got the chance to find out, we moved the following year. (Just some trivia about me and mine.)

This story seems a little djavue-ish. You can read what the Southside times wrote about this story.  On that blog there is someone, Steph Mineart, who has a great blog also, said, commenting on what Richard said:

“And I feel that the school district should not be promoting books with blatent cussing in them. But, since this story is not about the book, it is about her insubordination, perhaps we should talk about that.”

First of all – the work blatant is spelled B-L-A-T-A-N-T. You need to go back to English class, outraged_at_teacher, before you comment in public, because that.

Please. The story IS all about the book. Without it there would be no issue at all. No one is fooled by that line of cheap rationalization.

I can’t believe that anyone is objecting to this book because of “cussing.” That is ridiculous. Kids in high school are not STUPID. They can read words without adopting them into their everyday lives (as if none of them use these words already.)

It’s time for the prude police to grow up and get a life.

Posted in In-the-news, teaching | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »