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The Gene Pool of Education

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The gene pool for our present “modern” educational system originated in the 18th century with the onset of the industrial revolution. The effort began with the big bosses wanting to have a literate factory worker who could follow directions, do what they were told to do, and manage assembly line components.

The creation of the public education system began with the same idea as assembly line worker skills: group children by age, place them in manageable class sizes, give each student a book of information on the subject they were to study, put the authoritarian, “educator”, in front of the room, provide a chalkboard and eraser, and have each student sit obediently quiet while taking notes and memorizing what they were taught so they could pass a standardized test on the subject.

Today’s (2011) public education system puts children in separate classes for each subject where they cannot see how connections of knowledge happen; it educates them in batches according to their age, like an assembly line, and when they are ready to graduate we date stamp them with their year of completion, “Class of 2011”.

“Real” education does not commence in the production line mentality. It begins with the creativity and innovation our children experience all the moments they are not in our assembly line schools. It seems these days they learn more outside the classroom on their own than they do in class. I am sure you all know a high school student or younger, for that matter, who knows more about how to manipulate the internet and their computer than most educators do!

That was the 18th century. This is 2011 and not much has changed as far as the public education gene pool.

Consider this, in the 18th century we did not have television, internet, desk tops, laptops, iPods, iPhones, gaming, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, real time knowledge, space travel, and a multitude of other momentous inventions and events. BUT, the public education system, teachers and unions, continue to resist movement that would change this 18th century model that deadens our children with BOREDOM. Go sit in a class your children are attending. See what you think? Are you bored by the presentation? How do these kids stay awake?

This 21st century is about innovation, creativity, strategic intelligence, communication, technology, and personal exploration and group interaction. It is NOT about learning how to put this gidget with that gadget. This is the most exciting and challenging time in our history. It is about collaboration, learning in groups, sharing knowledge, creating many solutions to one problem. It is about engaging and exciting our youth; it is about challenging them to find the best that is within them; it is about setting them on fire with enthusiasm and knowledge that is directly related to their world, which is filled with amazing visual, audio, and informational experiences every minute of every hour!

Children come to school with heightened sensory perceptions. They can’t sit still because the world outside their classroom is technologically bombarded and in constant motion. Yet, the educational gene pool insists they sit quietly, take notes, listen, and pass standardized tests, all of which attempts to homogenize our society. They must all be the same. Have you ever wondered what the explosion in ADHD drugs is all about? Is it about a real phenomenon or is it about misunderstanding a generation of children whose senses, intellect, and behavior are heightened to levels that parents and teachers have never experienced because they come from a generation that listened all in a row, took notes, memorized, and passed standardized tests.

My son, whose early education was in our home school, sent me a video to watch called, Changing Education Paradigms. It was a joy to see Ken Robinson’s thoughts as they positively reaffirmed what I have followed all the years with my own children. It is worth the 10 minutes you will take to see it. It is enlightening and entertaining. Ken talks about divergent thinking. They tested 1500 children when they were in kindergarten by asking how many uses they could find for a paper clip. They then repeated the divergent thinking test when these same children were 8 to 10 and 13 to 15. When they were in kindergarten 98% of them were divergent thinkers. As they were processed through the educational gene pool they drastically lost this ability to a point where the researchers discovered this ability to think divergently in these children mostly deteriorated.

How hilarious is it when we tell our students there is one answer to the question; it is in the back of the book; don’t look, don’t copy because that’s cheating! We should be waking our children up to what is inside themselves, to all the possibilities that exist in their world. They are already exploring all of this outside the classroom; it’s called COLLABORATION!

Anthropologists say it takes millions of years of evolution for stimulus to change or cleanse the gene pool. If parents, teachers, and the gene pool system don’t wake up to the real world of our children, they will have created Zombies. They will be unable to compete in their world, whose technology is doubling at immeasurable rates.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”
George Orwell

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America’s Educational Competitive Edge; Category 5

January 8, 2011 3 comments

Let’s talk about America’s mythological “Competitive Edge”.  Back in 2005 the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine wrote the influential 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future”. A new report was requested by the presidents of these distinguished academies in 2010, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Approaching Category 5”. The authors of the 2010 report concluded that the nation’s competitive outlook has worsened since the original Gathering Storm issued its call to strengthen K-12 education and double the federal basic-research budget.

The 2010 report notes indications where the United States’ competitive capacity is slipping, some of which includes the following:

•    In 2009, 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.
•    China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter and is now second in the world in publication of biomedical research articles.
•    Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States.  In a corresponding period 10 years later, the number dropped to 74.
•    Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey say they are suffering from some level of skills shortage. (My emphasis)

In addition, the nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science. According to the ACT College Readiness Report, 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English. The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education.  FORTY-EIGHTH! (Copies of Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited; Category 5 are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.)

The only way America will meet future challenges is to change the way we parent and educate our people. Charter Schools, which are publicly funded, are yet another popular way to change traditional education, which was originally designed to produce literate factory workers for the industrial age of Ford, Rockefeller, and the like. Up until this industrial push most immigrants in our country verged on being or were illiterate. The chalk board, 30 wooden desks, teacher lecturing, and students taking notes for tests hasn’t changed much since that mandate for public education for all children.

The Charter innovation is described in the documentary “Waiting for Superman” and focuses on the lottery that determines its students. The lottery is conducted in public, and the film illustrates the high drama of the proceedings: The families of the winners are euphoric, the losers despondent. It depicts how desperate parents are to find any alternative to the inner-city schools millions of minority children attend.

According to a 2006 article in U.S. News & World Report one-third of our schools are dysfunctional. They are located in drug-infested, crime-ridden urban neighborhoods to which whites rarely venture. Most of the brightest and most talented teachers are attracted elsewhere. Columnist George Will described the neighborhoods where millions of minority children live and attend schools as “concentrations of the poor, the poorly educated, the unemployed and unemployable.” They also have been portrayed as “prisons without walls.”

Far too many of these students and preschoolers are dealing with hunger, homelessness, abuse and/or neglect. More than 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. Typically, an impoverished, overwhelmed mother or grandmother is the only adult at home. Students leave dysfunctional homes to attend dysfunctional schools. They’re learning, but the lessons are concentrated on how to survive.

Considering the above, are charter schools the answer? Or does meaningful improvement in education lie elsewhere?

Early childhood is where it is at; this is the decisive moment!

Schools inherit reading problems, which are actually language problems. Learning begins at birth, ideally with two parents providing loving care, cultivating curiosity and offering constant exposure to spoken and written language. These well loved children have been attending “school” since birth.

Schools should extend their expertise to parents of preschoolers and to future parents. They should elaborate on the universal message: Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and learning happens outside the classroom as well as in it. Incoming students who are better-prepared should result in better-performing schools. We need to develop parenting programs for those who are not yet parents as well as for those who are and we need to take these programs into the communities and schools. We need to begin at the beginning.

We’ve been looking in all the wrong places for far too long. We can’t solve a problem by avoiding the cause; it’s rooted in the home. Parents are the key. We need to convince them of their importance and provide ways for them to be effective teachers.

Watch what happens to education in America when we get Parents involved with parenting their sons and daughters for a future that leaves behind their dysfunctional history!

Education in Crisis; America’s High Schools & Rhode Island, Part 2

March 2, 2010 4 comments

Central Falls is one of the poorest towns in the state of Rhode Island. There are lots of boarded up windows, abandoned buildings, and decrepit factories. It is a depressed community. Wikipedia states the median income in Central Falls is $22,000. Teacher’s salaries at the high school average between $72,000 and $78,000 (which exemplifies a nationwide trend in which public sector workers make far more than their private sector counterparts and with better benefits). Fifty percent (50%) of their students are failing all of their classes, the graduation rate is under 50%, and only 7% of its 11th graders were proficient in math in 2009.

Does this sound like a high school where you live? It has too, because we have more than 5000 high schools in our country that are considered “non-performing” and 2,000 of those high schools produce more than half of the nation’s dropouts.

Sooooo, to try and alleviate the serious educational problems these students face at the Central Falls High School, School Superintendent Frances Gallo developed a modest plan to help her students in this failing school. She asked her teachers:

  • to work 25 minutes longer each day without extra pay
  • to eat lunch with the students once in a while
  • to help with tutoring students after school

The teachers didn’t blink. They refused these onerous demands of doing extra work for no extra pay (to help their failing students graduate). The Central Falls Teachers’ Union refused to accept a reform plan for one of the worst performing high schools in the state.

Superintendent Gallo didn’t blink either. After learning of the union’s decision she notified the state of Rhode Island that she was switching to a plan she hoped she could avoid and she fired the entire staff at Central Falls High School, 100 teachers, the principal, all administrators, and assistants. They all lost their jobs.

Superintendent Gallo is replacing everyone!

The Teacher’s Union responded at a rally at the city park before a school committee meeting. George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, told the crowd, “This is immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful, and disrespectful.” Mark Bostic, a representative from the American Federation of Teachers, said it would stand behind its teachers “as long as it takes to get justice.”

NOW, who among us will stand behind the students “as long as it takes to get justice”?  Who among us will SHOUT OUT  that the failing rates across this country is “immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful, and disrespectful”? The students at Central Falls High School are failing, dropping out, and living wasted lives in an economy that demands, more than ever, an education in order to have a future? Where are the parents and where is their voice? Does anyone hear their voice?

Since I am a self employed business owner with no benefits, I must leave this post to attend a meeting. I will have more to say in the next post about Teachers, Unions, and our “Obsolete” (Bill Gates said this), “State of Emergency” (Oprah Winfrey said this), “Unrecognized Educational Crisis” (Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Ron Paige said this) educational system.

Education in Crisis; The High Cost of High School Dropouts, Part 1

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Does anyone see the relationships between?

  • Poor parenting skills and high school dropouts?
  • Dysfunctional schools, teaching skills, and high school dropouts?
  • Teacher unions, their teachers, and a deteriorating educational system?
  • Budget cuts on the federal, state and local levels, and the increasing dropout rates?
  • High school dropouts and their endless cycle of poverty?
  • Every American’s stake in ensuring that every child becomes a high school graduate, prepared for success, the modern workplace, and life?

These questions are directly related to the high cost to society when parents fail to parent, teachers fail to teach, unions protect non performing teachers who drive students out of our schools, and Americans fail to see their stake in every child receiving an education that enables them to succeed and contribute.

First, let me begin with a definition of the high cost of school dropouts as Part One of the next series of posts and how they negatively impact local, state, and federal governments, the financial security of our country, and our society in general.

For decades Americans have been warned that U.S. dominance in the world’s economy is fading because of the country’s poor educational performance. Among the largest educational shifts is that educational requirements of the jobs that supported our previous economy are changing. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 90% of new high-growth, high-wage jobs will require some post secondary education, in comparison to decades past, when even a high school dropout could find a position in the manufacturing or agricultural sectors that would have supported a family in a middle class lifestyle. Today the many jobs that were held by dropouts or people with high school diplomas are being automated or are going overseas. The minimally educated American will have increasingly diminished options to support themselves or their families.

As I said in an earlier post, more than seven thousand students become dropouts every school day. That adds up to 1.2 million students annually who will not graduate from high school with their peers. This is equal to the entire population of Dallas and San Diego. These individuals are more likely than graduates to spend their lives periodically unemployed, on government assistance, or cycling through our prisons. “Over the next twenty-five years the challenges are unlikely to diminish. The world will continue to change, and good jobs will require even higher levels of education. The retirement of the baby boom generation will create even more demand for new well-educated candidates to replace them in the workforce.” (Alliance for Excellence in Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).

The nation’s secondary schools graduate only 60% of their students (National Education Association). If they graduated all of their students the payoff would be significant. For example, if the students who dropped out of the Class of 2009 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefitted from nearly $355 billion in additional income over the course of their lifetimes.

In contrast to those students who drop out, high school graduates live longer, are less likely to be teen parents, and more likely to raise healthier, better educated children. Children from parents without high school degrees are less likely to graduate from high school than children whose parents are graduates. High school graduates are more likely to engage in community activity like voting and volunteering in their communities and at higher levels.

Cecilia Rouse, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University, conducted research in 2005 which shows that each dropout over their lifetime costs the country approximately $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. Unless high schools are able to graduate their students at higher rates, nearly 13 million students will drop out over the next decade. The result will be a loss to the country of $3 trillion.

Think of the impact of high dropout rates on all of us:

High school dropouts influence a community’s economic, social, and civic standing.

  • There are significantly lower local, state, and federal tax revenues.
  • States find it hard to attract new businesses with a less educated population.
  • Crime and incarceration increases.
  • A strain on community services and social programs becomes a burden to society.
  • The country’s economy and competitive standing suffer in the world.
  • Medical facilities and Medicaid are strained beyond capacity.
  • Dropouts represent a tremendous loss of human potential and productivity.
  • They decrease the country’s ability to compete in an increasing global economy.

Bill Gates has called them “obsolete.” Oprah Winfrey has said that the nation is in a “state of emergency” because of them. Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Ron Paige, has called them an “unrecognized educational crisis.”

These distinguished Americans are discussing America’s high schools.

Part Two of my next Post.

Parents Are to Blame

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been thinking of why so many children “drop out” of school. They are aware, through the deluge of information within their daily digital media, that the evidence points to a life of poverty with no educational credentials. Why do they not comprehend what they are committing their life to at such an early age? Do their parents bridge the gap or widen the gulf for their success? Do they even care what becomes of their children after they are born? Who do the parents believe is responsible for their children, their self esteem, and their education?

Then I began thinking of who we blame for the failure of children to complete their education. In my previous blog, Educational Catastrophe, I list where blame is usually placed. Why have we become a society where few accept responsibility for being responsible? Is it possible that our heroes left us a legacy of lies, cheating, kick backs, finger pointing, corruption, and denial?

Let’s look at just a few heroes and their examples; Senator John Edwards, Governor Mark Sanford, Mark McGuire, Congressman Thomas Jefferson of Louisiana, President Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Marion Jones, Cardinal Law, Richard Fuld and Bernie Madoff to name just a few of the many. What extraordinary examples they set for our culture, for our children, for all of us! As an aside, I remember watching an elderly African American woman in a Detroit line to receive “free money”. She was asked who she thought the check was from and she responded, “Obama”. She was then asked where he got the money and she responded, “…from his stash…” This small example points to an ethic that pervades the entire culture. Is this ethic set into motion by those who are supposed to be our living examples?

Now, when we boil it down to the lowest common denominator, who really is responsible for the success of the children that are birthed in this country?

How about this novel idea, “The Parents”? Imagine that, we are responsible for our children and their path to success; not the teachers, not the politicians, not the clergy, not the neighbors, not the day care centers, not the community, not the country, not the world, and not God. Parents are responsible for the future success of their children.

Why do we have so many drop outs in a country that offers “free education”, not “free money”? They are there, I believe, because they were born to parents, who had parents, who had parents who did not care. They were not raised in an environment of respect, truth, or ambition.

To be candid, they were born and from that time forth fended for themselves. These drop outs have no emotional support, no direction, no goals, no self esteem, no strength, no pride. They live a life of fear; fear of peer rejection, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being acceptable; fear of standing out. They conform to the most undignified life style that is held up as “heroic” by their valueless peers. Their parents don’t notice because they live like those they birthed.

Until we change parenting in our country, no one will ever be able to stop the bleeding. We will continue to spend millions on children who do not value education, but who thirst for the material life that is a result of education. These dropouts will continue to be a wandering herd, all looking the same, doing the same things, in the same way – out of work with no future.

So much for the obvious; my next blog will concentrate on how the brain develops from birth and how parents who do care are able to propel their children into the most fantastic journey of discovery and self worth.

Educational Catastrophe

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Nationwide, nearly one in three U.S. high school students fails to graduate with a diploma. In total, approximately 1.2 million students drop out each year – averaging 7,000 every school day or one every 26 seconds. Among minority students, the problem is even more severe with nearly 50 percent of African-American and Hispanic students not completing high school on time.  http://www.americaspromise.org

Students blame teachers, teachers blame parents, parents blame politicians, politicians blame the “system”. The system blames programs that are boring, disengaged from reality, and irrelevant to student needs. We see classrooms in chaos, teachers with tenure who do not teach, students with no regard for authority, administrators who do not administrate, and parents who are uninvolved in the process of their children’s educational process, or maybe, completely disinterested in the success of their children.

When it comes down to the absolute level of drop out accountability, it begins with the parents who are not parenting their children from birth to young adulthood. It is the parents who set standards for their children to follow. It is the parents who prove to their children the importance of achieving an education. It is the parents who teach respect for authority and peers. The non-parenting culture has left us with a legacy of a huge wandering crowd of children with no purpose other than the moment, which usually leaves them feeling empty or abandoned.

Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap, is a publication by the EPE (Editorial Projects in Education). This study looked at the economic and employment landscape for those with varied educational levels. It revealed that those who drop out of high school are less likely to be steadily employed, and earn less income when they are employed, compared with those who graduate from high school. Approximately one-third (37 percent) of high school dropouts nationwide are steadily employed and are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.

The report revealed that high school dropouts account for 13 percent of the adult population, but earn less than six percent of all dollars earned in the U.S. In the 50 largest cities, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000, significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Nationally, high school dropouts were also the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last 30 years.

I was reading an article yesterday about school exit tests and how states are easing standards because the tests are proving to be tough for their students to pass. This New York Times article, written by Ian Urbina, states, “The real pattern in states has been that the standards are lowered so much that the exams end up not benefiting students who pass them while still hurting the students who fail them. The exams are just challenging enough to reduce the graduation rate, but not challenging enough to have measurable consequences for how much students learn or for how prepared they are for life after high school”, says John Robert Warren, an expert on exit exams and a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota.

I spoke to a woman in my gym who tutors students in math. She told me, “Why are we teaching algebra or geometry to students who will not be going to college? We should be teaching them math that meets their needs, “functional math”. We need to teach our children, who are not college bound, how to open a checking account, balance a check book, make change, develop budgets, and the many other things that are required for survival.” She is wasting her time tutoring high school students in a math they will never use in their real life.

We are dumbing down our children as China and India are gearing up their educational system and parenting their children to be the best. They will take over what we can no longer do. Our children will be the worker bees for those who will be the bosses. These carefully parented children in these emerging economies are succeeding because they have strong family relationships based in respect and honor.

I have added the links to the NY Times article and an editorial by Bob Herbert.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/opinion/12herbert.html?th&emc=th

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/education/12exit.html?pagewanted=2&th&emc=th

“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods”

Neil Postman, Educator

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