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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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The Family; It Begins at the Beginning

October 4, 2010 2 comments

We blame our Public Educational System because we say they aren’t producing educated children. We pile on teachers because we say they are lazy, self serving, and cannot teach. We blame teacher unions for protecting incompetent teachers, who cannot be fired. We say these teachers and their unions are destroying the future of our children, the future of our country. Our politicians throw billions into this seemingly corrupt and incompetent system and we blame them for pandering to unions and teachers. When you think about it we have conjured up an amazing array of scapegoats for our failures as parents to birth and raise our children so they are able to be educated.

I am not excusing the system, its teachers, or their unions. I was a teacher once. I was compelled to join the union, whose dues were deducted from my check. I know the public educational system is crumbling, figuratively and literally and I don’t much care for politicians. All of this awareness and finger pointing does not solve the problem of educating our children. It only keeps the blame game going on endlessly with no hope in sight for resolution. However, it does make for empty cocktail conversation that resolves nothing.

Somehow we must lift unaware parents into an awareness of their parental responsibilities so they may send intellectually curious, alert, physically healthy, and disciplined children into our school systems. If we take away the excuses the educational system has for not doing their job, we then allow our many good teachers to actually educate. With properly parented children we take back the power to demand the best results for our children. As the Japanese say, “Forget about blame; solve the problem.”

Instead of beginning at the end; let’s begin at the beginning.

I read an article this morning, At Risk From the Womb, by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. He is a man who champions the rights of women from all over the world and has written a book with his wife called, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”. I admire his honest writing. His article points out that the uterine environment is a critical factor in determining the mental and physical success of the child. He says, “Researchers are finding indications that obesity, diabetes and mental illness among adults are all related in part to what happened in the womb decades earlier.” What struck me most about this article, which I highly recommend you reading, is that a stressful uterine environment may be the mechanism that allows poverty to replicate itself generation after generation. Women who come from poverty will absorb the stress of their environment into their uterine child and instead of one generation improving the next these offspring remain dormant, stuck in a cycle of deprivation based upon ignorance.

We will solve our educational problems by beginning with parenting, and we must begin during the uterine cycle. Mr. Kristof goes on to lament, “The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.”

We must begin at the beginning, the uterine environment. Then we must develop an awareness of infant needs and responses after birth. How can we really expect our teachers and schools to deliver a high standard of education and literacy to our children when we resist learning how to parent them with diligence? An article in my June 25th post by Dennis D. Muhumuza of Uganda, quoted Mr. Fagil Mandy:

What is the true measure of a parent?

First, one must be knowledgeable enough – one is not going to be a parent worth their soul when they are ignorant; a parent must know a bit of everything because they are the encyclopedia for their child. Secondly, parents must know how to do several things because a child must follow their example; you must be a good reader, be able to clean your own compound, fix a bulb and have a multi-skilled capacity for your child to emulate. Also, you must be healthy; no child likes to grow up with a dying parent; remember, a parent must help the child lead a healthy life and how can you do that if you are not healthy yourself? Then of course, a parent must be able to generate enough income to look after the family and be available to provide the time required for the child. If you are unavailable, don’t produce the child. (My emphasis)

Simple, straight forward, uncomplicated – Mr. Fagil Mandy is on to something in Uganda!

This is the beginning.

UTERINE CHILD

New York Gifted Kindergarten vs. New York Academic Progress

August 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Don’t take away my chance to succeed.

Now this takes the cake in light of the previous post on “Gifted Kindergarten” testing in New York.

Here are these New York parents vying for placement for their 4 year old children in the “Gifted Kindergarten” program and a report comes out in the July 29 edition of the Wall Street Journal, which says, “Erasing years of academic progress, state education officials (New York) on Wednesday acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of children had been misled into believing they were proficient in English and math, when in fact they were not.”

Now where does this leave these gifted 4 year olds who have worked hard in weekend “boot camps”, while giving up their childhood, so they could gain entrance into these New York public schools. This leaves them, with their childhood in ruin, attending a public school system that fails to educate them to acceptable standards. It is a system specializing in fantasy.

The Journal states, “The huge drops across the state raised questions about how much of the academic gains touted in the past several years were an illusion.” State officials were careful “…not to assign blame for the previously low standards, saying that the tests had become too predictable and tested too narrow a range of knowledge, thus becoming increasingly easier year after year.”

Isn’t this nice, State Officials, the Mayor, the Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, and all associated officials are careful not to offend or to place blame. If no one is to blame for the loss of proficiency in English or math in grades three through eight, Who Done It?  Maybe it’s the kids? Maybe they are too dumb to learn? Maybe it’s the parents? Who Done It?

The real tragedy is the social class who suffers from these deficiencies. It is always the defenseless, innocent children. They have no champions! According to these latest revelations, “The losses were also more pronounced for minority children. The number of black children proficient in English in third grade through eighth grade was cut nearly in half, to 34% from 64%. Among Hispanic children, 65% proficiency in English turned into 37%.” Who speaks for these children who are doomed to poverty without a proper education?

WHO SPEAKS FOR THEM? Is it the Mayor? Is it the Chancellor? Is it the teacher’s union? Is it the State officials? Is it the parents? How about the teachers, what do they have to say? Where are the champions for the children?Dear Lord - be good to me...Dear Lord, be good to me…

As a last statement on this pathetic situation in our educational system, I was told that most of the kids in the “Gifted Kindergarten” program attend private schools. They can afford it. They want a good education for their sons and daughters, not a public education.

Children in Crisis; 2/3rds Failing Fitness Tests!

What do you mean exercise? Where's the Food!

Two years ago Texas became the first state to mandate annual fitness testing. More than two-thirds of Texas school children flunked the state’s physical fitness test this year. A state analysis last year found that schools with better fitness results also had higher academic performance and fewer discipline problems.

Think about this! This is appalling! What is our nation doing to its children? When I was in school we had 1 hour of physical education every day, which we called “phys ed”. We, the girls, did not like it because it messed up our hair, we got sweaty, had to shower (which messed up our hair, again) and always wished for it to occur 6th period, the last period of the day. It was REQUIRED. It was not an elective. I had to take it from grade three through grade 12. My hair was always a mess by fourth period because I always seemed to have “phys ed” during one of the first 3 periods of the day.

I have already stated the case in a previous post about computers, TV, video games, cell phones, etc., and their dramatic impact on children and their physical experience with the outdoors, nature, and play. But, please forgive me; every time I read something like this I become angry at the lack of common sense and compassion regarding our nation’s children and their health. I read nearly every day about the amazing government waste of our monetary resources that go to politicians, their donors, defense contractors with their cost overruns, teacher unions who spend thousands on lobbying politicians for political favors, etc.

None of these people care about our children. They care about their bank accounts and power. It is all about Power and Money! (You see it really does raise the hackles within me!) By the way, many politicians, teachers, contractors, and those in government or corporate power send their children to private schools where they have the best education with the best physical plant facilities, and lots of private lessons, whose teachers are not tenured. The rest of the population send their children to dilapidated, deteriorating, school buildings, with cafeterias stocking coke and snack machines for money, using tattered books and sub standard classrooms, staffed with teachers protected by tenure even when they molest children.

I thought our high property taxes paid for the public school system? Who wants to bet that your taxes are used in other places and not your schools? Maybe some of your money funds the nearly bankrupted retirement accounts of public government employees? Even President Obama will not send his daughters to the public school system of Washington, DC, the nation’s capital! He wants them to get a good education so they can go to the top flight universities in our country. You know what, I wouldn’t send my sons to those schools either.

If any of these people of power really cared they would be pouring our resources (your property tax money) and their focus into our children and their future, who are the future of the United States of America. We have become a nation of greed and disregard. Our children are the victims. Just look around you in your malls, grocery stores, churches, and neighborhoods. The world is passing us by and we are sacrificing what many other countries will not sacrifice, the children.

Now read what it takes to pass a physical fitness test in Texas if your child is 12 years of age:

To be considered physically fit a 12-year-old boy is expected to:

• Complete one-mile run in no more than 10 minutes, 30 seconds
• Have a body fat percentage of 25 or less
• Perform 18 curl-ups (tests abdominal strength)
• Perform nine trunk lifts (tests trunk strength)
• Perform 10 push-ups (tests upper-body strength)
• Sit with one knee bent and one leg straightened against a box, then reach fingers within 8   inches of the box (tests flexibility)

A 12-year-old girl must:

• Complete a 1-mile run in no more than 12 minutes
• Have a body fat percentage of 32 or less
• Perform 18 curl-ups
• Perform nine trunk lifts
• Perform seven push-ups
• Sit with one knee bent and one leg straightened against a box, then reach fingers within 10 inches of the box

Can you imagine what children will look like in the next 5 years if we do not place an emphasis on nutrition in our school cafeterias, physical fitness in our school programs, and outdoor programs that take children back to nature and the woods? No skin off my nose. My sons were raised in the woods, ate from our garden, and are strong, healthy, educated, and successful. I appeal to the parents of the millions of small ones, who need their parents to speak for them, to rise up, and demand what is rightfully theirs. You do pay the property tax money which goes to all the governments, local, state and federal. Why are we quiet as they take our treasure and split it up amongst themselves? Why is there no public outcry in defense of our small children?

I cannot be the only one who thinks about this?

Education in Crisis; the Governor, the Sky, and Me, Part 7

I was sitting here yesterday thinking about my next post when my email account gave a little beep. I looked at it and there was a name I did not recognize, Steve from SkyU. I hardly ever open an email if the sender is not recognizable. But something nudged within me and I read his words, “I’m proud to be on the Board of SKY U, a company that empowers kids to fulfill their highest potential in school and in life like no other you’ve ever seen.”

I was stunned! It was as if something in the universe knew I was searching for a happy ending to a long story. Imagine an organization that said they were “…empowering kids to fulfill their highest potential in school and life…” I went to their web site and spent the next hour reading everything they offered. I encourage the reader to go to SkyU as I did and see how “things are a changin” (as we say in Tennessee).

Ellie Dylan, the founder, is from Tennessee and I am from Tennessee. What a coincidence, I thought. Her organization SkyU works with elementary school children and I am passionate about Pre-K children. We have a lot in common so I emailed her and she responded enthusiastically. Ellie and I have connected and we will be making a plan. We are passionate about children and we want to alter parenting and education (I wanted to say ‘change’ instead of ‘alter’, but that word CHANGE threatens people). We have our work cut out for us because it is really hard to make people move when they are ensconced and comfortable.

Governor Bredesen of the Great State of Tennessee, the state teacher unions, and the state lawmakers came together as collaborators and won on behalf of the children and parents of Tennessee a $500 million grant for their plan to “Race to the Top”. They participated with 38 other states for the funds. Delaware came in second with $100 million. New York came in 37 out of 38; their teacher unions would not agree to the stipulations. So they are the losers, we Tennesseans are the winners! Kudos for our teachers, their unions, the Governor, and the legislature for putting our children ahead of their political differences. What an achievement in a time when people see only what’s in it for them!

Change is in the air and Governor Bredesen is on his way to making educational history. Guess what? Ellie Dylan and I are too. I am excited and confident that people with vision will prevail because they don’t know how to give up. They don’t see hurdles – they go through them, around them, and over them.

So here you have it, a story of the Governor who won $500 million for the children of his state; the Media maverick who teaches children to reach for the SKY at SkyU; and little ole’ me who took a life time to write a book about the signals children give parents when they have no other way to communicate their needs other than “signals”.

A happy ending to a long story.

Education in Crisis; Teachers and Tenure, Part 4

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Definition of Tenure:

A system of due process and employment guarantees for teachers. After serving a two-year probationary period, teachers are assured continued employment in the school district unless carefully defined procedures for dismissal or layoff are successfully followed.

As initially conceived, academic tenure guarantees the right to academic freedom. It protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Thus, academic tenure is similar to the lifetime tenure that protects some judges from external pressure. The intent of tenure was to encourage original ideas to be expressed by giving scholars the intellectual autonomy to investigate the problems and solutions about which they are most passionate, and to report their honest conclusions. Originally this was a good idea.

Tenure Today: Jennifer DeFoor, a 35 year old 2nd grade teacher, sexually abused a 14 year old female student and had sex with her 18 year old brother in front of her. She was convicted but still remains on the Alabama school payroll because it could take up to six months or more to remove her. State law requires tenured teachers to go through a dismissal process whose legal costs are formidable if not followed exactly.

Last year the Los Angeles Times ran a series documenting the unwillingness of the education bureaucracy to fire bad teachers. There was the teacher who told a student who tried to commit suicide to “carve more deeply the next time”, and another who kept pornography and cocaine at school. Both are still teaching. And then there is the notorious New York “rubber room” where teachers waiting for legal action to be completed sit with full pay and no teaching responsibilities, some for several years. They collect pay and do nothing.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Lawrence Township schools quietly laid off, with generous cash settlements and confidential agreements, a teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student; another accused of kissing a high school student, and another with a 20 year history of complaints of injuring and harassing students, including a 1992 rape allegation. When the story ran last summer these teachers still held active teaching licenses.

In New York City in 2008, three out of 30,000 tenured teachers were dismissed for cause. The statistics are just as grim nationwide; 0.01% in Chicago, 0% in Akron, Ohio, 0% in Denver, 0.01% in Toledo. In no other socially significant profession are workers so insulated from accountability. Year after year 90% of teachers are rated as “satisfactory” by their principals because firing a teacher invites a costly court battle waged by the teacher unions.  (Newsweek, March 6, 2010)

What is so disturbing, setting aside the sensationalism generated by some teachers, is the immunity enjoyed by thousands of teachers who let their students down in more ordinary ways. Their mantra is; it’s the Parents or absence of Parents, it’s society with its distractions and pathologies, it’s the kids. So they keep the assembly line flowing with “social promotion”, regardless of academic performance. Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, says, “By 1992 there was such a dramatic achievement gap in the United States, far larger than in other countries, between socioeconomic classes and races. It was a scandal of monumental proportions, that there were two distinct school systems in the U.S., one for the middle class and one for the poor.”  The decline in American education is embarrassing and has put our nation at risk. There was a time when American students tested better than other students in the world. Now we do as well as Lithuania. (Newsweek, March 6, 2010)

Nothing is more important than hiring good teachers and firing bad ones. Teaching in public schools has not attracted the best and the brightest. It is said that men and women enter education because they can’t make it in any other profession. McKinsey & Co., the management consulting firm, reported that most school teachers are recruited from the bottom third of college-bound high school students. Finland takes the top 10%. Newsweek, March 6, 2010

But what makes a good teacher? Bill Gates announced recently that his foundation was investing millions in a project to improve teaching quality in the United States, he added a rueful caveat, “Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn’t have a clear view of what characterizes good teaching”. Gates said, “I am personally very curious.”

I am too!

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.

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