Friday, March 4, 2011

Education in America...Plus!

It would almost seem as though I were trying to make that feeble run for office again, what with taking on political topics and such, but I just watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and his guest was Diane Ravitch, who's written "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education." And with Wisconsin making teachers one of the scapegoats to their financial woes, I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

There are a lot of critics out there, stating that our poor educational system, which is "second to many," as Jon said, is blamed on the teachers. The idea that teachers should shoulder the burden of a State's revenue problems is apparently only right. They only work nine months out of the year, right? Over $30,000 in medical and dental care a year on top of their "outrageous" salaries? And for all that, our kids do so poorly on tests. Yes, it would certainly HAVE to be the teacher's fault, right?

Well, right there is part of the problem. Teachers are demoralized by such dialogue. Classrooms are overcrowded. Teachers have a great many rules to follow that tie their hands when it comes to educating kids. With most schools underfunded, it's the teachers who have to pay out of their own pockets to get the supplies needed in class for the kids under their care.

That's another thing people seem to be missing. How many kids are handed over to someone who is essentially a stranger each year to be guided in their education? Teachers are more than educators, but also guardians. They are like part-time parents, caring for other people's kids for a third of the day, five days a week. When there is 30+ kids in the classroom, these professionals have too much already on their plate...and the government of Wisconsin wants to cut their pay?!?

Personally, I'd be increasing it. A teacher's salary would start at the meager figure of $40,000 a year, then give an additional $2,000 per child on their roll call. Yeah, those numbers are fairly arbitrary, tossed out there from the top of my head, but the total would be close to $100,000 annually, and that high figure would exist because TEACHERS ARE BUILDING OUR FUTURE!

It's sad, and I don't want to go into a rant about parenting in America, but many who have offspring don't want to be bothered. They don't want to have to deal with rearing their own children, and look forward to sending their kids off to school so they can get a break. It then becomes the teacher's job to rear their children. And once the kids are back home, there aren't enough parents who get involved in their kids' education. Thus, I think it well deserved that teachers be paid six figures annually.

As to underfunded schools, they should all be remodeled to become palaces of education. They should be places where kids look forward to going. Not just educational, but fun as well. "Sorry, little Timmy, but you can't ride the roller coaster until you've answered all the questions in this math chapter." I don't care what it takes, but there should be MUCH MORE, instead of schools having to all but beg for the finds to remodel hallways with tiles coming up and patching leaky roofs. Supplies should be in abundance. And...and...GAH!

Part of the problem is that I know a teacher. My dear friend Julie is a special ed. teacher, and listening to her stories about what she's had to deal with in the past have been frustrating. Knowing that it only seems to be growing worse over the years means it's time for an overhaul. The American school system needs to be revamped, and I'm not even sure where to start. One thing I do know, however, is that cutting teachers' salaries is a BAD place to begin.

* * *
In other news...The day is almost here. Becky will be here on Sunday. Then, within the next few days, I will be tying up all loose ends here in Kansas, and then it's off to PA. The existing plan is to leave on the 9th, but we may delay by a day or two to make sure I'm all set to go.

I was, ever so briefly, starting to experience that terror again. I mean, I've done this before. I chased a girl across the States, only to have it all turn to crap once I got there. Thankfully, Ray pointed out that that relationship had wandered a completely different path. I also recently said to Becky that because of the difficulty we've had at the start of this romance, there's likely a great many things that could come our way, and we'd be able to overcome them.

What's more, Becky called. She'd reached her mom's place, as 'Nita is watching Becky's cat while she's away. Although I was sitting, my legs were doing their own little happy dance from excitement.

I'm moving in with my fiancee! Excuse me while I run off and bounce for a bit. Boingy, boingy, boingy, boingy...



Nightsgale said...

Speaking as a person who is close friends with a teacher in an underfunded district (Dodge City, Kansas) that has to deal with all the issues that Rob has pointed out that make it hard for teachers to actually teach...
My friend is a very good teacher, and a pretty balanced person. She has to teach at least 35 students in at least 6 different periods during the day, totaling up to more than 210 students a day being 'taught'. She does her best, but at the end of the day, everything she teaches them is only as good as the study habits and the amount of aid she has in making that learning genuinely interesting and accessible to these kids.
Some of them are inner city hood-rats (and I'm borrowing a phrase, here, those aren't my words), some of them are pampered brats. A handful are the ones that actually want to learn and strive to be more than their current living conditions allow. But not enough for State Government standards to allow for the correct amount of funding and attention for even those few kids.

It's frustrating to see my friend be so essentially helpless in these kinds of situations. She and her kids deserve a hell of a lot more than her being blamed for the shortcomings of a broken system.
Add to that that many of the families of these kids don't even bother to enforce semi-decent study habits, regardless of being rich or poor. Add to -that- the fact that most of the teachers in that school have to work practically double shifts just to make sure disciplinary measures are still seen to, let alone proper education (such as remedial classes) is upheld.

To see such blatant stupidity as the government taking away much needed funding because of the Numbers Game that used to only be played in money-grubbing Corporations... That sickens me. To see them blaming a group of people desperately trying to work with fewer and fewer results and every time they seem to achieve some semblance of balance...? The government takes away something else they needed.

When will the madness stop?

WalkingTarget said...

Yeah, public school teaching salaries are a joke.

One of my college buddies' mother was a teacher. I forget which state they were in at the time, but he told me a story from his childhood in which at one point teacher pay rates were low enough that if an individual didn't have supplementary income of some sort they would qualify for food stamps.

The solution: change the rules for how much you could make and qualify for food stamps so that teachers no longer fell into that income range.

My friend's family moved to a different state after that.

Zeb The Troll said...

I won't dispute that teacher pay is an abyssmal place to make spending cuts (though the truth of the matter, right now, is that we need to make cuts, and no matter what cuts we make, *something* we don't agree with is going to get hit). There's another comment that struck me too, though...

"pay rates were low enough that if an individual didn't have supplementary income of some sort they would qualify for food stamps"

If you've never served in the military, you probably aren't aware that a significant portion of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines fit this description as well. And it's not always newly enlisted, low ranking members of the military, either. In my time in the service, I knew plenty of NCO's (Non-commissioned Officers, aka "Sergeants" or "Petty Officers" depending on branch) who made the regular trek to pick up "gummint cheese" in order to help make ends meet. And even those that didn't qualify for that still often had a hard time making ends meet.

WalkingTarget said...


Oh, I haven't served personally, but I've got enough friends who have to know how ridiculous our compensation for soldiers (& sailors, etc) is at this point.

I may not agree with every move our country makes militarily, but we should really take better care of the people who take up the job voluntarily so that the rest of us don't have to.