"Please Recognize our Progress"

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The American Federation of Teachers uses crappy Internet animation to defend their prerogatives against the testing standards of No Child Left Behind. As Ryan Sager, from whom I got this link, put it: "The teachers unions have absolutely, positively lost their Goddamned minds."

If your boss or co-workers are sane, I'd have to categorize this one as not work-friendly.

Lisa Snell gave a metaphorically animated attack on No Child Left Behind from a different perspective in the October 2004 issue of Reason, arguing that NCLB isn't tough enough on failing schools.

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  1. scarred.
    for.
    life.

  2. I suppose it’s a good thing my anti-virus security stuff won’t let me install anything with “ActiveX”, huh?

  3. Key line: “It’s well-intentioned.” That’s all the matters, no?

  4. Jennifer, I suspect your formerly schoolteaching head would explode if witness to this.

  5. Not work friendly? How about that half-naked babe on the right hand side of the page for the past few days? It’s making it difficult to read Reason at work.

  6. This is the most offensive cartoon that does not feature Muhammad I have ever seen.

  7. I don’t suppose there’s a print copy of the lyrics, is there?

  8. I’m with you fishfry. I need to look over my shoulder everytime I go to this website. This just after my company gave a sexual harrasment lecture last week.
    She is HOT though!

  9. I overrode the ActiveX thing and installed it anyway.

    Holy.
    Fucking.
    Christ.

    Are these people idiots? “Let’s measure progress?”

    BULLSHIT. What matters is how well you do, not how much better you did than before. “Measure progress?” So if a kid starts grade 12 completely illiterate and ends the year reading at a second grade level, he’s made more progress than a kid who starts at an 11th-grade level and ends at a twelfth-grade level. Is that all that matters? Instead of “measure progress,” how about “not letting them progress into a grade until they damn well belong there?”

    And what’s this complaint about testing taking “too much time?” If kids have no time for anything other than schoolwork, maybe you should spend MORE time focusing on math and writing and reading, and less time focusing on Diversity and Self-Esteem and We’re All Unique and Beautiful Like Fucking Snowflakes, and all the other feel-good hand-holding crap that infests the schools these days.

    Also, if you’re trying to persuade adults to see things your way, a flash animation out of some horrible Sesame Street feverdream is probably not the best way to do it.

    My blood pressure just went up five thousand percent.

  10. I’d also like to point out to the idiot authors that No Child Left Behind was also “well-intentioned.” So now all of your complaints are automatically unjustified, right?

  11. God help me, I’m actually going to go left this one time.

    I’m engaged to a public school teacher (she teaches Latin and English). I know for a fact that she’s an excellent teacher. I know that she works very hard and cares a lot for her kids. She’s also strongly considering quitting the profession, no small part due to NCLB.

    NCLB is obsessed with test-taking, and not actual learning. It is a one-size fits-all device. My fiance has absolutely no leeway to teach her classes as she sees fit.. to be creative and make the experience more enjoyable for her kids. She is tasked to create robots.. faceless parts of a huge national test-taking machine.

    Yes, that web animation is totally retarded. But not all teachers are incompetant or “insane”. As Jennifer can attest, teachers get a ton of shit from all sides – kids, their parents, the school administration, and now the national standards. It’s a totally thankless job, and that’s a shame.

  12. I’d say that a school that gets a 10th grader who can’t read, after nine years somewhere else, and has him reading at a second grade level by the end of the year is doing a pretty good job.

    My city has a lot of refugees from SE Asia. Often, an older kids comes into the system with very limited English skills. My state’s standardized tests, on the other hand, simply rank schools by the snapshot of how 10th graders do on test day. I don’t think this practice serves the purpose of measuring how well the school does its job.

  13. What.
    The.
    FUCK.

    I don’t even know what point of view they’re coming from. I do, however, think NCLB is absurd, as is the notion that standardized testing is the be-all, end-all of education. Also, the idea that every child will be ‘proficient’ is mind-bendingly stupid. Much like that video.

  14. My city has a lot of refugees from SE Asia. Often, an older kids comes into the system with very limited English skills. My state’s standardized tests, on the other hand, simply rank schools by the snapshot of how 10th graders do on test day.

    Which is yet another reason why we need to end this ridiculous idea of age segregation in the schools. If you are fifteen years old and have such severely limited English skills then you don’t belong in high school by simple virtue of your age.

    MNG, I agree that there are serious problems with standardized testing, but not as bad as the problems they were designed to cure. If all students have to pass a test before being promoted to the next grade, that will go a long way toward ending the idiocy of social promotion.

  15. how about “not letting them progress into a grade until they damn well belong there?”

    The other day I read an article about some trouble at a school in DC involving some 10th graders. Near the end of the article it came to light that one of the 10th graders was 19 years-old.
    It occurred to me that maybe this could be taken a bit too far. Can you imagine being 15 years-old and sitting next to a 19 year-old thug in your class? I doubt there would be much “progress” in that situation.

  16. Mk-

    Your example explains why we also need to end this lunatic idea that every single person in the country will get an academic education and grow up to work with their brains, rather than their hands. Bring back vocational ed (and have it be a serious curriculum, not a dumping-ground for troublemakers).

    That 19-year-old tenth grader may be stupid, or he may simply have no interest in learning. In either case, it doesn’t sound like he belongs there anyway.

    The school where I taught finally expelled a 19-year-old freshman, because I think the law is you can only stay in high school until you are 21 or 22; whatever the limit, he’d reached the point where it would be impossible for him to graduate on time anyway.

  17. The other day I read an article about some trouble at a school in DC involving some 10th graders. Near the end of the article it came to light that one of the 10th graders was 19 years-old.

    The solution there is to “progress” the lad outa school. At a certain point one must admit that some can only go so far.

  18. HOLY

  19. FREAKIN’

  20. Jennifer,

    Maybe up to a point. But what is served by putting a smart, knowledgeable 15 year old in a class full of 7 year olds, just because his fluency is in another language? Tracking him into classes with peers in a similar predicament would probably make more sense – no?

  21. Kevin gets the ‘most accurate prediction’ award of the day…

    It occurred to me that maybe this could be taken a bit too far. Can you imagine being 15 years-old and sitting next to a 19 year-old thug in your class? I doubt there would be much “progress” in that situation

    Kinda depends if the 19 year old wanted to be there or not. If so, wouldn’t be that much different than being a 18 yr old freshman sitting next to a 40 yr old freshman who had never gotten around going to college prior. However, if the 19 yr old was effectively institutionalized by being forced to be there, that would be different. That said, at age 18 one can bail without any parental permission, so I don’t think this is a real situation.

    While I do agree that there should be some flexibility in regards to tying age to grade, my thought is that there would be an issue with, say, a 13 year old in a third grade class with a bunch of 8 year olds. Perhaps if they miss twice they go on a different track to a different school. Obviously, private schools generally don’t have to deal with this, as they just dismiss the students and they have to fend for themselves.

  22. Normally, I’m realistic enough to recognize that teachers have a rational self-interest in protecting their turf but this is just embarassing.

  23. But what is served by putting a smart, knowledgeable 15 year old in a class full of 7 year olds, just because his fluency is in another language?

    Nothing, which is why we need to ditch the entire system of assuming that all seven-year-olds are at the same level and should be grouped together. End age segregation and group kids based on their strengths and weaknesses, rather than based on how long they’ve been on earth.

    And here’s another benefit–many people like to talk about how school is important for “social skills.” Which social skills have more real-world application–the ability to interact with people from a variety of age groups, or the ability to interact with people who are all within six months of your own age?

  24. Sigh, do the teachers actually want people to take them seriously? Becuase this certainly isn’t the way to do it. I’m all for getting rid of the NCLB, and you’d think that teachers who have to deal with its one-size-fits-all constraints and bureaucratic rigidity would be able to make some cogent points.

    On the other hand, who doesn’t love singing animals?

  25. The video captures the intellectual level of most education policy really well. I also like the idea that a “union of professionals” – something that makes about as much sense as a “street gang of music theorists” – thinks that a singing cartoon is the correct way to discuss policy issues.

    I must complain, however, about the person who complained about adding value. Schools and school districts differ a lot in terms of the raw material they have to work with in terms of ability and parental support. Simply comparing schools based on outcomes ignores that. Limited conditioning on observables helps, but trying to get a “value-added” measure is not a bad idea, if it is done correctly. Of course, contrary to the video, a value-added measure will do nothing to reduce the emphasis on teaching to the test that NCLB already induces.

    For those who would like to read more from a reasonable perspective, head to Eric Hanushek’s web page. He is an economist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford who studies this stuff and is a very reasonable guy. We disagree at the margin about NCLB but he gives by far the most rational defense of it.

    Jeff

  26. “And here’s another benefit–many people like to talk about how school is important for “social skills.”

    Every time I hear some idiot spout that line, I want to inflict physical pain on them.

    But I guess the nerds and social rejects need to learn their place in the pecking order.

  27. “Your example explains why we also need to end this lunatic idea that every single person in the country will get an academic education and grow up to work with their brains, rather than their hands. Bring back vocational ed (and have it be a serious curriculum, not a dumping-ground for troublemakers). ” posted by Jennifer

    Excellent point, Jennifer. But, there are no need for tradesman anylonger in the US, that is what immigrant populations are for (tongue in cheek, people, tongue in cheek)

    The subject of NCLB makes my head explode.But only after my blood boils and the flesh peels off of my bones.

    I work in educational research – the “achievement gap” and NCLB are the only things on which my department concentrates. It makes my head spin. Its about throwing money at whatever perceived panacea the government can find, and making sure all kids have the same knowledge and the same achievement and that they all get into excellent colleges – I suppose it?s a way to take the definition of “egalitarian” to its nth degree.

    We all know that we are NOT created equal, otherwise, I would be able to sing opera like my sister in law and do math like my best friend, rather than require a calculator to balance my checkbook and croak like a frog in the shower.

    To your point about working with your hands, I have known smarter people in my lifetime who have barely gotten out of high school, but who do the most exquisite craftsmanship with wood, metal and stone. My boyfriend finished only 2 semester’s of college before learning a trade, and he makes more money building than he did when he had a management job with one of the huge telecom-of-the-month companies a few years back. He enjoys his job more, as well.

    I think of the end of Office Space and get inspired: I’m outside, getting exercise, breathing fresh air, and makin’ bucks. Fuckin a, man. Fuckin a.

    Emphasis on education for all is not a bad thing, emphasis on the same KIND of education for all is ridiculous. With all of the research being done on learning styles, disabilities, I can’t believe the gov’t is still trying to construct a one-size-fits-all test to a population made up of infinitely varied individuals.

  28. Emphasis on education for all is not a bad thing, emphasis on the same KIND of education for all is ridiculous.

    I fully agree. I’ve said here many times: expecting every single kid in America to meet the exact same academic standards is as insane as expecting everybody to meet the same athletic standards. I doubt even the most entrenched Educational Ed idiot would agree that all students must be able to bench-press 200 pounds, run a six-minute mile and throw a discus 100 yards before being allowed to graduate, but one-size-fits-all standards for intellectual achievement strikes them as perfectly reasonable.

  29. Every time I hear some idiot spout that line, I want to inflict physical pain on them.
    Me too. And the “social skills” you learn in modern American public schools have no application whatsoever in the real world.

  30. “And the “social skills” you learn in modern American public schools have no application whatsoever in the real world.”

    Yeah, it’s nowhere near as arbitrarily tribalistic.

  31. Also, Mediageek, I’d imagine that relatively few corporations keep stupid bullies with no skills on staff for the sole purpose of inflating the performance of the Official Company Football Team. Nor do corporations generally expect high-achieving workers to dumb themselves down so that the stupid workers don’t feel so bad.

  32. Jennifer,

    The difference between a 17 year old student and an 8 year old student aren’t just the knowledge they have in their brains. Their brains work differently, and they require different educational environments and practices – even if they have the same degree of knowledge going into class.

  33. The difference between a 17 year old student and an 8 year old student aren’t just the knowledge they have in their brains. Their brains work differently, and they require different educational environments and practices

    The “Different brains require different educational environments and practices” is exactly the argument the teachers are using against the NCLB act. Only they’re using it to explain why all kids in the same age group shouldn’t be held to the same standards, either. Since it’s impossible to custom-make a separate educational plan for every single student in the country, grouping kids by ability would at least hurt less of them than grouping kids by age.

  34. sic the HAPPY TREE FRIENDS on those fuckers.

    mein gott.

    this reminds me of some of the EU brainwashing shit.

    THIS IS STEVEN CRANE’S FAULT. LET US DEMAND THAT HE GIVE US THE 45 SECONDS OF OUR LIFE BACK

    evil.

  35. Which, mediageek? The real world or school?

  36. Ahhh, Jennifer,

    It is good (for the children) that you’ve gotten out of teaching. Your ideas on the subject never fail to impress me with their lack of consistency or depth.

    To quote you
    “I’ve said here many times: expecting every single kid in America to meet the exact same academic standards is as insane as expecting everybody to meet the same athletic standards.”

    “Instead of “measure progress,” how about “not letting them progress into a grade until they damn well belong there?”

    And these are only 90 minutes apart.

    NCLB doesn’t even begin to address the issues that plague troubled schools in our country. Individualized measures of progress are a reasonable way to determine if a student “damned well belongs” in the next grade. Otherwise you are advocating the NCLB approach. Age-base promotion and progress-based promotion are not the same thing.

    Try just once, I dare you, not to comment on an educational thread.

  37. “I’ve said here many times: expecting every single kid in America to meet the exact same academic standards is as insane as expecting everybody to meet the same athletic standards.”

    “Instead of “measure progress,” how about “not letting them progress into a grade until they damn well belong there?”

    How do these contradict each other, Mainstream? Not every kid can meet the same athletic standards, and not every 17-year-old can do what is considered 12th-grade work.

  38. An empty heart takes center stage. It retracts blood and faces the crowd with a vehemence and states the fallacies of isolated recrimination like a new god.

  39. Jennifer,

    I think a little of both might be the answer. Maybe break the kids up into four year groupings by age, but then have the kids in those four grades break up into classes by knowledge and ability.

    That way you don’t end up with Young Einstein and Young Dubya taking Alegbra One in the same year, and you also don’t end up with some teenager who’s already behind sitting in a class full of 9 year olds and saying ‘screw this.’

  40. Me too. And the “social skills” you learn in modern American public schools have no application whatsoever in the real world.

    I disagree, unfortunately. I’ve often said that high school never actually stops. Roles may be reversed, but the methods we learn to interact with each other during school are firmly ingrained in our society. You’ll always have the popular and the non-popular, people will always play favorites and tolerate all sorts of crap for reasons completely unrelated to performance, people will gossip and perform petty acts of malice, and people will always form their cliques and shun the “unacceptable” even if they’ve learned to be more subtle about it.

    What I’ve never been able to decide is whether these traits are solely characteristic of humanity, or whether our system plays a more active role in determining how we behave in semi-closed social environments. In other words, do we cause high school or does high school cause us?

    Regardless, I certainly believe that schools do teach kids social skills that have real world applications. The only problem is that I don’t see that as a good thing.

  41. Jennifer,

    “not every 17-year-old can do what is considered 12th-grade work.”

    The implication is that 12th-grade work is considered to be the same for all 12th graders, no matter their age (a strawman you use in your arguments that is beside the point). It is implying that you shouldn’t be in 12th grade unless you are able “to meet the exact same academic standards” as other 12th graders. So the question is, what if you are never able to meet the exact same academic standards in a narrowly defined range of the curriculum? Do you not get to go to 12th grade because you suck at Math, even if you are gifted in other areas of the curriculum?

    Think the problem ALL the way through before continuing your rant.

  42. you also don’t end up with some teenager who’s already behind sitting in a class full of 9 year olds and saying ‘screw this.’

    Well, if we truly got rid of age segregation then chances are it wouldn’t be a lone teenager in a class full of nine-year-olds, but a teenager in a classful of students of widely varying ages. And such a system, as opposed to the current age-related one, would be more personalized, in that kids could learn more at their own pace rather than at the pace considered the average for their age group.

    I think we should also consider the possibility that, just as not every kid is going to get a PhD, so too not every kid will get a high school diploma. There are a lot of good jobs out there that don’t actually need one, anyway.

  43. So the question is, what if you are never able to meet the exact same academic standards in a narrowly defined range of the curriculum? Do you not get to go to 12th grade because you suck at Math, even if you are gifted in other areas of the curriculum?

    I don’t know if you realize this, Mainstream, but in modern high schools it is indeed possible to fail one class while passing others, so that this hypothetical kid of your could, indeed, take twelfth-grade courses in English and history while still repeating freshman or sophomore math.

    Exactly what point are you trying to make, here?

  44. And by all the way through I mean, how are you going to determine when someone has met enough goals to be considered a HS graduate, even if you get rid of distinctions like 10th grader? How will you measure skill? How will you manage serious issues involving dangerous behavior of 17 year-old around 6 year olds? How will your idea be implemented in terms of what is known about developmental/cognitive/emotional differences in the needs of a 17 year old and a 9 year old? Does the 17 year old have to stay in a class with one teacher all day like the 9 year old? Does he get recess? Do we have to have all levels in the same building? or will the 17 year old have to go across town to the 4th grade class for his math instruction?

    Solutions can be found for all of these issues, but they are not as easy or unidimensional as your characterization of the issue.

    Again, I dare you to spend the time you would ranting on educational threads reading some current research in the area of cognitive development and learning.

  45. how are you going to determine when someone has met enough goals to be considered a HS graduate, even if you get rid of distinctions like 10th grader?

    Decide which skills are required to qualify for a diploma, and then give the diploma when said skills are achieved.

    How will you measure skill?

    Same way we do it now–tests, quizzes and the like.

    How will you manage serious issues involving dangerous behavior of 17 year-old around 6 year olds?

    A seventeen-year-old who is the acedemic equivalent of a six-year-old has no business getting an academic diploma anyway, which is why I’ve called for a return to vocational ed for kids who would benefit by it.

    How will your idea be implemented in terms of what is known about developmental/cognitive/emotional differences in the needs of a 17 year old and a 9 year old?

    What, pray tell, should be different about the way you’d teach long division to a nine-year-old versus a 17-year old?

    Does the 17 year old have to stay in a class with one teacher all day like the 9 year old?

    With the end of age segregation, the nine-year-old won’t be in the same room all day, either.

    Does [the 17-year-old] get recess?

    Sure, why not? Even adult employees get coffee breaks; everybody needs a little downtime now and then.

    Solutions can be found for all of these issues, but they are not as easy or unidimensional as your characterization of the issue.

    Not, they are “not as easy or one-dimensional and your portrayal of my characterization of the issue.”

  46. Maybe it really stands for (N)o (C)hristian (L)eft (B)ehind?

    That probably only makes sense to me but then again I’m a product of public schooling if that isn’t painfully obvious by now.

  47. MainStreamMan, one might not require all students to reach the same level in math. I don’t believe any (or at least not many) high school require more than a couple years of math. Further, if one were to match an individual student’s curriculum to that individual’s strengths, then their might be a math and science track, an English track, a foreign language track, etc. as well as nonacademic trades tracks.

    What good would it do someone to get to the twelfth grade be passed through a math class that they didn’t deserve to pass and go on to be a working adult who never actually would use that math. I suppose it would provide employment to a math teacher.

  48. Jennifer,

    Again,
    “What, pray tell, should be different about the way you’d teach long division to a nine-year-old versus a 17-year old?”

    When you can answer this question for yourself, you might be able to come up with a better way to address the issues. The cognitive skills that a 9 year old and a 17 year old bring to the table are quite different and warrant different approaches.

    “With the end of age segregation, the nine-year-old won’t be in the same room all day, either.”

    Ahh… but the stable environment provided for children at this age facilitates learning. They learn better because they are not forced to negotiate the ever changing demands of multiple teachers across the day. 17 year olds handle this better due to maturity/experience.

    I have spent much of my career implementing structural changes to schools and school systems. Few high schools use age-based promotion. Your ideas, and responses above, are like the NCLB act in that they apply a single principle to solve problems that occur due to multiple factors.

    There is nothing wrong with age promotion, or its elimination if implemented in a system that supports learning in optimal ways for the students faced with learning in that system. But to think that age promotion (or lack of criterion standards for promotion) is even a major element limiting student success in most schools demonstrates a simplistic understanding of the issues.

    Design your age-less school system, but please look at the history of the idea. It has been done with varying degrees of success in recent history. Most systems revert to some form of age-based grouping eventually… because it make sense for the vast majority of students. Nothing in the current system, as you rightly point out, prevents a 12th grader from taking freshman math… or even remedial math at a 8 year old level, within an age-appropriate mix of other students struggling with the same subject.

    The contradiction you are missing in your own argument is found in these statements..

    “Decide which skills are required to qualify for a diploma, and then give the diploma when said skills are achieved.”

    You can’t argue for this criterion for a diploma witout “expecting every single kid in America to meet the exact same academic standards” which you claim to oppose.

    So again, if you oppose everyone fitting into the same box, how do you decide who graduates. It will end up involving individualized criteria for each child based on their progress along multiple dimensions of learning. Some will graduate with one set of skills, some with another.

    “A seventeen-year-old who is the acedemic equivalent of a six-year-old has no business getting an academic diploma anyway”

    Is this true even if it is only in one subject? How often does your typical American use math skills beyond division (8 or 9 year old skills, sure, but same point)? I seem to remember you arguing quite long and hard that higher math skills didn’t matter in daily life in a recent rant on education. Are you changing that position?

    I realize I am pissing you off here by blowing off your opinion as uninformed an not well thought out. I also realize that I haven’t offered you any solutions of my own (or put much thought into my own posts). Not my job. I just want you to take a step back and think about whether you really are that informed regarding educational issues just because you used to be a teacher. Remember, teacher is the second most common job in the country. Having done the job makes your level of knowledge about average… which is, in most cases, not that well informed.

    The dare stands.

  49. Every single problem that people have with public schools is so easily solved by school choice that I have to wonder if anti-choice folks are deliberately evil.

    nmg

  50. FinFang

    Your points are well taken. The point is, that is not currently happening in most high-schools. Age-based grade promotion may occur at younger ages, but most HS classes already require criterion standards be met for passing. This is a separate issue from deterimining which skills are required for graduation from HS.

    My main point here is that age-promotion is a strawman just as much as is the lack of accountability claimed by Bush when implementing the NCLB. Since they aren’t the problem in the vast majority of cases, they are not worth discussing.

    Think teacher education, local control, individualized educational programs and the like and you may go further to find solutions for your particular school’s issues. No across the board suggestion will make much of a dent since there isn’t a unitary problem plaguing our schools.

  51. nmg
    “Every single problem that people have with public schools is so easily solved by school choice that I have to wonder if anti-choice folks are deliberately evil.”

    Few oppose school choice. Many oppose school vouchers as a mechanism for that choice. Most voucher programs supplement choice for the well off at the expense of the poor. Remember, as soon as you agree to pay for all children’s education using tax money, the goal should be to provide the best education for the most children at the least cost. Competition between schools doesn’t always foster improvement because there is little reward for winning, and few stakes for losing (you might shuffle teachers and administrators, but there will always be a bell curve and only the most egregious cases will be fired… this already happens in most school districts).

    Opposition to a particular choice program is very likely not the result of evil intentions, but careful considerations of the implications of the particular plan. There are no blanket solutions when there is no single problem facing the systems across the country.

  52. MainStreamMan,

    You are a delight. I mean it most sincerely.

    EG

  53. Everyone is missing the point.

    If education is private, you can decide exactly what sort of education is good for your child. Touchy feely parents can send their children to schools that teach them high self esteem, and make them feel good about themselves, and grade them on their “progress” and “effort”. Other parents can send their kids to more structured schools with a heavy emphasis on math, science, language, etc. With a choice, there is something for everyone. In the current Soviet style educational system we have, there is no choice. Education is determined by the economic interests of the teachers unions.

    Public education in the U.S. is a failure. There is no way to overhaul it, no way to fix it. It has CRIMINALLY failed (if it was a private industry, most of the people involved would be in prison right now). American students are the laughing stock of the world. They are recieving a third world education, that costs more than just about any other nation. This isn’t about funding, because even public schools in rich neighborhoods would be considered the lowest of remedial education by the standards of the industrialized world. In short, the public school system teaching Americans to be idiots, and there is no hope of changing the current system.

    Sending a child to an American public school amounts to criminal child abuse. The only people recieving real educations in the U.S. are in private schools. For those of you who want a public education system, maybe it is possible if we get rid of the one we have now, and create one from scratch. But building an entirely new education system from scratch will take at least 5 or 10 years. In the meantime, do you want poor kids to recieve educational torture and handicapping in a public school, or recieve education in a private school?

    Private education is the only educational system we have in America. “Public Education” is a myth. It does not exist. So the question is do we create policices that help kids get a private education, or do we deny them an education by sending them to a government Child Warehousing Facility.

  54. Rex

    I think you are falling into the same simple-minded trap that Jennifer is falling into. Your view of education seems to be based on what you read in the media, or possibly what you experienced as a student.

    There are many excellent public schools in America. Many districts are excellent as a whole and even some state (like Iowa) out perform even the best educated countries on all fronts.

    If you think that there is ONE problem with a huge collection of diverse systems, you are suffering from myopia. Public education works in some places and doesn’t in others. Pay to learn is used in many third world countries. That free-market approach to learning doesn’t do a good job of educating the masses.

    I think you suffer under the weight of your own mythology.

  55. There are many excellent public schools in America. Many districts are excellent as a whole and even some state (like Iowa) out perform even the best educated countries on all fronts.

    Statistical outliers are irrelevant.

    Few oppose school choice.

    What is your evidence for that? There has never been an inkling of support from teacher’s unions for Friedman style universal vouchers, or for the tax credit alternative. If you are defining choice as a freedom to choose among the monopolistic offerings of the state (which, BTW, even that choice doesn’t exist), then you are completing missing the point of re-awakening market competition in American education.

  56. MP

    Are you suggesting as a libertarian that a centrally imposed solution will work for the vast majority of locally controlled educational systems?

    Vouchers do not get rid of the problems most school districts face because they don’t even address them. The difference between private schools and public schools only lasts as long as you have the public schools which provide services to the most difficult to educate being compared to private schools which can restrict enrollment to those that are successful or motivated.

    The problem with Friedman’s solution is that it attempts a blanket solution to address a vast collection of issues that result from mandatory education laws, local conditions, and differing values across communities. Some systems handle the challenges, some don’t. Fix the broken ones, but why force a change on the systems that are working?

    Imposing a federal level entitlement program on local schools is silly. That is what voucher’s amount to… educational medicaid.

    The quite common programs that offer parents the ability to enroll their children in any public school within their district, when paired with charter schools, magnet schools, and a focus on accountability are typically implemented locally and for that reason are more likely to be successful than silly federal level meddling like NCLB or a requirement to universally offer vouchers.

    When finances are not the issue, changing the structure of finances will not solve the problem. As long as school is publically funded, it is public education. Privatizing the service delivery certainly doesn’t assure quality. Look to military contractors for an example of how much sense that makes.

    Fucking amazing the lack of thought that goes into the issues surrounding education… that is the primary issue.

  57. PS,

    Teacher’s unions are a red-herring. You’ve been watching too much of the Stossel reportage. They might be a problem in NYC and other strong union states, but they ain’t the issue for most districts.

    Don’t think their lack of support for your particular version of choice amounts to a measure of the support for the general idea across educators.

  58. Good god, who wrote that piece of shit? I haven’t heard anything so pathetic since the Capitol Steps.

  59. Young Einstein and Young Dubya

    Just can’t get through the day without a gratuitous Bush slam, can you? So how did you compare to Young Einstein, Young Joe?

  60. It occurred to me that maybe this could be taken a bit too far. Can you imagine being 15 years-old and sitting next to a 19 year-old thug in your class? I doubt there would be much “progress” in that situation.

    i remeber in collage i was only a tender 19 year old…and they made me go to classes with 25 30 sometimes even 40 year students…they always took my lunch money…it was awful.

  61. I was following you, MSM — not agreeing, but following. And then you veered off into some bizarre territory that included ‘letting people choose what school they go to would not produce better outcomes than forcing people to go to a particular school *or* pay for schooling twice.’

    I look forward to the day that I get to pay tuition for my future child’s private schooling, and I get to pay taxes to send the neighbor’s kid to a shitty public school, too.

    Remember: the point of vouchers is not to privatize education. The point of vouchers is to allow parents to choose from among many schools, rather than being compelled (by law or taxes) to send their child to a particular school.

    Libertarians would rather privatize education, and in that you are entirely correct: vouchers are by no means a free market solution. What they are is less offensive than the existing system, where failure is not only tolerated, it is rewarded, and where perverse incentives give schools reasons to never, ever improve.

    But don’t let me stand in the way of your oh-so-erudite rants. Please, go on insulting the intelligence of a regular poster who often has interesting insights to offer. This is the first thread in which I’ve read *your* $0.02; I hope I get to read more of it in the future, because I deeply appreciate someone who’s willing to put so much thesaurus work into an internet debate.

  62. I was that 30 year-old Joshua and no you can’t have your lunch money back. I needed it to buy psoriasis medication.

  63. The AFT is a union. Unions promote and protect the interests of union members, period. If the interests of schools or students happen to coincide with teachers’ interests, well and good. But whenever they conflict or are perceived by the rank and file to conflict, the union will unswervingly sacrifice the interests of students in favor of its members.

    Or did I miss something?

  64. NCLB is pure numerology but it doesn’t suck as much as that cartoon.

  65. Mainstream:

    Can you back this up? It is my opinion that teacher’s unions are pretty much the same everywhere – same lockstep pay scales, same protection of the ignorant teachers, same opposition to any substantial chance except more pay and benefits.

    Teacher’s unions are a red-herring. You’ve been watching too much of the Stossel reportage. They might be a problem in NYC and other strong union states, but they ain’t the issue for most districts

    Also, you also make a couple of comments about vouchers that I disagree with. First, you seem to claim that this would be federal. It hasn’t been that way so far, nor should it be. Second, you claimed that they benefit the rich. Again, if there were full vouchers for everyone (by which I mean 100% of the cost of the local public school) why would this be any more beneficial to the rich than the poor? I agree, half-assed vouchers do help the rich more, but whose fault is that? It is the fault of those who oppose vouchers!

  66. I’m almost certain that “Mainstreamman” is Hak.

    Dude, you should stop playing games by hiding behind different handles. Grow some balls.

  67. Are you suggesting as a libertarian that a centrally imposed solution will work for the vast majority of locally controlled educational systems?

    How are vouchers “centrally imposed”? If you accept the need to ensure that educational opportunities exist for all children, then a voucher system simply changes the distribution mechanism of the funds already being collected from being a top down bureaucratic solution to a bottom up consumer driven solution.

    Vouchers do not get rid of the problems most school districts face because they don’t even address them.

    Vouchers are simply a mechanism to introduce competative market forces into education. These aren’t a panacea to all problems either, but competition is far superior then a bureaucratic superstate.

    The difference between private schools and public schools only lasts as long as you have the public schools which provide services to the most difficult to educate being compared to private schools which can restrict enrollment to those that are successful or motivated.

    Here you make an assumption that private schools that accept vouchers would be allowed to restrict enrollment, vs. having to either do a first come/first served or a lottery enrollment. That’s a rather large assumption. You can’t simply assume that today’s environment would remain unchanged after a transition to a universal voucher based environment. Furthermore, there can’t be one size fits all vouchers due to the issue of special needs children. And finally, don’t assume that the current state of education regulations are compatible with a universal voucher program. They are not, particularly when it comes to special needs issues.

    The problem with Friedman’s solution is that it attempts a blanket solution to address a vast collection of issues that result from mandatory education laws, local conditions, and differing values across communities. Some systems handle the challenges, some don’t. Fix the broken ones, but why force a change on the systems that are working?

    Bureaucratically driven “fixes” rarely work because of the lack of a true incentive mechanism. You can’t simply rely on the good will of all those who exist in the education establishment. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of good will, but that is not a valid incentive mechanism. Public Choice theory shows that quite clearly.

    Imposing a federal level entitlement program on local schools is silly. That is what voucher’s amount to… educational medicaid.

    Who ever said anything about Federal? Not Uncle Miltie, and not me. The Federal government has zero Constitutional authority to poke around in education. The “General Welfare” clause basis is crap. Education funds are already collected at the local and state level via taxes. It is simply a matter of re-allocating those funds directly back to parents instead of to bureaucrats.

    The quite common programs that offer parents the ability to enroll their children in any public school within their district, when paired with charter schools, magnet schools, and a focus on accountability are typically implemented locally and for that reason are more likely to be successful than silly federal level meddling like NCLB or a requirement to universally offer vouchers.

    I think NCLB sucks. I think the Dept. of Ed. sucks. I don’t think the Federal government has any authority to mandate vouchers, and wouldn’t support such a mandate even if they did have the authority.

    When finances are not the issue, changing the structure of finances will not solve the problem. As long as school is publically funded, it is public education. Privatizing the service delivery certainly doesn’t assure quality. Look to military contractors for an example of how much sense that makes.

    Making something private does not make something problem free. But competition is far superior to government monopoly. TSA anyone?

    Fucking amazing the lack of thought that goes into the issues surrounding education… that is the primary issue.

    What is amazing is your sheer lack of respect for people with dissenting opinions.

    Teacher’s unions are a red-herring. You’ve been watching too much of the Stossel reportage. They might be a problem in NYC and other strong union states, but they ain’t the issue for most districts.
    Don’t think their lack of support for your particular version of choice amounts to a measure of the support for the general idea across educators.

    I get to read all the union newsletters and get plenty of educator feedback through the people I know in education. And yes, I live in CT and work in NYC, so maybe my view is skewed by the overly statist nature of these environments. But frankly, I’m not trying to solve issues in Nebraska.

  68. I’m almost certain that “Mainstreamman” is Hak.
    Dude, you should stop playing games by hiding behind different handles. Grow some balls.

    mng, now why go there? Gunnels has used the Hakluyt ID consistently for almost a year now. Really, there’s no need to throw out an insult just because you may not like him.

  69. Age-based grade promotion may occur at younger ages, but most HS classes already require criterion standards be met for passing.

    In theory, yes. In practice, we’re still handing out diplomas to kids who haven’t met those standards. You know those colleges who have to have “remedial writing” and other remedial courses to get their students ready for basic freshman work? Those remedial students are high-school graduates, who supposedly should have learned those basic skills in high school.

    if you oppose everyone fitting into the same box, how do you decide who graduates. It will end up involving individualized criteria for each child based on their progress along multiple dimensions of learning. Some will graduate with one set of skills, some with another.

    And what’s wrong with that? Better than the one-size-fits-all educational standards we’ve got now. I like FinFangFoom’s idea about different tracks–some kids emphasis math and science, some emphasize vocational study, some emphasize English and languages, and so forth.

  70. MP:

    I have no respect for someone who trashes their own reputation and then tries to pretend they are someone else.

    If “MainstreamMan” isn’t Gunnels then I’ll apologize to the jerk.

  71. I’m still amazed that of all these posts no one has suggested that compulsory education might be most of the problem.

    It’s not that public schools are one-size-fits-all as much as they are Wal-Marts: they have a gigantic variety of low-cost, average-quality-at-best options with almost no attention paid to individualized customer service. And privatizing wouldn’t make the problem go away completely as there are bound to be crummy private schools. Forcing people to go to school results in a lot of bad schools because there are so many captive customers. We wind up watering down the schools for the students who want to go and learn because the schools are forced to spend so much time and effort (i.e. money) on students who wouldn’t be there if they weren’t compulsed to be there.

    I look at joe’s example of SE Asian students and my first reaction is “Why the heck are they in the same schools as people who aren’t struggling with the language?” If the town wants to make it a public priority, let’s get these kids into some specialized programs to get them up to speed first, then get them into the general school population. I don’t care if they’re in the same school buuilding or not, but why the heck are they being included in the same school measurements as schools in other towns that don’t have the same issues? We keep measuring, measuring, measuring, we keep testing, testing, testing, but we aren’t actually producing anything except test results. The schools have devlolved into a giant social science lab with union technicians.

  72. For clarity…

    I am not Hak.

    I think Jennifer can handle herself.

  73. Jennifer,

    This is what I’ve been trying to point out to you.

    You responded to my

    “Some will graduate with one set of skills, some with another.”

    With
    “And what’s wrong with that?”

    Nothing. It is, however, the position you’ve been arguing against throughout the thread. You can’t have it both ways. Either you believe that all student must meet the same criteria (like the NCLB crowd), or you think that there should be some more flexible individualized process for determining who graduates. Again, in practice, once students reach about 7th or 8th grade, very few benefit from age-promotion, so that is a non-issue.

    As far as remedial college programs, having spent a good deal of time teaching them, I think as many of my students have been older adults brushing up on rusty skills as freshman coming to college without the skills the college requires.

    Education is a process, not a product. A product centered view doesn’t help the debate.

  74. MP.

    I must admit I haven’t looked at Friedman’s proposal in detail in quite awhile, but I read “Universal Vouchers” as a position indicating that you think it should be applied to all school districts across the country to solve all school districts problems (if you mean vouchers for everyone, then you are not talking about something much different than what we’ve got… tuition free). If your position is that vouchers will solve national education problems… it is central-thinking, whether you implement it one district at a time or through a federal mandate.

    If you are advocating that each district should work locally to solve the problems they face, then you have my backing. If you are suggesting that any ONE idea, like vouchers, are going to have an across the board impact, you are being dogmatic. Competition requires that there be stakes for the winner and the loser. Privatization schemes for education are far more likely to look like private prisons (not a very successful experiment so far) than they are ___________(fill in your favorite success story).

    I worked in NYC public schools briefly. They are not in any way representative of schools across the country. Nor are any other of the schools I have worked in across the western US. Each district faces unique challenges and needs to work locally to solve the problem.

    Education is not a national problem. It is a local problem. That is why discussion that start with the presumption that they know THE PROBLEM with education in the country make me soooo mad. That’s why I, unfairly maybe, heaped abuse on Jennifer (she explains THE PROBLEM a lot).

    I must admit to using overly aggressive language yesterday in my posts. No excuse, just happens sometimes. I hold a lot of respect for the H&R crowd, or I wouldn’t bother reading or posting.

  75. Chad:

    “Again, if there were full vouchers for everyone (by which I mean 100% of the cost of the local public school) why would this be any more beneficial to the rich than the poor?”

    That is the current system. Tuition free education based on pooled resources. Arguments can be made that the service delivery by a government institution is the problem, but I think that if you had fully government funded schools with delivery by private companies, you get the worst of both worlds in many cases… inefficient oversight by the government who is paying the bills, and money that goes towards the bottom line for the company, without services to the kids. It is an extra layer of red-tape and a middle man with no real benefits.

    In an across the board voucher program, the low income folks are going to end up in the closest, cheapest, looks-just-like-public schools, while the rich get a voucher to subsidize their education at a better school with higher tuition. The competition doesn’t have enough stakes in it to provide for solutions for poor students in many communities.

  76. Russ2000

    Indeed a big part of the problem. But I think we need to think about why we got to mandatory education laws in the first place. Modification rather than elimination will make more sense for most communities. Most allow students to drop out at 16. I am wondering what lowering that to 14 would do for overall drop out rates.

    My experience is that the truly extreme behavior problems/ kids that don’t want to be there, end up in the penal system before 14 anyway, and that most 16 year olds who want to drop out, can’t because their parents won’t let them.

  77. Isildur

    “‘letting people choose what school they go to would not produce better outcomes than forcing people to go to a particular school *or* pay for schooling twice.'”

    That is not what I said. I said that vouchers do not provide the best mechanism for that choice. I said few oppose school choice. When I say that I mean it. I work in education and have been involved in large scale restructuring of several districts (both rural and urban) and I have seen few who oppose school choice. Many oppose vouchers as the mechanism for that choice because most proposed systems end up being a choice only for a few motivated parents. I have never seen a voucher system that solves issues for the kids who have parents that are too busy or too unskilled to figure out which school is best for their needs. I don’t oppose vouchers as a principle, really (they are just inefficient…money has to go to administering them). But I have not seen a proposed system that would result in anything substantially different than what we’ve got now. There are not enough stakes in the competition for problem/difficult students/communities for a simplistic step like vouchers to lead to real solutions…in most cases. Public schools work well in many communities. They work when the community is involved, when the school board is involved, when parents are involved. Most voucher proposals don’t address the level of involvement parents and communities have in their schools. They just shift around the paper work a little.

  78. Personally, I’d like to see a more personalized education system available for kids. Elementary schools can expose kids to lots of different activities while, at the same time, teaching them the basics. Then, by the time kids reach high school, they’ll hopefully have an idea of the types of things they like to do and can be encouraged to pursue them. That way, kids who don’t have strong math skills can pursue literature or the social sciences while only fulfilling a very basic math requirement, and vice versa for kids with strong science or math skills who are complete bozos in history and english class.

    Of course, this kind of system would be expensive. There’s no way politicians or taxpayers would be willing to pay for it.

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