Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's not bad teachers; it's the economy, stupid

(The following is my latest Huffington Post blog.)

The biggest con job being pulled on the American people is the concept that education should be moving toward a goal of making sure that all students are “college or workforce ready.”

That is the expression you hear whether it is Republicans or Democrats who are talking about how our nation’s educational system has failed us.

After all, we cannot succeed unless every student is “proficient” in math and reading. In other words, there is no more room for the so-called average student in our nation’s schools because there will be no job waiting for him when he graduates…if he graduates.

As I listen to NBC’s annual week-long love fest for charter schools known as Education Nation, I wait for someone, anyone, to mention the real problems that are facing education today.

Contrary to what politicians on both sides of the aisle would have you believe, bad teachers are not the major problem and there are nowhere near as many of them as they would have you believe. Most of the truly bad teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching, something that is used by the teacher-bashers as evidence that good teachers are leaving because of perceived preferential treatment for lazy veteran educators who are just hanging on to their jobs for their pensions.

Any other bad teachers who are out there should be removed from the classroom, but that would still leave the root cause of problems in American education untouched.

The real problem, as James Carville once eloquently put it- It’s the economy, stupid.

For the past three decades, we have watched as the jobs that were once available for high school graduates, and even for those who did not finish high school, have been eliminated, shipped overseas, moved from one state to another as businesses chased after the state dangling the most freebies, or eliminated often along with product quality as businesses searched for a few extra dollars.

As soon as the workforce was retrained, many business owners found people who could do the same job overseas and thought nothing of eliminating jobs, putting Americans out of work and then blaming the educational system because workers were not ready to deal with these new highly advanced jobs that would be needed with the changes in the economy.

Many displaced workers returned to college, learned new skills, returned to the workforce, and soon found the new jobs had also been sent elsewhere, oftentimes with the help of tax incentives.

And now, what those who are talking about “college and workforce ready” students are not telling you- Many of the college jobs are also being farmed out, again with tax incentives to provide a larger dividend for those who make money by making money.

And then the real trickle-down effect starts. Colleges and universities blame the public schools because the students they are receiving are not ready for college work. Could that perhaps be because we are forcing more and more students to go to college so they will have jobs that may not be there by the time they graduate?

And the schools are pushed harder and harder to deliver what once would have been considered A and B level students because average is no longer good enough. Never mind that there has never been a society in which 100 percent of the people were exceptional learners, that is what public schools have to deliver if they are going to be considered successful.
And despite all of the pressures brought on by this political shell game, for the most part American public schools have delivered the goods.

The major exceptions have been in places filled with poverty, but whenever that is mentioned during educational forums like Education Nation it is immediately shot down as an excuse. Those are the areas where people at one time had decent jobs and the kind of middle class lifestyle that leads to educational success. When the jobs were there, there was no talk of our students not being “college or workforce ready.”

The real education issues are jobs and poverty. Don’t hold your breath waiting for either party to discuss them. It’s much easier to blame bad teachers for everything that is wrong in society.


Trent said...

Well said, Randy.

Anonymous said...

Good blog! Public schools certainly aren't perfect, but they're preferable to the alternative - a combination of prep schools only the well-heeled can afford, home schools with little or no accountability, and charter schools that generally don't want the "average student". Rick Nichols.

Same Ol' Broken Record said...

Ask any of these government drones why the public school system is failing and they will be quick to blame everyone and anything for their failure. Same old broken record about how they don't want to be graded on their own performance but they need ever-more money in dire economic times.

It is past time to pull the plug on public education, go to privatizing it and more home-schooling and vouchers for simply going back to the basics of literacy, i.e. basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

We don't need to support you teacher's union drones with our children's minds and our tax dollars no more.