Sunday, March 14, 2010

Education Woes

Starting around my junior year of high school, I was convinced that I would spend my life as an educator.  But, after spending five years jumping through the hoops in college to earn an education degree and then spending three years working in an elementary school, I realized I'm not cut out for the bureaucracy that is the education system.

As a conservative/libertarian, I was constantly frustrated about being a cog in the wheel of Big Education.  I entered my first year as a teacher filled with fresh ideas and full of energy.  I left three years later beaten, battered, and burned out.

The current system is designed to meet the needs of the middle 60% of students, which holds back the progress of the top 20% of students and drags along the bottom 20%.  And, now that I can see the forest from the trees, it occurs to me that the system does the same to teachers.

I left teaching almost two years ago knowing that if I were to ever return and want to survive a career in teaching, I would have to lower the standards to which I held myself as a professional because the reward for such work would not (and did not) equal the effort I felt I had to put forth.  I love incentives, and the public education system discourages incentives.  Why put forth extra effort and work to be innovative when rewards are not based on those qualities, but are based upon how many years you've stuck around and/or how many college classes/degrees you've accumulated?  And while I'm not making a judgment about someone who can work in that environment, I knew it was not for me.

With that said, I still maintain an interest in all things education and a couple of stories caught my eye this past week.

First came the Kansas City school board’s decision to shutter 28 of its 61 schools.  According to the NY Time's report, former Pueblo, CO, superintendent Dr. John Covington spent the early part of his tenure as the Kansas City schools superintendent creating a plan to close the $50 million deficit in their $300 million dollar budget, and a big part of that plan was to close nearly half of their schools after almost 18,000 students left the district in the past 10 years, leaving only 17,000 students in the district.

(And at his blog, Rod Dreher gives a big picture explanation of why Kansas City's public schools failed.)

Then I read a great rant against Big Education from Matt Welch at the blog of The World's Greatest Magazine.  From that post:
These three sentences appeared consecutively in today's New York Times:
But the real question, still unanswered, is whether you can cut school taxes without damaging schools. The average teacher salary in Hastings is $96,597. The superintendent makes $228,000.
Let's see, is this mic on? Can I get a little more reverb? Good. WE ARE OUT OF MONEY, ASSHOLES.
Not only that, but we are out of money because YOU STOLE IT, FROM THE CHILDREN. And the rest of us. 
Here is how the system works, ladies and germs: First, during the good times, when people are (rightly) paying attention to concerns outside the dreary slog of politics and public policy, go ahead and double the cost of state government, in like five years, without a shred of detectable increase in the quality of services. Next, when times get bad, complain bitterly about "savage" and "annihilating" budget cuts, threaten to eliminate the very favoritest of all public services (say, access to the gorgeous state parks in California), and then cut your payroll by all of ... a quarter of one percent. After all, why fire a single teacher when the stimulus package will pay for all of them? Finally, when all else fails, raise taxes, to "close the budget deficit" and "restore our education budget to current levels."
One of my biggest frustrations about the education system stems from the fact that the people in charge of the education system (the government) are poor stewards of our money.  The people in charge seem to think that there is no problem that more money can't solve, when money is the least of our problems in education.

SONG:  "Haven't Meet You Yet" by Michael Buble

LOOKING FORWARD TO:  playing a round of golf in 2010.  The weather this weekend only allowed a brief trip to the driving range today.  But, on a positive note, I was able to try out my new driver for the first time, and I was more than pleased.

1 comment:

  1. I think you would be a great teacher. But, I think that a lot of the system now stifles creativity and the ability of really helping students grow.