Archives For education

Wanting An Education

July 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

FootballIn the old days boys wanted an education. They even had reading, writing, and arithmetic, instead of football. Up to then boys had gone there for their heads and not their shoulders — Will Rogers August 26,1928

In the old days must have been before 1928! I would have figured it to be later than that but maybe what we have been doing since that time is to hone it to perfection.  I have seen so many articles around today about how boys just don’t do school very well. By school I mean as Will indicated reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It now seems that girls make up the majority of our kids going to college. I guess the boys, especially those of color,  think they can make their millions off whatever their favorite sport is. They just don’t seem to be interesting in putting in the work necessary to learn anything else. That seems to be a very sad reality of today’s world doesn’t it?

Anyone who has read this blog much knows that I am not a sports fan in any regard. I often say that maybe sports among several other things helps build character when we are children but once we grow up it should be illegal to pay an adult for any sporting activity. That would definitely take the irrational dream away for many of our young boys. Given that in the future women will very likely become the primary bread winners in almost all households I wonder how those testosterone driven guys will handle that?

Come on all you parents out there. Take your boys out of one or two the their scheduled sports activities and use that time to make them study a little more…..

2014-03-25_08-23-25Legislation signed by Gov. Mike Pence makes Indiana the first state to step back from the standards that establish proficiency targets in math and reading…..

But the national education standards have been the focus of vocal criticism from conservative grassroots groups, who believe Common Core amounts to a government takeover of education. Critics have said Indiana’s new standards are strikingly similar to the Common Core framework and the new legislation is little more than a change in name rather than substance, the Associated Press reports.

SOURCE: Indiana Drops Common Core Education Standards | TIME.com.

For those of you who might not know I am a Hoosier. I was born here and spent most of my life here. Indiana is one of those rare States outside of the South and Prairie States that has always been solidly Republican. They overwhelmingly control both houses of State legislature and have a party machine hand-picked Republican governor.  We are not a big State but still much larger than many other red States. We have a population of about 6.5 million which makes us number sixteen of the fifty States.

One thing I have come to understand about Indiana, and most of the other red States for that matter, is that if a Democrat supports something then it must be wrong and avoided at all costs. Governor Pence is constantly reminding me of this fact. So, when he came out with “his” plan for education it is not surprising that he first of all trashed the national one. It is also not surprising that he basically claimed the same standards as his own. Now it is a Republican plan and not from those nasty Democrats. This is somewhat typical of politics today and that is why I now for the most part stay away from it.

Is it better for each State to have its own strategy for educating its youth or is a national strategy better?  I want to drop back again to the Indiana model to explain my answer to this question.  I’m not sure how the rest of the country does it but in Indiana each school system is funded by local property taxes. As a result Hamilton County which is one of the richest counties in the nation and of course the richest in the State has a high school campus that rivals most colleges. They have multiple olympic size swimming pools, a gigantic dramatic arts auditorium and computers in every room. By contrast my county, which is the third poorest in the State has absolutely nothing compared to Hamilton.  This disparity of course also show up in the percentage of those who go on to college.

When you step back and look at it, it seems obvious that segregation is the result of this type of funding. It is not race segregation as in the past but economic segregation and I believe it is just as dangerous as the one we faced in the 1980s.

Since I am running out of space I will give you a quick answer to the overall question. A common universal strategy is the only answer if we are to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century and beyond.  To leave it up to the States will most assuredly result in a nation wide segregation once again. Can we really afford to have that happen?

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“Our scores are stagnant. We’re not seeing any improvement for our 15-year-olds,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. “But our ranking is flipping because a lot of these other countries are improving.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

SOURCE: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test – The Washington Post.

It seems the rest of the world realizes how important math and science is for their future whereas we in the U.S. haven’t got that message yet.  This article ends with the teachers union representative saying “don’t blame us”. I would have much rather him say “we teacher are part of the problem and we are determined to be part of the solution.”

It seems that everyone in this falling further and further behind area is in the “don’t blame us” category. Parents say it is the lack of funding or bad teacher. Teachers say it is the lack of funding or parents. Everyone blames someone else. They are convinced that it is someone else’s fault. Meanwhile we fall further and further behind…

I know this is not a recent problem. It has been going on for decades. In my mind part of the problem is that the education of our children continues to be pretty much a local issue and many localities just are not up to the task. Local property taxes for the most fund our educational system. So, if you are fortunately enough to live in an affluent area you will go to a first-rate high school often times with facilities rivaling those of college campuses. But if you are in a densely packed urban or small rural area you will struggle to get the courses with qualified teachers that are required for college entrance or what is needed in today’s workplace.

When I was in high school ninety percent of the teachers there were fresh out of college. The other ten percent were local farmers and such who got their teaching credentials so many years ago to make them more or less archaic in the world of education. The fresh out of college teachers spent two years in our school and then with that experience on their resumes they moved on to the larger and better paying school systems.

What our current education system needs is for everyone to take their share of the blame for our running in place and then set out to work together to catch up with what the rest of the world already knows.

A Paradigm Shift…..

January 15, 2014

Paradigm shiftI think I first happened upon the words paradigm shift sometime in the 1980s. Here are some of the words that Wikipedia use to describe it:

The term “paradigm shift” has found uses in other contexts, representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing.

Paradigm shift don’t happen very often in this world. In fact they are quite rare. Lets face it change is very hard for many of us to face and to basically throw out most of what we currently do or believe about things is near impossible!

For those of us who embrace change, paradigm shifts when they happen are generally considered good things. I don’t know if I have ever revealed that I am an avid fan of the movie “Tron- The Legacy”. I have watched the movie dozens of times and have accumulated several quotes from it. One of my favorite is:

Chaos. Good news

It seems that we at a nation mainly embrace change when it is forced on us by chaos.  Paradigm shifts only occur with the wheels are about to fall off.  There are at least two fundamental problems in our country that will require a paradigm shift and they are very intermingled with each other

Unemployment/Education

It will take a paradigm shift in American mentality to change the current trends in the unemployment rate. Too many of us are stuck in the 1960s mode where good middle class jobs were readily available to anyone. You could get out of high school, or for that matter not even finish it, and then go to a local automotive factory to get a good paying job.  It was usually a mind numbing assembly line job but it did pay good wages. Today those jobs have either been turned over to robots or exported to countries paying less than a dollar an hour in wages. They are just no longer available and will never be again.

In order to join the middle class now requires an educated work force. Someone who knows their way around the digital world and I am not talking about video games. It requires that we think in different more innovative ways than we have in the past.

Education is one of those things that still is for the most part maintained at the local level.  We all seem to think that the problem with education is what other schools have; ours is fine.  In order to change the way our kids are educated we need to come to the realization that most of them are not exceptional.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought the were.”

– Arne Duncan, U.S. Education Secretary, criticizing “white suburb moms” for balking at the stringent Common Core standards designed to improve education in 45 states — Time Magazine November 2, 2013 

It will take a paradigm shift to finally get our unemployment situation in hand. Until that happens we will continue to struggle with those who cannot find anything but a minimum wage job…

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To the U.S. technology industry, there’s a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it’s more sinister: The push by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.

The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system’s ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners — fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million — has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders

Source: U.S. technology, labor unions clash on immigration – CBS News.

I seem to fall on both sides of this debate about job related visas. On the one hand in order to maintain our technological dominance in the world we need people who have the skills to continue to innovate and if our populace doesn’t meet this challenge then we need to look elsewhere.

But on the other side, maybe we should be doing more to get our kids to do the work to meet the needs internally. That is a big problem as it seems that many are just not willing to put in the work to make that happen. The common answer to not having enough people with the necessary skills is to put more money into our educational system but that has been the solution for more than one-hundred years now and money just doesn’t seem to bring about the desired results.

I know my teacher friends who frequent this blog will have some comments about this and I certainly welcome them. How do we encourage more of our children to get the advanced education needed for twenty-first century jobs in this country?  To me the first thing is to take the financial roadblock away from them  that prevents many for attending college or trade school.  Many of the more affluent countries in the world  extend free education beyond high school. Why aren’t we one of them. It has been proven time and again that doing this has a very high buy-back.

I see all the studies about how those in Japan, Korea, and several other countries make education for their children their number one family priority.  That attitude instills the mentality of working hard into the children. I can’t understand why so many parents in this country allow their children to drop out of high school! That dooms them to a lifetime of  want and distress. How can any parent think that is enough for their children?

Yes, we need to do something to convince more kids to make a commitment and do the extra work to obtain technical educations. Yeah it is harder to learn physics and calculus but if  taking the challenge doesn’t happen then by all means let’s do what we can to bring in kids from other countries to fill the gap.

 

Unemployment Rate by Education Level

In 1992, the BLS began tracking unemployment rates by education level. Highlighted below are the unemployment rates for the following four groups…. All groups consist of individuals 25 years old or higher.

Education Level Achieved September 2012 Month/Month
(Points)
Year/Year
(Points)
Less than
High School
11.3% -0.7 -2.6
High School Grad
No College
8.7% -0.1 -0.9
Some College
or Associate Degree
6.5% -0.1 -1.9
Bachelor’s Degree
or Higher
4.1% 0.0 -0.1

It is no secret that the lower the education level the higher the unemployment rate. We are told that employers are out looking for people to fill their jobs and there are just not enough qualified applicants. When I grew up in the 1950s and 60s a young man could graduate from high school and if he had the connections could get a job in one of the auto factories in the area. It was a good paying middle class job. But then came robotics and foreign competition.

I’m not saying that robotic or competition are a bad thing. In fact I think it is just a normal progression through the industrial age.  A hundred and fifty years ago a young boy with no education could plan on making some pretty good money by signing on to a moving cattle from Texas to Kansas City.  Those jobs like the factory jobs of my generation naturally disappeared with the advent of the railroad.  It is just a matter of progress that the good paying jobs of one generation are not the good paying ones of the next.

The fact that to get a good middle class job in today’s world takes something beyond a high school education is just to be expected. But, a basic problem is that our education system just hasn’t kept up with the demand for more intelligent workers as evidenced by the above numbers.  This fact really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our kids generally are just not getting the education needed for today’s jobs.

So, how do we as a country change the culture of our education system to meet the demands of the 21st century? I have never been involved in this field other than as a student but I have been exposed to some of its participants.  From the teachers I have met personally it seems that the majority of them are pretty naive in the ways of today’s businesses. For the most part they are arts majors fresh out of college. Most spend their entire careers inside the educational system. If we hope to continue to compete for the middle class jobs of the world we will need to entice those who have a working knowledge of the jobs available today and a big part of that is math, science and especially computer savvy teachers.  We need teacher at the high school level who have experiences outside the educational system. I don’t think that is happening to any degree right now. At least not in my local school district.

I know many teachers read this blog and I am not trying to put you down in any way. From your comments I know how difficult a job it is to be a teacher in today’s world.  I know that a big part of the problem is in the home of the students. But we must face facts that our kids are generally not equipped for the middle class jobs of today.

Source: The jobs are there, the education is not – USATODAY.com.

This disparity has come to be known as the “skills gap” — the divide between the jobs American businesses need to fill and the jobs Americans are qualified to do. Research shows that approximately 90% of the jobs in the fastest-growing occupations in our economy require some level of postsecondary education and training. And 80 million to 90 million adults today — about half of our current workforce — do not have the skills needed to acquire or advance in jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage. Where once we had a significant advantage in the global economy, our nation is quickly falling back to the pack and is growing increasingly unable to compete with nations such as China, Canada, Germany, India, and Korea. Continue Reading…

The Education Gap….

October 5, 2012

I just finished reading the September/October issue of Sojourners Magazine and in it was an article about education. One of the most remembered quotes from that article is “The achievement gap due to income inequality is nearly twice as large as the racial achievement gap”.  It went on to say that most of the underperforming schools are found in low-income neighborhoods. Education is still pretty much a State controlled environment but I know this is true for Indiana where I have lived most of my life.

Schools in Indiana are pretty much funded from local property taxes.  So the higher the income area the more the school system gets to educate the kids. I grew up and am still living in a small town rural area of the State. When I was in high school the only guidance counselor we had as a local farmer who also taught FFA classes. I doubt he ever had any kind of training to help kids determine what was the best career field to enter.  We didn’t have any advanced math classes beyond trigonometry so when I went to college at Purdue I had to play catch-up with remedial classes in that area as well as a few others. Continue Reading…

Sojourners….

September 30, 2012

With my ingrained altruist and “Follower of Jesus” worldview I am naturally drawn to and inspired by Sojourners magazine.  This month’s issue is centered about making sure those in impoverished neighborhoods have access to quality education.  I hope some of you will consider subscribing.  No, I am not being paid anything for this endorsement.

Gender Roles….

May 30, 2012

I noticed in our local paper recently that there were about 30 young people from our local high school who were inducted into the National Honor Society. Seven were guys, the rest were girls.  This seems pretty indicative of what is happening in the U.S. the last few decades. Girls are the ones who see educations as important and guys, for the most part, think it is a waste of time. Girls are pretty much the ones who stay in school and guys make up the majority of those who currently drop out of high school.

It is a fact that girls are also the majority of those going to college.  As the graph below shows they became the majority about 1990 and has been pulling away ever since.

If it hasn’t occurred already I imagine the gender roles will soon be reversed in that the female of the household will become the primary bread winner. Guys, and maybe our society as a whole, just seem to be more fixated on sports than they are about education. The nerds among us guys, despite successes such as Bill Gates, are still the object of ridicule among testosterone driven teenagers ;)