Intolerance And Education…

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“Intolerance is the first sign of inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility”. —Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I will come out of the closet here and admit that I get a weekly subscription from the “The Week” magazine which is a decidedly progressive publication. When I cam across this quote in the “Wit & Wisdom” column on the July 21st issue it got my attention.

72% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents believe that colleges and universities have an overall positive effect on the country. But 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents feel these institutions have a negative effect. Republicans also hold a negative view of the media by an 85% to 10% margin — Pew Research Center

I pretty much align with the idea that intolerance is a sign of the lack of education. Education, at least personally, caused my horizons to greatly expand. It caused me to enter a world that I was not familiar with. It caused me to see things in a different light. Thinking, and maybe more importantly pondering things caused me to move outside of my own sphere into the broader world.

I don’t have any immediate statistics at hand to back up my belief but I kinda bet that many if not most of the Trump supporters are without much education beyond high school. They were never forced to think outside their current beliefs.  All they do is see a world that is foreign to them and they don’t like it. They wish for a world of the past that in reality never really existed.

Of course this difference between Democrats and Republicans is not a black/white issue. 40% of Republicans do thing that a college education is a good thing while 28% of Democrats think it isn’t. Just like everything else the world is shades of grey.

I want to close this post with the admission that some people go through college without really broadening their horizons. I also recognize that an education is not the only way to see a broader world.  Again, shades of grey….

Thinking Outside The Box On Education

crayon-banner  “Thinking outside the box” is a new sub-category within the Crayon Marks category. The term “thinking outside the box” entails a thinking process, which uses an unusual approach to a logical thinking structure. It´s a process which aims to escape relational reasoning,  and rising to another level.

school-1465744-640x480 copy.jpgThere is just too much stuff today where people say “That’s the way we have always done it.” To me, that is just an excuse for being too lazy to try to find something better. One of those areas is in our educational processes. I recently read some articles written one hundred years ago that show we really haven’t made much progress in education reform. We are stuck facing the very same issues without really trying alternative methods.

Most people, especially progressives are pretty upset that Betsy DeVoss is the new education secretary, but I welcome the radical change in leadership. Maybe some basic change will finally happen in this area. I have several retired teachers who read RJsCorner and they often vent their frustration with the educational systems today. I hope some of them chime in on this post to give their opinions.

The public school system as it is currently set up seems to be biased against a child who really wants to learn. Instead, it is about handling the ones who just don’t seem to care about their educations. That attitude likely comes from their parents for any of a number of reasons. For teachers, it is mainly about keeping control of their classrooms and not actually teaching students.

I am a Hoosier and I’m pretty sure that Indiana is toward the front when it comes to charter schools and vouchers.  I know there are a number of charter schools in our adjacent county which includes a major university. We are told by our government representatives that having a choice allows those who really want to learn to find a venue to accomplish that. I kind of buy into that.

Teacher’s unions just seem to be more interested in teachers than educating students. That is another basic problem that needs to be addressed.  How much will Mrs. DeVoss end up accomplishing in this area is very much the question at hand? But I think it is finally time to do some destruction so that maybe a phoenix can rise from the ashes.

I know that educating future generations is and should be a top priority of our country.  I also know that the vast majority of my property taxes and even my State taxes go toward that purpose and that much of that money is currently being wasted. Right now change, any change is better than kicking the can down the road. I wish the new education secretary success in changing the status quo.

 

 

When Robots Make Cars….

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I know that robots have taken over many of the repetitive tasks from us humans. Many see that as stripping jobs away from those who don’t care to otherwise be ready for today’s workforce.  The mind-numbing jobs are being taken over my mindless robots and that is as it should be. Let’s take auto manufacturing as an example:

  • Robots don’t make mistakes... They do the same thing over and over again because that is all they are programmed to do.
  • Robots don’t know Monday from Friday…. They don’t take their eye off the task at hand because they are still remembering the weekend or are anticipating the coming one.
  • Robots can do the same thing over and over with the same accuracy…. Not only do they not make mistakes but they do what they are programmed to do with extreme accuracy. They simply don’t have other distractions on their minds.

Let’s face it, compared to today’s cars, the cars of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s were junk. The fit and finish were terrible and the lemons made because of absent minded defects were very troublesome to those who were unfortunate enough to get them. Humans just never did a good job of making cars.

So where does that leave us humans? For those unprepared for anything else but mindless  assembly line work it leaves them with flipping hamburgers or other low skilled work  that were once meant as entry type jobs. But for those willing to put in the effort to equip themselves with the necessary skills it leaves them with opportunity. Many young people today are taking that opportunity but many are not. Some think they are not smart enough to learn, some just can’t afford it. The later needs our help but then again so does the former.

We need to make higher education more affordable, if not free, for anyone who wants to improve themselves.  Free high school education has been the norm now for many decades and now its time to kick that up a notch to at least two years of free trade school or college.

For those who don’t think they are smart enough we need to do a better job of encouraging them. We need to make learning as important to them as high school sports are now.  Part of that is a teacher thing but the biggest share belongs to the parents.

 

3 In 5 Americans Have No More That A High School Education

2016-01-24_14-58-07.pngIt surprised me to see Russia as having a higher percentage of young people with degrees than the U.S. But then I guess that is probably due to my ignorant view of that country. We in the U.S. have been lead to believe that everyone in Russia is poor, uneducated, and starving due to lack of opportunities in a communist system.  To see that they are actually more educated then we are is a cultural shock but not an unpleasant one at least to me. I need to spend some serious time learning more about Russia instead of just believing what is fed to me by others.

The point of this post is why is it that 40% of Americans have only a high school education in the 21st century where robots are replacing all repetitive tasks? I personally think the following are a few possible reasons:

  1. Its just too expensive for most to go to college or even trade schools for that matter.
  2. Many teachers don’t instill the desire to learn in their students at an early enough age.
  3. Parents are not doing enough to promote lifelong learning in the home.
  4. Our country is geared more to sports/competition than to education/learning.
  5. Kids in the U.S. have in entitlement mindset.
  6. U.S. education is more about memorizing than learning how to think.
  7. Not enough kids have mentors/examples in their lives.

I don’t have enough space here to expand on these things so I will just say that all of them are in need of improvement. Instead of trying to find the “silver bullet solution we should be tackling each of the multiple underlying causes.  I hope someday that we can manage to put the solution to these things on a high priority that they deserve.

 

 

 

Freestyle School….

As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?… The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading. SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

Wanting An Education

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…..

A National Strategy For Education……

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?

Falling Behind By Running In Place…

2013-12-03_09-45-16 “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…..

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…