Saturday, November 06, 2004


There is an excellent post below copied from Prof. Plum. The sad part about it is that a man who is simply advocating proper scientific skepticism has to present himself as a bit of a nut

"At a gathering of ed school professors (I believe we were tucking into a bucket of pork rinds at the time)--I asked my whole language colleagues if I could see their research. Apparently this was rude. One of them expanded like a disgruntled adder and made frightening noises with her cheeks-the ones attached to her face. She said she had 20 years experience teaching whole language and was an expert. [ONE year experience 20 times.]

Then I did something really perverted--at a teleconference. All the ed schools in the state were watching big shots from the department of public instruction tell us that new teachers would no longer be evaluated by their principal but by a portfolio read by two consultants. I thought, "How come? Talk about expensive! Ho, boy. Another useless `innovation.'"

Well, this was a "conference," so I figured I'd do a bit of conferring. I had a cold and my voice came out like the little girl's in Exorcist. Pea soupy, if you catch my drift. I asked, "Do you have any data showing that portfolio assessment results in better judgments of teacher quality than the judgment of a principal and mentor who see a new teacher all year?"

The images on the screen began to cough and look at each other. [Actually, I believe they looked first, then coughed.] I heard whispering on the screen and all around me. The colleagues were restless. Then the screen images offered a detailed and informative answer. "Ahem ahem oh yes yes yes oh indeed yes, and so forth."

The wheels came off pretty quick after that, and we were told the show was over. Afterwards, four or five of my collards accosted me and said, "That was inappropriate" and "You were not respectful." I replied, "Nice hat," or something equally charming. That was my first lesson in the politics and intellectual dishonesty in education. Forced consensus. Shut up and go along. After stupification, the underlying power relations become invisible. Indeed, desirable. Ed perfessers come to like Big Brother. He takes care of them. Defends them from the wolves who are onto the game.

Over the next few years I read the websites and syllabi from hundreds of ed schools. I reviewed the literature in whole language, constructivism, "authentic assessments," learning styles, and multiple intelligences-and other "pedagogies" that struck my cynical nature as weird beyond belief. I even tried to figure out what "brain based learning" was-because, I reasoned, "What OTHER organ WOULD be involved? Before brain-based learning was there BUTTOCKS based learning? Sure they ARE similar. Two hemispheres. A nearby segment of spine. A division down the middle. An apparatus for speaking your mind. But usually you can tell which is which. Just look for a hat!"

Then my graduate assistant and I began working on our own. We suggested to all the elementary schools in the county that they could raise reading achievement for all kids if they used better curricula-in fact, Reading Mastery, starting in kindergarten, and Corrective Reading for kids at least one year behind, starting in grade three. Within two years, 20 out of 23 schools did just that, and got those results".


The Gadfly sums it up very succinctly:

This is the New York Times' idea of a balanced story on charter schooling? We'd hate to see the biased story . . . oh, wait, we already did (click here). For weeks, we've heard rumors that the Times might be considering a follow-up to correct some of the more blatant problems with its August hatchet job on charter schools, filed by the American Federation of Teachers. The basic premise of this story seems to be that charters schools weren't initially controversial, but now they are, as school failures have caused previously supportive teachers' unions and others to rethink their support. The counter argument-that charters are now "controversial" because they now are numerous enough, and successful enough, to threaten the system's interests-is never considered. Note that the author refers to states such as Delaware and Connecticut as places where charters "enjoy broad support" because those states have tough charter oversight schemes. It's never mentioned that both states also severely limit the number of charters that can operate and that charter students account for small portions of the total student population in those states (four and less than one percent, respectively). So the message from the system is, yes, let's have charters, so long as they don't represent real competition to us or threaten our chokehold on education. That's why we hope that charters remain controversial, threatening, competitive, and all the other things the New York Times regards with horror.

And an excellent letter from one of the Gadfly's readers:

"You lament that Idaho's charter schools are funded at only 60-70 percent of the per-pupil cost of the state's traditional public schools and suggest their funding be raised toward parity ("New Idaho charter rules a start"). You're right, but you miss the important example set by all charter schools when they operate successfully at a cost far less than their traditional public counterparts.

Comparable private schools operate at between 60 and 65 percent of the cost of the traditional public schools. Similarly, schools abroad also operate at a cost of 65-70 percent of those in the U.S. The public schools' cost bloat exposed by this evidence is the ignored elephant in the corner of the education establishment.

When charter schools operate successfully at far less cost, they, too, expose this cost bloat. That is the real reason the establishment opposes their creation, limits their growth, and hobbles them with regulations. When charter schools become funded on parity with the traditional public schools, they will have become part of the public education problem, rather than a solution to it. Idaho's charter schools are doing very well, thank you, while operating at a cost far less than the public schools. Too bad others in the U.S. are not doing the same".


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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