Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Finally—A College President Finds a Backbone

Anthropologists have apparently uncovered a university president who has a backbone, because he is threatening a mob of demanding student crybullies with expulsion: Ohio State’s Michael Drake. Eric Owens of the Daily Caller has the story:

    Ohio State Swiftly Ends Students’ ‘Occupation’ With Promises Of Arrest, Expulsion

    Students at Ohio State University who attempted to occupy the area outside of president Michael V. Drake’s office late Wednesday night experienced a surprise — and a taste of the cruel, real world — when a senior administrator coolly advised them that they would be arrested and expelled if they didn’t retreat from their “occupied space.”

    The protest began — as such protests often do these days — with a set of demands and the promise to remain firmly ensconced at Bricker Hall, Ohio State’s main administration building, until school officials capitulated to the demands.

The demands are typically ridiculous. My favorites are:

    We demand complete, comprehensive and detailed access to the Ohio State budget and investments immediately, as well as personnel to aid students in understanding this information.

    OSU Divest: Divest from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and G4S due to their involvement in well-documented human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and across the globe. . .

    Real Food OSU: Sign the Real Food Campus Commitment. Ensure the administration work with Real Food OSU through the entire implementation of the Real Food Campus Commitment, in place of, or as a means of attaining, the university sustainability goal of increased “production and purchase of locally and sustainably sourced food to 40% by 2025.”


A Milestone in Federal Education Waste

Shirley Hufstedler, the nation’s first federal Education Secretary, has passed away at 90. That news might surprise some, and not just the younger set, who imagined that the first federal education secretary appeared way back in 1776. There wasn’t one, because the Constitution gives states, not the federal government, domain over education. Under these conditions, however, education managed to thrive. Americans established Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Northwestern, Stanford and other great independent universities, long before the federal government got involved. Michigan State, Ohio State, UCLA, LSU and countless others, along with countless primary and secondary schools, all arose before any federal involvement in education. Likewise, African Americans established historically black colleges such as Spelman, Howard and Morehouse, long before the federal government played a role.

The federal Department of Education has only existed since 1980 and was a payoff to the National Education Association, the massive teacher cartel that endorsed Jimmy Carter for president in 1976. On November 30, 1979, Shirley Hufstedler, a lawyer and judge, became head of the new education department, which Congress gave a budget of $14 billion. On the watch of the new federal department, student achievement failed to flourish.

As Vicki Alger noted, the NAEP reading performance of 17-year-olds has remained flat since 1978, despite increased spending, “so it appears the U.S. Department of Education has done little if anything to improve the bang-for-buck ratio with regard to federal education spending and student achievement.” But it remains a haven for overpaid bureaucrats, whose average salary exceeds $100,000. As we observed, the department deploys an enforcement division, armed with shotguns, to conduct raids on those suspected of bribery, fraud and embezzlement. On one raid they carted off a man and his three children over a student aid issue involving the man’s estranged wife, who was not even present. But remember, it’s all for the kids.

The budget of the U.S. Department of Education for 2016 is $70.7 billion, an increase of $3.6 billion, over the 2015 level. Based on what the nation achieved before and after the department’s debut in 1980, a ballpark figure for the ideal budget would be zero. Conservatives have threatened to eliminate the department but none, including Ronald Reagan, managed to do so. The federal government continues to get bigger, not smaller.


Australian education blighted by bureaucracy and political interference

The criticisms below by an experienced Australian teacher are fair enough but I have grown tired of comparisons with Finland. As experienced IQ researcher Edward Dutton sets out in detail, Finns have a considerable IQ advantage -- with an average of 105 on some calculations. (Dutton works in a large Finnish university so he is close to the data). And IQ is the best predictor of educational success. We will never do as well as they do. But there is still, of course, plenty of room for improvement

Phew. School holidays. A chance to recover from a typically frenetic first term and take stock.  It's been busy, in and out of the classroom.

Inside the classroom, it's been business as usual. Preparing lessons, marking, dealing with parental expectations and trying to blend the diverse backgrounds of our students into harmonious classes.

We've just finished writing reports, making sure that we have reached "outcomes" that are incomprehensible to parents and students but fulfil a bureaucratic need for accountability.

Instead of giving our students marks or, God forbid, rankings, we have disguised their results in generalities so their parents are saved from facing the truth about their children's real progress.  We aren't allowed to tell it how it is.

Even though we've been drowning in a sea of paperwork we've done our best to come up for air and actually teach our students.  We've tried to give them one-on-one tutelage but the size of our classes has made this impossible.

Then there are the NAPLAN tests that we aren't meant to prepare our students for but do because "bad" results will reflect badly on our schools and give those who want to bag us a free kick.

On top of this we've been filling in the host of forms that make taking students on excursions, to sporting events and into the woods prohibitive.

Into the woods? That's where William Doyle's son was sent when he spent some time in a Finnish school. Doyle wrote that his son was given a compass and told to find his way back to school. In Australia his teachers would be hauled over the coals for abrogating their duty of care let alone failing to comply with risk-management strategies.

Why is this relevant? Because there has been a lot going on outside the classroom too. With an election looming and school funding well and truly on the agenda, we are having yet another debate about how to lift our educational standards.

Politicians and commentators who haven't been inside a classroom since they left school (apart from photo ops) have been pontificating about what is wrong with our schools.

The clarion call is, of course, "we need better teachers".

Better teachers? Better at what? Filling in forms? Disciplining oversized classrooms? Raising standards with inadequate resources? Does this imply that teachers like me aren't any good?

Hot on the heels of this comes the lament that we are falling behind the rest of the world: "why can't we be as good as the Finns?"

I'll tell you why. The Finns don't spend their time arguing about who should fund their schools. They don't waste any ink on public versus private arguments. They don't bag their teachers.

As Doyle discovered they regard their teachers as "the most respected and trusted professionals next to doctors". That's not the case here.

I have yet to find out what is wrong with the training, just that it needs to be "better".

Finnish teachers complete masters degrees. Our unis and colleges are lucky to receive adequate funding to enable them to complete any sort of training. They are forced to lower entrance scores to attract students who will pay the HECS fees that fund the courses. It's Pythonesque.

We want "better" training but we don't want to pay for it.

Not only are Finnish teachers respected and trusted, they are recognised as being the experts when it comes to education because they actually work at the coalface, not in an office.

I haven't even mentioned comparable pay rates because a country that can't find the will and resources to implement a report that every educator in the land backs is never going to pay teachers what they deserve – let alone the kind of salary that will attract the "best and brightest".

We are still arguing over class sizes when the Finns make opportunities for one-on-one teaching by having manageable class sizes.

The Finns have virtually discarded standardised testing. We have become more and more reliant on NAPLAN results for meaningless and costly data that enables us to identify the "best" schools.

We actually have great curriculums, as impressive as anyone's – we just don't have the resources to implement them.

We burden our teachers with piles of pointless assessment procedures that mask our students true results but satisfy bureaucrats' need for "accountability".

As for sending our students into the woods with compasses, we won't let them get a bus to a cricket game without a 10-page risk assessment.

Spare me the comparisons. We know exactly how to lift our educational standards. It was outlined in the widely revered Gonksi report. Until we are capable of putting our children's needs in front of anything else we will continue slipping down the educational league table.

It's got nothing to do with "better teachers". It's got everything to do with "protecting our children from politicians".


No comments: