Monday, August 05, 2019

Now it’s getting ridiculous: Four debates, no questions about K-12 education

Now it’s getting ridiculous: Four debates among Democratic presidential candidates, and no questions — or serious discussion — about K-12 education.

A nod goes to Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, a former superintendent of the Denver school system, who answered a non-education question with a call to improve the public education system. His passionate plea to “fix our school system” and focus on segregated schools came in response to a question by CNN moderator Don Lemon about why he would be the best candidate to heal the racial divide in the United States.

Some candidates made passing references to universal preschool, and moderators did raise college affordability and student debt. But when it comes to K-12 public education, which many believe is the most important civic institution in the country, nada.

There have been four debates: two in June on NBC and MSNBC with 10 candidates each night; and two this week on CNN, also with 10 candidates on each night. So, what were the moderators thinking, exactly?

That education isn’t as important as health care and immigration and foreign affairs and how Democrats can win Michigan in 2020?

That prekindergarten and higher education is more important than the grades in between?

That Americans aren’t very interested in the present and future of public education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plans to change the way U.S. children attend school?

Do the moderators think the candidates all agree so they can’t spark a fight with the issue? (They don’t.)

Is it too difficult to compose questions that get at the heart of major matters confronting public schools?

How about: “America funds its public education system largely through property taxes, and federal efforts to close the gap between high-income and low-income neighborhoods have not bridged the gap. Should there be a fundamental change in the way public schools are funded?"

Or: “If the Supreme Court rules, as it may do, that it is constitutional for states to use public funds for religious education, would you take any action as president to override that decision? Do you believe it is constitutional for public funds to be used for religious education?"

Or: “Do you agree with any education move that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made?” Or: “What is the most damaging step Betsy DeVos has taken, and how would you change it?” Or: “Do you agree with Betsy DeVos on expanding charter schools, and if not, where is the disagreement?”

Or: “Can you name the three biggest problems facing K-12 education today, and how you would fix them?”

Or: “What is the role of the federal government in education policy?”

Well, there’s always hope that some K-12 education question will come up in the next Democratic debate. But don’t hold your breath.


Chinese students are welcome in America, US education official Marie Royce says, calling China’s negative reports propaganda

A US education official on Tuesday accused China’s state-controlled media of painting an “inaccurate picture” of the hardships Chinese students are said to face living and studying in the US, stressing that Chinese students are welcome in America.

“The United States continues to admit qualified Chinese students for study at US colleges and universities,” Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, told the annual EducationUSA Forum in Washington.
“Contrary to what you might have heard from the government of China, the number of Chinese student visa applications refused has declined in each of the last four years,” Royce told an audience of 500 international education professionals from US universities and colleges. “This demonstrates that US higher education is increasingly accessible to Chinese students.”

Her remarks suggested that the US government is striving to play down fears of growing hostility towards Chinese academics and students working and studying in the US after some scholars complained about scrutiny from the US government over their ties to Beijing.

In May, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said it had removed two Chinese-American professors with the department of human genetics, Li Xiaojiang and his wife, Li Shihua, for failing to disclosing their ties to institutions in China, an accusation the couple denied.

Some scholars in China also said that their 10-year multiple-entry visas to the US had been revoked by US authorities without explanation.

And in June, China’s Ministry of Education issued a warning about the risks of studying in the US, citing a soaring number of visa rejections.

US President Donald Trump, mindful of these developments, said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June that he wanted more Chinese students to go to the United States as concern grows about Chinese scholars in American academia. “We want to have Chinese students [go] to our great schools and great universities,” Trump said. “They are great students and tremendous assets.”

Royce said the Chinese government should be held responsible for giving Chinese citizens “an inaccurate picture” of the United States. “The state-controlled Chinese media inundates Chinese students with Communist Party-curated content that exaggerates the dangers of living and studying in the United States,” the official said. “Through Chinese social media, Chinese students continue to view the United States through this distorted lens.”

Such misinformation not only discourages Chinese students in the US from fully engaging with their American and international peers, it also saps the power of American higher education institutions to draw Chinese students, several international student recruiters said on the sidelines of the forum.

Moto Tomita, a regional director for international recruitment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said American universities have become the latest casualties of the trade tension between the world’s top two economies. China’s warning about the risks of studying in the US will have a “big impact on student enrolment,” said Tomita, who projects a 20 per cent decline in Chinese student enrolment at his university for the 2019-2020 school year.

That would be the biggest decline of its kind at the school in 25 years.

Chinese students contributed more than US$15 billion to the US economy in 2018. More than 360,000 Chinese students studied in the US in the 2017-18 school year, making up one-third of the overall international student body in the country.

The number of Chinese students in the US is greater than the combined total of the next seven countries where Chinese students are studying abroad the most, Royce said.

“From a foreign relations standpoint, the friendships that are formed, the values shared, and the networks created, are even more important than the economic contributions of these Chinese students,” the official said.

She urged American universities to double down on their efforts not only to welcome Chinese students to their classrooms, but to ensure they are given opportunities to fully experience America’s culture and communities.

Universities should go beyond typical “welcome orientation” events by encouraging Chinese students to live alongside Americans and join student clubs and organisations, she said.
“Open our classrooms and homes, expose Chinese students to our welcoming culture, eat and live alongside them, foster lifelong connections, and allow them to form their own conclusions about the United States.”


The history of public education in America

With school starting in just a few days, I thought it would be interesting to research the history of education in the United States and some current statistics.

New England colonists valued education and established the first public school in 1635. It was called the Boston Latin School and is still in operation today.

The first free taxpayer-supported school was opened in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1639. These early schools did not emphasize reading and math, but the traditional English curriculum of family, church, community, and trades skills.

It was assumed that parents would teach their children reading and math as most of the original colonists were literate as they were involved in the Protestant Church so learned to read the scriptures.

However, this was not the case in the South as a large part of the population was single indentured servants who were not literate. The “planter class” did not support public education as they could afford private tutors for their children. In the South, only children from wealthy families were educated.

In both the North and South, early schools were for white boys only. There were few facilities for girls. It was felt that girls did not need an education to become wives and mothers.

Later, girls were taught to reading but not writing or math. The philosophy was they did not need those skills to run a household as all money decisions were made by their fathers or husbands.

The first school for girls was opened in 1727 in New Orleans by the Catholic Church. It was also the first school teach “girls of color” and Native Americans. By 1767, there were some tax-supported schools for girls in New England but once again, reading was the emphasis so they could read the scriptures, but writing was not taught.

This why colonial women could read but could not sign their names and used an X for a signature.

It was not until after the Civil War that large numbers of African-Americans had the opportunity to go to school. In the early days of the Reconstruction Era, the Freedman’s Bureau opened over a thousand schools for black children.

By 1865, more than 90,000 freedmen were enrolled as students in these schools. Public schools were not integrated at this time and school integration would not be implemented until the 1954 Supreme Court Case of Brown vs The Board of Education ruled that public schools must be integrated.

Change did not come easily.

In 1957 it took Federal troops to enforce integration in Little Rock, Arkansas as the “Little Rock 9” enrolled in Central High School.

Today, education is controlled by each state. All states have tax-supported public education for all children. The national average states spend per student for public education is $12,756.

California spends $10,281 per pupil. New York is the highest spending state, paying $19,697 per pupil.

This fall it is estimated that there will be 50.8 million students enrolled in public schools nationwide.

Three million of these will be enrolled in public charter schools
An additional 5.6 million children will be enrolled in private schools that charge tuition — most located in cities and have some religious affiliation

Approximately 1.7 million children (3.3%) will be homeschooled
Nationwide, 85% of students graduate from high school, an increase of 6% since 2011, mostly because a larger number of Hispanic students are graduating. California’s over-all graduation rate is 83%.

In summary, we are fortunate to live in a country that values education for all. We have come a long way from our county’s beginning when few had the opportunity to get an education. A democracy can only be successful with an educated population.

An educated population allows us to compete on the world stage and have a high standard of living. While there are still huge differences between the quality of education nationwide and by school district, thanks to enlightened national and local leaders these differences are becoming fewer.

However, the people who make the greatest difference are local citizens. We all must take an interest in the quality of education in our communities.


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