Full Literacy USA? Oh the joys of education.

Lately there has been much more talk of privatizing education in the USA.  Every time I hear about ‘more charter schools’ I laugh very very cynically. We’ve had charter schools in the Kansas City Metro. I’m not a fan. They’ve haven’t improved anything. They have cost a lot though. As for running schools like businesses—REALITY CHECK—these are children we’re talking about not PROFIT agendas. Plus, look where big business has taken the economy. More cynical laughter is in order.  So here are my thoughts based on experience with the end products of the public school system. Perhaps a fundamental  problem is that it is a ‘system’ and learning and teaching are more than any ‘system’.

So–here’s an old rant with an update.

I’ve had it up to ‘here’ and way beyond with folks bewailing the quality of public education in the States. No one seems to know what to do to improve this mess except to demand more tests. More tests will not improve education on any level. It cannot work. It does not work. Never has and never will. Test taking has nothing to do with real learning.  I say toss the whole test taking industry into the trash bin immediately.  If I had my way grades would also zoom into the trash bin. Why? Because they’re just ‘grades’ and they do not accurately measure learning either. Either someone ‘learns’ or they do not. Learning cannot be forced. IF something has been really ‘learned’ then it can be applied/used/put into motion by the ‘student’. 

Based on experience, I know of a few things that DO work when it comes to improving the petri dish that is classroom education.  Consider this my ‘gift’ of the season:

~~Optimal student to teacher ration is 1 teacher for every 14 students. This is NOT a newsflash–it’s well-known and been documented plenty. 

~~Oh yeah, an invested teacher can do a lot with 14 students. And 14 students can get a lot from a teacher who wants to teach.  A teacher who wants to teach might be described as someone who wants to engage students–not keep them at an intellectual taser’s length distance. With 14 students’ in a class, a teacher has not just the time but the mental wherewithal to address each as individuals.

~~Textbooks need to ‘go’ away.  Why employ a textbook when there are so many BETTER books to use for teaching? Yes, this means a teacher would have to search out tomes that would best serve their teaching goals–rather than have some textbook dictate what’s on the mental menu every single day of the school experience. Yes, this is ‘work’ –but it is work that pays off for both the teacher and their students. Everyone’s ‘mind’ can be engaged in material that is appealing and fresh.

~~Speaking of ‘fresh’–what the hell is with teachers who use the same material, the same lesson plans, the same approaches year after year after year? They’ve got to be bored to death mentally. I’ve heard many say they are bored to death by doing the same material the same way time  and time again. Guess what–a teacher’s BOREDOM is conveyed to their students who are in turn bored and then see no reason to actively engage with the teacher or subject.  IF a teacher doesn’t like teaching, doesn’t like their subject, doesn’t like students then they ought to NOT be teachers. If they’re bored they need to get ‘un-bored’ or depart the classroom.

~~Teaching ought to be an engagement in the act of discovery. This involves embarking on a quest to explore, question, and think independently. Often this throws out the bath water of  absolute right answers. (No–this does NOT mean that one plus one no longer equals two in math. Although in an alternate reality it might…) In the words of Northrup Frye, one strives to “educate the imagination” so that it can creatively address all sorts of ‘questions’ until suitable responses are discovered.

~~More than a daily ‘lecture’ ought to go on in any classroom.  Dialogue is very useful for exploring thoughts and new concepts.  Arrangement of students desks/chairs so that they have eye contact with each other and the teacher encourages dialogue.

~~Oh yes, there is a useful ‘rule’ to employ in regard to ‘dialogue’/communication/communication  –distinguish between what a person ‘says’ and the person themself when debate/arguing/disputes arise. It is one thing to say, “That is a silly answer.” It is another to say, “You’re a silly idiot.”  Mutual respect goes a long way to developing positive communication. People can’t all like each other– but they can all respect each other.

~~Yes, schools are stuffed full of students with terrible home lives.  Social issues abound. What are the causes of these social issues? My take is that our culture is bankrupt–it has nothing to offer but the goal of consuming as much as possible. Nothing is valued  except money.  

Oh and I really like the way this blogger wrote about Bolivia achieving FULL Literacy in three years. Yes folks, the poorest country in South America apparently has more interest in full literacy for its entire population than the richest country in the world. lhttp://nuestrosricos.blogspot.com/2008/12/bolivia-achieves-full-literacy.html

Gee, wouldn’t want our young ones reading and comprehending “1984” by George Orwell, now would we? Things could get very uncomfortable if they did.

Click on the book cover to visit Trespass Magazine’s piece on Political Novels.  

Oh let’s have a little Mose for some musical release….


  1. Meg said,

    November 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    The coddling comment comes from seeing it all the time and has been on my mind a lot lately sorry that it seemed directed just at you! 🙂

  2. Meg said,

    November 11, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Leslie, one of the things I see is that the teachers become so fed up with putting out all effort and having their job performance criticized ad nauseum that they reach a point when they throw up their hands. Most of the teachers I work with really care, but in the end it is just brutalized out of them, by the administrators, the state, the testing and data driven blah blah, and the parents who cannot see that maybe their child isn’t perfect, or whose skills consist of parking their kids in front of rated R movies, and playing video games with them. It is a problem of the whole entire system.

    I want to say that the coddled child is just as bad as the one whose parents haven’t spared the rod.

    • lesliepaints said,

      November 11, 2010 at 3:31 am

      Oh Meg, perhaps I didn’t word my comment well. That is what I meant, what you have said, here. I taught in the public schools long enough to feel this. Many good teachers feel the pressures of more than just students and parents. They have to deal with administrators and unions, too! I was not speaking of coddling nor was I cutting the teacher down. Teaching is about a network of individuals working together for the common good which is the education of a child. If that point can be reached, I honestly believe our children will succeed.

  3. lesliepaints said,

    November 10, 2010 at 4:24 am

    Many good points, here, Eva, but I think the one about teachers wanting to teach and enjoying teaching is a BIG ONE! Teachers are so filled with the idea that they have to be the “end-all” in any situation that goes awry that public school teaching becomes very much a job and no longer a career they are interested in being a part of. They stay for the paycheck.Then, follow with parents actually taking an interest enough in their child and putting forth the effort to show an interest in their school work, and help to give their child a little extra help at home instead of rushing to get everything thrown together so the favorite , whatever night it is, TV shows can be watched. Really! Do something about those two factors and I think a child WILL begin to learn. All the rest falls into place. If the adults, teacher and parents, are on the same page? That is MORE than half the battle!

    • November 10, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      Leslie, agreed–parents need to ‘parent’ and the rest needs a ‘rest’. Engagement and involvement from children, parents and teachers is indeed a big part of the battle.

  4. artistatexit0 said,

    November 10, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Whew!!! There’s a lot to chew on here. We have put educators in a terrible position. Teachers can’t just be teachers in our society because they are too busy being parents to 30 plus children. I feel the actual parents need to be more involved and not expect the head of the classroom to be able to cure all the ills. With so much free content to explore in the world…why do we care what Texas thinks when it comes to publishing and choosing textbooks? We have the technology now to print just the books we need circumventing the whole idea of printing a million bad books. Give kids real experiences and the opportunity to travel and they will respond positively. Okay, someone else’s turn now!

    • November 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm

      Oh this is a CONSPIRACY for CHANGE children can learn from! Oh Al-love that direct hit on Texas corporate textbooks! Hmm, I wonder how they’d be as ‘fuel’?

  5. Meg said,

    November 10, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Tests should be thrown out, as should be scripted lessons which goes beyond repeating the same lesson year after year and institutionalizes it. Well said all.

  6. November 9, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Excellent post 47whitebuffalo but I sure needed the song at the end of it 🙂

    • Posky said,

      November 9, 2010 at 6:10 am

      Agreed. This one left the gears running without enough old in my mind. I feel drained and somehow lost in circular way thinking (aka failed problem solving). I need to help fix something.

  7. slpmartin said,

    November 9, 2010 at 4:21 am

    Maybe we could let teachers teach and not ust prepare students for state test that measure nothing but a child’s ability to recall information from short term memory.

    • Posky said,

      November 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

      Pfft, then we wouldn’t be able to file them into the appropriate colleges that they aren’t prepared for or have the money to spend on.

      Don’t you know how the system works?

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