Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Stop "Educating" and Start Teaching!

I want my grandchildren to have as good an education as I received between 1952 and 1964. It's too late for my three children - they've all been robbed of anything close to that. My youngest daughter learned more from my wife in three years being home-schooled than she did in ten years in public school. Our oldest is basically self-educated, since the school did little to actually teach her, and quite a bit of what they DID try to teach her was wrong. I'm not talking about differences of opinion, but plain WRONG - from information in the Declaration of Independence to absolutely horrendous science to mathematics where the answers appeared to have been marked right or wrong arbitrarily, regardless of the actual work.

The one thing I have learned is that we can't trust government - at any level, under any guise - to actually provide an agenda-free, unbiased education, from kindergarten to high school. We cannot trust colleges to actually force people to learn a subject in order to get a grade, or to present factual information to be learned. That goes for EVERY school, in EVERY state, in this entire Union. I'm not saying that everything being taught in our public schools is a fraud, or that every teacher is biased, or that every grade is unearned. I'm simply saying that there's no direct accountability to us, the parents and grandparents of these children, that our children are learning, that they're learning the truth, and they're actually being forced to do the work to get the grades. Since we're the ones paying for this education, that accountability is long overdue.

There are more horror stories with education than with virtually any other field of endeavor our government is involved with. There are documented cases of tens of thousands of students graduating from high school unable to read beyond a fourth-grade level, unable to find countries important to our current society on a world map, unable to do the math necessary to balance a checkbook, unable to name ten presidents of this nation, unable to list the three major divisions of our federal government - in short, functionally illiterate, unhirable, unable to participate fully in American life, and practically totally shut out of all the GOOD things in this nation.

There are two basic reasons for the problems with today's education system. One is John Dewey's influence and ideas, including that school was supposed to be as much about socialization and social engineering as about education. The other is a pedantic teacher's union that wishes to create an atmosphere of totalitarian control on education in every aspect of its enactment. Schools have engaged in all types of educational fads, many of which have been extremely detrimental to an entire generation of students. Even now, psychological experimentation, 'feel-good' and 'self-worth' experiments are failing to highlight deficiencies in both learning and teaching. Educational institutions are not being held accountable for their failures, and aren't suffering for the harm they do others. All of this needs to stopped, to be thoroughly debunked, defunded, and dismissed from the education environment. Past behaviors have resulted in a consistent decline both in the quality and quantity of educational achievement, with disasterous results for millions of human beings. Teaching should once more be defined as imparting knowledge necessary for success, rather than some form of psychological or social experimentation. Of course, it'll take generations to really do this, and additional generations to recover. In the meantime, there will be an ever-increasing shortage of well-educated, trainable adults to do the everyday jobs that need to be filled.

The military is already experiencing this problem. Every single branch of the military has remedial training programs - not just to train minorities, or non-citizens, but the average, day-to-day US high school graduate that can't read at a ninth-grade level, that can't do basic math, that can't understand basic concepts of electronics, and can't do the jobs the military needs doing. Half our military training time is spent in correcting the deficiencies of our public school system.

The problems exist in colleges, too. A friend of mine has three children in a public university. The two youngest are very bright, took honors class in thier local public high school, and graduated in the upper ten percent of their class. The subject matter, and the level to which they're being taught, have been significantly watered down. My friend's daughter is studying the same material in a 300-level chemistry class I learned in a 100-level class 20 years ago. Her sister is taking an advanced-level history class after "testing out" of the two prerequisite courses that covered exactly the same material - using the same textbook - she'd studied as a junior in a Department of Defense military school. Foreign students coming to colleges in the United States complain about having to take classes that cover the same subject matter they learned in high school - EARLY in high school.

Education in this country is a self-created disaster, and no one's really working to try to clean it up.

Trying to work within the establishment is a waste of time. The teachers' unions won't allow it, our "teacher's colleges" won't allow it, the ingrained "tenured faculty" at colleges and universities won't allow it, and in most states, there are laws that either restrict, control, or forbid it. Many families are trying to escape the trap by home-schooling their children. Home-schooling is under attack by the education establishment in every state in our union, frequently aided and abetted by a like-minded judiciary.

There IS an answer. The answer is the Internet. The answer also involved keeping the government and the education establishment as far away as possible. The best way to do that is to get the people most dependent on a quality workforce to help establish, fund, and operate the system. America's big businesses, if they want to stay competetive, need to fork over the capital needed to establish, operate, and manage an online education system independent of the current, failing government system.

Surprisingly enough, it really wouldn't be that expensive. The majority of costs today at all school systems are for infrastructure and manpower - and half that manpower cost is administrative. There's also the massive duplication of resources. There are at least 50,000 public schools in this country. Ten online schools, each with a different (but similar) curriculum, could do the job of those 50,000. Instead of having to buy two million new textbooks every year, there would be the need for maybe 500 - total. Even that number is based on allowing different textbooks for the same subject, in order to provide a variety, where one text may work better for a student than another. Everything else could be mechanized - including testing and grading. Industry could buy and connect computers in central locations for those that couldn't afford their own. Keep costs low - as low as $10 a semester per pupil - to encourage participation, and ensure that students that try are rewarded. Technical training could be offered through work/study programs and hands-on opportunities, or through cluster-classrooms for laboratory or shop-type experimentation. The entire expense could be written off as either a non-profit donation, or as an investment expense in future employees. If the opportunity isn't there today, it's not beyond the scope of Congress to draft such legislation.

This type of program would eliminate the stigma many school students are subjected to today for "over-achieving", as well as for falling behind or failing. Only the student, his/her parents, and the school would ever know the scores achieved. Those that are having problems can be given supplemental material until they can comprehend the lesson. Classes could progress at the optimum speed of the individual student, rather than at the pace of the slowest person in the class. Those that display a specific knack for some aspects of training, from woodworking to physics, could be given extra schooling and/or training to satisfy their interests. Religious courses could be provided as electives, as well as other classes that might not appeal to the majority, or that may cause problems - including legal problems - in a group classroom.

Most of all, the entire program should be managed by a group of professional business people, rather than anyone from the "education establishment". These are the people that know - from daily experience - what today's children need to learn to be successful in tomorrow's world. The managers should be diverse enough to cover most scientific, technical, mechanical, and service industries, as well as at least one representative from the government AND the military, to ensure the educational needs of their future members are included.

Online education is not the solution for every child, just as home-schooling isn't optimum for every family. If nothing else, it would provide another opportunity for parents to ensure their children have the education they themselves would prefer for their child. It would also increase competition in the public education sector, which would have to show great improvement just to lag not too far behind.

As a side-note, blogging and bloggers could play an extensive, positive role in enriching such an education program, and increase the diversity of ideas, information, and imagination available to all students. Bloggers could also be the driving force in extending such a concept beyond secondary education into post-secondary and advanced training. The core knowledge of the corps of bloggers exceeds that of any single university on this planet by at least two orders of magnitude.


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