CSI: Education in America

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html?em

It seems each generation gets a bit closer to identifying and capitalizing on the  magic of the educational process and I am eternally thankful.  I believe I speak for all teachers worldwide in stating that if some one could identify specifically the magic needed to be the best teacher in any classroom, we would all use it, no questions asked. It is not for a lack of desire to be a better teacher, rather, there are no direct and linear one answer fits all situations and  works.

My generation (which obviously tells you my age) was raised on Fred Jones and his Tools for Teaching as well as Harry K. Wong and his The First Days of School.  From doing a quick scan of Amazon.com, there are many, many books designed to help teachers become ‘better’ at their craft. I am thankful so many professionals want to share their insights. Sadly, I do not see how year over year test scores (the current leading indicator of success in America) have improved in spite of all these people sharing their hard earned wisdom.

While I wish Mr. Lemov well and am sure he has best intentions, I can’t help but note that nothing in the article Elizabeth Green wrote (noted above) talks about PARENTS and parenting.  If indeed a proper autopsy was done, it would find that when children are parented and come to school with age appropriate literacy and behavior, learning does occur. 

Parenting includes prenatal and post natal nutrition, medical care as necessary, access to a library and parents who brought children into the world willfully, spending time with them each day to help them develop.  Parenting includes sacrifices of many things for the joy of parenting. Parenting is not about abdicating a child to the teacher for babysitting services when a teacher is for teaching, anymore than you would not drop a child off at a doctors office for day care.

If, as Mr. Lemov states, teachers can be improved upon and taught how to be better by micromanaging every detail/step/motion and content can equally be dispersed, this does not explain why education is not  in such dire straights in India, Korea, China, most of Europe – essentially any place which is not America.  Reasonably speaking,  education seems to be occuring quite favorably in other places and surely no one has put nearly as much effort into analyzing how to make bot teachers.  To my knowledge, Malcolm Gladwell has not addressed the dissociation of education from parenting although he did a piece on selecting a football player for two situations-NFL and universities and came up with some analogies which are fitting to this situation.   Me thinks we are not using the evidence properly as the focus has been on how to pretty much kill off any joy in teaching and has been for many years. Teachers stand to be the accused without counsel, without a jury of their peers, without actual evidence which can be corroborated.

If indeed,  skill sets are teachable/learnable, why have we not figured out how to stop having surgeons with major malpractice law suits……..we have gotten close as now the body part where the operation is to be performed is labeled and some one inventories what goes in and out of the body (scalpels, sponges) during surgery but still malpractice continues.  Why on earth could we not have ‘stopped’ the Wall Street meltdown as math is very easy to follow – you can not have multiple outcomes, there is indeed only one right answer and yet Wall Street went to the wall and slid to the gutter.  Isn’t it reasonable that with all the training we give police we should not have to read one more time about some one being shot accidentally (sometimes accidentally on purpose…).  Since teaching is as much an artful practice, it can not be run through a microscope nor assayed like DNA.

Surely it would be more cost effective if each and every child was given $500 in a future college bank account bearing interest if they came to school with basic literacy in kindergarten and another $500 for getting through algebra in Gr 7 ($250 for Gr 8 passing and $100 for Gr 9) and maybe $100 here and there for some other landmarks.  If they never went to college, the money is returned to the government. It is a reasonable investment for the future and it sets the precedent of teaching parents how to save for the future (another skill set Americans are sorely lacking in). 

By finding immense fault with  teacher’s practices and not putting any focus on what else is at the crime scene seems to delimit the art of investigation.

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2 thoughts on “CSI: Education in America

  1. I am certain research exists – this piece is my opinion based on reaseach and information I pulled together. What I am wondering is if you can use Babel Fish to translate. I have reason to think the information would be reasonably valid for education in other countries using the same principles.

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