Evey year I am reminded of how important education is in the state of Michigan. I am willing to bet all of you that live in other states started school this week or earlier. Public schools in Michigan (with the exception of year round schools which are not that common) are required by law to start after Labor Day.
What is the great educational reasoning for this? Tourism, of course! In 2005 businesses and chambers of commerce lobbied to extend summer vacation through Labor Day to encourage families to travel and take vacations. House Bill 4803 was passed banning schools from starting until after Labor Day.
Now teachers can start before Labor Day so pretty much every teacher in the state had PD days this week to keep the school year from going longer into June. I guess they don’t care about teachers’ tourism money 😉
It also does not apply to sports as fall teams have been practicing for weeks and most football teams are playing their second game of the season today.
Now I don’t really know if this affects students’ learning all that much and I personally don’t care about the starting date a whole lot.
What it does show to me is how ridiculous politicians are when they meddle in education and that they are flat out liars when they say they care about kids and make decisions based on business motives. (Don’t even get me started on how our current governor has cut business taxes and school funding this year!)
So I hope everyone is off to a great start of the year and we teachers in Michigan will join you next week when we have permission from politicians and business leaders to begin.
Appreciate all of the comments giving me advice on a platform for an on-line portfolio. I went with a blog on wordpress.com. I have never used it before so there was a little learning curve. The biggest problem was I did not realize that the free version (not self-hosted) will not let you embed video except from YouTube. I also could not get Google Presentations on there so I put it on slideshare. It took some extra work to get everything I wanted in it but I am happy with how it came out. I would appreciate constructive criticism-be honest and brutal please. http://michaelkaechele.wordpress.com/
I am tired of reading about edreform in the news focusing on failing schools, merit pay, test scores, school of choice, bad teachers, etc. It is time that politicians and “reformers” recognize the huge elephant in the room of education reform-poverty.
First go read Mel Riddile’s excellent post about poverty’s effects on PISA Here is evidence that all of our schools are not failing, but the real problem in this country is poverty. Our best schools compare favorably with the top countries of the world. (By the way I personally could care less about these test scores, but since everyone else uses them to make points-here you go).
Next University of Texas psychologists release a study about poverty and genetic potential. Summarized they found that 50% of the progress of wealthy children can be attributed to genetics. No, they are not smarter than poor children, but they reach their genetic potential because of extra resources and opportunities. Children of poverty do not reach their potential.
Finally a New York Times piece by Charles Blow states that
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty,
42 percent of American children live in low-income homes
and about a fifth live in poverty. It gets worse. The number
of children living in poverty has risen 33 percent since 2000.
For perspective, the child population of the country over all
increased by only about 3 percent over that time. And,
according to a 2007 Unicef report on child poverty, the U.S.
ranked last among 24 wealthy countries.
My thoughts are that this is not any new information. We know that socio-economic is the most important factor for school success. We know that our poor schools in rural and urban areas are the schools with the most students who struggle and drop out. Of course we need to take every means necessary to improve these schools.
But lets stop dogging public education non-stop in the media. Let’s stop portraying teachers as lazy and worthless. Let’s stop acting like the entire system is broken when we have thousands of successful schools and millions of successful students. Let’s stop treating public education as both the cause and solution of our economic problems.
I for one am appalled that 1 in 5 children in this country live in poverty. 1 in 5! It is an embarrassment that we have the highest poverty rate of developed nations. I will not pretend to have all of the answers to end poverty, but let’s acknowledge it as the real problem of inequity in this country.
Let’s fix that problem and quit blaming public schools and teachers.
Hat tip to Bill Ferriter for the Charles Blow link.
Still thinking about passion as a major part of student learning. I have a lot of rambling thoughts in my brain right now and this is my attempt to organize them a bit so help me out where it does not make sense.
One thing that has me thinking about passion is the path of my life-long learning. I was an excellent student and great at “playing the game” of school. I knew how to listen, read, take notes, and pass tests. I was also convinced at the time that I was “smarter” than most people. This was a major part of my adolescent identity. I now look back and see that I was just better at playing the game than others, and lacked many problem-solving skills.
After I returned to the US from teaching English in China, I started working for the largest commercial concrete construction company in our area. My skill level was mostly as a laborer in residential concrete. I had a foreman who became my mentor and trained me to be a legitimate concrete finisher. After that I watched others being trained. The difference I saw between myself and some of them was that I did not naturally figure out how to finish concrete. I needed to be taught directly just like in school. I saw other guys who experimented and figured it out on their own. I began to recognize a skill set that they had toward problem-solving that I lacked. It was a standing joke that I asked questions about everything, especially “why.” But eventually I became an expert at knowing what to do after I understood the reasoning behind things.
The other thing I have been thinking about are my “strengths” and “weaknesses.” In school, I was a math/science kid. I hated English (writing) and thought history was a waste of time. In college I had to take one philosophy class and saved it for my senior year because I knew I would hate something so impractical. When I finally took philosophy I loved the class and wished I had minored in it. I decided to become a teacher when I returned from China. I loved learning about the culture and history of China so I majored in history. This year on the National Day of Writing I wrote for “fun” for the first time in my life by my own choice.
So I would have never chosen philosophy as a passion until I experienced an actual class in it. I don’t think I would have ever chosen writing or history in high school either. I needed to mature and have more life experiences for when I was ready to learn these topics.
Maybe the key is I know how to learn and how to access learning. I can now learn anything that I want to because the tools are easily accessible. Maybe the key to schools should be teaching how to learn and exposing kids to as many learning opportunities as possible and let them run with the ones that are most interesting to them at the time and trust the future for them to learn about the “standards” that they might miss while they are pursuing their passions.
Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around. What do you see? Business people, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around. What do you see? Business people, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that make You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.
What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.
Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door, you're the one that has to walk through it.
Neo: I thought it wasn't real.
Morpheus: Your mind makes it real.
The body can not live without the mind.
You are faster than this. Don't think you are,know you are.
Agent Smith: Never send a human to do a machine's job.
Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did, that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
Neo, The One: I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.