This will most likely be my one and only politically leaning post so if you do not want to read my thoughts on the political process with regards to education this is your fair warning to close it down now and not read it. But if you want to read and leave a comment please feel free to do so.
After watching the third and final debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain I thought I would put my thoughts out there. First of all I do not think either of the candidates have a workable plan for education and therefore the person they choose to become their Secretary of Education will really impact the state of educational system for a long time.
I am a teacher and as most of you know I became a professional teacher in 2005 at the age of 43. With that being said I believe I was a teacher long before that point and time. I also believe that most good teachers are innate teachers. That does not mean someone cannot learn to become a good teacher; I just think that it takes them more time to do so and some do not ever become good teachers.
One of my pet peeves that people discuss when they talk about education is how far behind the United States is with regards to math and science when compared to other countries. Let’s look at that for just a moment. Countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea and the list goes on do not educate all of their students to the extent that the United States does. Most students in those countries are identified and tracked by the time they reach intermediate to middle school age. What this means is that if those students are not “university material” they are trained for occupations. There is nothing wrong with this but those students are not taking the types of high school/college prep class that the students in the United States are. This country believes that everyone is entitled to a free public education and I agree with that. I also believe that we have turned our backs on vocational training in high schools for those students that want that track. The policy wonks have decided that everyone should be “college ready”. That affects our rankings so people need to compare apples to apples not apples to cantaloupe.
I will not go into all of my disagreements with NCLB (No Child Left Behind) I will just say I do not believe that there is a baby in that bath water so they need to throw it all down the drain and refill the bath tub with clean water.
One comment that Senator McCain made that I had a major issue with was when he said that when people leave the military they should be allowed to become teachers without having to pass any tests. Excuse me? So some person that joined the armed services right out of high school serves his 4 to 6 years that he signed up for, and has only been trained to drive a tank, can come back to the states and walk into the classroom and teach? So is my degree and all of the other degrees worth nothing? He has got to be kidding! Does that mean that once I have my Masters of Military History degree I can go and be a general in the United States Army?
I also take issue with Senator Obama saying that only math and science teachers should get paid more money to teach. Does he believe that those students suddenly become easier to teach if it is not a math or science class? I hate to tell him if they struggle in math and science they are most likely struggling in all of their core academic classes.
The other issue I have with Senator Obama and Senator McCain is that they want to hold parents accountable, that they have to be part of the solution. Believe me when I say every teacher in America thinks that parents have to be part of the solution. My problem is that neither of them has said how they would do that. We haul parents into to court on a regular basis in the district I work for because of truancy or other issues with their children and more often than not the behavior of the child does not change. So until they give me concrete examples of how parents would be part of the solution they are both blowing smoke as far as I am concerned.
The education system did not “break” in a year it will take longer than a year and quick fixes to truly fix the problem. In the end it will take educators that are still in the trenches to help fix the problems not policy wonks that are so far removed from the classroom that they have no clue what is like today. Until we are asked real effective and lasting change will not happen.