September 23, 2008

Guest post: Paul Falkowski on "Same educational arguments coming from Washington DC"

Schools not solely responsible for ills. By Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Socialist, actually. -- Hube)

Response to more of the same educational arguments coming from Washington DC by Paul J. Falkowski, B.A. Ed. 1972 Mathematics-Education, UD. (Paul's comments are in bold.)

No one doubts that our education system is in very serious trouble. Too many students are not learning what we expect them to learn [Delaware, took a LEAD in State Standards at every Grade level, outlining, 'What is to be learned. '] , and too many are dropping out [ ASK WHY? ] before they get a high school degree — a catastrophe, [ A catastrophe, but not linked to College jobs. We need more BASIC EMPLOYMENT. Manufacturing, products that we can sell to the world. ] given that more and more of our good-paying [ We need as a basic, jobs that pay something, ] jobs are available only to college graduates. [ Hold that thought on College Students ] [ PS, This country, prospered from 1800 till 1970's without college level jobs, and manufacturing. ]

“On virtually every international assessment of academic proficiency [ That being the case, do away with DSTP and American teste and apply International tests and Grade level proficiencies. ] , American secondary school students’ performance varies from mediocre to poor,” according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Recently, the United States ranked 15th of 29 countries in reading literacy, 21st in scientific literacy, 25th in mathematics literacy, and 24th in problem solving, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Only 70 percent of high school students in the United States earn a diploma. [ NOW, Just who is going to college with only 70% earning a Diploma. ]

It is easy to blame the schools for these failures, and to be honest, our schools bear some responsibility for what happens within their wall. But the schools are not the whole of it. Education cannot be looked at without paying attention to the context of how we treat our children. When almost 20 percent of our nation’s children live in poverty, [ First place to look is their homes, and their parents, or single parents. Improve the FAMILY, Improve the children, and the children's HOME education. ] the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world; when millions of babies and young kids are cared for in inadequate childcare facilities by undertrained and underpaid staff; when young Americans watch upwards of 40 hours of television a week, much of it based on violence and selling useless products; when too many of our political leaders categorize intellectual and artistic pursuits as “elitism” and actually make fun of those who attend our best universities [ Where did this come from? ] ; when hundreds of thousands of young people are simply unable to afford higher education [ Hundreds of thousands do not have a Diploma. ] ; we must understand that schools alone are not responsible for all of the problems of education in America. [ PARENTS ARE, first! ]

Part of our educational failure results from distorted national priorities. While schools in Vermont and across this country are laying off language instructors and music teachers because of their dependence on the burdensome and regressive property tax, Congress passes a bloated $532 billion military budget with very little discussion. [ Tax spending is not a zero sum game. Not spending on a war, does not mean spending on Education or Health care. ] While thousands of schools throughout America lack after-school programs or enriched summer schools, President Bush has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent.

What should we be doing about our troubled educational system? For a start, we can look at countries that are remarkably successful, like Finland. Finland comes out on top of almost all the international education benchmarks on which we do so badly. As a direct consequence of its strong education system, Finland has the most competitive economy in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. What do the Finns do? They provide high quality and free early childhood education and daycare, from age six months until their kids go to school, to every child in their country. They have small classes. They give fewer tests than we do, and those tests require complex thinking and problem solving [ Many students and parents would revolt otherwise. Test is too hard, I can not take tests and also panic that this one test is so important. ] — they are not just “fill in the box” multiple-choice exams. They understand that education is an investment in their economy, in their healthcare and in their environment, which is why they provide free college and graduate school to all eligible [ ELIGIBLE? How? ] applicants.

What else can we do? We can fully fund federal programs for our public schools, which have been greatly underfunded since the Bush administration took office. We can also fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides only 18 percent of special-ed costs, when 40 percent was what the federal government promised.

We also must go beyond today’s mandates for testing and more testing. Too many schools are not teaching their students how to learn — they are teaching to the test, drilling and drilling and drilling [ Drilling, has always worked. ] . In reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we should get rid of these failed provisions and instead require programs that will make our schools the source of rich experiences for our children, and no longer prescribe sterile classrooms where nothing matters but the next examination.

Finally, we must once again make college affordable for American families. Too many students do not go to college — or even aspire to college — [ False They do not have the academic background for college. ] because the costs are too great. In the final analysis we must understand that education is the basis on which our future is formed. If we want a strong middle class, [ We need production JOBS. ] if we want young people gainfully employed in the workforce rather than rotting in jails, if we want a society where our citizens live in good health then we must accept the basic principle that education is not an expense but an investment in the future well-being of our nation. [ What is missing are programs to Educate the 30% every year of HS students that did not get their Diploma. There numbers are cumulative. These kids have babies, with out 'Educated parents.' Parents who fail to pass on a respect and the importance of having 'THAT EDUCATION." We do not need more childcare, we need to train More Parents to handle their own childcare, and concurrently parents that get an Education. ]

Sanders is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Posted by Hube at September 23, 2008 06:44 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Excellent points, Paul! I especially liked your point about the loss of manufacturing jobs. You're absolutely right. In the past, it wasn't the end of the world if you didn't graduate from college. My husband doesn't have a college degree (tho he should probably have a doctorate for all the years he spent on and off in college - haha). He has a good job with a respectable salary at Ciba (or is it BASF now?). Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs like that available.

At the end of the day, while I'd like to see the government invest more wisely in education (not MORE, just more wisely), I think they should put at least as much effort into keeping manufacturing jobs here and encouraging companies to build more manufacturing plants domestically.

I really should be king of the world, btw.

Posted by: Dominique at September 24, 2008 06:48 AM

Of course, I have to disagree w/ Dominique (and you)

"PS, This country, prospered from 1800 till 1970's without college level jobs, and manufacturing."

Those days are over and they ain't coming back. We'll see a short run return to some call centers coming back to the US but by and large, labor jobs are going overseas and not coming back. It's not just labor costs, it's taxes and regulations.

That said, we will always need tradesmen and a strong blue collar workforce. We are doing our kids a disservice by pushing "College for everyone". Not everyone wants to, or even should, go to College. That doesn't mean you won't have a good paying job or even a white collar job. It simply means you haven't been to college. Hell, I'd wager most electricians make more than I do.

Posted by: Duffy at September 24, 2008 08:45 AM

The reason that Americans must have a college education to have a decent job is not that we don't have enough blue collar jobs. It's that we imported the labor to fill them. 15 years ago there was a mix of migrant and native labor in Delaware chicken plants. It was not long before the cheaper (and more pliant) migrant labor took nealy all of those jobs. In about 4-5 more years they had filled the majority of landscaping jobs. Around the same time, the drywall trade was inundated with migrants. Insulation was another trade that became nealy migrant only. Finally, carpentry and masonary work have become majority migrant. Remodeling and small companies still use some locals but not the big companies.
These thousands of jobs used to be done by Delawarens (of all colors and types). Where did all those workers go?

Posted by: jef at September 24, 2008 10:50 AM

Some people will disagree, just to disagree. And sometimes, even more myopic, they will disagree with someone they dislike. Yea, that's really productive.
So we should surrender because those days are not coming back? I can see now that the evolution from My history books to your social studies books have altered the perception of what is important to the survival of a family, a home and eventually to a country. It is called economics in College.
The USA can not survive simply by pushing paper across a desk. [ MY Case should be damn near moot with this 700 Billion dollar bail-out. All based on paper mortgages. ] Where is the economy that will support the high paying jobs. HELL, where is the economy that will pay the blue collar jobs. Who will own the houses that can afford a landscaper?
Historically, you start with the food supply, The FARMER, and the farm worker.
Cities were concentrated areas, for local housing, for the laborers that filled the factories. Factories that produced GOODS.
WHAT have cities become? What have city residents become? Where do many of the city residents, get their housing, subsistence and food? When they do not work?
What is being produced, in WILMINGTON, and how many people do we need to produce it? Banking, insurance, and computer programming? NO.
Remember? DuPont, MBNA, AIG, Cigna, GM, Chrysler, Speakman, Purina, Allied Kid, National Vulcanized Fiber, Pusey and Jones, Dravo, Hagley, The Dupont Shops, Steel Foundries, Pullman, ...
We do a disservice, teaching our next generation that an education for a white collar job will lead to a job. There needs to be a supporting economy.

Posted by: Paul Falkowski at September 24, 2008 12:07 PM