Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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FrankChurch
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby FrankChurch » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:33 pm

Ezra, you did the same cut-n-paste you accuse me of all the time. :)

Nason, the unions protect the teachers from unfair firings. This whole grading teachers on test scores is idiotic. Test scores are based on teaching to the test, which most students forget a few weeks later, if not days.

When your side wants to fire teachers for teaching students "liberal values" we need unions to bulwark that bs.

Google Diane Ravitch, Stan Karp, Alfie Kohn, John Dewey.

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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Lori Koonce » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:53 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Ezra, you did the same cut-n-paste you accuse me of all the time. :)

Nason, the unions protect the teachers from unfair firings. This whole grading teachers on test scores is idiotic. Test scores are based on teaching to the test, which most students forget a few weeks later, if not days.

When your side wants to fire teachers for teaching students "liberal values" we need unions to bulwark that bs.

Google Diane Ravitch, Stan Karp, Alfie Kohn, John Dewey.



So, let me get this straight....

Teachers unions are necessary but compromise to keep people fed (the farm bill) is wrong? 90% of it is for SNAP benefits. That bill also stopped billions of dollars being sent directly to farmers who didn't deserve it.

Don't you see how hypocritical you are being?

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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby FrankChurch » Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:55 pm

Lori, there are cuts in food stamps, not welfare for rich farmers:

http://www.economist.com/news/united-st ... ion-trough

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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby FrankChurch » Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:58 pm

Alfie was actually on Oprah:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6wwReKUYmw

That video of the kids explains everything that is wrong with global capitalism. Rewards incentivize bad behavior.

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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Robert Nason » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:40 pm

Obviously not all teachers are hacks. I said earlier that most of us can remember one or two wonderful teachers. But as the system is now there's no way to get rid of really horrible teachers, or incentivize (god, I'm even using the language of the bureacrats) the mediocre ones. Wouldn't it be nice if all of us had such lifetime job security? (I can already hear Frank shouting "Yes!" Or do anarchists disapprove of such statism?)

College professors at least have to earn tenure to presumably protect them if they have unpopular political opinions; elementary, middle school, and high school teachers get its equivalent without having to go through any equivalent process, which is long and arduous. In any case, the only political opinons most of them have is to support proposals to give them more money and benefits.

I won't even touch the issue of welfare for wealthy farmers since I know squat about the details.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Moderator » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:57 pm

Robert --
I'm not sure how the school system works in your neck of the woods, but what you describe is hardly the case in California. Teachers can be let go if circumstances warrant it. This whole "substandard employees can't be fired" is absurd. Most of the laws enacted to protect employees were put there as a result of abuses by employers.

Yes, you have to document a history of inadequacy, but there are certainly methods. Getting rid of Administrators is significantly more difficult because there are no independent standards against which to measure their performance. But the whole meme of "can't get rid of bad teachers"? Simply not true and, frankly, quite disingenuous on the part of our society considering the actual pressures on teachers to both perform and try to control kids they have no methods at their disposal to control.

(And I write this with a sister who is a teacher, a sister-in-law who is a retired teacher, and an uncle who was the Dean of Linguistics at two major institutions here in the LA area.)
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Robert Nason » Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:11 pm

Steve, I confess I'm drawing on my knowledge of the New York City school system and a bit on the northern Virginia system where my sister works in administration, plus what I've read and heard over the years. Lately it seems that the one sure-fire way for a teacher to get fired is to gave sexual relations with a student, something that seems to be widespread these days -- unless it's just reprted in more often than it was in the past. And even then it doesn't necessarily result in jail time.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Moderator » Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:19 pm

There's some sort of knee-jerk reaction to the significant challenges facing our schools that relies heavily on blaming the teachers. Yes, there are great examples of bad behavior or people, just as there are in virtually any other line of work. But it's become standard to criticize teachers as a group as being solely responsible for the state of our educational institutions -- when the lack of adequate funding, lack of parental or administrative support, and the crushing size of modern classes are far more to blame. But those would entail spending more money (raising taxes), and any suggestion of that is anathema to certain political groups.

I've done considerable work with Long Beach Unified School District as a telecommunication and technology specialist, and I am often astounded when I sit in a class and see the horrible conditions we expect teachers to excel in. In fact, it is startling to me that anyone would select such a career these days. Society not only doesn't give a damn, but we openly and repeatedly tell them what a worthless lot they are at the same time. And yet these are the same people who spend their own money on supplies the districts won't buy, try to be creative with courses for 30-35 students -- meaning the net effect of any particular educator is completely impersonal -- and dealing with parents who either expect the teacher to be a babysitter, or hold the teacher responsible for making little Tina a genius and constantly harangue the person at the front of the room.

No, I've lost any tolerance for the argument that teachers are bad -- it's us, society, who have let them down and have to be held accountable.

(My sister teaches in Fairfax County, BTW. Not to pick on your sister, I really don't mean to, but our respective siblings sit on opposite sides of the equation I outlined above.)
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Moderator » Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:22 pm

Robert Nason wrote:And even then it doesn't necessarily result in jail time.


Then your issue is with the courts, not with the School Districts, yes? The teacher lost their job, which really is the extent of discipline a district will have in that circumstance. They can participate in a prosecution, but not actually prosecute.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Robert Nason » Sun Feb 09, 2014 6:54 pm

Steve -- clearly something is wrong witducation in America, and there's probably plenty of blame to go around. (I would put the lion's share on the bureacrats, the dumbed-down culture, and the lamentable fact that the kids come from homes where there are absent parents for a variety of reasons.) But I expect progressives who pride themselves on creative solutions, "thinking outside the box," and "shaking up the status quo" to come up with something a bit more imaginative than, yes, throwing more money at the problem. (Reputae studies have shown that there's no correlation between money spent and good teaching results. Spending more money on a flawed program just gives you a more expensive flawed program.)

Speaking of money, my sister is a kind of mix of teacher's assistant and administrative assistant in an elementary school in Fairfax, and I won't say how much she makes a year, but it's a miserable amount by any standard. She was a stay-at-home wife and mom for many years so she doesn't expect to make as much as other people in the school who have more experience and credentials, but even still...

It's entirely possible that our sisters both work at the same school. Wouldn't that be a gas?
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:09 pm

Reputae studies have shown that there's no correlation between money spent and good teaching results. Spending more money on a flawed program just gives you a more expensive flawed program.)

I've seen those studies and most of them assume a base below which they never fall. As Jonathan Kozol points out, if true, just see what kind of reaction you get in a well-funded district when you ask them to slash their budget or share it with a poorer district.

But to be fair, the problem is how the money is spent and, equally important, what kind of community is being addressed. Also, those studies rarely ever take into account the "off the books" money in play---contributions and like. They address budgets. But there are many better-off school districts in which the community itself contributes books, computers, supplies, pays electric bills, hires guest speakers, provides free internet connections, antes up for sports program, does all sorts of things which are not accounted part of a district's actual budget, but which goes directly to the standards of education. There is a world of difference between a school that has all it needs materially and qualified teachers and a school that can't keep its furnace running with 20 year old text books.

It is also true and not oft addressed that a great deal depends on the home environment. The bookstore I work for has an annual program for supplying free books to underserved kids. In 99% of the cases we address, ours is the first book these kids have ever actually owned and get to take home and keep. There is no publicly funded program for that and it is absolutely crucial in making a difference down the road. What goes on in the home is vital, but as an acquaintance of mine who was in education once said to me when I nailed him to the carpet about this said, "What do you want me to do? I can't go into their homes and make sure their parents are letting them read! The only thing I can have any effect on is what goes on in the classroom, so I don't even talk about what I can't control."

Schools have been made whipping boys for politicians and we're paying dearly for it. They get people pissed off and blame the teachers and get votes with promises to do something. And what do they do? Increase our dependence on testing, which is virtually worthless in the long run, but it's VISIBLE. It's a measure, so they can point and blame...or brag. But hell, doing well on tests is proven to mean very little in terms of actual learning. Actual learning doesn't happen on a schedule. You have to just trust that something will come of it and leave it alone...which doesn't do politicians a bit of good on campaign.

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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Moderator » Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:34 pm

Robert Nason wrote: But I expect progressives who pride themselves on creative solutions, "thinking outside the box," and "shaking up the status quo" to come up with something a bit more imaginative than, yes, throwing more money at the problem. (Reputae studies have shown that there's no correlation between money spent and good teaching results. Spending more money on a flawed program just gives you a more expensive flawed program.)

Speaking of money, my sister is a kind of mix of teacher's assistant and administrative assistant in an elementary school in Fairfax, and I won't say how much she makes a year, but it's a miserable amount by any standard. She was a stay-at-home wife and mom for many years so she doesn't expect to make as much as other people in the school who have more experience and credentials, but even still...

It's entirely possible that our sisters both work at the same school. Wouldn't that be a gas?


No question. What a hoot! My sister works at an elementary school in Shouse Village, just off Rt 7.

I would agree with your assessment. It's not simply a matter of more money, it's money spent in the right places. Certainly compensate your teachers and administrators properly. It's embarrassing how little we value them.

Then, spend the money in ways that will produce students who think beyond the next test. Who are creative and intelligent. Who will add to the texture of society and make the country better than it is now.

I don't advocate simply throwing money down a hole. Throw money at enticing great teachers who will challenge our youth and make us better as a whole.

Teach science, not creationism. Let educated administrators create a curriculum free of social demands, of political and religious ideologies. Teach math. Basic math. Science. Linguistics. English. The basics. And teach them well. Teach computer sciences, chemical sciences. Things that will focus our kids and let them dream. Teach the ability to ask questions and not simply parrot answers.

Give teachers leeway to be creative and constructive. Think back to your own "best teachers". I'd go to Vegas with odds they weren't by the book regurgitations of a class. And you weren't one of 35 students vying for attention. They challenged you, they made you better as a result of taking their subject.

That is what we need to pay for.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Robert Nason » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:07 pm

My sister works in a school named after a very famous astronaut.

I wholeheatedly agree with your suggestions of what and how students should be taught. If more money will give us education like that, it will be money well spent. (And yes, "creationism" is a religious, not a scientific, explanation, and has no business being taught in public schools. Not even in the gussied-up version called "intelligent design.")

It may be wildly impractical, but I'm fond of Gore Vidal's notion that children should be taught the entire history of civilization, starting in first grade with the ancient world and working up through the middle ages, the Rensissance, the Enlightenment, and so on, covering all the arts and sciences and history, politics, religions and philosophies of each era. There are obvious flaws with this approach (such as: how do you teach Plato to first or second graders), but it has the advantage of giving every student a reasonably good understanding of the chronology and substance of human achievement, and implicitly discourages national tunnel-vision by showing that great civilizations preceded the birth of the US and others followed as well. I'd like to have had such an education myself.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby David Silver » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:27 pm

Robert, I did something similar in my teaching of high school earth science and biology years ago. I taught those subjects by way of an historical review. It was controversial, and I took some grief from administrators and other teachers. But nobody could deny...the kids GOT it. Put science in an historical perspective, let the students see how the facts we hold true today evolved from the fallacies and misunderstood observations of the past, and it all has more weight and meaning to them. I started teaching different subjects that way when I was an instructor at the California Academy of Sciences long ago. It's all about exploring the grand narrative, making connections, and learning that NO knowledge exists in a vacuum. Unfortunately, the majority of teachers today insist on working in that vacuum...it's called tenure.
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Re: Frank Church's news corner, the sequel.

Postby Robert Nason » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:41 am

David, that same historical approach to teaching science is the one used by Isaac Asimov in his many science books (all of them -- whether the ones for "grades 3-6," young adults, or adults). I had a devil of a time learning science until I discovered Asimov's wonderful books, and I still turn to them (and still struggle as the science evolves and becomes more complex). The traditional method, the one your superiors insisted on, gives you the solution to a long, fascinating mystery story with the story taken out. No wonder kids get bored and confused. Science is one of the greatest detective stories in the world, and if teachers draw students in on the story from the beginning, their imaginations can't help but be stimulated. Most of them, at least. Why can't the people who make the curriculums see that?
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