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Friday, October 17, 2014

The big education debate in Florida. Really? Can any candidate think about education at all?



In general, when I hear that politicians are discussing education, I am wildly skeptical. I live in Florida where there is a gubernatorial contest going on and the word education keeps coming up. I would love to see a debate about education, so I checked into what the Miami Herald was saying about this education ”debate.”
Here is the headline and a link to the article:
Reviewing the record of Charlie Crist, Gov. Rick Scott on education
Here are some lines from this article followed by my comments:
Education has been one of the most divisive topics in this year’s contest. 
Wow! Education is a divisive topic. Good to hear it. Who is against Common Core? Who is against standardized testing? Which one is for not grading teachers by how well their students do on tests? Which one is for letting students out of the standard curriculum in order to pursue their own passions?  Who is against pushing everyone to go to college?  Who wants to allowing training in actual job related areas to take place? Who thinks algebra is a waste of time? Who thinks the 1892 curriculum ought to be abandoned?

Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida have defended his record on education while bashing the record of his rival, Democratic front-runner and former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Who has something they want to say about educational change and not about how they are right?
Most of the attacks and claims about education have related to funding — and they have covered the gamut from preschool through college.
Funding? Really? The issue is how much money goes into a school so that they can buy newer textbooks? Or helping get more money for sports teams? Or repairing buildings? The schools are broken, I know, but funding is not the issue. It costs nothing to get rid of the FCATs. In fact $300 million a year is spent just on grading the FCATs. Get rid of the FCATs. There, I just found money for education.
Crist often says that per-pupil funding for K-12 students was higher under his watch. During a July interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Crist said that despite the state’s current surplus, Scott “still hasn’t matched what I did during the recession for per-pupil funding for kids. In fact, he’s about $200 less.”
Wow. Terrific Mr Crist. what did that $200 go towards?
During his announcement speech in St. Petersburg last year, Crist said, “I am proud of my record as the governor investing in public education, and stopping the layoffs of some 20,000 school teachers during the global economic meltdown.”
In Florida, the stimulus dollars affected about 19,000 full-time equivalent jobs for instructional personnel, which included teachers as well as guidance counselors, librarians and audio-visual workers.
Without stimulus dollars, there could have been massive layoffs, though it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise number of teachers. While Crist was a huge stimulus fan, the real credit goes to Congress and Obama. 
I am that happy you may or may not saved some teachers jobs. 
Meanwhile Scott’s campaign in a TV ad blamed Crist for “3,000 teachers laid off.”The number was derived from media reports about possible layoffs, not actual layoffs. Crist and the Republican-led Legislature signed off on budget cuts amid a national recession — and no single politician is responsible for that economic meltdown. Clearly some teachers were laid off, but the ad didn’t prove the actual number and put too much blame on Crist.  
So this is the big issue according to the Miami Herald: someone might or might not have saved some teachers jobs and someone may or may not be telling the truth. This is the big education issue in Florida.
No, folks. The big education issue is whether the schools will continue to be awful in exactly the way they have always been awful.
Here are two quotes to think about:
young men grow up such blockheads in the schools, because they neither see nor hear one single thing connected with the usual circumstances of everyday life

That was written by Gaius Petronius, in the Satyricon.  (2000 years ago more or less)
Over a 1000 years later, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote this:

Our teachers never stop talking, as if they were pouring water into a funnel. Our task is only to repeat what they tell us. Teachers need to stop doing this and instead begin to have the student try to do things, choose among options, make decisions for themselves, and let them find their own way. Schools want to take different students who have different ways of thinking and make them take the same courses and tests. It is no wonder that most children really learn nothing from this experience. I wish that actors or dancers could teach us to do what they do, simply by performing before us, without us moving from our seats. I wish that we could be taught to cook, or to play the piano, or learn to sing, without practicing at it. School wants to teach us to judge well and speak well without having us practice either speaking or judging.

Could someone who wants to be governor think about making school more relevant to real life, more likely to help people get actual jobs, and less of teachers talking, and testing, with more doing? These ideas have been around for a long time Mr Crist and Mr Scott. Could you stop arguing about nonsense and actually talk about education -- maybe for just an hour?

The schools you are arguing about are boring and irrelevant. Ask any kid.

1 comment:

Paul Miller said...

Yes, another school shooting. Nice Roger says nothing but at some point schools might need to look withing rather than blame the lone nut job.