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So I was in the mood for a rant today... You've been warned...

Based on all my life's experience, all the principles I hold dear, and all my study of human history and development, I am fundamentally opposed to having a standardized education imposed on young people by the government.  It is the most effective tool of the totalitarian state, and all the more pernicious when wielded by the highest levels of government in a democratic society.  I fear that it will continue to erode the underpinnings of the democratic principles the United States was founded on, continuing to teach each successive generation that the powers that be know best and you better get used to that if you want to succeed in life.

Looking back at my own youth, school was the one public institution I was forced to participate in, and like most of my fellow “inmates”, I internalized the diminution of my own unique self in favor of a passive-aggressive acceptance of arbitrary authority.  This got so bad that by my teenage years I had become expert at staying under the radar and exhibiting as few signs of my own imagination and intelligence as possible, for fear of eliciting the wrath of my equally subdued school peers.  (It took me at least a decade after graduation to recover my sense of self-worth and self-direction.)  Later as a parent when I saw the same thing happening to my own kids I was distraught, until my partner Sally and I figured out that we had the power to say no to this coercive institution, and set our kids free to develop by their own initiative.

An institution that mandates what, where, when, how, why and from whom you must learn runs diametrically counter to the values that I believe this country was founded on, and that I have adopted to guide my own life.  Those values revolve around a human community as a circle of equals (rather than a hierarchy of control) based on the inherent uniqueness, worth and dignity of every individual person.  The constant evaluation, judgment, grading and ranking endemic in school was antithetical to all that I held dear.

My extensive study of human history highlights our species' developmental narrative moving from hierarchies of domination and control towards more egalitarian circles of equals.  The great empires that emerged in antiquity were massive exercises by elites to control the majority of people by diminishing them to the roles of subjects, slaves or serfs.  It has taken millennia to try and repudiate and overcome those constricting and exploitive structures.  We need all our institutions today, particularly those that involve the development of our youth, to celebrate the continuing liberation of the human spirit rather than embody to old order of domination and control by arbitrary authority.

I do accept that the American public education system was launched in the early 19th century with the stated goal to be the key developmental engine for a vibrant democratic society.  To do so by giving our young people, including the children of immigrants and the unprivileged, a “common core” of American values.  And I do acknowledge that our public education system has given millions of our kids an opportunity to learn the basic skills to give them a path out of poverty.

But by creating a universal, mandatory school system with a standardized curriculum controlled by the state government, we created a powerful social-engineering tool to be wielded by the politically empowered (and hopefully enlightened) elite.  Horace Mann and the rest of the intellectual and academic elite that championed this sort of education system were arguably enlightened (though also arguably xenophobic about non-Protestant Catholic and Jewish immigrants bringing divisive revolutionary ideologies to their America).  And the business elite that took over the public education system in the early 20th century, replacing purely academic goals with “business efficiency”, did so with general public acceptance.  They changed the governance paradigm of schools from a hierarchy of teachers to the management/labor paradigm of industry, which I believe led to the emergence of teacher labor unions rather than professional organizations in mid century.  

But in either case a small privileged elite was entrusted with an institution with the mandate and the mechanisms to control everyone else's development.  I strongly urge you to ponder this point.  I believe we are naïve if we think our public school system is simply “the people's schools”.  It is instead the “the people's schools... brought to you by your friendly and enlightened elite”.  The same elite among us that arguably brought us the Great Recession.

The elite that continues to set the policy for our public education system (certainly with continuing support from the overwhelming majority of the citizenry it would seem) has created a system that, unsurprisingly I would think, celebrates respect for and compliance with designated authority figures.  It also celebrates acceptance of a world view where human development is a judged competition for the acquisition of approved knowledge where those dubbed “well educated” are the appropriate “winners” and the rest the inevitable “losers”.

Unlike the more libertarian types among conservatives who oppose the existence of any sort of a public school system (favoring universal private or home education), I am a progressive that believes that venues for learning need to be part of the “commons” available to everyone and financed by our taxes.  Like other progressives I believe that even kids lacking economic privilege should have access to educational resources comparable to the more privileged among us.  But unlike most progressives I believe that those public educational resources should be offered without a strict state-mandated agenda for what, where, when, how, why and from whom you must learn.

What I find most frustrating is that the position challenging the fundamental ethics and effectiveness of a standardized mandatory education system does not even appear on the radar of public discussion in the media.  Surveys of public opinion on education don't even ask the questions that would register even a small percentage of support for this position.  There is a small nationwide network of supporters of “education alternatives” beyond standardized schooling that I'm connected to, but rarely do any of our voices break through into the larger education discussion.  (The couple people that I notice breaking through occasionally are Sir Ken Robinson and Alfie Kohn).  Don't know if we are an insignificant fraction of the population or represent a position so counter to consensus reality that it exists in a different sort of space-time continuum.  

And when it comes to education policy in the political process I have no candidate I can support.  Both Obama and Romney appear to believe in teach-to-the-test standardized public education, with Obama perhaps more inclined to improve educational access for the poor and Romney more inclined to support educational options.  As a progressive I'm supporting Obama, but definitely for reasons other than his education position.

So am I a crazy marginalized extremist or part of a small but significant minority of opinion, still mostly invisible?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sounds like you support a voucher system! (5+ / 0-)
    Unlike the more libertarian types among conservatives who oppose the existence of any sort of a public school system (favoring universal private or home education), I am a progressive that believes that venues for learning need to be part of the “commons” available to everyone and financed by our taxes.  Like other progressives I believe that even kids lacking economic privilege should have access to educational resources comparable to the more privileged among us.  But unlike most progressives I believe that those public educational resources should be offered without a strict state-mandated agenda for what, where, when, how, why and from whom you must learn.
    The only combination of freedom-to-learn-as-you-wish and tax-funded education I can think of is vouchers.

    Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:29:29 PM PDT

    •  That's exactly what came to my mind. (0+ / 0-)

      @leftyparent: I think any problem you have with the current state of the school system is more intrinsically an issue with the election system, which is currently overly favorable to plutocracy. Local school boards exist for a reason.

      •  IMO local schoolboards are relics... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rosabw, angelajean, gramofsam1

        of an earlier age when communities actually had control over their own schools.  Now states set curriculum, methodology, standards, evaluation and the school boards work in the margins.

        Do you see it differently?

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:58:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do. I went to school in two counties. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          T Maysle

          Latter half of Elementary School and Middle School were in Prince William County, but I took Martial Arts in Fairfax County and then High School. I maintained friends in both.

          Yes - both counties adhered to the general (low) standards of Virginia. And the schoolboards -really- filled in the blanks. Fairfax has a significant (though not overpowering) liberal lean, while Prince William is the opposite, and that was reflected in the personalities of teachers hired, textbooks chosen, and attitudes towards curriculum.

          Maybe it's different in states with higher basic standards of learning, but I could see the difference in emphases.

          •  I hear what you are saying... (0+ / 0-)

            But to me that sounds like changes on the margins.  What you teach and when is set by the state, not by the school board and most importantly, not be the learner.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 08:37:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I have not seen evidence that vouchers work... (5+ / 0-)

      tho I don't think I would oppose giving vouchers to poor families.  

      My concern really is with the mandated standardization.  IMO regimenting human development leads to a regimented consumerist rather than activist society.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:56:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem with vouchers (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rosabw, T Maysle

        is that if they are made virtually universal, as Ohio's governor Kasich attempted to do before getting slammed by the wealthy school districts that generally support Republicans, is that they are basically the final step in dismantling public education. Universal access to vouchers removes such a large portion of money from public schools that they cannot survive. Then you will have education welfare checks going to private schools for wealthy families who can afford to make up the tuition difference and an explosion of dismal, for-profit warehouses springing up to suck up the voucher money from those who cant afford any more than the amount of the check. And that amount will likely be very low unless citizens are willing to dramatically increase their own taxes, which is unlikely.

        We hear a lot of talk about consolidating services and merging smaller districts to save money. Vouchers are the ultimate inefficient deconsolidation with each child effectively becoming his own school system.

        As a taxpayer, I object to this form of welfare, especially for the non-needy, and would demand a rebate on my taxes — as someone with no children — equal to the amount of the checks. I believe in a strong system of public education accessible to all. I do not believe I should have to pay education welfare for vouchers. No, it is not "your" money to do with as you like — it's subsidized by MY money.

        Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

        by anastasia p on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:57:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed... universal vouchers for private school... (0+ / 0-)

          would give state money to people willing to pay for private school themselves, breaking the budget for education.

          Please appreciate it's just frustrating for me, as a big advocate for alternative schools, that currently most profoundly alternative schools can't be public, because they generally don't pass muster in terms of teaching and testing against a standard curriculum.  As a result they have to be private, and being private, they are only available to economically privileged families.  If there were vouchers, families of more modest means could maybe send their kids to alternative schools, if they felt that venue was better suited to their kids' learning.

          I feel so strongly that our public school system suffers mightily from not offering many educational paths, only the one conventional instructional path.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 08:43:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Schools have changed and are changing. The new (4+ / 0-)

    common core is a good idea because it makes a case for what should be known by all students. If we have these basics, then we can take curriculum of any sort to get there.

    It provides more freedom than ever.

    Of course, in many states, state school boards are choosing texts and creating pacing guides. Those schools are the ones that are indoctrinating students.

    Providing students with things that excite them is imperative. One of the best ways to make them aware of the world. As a debate coach, my students have to be able to defend policies and values across the political spectrum. Knowing both sides, allows students to make their own choices. Too often people who don't want their students in school want them to take their side on political issues.

    •  Standardized curriculum is becoming 90%... (4+ / 0-)

      of what kids learn in school, whether they are interested or inclined or not.  I don't think human development can be so regimented without a huge toll on human development.  I think we are seeing that toll in our materialist, conformist, consumerist society!

      Do you rely on other people to tell you what to do and to provide the excitement in your life or do you seek it yourself?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:01:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No one tells me how to teach. My classroom is my (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley, happymisanthropy

        domain. I have standards to meet, but I can get there anyway I want.

        I teach college classes and my students must meet certain standards by the end of the class. They don't tell me how to teach either.

        Huge regimented curriculum is just not a reality in most educational situations. It might be in Texas and a few other states.

        I know my sons teachers made them think better than i could. My wife and I still were the most important influences, but they made their own choices.

        •  So you drive learning rather than the learner... (0+ / 0-)

          which IMO is the wrong paradigm and slowly destroys the learners innate love of discovery and pursuit of their unfolding as a unique human being.

          I believe that hippie type stuff that we all have a unique gift to give to the world if allowed to unfold at the direction of ones own soul.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 08:46:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mandatory standardized education is progressive! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, Gooserock, boji, FG, Stwriley

    Even when it's run by elites, it's far more progressive in content and consequences than anything most parents would provide on their own.  You may have noticed, Cooper, that you're kind of an outlier among parents!  

    Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:40:46 PM PDT

  •  Freedom to educate your own child if you wish, (4+ / 0-)

    fine. Open enrollment among public schools, fine. But I taught for two summers in Harlem ('68, '69) and I will not abandon those children whose parents are not equipped to homeschool.  

    We could do quite a bit to improve adult education though.



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:47:26 PM PDT

    •  I'm not advocating closing public schools... (4+ / 0-)

      I just don't think we should force all the kids to come and be put thru a lock step state mandated curriculum that mandates what, when, where, why, how and from whom they learn.

      I think so many of us are so caught up in the consensus world view about education that we don't see any alternative to mandatory public school but no schools at all.  What about schools available to all more like libraries, YMCAs or community colleges where you can come and learn what you think is important rather than what some far away bureaucrat thinks is important for you?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:09:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think you understand modern education. At (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        the elementary and middle school, students are taught in small groups at their level most of the time.

        The idea of all students getting the state mandated curriculum is old fashion and not in reality.

        All students need a chance. Public education is the best vehicle to give all Americans an opportunity.

        •  So your students' day is not filled.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean, gramofsam1

          taking mandatory classes assigned to all kids the same age?

          And have you avoided all the scripted learning like Open Court?

          Do you teach at a public school?

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:10:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  but the only alternatives available (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wee Mama

            to public schools with common standards, are online curricula that are LITERALLY scripted.

            I just genetically engineer them, I don't nominate them for President.

            by happymisanthropy on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 07:59:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The online public schools are bound... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              angelajean, FloridaSNMOM

              by the same standardized curriculum whether they are charter or not.  IMO the standardized curriculum kills the great joy of the pursuit of learning because of inspiration from within.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:36:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ok, great (0+ / 0-)

                so glad I gave you that opportunity to repeat the talking points from your diary.

                I just genetically engineer them, I don't nominate them for President.

                by happymisanthropy on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 12:33:23 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Sorry, did not intend to do that!... (0+ / 0-)

                  I imagine both online and classroom curricula can be scripted or not.  I'm sure you are right that there are plenty of online schools that follow scripted learning, but it does not necessarily need to be so.  My daughter took online college writing classes that were very unscripted, but gave her a mentor and a "writers group" of peers to share her novel writing with.  K-12 online classes could be like that as well.  No reason not IMO.

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 08:50:49 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I think you might be surprised (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama, FloridaSNMOM, gramofsam1, boji

              at the number of public school kids who are beginning to learn online.  Each year, especially for "outliers" of gifted education, or those who must make up credits.

              Yes, it is scripted, but you can have an idiot who writes the curricula filled with errors and indoctrination, or you can have a gifted genius whose teaching ability is translated through the web--like Khan Academy, the little cutie that Bill Gates endorses.

              If you starve the middle class, whose gonna pay for your crap?

              by rosabw on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 04:15:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Kids of the same age are not all learning the same (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                leftyparent

                thing, at the same time, at the same pace, or in the same way. In fact, we have 4 different math teachers that are all teaching Algebra a bit differently and comparing success. The age group in Algebra spans 7th graders to 11th graders.

                I teach an advanced English class for Freshman. All of my students entered 9th grade reading at or above the college level. I can't teach them the way I taught my regular English class 10 years ago. In that class, which my son was in, we all did the same thing.

                For tomorrow, we are having a debate over the morality of the actions of Montressor in "Cask of Amontillado." Other students will will present a short story rewriting the story from a different point of view. Others are working on the morality of being forgiven for a murder after 50 years.

                Each of these activities will take time, and it will count more than their quiz over the story. (They all received either an A or a B+ on the quiz.)

                Yet my classroom is limited because I don't have reading groups of 10 or less as these students had in middle school. I am lucky because our middle school Language Arts teaches are the best in the world. The 7th grade teacher is the best writing teacher ever. I get kids excited about learning, and when I was sick this week, they directed the sub correctly.

                I TEACH AT A PUBLIC SCHOOL. ARE ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS LIKE THIS? I DON'T KNOW. I DO KNOW THAT MINE IS. I BET YOURS IS A HELL OF LOT BETTER THAN YOU THINK IT IS. GO WATCH THESE GREAT TEACHERS TEACH.

                •  Appreciate your comment and your service... (0+ / 0-)

                  working with our kids!  And glad to read you are differentiating your class work as much as you can and at least in some instances having multi-age classes.

                  It's been nine years since my daughter did her last year of school in 9th grade.  Most of my input on conventional school now comes from close friends who are public school teachers in Los Angeles.  They are talented teachers in the trenches in a large urban district, tho both I think tend to the "sage on the stage" rather than the "guide on the side" persona.  

                  I would not be surprised if in smaller districts maybe with better funding and less concern about meeting the teach to the test standards there is more differentiated education within the state high-stakes standards.

                  Don't know the particulars off your school and your district.  Maybe you can share!

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 05:45:36 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  In a perfect world . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        where parents all pay attention, and students have access to all sorts of exploratory enrichment activities, and are reasonably equally encouraged at home and at school, what you suggest would be more workable, but even then *students can't fully anticipate what will be important to them later.* We would be doing them a huge injustice by allowing them to forgo math, science, and literature in favor of "fashion trends of the Kardashians" or "Comparative Jerry Springer vs (whatever that bald guy's name is."

        To let students choose only what they like to study would be akin to letting them choose cotton candy instead of broccoli. It wouldn't hurt occasionally, but a steady diet would be catastrophic.

        I'm with you on the need to let each student capitalize on his/her strengths and interests but there has to be a balance between student-driven pursuits and those that are guided by educators who have much more informed insights about what will benefit the students in the future than the students themselves. If we (educators) don't provide that guidance, the students who don't have someone helping them prepare for the future will become yet more disadvantaged.

        •  I bet in the late 1880's or so someone was saying (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FloridaSNMOM, gramofsam1

          "In a perfect world, we'll have public education for all children but until our society can manage it, we'll just have to be happy with what we have."

        •  We can't either. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          T Maysle
          students can't fully anticipate what will be important to them later.
          No one is saying stop teaching the basics, but, not every kid needs to be in college prep either. We are no more able, and I would argue less able to anticipate what will be important to a child later in life. Why shouldn't a child, especially by high school, have more room (at the least) opened up for classes of their own choosing?  

          Why should we decide that a literature class is more important to a student than a shop class for example? That doesn't mean someone who takes shop can't enjoy or enrich themselves with a lit class, but shop, art, music; those are the classes that are falling by the wayside in favor of test prep (which I see as the epitome of mandatory standardized education). And then, at the same time, "we" are telling kids out of college who can't find work that they 'chose the wrong major' because a degree in English just doesn't get you as far in the work place any longer. And at the same time we decry the fact that there aren't enough people qualified to work manufacturing, or the hands on jobs.  What good does a test prep standardized course do an auto mechanic who never got the chance to take Shop in school because they did away with it so they could do more test prep?

          What we see as the future may not be what the student sees, or even the best future for the student. The student (and their parent) is in a much better place to see that future than any teacher or administrator. Yes teachers and admin's should advise and guide, but too many times the student is steam rolled over instead.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 06:22:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Well, here's the problem. (4+ / 0-)

    I sympathize with a lot of what you say, and I do agree that the modern public school system isn't headed in the right direction and is vulnerable in the ways you describe.  But the way it's failing isn't along those lines.  It's failing because pretty much everybody over a certain income is no longer using the public school system.  It's all private/charter/homeschooling, destroying any hope of a common core for US citizens.

    That mandatory public school I attended (in the 70s/80s) is what taught me critical thinking.

    It taught in a SECULAR environment. Religious topics were off limits except for classes of things like comparative philosophy (something that didn't come up much until late in high school).

    There was none of this crap about teaching creationism as a valid scientific "theory".  There was no pushing of one set of religious values over others.  The closest thing to religious indoctrination was the "pledge of allegiance" which was in fact optional (I knew people and had friends that just sat it out, both because they had objections to it and also because, in one case, she felt stupid pledging anything to an inanimate object).

    A frightening percentage of modern adults in America were raised instead in private or homeschooled environments that taught everything through a religious prism.  (My wife spent a couple years in one of these.  When she read about brainwashing techniques in later life, she recognized a number of things they did).

    The relentless defunding of public schools, combined with a lot more emphasis on memorization caused by No Child Left Behind has damaged the institution.   Of course it was always damaged in any district without adequate funding - funding schools locally is just as stupid as privatizing them without any oversight on what is taught inside them.

    If we want citizens that can think outside of a religious box, we need secular, free, public schools, whose curriculum is standard across all school districts nationwide.    I don't have a problem with that curriculum only taking up, say, half the school day so there is room for arts, sports and other electives, which, yes, can include religious or cultural instruction.  (I think it is fine, for example, to allow a Jewish person or interested Gentile to study Hebrew, or Talmudic Law, or a special class on Israel or whatever in a public school if there is enough demand to support an instructor in a given district)

    But there needs to be a place where all American citizens have at least been exposed to the basics of what being an American citizen means.  This should include:

    Proficiency in math through Algebra & Geometry

    Proficiency in the English language, reading and writing, including things like business communication, and these days, effective electronic communication such as blogging, email, texting, twittering, etc.

    Civics courses that explain how the federal government works (more than the single senior course I received).  

    American history (there isn't that much of it, sheesh).  Preferably a history that includes women, people of color, etc.

    At least some World history, again hopefully not entirely Eurocentric.

    Exposure to the scientific method (we had Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but they were all optional)

    I'd also really like to put rhetoric/debate back into the curricula, but with a modern focus. Explicitly teaching people the mechanics of how others are persuaded helps a lot in understanding how advertising affects people, what a hard-sell is doing to your emotions etc.  Most young people graduate with no concept of this and have to be victimized a few times before they learn, unless they study the topics in college (eg, communications major, some kinds of business training).  About the only thing in this line I was taught in public school was to be forced to do a little public speaking and a single debate experiment a history teacher did that wasn't part of the real curriculum.

    Ideally some state-specific stuff too (I got a state history course, but not a state civics course).

    Finally, quite honestly, getting kids used to the idea of showing up to places on-time and doing things different from what they'd prefer is fairly important life training.  Most jobs and pretty much all important services (doctors, lawyers, etc) require you to pay attention to time.

    •  You make the whole case for the standards... (3+ / 0-)

      that I oppose, and I hear your fear of parents choosing different paths. I hear you on that tho respectfully disagree.

      But when you say...

      Finally, quite honestly, getting kids used to the idea of showing up to places on-time and doing things different from what they'd prefer is fairly important life training.
      I cringe.  IMO this is a recipe for a docile, corporatized, consumerist society of purchasing sheep and obedient worker-bees.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:13:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some things you should be on time for (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ConfusedSkyes, Stwriley

        and may involve boring stuff part of the time, even though they are worthwile:

        concerts (as participant or audience)
        plays (as participant or audience)
        movies
        child care (dropping off, picking up kids from events)
        transportation (airplane, train, bus)
        sporting events (as participant or audience)
        restaurants that require reservations
        a date with the attracting sex
        a visit with parents/friends of your significant other
        meetings with co-workers
        most government and volunteering activities (phone banking, door knocking (at the outset), city council meetings, interviews with representative etc)

        The list goes on and on.   Also about 90% of jobs require you to be on time for the interview, on time for the job etc.  For some jobs (eg, when I did security guard work) being late or no-show without arranging to have your shift covered will get you fired faster than damn near anything else.

        And ALL jobs require you to do stuff that you don't enjoy, no matter how good a job it is or how flexible it might be with respect to hours.

        The modern world requires a healthy respect for time, as does any human interaction that is in "real time" (as opposed to emailing, blogging and texting).   The kid needs to learn that somewhere, and to me, a respect for time is part of being a good citizen of the USA.  

        •  Agreed, but self-motivated/directed people... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          reconnected, FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

          IMO make the most highly motivated, there when they need to be workers.  If you are doing a job that you freely chose and you like doing I think you are much easier to work with than if you are doing one you hate because you have to.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:13:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If greblos could see your kids, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean, FloridaSNMOM

            especially your daughter, who wrote a post here, he would see the innate responsibility your children take "in excess".  You can't teach responsibility, it has to be taken on by the individual...Just ask Mittens.

            You can demand it, but it won't stick on an unwilling participant.

            If you starve the middle class, whose gonna pay for your crap?

            by rosabw on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 04:22:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Kids need to learn the importance of time (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          greblos, angelajean

          management. I don't necessarily agree that schools teach that. They expect you to do it instinctively more then they teach it. That's part of the problem kids with ADD/ADHD have, they are expected to just know how to manage time, when they need more instruction on it.
          I have dyscaluculia that wasn't diagnosed until college. Part of my disability is the inability to sense how much time passes, another part is inverting numbers. I have a real problem with time management as a result. Because of how this was  handled in school, between loud buzzing for between classes, which could have been helpful in some instances (except I never learned how to handle this on my own, it was done arbitrarily), and assignments due at proscribed intervals, I became paranoid about time. I set alarms for everything. Cell phones have proven helpful in that, but I used to be chronically late from breaks, or I'd go out to clock in six times thinking I was.  Or I'd panic if I wasn't early, because I couldn't tell if I was going to be late.
          Never once did public school ever teach me how to be 'on time' other than the buzzers between classes, which I relied on during school but did me absolutely NO GOOD any other time.
          So while perhaps for people with a good time sense the current system would help them be 'on time', for the kids that really need it, it doesn't really help with real world skills.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:55:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rosabw

            As with many of my things on my "If I was king of the world I'd make sure schools teach.." list, not everyone can learn the same way.

            Maybe there should be an explicit class for this for those who somehow don't arrive at school equipped with time management skills, and another one for basic social behavior expectations (which could teach something like how to behave in a sit-down restaurant for kids whose families can't take them there, and how to behave with dogs, cats and other commonly encountered animals for people whose families don't have pets or working animals)

            Certainly I could get behind "firearm education" classes taught the same way "driver's education" classes are.

            I'd like the curriculum to reflect the kinds of things people encounter in life, and for kids to have to show they've mastered these skills - regardless of HOW they mastered them.  I'm all for diagnosing conditions that interfere with "typical" learning patterns and providing help early on that front, even whole separate tracks for some disabilities, just as we must do for severe sight or hearing disabilities.

            Bottom line though is that the real world doesn't care about any of that.  We want our kids to graduate able to function in the real world.  That means learning strengths AND weaknesses, playing to the strengths and overcoming weaknesses.

            To do that needs some benchmark for what an adult needs to both know and be able to do.

            And that is where the public school curricula comes in.  

            I don't care HOW all this is taught.  But we are doing an increasingly poor job of it, and I don't see homeschooling as the answer.  Most parents have neither the time, the training or the inclination to be teachers.   I don't see private schools as the answer either.  Too many have agendas, be they "make as much money as possible" or "cram my religion down the throat of the students."

            At least with the public schools, the citizens in theory have some influence over what is taught and how it is taught.  But it is nearly as dysfunctional as our health care system at the moment.

            •  Maybe the best answer (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rosabw, gramofsam1

              is all of the above. Some kids will do best home schooled, some private schooled, some taught in smaller classrooms, some in more 'typical' situations. The point is to open it up, to have more options not less.
              And yes, in some cases home schooling is the answer. Especially when a school district can't or won't do what's best for that child. Unfortunately, "no child left behind" leaves way too many children behind.

              "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

              by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:27:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I think all kids need to leave school learning one (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gramofsam1, FloridaSNMOM

              thing - how to find answers.

              This may sound trite, but when it comes down to it, kids that know how to problem solve. We don't teach much real life problem solving in school - we teach how to choose the correct answer on the multiple choice test and real life doesn't often look like a multiple choice test.

    •  Democracies need skilled voters (0+ / 0-)

      If everyone knew the basics of economics and statistics we would be safer from deceives and tyrants.

  •  I think there is a difference (0+ / 0-)

    between goals and the means of achieving them. I think a lot of people can agree that students should be able to perform up to a set level, that there are certain skills and knowledge that all students need.

    There is more disagreement about how to achieve that level and verify it. There's a whole spectrum of teaching philosophies from very strict and regimented to very free and permissive. I'd like to say let everyone find the schooling style that works best for them, but some places don't have the resources to give everyone that choice. Many people can't homeschool. So what to do when resources are thin and the needs are great?

    •  Agree that many paths is the solution... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, gramofsam1

      But for the most part, except for the economically privileged, most kids today only have the one-size-fits-all instructional school option and not the holistic or democratic/free or homeschool options.  

      If they don't do well with instructional school, then they are screwed.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:17:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most schools have more than one classroom (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock

      per grade. Why can't we match kids to the right teachers: learning style to teaching style? Especially in the elementary grades when kids can either soak up learning like a sponge or be completely turned off from it and give up? We would at least reach a larger percentage of students that way.

      "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

      by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:59:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Having our cake and eating it too? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rosabw
    To do so by giving our young people, including the children of immigrants and the unprivileged, a “common core” of American values.  And I do acknowledge that our public education system has given millions of our kids an opportunity to learn the basic skills to give them a path out of poverty.
    But not just immigrants or the underprivileged - it should be every student. All of them.  Education has fragmented, there is no military draft, and we now have a system where there is no common core.

    I firmly believe we should be doing that, and have ceased doing it in recent decades. That idea of a "common core" can probably be achieved with fewer hours per day, or fewer years of structured education. There could be a standard curriculum of learning objectives to ensure that everybody - of all demographics and socio-economic strata - has a solid foundation in specific aspects - the old 3-Rs of reading, writing, arithmetic; plus some standard  history, civics, science. Teachers should have flexibility in how those standard elements are conveyed in order to deal with individual learning styles.

    Beyond that, through choices of public, private or home schooling ,additional content can be offered. It may be some kids pursuing trades rather than college, some pursuing arts, some being indoctrinated in their families preferred religious or freethinking views.

    "...you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem." Mitt Romney

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:16:50 PM PDT

    •  I firmly believe it is a recipe for a... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      reconnected, FloridaSNMOM

      regimented society for everyone to learn the same thing at the same time at a pace set by the state rather than at ones own pace.  

      IMO true learning is self-directed or it becomes indoctrination instead.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:21:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm an Internationally Known Self Teacher. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        I've worked with thousands of people in my field but never yet after 40 years met a peer who like me learned to work up to ordinary professional standards of our field almost entirely without trained teachers.

        Now, I'm not known for what I can do. As I say it's just very ordinary professional standards. But the kind of knowledge and insights I needed to acquire on the way to become my own teacher, working from a state of ignorance, led me to be able to contribute in other ways, and those insights are what I'm known for.

        If as a kid I had had a teacher trained in teaching my craft, I could have reached my peak level of performance a generation earlier than I did. I've been a teacher of my craft for over 30 years and it's probably around 5 years or more between students who show an appetite and aptitude for structuring their learning process.

        Self teaching is a talent in an of itself like perfect pitch or the ability to see shapes from mathematical equations. It has to be far above average if it's to result in average or above average results in educating one's self out of ignorance.

        Something about what you're advocating doesn't add up.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:36:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Forgive me... I'm not understanding your comment! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gramofsam1

          Most of us adults end up being our own teachers, learning most of what we need to learn outside of any formal educational setting.  Not sure what you mean!

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:02:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  When they send standardized students (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, gramofsam1, rosabw, T Maysle

    into every classroom, then maybe I'll think about standardized education.  Kids are not widgets.  If teachers are not empowered to teach the kids they get, but rather some ideal student, our education will continue to sink, no matter what system we have.  

    I taught for years in parochial schools.  We actually worked pretty closely with the public schools around us.  Some kids just couldn't make it in the large public school setting, so they came to us.  Some kids needed more services than we could ever provide and we sent them to the public schools.  Our secretary knew the secretaries in the public schools by name and they worked together to make transfers either way work for the kids.

    This is not about the "grown-ups."  Any system that isn't first and foremost about the kids, each kid, is a bad system.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:46:35 PM PDT

    •  I think we agree on the idea of many paths... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard, gramofsam1, FloridaSNMOM

      rather than a one-size-fits-all system that IMO fails to give at least half the kids an appropriate educational venue.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:22:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just want kids to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, gramofsam1, rosabw

        get what they need to have a good life.  As I used to tell my students, "Fair is not equal.  Fair is everyone getting what they need."  

        It's a huge challenge to address the needs of each child but I know so many teachers who work long hours to make sure that they do their best, even under the kinds of systems that are evolving now.  I know people who spend 20 hours each weekend to mostly catch up on all the inane paperwork so that they can spend the week teaching and taking care of kids.  

        I was never blessed with children, but I took it as an almost sacred duty to do that for all the kids who came through the door.  They were and are MY kids.

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:38:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You sound like a really good teacher... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          luckylizard, gramofsam1

          that your students are blessed to have.  I would wish you always a classroom full of kids who had chosen you as their teacher instead of perhaps some there against their will.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:48:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Alas, I have retired. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rosabw, FloridaSNMOM, T Maysle

            That is another long story, the essence of which is that I refused to play along with the powers that be.  I'm a rebel and I held out for as long as I could, but there was a point at which I had to leave.

            I do get to see former students often at church.  I'm rewarded with tales of what good things they've done and even get a hug now and then.  I have played for their weddings and tickled their kids.  Parents still call me Miss xxx even though I ask them to use my first name.  I wouldn't trade my years in the classroom for anything.  :-)

            -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

            by luckylizard on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:07:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That is really an outstanding quote. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gramofsam1, FloridaSNMOM, luckylizard
              "Fair is not equal.  Fair is everyone getting what they need."  

              If you starve the middle class, whose gonna pay for your crap?

              by rosabw on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 04:32:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Got that from (0+ / 0-)

                a multi-age education conference several years ago.  I taught in mostly poor schools and some of the kids really did need a LOT of extra attention.  The ones who found things easier would sometimes get their noses out of joint and that quote was just right.  They immediately understood.  Kids are great!

                -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

                by luckylizard on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 07:58:30 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm reading in Ed Week of entire schools... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  FloridaSNMOM, luckylizard

                  shifting their programs to learning at the student's rather than the state's pace.

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:01:01 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I hope so. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    T Maysle

                    It can be a great challenge to do that when there are classrooms full of kids, but it is so rewarding when you see all those little light bulbs go off in their heads.  :-)  It takes a real investment of time and resources and a commitment to following through.  

                    The problem with every educational "reform" movement I've seen is that they don't leave it in place long enough to let it work.  You can't change things every three, four, or five years and expect good results.  Sometimes, the results aren't seen until the kids move on to the next level.  It's hard/impossible for politicians to be that patient.  In the end, I don't think that many of them care much about education, except to use it to get attention during the election cycles.  Otherwise, they see it as some kind of giant sinkhole where the money goes in and there are, at best, only poor ways to measure its effect.

                    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

                    by luckylizard on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 03:38:41 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But I think it is unrealistic fantasy to... (0+ / 0-)

                      set up a system of regimented age-based learning that requires all the lightbulbs to go off at the same time or someone gets left behind.

                      IMO people learn best at their own pace on their own initiative.  Anything else smacks of programming and indoctrination.

                      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                      by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 09:00:38 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  I hope so. n/t (0+ / 0-)

                    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

                    by luckylizard on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 03:40:02 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well, duh! That reply (0+ / 0-)

                      disappeared and I didn't want to type it again, so I just did the short version.  Now, you've got them both.  :-)

                      -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

                      by luckylizard on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 03:41:07 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  Given that you were free to take your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    kids out of school and teach (or not teach) them as you saw fit, I don't see a problem.

    What I don't understand is how the system you envision will work. It seems to me that you're simply asking to fund private schools with tax money. Without any control of how the money is spent. It's basically the Louisiana program.

    •  Why can't we open public schools... (4+ / 0-)

      where kids can come for free and take what classes they want to take at their own pace and mixing a semester in school with a semester doing volunteer work or travelling?  Why does it have to be 13 straight years of instructional education in front of a teacher?  Why can't the learner drive the vehicle of their own development?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:25:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What problem would that solve? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FG

        Very few children are disciplined enough to be responsible for their own education. And, if left to their own devices, what would happen to kids who only go to school because truant officers make them?

        For the handful of kids who can benefit from a less structured environment and whose parents are sufficently involved, there are already ways to create alternative curricula.

        It sounds like you're designing a system for upper-middle class parents who probably have the resources to essentially create it on their own under the status quo.

        •  So are you saying that poor kids need to be... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FloridaSNMOM

          herded in schools against their will and can't make good decisions for themselves in consultation with parents, teachers and other adults that they respect and trust?

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 08:50:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think that's true (7+ / 0-)

          I don't agree that "very few children are disciplined enough to be responsible for their own education."  I think that as a species we are innately driven to learn, or we would quickly die out.  We are curious people who as infants and toddlers learn all the time and accomplish goals.

          I believe that when we are put into formal school and forced to follow the what, where, who, when and why of others, that innate curiosity and drive is killed off in most people. By the time you see what appears to be children not disciplined enough to be responsible it's because they've lost their motivation, their internal compass.  They no longer believe they can be responsible so you think they aren't responsible.

          The kids you see as only going to school because truant officers make them have given up or are actively rebelling because the one size fits all doesn't fit them.

          •  Agreed and well said! (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FloridaSNMOM, rosabw, gramofsam1

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:04:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Perfect comment- I'd love to see you (0+ / 0-)

            write a diary about this.

            And I so agree that the innate curiosity of children is an asset that is being squelched and squandered in our present system.  I've never taught, but I saw it in action when I visited the Head Start and first grade classes my daughter taught in Baltimore.  This was before NCLB, and she had more freedom to follow her natural inclination to nourish that curiosity than she would have today.

            These were kids from challenging circumstances- she had more than a few of the "crack babies" who'd been labeled all but hopeless.  But her kids responded with an enthusiasm that lit up their faces.

            The sad part- by about third grade, those faces looked very different.  They looked bored or pissed or both, and they looked like school was about the last place on earth they would choose to be.  All thanks to a system that had "killed off" what should have been treasured.

          •  Evolutionary inclination for curiosity (0+ / 0-)

            doesn't necessarily translate to a desire for knowledge that is useful in contemporary life.

            Regardless, I'm not inclined to radically change public education based on pop psychology (pop anthropology?) or vague notions about "true" human nature is.

            If you're proposing a radical change, the burden is on you to show that either (1) your proposal is better than the status quo; or (2) the status quo is so profounly broken that there isn't any virtue in even treating it as a benchmark. I don't see either as being the case here.

            •  Disagree, IMO natural curiousity does... (0+ / 0-)

              translate.  Human beings develop best at their own direction and pacing.  To do otherwise moves into the realm of programming and indoctrination!

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Sep 29, 2012 at 09:02:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that having more flexible approach to (0+ / 0-)

        education is a good thing in general. And having school as a mini-Kaplan is a very bad idea. But some standards have to exist. Otherwise we'll have public schools teaching that Jesus rode dinosaurs.

  •  A previous piece I wrote that is germane... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:10:36 PM PDT

  •  The fundamental issue to the standardized (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    T Maysle

    education is federal funding. If we look at the history of federal funding into local public schools systems, we'd see that the majority of educational mandates originate from the federal government. If there is going to be a public education system it must be divided into local regions where cities have the autonomy to make decision. This way citizens of that city will have more control over what they want their children to learn.

    I wrote a short blog with a similar idea; A One Size Fits All Prescription.

    I must say I love the way you presented your thoughts.

    -Bryant

    •  My take on ed history is that the states... (0+ / 0-)

      have controlled education policy and funding.  The federal government's intervention into education is a recent thing with the establishment of the dept of ed in the 1970s.

      States still control education in their jurisdiction, but now with federal mandates tied to federal additional funding.  But a state has the option to say no to federal support and go it alone, like what CA is considering doing.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 11:38:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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