Case study: How state legislatures and school administrators damage schools, the students they serve, and America

May 17, 2011

The bruises from my broken nose are fading — two black eyes eventually resulted — but the smarting remains.  Especially I’m smarting because we have been unable to move either of the students to places where they can be helped, and get educated.

But I don’t think that colors my view that this example, from JD 2718, demonstrates how much damage unthinking legislatures and administrators can do to a school, to students who attend the school, and our entire education system, quickly, and probably without recourse.  Nor is there much hope for recovery:

Superintendent threatens principal for offering teacher tenure

A good teacher, one we need to have in the classroom, was offered tenure as promised.

President Reagan’s Commission on Excellence in Education wrote about a “rising tide of mediocrity” in education.  They said that our students’ achievement levels were in trouble, and that it was our own fault.  Had a foreign nation done that damage to U.S. education, they wrote, we might consider it an act of war.

And so it is that the war continues on American education, a war conducted by home grown . . . administrators, and state legislators.

We have met the enemy, Pogo said, and he is us.


Why not treat kindergarteners like college students?

November 18, 2007

Vouchers in Utah have the wooden stake right in the heart. That’s one proposal in one state. More voucher proposals are promised, and the debate continues.

Voucher advocates generally make a plea that colleges have something akin to school vouchers with Pell Grants (Basic Education Opportunity Grants), Stafford Grants, the GI Bill and other federal programs, plus many state programs, which give money to a student to use at a college of the student’s choice.

Why won’t this work for kindergartners, 8th graders and 10th graders? the voucher advocates ask.

The short answer is that we regard college students as adults. Beyond that are several other differences between elementary schools and colleges that we should, perhaps, explore.

Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas has a couple of posts that provide some insights to the issues. In the first one, “We Have Vouchers for Higher Education,” the question is raised about why not let elementary students operate like veterans, and take their government money where they choose to.

In the second, “Vouchers Are About Choice, Not Quality,” we get a glimpse of real life — parents fighting to keep open their neighborhood school, despite there being better performing schools available to take their kids.

We might want to compare systems, at least briefly.

Read the rest of this entry »


Carnival Catsup, back to school packet

September 6, 2007

No, the spell checker doesn’t do titles.

How long since we noted the Carnival of Education? Too long.

Education Carnival without a number at Dr. Homeslice
Education Carnival 131 at Education in Texas

Education Carnival 132 at Education Matters US!
Education Carnival 133 at The Red Pencil
Education Carnival 134 at MatthewTAbor.com
Education Carnival 135 at The Education Wonks

That’s about 200 blog posts whose titles you really ought to peruse, at least.

Welcome back to the chalkboard, eh?


Another intelligent design advocate denied tenure

May 14, 2007

News out of Ames, Iowa, is that intelligent design advocate, physicist and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, was denied tenure at Iowa State University.

Advocates of intelligent design will argue this as evidence of a bias against counter ideas, part of a massive, monolithic conspiracy to hide the truth about intelligent design. Gonzalez will be more circumspect, at least until his appeal of the tenure denial is finished.

Another friend of intelligent design, Dr. Francis Beckwith, a philosopher, was originally denied tenure at Baylor last year. His appeal was successful, however, and he now has tenure at Baylor, though he is moving from the Institute for Church State Relations to the philosophy department. Beckwith also made a splash in conservative evangelical news recently when he made public his return to the Catholic church.

I can’t speak for Iowa State, but it has been my experience that professors who get tangled up in crank science projects get distracted from the work that will get them tenure. While faculty certainly have free speech rights to advocate causes, much of the backing for intelligent design is sub-standard academically, or even bogus.  Such advocacy does not help a case for tenure.

Advocates argue that Gonzalez has more than enough publications to meet the standards set by Iowa State, but the numbers do not account for how many of the publications may be in suspect journals that support intelligent design, nor do they account for the publicity an ardent ID advocate brings to a department which is often unwanted. Faculty at Iowa State collected 120 signatures on a petition disowning intelligent design, in what they billed was an attempt to convince the outside world that Iowa State is not “an intelligent design school.”

ID advocates frequently miss the point that science is not a game of racking up publication points, and that the quality and accuracy of the research also plays an important role in tenure decisions.

Wailing and gnashing, and perhaps rending of garments, from the ID group should begin any moment now.


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