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Teachers - Will We Ever Learn OR Dumbest Opinion Piece Ever?


NYTimes-Will We Ever Learn  

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  1. 1. What do you think of the NY Times Article "Will We Ever Learn?"

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In a recent NY Times Op-Ed article, Harvard Professor Jal Mehta asserts that "America's overall performance in K-12 education remains stubbornly mediocre."  Mehta also notes that "by international standards, our teachers are underperforming, regardless ... of training."


Mehta proposes a change in the structure of our educational system, de-emphasizing accountability by individual instructors and focusing efforts on "building a body of knowledge, carefully trained people in that knowledge," and emphasizing a strong licensing system.  He emphasizes that top countries pull teachers from their top college graduates, whose education is oftentimes government supported (and that these governments have much stronger welfare states).


Education activist Diane Ravitch disagrees in her column "One of the Dumbest NY Times' Opinion Pieces Ever," in which she questions Mehta's statement that our educational system "remains stubbornly mediocre."


"The rest of the article is an effort to shift the blame to teachers for what he claims is mediocrity." -- Diane Ravitch


An engineering professor I am acquainted with sent me an e-mail about the articles.  In her note she states "I am observing worse and worse preparation in Math and English over the last 20 years of my teaching... Students are not even interested in being good at math. They find it as a nuisance, whereas international students take it as challenge to solve complicated math problems."



What are your thoughts on these articles, the current state of STEM education in America and elsewhere, and what do you feels should be the correct focus?

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My personal opinion, which in no way reflects any personal or professional affiliations with any institutions other than myself:

  1. I would love to see the concept of "forever tenure" dissolve.  As I told my principal the day I started, and I tell my supervisor each and every year, "the moment you think I'm no longer worth my salary, please tell me, and you'll have my resignation letter on your desk for the following school year."  I firmly believe that should be the standard, not the exception.  Teachers are paid way too little when they start, and, in general, too much after 35+ years of service.  Instead, pay me what you think I'm worth each and every year, and if at any time we disagree on that number, we're both free to walk.
  2. We need to get the federal government out of public education.  This giant push toward national standards is doing a tremendous job of dumbing down what we teach, breaking systems that aren't broken, and costing taxpayers millions of dollars that could be better put to use improving what we do with their kids each and every day.  I see this effort, in general, as a major shift putting money into the hands of large publishers and testing companies, and taking away the freedom of teachers to work with their kids to pursue their kids' interests.  The more time you give me that's free of government mandates, the more opportunities I have to instill a passion for learning and achievement in your kids by personalizing our classroom activities to their needs.
  3. Outside this article, I feel one of the biggest problems in public education currently is the push to evaluate teachers and schools based on graduation rates.  The only thing this is doing is forcing schools to find ways to lower standards and expectations to "help" students pass classes and obtain their diplomas.  The answer isn't adjusting expectations.  It's maintaining high expectations, and starting at an early age and maintaining consistently the understanding that academic achievement leads to higher probabilities for success in life.  You want that big house on the hill and a nice car?  Take the tougher classes, work hard, go into the STEM disciplines.  You don't want to do your homework or do what you're asked in class?  There are consequences.
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