ADPRIMA - since 1997

Education information for new and future teachers

"No mental tool honed by human intellect, curiosity and experience
 can long resist  being dulled by simple ignorance or stupidity."

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CHTHONICA

The German philosopher Schiller in a work entitled "The Miad of Orleans" (1801) remarked, "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."  Interestingly, that phrase became the source of a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov.  However, in my wanderings and musings, it led me to formulate an attempt at a corollary that appears below.  It seems to hold some watrer in the year 2014. 

There is little to be said for mere stupidity, except that it seems to be in ascendance lately. Here is an expression I constructed that expresses the idea:

"No mental tool honed by human intellect,  curiosity and experience can long resist being dulled by simple ignorance or stupidity."  R. J. Kizlik, September 2013

What should be learned?  When it should be learned? How we are to know it has been learned? Who is responsible for the actual learning? How is learning facilitated?  What arrangements and systems are best suited for these purposes? What is the appropriate role of government in education? How do online college programs  fit into the new and traditional systems for delivering higher education? Are charter schools really the answer to the persistent problems of public school education? All of these questions are fundamental.  How we answer them have grave implications for this increasingly important and visible part of the culture. There is no paucity of opinion on these topics.

There is so much information produced by government, commissions, special interest groups, academicians, and school systems themselves, that one may question whether  the status and effectiveness of  formal education in the United States  are even remotely knowable or understandable.  Perhaps, but from children killing other children and their teachers, to lack of respect of students for their schools and teachers, to allegations of rampant waste and a "dumbed down" curriculum in both the K-12 and college systems, the societal function of education is under fire. Many would argue rightfully so. Adding to all of this is an army of  education "experts" and "consultants" who often advocate solutions to education problems that sooner or later  become sources of future problems.  Somehow the skills, knowledge, and will necessary to actually improve the system are lost in a sea of recycled fads and meaningless jargon. We have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff and keeping the wheat. Vouchers, charter schools, and the growing home schooling movement add to the already bewildering milieu. "Facts" shift daily, and the interpretation of the information that rains down upon us all is colored by political, philosophical, personal, and yes, even religious agendas. What are we to believe? In whom are we to trust? Are U.S. schools doing better or worse now than a few decades ago? Can the system actually be improved? What is improvement anyhow?  Beyond that are questions about priorities and who determines what these priorities are, what the costs of attaining them are.

Recently, it was revealed to me by an impeccable source that a university with which I have deep ties and experience, in at least one of its departments, will implement a policy that professors and other teaching staff such as instructors may not fail more than 10% of their students. This is madness of the first order, but not surprising given that over 40% of incoming freshmen in state universities take at least one remedial course.  It is coming to pass that a thick percentage of college students are taking a lot of high school level courses during their first two years.  A perfect exemplar of Chthonica.

I often wonder, in times of reflection on a long career as an educator if those who make the big decisions about curriculum, staffing, organization, policy and yes funding, have actually learned anything from the experiences of the past 50 years.  My gut feeling is not really.  Have these people no shame in simply declaring the latest "research" proves one thing works so much better than what it is intended to replace?  To a large extent, every educational research study could end with the simple declarative sentence, "It all depends." And therein lies the rub.

It is now approaching the end  of 2013. The economic crisis in which the world is immersed is improving in some countries and becoming worse in others.  Perhaps really hard choices will have to be made about "value," especially in our education expenditures. In my rather long career, I saw unfathomable waste of money, due to the way institutions are funded, and the entrenched systems that perpetuate the resistance to change and economy. Of course, when tax supported education had a seemingly endless source of funding, everything was on the table. Now, even the table is in jeopardy.  Read on.

Personally, I am among many who are quite skeptical of education reform efforts.  Experience can be instructive, sometimes uplifting, and other times chthonic to say the least.  In my career in education I have seen "reform" ideas come and go, and then like Lazarus, rise from the dead to be reborn under different, often more "catchy" names. Other reform ideas remind me of the Frankenstein monster - "programs" cobbled together from the dead, unworkable parts of other failed ideas. And on and on the cycle goes. In education, there is plethora of  information but a paucity of knowledge. The problem is, we in education often treat mere information as if it were knowledge, with predictable, often disastrous results.

The idea of the relationship between the supply of a service or product and its price and demand has always interested me. For centuries economists have sought to explain this dynamic relationship, giving rise to a variety of schools of thought and models that claim to predict what will happen when one of the variables changes.  There are the so-called "supply side" enthusiasts, proponents of  Arthur Laffler inventor of  the "Laffer Curve."  They ushered in their ideas with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  It really didn't work very well, but millions of people were convinced it was the right  track.  This is just a little background to say a few things about vouchers and the charter school movement.  Point one: quality education services (meaning excellent teachers, good curricula, and concomitant facilities) are not in abundant supply.  Repeat,  they are not in abundant supply.  The notion of giving "poor kids" or  kids from poorly performing schools a voucher that they can take to some  other (read private or religious) school ) and thereby get a quality education is crazy. Just think for a moment about it and you have to see that point.

Charter schools are something of a derivative of the voucher idea, except in this case, the voucher is given to a private corporation to operate one or more schools. The voucher is based on the same funding formula as public schools. From first hand experience, I know that on the average, charter schools pay teachers anywhere from 30 to 60 percent less than the public school rate.  Although the jury is still out  on whether charter school student performance on standardized academic tests is better, worse or the same as that of public school students, the fact remains that this movement will surely gain ground in the coming years, simply because its proponents are, in the words of  the late Eric Hoffer "true believers."

This is a risky page.  It is also a serious page. Many, including some of my former colleagues, will not like it. Too bad.  Here you will find links to other sites that present  different, sometimes even dark and contrary viewpoints. Thinking is required here, as well it should be. The sites  listed below are not  "Smiley Face" mentality sites. God knows, there are enough of them already.  They are, however,  sites that contain information that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff and keep the wheat. There is, you know, a lot of chaff out there.

Unschooling.com  This site includes a lot of information and links about not sending children to public schools, or for that matter any schools . While I think this is a bad, bad idea, I include it here for you to read and make up your own mind.

Who Should Teach?  Quality Counts 2000 This is a special report from Education Week. Funded by the Pew Foundation, you'll find this an excellent summary of how well we educate teachers in all 50 states. Something of an eye-opener.

The Grandfather Education Report This is a thought provoking place, with some of the best information about education available anywhere.

The Society for a Return to Academic Standards  College faculty concerned with the erosion of academic standards share their thoughts, anecdotes, and remedies.

Nothing Matters  Unique, to say the least. It's about knowledge, and is an interesting example of "web weaving."

National Center for Education Information  A thought provoking site for serious minds. A different slant on the "teacher shortage."

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation  Want information about education that is not homogenized, pasteurized, or otherwise dumbed down? Go there. The site also contains reviews of state education standards.

The Kossor Education Newsletter  This is different, and certainly challenges all of us to think differently about education.

CNS News A great source of articles, opinions, and commentary about everything from school vouchers to home schooling.

Coalition of Essential Schools  A serious place. The "less is more" philosophy is explained.  Go there and find out what this means.

The National Center for Policy Analysis   Different, and disturbing, this site features a wealth of information on topics ranging from teacher preparation to standardized testing.

Generation Y Wants to Like, Teach  You get the idea.

Times Change  A rather somber look at what incoming American college students know and don't know about their own history and culture.

Paolo Freire Information Read about this radical pedagogist. His ideas and insights will challenge you. Some have called him "the most profound education thinker of the 20th century."

Bad Science I couldn't resist this one. A cornucopia of science misconceptions from a variety of sources, some of them quite surprising.

"Anything not understood in more than one way is not understood at all."

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Robert Kizlik & Associates

Boca Raton, Florida