Regardless of the opinions of others or what the US media says, the facts clearly prove US public schools are not broken and most public school teachers are succeeding at the job they were hired to do, which is teaching American children each state’s mandated academic curriculum to prepare for college with more success than any country on Earth.
If anything is missing, it is vocational training (more on this later) as it exists in many other countries—something missing in American public education.
However, that is not the fault of the teachers or the teacher unions. That is the fault of politicians due to the political nature of public education in the United States and standards-based education reform.
In fact, education reform in the United States since the 1980s has been largely driven by the setting of academic standards for what students should know and be able to do.
Standards-based education reform in the US started with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983. Then in 1989, an education summit involving all fifty state governors and President George H. W. Bush (Republican) resulted in the adoption of national education goals for the year 2000.
For this reason, every public school teacher in America should boycott the classroom as the next school year starts in August/September of 2012, demand respect and the truth about the achievements in public education in the United States before returning to the classroom to teach.
It is time for Americans to stop using public school teachers as scapegoats to cover up the truth that if there is any failure, it belongs to Presidents George H. W. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush; Obama, and the 1996 National Educational Summit where 44 governors and 50 corporate CEO’s set the academic priorities of public education.
millions of jobs unfilled due to the lack of vocational training in the US public schools
Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s inner circle in the Nazi Party, once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will come to believe it.”
The big lie I’m talking about is what I keep reading and hearing about the US public schools being broken and that teachers and the teacher unions are at fault.
You see, it all depends on how the facts are presented and what is left out.
The critics of public education have a loud voice and use language that shows the glass half empty instead of 90% full, which is more accurate. Once all the facts of high-school graduation rates or its alternatives are known, the perception changes dramatically.
To learn the truth, one must start more than a century in the past and chart the progress.
Continued on September 2, 2012 in Not Broken! – Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.
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September 4, 2012 at 07:50
Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse.
September 4, 2012 at 08:36
Hi. You seem like a stellar educator with an unbroken spirit (so many teachers experience a broken spirit after being hurt by uncaring parents and students). Thank you for your service to our country and for your indomitable attitude.
If only all teachers could be like you. In the the Southeast US, my experience is that I have watched students in different schools (through my experience as a parent, and through my sister, who is a parent advocate for public school parents) cheat their way through most difficult classes. Cheating is so common, that students freely admit their methods to each other and to parents, even. And so, there is something wrong here. The standards may be higher and there may appear to be progress, but if we look underneath the veil, what is there is not so pretty.
I feel like apologizing for this comment, because you seem so great with a can-do attitude and we need more people like you in the world.
September 4, 2012 at 16:15
“cheating” I recently read about a HUGE cheating scandal at Harvard. In fact, I wrote about cheating last year on another Blog I write. Here are a few pull quotes from that post.
ABC News/Primetime published “A Crisis in America’s Schools — How It’s Done and Why It’s Happening“. “…according to a 2002 confidential survey of 12,000 high school students, 74 percent admitted cheating on an examination at least once in the past year…. Lifting papers off the Internet is one of the newer trends in plagiarism — and technology is giving students even more ways to cheat nowadays.”
Then there’s “High-Tech Cheating in College” about cheating at MIT, California Polytechnic State University at San Louis Obispo, and Stanford University. “Many colleges offer no comprehensive approach to minor academic cheating (the exceptions are institutions with honor codes, though few have them according Tracy Mitrano, Cornell University’s director of information-technology policy.”
Yes, cheating is common. It probably always has been. For example, it seems almost every contractor we hire to work on our house (it was a fixer upper when we bought it) cheated us in some way before the job was done and that probably explains why I’ve done most of that sort of work in my spare time through the years. I do not respect cheaters. Cheat me once and that person would never work for me again.
In addition, in the business world, the US Chamber of commerce estimates that theft by employees costs American companies $20 to $40 billion a year. I see stealing from the company one works for the same as cheating. I’m sure that someone that steals from an employer was also someone that cheated on schoolwork.
When I was teaching, I knew about cheating so I only had one exam at the end of each semester and made five different versions of that exam. When I passed it out, I made sure no one had anyone sitting close to them that had the same version of that exam and they knew it. It was also an open book exam and my students were given a detailed study guide two weeks before the final exam to help them know what was going to be on the test. The study guide told them the stories that would be covered in the exam so they could read them again. The resulting grades said few students ever took advantage of that study guide.
As part of the final exam, I also provided an extra-credit essay with five prompts to choose from. Mostly the students that already had A’s and didn’t need the extra credit essay wrote one. Maybe three to five students wrote an essay, after finishing the final exam, out of an average class of 34. Most of the failing students and those earning D’s seldom tried.
My grades were based heavily on classwork (lots of essays) and participation, then homework (mostly grammar and language mechanics) and last that final exam that was worth only 10% of the grade. It was possible in my class with challenging extra credit assignments, I never made them easy, that a student could fail the final exam and still earn an A in my class from the homework and classwork.
One of the most valuable homework grades was a monthly book report and everyone had to read a different book each month. If two students selected the same book, the last one to choose that book had to read another one. And the book report was challenging. It required students to prove what the theme was, describe what kind of person each character was through the conflicts the characters faced and the report forced students to use critical thinking to identify the use of a few other literary elements authors use. I spent the first month of each school year teaching all of those literary elements. It is possible that some student may have copied a report written from another school year, but in the end, I kept them all. The grade wasn’t final for the book reports until a student returned the report to me after I let them to take a graded copy home if parents wanted to see it. I kept those reports in a box and didn’t get rid of them until the next school year started.
In fact, there was no way to fail that book report because after I corrected it the first time (I spent about a hundred hours a week when correcting work at home was added in), I handed the book report back and the students could do it again to fix the weak spots or take the first grade and not work on it again. It was all their choice and if parents asked, I told them about it. There was no limit to the number of times a student could take a graded ten page (the average length) book report home and work on it again to improve the grade. The cut off date was one week before the end of each semester so I had time to correct the rewrites. Few took advantage of that offer. One student did her first book report over twelve times to raise it from a low FAILING grade to an A+ and kept coming in at lunch and after school to learn. Sorry to say, that was the only one out of the six thousand or so students I taught that worked that hard. After that, she always turned in an A+ book report for every book she read and wrote a report on.
In addition, while students were working on classwork, I was always on the move around the classroom and seldom sat at my desk. My eyes were on my students and they knew it wasn’t worth cheating.
September 4, 2012 at 16:26
Obviously your heart is in your profession and you genuinely care about your students, as well as setting high standards and allowing students the chance to experience real success.
Recent times show overall apathetic students who just want to enjoy life and see little joy in learning. Recently, my sister told me about a school in California (although I don’t recall the name) that has different learning activities going on in the classroom and does not require any student to participate in a learning activity unless he or she wants to do so. There is also a “social corner” available for students who choose to “goof off” with no consequence, since apparently grades were not issued. Surprisingly, very few students chose to visit the social corner and instead became engaged in various learning activities offered in the classroom. What does it mean? I found this story fascinating.
Thank you for such a thorough reply. You are obviously an extraordinary educator.
September 4, 2012 at 16:37
I retired from teaching in 2005 so let me correct this sentence: “You
arewere obviously an extraordinary educator.”
I know this much. If for some reason, the CalSTRS retirement fund went bankrupt and I lost my retirement, I’d rather strap bombs on and volunteer to blow myself up in Afghanistan taking some Taliban with me so my family would have food to eat and shelter I will never teach another American child or teen again. Before you interpret that the wrong way, I will say that every class I taught had a few great students that were worth teaching and working with, but the vast majority were apathetic and the few troublemakers supported by many useless or nasty parents caused me to celebrate when I left that job by taking a big hammer to a small alarm clock as a symbol of my freedom from a stressful and frustrating job that was slowly killing me.
Every teacher in America should walk off the job until they are respected and supported by most parents and most students agree to cooperate by doing the work and reading daily.
September 4, 2012 at 17:10
Hi again. I can project in my mind the disgust, disappointment, and frustration you must feel about this subject.
Of course I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know when I say that in a perfect world, both teachers and students would be mutually respected and teaching and learning would be a joint effort.
I add that if a student does not want to learn, then he or she should not go to school. It is a waste of time and money to do so. Perhaps if the student is stripped of his or her privilege to learn, he or she may feel differently about attending school, and realize that learning is indeed a privilege, not a forced concept in our society (I qualify this statement not to include special needs children, which is a different arena).
The bottom line is that we as a society do not have the courage to tell our kids that learning is their choice. We can’t get these words our of our mouths: “you don’t want to learn? Then don’t go to school.”
The reason why we lack the courage to take this radical step? Because we want to be “good examples”, we want “pretty statistics” compared to other countries, we want to be perceived as “leading global educators”. What we don’t realize is that the child him or herself has to have the basic desire to learn. In my opinion, it’s that simple.
And so, perhaps we are both radical thinkers on this subject. This has been an amazing discussion. Thank you for engaging me on the topic. ~S
September 5, 2012 at 08:21
“Perhaps if the student is stripped of his or her privilege to learn, he or she may feel differently about attending school, and realize that learning is indeed a privilege, not a forced concept in our society (I qualify this statement not to include special needs children, which is a different arena).”
I agree. However, I’ve thought about this for decades, I would create the following educational system: Students must earn the right to stay in an academic setting designed to lead to college by earning C’s or better in all subjects after the age of fourteen. The public schools would be mandatory until age 14 and the focus would be on reading, writing, math and basic history of the US with an emphasis on reading and writing in all classes and subjects. Students that do not qualify for the academic track at age 14 would be offered a vocational track with classes and internships in industry that fills a local need. Of course, this would mean that in some areas the vocational classes offered would be different from other locations in the country. In addition, if there were no blue collar-jobs in an area, fifteen year olds would be offered vouchers to relocate to another area in the country with labor shortages in certain blue-collar skills and attend school there living in a dormitory setting eating in a cafeteria with a basic but healthy diet that could be oatmeal, brown rice and beans with a slice of bread and water. Deserts and luxury foods would not be offered in this setting. If anyone wants to buy luxury foods, they would have to go into the community and shop on their own without any vouchers or food stamps.
In fact, after the age of fourteen, all schooling, vocational or academic, would be voluntary and be based on merit so students would have to compete for the openings in both programs. For students that do not want to continue any schooling after the age of fifteen, the military could offer them a job fighting America’s wars. Both programs would only offers the number of openings that fit the needs of the future. For example, if a city projects the need for 100 accountants, the academic track would offer enough seats in those classes for one hundred students and the arts would all be in private sector education where students would compete for grants and scholarships among other talented dreamers. Only the best would earn the grants and scholarships. If parents could afford to pay full tuition for a dreamer that wants to be the next great super model or singer or painter or actor, then the parents pay to fill an art school seat where there would be no quotas based on needs. Merit and competition would be the foundation of this educational system. There would be no free rides that are not earned one way or the other.
Then we change the voting laws. No one votes unless they have a vocational/academic high school degree and/or a job and demonstrate the ability to read seventh grade level or higher.
In other words, schooling after the age of fourteen is voluntary and must be earned in a competitive environment and full citizenship is granted to those that stay to graduate with the exception of drop outs (reading at seventh grade or above) that find jobs and pay taxes. Paying taxes should be one criterion for voting. Of course, once someone retired after working 35 or more years they would have earned the right to be a full citizen and pay a lower tax if retirement money falls below a certain level. Partial citizens would be required to pay a higher tax for the privilege of living in America even if they are living with parents that are full citizens that support them to live at home and not work the parent pays that tax for raising a dead beat.
September 6, 2012 at 22:36
You have been a part of the educational system for decades and I respect your thoughts and points made, even if my opinion differs in some areas. I like your point about the need to strengthen vocational training. We need to restore respect to those who choose to become craftsman and craftswomen in their field. The art of craftsmanship is becoming extinct and there is a real opportunity to revive trade skill development, including apprenticeships, through the encouragement and support of the educational system.
And obviously, my comments were directed towards older students…I’m still in awe of the school that makes learning optional and how students’ lives were transformed scholastically and performance-wise, when they made a conscious choice to learn.
September 7, 2012 at 07:58
Motivated students that want to learn, that love to learn are awesome.
Every class I taught had a few and I reminded myself of that fact every day as I arrived on campus early each morning usually two or more hours before classes started. Even if there was only one or two in a class, I was there for them and of course continuing the struggle to add to their numbers by attempting to motivate others to enjoy learning.
However, it isn’t easy to motivate someone to read that hates reading because he or she grew up in a house where no one reads. Try to get a child or teen to drink water when they hate it and love sugary sodas or eat broccoli when they want ice cream, candy and cookies.
I’m all for optional learning after children become young adults. Once the hormones hit, it should be the individuals choice to leave to join the work place struggle for a job, enter a vocational training program or follow an academic track toward college.