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Tag Archives: American teachers

The perfect parent; the perfect teacher = no such thing

PHD in Parenting.com says, “The perfect parent is a myth. That person does not exist. We all make choices as parents, some free choices and some forced choices. Sometimes we are able to do what is best for our children and sometimes we are not.”

If parents cannot be perfect all of the time or even some of the time, then why does the United States expect perfection from its public school teachers?

Probably because films like the Blackboard Jungle, Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, The Miracle Worker, and The Great Debaters—for examplemay have created an unrealistic expectation that every teacher should be perfect.

There are about 3.2 million public school teachers in the US. Many of them are parents too. They work in almost 100,000 public schools—more than 67 thousand elementary schools; more than 24 thousand secondary schools, and about 6 thousand combined schools in addition to 1,296 other types of public schools.

Those 3.2 million teachers work with more than 55 million students in13,809 different school districts spread out among 50 states and territories.

Expecting 3.2 million public school teachers to be perfect while working with 55 million imperfect children coming from imperfect homes and imperfect parents is an imperfect expectation.

Does every soldier that goes to war earn a Medal of Honor?

Have you ever worked in a large company where every employee was perfect every day, every moment—even the bosses?

Yet many Americans seem to expect teachers to be extraordinary.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Ellie Herman said, “Yes, we need to get rid of bad teachers.  But we can’t demand that teachers be excellent in conditions that preclude excellence.”

I recommend you click on the above link and read what Ellie had to say about the students she taught. I taught for thirty years and could have said about the same thing.

Discover The Self-Esteem Train Wreck

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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Not Broken! – Part 5/5

You may want to skip this page if you prefer opinions without facts used as support (this is known as hot air or natural gas).  I tend to support my opinions, some say, with too many facts (what I consider to be six cups of coffee).

There are more comparisons we should look at, and the first is comparing literacy in America with its northern and southern neighbors in addition to the top-ten countries with the highest reported high-school graduation rates.

In fact, there is another measurement that may be more meaningful than a country’s reported high school graduation rate. That measurement is functional illiteracy.

The United States and many other countries claim high literacy rates because the definition of literacy says, “The adult literacy rate is the percentage of people age 15 and above who can, with understanding, read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life.”

However, functional illiteracy means that reading and writing skills are inadequate “to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.”

Functional illiteracy is contrasted with illiteracy in the strict sense, meaning the inability to read or write simple sentences in any language.

For example, my older brother, (died age 64 in 1999) graduated from high school in the United States in 1953 and was considered literate due to the definition of literacy, because he could write and read at a second grade level.  However, he was functionally illiterate and never read a newspaper, magazine or book in his life. In fact, he could not fill out an employment application.

Now, let’s cast serious doubt on comparing high school graduation rates in America with other countries.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report, the United Kingdom, that reported the highest secondary (high school) graduation rate in the world, has 21.8% of its adult population age 16 – 65 considered functionally illiterate.

Switzerland, in second place for high school graduation rates has a functional illiteracy rate among adults of 15.9%.

Norway, in third place, has a 7.9% functional illiteracy rate among adults.

I could find no information on functional illiteracy in South Korea, fourth place, and Japan, fifth place.

Italy, in sixth place for high school graduation rates, has a functional illiteracy rate of 46% among adults

Seventh place Ireland has a 22.6% functional illiteracy rate.

Eighth place Germany has a functional illiteracy rate is 14.4%

Ninth place Finland’s functional illiteracy rate is 10.4%

Tenth place Denmark’s functional illiteracy rate is 9.6%

America’s functional illiteracy rate was reported as 20% among adults.

However, for a better comparison with a similar culture that has similar values and similar problems, I looked north to Canada and discovered that among adults aged 16 to 65, about 42 per cent scored below Level 3 in prose literacy, which is considered the threshold needed for coping in society. Source: Vivele Canada

In addition, the CBC reported on Canada’s shame, saying that nearly 15 percent of Canadians can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels such as on an Aspirin bottle and an additional 27% can’t figure out simple information like the warnings on a hazardous materials sheet.

For further proof that comparing high-school graduation rates between countries as a way to judge America’s public education system was and is wrong, in 2009, Canada’s high school graduation rate was reported as 78% but the country has a functionally illiterate adult population ages 16 – 65 of forty-two percent (more than twice that of the United States). Even comparing literacy rates is not a fair comparison between countries, for example, because in Finland most parents teach his or her child/children to read before they start school at age seven showing us that culture has a lot to do with literacy too.

However, in America studies show that 80% of parents never attend a parent-teacher conference.

What about Mexico—just south of the US.  According to Mexico’s 2010 census 93.7% of Mexican males aged 15 and older were literate compared to only 91.1% of females, but what about functional illiteracy?  Mexico comes close to Canada with 43.2% of its adult population aged 16 – 65 functionally illiterate as my brother was.

Compared to America’s closest neighbors, the public-education system in the US is doing a fantastic job. Is there room for improvement? Of course, but the overall evidence shows that America’s public schools do not deserve to be condemned as broken. Instead, the facts say that most of America’s public school teachers are doing the job they were hired to do while it is politicians that are telling them what to teach.

Another factor to consider is High School graduation rates by race/ethnicity in the United States

For the 2007-08 school year, 91.4% of Asian/Pacific Islanders graduated from high school (156,687); 81% of Whites (1,853,476); 64.2% of American Indian/Alaska Native (31.707); 63.5% of Hispanic (443,238), and 61.5% of Blacks (415,111). Source: U.S. Department of Education

Most schools have all five races/ethnicities represented in the same classrooms (the schools I taught in for thirty years did) with the same teachers. However, when the numbers are averaged, critics of public education blame the teachers.

When averaged, the graduation rate in 2008 was 74.9%, which makes the public schools seem to be earning a C while they are earning an A- for the Asian/Pacific Islanders and a B- for Whites.

Really? How can the same teacher be so successful with Asian/Pacific Islanders and Whites and not with the other ethnic groups?

This is the advise I told our daughter when she was in grade school: “The only excuse to fail and not learn in school is when students do not pay attention, ask questions, read, do homework, class work, etc.  There is no excuse. Even if the teacher is incompetent, a motivated student will still learn.” And she did.

In addition, the graduation rates increase when the GED is included with traditional high-school degrees. In 2009, the completion rates of 18-through 24-year-olds was: 88.3% white, 87.1% black, and 76.8% Hispanic. Source: U.S. Department of Education

If an Asian or White student is successful with a teacher, why can’t the Hispanic or Black student have the same success with the same teacher?  After all, the teacher is responsible to teach and the student is responsible to learn (or has this been forgotten).  If the teacher wasn’t doing his or her job, then the Asians and Whites should have graduation rates similar to Hispanics and Blacks.

Return to Not Broken! – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Not Broken! – Part 4/5

In conclusion, when do we see these types of global education comparisons from the media or critics of public education?

Never!

The reason for that NEVER answer is because four US presidents (two democrats and two republicans) along with forty-four US governors and 50 CEOs made a huge mistake starting in the 1980s when they left out vocational training as part of educational reform.

Instead of admitting the mistake, politicians and many Americans continue to use teachers and teacher unions as the scapegoat claiming that public education is broken. If you need proof, today, America has a high unemployment rate at the same time that millions of high-skilled, high-paying blue-collar jobs that do not require a college education but do require skilled vocational training go unfilled.

Recommendation: The US should seriously consider starting vocational programs, similar to Europe, that leads to graduation from its secondary schools—this means two programs that result in high-school graduation: academic and vocational. In my opinion, it is ridiculous to treat every student as if he or she is college material.


Mike Rowe testifies before the US Senate about the need for people that can fill jobs that require skilled trades. He is the host of a TV show called Dirty Jobs about the hard work done by tradesmen and skilled workers.

All we need to do is look at information from the US Census to see the truth.

In the United States by age 24, almost 90% of young adults have a high-school degree or its equivalent, a GED.

However, only 30.44% (72.56 million) of those young adults went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree, and of those that earned a BA degree, 7.94% (18.95 million) earned a Master’s degree and 3% (7.2 million) a Doctorate or professional degree.

In addition, according to the US Census, 76% of the population is age 19 or older. That means 165.7 million (70%) adult Americans did not move from the high school academic program to a college academic program.

Many of these adults may have benefited from a vocational program leading to high-school graduation and a high skilled, high paying blue-collar job, and unemployment in America today would be much lower while the economy would benefit from more Americans working, consuming and paying taxes.

Instead, those that did not go to college were tossed into the world of work, most with only an academic high-school degree, and no guidance or support from the public education system that was designed by Washington D.C.

Continued on September 5, 2012 in Not Broken! – Part 5 or return to Part 3

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Not Broken! – Part 3/5

Because the United States does not offer vocational programs in its public high schools, comparing US graduations rates to that of other countries that offer vocational training toward secondary high school graduation is not a fair and/or equal comparison. If we remove the vocational programs in other countries then we are comparing apples to apples instead of apples to cucumbers, and we end up with a more realistic rating of the top ten countries with the United Kingdom removed from the list.


Skilled Labor Shortage – high unemployment and a labor shortage at the same time

In North America, there is far less of a tradition in the public schools of vocational education of any sort, but in the UK and EU, there are vocational programs. However, there is a difference: “The UK requires much less general education and permits all training to take place on employers’ premises, whereas in other countries attendance at college or apprenticeship centers is the rule.” Source: education.gov.uk

The graduation rates of 17/18 year olds of the top ten countries compared for academics not vocational programs:

1. United States = 75.5%

2. Japan = 72%

3. Ireland = 70%

4. South Korea = 66%

5. Norway = 60%

6. Denmark = 55%

7. Finland = 48%

8. Germany = 39%

9. Italy = 35%

10. Switzerland = 30%

In addition, there are 193 countries represented in the UN, putting the United States high-school academic graduation rate (age 17/18) number one of all the nations that are members of the UN.

In addition, the US has the third-largest population on the Earth, and due to population size, it seems fair to compare the US to other countries with large populations.

1. China = 1.347 billion (According to data from China’s Ministry of Education, China has a 99% (160 million) attendance rate for primary school. However, about 63% finished Senior Middle School and 45% complete Vocational School of 15 – 18 yr olds)

2. India = 1.21 billion (49% of females participate in secondary schools compared to 59% of males)

3. United States = 314.2 million (75.5% completed secondary education by 18 yrs of age. However, by gender, more than 90% of girls complete high school or its equivalent, while only 85% of boys do. In the US, high school focuses primarily on the social and academic and does not offer a vocational program toward graduation.

4. Indonesia = 237.6 million (29% complete general education programs and 17% complete vocational training)

5. Brazil = 192.4 million (65% complete general education programs and 9% complete vocational training)

6. Pakistan = 180.5 million (20% of females participate in the secondary schools compared to 35% of males)

7. Nigeria = 166.6 million (43% of females participate in secondary schools compared to 45% of males)

8. Bangladesh = 152.5 million (43% of females participate in secondary schools compared to 40% of males)

9. Russia = 143.1 million (53% complete general education programs and 41% complete vocational training)

10. Japan = 112.3 million (72% complete general education programs and 23% complete vocational training)

Primary Source: unicef.org

Continued on September 4, 2012 in Not Broken! – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Not Broken! – Part 1/5

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

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 2/2

The documentary, “Waiting for Superman”, on the other hand, argued that non-unionized charter schools would do a better job, and the public schools were failing the nation due to teacher unions protecting incompetent teachers.

However, according to Dona Goldstein writing for Slate, “Only 17 percent of charters are consistently better than traditional public schools at raising students’ math and reading scores.”

In fact, it helps to know who funded “Waiting for Superman” and the small fortune that promoted the film.

To discover that answer, Alan Singer, writing for Huffington Post, says, “The real question for me is where the money came from to make the pseudo-documentary and who is paying to promote a movie that no one apparently wants to see. The answer, of course, is from “Big Bill” Gates and a gaggle of hedge fund investors who smell mega-profits if government financed private for profit McSchools are allowed to muscle in on public school dollars.

“The film is executive produced and financed by Participant Media, which was founded by former eBayist Jeffrey Skoll.

“Participant Media’s current CEO is Jim Berk. When Berk was Chairman and CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corporation, he was responsible for the formation of a private company operating for-profit schools…

“The Denver-based Charter School Growth Fund, a nonprofit venture capital fund, recently announced it had secured $80 million in initial commitments with big donations coming from among others the Walton Family Foundation. Wal-Mart is also a big supporter of the Waiting for “Superman” social action campaign and seems primed to provide us with Wal-Mart Academies modeled on big box stores that destroy communities and small businesses, drive down wages, and provide us with endless quantities of junk.”


– a Conversation on “Waiting for Superman” held at Stanford University –

In addition, Dana Goldstein, writing for The Nation, says, “Here’s what you don’t see in “Waiting for Superman”:

“You don’t see teen moms, households without an adult English speaker or headed by a drug addict, or any of the millions of children who never have a chance to enter a charter school lottery (or get help with their homework or a nice breakfast) because adults simply aren’t engaged in their education. These children, of course, are often the ones who are most difficult to educate, and the ones neighborhood public schools can’t turn away.”

“You also don’t learn that in the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are—gasp!—unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and healthcare, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results at school.”

Note from Blog host: America’s public school teachers are expected to create miracles as if they have super powers by overcoming many almost impossible obstacles and when they don’t, they are often crucified by public education’s enemies and critics.

I know what I am talking about because I worked as a public school teacher in Southern California for thirty years and my average work week was sixty to hundred hours a week and the challenges that I faced daily were daunting to say the least.

What is a teacher to do when parents do not supervise homework at home or provide reading time?  In fact, over the years, I heard parents tell their child that if the child didn’t want to do the work the teacher assigned, they didn’t have to.

Conspiracy theories abound but in the case of America’s schools, the war being waged on teachers and their unions and the accusations that the reason the average America’s school child is mediocre is the fault of incompetent teachers that cannot be fired has all the earmarks of a conspiracy of dunces based on lies and myths that have no foundation in truth/facts.

Where is the evidence that there are so many failing teachers that it is the reason America’s students are not measuring up?  There is none.  Although there are incompetent teachers in the public schools (I knew a few – less than 5 out of hundreds), there are not enough of them.

Return to The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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