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Tag Archives: Education

Let’s reverse “Those who can’t, teach”

There’s an old proverb that disparages teachers. It goes like this: “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.” It means that people who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.

I’ve worked in both worlds—the private sector and the public, and I can assure you that old proverb is wrong and anyone who disagrees with me, well, those will be fighting words.

I started at fifteen washing dishes in a coffee shop nights and weekends thirty hours a week for three years while I went to school days until the day the mean boss told three of us that we had to stay later than usual and do someone else’s job who didn’t show up for work, and he wasn’t going to pay us. All three of us quit. If I had done as told, I probably could’ve stayed working in restaurant jobs for the rest of my life. In that job, when I clocked out, I never took work home.

A few weeks later, I joined the U.S. Marines and went to boot camp after graduating from high school. I fought in Vietnam where snipers came close to taking me out more than once, and I decided I didn’t want to make a career out of the Marines. I could have. After all, I survived three years and earned an honorable discharge. I did bring PTSD home and still have it.

My third act was going to college on the GI Bill, and while in college, I worked a series of part-time jobs and I didn’t consider any of them jobs I’d want to work for a lifetime.

For instance, I worked on a crew that cleaned a new Sears store before it opened. In the morning, I clocked in and worked my eight hours and then clocked out. There was no stress, no challenges, and I didn’t take any work home.

In my next job, I walked door to door sixteen hours a day, seven days a week as a Fuller Brush Man where I was told three months later—after more than a thousand hours of work—that I had sold more product than anyone else in the region. I quit, because all I earned for all the door to door walking and sore feet was four hundred dollars—that wasn’t enough for even one month’s rent.

Next job, I bagged groceries in a super market for two years, and I never took any work home. It was an easy job and the people I worked for were good people. The manager of the store was also a nice guy.

After the market job, I stocked shelves and dressed manikins for window displays at a J.C. Penny, and I never took any work home. The store manager was also okay as a boss.

Then I worked one summer near Fresno at a Gallo Winery in a seasonal job during the grape crushing season and before summer ended I was offered a full-time job that came with health benefits and decent pay, but I turned it down, because I wanted to finish college. I also never took any work home while I worked for Gallo. When I clocked out, the work ended.

After graduating from college with a BA in journalism, I landed a job in middle management in a large trucking company. After several years of repetitive paperwork and long hours sitting at a desk in a glass walled office, I quit and went back to college to earn a teaching credential. While working that job, I never took any work home, and my boss was a decent guy to work for. He was fair and kind. From there, in 1975, I returned to college and earned a teaching credential.

In the early 1980s, while teaching days at a tough intermediate school, I worked for a few years at night and on weekends for a fancy nightclub/restaurant called the Red Onion in West Covina, California. At the time, there were several Red Onions in Southern California. The one where I worked had three dining rooms—one with a glass ceiling and a few full-sized palm trees—on one side of the lobby. On the other side was a three-bar nightclub that held a thousand drinkers and dancers. After a few months, I was promoted to the maître d position and put in charge of the front desk. Then the owner of the chain, who drove a white Rolls Royce, offered me a job in management, but I said no and stayed in the classroom as a teacher. The only thing I took home from that job was a few women I met at the night club and dated, and I have no complaints about that. All the managers I worked for were all decent, kind, hard working men.

When I compare all of the jobs I worked in my life, the toughest and most challenging job was teaching where I often worked sixty to one hundred hours a week. Twenty-five to thirty hours a week was teaching and the rest of the sixty to one hundred hours was planning lessons, making phone calls to parents, paperwork (grades, etc.), and correcting student work.

In fact, I took work home during the school year almost every night and weekend often working until I was too tired to keep going.

When I retired from teaching in 2005, I decided that if for any reason I ever had to go back to work, I’d rather be an old  U.S. Marine fighting in a war zone like Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, to avoid teaching again, I’d be willing to volunteer and strap on explosives and blow myself up along with a group of al Qaeda or Taliban terrorists before I’d go back in the classroom to be demeaned and abused by students, parents, administrators and our nation’s elected leaders, who make all the decisions for the public schools but accept none of the blame for anything that goes wrong and doesn’t work. Teachers are rarely part of the decision process. They are just the scapegoats for fools who say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.”

I know the public schools are not broken. The crises in public education has been manufactured by a bunch of unscrupulous fake education reformers who are mostly interested in how much money they can steal from tax payers with the approval of the Obama White House.

To find out what it’s like to be a public school teacher in the United States, I suggest that you read my memoir, Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé. You see, I kept a daily journal in 1994-95 for one of the thirty years I was a teacher and captured that job in detail. The other option is to actually go teach in a school similar to the one where I taught.

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The Golden Age of Education in America is Today

The United States has never had a Golden Age of Education unless it is happening today, but the media and politicians with political/religious agendas—without exception—misrepresent the truth.  The art of deception is based on picking the facts you want the public to hear, and what’s left out of the message is what leads people to believe something that is false.

For example, the Smithsonian Magazine reported on July 30, 2013 that No, You’re Probably Not Smarter Than a 1912-Era 8th Grader. I wanted to read this piece when it first came out but didn’t get a chance until August 8th.

The piece goes into detail showing the sort of questions 8th graders were expected to know in 1912. What the Smithsonian does not mention is how many children were attending 8th grade in 1912 compared to today.

In 1912, 61.3% of 5-to-19-year-old whites were enrolled in school and less than 10% would graduate from high school. That percentage was even lower for Blacks and other races.

There is a huge difference between less than 10% of children motivated to learn who have supporting parents and the ninety percent of children who did not.

In fact, in 1918, every state required children to only complete elementary school.  And a movement in 1920 to extend compulsory education to 12th grade failed and would not be revived until after World War II.

WiseGeek.org says, “Prior to the passing of compulsory school attendance laws, education was primarily localized and available only to the wealthy, and it often included religious teachings. …

“By the 1950s, compulsory education had become well established, but the K-12 education system was really still in its infancy. Schools were still primarily localized, but education was no longer available only to the wealthy. Even in the 1950s, however, segregation by race was still common practice in public schools in the US.

“Then in 1954, in the US Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.”

The Smithsonian piece is misleading because in 1912, students attending school were there because their parents believed in the value of an education, and sending children to school was still a luxury for most Americans who could not afford to send a child to school or felt an education was a waste of time.

Back then, many poor parents even sold their children as young as age five into servitude in the coal mines or factories—those children never had a chance to go to school. In some industrial cities, half the workforce was made up of children, who were much cheaper to employ and easier to manage than teenagers or adults. In some states it was also legal for parents to sell children into prostitution.

How bad was it? For example, in 1916, President Wilson pushed the Keating-Owen Act through Congress barring interstate commerce of goods produced by child labor, but a conservative U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1918 that this law was unconstitutional because it infringed on states’ rights and denied children the freedom to contract to work. Source: Scholastic.com [recommended reading]

And in 1912, there was no parent-driven self-esteem movement that values dreams, having fun and feeling good over working hard to earn an education. There was also no TV, no video games, and no cell phones. A lot has changed in the last century.

I also compared the high school graduation rate for 17/18 year olds in 1912 with today. According to A Hundred Years Ago.com, “only 20% of youth attended high school in 1911 and less than 10% graduated.”

Today, even most high school dropouts are better educated than 90% of Americans in 1912. Since 1968, the US high school graduation rate has fluctuated in the 70% range and it has never been higher in the history of this country. In 2012, Wisconsin had the highest rate at 90% with Vermont a close 89.6%.

In 2012, The Washington Post reported, “Researchers found that graduation rates vary by race, with 91.8 percent of Asian students, 82 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of Hispanics and 63.5 percent of blacks graduating on time.”

If you are interested in the graduation rate of each state, click Governing.com, and you will discover that even the state with the lowest graduation rate today beats 1912 by a wide margin.

Do not be fooled again, because politicians, the media and critics of public education will keep telling us that the public education system in America is failing, but now you know the truth. It’s not perfect but it has never been better and it is still evolving—for better or worse.

Discover Educating Children is a Partnership

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Mapping Dropouts Around the World

Mapping-Dropouts-Around-the-World-800

This info-graphic is Courtesy of Online Colleges.net

Discover more about about this topic in Not Broken

 
 

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What makes Education Toxic?

A comment left for a postNC Teacher: “I quit”—on Diane Ravitche’s blog made a good point, and I posted a reply:

I think you have made a great point or at least inadvertently focused a spotlight on an important issue and why it is there.  Turnover in a school or school district may be a red flag—a strong warning sign— that the school board/administration/students are not the easiest to work with or work for [another word would be dysfunctional ].

This could be extended to an entire state since each state has its own department of education that decides policy in that state as directed by the elected politicians from the governor of a state on down. Due to a need to gain votes, religious and/or political agendas tend to rule in such organizations and the winds may shift at any time.

For example, I friend sent me this about the current situation in the high school in Southern California where he now teaches.

I was a public school teacher from 1975 – 2005 and we worked together before dysfunctional administration at our high school and in our school district drove him to quit and find a job in another district that at the time was a better place to work.

But beware of the grass is greener over there syndrome because a drought will kill the green grass leaving behind sweltering heat and dust.

During my thirty years in the classroom, I worked under nine-different principals. Some were great, some good and some horrible.

The horrible ones drove teachers, counselors and VPs out of the schools where they ruled Nazi style and turnover could reach as high as fifty percent in a few years.

Good principals, who are usually a sign of good administration and a sensible school board, tend to hold on to staff.

I mean, how many people quit jobs—any job—with a boss that knows what he or she is doing; a boss that supports his workers in the best possible ways to make the work environment a place where we want to spend twenty to forty years of our lives?

My friend said of this school year (2012 – 2013):

“112 scheduling changes in the first three weeks (the classes he teaches)

“75% of the administrative team is new; a lot of chaos

“50% of the counselors are new; a lot of chaos

“We lost our department chairs, so there is no communication between the teachers and administration

[This high school, he says] “once had a top-notch academic program; however, we are falling apart at the seams; our test scores have flat-lined and they will continue to flat-line because there are just too many new faces at our school; two of our Vice Principals have never been a VP before; they’re nice people, but we have to wade through their learning curve.”

For another example: at the high school where I taught for the last sixteen of the thirty years I was in the classroom as a teacher, we had one new teacher quit at lunch on his first day on the job with two more classes to teach after lunch. During the lunch break, he walked in the principal’s office, tossed his room keys on the desk and said, “If they won’t show some respect for me and attempt to learn, then I refuse to teach them.”

I know from experience, that district did not do a good job creating a positive, supportive educational environment for its teachers because I worked in that district for thirty years. Instead, it was more of a combative environment that did not offer the support teachers wanted or needed to teach.

It is a fact that teachers teach and students learn. However, that is not always the case. Instead, teachers in a toxic educational environment often struggle to teach while too many students make no effort to learn.

Elected School Boards and the administrators they hire should support an environment where teachers may teach and students will learn, and we can learn from two of the best public educations system in the world: Finland and Singapore.

In Finland, the teachers have a strong union and the teachers make the decisions in a supportive educational environment and it works. Parents start teaching children how to read at age three but the first year of school is at age seven.

In Singapore, merit rules. Students must compete academically to earn where they are tracked and the system is heavily tracked based on performance. There is no self-esteem driven educational environment; there is corporal punishment and students may be publicly beat with a bamboo cane if caught breaking strict-rules built to support a merit based education system.

Why can’t we in the United States learn from Finland and Singapore?

Discover What is the Matter with [American] Parents these Days?

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

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Focusing too much on the gods of football, baseball and basketball

I agree with a post I read at the quiet voice that there is too much of an emphasis in America’s public schools on sports and not enough focus on academics. But is that the fault of the public schools or the fault of the parents and the English speaking culture?

There is a vast difference between the US public education system and other countries such as Finland, China and Singapore. Because of those differences, to be fair, we cannot compare the results of US students with those countries unless we separate the genetically modified chaff from the organic grain and also compare apples to apples.

As a public high school teacher in California for thirty years (1975 – 2005), I taught four periods of English and one period of journalism for several years in addition to being the advisor of the student run high-school newspaper. One year, my journalism students were invited to write a series of pieces for a European magazine called “Easy Speakeasy“, headquartered in France.  “Easy Speakeasy” expressed interested in the sports programs in US schools because we were told that these programs did not exist in France and other European countries. Sports in Europe were mostly outside of the public schools sort of like Pop Warner Football in the US.

Pop Warner was founded in 1929, continues to grow and serves as the only youth football, cheerleading & dance organization that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate. Pop Warner’s commitment to academics is what separates the program from other youth sports around the world. In fact, studies show that kids involved in sports that require them to maintain their academic grades above a 2.0 GPA graduate in higher numbers than students that do not participate in sports.  Europe has programs similar to Pop Warner and I understand this is the only place students in Europe may participate in organized sports because these programs do not exist in European schools. In Europe and most countries, the focus in the public schools is academic and vocational—no sports, drama or music programs as in the US.

I can only guess that “Easy Speakeasy’s” editors invited my journalism students to write for their European publication because the high-school newspaper I was adviser for had won international recognition several years in a row from Quill and Scroll out of the University of Iowa.

In the English classes I taught there was a lot of chaff and only a little grain but in that journalism class, I taught the organic cream of our high school—students willing to be at school as early as six in the morning and stay as late as eleven at night to produce the high school newspaper—while many of my English students did not bring textbooks to class, do class work or even consider doing homework. Instead, there were students in my English classes that waged an endless war against academics disrupting the educational environment as often as possible.

Who do we blame for this educational environment in the United States?

Quill and Scroll offers academic scholarships. There is another organization called JEA (the Journalism Education Association) that also awards academic scholarships related to writing/academics. I know this because one of my journalism students earned a JEA scholarship. I required my journalism students to compete at the regional, state and national level in JEA academic writing competitions.

In addition, in most of the world there are two tracks in high school:  academic and vocational and students in those countries may graduate from high school either with a degree earned in the academic or vocational. For that reason, comparing graduation rates in the US with other countries does not count because in the US we only graduate through academic programs but still graduate a higher ratio of students through the academic track than any other country on earth.

Then there are children in the United States that cannot read and are functionally illiterate. When we compare the US to all other English speaking countries, the rate of functionally illiterate children is about the same telling us that this is more a product of a culture that does not value learning and reading as much as countries such as Finland where the majority of parents start teaching his or her children how to read at home by age three so those children can already read when they start school at age seven.

But in the US, many parents leave it up to the schools to start teaching children to read at age five or six and only those children that were taught by his or her parents start out on track and move ahead.

Then there is the fact that the US may be the only country on the planet that mandates children stay in school, no matter what, until age sixteen to eighteen.  In China, for example, there are about 150 million children in the grade schools but only about 10 million that remain in high school at age 15.

When the International PISA test is given in countries around the world, that test is given to a random sample of fifteen year old students. That means in the US, because almost every fifteen-year old is still in school, America’s students are being compared to the very best in countries such as China where students that are not the best academically have left the system by the time the PISA people show up.

However, when we filter out the chaff and leave only our most proficient students—for example: the journalism students that I taught—and compare them to the most proficient students of other countries, this being apples to apples, the US students beat every country in the world in every academic area tested. You will never hear these facts from the critics of public education in the US.

Discover The Legacy of the British Empire on Literacy

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

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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A Teachable Moment with “Gifted Hands”

If you are a teacher or a serious parent more concerned about his or her child’s future as a working adult than a child having fun and/or being entertained all of the time, then this may be a teachable moment.

But first, 43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy lived below the poverty line, as opposed to 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy.

In addition, in 2010, the unemployment rate for adults that did not have a high school diploma was almost 16%. However, for adults with a Bachelors degree or higher (that means a college education), that unemployed rate was 5%.

In addition, since 1992, the unemployment rate for workers with a BA or better averaged 3.31%, but for high school dropouts the average was 8.84%. The lowest unemployment rate for college graduates was in 2001 at 1.5%, but it was 6% for high school dropouts the same year.

After I bought a copy of “Gifted Hands” at Costco recently, we watched the Ben Carson story. It was a film based on the life of a real person and the mother that made a difference in his life. Not once in the film was it suggested that it was the responsibility of any of Carson’s teachers to turn off the TV in Carson’s home and for his mother to tell him he had to visit the library and read books instead of watching TV.

In fact, the teachable moment may be to watch the film “Gifted Hands” (the entire film is embedded—second video—in this post and it has Spanish subtitles), then discuss who and what made the difference in Ben Carson’s life. Then have the child write a one page essay about what he or she learned about the importance of reading instead of watching TV.

Ben Carson’s mother had a third grade education and she got married at age 14 to later discover that her husband was a bigamist. For me, the teachable moment was when Carson’s mother turned off the TV and told her two sons that they were going to check books out of the library, read them, and then write a report of each book to be read out loud to the mother. She could not read but she could listen.

 
Ben Carson: An extraordinary Life – Conversations from Penn State

In the previous embedded video, at 6:32 minutes, Carson says once he started doing a lot of reading, he stopped hating poverty and realized that he didn’t have to stay in that lifestyle.  He could change his life to anything he wanted it to be by working for it.

Note: I love using the word WORK to describe what we do as adults to earn money legally.

In one scene, Carson is being given an award for being the top student in his mostly white school and a teacher embarrasses him when she tells all of the white students in the room that they allowed themselves to be beaten by a fatherless black student living in poverty.

What that teacher did was uncalled for—it was cruel and racist. However, she told the white students they were lazy and could have easily beaten Carson for the academic honor he earned. She should have criticized the parents of those white students for letting their children watch too much TV.

The message I learned from this film pointed out exactly how to encourage students to learn to read and work hard in school to earn an education—not more laws that hold only public school teachers responsible for the education of a child.

Studies show that the average American child talks to his or her parents less than five minutes a day and spends more than 10 hours a day outside of school watching too much TV (on average three hours a day outside of school) in addition to playing video games, listening to music, social networking on the Internet, hanging out with friends, sending text messages, etc.

 
You may be able to watch the movie here. I found this link on You Tube, and it has Spanish subtitles.

There was another scene in the movie with a science teacher.  When Carson was the only student in the class to answer a question, the teacher kept Carson after school, because when most teachers see an opportunity to help a motivated student, he or she does help.  Teachers can only help students that help themselves and it is up to the parents to do the rest.

Carson’s mother had a third grade education but her son’s went to college. Today Benjamin S. Carson is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Children’s Center. His brother is an engineer. Through reading and an education, this family left poverty and the high risk of unemployment behind.

Answer this question: If Carson’s mother had left that TV on, do you honestly believe he would be where he is today?

Discover What is the Matter with Parents these Days

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

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 1/3

There are many ways to prove that America’s public education system is not a failure and is an INCREDIBLE success. This time, I will offer the rise of the modern American middle class as an example:

 

Today, the definition of the middle class in America is complex. In 1951, sociologist C. Wright Mills studied and wrote about the formation of a new middle class of white-collar workers—does not refer to Caucasians but to the type of work—described as mostly highly (college) educated, salaried professionals and managers (roughly 15 – 20% of households today). Then there is the lower middle class consisting mostly of semi-professionals, skilled craftsmen and lower-level management (roughly one third of households).

Another way to measure the size of the middle class in the US would be subtract Americans that live in poverty in addition to the top five percent. In 2010, fifteen-point-one percent (15.1%) of all persons in the US lived in poverty. That adds up to 47.4 million people.

Then annual-household earnings of $100,000 or more puts those Americans above the middle class. In 2005, an economic survey revealed that 5% of individuals in the US earned six-figure incomes exceeding $100,000 annually—that is 15.7 million people leaving 250.9 million Americans in the Middle Class.

A simple definitions says, “The middle-class commonly has a comfortable standard of living, and significant economic security.”

For a better idea of how many Americans enjoy significant economic security, we may want to take a glance at the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression (1929 – 1942), the highest unemployment rate reached almost 25% in 1933, then started to improve.  Unemployment at its worst, means more than 75% of working adults in America were still employed (possibly defining significant economic security). It took thirteen years for unemployment to recover to the level of 1929. In 1940, unemployment was 15%. In 1941, unemployment was 10%. By 1942, thanks to World War II putting Americans in the military or back to work manufacturing weapons, unemployment dropped to 5%.

However, life in America was not always the way it is today and working to gain an education, with an emphasis on work, has mostly been the big game changer.

For example, before 1860, America had few cities and they were mostly small.  The vast majority of people lived on farms and small rural towns. In fact, in 1800, ninety-four percent (94%) of Americans lived on farms or in small towns near farms.

Then by 2000, seventy-nine percent (79%) lived in urban population centers (cities and the suburbs of cities).

In 1850, the average age of death in years was 39.

By 1900, that average was age 49.

In 1970s, it was age 70, and life expectancy in 2010 reached age 78.3.

Life expectancy has also been linked to education. Those with more than 12 years of education—more than a high school diploma—can expect to live to age 82; for those with 12 or fewer years of education, life expectancy is age 75.

Continued on September 27, 2012 in A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 2

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

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