Monday, April 29, 2013

Schools are Like Ice Cream

Forbes has a column here comparing education today with Ben & Jerry's ice cream.  Apparently, if we had competition in education, as in ice cream stores, all would be great, and every child could choose to go to an excellent school.

I’m sorry, but I expect columns of more substantive value from Forbes.  Mr. Gobry has a vision of a country where every child can choose to go to an excellent school, but gives no clue how this can happen.

So . . . we are giving up local control and funding, since that is what ties schools to neighborhoods?  Are we going to turn all schools into charter schools?  Who will run the charter schools?  People we elect?  Private boards? 

And we haven’t even started talking about the growing special education population.  What’s the statistic for autism now?  One in 50?  Charter schools haven’t exactly rushed to service this population.

I was a high school English teacher for 37 years, and no one wants every child in an excellent school more than I do.  But I get completely frustrated at a column like this.   Ed. reform should take a lesson from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?  Oh please.  If you want to read some thoughtful writing on the current state of education, check out this blog, written by a high school English teacher:

Health Care and Congress

The Wall Street Journal has an article here describing how member of Congress are trying to get out of using ObamaCare, since the insurance they currently have is much better.  Most of the comments draw the conclusion that the WSJ writer wants, i.e. ObamaCare sucks.

So ObamaCare isn’t as good as the health insurance Congress enjoys?  Okay, I get that.  I would like to see an article comparing ObamaCare to the medical insurance the bottom fifty percent of the country “enjoys.”

And then the real question becomes this:  why didn’t Congress pass a health care bill that would give lower income people the kind of insurance that they enjoy themselves?  I don’t think that deficiencies of ObamaCare are a result of the president wanting substandard health care for everyone.  Rather, it was the best he could do with a Congress that was happy with millions of people having no insurance at all.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Too Much Romance in YA Books?

The Huffington Post has a column by Elizabeth Vail here complaining about the number of YA books that have romances in them.  She feels that often the romances aren’t important to the book as a whole, and are basically just shoveled in.

You know, I don’t care if YA books are all about squirrels having romantic relationships with mice, as long as kids are enthusiastically reading these books, and posting positive reviews on Amazon. 

In my 37 years of teaching high school English, the one truth I took away from education was that all of the top students were avid readers.  Avid readers read better, write better, concentrate better in class, and have wide-ranging frames of reference that make all learning easier.

And from these avid readers I learned that books lead to books.  They all started out loving books most adults consider schlock—R.L. Stine horror books, formula-driven mysteries and romances, even comic books.  Few kids who skipped this junky book stage ever really developed as avid readers.

Let’s celebrate that more of our young people are reading now, rather than nitpicking their choices.

Commercial Education Programs

Ed Week has an interesting article here about the difficulty schools have in finding commercial learning programs that have been well researched before being marketed.

After 37 years of teaching high school English I am a complete cynic about any commercial learning programs.  What I wanted for my students was access to a large library of books and access to a computer for writing.  Really, what else did I need?  A program so my students could track how many times clothes imagery came up in Macbeth?  Give me a break.

A teacher is Massachusetts has a great blog piece on educational research here:
He shows how minimal the research actually is.