Tag Archives: NCLB

We Have Taken A Turn For The Surreal

America is heading into an odd zone and I have no idea when it started. The issues we find important are insignificant and the significant issues are always the fault of someone else. Gas prices, poverty and looming war are significant. Do we talk about these and offer solutions? No. Instead, people are pointing fingers and blaming the President. While the GOP is looking to place blame-bombs around the country, they are touring America, pandering to the religious right and pretending that discrimination is the safest bet for America’s future. And, as a people, we are allowing it. Again, I have to state that this is, at best, a little odd and, at worst, marking the end of our democracy, our country and our future.

You Women Just Need To Hush

How did contraception become a hot issue? I know that the issue began when the White House announced that employers who offer insurance to their employees must give the option to include contraception. Even if the employer objects on moral grounds. Of course, the moral objection argument is aimed squarely at churches where contraception is considered to be against doctrine. It is hard for me to believe that some of the people who are screaming about the audacity of the pill haven’t used contraception of some sort at some point in their lives. Whether we are talking about the pill, condoms, a calendar or something altogether different, there are people out there who just don’t want to be parents. And that is their right.

However, the GOP, the party of small government, doesn’t want some of you to have birth control available to you, not just at your job as a church secretary, but at all. And somehow, this idea is gaining ground. According to an article written by Connie Cass and Jennifer Agiesta, GOP candidate Rick Santorum “says he wouldn’t try to take away the pill or condoms. But he believes states should be free to ban them if they want. He argues that the Supreme Court erred when it ruled in 1965 that married Americans have a right to privacy that includes the use of contraceptives.” This is the same candidate who stated that John F. Kennedy’s stance on the separation of church and state made Santorum “want to throw up.” President Kennedy, in a speech he made in 1960 to Southern Baptist leaders, said, “So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.” Santorum is of a different belief. He obviously wants to be president and he obviously wants to push his religious agenda from the Oval Office and, in my opinion, that is the one place in America that doesn’t benefit from a religious agenda.

He Said What?!?

In his effort to connect with the blue collar, hard working NASCAR fans in America, Mitt Romney was at this year’s Daytona 500. He showed up just two days before the Michigan Primary and attended the driver’s meeting and toured the infield and spoke to people.  That’s fine. I got a chance to interview Maureen Reagan when she was campaigning for her father in Dover Delaware at the Budweiser 500 in 1983. A NASCAR race is a great place to connect with “the people.” But where Ms. Reagan was open, honest and direct about why she was there and what she hoped to get out of it, Mr. Romney came across as a bit disingenuous. When asked if he followed NASCAR closely Romney said, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.” Of course he does. I don’t and out of the 150,000 fans in the grandstands, I doubt if many of them hang out with NASCAR team owners either. But this is a minor hiccup compared to Rick Santorum.

Mr. Santorum has a problem understanding that some people are not like him. His last great pronouncement against the president was to call him a snob. And how does Barack Obama wear his snobbery on his sleeve? He wants everyone to go to college or, at least, have a chance to go to college. For that, Rick Santorum says, “What a snob. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.” Rick Santorum wants to be the candidate for lowered expectations.

Obama’s actual statement on higher education was actually well tempered and in line with American values. “And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.  But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.  And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.  It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.”  It makes me want to wave a flag. And I have two in my office right now. An American flag and a United States Marine Corps flag. Rick Santorum, however, sees this call to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps as more liberal garbage.

Rough Seas Ahead

I am not sure where America is heading. The GOP wants to come across as God-fearing, hard-working friends of the common man. But while they are shaking hands at the Daytona 500 they are looking to legislate morality and cut funding to the poor and elderly.  While they are claiming to be middle-class Americans, they are casually making $10,000 bets on TV and saying that $374,000 isn’t a lot of money. While they are proudly pounding the bible, they seem to forget what the good book says. They say that corporations are people, they say that birth control pills make women promiscuous, they say that college is for snobs. And all across the red states, voters believe that the GOP is the party for them. Sure they’re not wealthy and never will be. Sure they want their kids to be successful but now that makes them snobs?

I have no answers and I am not the least bit sure about how this election will play out. It worries me that voters will cast their votes for the GOP candidate solely for the reason that they hate him less than they hate Barack Obama, their records on the issues notwithstanding.

Why This Matters

The name of this blog is Teaching Television: Media, Education And Why It Has To Work Together.  If our young people are not aware of the issues and how they affect their lives, they can never grow up to be well rounded citizens capable of making a difference. Instead of creating a nation of self-aware future leaders we are in danger of creating a generation of self-absorbed people incapable of solving problems or thinking on their own. And that is frightening.

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Fixing Education Part 3: Taking Back Kindergarten

Educators and legislators need to look back at their own education and try to remember what they did in Kindergarten. Once they do, they need to take a long hard look at what Kindergarten has become.

Kindergarten Is The New First Grade

When I was just starting out in school, Kindergarten was fun. As a child I looked forward to finger-painting, playing with blocks and learning all about numbers and the usefulness of the alphabet. I remember learning to print my name and I remember learning to count to 100. I still have crystal clear memories of the accomplishment of reaching 100 for the first time. That number was such a foreign concept to my 4 year-old mind (yes…4 years old) that I had honestly thought that it would take a week to get there.

So we spent the day coloring, tracing letters, learning numbers and understanding what they represented. The teacher read stories to us and I learned to fall in love with Dr. Seuss and, by extension, reading. She showed us how to draw and paint and I learned to love art. She showed us how to carefully craft our letters so that they could form our names and I learned to love writing. We also played with toys and each other and we took naps and ate graham crackers and milk. I checked with my mother. There was never a day when I refused to go to school. Kindergarten was fun. But it was so much more than that.

Learn By Playing?

It took me a long to time to appreciate the depth of the education I received during that first year of school. I thought we were messing with paint. Turns out we were learning about colors and aesthetics and even cleaning up after ourselves. While we thought we were playing house, we were actually learning how to interact with other human beings, all about gender differences and equalities, and about fair-play. While we were playing with blocks and toy cars and stuffed animals, we were also learning how to share, how to resolve our own problems and how to deal with conflict. Everything we did, learned and experienced had one simple outcome. We learned how to learn. The lessons were simple but lifelong. And they are sorely missing in today’s education.

Getting my son to go to school everyday was a chore. Every day was a battle. Every morning was filled with tears and pleading to stay home. It took me a while to figure out why my son was so against school. His school had taken the Kindergarten lessons and tossed them out and replaced them with a 1st grade curriculum. It might have been my fault he wasn’t totally prepared but an hour of homework a day in Kindergarten is just wrong.         ~Georgia Mother

If we refuse to acknowledge the importance of play-based learning, we may never reach all of our students. And instead of figuring out how to learn and to love learning, we set our kids up for failure at a very early age. Putting five year-old behinds into seats to teach them through traditional lectures flies in the face of everything we know about education. Children at that age just don’t work that way. Children learn by doing and through experience. David Elkind, author and psychologist wrote, “Learning teaches us what we know, play makes it possible for new things to be learned. There are many concepts and skills that can only be learned through play.” Social skills are first on the list.

So, instead of well-rounded eager students, many of us are getting frustrated, burned-out students who lack social skills, impulse control and simple conflict resolution skills. Instead of students who read for the sheer joy of it, who write because writing is fun and who can slog their way through Algebra and Trig simply because they can add, subtract, multiply and divide, we get students who can barely read, can’t form a sentence and can’t do simple two digit multiplication without a calculator. It is not the fault of the students. It is not the fault of the teachers. It is because of a system that has been redesigned over the past decade, not at the hands of educators but at the hands of politicians.

Fitting Into The Plan

In order to save our high schools we must start in Kindergarten. In spite of what politicians want us to believe, kids aren’t failing because their teachers are bad. They are not failing because they have failed the system. They are failing because the system has failed them. The system is flawed and it places too much emphasis on quantitative data and not enough on qualitative data. Sure, a kid could be terrible at math but that same child could grow up to be a great author or songwriter or artist. We will never know if that same child learns, in Kindergarten, that he or she just doesn’t measure up. And that would be the real failure of our education system.


Fixing Education: Part 2

Of course the education system is not easy to fix. Of course simple solutions can’t possibly work. Of course because the world is a modern, technologically driven, globalized community, nothing is simple anymore. But that won’t stop me from offering a simple solution. Now…where was I?

Step One: Write Off The High Schools…For Now.

In certain circles, I can offer this bit of advice and people will look at me like I have grown a second, evil head. I am proposing that any plan that seeks to “fix” the educational system of the United States of America should leave out our high schools. Is it harsh to say that by a time a young person has reached his or her teens, the damage is done? And, for that matter, do they require “fixing”? I would have to say no and yes.

Every generation has its “These kids today” moments. When my parents were young, they couldn’t watch Elvis from the waist down. The holders of morality for that generation were afraid that Rock-and-Roll would destroy a generation. Post Elvis, there was the Beatles and their “long” hair. Along the years we experienced the Rolling Stones, Blondie, Grandmaster Flash, Devo, and about a thousand others. “These kids today” of every generation survived the onslaught of Jazz, Rock-and-Roll, Rhythm and Blues,  New Wave, Hair Bands, Grunge, Alternative, Hip Hop, Rap and everything in between. They survived the movies, television shows, comic books, concerts and Playboy and emerged on the other side as fully formed adults who broke the sound barrier, flew to the moon, and invented everything from microchips to Velcro. They became artists and doctors and rebels and politicians as well as plumbers and masons and electricians. They raised families and watched their kids do better than they did.  And we look at today’s “These kids today” (TKT) and weep for the future. Why? What has changed?

The Blame Game

It is easy to blame the media but it is unfair to blame any one medium for the ruination of this year’s graduating class. But when a child is walking, talking, media showcase, how can his teachers compete for his attention? I have six students in here with me now. They have an assignment and they know what to do and when the deadline is. All six are either on a computer or sharing one. From here I can see two screens are on Facebook and the other two are playing games. (Might sound like bad classroom management but part of the assignment is to meet deadlines and then, if the deadlines aren’t met, to analyze and problem solve the breakdown of the group dynamic.) I see two cell phones out and texting and I can hear another one vibrating in a pocket. All six kids have headphones on and are listening to their MP3 players. It’s not one medium that is making it hard, it’s all of them.

Yes. I understand that my kids are breaking the rules and wasting their time. Yes. I know that I should march up and down and gently reinforce the importance of education and cajole them into getting back on task. I should know each and every one of them by name, understand their home situation, know what each one wants to be when grown and make damned sure they have the tools they need to get there. But I’m tired. I am tired because I know that after the bell rings and I return from a half-hour of bus duty, I have another hour’s worth of work to do, a long commute home, a family of my own to engage, dogs to walk, papers to grade, lesson plans to rework, bills to pay and errands to run. I can’t get my own kid to decide what she wants to be when she grows up and she is already in her first year of college. College that she is only able to attend because of scholarships and grants. All of this and I am still expected to care more about the education of these six kids than they do or their parents do.

But I can’t compete with iPods and TV shows and Facebook and Video Games, all of which are now available in portable form. When I was one of “these kids today”, my music was on 12″ vinyl records or eight-tracks that required a player the size of a cinder block. My phone was attached to the wall with a 12 foot cord. The school’s computer required punch cards and Video Games were as exciting as…uhm…Pong. But they did require more of a commitment because I had to drive to the mall to play them, a quarter at a time.

But I Digress

I am not suggesting that we actually write these kids off. They are, for the most part, good kids who did not get our best collective effort. There were too many boutique math options, too many feel-good moments and too many politicians involved in their education along the way. All of these chefs worked this stew and no one ever questioned if they knew how to cook.  The result is a generation of kids who were sent mixed signals, alternating curricula and tested to the brink of distraction. They were told to succeed by people who no idea what success should look like. They have been trained to memorize but not to think and, as a result, they require their education to come in concise, easy to memorize facts and figures and they become flustered and uncomfortable when asked to reason or infer. It’s not their fault but we have to help them graduate the very best that they can, fill out their FAFSA Scholarship forms and hope that their colleges and universities and employers can sort things out.

But in my solution, the fix begins in Kindergarten. Not high school.


How to Fix The Education System In 4 Easy Steps

Don’t worry. This will be short.

It seems that everywhere I turn, someone is teacher bashing. It is all over the news and the yahoos who post in the Yahoo News comment section love to teacher bash too. It’s fun.  But take a look at just about any school that was failing and taken over by the government. The teachers have all been switched out. The administration has all been switched out. And yet, the school is still “failing.” Why? Because of the one component that can’t be switched out. The student population.

The educational system has been interfered with for years. No Child Left Behind all but gutted any chance teachers had to succeed. So I decided to fix it. Ready?

Step One: Write off the high schools…for now.

Step Two: Put the Kindergarten curriculum back into Kindergarten where it belongs.

Step Three: Teach math.

Step Four: Everyone reads at grade level or no promotion.

OK. That’s pretty simple but every step can be explained and broken down into more detail.

Just ask.


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