Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Well, because I am a Gemini and enjoy being the center of attention, it is only naturaly, then, that I offer my pundancy on President Obama's remarks about education during his State of the Union speech.

1. "America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed."

With apologies to Amy Chua and her Tiger mom friends--who, by the way, I want to be friends with--we as a nation are not willing to do what is necessary. Some of us are. People like Amy Chua are willing to give their child a chance to succeed. But after a trip to the supermarket this afternoon, it was painfully obvious that not everyone buys into the same version of success.

It's true what they say about Western parents, at least if the irate response to Chua's memoir are any indication.

And what's more, many of us would rather wonder about the root causes of why some parents don't demand much out of their child other than allowing mom to sell the ADD medication for some really good stuff. If only the great oppressors would treat these people fairly, and by fairly they mean communistically, we could all live in a state of equality.

2. "Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance."

Absolutely. Bravo Mr. President. Except that when a student doesn't live up to our expectations for behavioral appropriateness, we aren't allowed to do much with them. The States, in their federal government-like wisdom demand that schools limit punishments, especially if the student is a minority. We have to take them as they are, we have to fix them. I'm pretty sure we can't force them to scrub floors after a food fight, and I don't think it's allowed to make them run until they puke if they're caught skipping class.

Academically, well, that's a whole 'nuther story. From elementary school through middle school, our students are promoted based on age rather than ability. We expect our teachers to differentiate in a classroom full of readers who range from the 12th grade level to the 3rd grade level--for some it's Clifford the Big Red Dog and for others it's The Canterbury Tales. In the end, we are just mediocre.

3. "In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. "

Again, a standing ovation, Mr. President. I'm not looking to be on the cover of Forbes magazine or sitting next to Oprah (but if you're reading Oprah, I would love to have coffee with you). But I wouldn't mind being reasonably compensated. Let me be clear, I don't complain about teacher salaries often, but my paltry $45,000 after 8 years of nation building compared to the $65,000 a friend makes for managing a restaurant (he does a great job, I will admit) just doesn't add up.

We allow anybody to run for and win positions on school boards, thus allowing them to make decisions about local education. We continue to add responsibilities, like parenting, to the job description. We talk about how important good teachers are to our students' succes. But in the end, the words are empty.

4. "Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation."

The best part of his speech. In my Sports Literature class, we read Paul Cuadros's A Home on the Field, an exploration of immigration, education, and soccer in North Carolina. Before reading the book, I was unaware that students could spend the bulk of their academic careers in American schools, busting their butts to succeed despite all odds, only to be denied in-state tuition rates at their local state university because of their documentation status. It is unacceptable to deny these children such opportunities.

With that said, I give the President a C+. He didn't offer much that was new or innovative. And I don't think he fully targeted the real root of student failure, the student. He approached the role that parents play in student success, but he fell short of demanding accountability from them.


At 5:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my humble opinion - you are right on in your analysis.

I did like the fact that he at least mentioned that parents are part of the equation, and he avoided the "fire bad teachers" rhetoric. Still, no politician ever really identifies what it means to have "high expectations" or to hold students accountable. For a while the Pittsburgh Public Schools were giving students a 50% every time they didn't turn in a piece of work, take a test, or whatnot. This was all justified on the basis of the "tyranny of 0," or the tyranny of F, or some ridiculous logic. The following link reveals an interesting connection between grades and genuine academic competence.

It's dated, but I think still relevant. A lot of people don't seem to realize that the teacher can't be the only one in the school with high expectations.

Any opinions on Arne Duncan having the position as Ed Secretary? From what I can tell he has no real teaching experience.

At 3:54 PM , Blogger Dr Pezz said...

I felt it was primarily tired rhetoric. He even contradicted himself by talking about local control in the midst of discussing Race To The Top which takes away local control.

To me, Obama has been Bush on Steroids when it comes to education.

At 3:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop looking at how much teachers get paid per is not a valid means of looking at how teachers are compensated.

First, instead of looking at the “salary” look at the Total Compensation Package. Teachers often have pensions, a good portion of their health insurance paid (Which often is above average in quality and covers family members.), are given numerous paid sick and professional days each year, and are offered reimbursement for professional development and continuing education. How much do these add to your “paltry” salary?

Second, I know that you put in hours after school, on weekends, and over summer. I would also tend to believe that you “believe” that you are not compensated for this time. Many professionals take work home. That is not a fact exclusive to educators. How does your Hourly Pay compare to others who have similar levels of education and experience? Teachers are paid at a Much higher hourly rate.

Third, how was that snow day? Sure, you have to make it up in the spring. But, it is a nice perk isn’t it? How many other perks are there like this in your contract? That has value.

Fourth, why do you teach? What value and purpose does that hold? I do believe that teachers need to be fairly compensated. I also believe that We Are. More importantly, however, is that beyond our monetary compensation we need to look at how purposeful and meaningful our work is. I know of no teacher that didn’t understand the financial realities of our profession before they started teaching. Rather than question if are fairly compensated, perhaps you should question if there are other career opportunities that might better meet your needs.

VT Teacher

At 6:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a resident of Connecticut, I am very concerned you may be teaching my children. Your logic and language skills are weak ("pundancy"? did you mean "punditry")and your spelling and grammar is worse. Like many public servants, your fixation on compensation as a definition for status and importance is galling. You have a job to do - most would agree that it's incredibly important - and you have long-term security, yet it's never enough. Perhaps you or other whiners will someday define 'enough' so that taxpayers will finally understand.

I must say, though, give the attitude that permeates your blog entries, you chose an appropriate title.

Good luck hanging on until retirement. You only have another couple of decades of the daily grind. Something to look forward to every day, what do you think?

At 3:48 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Wow! Anon the second is concerned about my logic and weak language skills, yet offers no evidence to support his or her claim--with the exception of the tongue in cheek "pundancy."
The best part, though, is anon the second's misuse of the very language he or she is defending. For instance, anon the second writes, "I must say, though, give the attitude that permeates your blog entries...." Oops! I think you meant to write, "...given the attitude...."
Where is my logic flawed? In our country, status and monetary compensation are closely tied together. We pay our senators and representatives 174,000.00 a year. They have status in this country. These men and women do not have to be well-educated, only wealthy enough or connected enough to dupe their constituents.
Additionaly, anon the second, and VT Teacher, as I wrote in the post, I am not one to typically complain about teaher pay. But an honest look at teacher compensation, especially the disparity between many of the suburban scales and urban or rural scales, would show that not all teachers are well-compensated.
The title of the blog is not an indication of discontent with my profession--simply read the blurb which follows the title.
And yes, let me define 'enough' for a public servant who is "nation buiding" according to our president. I'd like to make enough to send my two children to pre-school, pay my mortgage, heat my house, afford my taxes, pay for my cars and the gas required....and once in awhile, afford to actually do something other than work during my summer "vacation."
And yes, anon the second,sometimes I do whine on my blog. I have that right. Perhaps your own need to whine about me whining on my blog is an indication of your own world of insecurity, something you must look forward to on a daily basis.

At 3:51 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Dr. Pezz, I agree. The rhetoric was for the campaign trail. I wonder whether local control is in the best interest of all students. When funding is based on a town-by-town basis, education inequality will always exist based on demographics. However, complete federal control has serious drawbacks as well.

At 8:10 PM , Anonymous vicodin 5 500 mg dosage said...

i think student promoted by age is more appropriate rather than from performance... we need to build their character too, not only grade..

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