Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is It Education or Not?

I have been reading Walter Williams work for years. If he doesn't hit the bullseye it is a rare thing, and then he is usually in the 9 point ring.

This column is no different.

Why can't these children pass a standardized test? Particularly if hundreds of thousands of other children can?

Lets take a look at the variables. There are basically 3 people involved; the teacher; the pupil and the parents. Yes; I am counting parents as one individual; it will be rare instances when they don't think as one mind when it comes to educating their young.

First stop is the teacher. How many of their pupils passed and how many failed? If the ratio is 10 passes to one fail, or even 7 passes to 3 fails, I doubt this is an issue with the teacher; she or he has been able to connect with a majority of the students and the failure is the aberration.

But what if the ration is 1 pass to 10 fails, or even 3 passes to 7 fails? This is beginning to look like a failure to connect; to instill the needed information in the children. But; there were still children able to pass. Why?

Next we need to look at the student. Some kids want to learn, and will learn anything they are taught. They don't look to see if any of the information is relevant or useful; they soak it up and spit it out as required. Some kids can learn, but choose what they want to learn. They pick up what has been shown to be relevant and useful to them, and reject everything else. Then there are the children who need special attention; they need to be introduced to information on an individual basis, usually, but not always, because of a special need in either mental or physical development.

Then there is the final variable; the parents, or all to often parent. Is school a needed component; do they feel the need for education, or is school just a place that will babysit the little bastards for free for 6-8 hours a day? These attitudes are passed on to the children and will influence their attitudes toward education.

Is the parent willing and able to help the child in the evenings? Parental reinforcement is important for the child to retain what they have learned. If a single parent is overwhelmed it doesn't help the child's ability to learn or study.

Or is the parent involved in the education process? Helping with homework, checking papers when they come home, attending parent teacher conferences? Paying tuition?

Educating a child is a three legged stool; if any of those legs fails, the education fails.

That being said, why were the teachers cheating?

Obviously because the goals couldn't be met by normal methods. Which leg failed?

Unfortunately, there probably isn't a blanket answer, but dozens of individual ones.

Which is another problem with the modern education system; they throw blanket solutions onto individual problems.

The individual answers are as individual as the pupil; the pupil teacher relationship; the community and the community's relationship with the school. We gauge the effectiveness of a school based on a test that has been determined to fit all fifty states; all 3090 Counties, Parishes and Boroughs and the thousands of school districts and hundreds of thousands of schools, teachers and millions of students.

What passes for being educated as a 19 year-old college freshman and a 19 year-old plumber's apprentice are completely different; what type of education is needed for various positions in the labor force or even for various disciplines in education are different as well.

But instead of giving kids a basic education they can take anywhere, we insist on believing that every child should have a liberal arts education; one that requires the study of information that will not have any benefit to the child's abilities as a productive element of society.

Teach a child not just to read, but to comprehend; Teach him to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Teach him the basics of his county's history, and his part in keeping that county strong. Everything else he needs to know he can learn; he now has the tools.

Sounds simple doesn't it? Yet there will be arguments; What constitutes history? Is the history? One of our great conquest or one of our domination and destruction of what was already here? What of science? do we teach evolution of creation?

And again the broad blanket of a one solution gets thrown; but no one-size-fits-all is true. It has always been my experience that one-size-fits-all fits nobody well, and everybody poorly.

Why can't the parent's decide what the education will consist of?  It is there children being educated, and it is their money paying for it.

Besides, what it takes to be educated and employable in the woods of Kentucky is completely different than it is in the jungles of New York.

And you may be able to cheat on a written test; the final exam life gives is usually requires a bit more study.

And is completely different, depending on where your feet are.

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