Let them have vouchers! And a Caveat of Significance.

I suggested in a post yesterday in response to a National Education Association message calling for people to fight the push for vouchers that instead of fighting against them, the argument be that all schools, so they can be properly competitive be afforded the same amount of per pupil expenditure as the recognized to be best private schools in the nation.  My point is this, that all students deserve to have the opportunity to receive the best education they can possibly get and, with vouchers, the amount usually offered precludes most from going to the kind of private schools that parents who can afford tuition like to send their children.  Since, even if all could afford the “best” schools only a small minority would be able to because there would not be room.  The answer, then, is to bring all schools up to a level of excellence and it does seem that excellence comes at a cost.  Money, of course, is not the only factor that accounts for school excellence, but it is one important one if only classroom size is taken into account, the factor that determines how much interpersonal interaction will take place between educator and student, a proven necessity for instruction that promotes growth of independent critical thinking, something I understand to be one of, perhaps the most, important goals of truly good school programs.  Let the people have their vouchers but make certain that before such a step is taken that all students have the choice of going to an excellent school.  Until then, good numbers, most, despite their having vouchers, are not guaranteed that a good choice exists for them.

Ten Highly Rated Private Schools

Phillips Academy: $40,000 per year

Phillips Exeter: $37,125 per year

Harvard-Westlake School: $35,900 per year

St. Paul’s school: $55,000 per year

Horace Mann: $46,000 per year

The College Preparatory School: $40,310 per year

The Harker School: $45,877 per year

Lakeside School: $32,000 per year

Stanford Online School: $19,500 per year

Trinity School: $47,965 per year

Average = $32,696 (and note that an online school is included at bargain price!)

The average per pupil expenditure in public schools in the United States according to U.S. Census Bureau: $10,700 (skewed by states such as New York where average per pupil expenditure is $19,818.  Note that these are 2015 figures—The range is the $19,818 spent in New York to $6,555 in Utah.

 

Set up for the swindle: Education with a purpose!

 

With Neil Postman in mind.  Indeed, decent teaching is a subversive activity!

I recently wrote two notes in which I attempted to get the cause for the reality we are currently suffering, a reality marked by attacks on intelligence, justice, and human decency.  I sincerely detest Donald Trump.  We have as our president an ignorant and ugly minded being who lacks those qualities that good human beings understand to be admirable ones.  In so many ways, he is amongst the worst of our kind, a being born human who is without empathy or compassion, so absorbed with himself that he does not in the slightest care about the hurt he causes.

He is a terrible person.  But decent people know this.  The problem left to us is to understand how a person as terrible as he became president of the United States of America and my notes have been about my surmises concerning cause.  Donald Trump, I have said, is not the cause of the ugliness his administration represents.  That real problem is the popularity of that ugliness, evidenced before the era of Trump by the success of radio talk shows hosted by people at least as ugly of mind as Donald Trump and the people’s love of the Fox News Channel.  Donald is riding a road that cuts through sanity that Rush and Roger and Sean and Michael and Alex pushed through as engineered by the likes of Lee Atwater, Carl Rove, Grover Norquist, and others like them with a good amount of help from those who knew that the more stupid the people the more easily they could be swindled.

Set up for the swindle, a good portion of the American public—Trump did receive almost half the vote and many a rube has won governorship or a seat in congress—voted for the avowed swindler!  Remember?  He was all about “the deal” and the ugly charm of the deal was that another had been tricked into buying false claims, signing papers with small print that made bad and terrible look like better and best.

Schools, I have been arguing, should help students deal intelligently with the world and, since the world in which we live is filled with swindle (every advertisement, most every political pitch), a good part of a student’s education should be about knowing of swindlers and knowing how to fend off the swindler.  In the worlds of Neil Postman, teachers should be helping students to develop strong—his words—“bullshit detectors.”

But schools do not do a very good job of this, as evidenced by the success of advertising and the numbers of citizens swindled every day in the market place and the political arena.  They do not do well at helping students deal with the bullshit because schools are political entities and those in charge are politicians who are or want to be successful in a society where success is too often marked by gaining membership in the swindler class.  Schools serve the successful who succeed through swindle and, therefore, are directed to do as little as possible to develop good defenses against the swindle.

That the schools cannot and will not help students grow as independent minded critical thinkers (critical elements of effective bullshit detectors) is the critical problem of our day.  Schools cannot because they are not allowed to by those who benefit most from a citizenry incapable of doing the kind of thinking that lets them get through the bullshit to discover the truth so the decisions made are for the good of every one and for the whole that is all.

This is the deep problem and until those who are capable of knowing that this is so begin to do something about it, the only kind of “progress” that will be made is the greater success of those who succeed because of a public susceptible to their bullshit.

Addendum: Tyranny through education

So, for years I have watched students indoctrinated into a way of being that was not in their best interests, a way of being that had them being thought for and little done to help them grow so wise as to be able to think their way through things of consequence in ways that gave them the kind of wisdom needed to make good decisions.  I have seen hundreds of teachers do what they are told, even when they knew what they were being told to do was not good for those they were teaching.  Resistance is always costly unless the adversary is a push over capitalism is the strongest force in the world now and its dominance is felt even more now in institutions that are supposed to educate for a free and democratic society.  Schools have for so very long a time followed policies fashioned to serve business no matter what the cost to such critical aspect of human being as creativity, individuality, critical thinking, independence, and desire and willingness to get things right for the good of humanity.

Yes, I have been burning bridges for ever, since I began to think for myself and for myself fashion a notion of right and wrong that mitigated against cheaters and liars and con-men and women.  I told those I taught that the schools as they were were not working for the good of democracy but, rather, to insure that there were enough dumb consumers to buy the lies and allow themselves to be cheated while thanking those who cheated them for giving them “opportunities.”  Schools train minds and training has nothing to do with liberation.  Schools exist to insure that people fit in, accept what they are handed, and learn not to complain too much when hurt by the system they have been trained to accept as righteous, the best possible, a system that IS the best possible because schools make sure that their trainees do not ask the questions that would get at the rouse.

I left education feeling terribly defeated.  I watched the few who did resist get beaten down–beaten out of the system or beaten into compliance.  Most of those who were my students seemed to understand the problem with school as training camp for the labor pool in visceral terms but, they felt a hell of a lot more comfortable in those courses in their teacher education programs that taught them how to fit in, how to get along and it was from these courses they learned how to be conveyers of the kind of “learning” that makes one good enough to do the job someone else wants one to do and incapable of doing anything about the conditions of work when those conditions become intolerable–think 210 students per day as a teaching load or having to comply with the edicts of such noxious policies as those that were enforced during the era of No child Left Behind.

I challenged my students to think for themselves and, of course, those who did found it a bit painful, especially when their thinking led them understand that they were powerless in their positions and being forced by policy to do things harmful to students and democracy.  While they were doing their jobs, while they were so busy teaching hoards of students, they did not take time to read about what was happening to their “profession,” the corporate take over of schools that is just about complete now, Betsy DeVos a leader of the kind, righteous in their enormous wealth and power because such was meant to be.  For the rest, accept what we leave for you and it will not be very much.

Worst of all this is the effect it has on the intellectual lives of people who are ground down and built again in the form of good workers.  Why is it that we point to those we recognize as original thinkers knowing that they are something special?  Because they are the rare ones who escaped the training.  And that is what needs to happen now that so many know what happens when so many in the society cannot think for themselves.  The critical leap that has to be made if anything good is to come of the current nasty era is to blame the system, to stop trying to save what is not only not working well, but working to kill off the last vestiges of self governance by destroying selves.

The earlier post concerning the wonderful workshops being promoted by those generous business people who want to make things better needs to be understood as emblematic of a vicious way of thinking that allows some to actually think they are doing good by making others their tools.  Get sensible people!  Trump is but a symptom and the educational system as it currently stands, shaped by people from you Chamber of Commerce and ALEC, has nothing to do with the welfare of your children.

 

 

 

 

 

Education exists to “train a workforce.”

See page 4A of the Reno Gazette-Journal, May 17, 2017
The Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in the fight to gain approval of WC 1, the measure to raise sales taxes in Washoe in order to fund the building of new school buildings and upgrades to some existing schools. As I have said on many occasions, the measure distinctly precluded the use of any of the funds for instructional purposes such as class size reduction. The business community came together to push the measure and I made it known that I knew that the intent of business in regard to schools was far different from my own, something obvious considering that the primary objective of business is to increase profit even if this means such things as keeping wages low and insuring that most people are susceptible to both their campaigns to sell their products and to their political ploys such as the benefit to communities that come with low wages, thus business’s fight against higher minimum wages, better worker benefits, and so on and so forth.
Today there appears in the Reno Gazette-Journal a half page add sponsored by the Chamber for an event titled “THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION: TRAINING A WORKFORCE. On May 18, ‘community leaders’ will gather to discuss “What is the Washoe County School District doing to prepare 65,000 students to meet local employers’ workforce needs?”
The Keynote speaker is Dr. Tony Slonmin, President and CEO of Renown Health, a man who recently invited a man to hold two days of seminars at Renown whose books tell parents that children are evil and need to be dealt with as such, a man named John Rosemond who writes a syndicated column carried by the RGJ.
The cost of attending is $100 and “sponsorship opportunities” are available at $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. What is it that will be sponsored? NOT DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION.
“Proceeds support the Washoe K-12 Education Foundation,” “a non-profit supporting programs focused on: Workforce development, parent engagement and first-generation graduation programs.”  Innocuous, charitable?  Only those who received the kind of education promoted by these folk would believe it to be so!

Save Minds. Save Money. Eliminate Football From Our Schools: Position Paper for Trustees Candidacy

This is another attempt to set reality straight, to show that the current reality has flaws that deserve attention but will not receive attention because very few believe them to exist.  The reason for trying to fix reality, to examine accepted reality and reality itself is to set stage for arguments that may seem absurd but which really are not, are understood to be absurd because a warped sense of reality is the reality that is not only accepted but trusted.

Here is a suggestion for school districts in financial trouble such as our local district, the Washoe County School District that is facing a deficit of around $40,000,000 and somehow, its administrators and Board of Trustees, came to believe that a viable way to deal with financial crisis was to cut the number of teachers by raising the size of classes.

In a reasonable world, in a reality shaped by good reasoning, the district –no school district–would never have even considered reduction in teacher force and increases in class size as remedy because those in decision making positions would have been sensible enough to understand that class size, in far too many instances, is already too large and, as I have said in other posts, the sensible class size is a key factor in instructional programs of worth.

That said, I ask the Board and district administrators to consider this proposition, that football programs be eliminated and the land that is now used for football become land used for new buildings to accommodate projected increases in school enrollment.

As I say this, I realize that a good many who “care” about education and the welfare of students who attend our schools will say that this is not only the wrong thing to do but that it is absurd to make such a suggestion at all.  They will cite tradition and the central role that the games and the pageantry play in the schools, their contribution to the growth of young men and to school spirit and other such things important to making the school experience a worthwhile one.

Those who have paid attention to the good amount of research that has been done on the effects of football on the brains of those who play the game should understand that it is beyond ridiculous that institutions trusted with the welfare of young people should sponsor such an activity.  All one has to do to get a sense of the crisis that is football is watch the Frontline documentary (PBS) League of Denial (LOD) and check the program’s website on occasion for updates on the latest findings that recommend that the sensible response is the end of football as a sport, most particularly as a sport played by youth.

I think it most fair to say that those who, after watching LOD, continue to support football in the schools because it somehow benefits school and students are being in denial.  I wholeheartedly welcome anyone to help me understand why the game should continue to be played on those tracts of land that are sites for this terrible spectacle.

 The average acreage covered by a football field is 1.32 and with spectator stands and all else that comprises a proper stadium, considerably more, enough to accommodate facilities for healthy forms of instruction.

Washoe County School District is now planning to build several new schools and, I assume, all high school sites will appropriate at least 1.32 acres of land to football.  Eliminating the football field from the school plan will allow the District to spend less money on land for new schools.  As I have suggested, land now used at extant schools for football could be repurposed, this reducing the number of new schools needed while saving the minds of students who would have become football players.

In actuality, land dedicated to football at each school averages around three acres or more.  At the present time, there are 11 high schools in the district that have football programs and the fields to accommodate the game.  An end to the most dangerous game would free put 33 acres of real estate.  The monetary costs of football are, of course, not confined to acreage and, I have to think that they will rise precipitously as more becomes known about the health effects of football on players and the long lasting consequences of a game involving repeated bumps to the head.

Now, I ask again to hear from those who find my suggestions here to be anything less than sensible and those who do find them sensible to help me, as a candidate for Board of Trustees, to bring others to their senses, to help them understand that football really does not make sense because it does, in too many cases, destroy minds.

Board of Trustees 2020

The next opportunity for a run for the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will not come until 2020 but, considering the need for considerable and radical change in the schools, I have begun to campaign now for the seat for District E. I am running now because doing so gives purpose to development of arguments for particular kinds of changes related to what is taught, what needs to be taught, what is needed if such instruction is to take place, and what must happen in order to insure that students graduate from high school are ready to interact with the world, as citizens of a democratic nation that is a significant world power, in an informed and thoughtful manner. Whatever else schools may have to offer, to be legitimate schools for a democratic society, students must be able to and willing to stay informed and think critically. Since elections for the seat are four years away, I will continue to speak through Facebook and Twitter of the agenda I will put forth when elected and those who wish to meet with me to discuss that agenda are invited to let me know of such. I will arrange meetings for those who wish to discuss a better future through truly effective educational programs.

Candidate for Washoe County SD Board of Trustees: Position Statement

Smaller classes and pay for teachers that reflects the effort good teachers must put into their work if their students are to receive the kind of education they deserve and that the society, if it is to be a democratic one, must demand they have. Smaller classes in not, first and foremost, a numbers issue or a work load issue. It is an issue of type of education offered and the quality of education delivered. An informed society is essential to democracy but having and holding information is not enough. Individuals must know how to and be able to process information in order to determine what it means and how one should act in relation to those meanings. Getting at the meaning of things involves critical thought, the essence of which is thinking not just about the information one encounters, but about thought itself.
 
Teachers, to teach to critical thinking, must be thoughtful enough to be able to interact in meaningful ways with students growing as thinkers. That is, students must hear from their teachers not just what the teacher “knows” but of how the teacher thinks his or her way to understandings the teacher holds to be valid ones.
 
Teachers have to have the ability and the time to listen carefully to what each student has to say about what they know and understand and how he or she came to know what he or she understands. It is through exchanges of understandings and discussion of the process by which understandings are established that one comes to know how to go about thinking about things in a critical manner–This is what I know and this is how I came to know it. Conversation is the means by which the coming to know processes mature, the growing being discovering through conversation what works to get to plausibility and what does not.
 
Teacher pay must be such that those truly capable of teaching to thoughtfulness are attracted to teaching. The teacher, the good teacher, the truly viable teacher is NOT a delivery system, one who goes by the book, the textbook with its teacher’s manual and teaching made easy implements. The right kind of person for the job of teacher is one who thinks a lot, thinks deeply and critically, who knows the process through engagement in it. And that person knows how, as the instructional moments unfold, how to respond to those moments in such was as to cause students to think more deeply and more critically.
 
I WILL BE RUNNING FOR THE WASHOE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF TRUSTEES and smaller classes and reasonable pay for good teachers will be essential elements of my platform.

Protests for their displeasure

Fund for disruption:

Say we wanted to make the pleasures those who are responsible for making life unpleasant less pleasurable.  Say we wanted to make a round of golf at a primer resort such as Mara Logo a miserable experience or a dinner at a five-star restaurant abominable.   Say we wanted a stay at the resort or an expensive hotel unpleasant.  Say we wanted to create a fairer distribution of misery so that those now benefiting from policies that are for the betterment of those who already have it better than most feel pain and not pleasure for their deeds.

Say we form a cadre of disrupters and a fund to support their acts of disruption, a fund that would pay for admission to the greens, for a drink or dinner at the club, a meal at the good restaurant, access to resort grounds so that they could be obnoxious enough as to upset the patrons by talking loudly about things they do not want to hear, how their good lives are being paid for by those who work for wages that do not support a decent quality of life.  Disrupters could, while the perpetrators of misery are trying to enjoy their good fortunes, make loud conversation about the plight of people who work for less than decent wages, who cannot afford decent housing or health care or a decent education for their children.

Maybe we picket the boarding schools and clinics where the wealthy and insensitive go to get the superior health care they tout.  Maybe we take a facial or a sauna at their spa and let them hear the stories of those who have not while they are enjoying so much.  Infiltrate and talk about the nasty things they sponsor in order to have it so good for themselves.

Certainly we can block entrances and throw up pickets at their places.  We can block access to their neighborhoods or drive up and down their streets to produce exhaust for them to smell.  Maybe we do something to kill their roses, make noise they do not want to hear, get inside the gated of the gated communities just for the sake of disrupting.

We fund the lawyers.  We support those willing to take disruptive actions.

We take our protests to where they live and play, hey?

A radical idea: Reasonable teacher pay!

If a teacher has five hour long classes per day with 30 students per class—elementary teacher, same 30 students for the five hours of school each day– in a day, the teacher teaches 150 students or 150 student hours per day.  If paid $5 per student, the teacher would earn 150x$5= $750 per day.  The mandatory number of days students must attend school in the county where I live is 180 days, a figure common across the country.  So, 180 days x $750 per day = $135,000, the amount teacher would be paid at the rate of $5 per student per hour.  This seems to me to be a real bargain.  And, even if you payed them at the rate of $2.50 per student hour, teachers most teachers would be getting payed more than they are now and the idea of education, the going rate of $2.50 per hour per student nothing short of barbaric.

According to a recent USA Today article, babysitters make an average of $10 per hour sitting for one child (higher in places with higher cost of living).  A teacher teaching 150 students hours a day, at babysitter rates, would earn $270,000 a year.

My preference would be to cut the number of student hours per day so that teachers had teachable numbers in their classrooms so, with 15 students per class at the most reasonable rate of $10 per student hour, a teacher’s salary (baseline) would be about $135,000 per year.

Good numbers of teachers teach six hours a day and a good number, too, having teaching loads that exceed 150 student hours per day.  One teacher I know has an average class load of 40 students per day and teaches six hours each day.  He is not alone.  His situation is truly untenable and his students cannot possibly be getting from his classes all they should be getting.  He knows this and tells me that he feels both frustration and shame because he knows his students deserve more than they are getting.

According to Nevada’s Department of Personnel, the salary range for teachers is $44,411 to $66,001. The Department of Education reports the average salary for a Nevada certified teacher is $52,012.

 

 

Bid for Seat on School Board: Position Paper 1

Below is a position paper I just wrote to capture my thinking regarding the issue of class size reduction, a key issue related to the possibility of schools that prepare students to do the kind of thinking, the kind of problem-solving one must do if he or she is if he or she is to realize his or her potential as a human being, as an individual, and if he or she is to be able to effectively participate in the decision making processes of a society that needs to be a democratic one.

Today, in a post I received in response to a posting I made regarding the fact that in the district where I live, class size is hardly ever seriously discussed as a serious factor determining the true quality of the education students in the district receive.  The initiating post recommended I run for the board of trustees (our school board) if I thought I had answers to problems the district and its students are facing.

So I am running for the Board of Trustees of the Washoe County School District in the next election for a representative from the area in which I live.

My platform will be to energetically promote schools as places people go to grow as individuals, to achieve their human potential as beings capable of thought.  I will come to the job with an agenda, that being to do whatever is necessary to insure that all students are provided with a real and meaningful opportunity to acquire knowledge that is enlightening and empowering and develop the skills and attitudes that cause one to engage in the kind of critical thought that leads to sound understandings about self and the world that allow a person to be strong in his or her individuality while a useful participant in the decision making processes that are essential to the existence of democratic governance.

Position Paper I

My mind has been doing some overtime because the issue of the size of classes many teacher are assigned to “teach” makes truly good education impossible.  But, if you listen to administrators and people on school boards, it is possible and sometimes they will even show evidence that such is true.  Sometimes they show graduation rates.  Sometimes they show test scores.  Sometimes they show how many students are enrolled in AP courses.  And, in the district where I live, they will show you such things as awards for most improved district (the meaning of which is relative to where “start” is marked and what the implications for real student lives are in relation to what gains have been made.  Miserable to better but still not cutting it should not be considered meaningful improvement.

 

The bigger issue for me, in terms of the achievements of schools is whether those who graduate (and those who don’t) are well prepared for getting along well in the world as individuals and members of a society, the latter calculated properly in these United States of America in terms effectiveness as a participant in the decision-making processes of a democratic society (one that, at least, should be trying to become one).  This means that students succeed only if they are able to think and think well, think critically and acquire necessary amounts of information to be well informed, this information the knowledge they acquire, that they think critically about in order to make sound decisions as individuals and as individuals who are citizens of a democracy.

 

The class-size issue has everything to do with the goals of education I just described.  And it has to much to do with measures of achievement.  If achievement is measured by what students remember of what they are told long enough to take a test and “achieve” passing scores, then class size does not matter so much.  If, however, making sense of what one is learning and being able to apply it to meaningful problems, problems of the type one encounters as an individual and as individual involved in the decision-making processes of society, then measurements of achievement cannot be one time fill in the bubbles type convergent answer type tests and the teaching must be something very much different from the kind of teaching that prepares students for such tests.

 

To access thinking abilities, one who is accessing must have the ability and the time to listen to a student’s explanation of what is going on in his or her mind and, to promote growth in thinking, the instructor must know how to, be willing to, and have the time to interact with the student as he or she explains his or her thoughts, something beyond “the” answers to how one came to the conclusions that serve as his or her answers to the questions asked, explain and apply the solutions thought produced that are his or her solutions to the problems the things learned help to solve.

 

Class size now is, except for the misery it causes teachers who have to deal with inordinately large classes and student discontent (translates into lack of engagement and “bad” behavior), not a problem by the measures commonly used to determine achievement.  Classes, actually, are not really necessary (online schools popping up all over the place), because teaching is about the transformation of information and skills instruction and drills (yes, the “do the problems at the end of the chapter; answer the questions at the end of the story” are about information being transferred and drill and not about teaching to thinking, to the development of deep understanding of concepts or to the development of independent problem-solving abilities that incorporate the techniques used by the truly proficient to do the kind of work knowledge in the disciplines allows—informational knowledge and methodological knowledge.

 

I have said much of this before but I am trying to convince people in power and those responsible for delegating them power (voters, participants in civic actions, etc.) that class size reduction is not but one issue amongst many that needs to be solved.  It is a major problem that must be solved if ever we are to have schools that actually serve to insure that the people of a democracy are prepared to do the work necessary to maintain democracy, to insure that the people of a democracy are able to make decisions that serve the welfare of all individuals, this being the good of the whole.