Saturday, April 26, 2014

Perhaps Education is more successful than I thought!

Education has been fairly heavily publicized in the news media over the last three years or so.  Most of it seems to have been rather negative.  I'd say most of the negativism was attempting to make a case for massive reform, and I must admit I've also favored some of the reform.  Most notably on my part is not liking much of the content reforms.

I've ranted for the past several years about students in high school or graduating from them not even able to do simple math, like make change.  The failure of many young people today to have even a small understanding of the Constitution of the United States or the Maine Constitution is another concern of mine. 

Geography and especially real history, not the newly manufactured history being taught today, are other areas of concern.  Without a good understanding of the history of this world we are destined to make the same mistakes that have ruined many nations and cultures in the past.  Indeed, we seem to be seeing those mistakes taking place again today.

A major concern is the failure of the schools to teach vocational education and it appears that many of the jobs being promoted today require some knowledge of how things work and are made.  My brother-in-law was a vocational teacher.  He is now retired and so is his program at a local vocational school.  Among other things, he taught students how to program machinery to customize making things metal.  Not every student was successful, but just about all those he could tell prospective employers were very good or excellent were employed. 

His students took pride in their accomplishments, as did many students of other vocational education teachers.

And then the emphasis in education changed.  No longer were students held responsible for learning.  Parents had attempted to become, mostly unsuccessfully, friends to the young people rather than parents, teachers were forced to adopt the same attitudes.  If a student didn't learn, it was the school's fault or from teachers, the parents' fault.  The students were no longer held accountable. 

Thus the problems I cited early on here.

Then the state decided to do something.  It wanted to grade the schools and even watered down curriculum was created accomplish that.  Maine even instituted a "report card" for schools which right from the beginning has been and continues to be criticized.  It's measurements often are of areas over which a teacher has no control, like support from parents.

As a result, many schools received some rather poor grades; some were not graded; and in some cases no explanation of a grade was given.  Many educators and fewer taxpayers even had an idea how that grading system worked and why schools were downgraded.  We even wonder if the State knew why it rated some as it did.

Now, a new report has been issued that says Maine high schools are tied with California for being among the best in the whole country.  In fact, in that often (by me) criticized math, Maine leads.  The report was revealed in the Bangor Daily News in an article by BDN staffer Christopher Cousins.

Even some of the schools that Maine's ranking system labeled mediocre were included among the nation's best.  Maine's first "charter" school located in Limestone, which emphasizes math and science, was about the best in all the land.

This article has got me thinking anew about our education system in Maine.  I do believe we will still need to return to curriculum more designed for the abilities of the individual student.  When I went to school, for example, we had four major divisions, college prep, business, general, and vocational (which we used to call "shop").  The level of academics was set for the learning level of the individual.  Yes, it too had problems, but most of us left school with a good understanding of the world around us. 

Today, the appearance in education is that we're simply teaching to the middle and many go through school without being challenged.

I still wonder why in this day an age do we continue to read about the very high percentage of youngsters needing remedial classes when they get into higher education.  I guess I'm still looking for an answer to that.

There's one other area we may be failing and that's teaching responsibility, both parental and school system's.  That also goes to our failure to teach about history repeating itself.  The Westbrook School System comes to mind.

Nationally, there's been a big cry against guns and schools have been taking extreme actions even if the object in incidents is fake.  Well, when will the outcry begin about outlawing knives? 

My comments here by the nature of the beast are about education in general, that education that affects the majority of our students.  We all know about truly superior youngsters who both succeed and lead in their young lives.  But they aren't the majority.  We should be striving for all students to reach the levels of these superior ones, not the level of mediocrity.


No comments: