Monday, September 10th, 2012

I know. I’m sorry.

There have been a lot of stories over the past two months about teacher abuses of students. I haven’t written about them.  I’ve received more horror stories from some of you, my friends, and I apologize, but I did not write about them.  You see, there are always lots of stories about teacher abuses.  There are always stories about schools miserably failing students. There are always tales of students abused by other students while in school, hundreds if not thousands of such stories every day.  I have not written about them the past few months because frankly, the abuses seem endless and it gets depressing to write about them.

I apologize, and I have started writing about abuses and failures in public education again.  I guess this will be necessary until something in education dramatically changes for the better.  I fear that I’ll be writing for the rest of this life, and well into whatever the next life turns out to be.

Wherever I end up, I hope they have Internet.

This article is once again about public school teachers, but from a different angle.

We’re in the midst of a Presidential election, and as is true of all candidates for any and every office (including dog catcher) on all sides of the political spectrum over the past five decades, everyone claims to be “the education candidate”.

This is strange indeed since public education perpetually, continually continues to degrade in spite of all these education “experts” who want us to vote for them so that they can “fix the problems” of education.  They each of them have “the answer”.  They each have “a plan”.

Yet nothing gets fixed.

In fact, no matter who is in office, things get worse.  Test scores continue to devolve.  Drop-out rates rise.  (REAL drop-out rates – kids leaving not just their senior year, but even earlier than that – the numbers are astronomical.)  The number of teacher and staff abuses against children across the country and even globally continue to soar, and teacher unions still make certain that abusers are protected and that their jobs are secure.

Once again, I see that Washington has “the answer”.

Let me state clearly that I am NOT political, not anymore. I was cured a while ago.  I am entirely concerned for the well-being of children and that’s my political stance.  I loudly pronounce a curse on all existing political houses, they have each and every one utterly failed our children and continue to do so with political rhetoric and slight-of-hand policies meant to generate votes rather than educate children.  ALL OF THEM.  Your party included, if you have a party.  That’s where I stand.

Anyway, Washington’s current approach, per a recent article in USA Today – is to hire more new teachers!  Specifically, they plan to hire 10,000 new math and science teachers over the next year.

Um, okay.  That’s the plan?  To fix education?  More of the same?  Wow.

The fact that some 25,000 teachers leave the system each year (per the article) to attrition and retirement does not seem to be taken into account.  So the net gain in the number of public school teachers, per the plan, is a net loss.

Please understand, I think this part of the plan is GREAT!

I’m all for losing teachers and their salaries.  Public school teachers are, the vast bulk of them, sensational failures at what we pay them to do.  Witness the nearly universally horrible results of public schooling.  Sadly, those teachers “lost” to retirement” receive yummy pensions, their union sees to that.  So in the end, not much money is really being saved here, even though the number of teachers drops.

I wish I could get paid for the rest of my life for lousy results and failed work.  Don’t you?  Not really?  Your conscience wouldn’t allow you to do that?

Ah, well, we can’t all be public school teachers.

I’m afraid there is more that is wonderfully wrong with this Washington plan.  Note – the 10,000 new teachers would all be science and math teachers.  What about language arts?  How about, um, basic literacy and study skills?  You know, you remember, those skills you really need to have to get through life?  And what of the arts?  Um, I don’t know, how about shop classes?  P.E.?  How about ANY elective study that might actually interest a student and provide him a satisfying life, just in case he doesn’t happen to love science or math? 

If you don’t teach science or math, no need to apply.  The government has mandated, as they have regularly the past 30 years, that education (in English) really means a generally poor understanding of science and math and…well, that’s about it.

So, what do these mass hirings mean?  Partly, an inflow of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new teachers to replace a hoard of wheezy, clunky failures.  That’s good, right?


What do we get with new teachers, degrees still steaming off the press in their hot little hands?  We largely get a generation of teachers who are there for the bucks.  Oh, there are exceptions – there will always be some good teachers who teach to teach.  But there aren’t very many such born teachers anymore, teaching as a calling.  There is, generally, teaching as a profession, and a lucrative profession at that.  And that’s why many of these youngsters racked up big student debts. They were told – we need more teachers.  And despite the rhetoric about teacher pay being low and the work load high, well, these new teachers are in on the worst kept secret in town.  Teaching = Steady work + no quality control or results required + high starting salary which grows and grows + retirement packages + many perks + strong unions to back you up if you, I don’t know, rape a child or something silly like that.

Teaching is an extraordinarily well-paid profession with unbelievable (literally) perks, and job protection the Mafia envies.  And you don’t need to be at all good at it to have real job security!

We get a little more with these young teachers coming into the public school system.  We get a new wave of teachers thoroughly indoctrinated in the same utterly ruinous, failed methods of education that have made our public schools the murky flashlight on a hill that they are today. (I was going to write “beacon on a hill”, but teachers are generally not that bright.) These newbies have not even the benefit of experience which might salvage a child or two, if only by accident.  They are trained, however, to endlessly complain, as I heard a public school teacher just do in an interview, about “how hard teaching kids today is”, and how “parents must take responsibility”, and how “the kids arrive in school not even knowing their numbers!”

Um…what do we pay you teachers for, exactly?  And pay we do.  Yes, pay we do.

Yes, a new generation of teachers who will quickly learn to whine just the right whine at just the right time, to pass the culpability of public schooling’s astonishing failure to parents, to kids, and to a “degraded society” at large. (And how exactly did society get this way?  Isn’t it the job of education to raise the intellectual standard of a society?)

I think teacher unions actually offer their membership special classes in “Whining 101”, with “It’s Not OUR Fault”.  What they do not offer are successful, experienced teachers.  There just aren’t that many experienced and, um, successful teachers, and most teachers retire as quickly as possible to enjoy those magnificent retirement packages.  If there were bunches of successful elder statesmen in the teacher business, well, the results would be a whole lot better than they are, wouldn’t they?

The report being shared in USA Today was put together by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.  The end result of this spate of baby-faced hirings?  To quote the paper, “teachers get greener”.  In 1987-’88, the percentage of public school teachers with five or fewer years of experience was 17%. In 2007-2008, it had risen to 28%.  And it’s higher today.

I hear you.  I also usually celebrate when new people enter a field, in the hope that they will bring new life, new energy, new ideas to the effort.  But we’ve seen several generations of new teachers enter this field, and the results have steadily degraded.  To say that the basic assumptions informing public education are wrong is to vastly minimize a national tragedy.  We see the results of “modern public education” in declining national production, in a declining ability to compete with other countries (easily proven through the statistics), in dropping literacy and functional literacy rates, and in a hundred other ways.

We’re way, way past “the system is broken”.  It was broken 30 years ago.

New teachers armed with old ideas, taught to them by old professors in old colleges, all people who rarely question their basic assumptions or bother to truly consider the results, are absolutely no plan.  It is as it has been for decades. And the teacher/student ratio in the classroom is getting worse, not better, according to the numbers presented above!

Can we now safely consider, where public education is concerned, that venerated definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?

By the way, this is the 100th post on this blog!  How many hundreds more before we start getting education right?  Your guess is probably better than mine.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

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