Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's wrong with public education?

So I’m listening to Diane Rehm on NPR (I know, I know, but I gotta know how they think)and she’s interviewing Bill Gates Sr. is where you can listen to the interview, I don't know if it includes the caller I reference. I do NOT like this man. He was talking about the Gates foundation and how one of their objectives is to help public education. So of course she asked what was wrong with public education and he basically threw teachers under the bus. According to him, it’s only the lowest scoring college students that want to be teachers, and they are trained poorly, so of course our children go uneducated. So someone calls in and confronts that. Her daughter is a teacher and loves teaching but the constant discipline problems she is dealing with with NO support from parents or admin is driving her out of the field. His response? Well, if the teacher were properly trained to be super engaging and really keep the kids attention and MAKE them WANT to learn then there wouldn’t be any problems. The teacher just needs to try harder.

At that point I stopped listening because my head was exploding with all manner of curse words and the 3 youngest were in the car with me. I cannot believe he actually believes that if a teacher was just engaging enough, all our problems with no parental interest or support and difficult discipline issues would be solved. If I’m remembering right, for about 100 years most kids were taught in a small school where there was one book for each subject that the teacher read from while the children were expected to listen quietly. There was no AV equipment, no unit studies, no internet interactive sites, not really even any effort to be engaging and make the kids want to learn. We expected them to learn anyway. And they DID. That’s the really amazing part, some of our best thinkers were guys who just read and thought a lot. Nobody *made* them want it, they did it because they wanted it for themselves.

It’s not that I think teaching on level and trying to be relevant and engaging are bad. I do projects, we use interactive sites at times, we watch films. But that is not where the bulk of learning is done. The bulk of their learning comes from reading, writing, thinking, and application. Nothing fancy.

Of course this is coming from a man who when asked about Bill Jr as a kid, his response was along the lines of: He was really curious and interested in everything. He loved to read. That’s really unusual.

If he really believes that it’s unusual for kids to be curious, interested and either read or be read to, well, I must have the most unusual family on earth. All 8 fit that description. ALL 8. To varying degrees, but all 8.

I do believe teachers need more pay, more respect, more of whatever they ask for really, but I would really love to hear at least someone place the blame where it belongs, on the families who don't put value on education.