Is mass schooling better than individual education?
Al Sharpton and education plan may tear union ties
The human child is always learning -- except in school, joked three major supporters of geoism: Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Albert Einstein. Is change coming? We trim and append this timely article.
by Greg Toppo, USA Today, June 13, 2008The alliance of civil rights groups and teachers unions could be split by a new effort, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Sharpton says that for years, civil rights leaders have been silent on the achievement gap between white and minority students. In cities such as Detroit, only one in three black males earns a high school diploma.
“They end up fast-tracked to jail and we (who) claim to be dealing with racial disparities on a daily basis never mention this because some of our friends don't want to be part of what may have to adjust."
Unions have blocked innovative ideas, such as alternative pay grades for teachers, expanded charter schools, and moving excellent teachers into needy schools.
"Old alliances are being protected, and the children are not being protected," he said. "We cannot say that we're going to close this achievement gap but protect ineffective teachers or principals or school chiefs or not challenge parents."
Klein, who oversaw an overhaul of the USA's largest school district, says the nation has "made basically no progress" on the achievement gap in the past 50 years.
A new group of activists, school superintendents, and academics will push reform in the 2008 presidential election. The effort grew out of conversations around the 40th anniversary last April of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Sharpton and Klein plan to stage events at both political conventions.
JJS: It seems people confuse education and schooling. Take a look at our ancestors, the gatherer/hunters. In order to survive, they had to know more about nature than a modern botanist and zoologist. Yet none of them ever went to school. How did one generation teach the next one so much?
Has it ever struck you as odd that no matter what the subject or who the student, to learn it is supposed to take the same amount of time – for college kids, four years for a bachelor's degree in whatever? Whenever there’s such an artificial structure, that’s a good indication the power of a cartel is in operation.
Check local public budgets; the school district usually costs more than the rest of local government. College tuition is so high it indebts graduates for years, even decades. Is the cost in line with the benefit?
When price seems out of sync, it makes sense to look at both demand and supply. On the supply side, there is a bottleneck; as usual, it's a special interest with the state’s backing. Only certain people can teach -- whether they know a lot or can teach is a side issue; having a credential from an institution with a credential from the cartel of institutions (which has one from the state) is what matters.
Hence how teaching gets done -- a talking head to a captive audience -- has little changed since teachers rapped kids on their knuckles and students gave the schoolmaster an apple. What has changed is language, nuclear families, the onset of puberty, diets, nature, and mass media -- television. Adults no longer beat kids legally but should they still incarcerate them most of the day, five days a week, nine months a year?
Every shift in the prevailing paradigm comes from outside the discipline. Not a physicist but a mathematician, Einstein, changed physics forever -- and marveled that curiosity survived public schooling. Who's in a position to give Einstein a credential?
But how relevant is the credential, especially when the amount of knowledge today grows faster than anyone can learn it? Say Bill Gates, a college dropout, wanted to teach computer programming. Why should he be forced to get a credential first?
People who succeed in business cannot teach without a credential, yet could most professors of business succeed in business? If they could out-teach others, why do they insist on tenure, eliminating competition, and no grades for themselves?
As long as we insist on teachers having credentials, then even professors should have to go back and get them, since the world is changing so quickly. One field in particular is too entrenched -- economics. It is so fraught with superstition that French graduate students organized a protest and started post-autistic economics.
Actually, it's not just geniuses who should not have to get a credential to teach, nobody should. If you want to teach what you know, advertise. If people find it useful, you'll stay in business; if they don't, you won't.
If teachers could not keep out the competition, they’d learn how to communicate better with lay people. New ways for transferring knowledge would win out and accelerate the pace of learning. All the overhead costs of too much administration, too many classrooms too often empty, too much campus without efficient land use, competition would force schools to cut those costs and pass the savings on to you, the student.
It's been a cushy ride for teachers and professors but now in the 21st century, schools need to lose privilege and teach what future workers will need to know at prices they can afford today. And teachers, don’t worry. Curiosity is a strong human drive.
As for salary security, no problem. Reforming education will probably happen as we learn to share the value of land and nature, paying ourselves a Citizens Dividend. Teachers would get their share and students could use theirs to pay for the teaching.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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