Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sudhakar comments on Friedman and the Candidates

In regard to this article by Thomas Friedman, Sudhakar says:

Once again, Thomas Friedman has nailed it.

Not only does the current administration not get it, the two presidential candidates don't seem to either.

But then again, their buttons won't be connected to anything. At least not on education. Anything that is done at the federal level only seems to increase confusion. Like NCLB and NSF funded curricula, for example.

I think it is curious that almost everyone agrees there is a problem, but when a proposed solution affects their turf, all of a sudden, there is no problem. This indicates a systemic issue. Which means the entire system is in dire need for revamping. The old way of doing business, the structure of public schools, teacher training, state and local bodies that govern how education is delivered, should all be fair game. History tells us that if it is not done voluntarily, it will be forced upon us via a crisis, or series of crises. Then we will wish we had solved this problem earlier. Like the levies in New Orleans prior to Katrina. Only this will be a lot more severe.

Sorry to sound so negative, but our leaders' reaction to this problem has been grossly underwhelming.



Anonymous said...

Nationalizing the math and science curriculum would go a long way to improving the current system. Singapore is by far the best curriculum.

Unlike our country, Singapore made educating their non-standard speaking population a priority. Singapore made math and science an earlier focus than the US. Also, they integrated curriculum into the standards as it should be and there is no social promotion. Something which the US has sought been never been able to achieve. You can't end social promotion if you have multiple paths of promoting students.

US education reform with respect to national policy is a massive failure.

Finally, teachers jump through more hurtles and climb more mountains than any other profession. Schools need incentives to keep teachers in school.

Sudhakar said...

Nationalizing the entire curriculum and distributing it free of cost is only one of the ways many newly developed countries have bootstrapped themselves. In the last half century, many have surpassed the US education system. So, it behooves us to pay serious attention to what else has worked in other places.

To reuse an overused cliche', the "best practices" include - top graduates to go into teaching (Korea, Finland), using curricula based on "real" cognitive psychology (Russia, Singapore), public-private partnership to build new schools (India), longer school days, weeks, years (almost all Asian countries), more drill and practice of basic skills (all of the above). What I did not see was the usual reasons that get brought up here for why we are falling behind - large class sizes (most Asian countries have class sizes in excess of 50), lack of funds (all the countries mentioned above spend a fraction of what we spend, and get better results).

Reportedly, for the last few decades, every president of the US has proclaimed that he will make America #1 in education. Every one of them has failed. One conclusion I can draw from this is that they all have failed to grasp the magnitude of the problem. If it was easy, it would have been solved already. If the nation cannot muster enough support behind a simple change like joining the metric system (we are one of the last three in the world, the others being Myanmar and Liberia), I don't think we cannot reasonably expect changes overnight in a much more massive endeavor.

Physicists and physical chemists may puke at the following statements, but I will say it nonetheless. It is always easier to move from order to chaos, than chaos to order. (with apologies to the second law of thermodynamics). What we have in terms of public education system, compared to most of the world, is nothing short of chaos. No other nation that I know has so much class to class, school to school, district to district, state to state variation in what, who, how someone teaches, and how children learn. Once a system like this forms and gets going, I assert that it builds its own momentum (with apologies to Newton's first law of motion), until "acted upon by an external force." Larger the momentum, bigger the force. IMHO, it will take a massive, grass roots movement to change it.

Anonymous said...

Bootstrapping is an excellent description of what is being achieved by nations where resources are scarce and education has to be treated as a resource and nothing gets wasted. For society to progress, I would much prefer a climate of scarcity, than one of gluttony.

As you say, the US has a long road to travel before it will match the current educational achievements made in both Asia and South America.

dan dempsey said...

Most schools do not allow teachers to enforce the Classroom Disruption Law
RCW 28A 600.020

That has a lot to do with our current problems.

Our poor curricula leaves many children unable to do productive grade level work and often they are not required to behave.

Anonymous said...

At last you are connecting poor curriculum to poor student behavior and I would add poor teaching.

Lets stop confusing norms with rules and blaming poor curriculum on students and their parents - a cowardly response to solving problems.

dan dempsey said...

Is anyone ever held responsible for poor curricula?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that be a story.

Curriculum writers were complicit in causing national dropout crisis for profit.

dan dempsey said...

Sounds like a great title for an in depth article in Teacher Magazine:

Curriculum writers were complicit in causing national dropout crisis for profit