Sunday, August 29, 2010

C.R. Hoff on Tribalism and US educational demands, if any.

On “Face the Nation” recently General Petraeus, our General in Afghanistan, was discussing the situation and what had to be done to improve our situation in Afghanistan. We are spending millions everyday in Afghanistan as you know.

It occurred to me that what he was saying about Afghanistan had several similarities to the situation we face in education where are also spending millions of dollars every day and results are not much better than the results we have seen in Afghanistan.

General Petraeus called for obtaining the “Buy-in” from the natives in a country that has never seen a government that could honesty deliver services to the people. I am sure that most Afghanis have some real doubts that this will happen with the Americans any more than it happened with the Russians or the British in the past.

It is said, rightly so, that Afghanistan is a “Tribal” country where tribal chiefs were much more important than the central government and the wishes of the tribal chiefs were not up for public debate. It was best not to differ with the chief! As the Americans have come in they have confronted the chiefs in many cases and this has lead to much of the conflict that we are now spending big dollars, and lives, to over-rule.

So where’s the similarity to our high schools? Do we spend millions of dollars everyday? Sure! Do we have many attendees who haven’t “Bought in?” Sure! Do we have tribes, and tribal leaders deciding on differing priorities? Sure! Do we have violence in the schools as there is in Afghanistan? Sure we do.

Is the educational program effective in providing desired outcomes for all concerned? I don’t think so. We learned this past week that only 19% of our high school students are ready to enter college upon graduation! 1 in 5! Effective? Not by my standards.

Is the secret that we need “Buy-in?” General Petraeus may be right. It was pointed out that in 1945 South Korea and Afghanistan had about the same level of economic development. What happened in Korea that didn’t happen in Afghanistan?

I am not aware of any tribal chiefs that held any dominance in Korea. Instead there was a strong central government that was determined to flush out the chiefs and to make the country an economic power. One of the keys to this was an education system that would be second to none. Not “Buying in” was not an option that did not carry some very unpleasant benefits.

Hyundai did not become the car maker that it has become with uneducated Koreans.

In our “Educational Afghanistan” we have natives coming everyday to school with plans for disruption, others who don’t come too often, and when they get there some haven’t done any preparation for the day. In fact some have been so busy with other activities that sleeping seems like the best alternative.

If one takes a walk around the lunchroom you will see the “Tribes” in action. The topics of discussion at the “tribal councils” have little to do with the stated objectives of the school and often are sites of planning for gorilla actions to ambush others either in the classroom or elsewhere.

Millions are being spent here and there isn’t much buy-in, perhaps because we have made “Buy-in” an option without any real consequence for not buying in? Our dollars and future are probably at risk as a result of this.

Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, have all made “Buying in” to education an option that should not be rejected. Here? This is just “Too hard!”

The real hardships are here for many and are approaching for even more. Isn’t it time to make “Buying in” more of a mandate for students and parents? Or do we let the “Student Taliban” destroy our education and society?

-- Charles R. Hoff

Is what is currently presented worth buying into?

Too much of RttT is not based on solid evidence. Buying into a deficient plan at a massive Federal level seems inappropriate.

-- Dan

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