Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

April 21, 2005

Give me your money

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 5:32 am

Here we go again. The NEA is using member dues to sue the new Secretary of Education.

Leading the fight is the National Education Association, a union of 2.7 million members and a political adversary of the administration. The union mobilized its forces for Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, and its objections to Bush’s law prompted former Education Secretary Rod Paige to call the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

What has their collective panties in a wad?

The lawsuit accuses the government of shortchanging schools by at least $27 billion, the difference between the amount Congress authorized and what it has spent.

You knew it had to be money.

I don’t think the Federal Government has any authority to be involved in education. That sentence will draw cheers from NEA activists. What won’t, though, is that the Federal Government has no authority to disburse taxpayer money to schools. What the NEA want, as do administrators across the country, is the money without the requirements. They want the Feds involved in education, but only want them involved to give schools money, not to set standards. And if Congress approves money to be portioned out, they expect the Department of Education to spend every single penny–and ask for more.

Ah, but don’t set any standards or levy any requirements in exchange for that money. They don’t like standards. Like all unions, their primary purpose is to protect the incompetent members of that union. Never mind that they fail to recognize those who do well. In fact, those who excel are looked upon as troublemakers–they show up the bad ones and make it more difficult for them to hide.

Money, money, money. What have our schools done with the money we’ve given them? They’ve gotten worse. Money is not the solution.

There is a way for the schools to not have to comply with Federal standards, and it is a simple thing to do. It requires no law suit. Simply refuse to accept Federal money, and you don’t have to comply with Federal mandate.

Right. Like that would happen.

March 2, 2005


Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 12:28 pm

Our public education system has been driving toward one goal in regards to students for many years now: Everyone gets a college education.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? In this push, all else has been relegated to the background. And there is a single, obvious problem with universal college education–not every job requires it.

So, how many jobs do? More important, how many don’t?

We’ve all heard stories of the college graduate that can’t find a job. What the story was really about was a college graduate who couldn’t find a job doing what he/she studied in college. Regardless of degree. I don’t have a solid idea of how many jobs there are in this country which don’t require a college education. There are quite a few that don’t require even a high school education. But if 90% of the people in this country graduate from college, most of them will find they have to work in a job that doesn’t require all that education.

How many truck drivers do we need? How many dry cleaners hire college grads? Most technicians have no college, even though most are doing demanding jobs. Think about the plumbers, electricians, air conditioning repairmen, roofers, masons, carpenters, landscapers, glaziers, welders, automobile repairmen, and machinists. Hanging sheetrock isn’t a glamorous job, but it can pay well, and requires experience to do well. I would venture to guess that your average college graduate cannot do any of those jobs well. I’m a mechanical engineer and can do a lot of those jobs, but in no way are my skills at the same level as theirs. When I need that kind of work done, I hire someone with the skills. And they charge me the going rate. Entrepreneurs.

The only way to become a millionaire is to own and operate your own business, and/or be extremely fastidious. College helps, but isn’t the total answer.

So how do you measure success? The Education Establishment measures success in college diplomas. Ask the guy running his own music store how he measures success.

February 28, 2005

The “For the Children” Lie

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 1:33 pm

The National Conference of State Legislatures are not a happy group. They do not like the No Child Left Behind program.

The conference believes the law is unconstitutional but officials say the organization won’t challenge it. That doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

Mercy. They finally agree that the Department of Education really isn’t accounted for in the Constitution? So why don’t they challenge the constitutionality?

President Bush was in Europe when the report was issued but is unlikely to take kindly to criticism of what he considers one of his signature pieces of legislation. His reaction is likely to be much like that of House Education Committee Chairman John Boehner: “They want the funding No Child Left Behind is providing, but they don’t want to meet the high standards that come with it.”

Federal money. The salve for all governmental wounds. “Just give us the money! We know how to spend it!”

Unfortunately, as I have written several times, and as Paulie has commented many times, money does nothing to cure the problems in education. If anything, money only compounds the problems by continuing to feed the monster eating our children.

A definite change in approach and attitude is needed. I cannot with any confidence say that teachers unions are at fault. But I can point a finger at those who control teacher certification, and legislators who feel compelled to throw money at the problem because they aren’t creative enough to do anything else. State school boards control many of the things that cause problems in schools, and are pretty much unaccountable to anyone. They hold position through glad-handing of teachers’ unions and legislators, as well as the institutional guild apprenticeship programs (to steal a phrase from one of my commenters) that perpetuate a system devoted to process rather than quality.

Every year wasted debating money rather than the system’s structure punishes kids.

For once, I’d like to see the educational establishment and legislators actually do something “for the children.”

Elementary Education Reform

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 9:35 am

I’m one of the few (if not the only) non-educators involved with a project here in town to reduce the dropout rate. With all the things that affect kids deciding to drop out of school, guess which is the first topic we’re looking at.

Teacher pay.

Actually, we are looking at teacher recruitment and retention. But pay is the only thing that my working group wants to discuss. The Corpus Christi Independent School District starts teachers at $35K–not bad for nine months work and a simple (one of the simplest) college degree. Yet no other issue gets any discussion.

I have posted some of my own thoughts about our education system–several times–on my local site. I would appreciate any comments from those of you around the country and the world on my latest post there. My friends down under are welcome to throw in their experience with the public school system as some added options for improving things. Perhaps the time has come for an honest and open discussion about what is best for our kids.

January 26, 2005

Can I get smart?

Filed under: Education,International — Bunker @ 9:51 am

I have looked at getting some more education several times in the last few years. I love to learn. I know a lot already, but most of my knowledge is stuff that is of no real value to anybody for anything. I did one semester trying to get myself started in golf course design by getting a masters degree in environmental engineering. I’m too far behind in biology and chemistry to make a solid go of it. I have also considered getting teacher certification, but can’t bear the thought of taking elementary-level education theory courses after having taught for so many years–especially 27 hours of those courses.

I have a masters in international relations, and I enjoy the subject. Texas A&M has a program that interests me–the George Bush School of Government offers an Advanced International Affairs Certificate Program.

Many careers as well as personal interests demand a more advanced understanding of the various dimensions of international relations. The Bush School’s Advanced International Affairs Certificate Program is designed to provide individuals with both meaningful frameworks with which to interpret global interactions, but also practical and useable knowledge on such matters as cross-cultural communications and negotiations.

The courses are taught by some very high-level, experienced people. These aren’t your standard academics. They include names you’ve heard and read about in the actual workings of international affairs. Seminar lecturers include folks who are making policy today.

A shortened list of course offerings whets my appetite:

  • Technical Collection Systems
  • World Cultural Geography
  • Homeland Security and America’s New Long War
  • Terrorism in Today’s World
  • International Economic Development
  • Fundamentals of the Global Economy
  • National Security Policy
  • The Role of Intelligence in Security Affairs
  • Technical Collection Systems
  • International Energy Policy

These are distance-learning courses. I can do that. I need four to get my certificate, but the piece of paper isn’t why I would take them. They interest me. Especially the ones in bold. I’m almost drooling on my keyboard.

At $1400 per course, I have to ponder this for a while. That’s a hobby more expensive than golf!

American History

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 7:24 am

My darling wife bought me a couple of books for Christmas–always a welcome gift in the Mulligan household. One that she was particularly proud of finding for me is Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. After reading a couple of chapters, I went to the bookshelf and picked up an old American History book, Conceived in Liberty written by Marshall Smelser and Harry Kirwin, professors of history at Notre Dame and Loyola respectively. It was first published in 1955. My revision is from 1959.

I have this book because I love American History. It was not my textbook, but I believe it is an earlier version of the one I had in school. Many of the illustrations are very familiar, and so is the layout.

What is striking to me, though, is the sense of the book compared to those used in schools today. From the Preface:

An ideal has been in the minds of those who co-operated to write and produce Conceived in Liberty. They aimed at the highest possible standards of accuracy in stating facts and in a truthful, impartial interpretation of them, while at the same time they wished to accomodate the book successfully to right principles of pedagogy and practical classroom study. The style of writing was to be well adapted to the minds of young people, but not in the spirit of condescending to them, and not without a lively challenge to them to improve their taste and ability at reading.

I read the first two chapters last night, and it is a wonder read. If our history interests you and you can locate a copy, grab it. I checked Powell’s for a used copy, but no luck. It’s one you’ll probably only find at a garage sale or local used book store.

What strikes me most about it is the parallel to Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. We have reached the point in our education system where a good, unbiased history of this country is considered to be politically incorrect! How does something like that happen? High school history should be providing fact to students to use as a base for their own further analysis as they read more in their lives. High school history should be teaching students an appreciation of people who accomplished great things, set in context of the time.

I intend to continue reading these two books together.

December 8, 2004

Zero Tolerance

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 6:14 pm

Neal Boortz has a piece on a girl in New Orleans who was suspended from school for bringing Jello-shots to class for her friends. Although there was no alcohol in the Jello, the school determined these were look-alikes, and therefore the girl must go.

Someone on the net (I thought it was Reynolds, but can’t find it) noted that in his day, schools actually furnished refreshment that looked like vodka.

I dealt with school administrators like this. They had a book with punishments listed for specific violations. I never convinced them that some kids require different punishments for the same offense if the intent was to change behavior. A top student might be deterred by the threat of suspension, but others saw it a an additional vacation. “Zero Tolerance” is simply the way lazy school administrators deal with problems. No thought required.

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