Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

Put an end to frivolous state legislation

Posted by sanityinjection on March 15, 2010

It happens every year and in every state in America. Some well-meaning but clueless teacher wants to instruct their class about civics and how a bill becomes a law. They hit on the genius idea of having the class write a petition to their state legislature for passage of a new law. So far, so good.

The problem is that the teachers are keen to avoid having their class tackle any controversial issues, and rightly so: they do not want to be accused of pushing any particular political agenda on the kids. So they settle on the most innocuous thing they can think of, and it’s almost always the same: designating an official state food/drink/dessert.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask? At first glance nothing, until you realize that state legislatures end up having to file paperwork and hold hearings on as many as a dozen such petitions every year. Then you have situations like Vermont, where two schools filed competing suggestions for the state’s official beverage.

These bills are a waste of time and money for legislators, their staff, and taxpayers. They delay consideration of important legislation. Worse, they give children the message that laws are frivolous and that legislators have nothing better to do than worry about what should be the official state dessert – only to become cynical when even that appears to be excessively time-consuming.

If any teachers, or family members of teachers are reading this, I ask you to please spread the word to stop these pointless petitions. You would be furious if, during a snowstorm, your city or town’s snowplows took time out to make donuts in the parking lot to show kids how the plow works. Well, I’ve got news for you – in the world of government, with the economy the way it is, it’s snowing. Our legislatures are too easily distracted from focusing on what’s important as it is – please don’t make it worse out of a misguided attempt to educate children.

Instead, why not encourage each child to find a bill of their choice that is already pending in the state or federal legislature and write a letter supporting or opposing it? (Most legislatures post bills online.) The children will probably receive personalized notes back from their legislators.

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Let educators design curriculum, but not when they’re idiots.

Posted by sanityinjection on March 4, 2010

In the ongoing debates about how to best educate our children, teachers (and their unions) often make the point that no one is better qualified to design curriculum than educators themselves. The argument is designed to resist interference both by government and by activist school committees and parents’ groups. And on paper, it’s a good argument.

The problem is that every now and then you get a group of educators whose minds have been so permanently addled by the corrosive soup of political correctness and identity politics that they swim in every day, that they come up with something so idiotic that it calls the argument of professional expertise into question.

Now if you’re thinking that I might just have a specific example in mind, you’d be right. The latest stupidity comes to us from (surprise) San Francisco, a city which as readers know is already legendary for its tolerance of the outrageous but never ceases to try to push the envelope to further heights of goofiness.

To state it simply: The city’s school board has decided to offer in its high schools a freshman course in ethnic studies which will earn college credit in the state university system. Further, the course is pass/fail, not graded – and unlike any other high school program that earns college credit, is aimed at poor students rather than advanced ones.

There are so many things wrong with this that one almost doesn’t know where to begin. It is beyond obvious that the purpose of this course is not to teach the students anything of value, but rather to boost their ethnic self-esteem and encourage them to set a goal of attending college. (No one would ever admit it, but you can bet that white students will be “discouraged” from taking this class, if not outright prevented.) Said one student: “How can I know who I can be if I don’t know who I am? Ethnic studies provides me with the foundation to learn who I am.” Wrong. Ethnic studies encourage you to base your identity on your ethnicity and see yourself in terms of group identity rather than as an individual. Nothing could be further from American ideals.

Leaving aside the question of whether high schools should even be offering ethnic studies when they can barely teach English and math, the notion of offering college credit for a pass/fail course simply demeans the value of the credits awarded. (Incidentally, nobody actually fails – they just transfer you out of the class. So it’s really “pass/pass”.) Why should anyone aspire to attend college if it is revealed to be a joke? And how can students be expected to succeed in college if this is the sort of preparation they’re receiving?

This nonsense came to the school board from the faculty at San Francisco State University. Like all school boards, they assume that college professors – professors of *education*, no less – must know what they’re doing when it comes to designing curriculum. But at what point does somebody have to put their foot down and insist on some collective common sense being applied to the situation? Of course, in San Francisco, common sense was banished by municipal ordinance a long time ago.

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Asked and answered: School vouchers

Posted by sanityinjection on August 28, 2009

The WashPost is up today with an op/ed criticizing President Obama (and rightly so) for killing the school vouchers program in Washington, D.C.:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/27/AR2009082703576.html

As I’ve written previously, here is a program that specifically benefits poor minority kids in the city and has been proven to work. You would think that President Obama and the Democrats would be all over something like that. The Post ends by asking, “Why would a Democratic administration and Congress want to cut such an experiment short?”

Of course, the question is disingenuously cute: The WashPost knows the answer to its own question, and it bets its readers do too. The only reason Democrats oppose school voucher programs like Washington’s is that they are bought and paid for by the teachers’ unions. And the teachers’ unions oppose voucher programs for the simple reason that they don’t put any money into the pockets of the teachers’ unions.

One of the arguments the unions make is that voucher programs that allow children to attend private schools shift resources away from the public schools (true) and make it more difficult to fix the problems of the public schools (arguable.) However, this argument is akin to saying that children should not be allowed to evacuate from a sinking boat because it will decrease the urgency of trying to salvage the boat. I am all for improving our public schools, but the education of children is too important to hold them hostage in crumbling crime-ridden environments while the people who are supposed to be their advocates play political games. If you ask any parent, they will tell you that if they could afford it they would send their kids to the school where they can get the best education possible, whether it be public or private, urban or suburban, parochial or located on the planet Melnak. (Witness the many non-Catholic families that continue to send their kids to Catholic schools knowing they will receive instruction in a faith that is not their own. How’s that for religious freedom?) 

Most teachers care deeply about giving students the best possible education. However, the teachers’ unions would happily throw children under the bus (pun intended!) in order to obtain more money and benefits for their dues-paying members. It is a mystery to me why teachers – many of whom are troubled by the union positions – continue to support a bloated union leadership that does not always reflect their own views.

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Consider the audience

Posted by sanityinjection on October 2, 2008

The New York Post reports that the United Federation of Teachers is handing out Obama/Biden camapign buttons to New York City teachers, and some of those teachers have been wearing the buttons to school:

http://www.nypost.com/seven/10022008/news/regionalnews/teachers_get_hit_on_the_button_131776.htm

Naturally, this is a direct violation of New York State Department of Education policy, which holds that schools are not the place for political advocacy. But some teachers are claiming their right to free speech should not be infringed.

Are these people serious? Do teachers really not understand that many parents already think they are trying to force their political views down students’ throats? The teachers claim it is not their intention to indoctrinate students or intimidate anyone with an opposing viewpoint, but in this case intention isn’t really the point. The teachers’ union can distribute buttons to every teacher in New York if they want, but they should not be worn in school. This is consistent with other office environments which prohibit political expression in the workplace for exactly the same reasons. The rationale is only augmented by the fact that the target audience for a teacher wearing a political button during the school day can only be the students.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about the entire matter is that the teachers in question are either being deliberately disingenuous or are genuinely clueless. Either way, are these the people we want teaching our children?

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