Thoughts on education, publishing, and other intellectual titillations – by Marie Brown, Consulting Editorial Project Director
*** The following comments, views, and opinions are solely those of Marie Brown, and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Publishing Services, its management and staff.***
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“…I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation.”
— The Late First Lady, Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush, First Lady of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, passed away on April 17, 2018. In addition to her many admirable qualities, Mrs. Bush was a great friend to education, advocating “literacy for all” during her lifetime in service to our country.
NO MORE TEACHERS, NO MORE BOOKS
This past month, education news was dominated by a spate of teacher strikes, walkouts, and protests across the nation, notably by teachers in Oklahoma, Colorado, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona. So, what do they want? What is the problem? Apparently, there are many problems. Stagnating and low teacher salaries are primary issues. According to the NEA (National Education Association), the average teacher salary is near the bottom nationally, $46,155, compared to the national average of all salaries, $58,353. Many teachers have had no raise in their wages in years. Why? High on the list of causes are that state and federal funding to education has been reduced and redirected to other public necessities; and meeting the requirements of the teachers’ pension benefits has risen dramatically due to skyrocketing health insurance costs.
This is a cause for panic among many teachers. In some states, such as Connecticut, Illinois, and Michigan, teachers are not eligible for Social Security benefits and have to rely solely on their pensions. In fact, 40% of teachers, nationally, would not get Social Security. Without their pension (or a much-reduced one) and no Social Security, the golden years of these educators would be anything but.
SOAPBOX COMING!!! Teachers are “called” (truly, a vocation) to do the second most important job in the development of a child. After their parents, children spend the most significant amount of time with their teachers. What those teachers impart to their students— academically, socially, psychologically, and perhaps even physically is a HUGE responsibility. Unfortunately, this is not recognized or rewarded. People look to Finland as the model for educational excellence. Yes, it’s well-earned and well-deserved, but teachers are also well-regarded and well-compensated. Finnish teachers enjoy the same status as doctors in their country. I have a theory as to why U.S. teachers are not treated with dignity and respect. Our profession has traditionally been dominated by females.
Consider how even to this day, women are still not receiving equal pay for equal work and are still being harassed/abused in the workplace. I think we have to use the prism of a wide-angle lens to see the totality of the problem. I don’t like to see teachers on a picket line, but I also don’t want to see their priceless value to society being ignored.
NEWEST “BUZZ” WORDS
“Growth Mindset”—the concept that students will be more engaged in learning when they understand that their talents and intellectual abilities can strengthen through effort and strategy—as opposed to a “fixed mindset” which is the belief that such skills are inherent and unchangeable.
BIAS ALERT!! Duh! Every good teacher has treated every student with the “growth mindset” for AGES. $$ spent on this kind of research is wasteful and better spent on real issues facing teaching—like providing funds so teachers don’t have to buy their own classroom supplies and books.
STEM to STE(A)M—A for Arts is now added to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) acronym. STE(A)M curriculum includes art and design, with a focus on design principles and creative solutions. A resounding relief to many of us in education.
An APPLE a Day?
As reported last month, Apple hosted an event on March 27th at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep High School to introduce its latest technology products aimed at America’s school market.
Here’s a summary of the new offers:
- a new 9.7-inch iPad that will be compatible with its Pencil drawing stylus, which previously only worked on the higher-priced iPad Pro
- a new software development platform, ClassKit, aimed at education
- an updated Classroom app, designed to help teachers guide their students through lessons, granting them the power to broadcast apps, books, and sites to every student’s iPad, and to share students’ screens during class
- a new free app, Schoolwork, which will make it easier for teachers to assign handouts and track student progress
- Boulevard AR’s app which allows students to virtually walk through a museum and see artwork
- WWF app which allows students to interact with wildlife.
- Froggipedia which allows students to dissect a virtual frog with their Apple pencil
- 200 gigabytes of free storage in Apple’s iCloud service
- the School Manager software which will make it easier to manage a stock of iPads and a database of Apple IDs
- According to a new Gallup poll, 73% of U.S. teachers are opposed to arming teachers and other school personnel as a school safety measure. Of nine proposals tested, the two ideas that teachers perceived as being most effective were requiring background checks for all gun purchases and banning the sale of the AR-15 and other semi-automatic assault weapons.
- In a related item, more than 100 organizations and colleges and 2,000-plus academicians have signed a letter calling for a public health approach for protecting children and adults from gun violence. Actions include a national requirement for all schools to assess school climate and maintain physically and emotionally safe conditions and a ban on assault-style weapons.
In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Reagan administration’s seminal report, “A Nation at Risk,” a bipartisan group of policymakers and education and business leaders gathered at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education to discuss the challenges and progress across the American education landscape since 1983.
Despite the diversity of the group, there was consensus that the country isn’t doing enough to improve education for the majority of students and that the urgency to do something about it is waning. Dr. Milt Goldberg, former executive director of the National Commission on Excellence in Education – the commission that published a “Nation at Risk,” bluntly stated that “We are still a nation at risk.”
MY TAKE—We’ve thrown heaps of money on this problem to little or no avail. We’ve spoken and written rivers of words proffering suggestions and recommendations to little or no avail. What we need is an education wizard who has the background, the insight, the courage, the creativity, the genius to confront and crack this conundrum. Diane Ravitch, are you listening?