We don’t need to debate whether education needs reforming. America’s rankings among other nations, the per-capita cost of public education, and the shocking percentages of US educated adults who can’t read easily or write adequately speak for themselves.
It looks like Obama’s policy will be heavily influenced by professional educators—people who are affiliated with teacher’s unions, and academics from schools that teach education. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, provided these folks are able to break with the beliefs and traditions that are not presently producing the results we expect—the results we require to be competitive as a nation.
Liam Julian of The National Review Online thinks they can’t be counted on to do the job. Referring to the appointment of Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor, Julian characterizes her as an eye-glazing practitioner of edu-speak whose progressive ideas would diminish rather than enhance American education.
Let’s enumerate some of the problems (or perceived problems) that need addressing:
1. Urban school systems are not producing a satisfactory yield of competent graduates.
2. Too many kids drop out.
3. Urban school systems cost way too much per capita.
4. Private and parochial schools get better results for less money per student.
5. Rewarding teachers on merit is not supported by the teacher unions. (Is teaching a profession or a trade?)
6. It’s difficult to remove union teachers who underperform.
7. Competent, educated people cannot usually be public school teachers unless they are credentialed with an education degree. (A PhD chemist can’t teach chemistry in most public systems.)
8. Public schools seek to main-stream rather than individualize instruction to the detriment of students with learning disabilities; at the same time they often under-challenge gifted and talented students.
9. Public school students routinely advance in grade even when they lack fundamental reading and writing skills.
10. Parents don’t support good learning habits at home.
11. Students don’t learn to plan and structure their own learning and then work autonomously; school doesn’t model life and career requirements.
12. Attempts to bench-mark school performance have been met with “teaching to the test” strategies by educators wanting to appear more effective than they are.