Pharyngula

I’m a poseur

I teach at the university level, which means I’ve got classes of self-selected, relatively well-prepared, mostly motivated students. That isn’t real teaching. This is real teaching.

Comments

  1. #1 Zeno
    April 7, 2006

    My college is a two-year school with open admissions, so we get students of all ages, ability, and preparation. But their enrollment is voluntary and they are adults. I really doubt that I would have the stamina to do the job my sister is doing as a third-grade teacher at a rural school that was taken over and is now administered by the state. My job is easy by comparison, so I should feel guilty every time I grouse about my students or my teaching conditions. I’m very lucky.

  2. #2 Rocky
    April 7, 2006

    My totally unprofessional, dilettante observation is our 1st through 12th grade education system is badly broken. Not because of the fault of teachers, but the system they are trying to teach within. Reminds me of the Pink Floyd song “The Wall”. I’ve opinioned this before, (and had some disagreement), but my reading indicates the U.S. students are falling way behind the rest of the world. VERY sad, and, to me, explains the “idiot America” state of affairs commonly discussed on this website.

  3. #3 Chuckles
    April 7, 2006

    The system is set up in ways that keep the excellent schools excellent and the poorer testing schools poor. If we could pool each state’s school tax earnings and dish it out on a per capita basis to the schools, that might help.

    In DC, as soon as a school starts tesing well, they try to turn it into a charter school which is supposed to increase the funding but, as I understand it, the education is no longer truly public. There are fees associated with charter schooling. It is pretty awful especially since DC is considering a tax break for homeowners. And paying 600 million for a baseball stadium that won’t earn the city any money.

  4. #4 BMurray
    April 7, 2006

    In industry it is a classic error to conflate personnel control with quality assurance and quality control. It looks like the same thing is going on here — now that everyone is “accountable” the system is driven by the metrics that are used to measure quality and not by the actual quality. The upside, if there is one, is that teachers can probably find ways to game the system by meeting metric requirements without doing the actual work needed to meet the real requirements. Management as narrowed its window of visibility by examining second or third order statistics rather than the actual output of the system in order to appear to be in control (each layer of management may add another layer of abstraction to the statistics, ruining them further), and in so doing they both constrain the teachers inappropriately and at the same time force them to either be ineffective or sabotage the system to keep their jobs.

    This is insane. It’s hardly a wonder that your country has the deep fear of science that it does: it’s carefully creating generations of people that are not equipped to learn but excel at passing tests. And now people brought up in a defective system are deciding how to repair and maintain the same system.

  5. #5 Jim
    April 7, 2006

    Chuckles, I live in Oregon and we have the system where all the school funding is pooled and doled out on a per student basis. So if your public school has 1,000 students and the per student amount is $11,000 per year then your school gets 1,000 X $11,000 = $11,000,000. It is a little more complex because they take into account students that enter or leave the system or move from one school to the next, but that is basically it. It has its faults. The schools in the country get great funding because they pay the teachers less because things cost less in the rural areas. In downtown Portland a lot of the funding gets sucked up in higher salaries and other costs that are higher in a major metropolitian area. (not the fault of the teachers, just a problem with the location)

    It woudl seem like a good system, and with a few tweaks one would think that it would be. But the problem is an economic and human nature one. The public school system is a monopoly. (Yes, you have the right to send your child to a private school. That is an unrealistic choice for the majority of people.) What we need is to allow choice. Don’t cut funding to schools, just regulate them a little less and tell them that they get the same amount per student they always did. However, allow the parent to choose what school the child goes to. Allow the parent to choose ANY school (pubic or private) for the child to go to. The school the parent chooses gets the money. (The parent doesn’t get the money, the choosen school gets the money.) This is very effective in some Euopean countries.

    What often happens in those cases is that some schools go out of business. Schools start to see that they have to trim their overhead (administrative staff and other overhead) and increase their teachers. (eg Chicago public school system has about 50% of their people employed who are NOT teachers (large percentage of the 50% are administrative ) and not directly involved in teaching. by contrast a large private institution with about 100,000 High School students has 6 administrators. And they do it for a lot less money per student.)

    The government does NOT have to provide the education. The government has to provide FOR education. There is no law saying the government has to actually do the educating, they just have to make sure it gets done. There was a recent Supreme Court case that tested this system and deemed it legal.

    Currently, we do allow school choice but only to more affluent citizens. We allow it by the very nature that the more affluent you are the more choices you have at choosing where you live. Where you live often is based upon the quality of the public schools in that area. (being a home owner this is true. Also ask any Real Estate Agent.) So the less affluent among us are left with little choice. (much harder for them to move into Beverly Hills CA. or Greenwich CT.) I say lets at least give them a chance. We should at least make this program available to people on the lower end of the economic scale. I would benefit indirectly because schools would improve.

    Also notice how the minimum number of schoold days mandated by state law is also the maximium the schools give.

  6. #6 wheatdogg
    April 7, 2006

    I’m a poseur, too, since I have taught in private schools my entire teaching career. My biggest problem is getting my kids to do their homework and bring all their materials to class. Meanwhile, my friend, Mick, who is the same age as me, teaches middle school science in the public schools. He has been physically threatened by 13-year-olds (!) at least three times, spends inordinate amounts of time breaking up fights and has to quell the class every day before he can actually start teaching them. I don’t know how he does it, other than relying on his ineffable patience and Zen-like serenity.

    Situations vary, of course. Mick teaches in a middle school in the “poor side” of town, where there is racial conflict (not entirely white vs. everyone else, mind you, but Hispanic vs. Hispanic, Asian vs. Asian, etc.) and a large number of “children at risk.” Other middle schools in Louisville are more serene, since their populations are not at risk. Still, the teachers have to deal with mounds of paperwork, long lists of do’s and do not’s and less-than-cooperative parents and administrators.

    I love the idea of the Survivor-like show proposed on the other blog PZ has linked to. Instead, I would substitute the business leaders with politicians. Let’s see how Bush does on his own for 180 days with a room full of 13-year-olds. The Secret Service would be there to protect him from bodily harm, but he’d have to handle the rest.

    Now, lessee, what would he teach? Social studies? English as a second language? Business maths? … Crap, is he qualified to teach anything?

  7. #7 Kristine
    April 7, 2006

    I feel so bad for Chris’s wife. Many of our docents and guides are elementary- or middle-school teachers, and from what I hear from them, there’s no way that I could ever shoulder their burden. Sometimes I wonder how I stumbled into having a day job that I believe in, at an innovative institution, working in education for people that I respect, and while we have our challenges too, they’re nothing like what Chris describes. I am so lucky in many ways–also lucky to have found this blog and I do believe that you are doing real teaching, PZ.

  8. #8 Flex
    April 7, 2006

    I second BMurray above,

    The troubles with metrics are that they are often the focus of improvement efforts even if they were intended to measure general quality.

    Working as a supplier to the big three American automotive companies, I regularly see metrics being applied incorrectly. Changes are made to improve the scores of the metrics, but overall quality doesn’t change at all, and often drops. The solution? Add more metrics. But don’t remove the metrics already in place. A couple of iterations of this and quality is guarrenteed to drop.

    I’m a fan of what used to be called ‘scientific management’, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Instead of monitoring the entire system and focusing on inefficient areas, with the knowledge that those areas are going to change over time. The idea now seems to be that you should be able to monitor a couple of ‘key’ variables and you know the process is good or bad because of how these ‘key’ variables change. This works in theory until a problem arises. Then after the problem is fixed, another ‘key’ variable is added to the list to monitor.

    Just as an idea, I was looking over the requirements recently for someone to be elected to a school board in the state of Michigan. The only qualification seems to be that they are resident in the school district. Would it make any difference, do you think, if the school boards were required to have 1 or 2 teachers from the district on the board? Making them a majority may make rational sense, but it certainly is not politically feasible. Of course any reasonable school board will even today get advice from the local teachers union and listen to individual teachers, but like all elected positions, not all school boards are reasonable.

    Cheers,

    -Flex

  9. #9 LBBP
    April 7, 2006

    The bottom line is that as a society we do not really value education. If people valued real education that included critical thinking and artistic expression as being just as important as the three “Rs”, then parents would support their children at home, politicians would find ways to give schools the funding they need, and our children would be leading the world rather than falling behind.

    As long as the invisible friend in the sky or other superstitious spiritual quick fixes rule the day, we will never have a truly exemplary school system.

  10. #10 Bruce
    April 7, 2006

    LBBP is right: we don’t value education. I think part of the reason is that everyone has experienced “being educated”, some having college, most having a high school degree. Coupled with the post-Modernist sense that no one is better than anyone else, I can only imagine the crap teachers’ field during parent-teacher night, not to mention all the work in running classes. If opinion equals expertise, ignorance surely will prevail.
    Full disclosure: I earned a BA in Ed but took the easy way out. You’re still not allowed to kill students, right?

  11. #11 Samnell
    April 7, 2006

    I left my student teaching placement in mutual disgust with my cooperating teachers. Completely aside not getting along well personally (placing them in the very exclusive club of teachers I haven’t gotten along with) I discovered to my true horror that neither of them much valued education in itself. So I’m firmly with LBBP. The pair I had seemed pretty indicative of the typical output of certification programs these days. They’re worlds away from the teachers I had just ten years ago in high school.

    I was entirely unsuited tempermentally to be a high school teacher anyway (maybe 40 years ago, but not today) but no one even began to dissuade me through taking all of the courses, spending all of the money and time. I’m pretty bitter about the whole experience. I had managed to delude myself into thinking that most parents did as mine did, working hard to instill a strong respect for learning, education, etc.

  12. #12 SkookumPlanet
    April 7, 2006

    That was an excellent post on Creek Running North.

    A bit of deconstruction of vouchers. A voucher troll on CRN said, “Parents will flock to schools that they feel teach children.” This is one of many absolutely unsupported elements of the voucher psychomarketing campaign. It’s rhetorical argument that makes no reference to the real world, and has no evidentiary foundation.

    The parents who need the most help are working multiple jobs, making two-bus-line commutes to work, are exhausted, poorly educated themselves, learn about the larger world through highly manipulated media channels, and so have the least ability to help their children in such a competitive marketplace. Totally unmentioned, always, are the kids who have parents with no interest in their education, or at least won’t expend themselves over it. There’s zero account of the social collapse of much of the inner city, which inundates schools there and drains financial resources. The certainty with which this experimental idea is sold amounts to lying. It’s psychomarketing. Correction, its dishonest psychomarketing.

    Even worse, the outcome of a public schools voucher program is predictable. Parents will never be given the total amount necessary to school their children. Taxpayers won’t stand for it. So, the better schools will require additional parental financial resources. If not directly, then indirectly. Those that can come up with an extra few thousand a year per kid will get the best schools. The families really retarded educationally will still be stuck in the worst.

    More so, every time government finances are tough, which is usually, politicians will make very, very careful calculations. They know the income levels of their core constituency. They’ll calibrate the voucher amounts so that their people will still have enough disposable income to put their kids in the schools they choose. Those at economic levels below……

    I’m afraid all the techichnical solutions above are wasted discussion because they ignore a more profound change that will control such efforts. If we don’t give up our stereotypes about how Americans do mass decision-making, so we can embrace the reality of it, the far right will not only stay in control of government, they’ll slowly take control of other social institutions. Vouchers will happen. And much worse. Wake up everybody!

  13. #13 Loris
    April 7, 2006

    Teacher quality makes a huge difference in education. One good teacher can change the course of a student’s life if they have the time and energy. Every teacher should be a good teacher. Unfortunately this is not the case. Due to teacher shortages in Illinois, the government began discussion of lowering the requirements on test scores for certification. “Hey everybody, we don’t have enough qualified teachers, so lets let in some unqualified ones!” was apparently the answer.

    Beyond this, our colleges and universities are not teaching future teachers anything to teach. Grade inflation is rampant in the education departments at many public universities. If you don’t believe me, check the GPA of an education student for education classes and in the general curriculum.

    When I was in high school I had a student teacher in history. She was very nice and had an excellent classroom manner, but knew only the very basics about American history. On one memorable afternoon a student asked “If everyone was unemployed during the Depression, how did any businesses stay open?” The student teacher did not know enough to say “While unemployment was at an all time high, it was only 25% of the population. 75% of the people had jobs, but it was easy to lose your job and hard to find another one.” This was a class in American history for high school juniors and I had to answer the question for the teacher.

    Things have changed since my mother went to college forty years ago. At that time, women in her socioeconomic class that managed to go to college had essentially two career options, teaching and nursing. That meant the many of the best and brightest women ended up teaching public school. Today those women have a myriad of career opportunities, and teaching (with its low salary and never ending headaches and heartaches) is not an attractive option. I don’t know the situation for men, but it may be pretty similar in the modern world.

    If we want quality education, we need to invest in teacher salaries, reduce administration and support teachers in the classroom. Without these measures, our children will continue to suffer.

  14. #14 Loris
    April 7, 2006

    I thought perhaps I should follow that comment up a little. I have great respect for the public school teachers out there who work hard everyday to educate our children. It is a arduous task they have and all to often a thankless vocation. My thanks to all the good teachers out there. We all owe you.

  15. #15 magista
    April 7, 2006

    Thanks for that, PZ. I’m going to link it (and this) from my own page too.

    I’m a middle-spectrum teacher type. I’m in Canada, in a high school, in a moderately affluent area, and I teach physics – all of which combine to give me students who are, for the most part, cooperative and willing to learn.

    There are still those, however, who can’t seem to understand that they themselves have to put some effort into their learning. You know, like say… doing their homework? They all understand that you have to practice to be a better athlete, but to be a better student? ::sigh:: I keep trying to tell them that neurons are neurons, and only practice builds connections…

    But I’ve had my share of those ‘going home crying’ days, especially when I first started. Ten years into it now, and my tendency to take things personally has markedly decreased. Fortunately, I still take things seriously, and try to do the best I can for my students.

    Here in Alberta we have a pooled fund for education, with supplemental funds for students identified with learning disabilities or ESL requirements. But what burns me is that our so-called ‘private’ schools in this province still receive 65% of the per-pupil grant, in addition to the hefty tuition fees. Damn it, if you want to call a school private and pick and choose your students, you should have to do it from what you can collect from their families.

    A good teacher is the one wracked with guilt that they’re not doing enough. And bureaucracies are the proverbial molasses in winter when it comes to giving us the tools; they’re never caught up. Why, just this year I got an internet connection and an actual computer (that’s one computer) in my classroom. Imagine that!

    I heartily applaud the Survivor-type exercise recommended in your link. “Those who can, teach, while those who’ve never tried it whine about how easy the teachers have it.”

  16. #16 wheatdogg
    April 7, 2006

    Factoids for your consideration:

    From payscale.com:
    Median elementary school teacher salary = $32,250
    Median high school teacher salary = $36,000
    Median middle school teacher salary = $34,800

    Median salary, professor of law = $114,053

    From whitehouse.gov:
    Median household income, 2004: $44,389

  17. #17 Ed Darrell
    April 7, 2006

    In a true market place, if we wanted more high quality teachers, we’d raise the pay.

    I’ll go for the first voucher system that doesn’t freeze teacher pay lower than similarly educated people, and which comes with new money so it doesn’t need to suck the blood out of the public schools in order to work.

  18. #18 LBBP
    April 7, 2006

    “I’ll go for the first voucher system that doesn’t freeze teacher pay lower than similarly educated people, and which comes with new money so it doesn’t need to suck the blood out of the public schools in order to work.”

    Now that is a good idea. Lock in existing public school funding at pre-voucher rates allowing for inflation and population growth, then add funding specifically for the voucher system. I have never been a voucher supporter, but that version might actually do some good.

  19. #19 Jim
    April 7, 2006

    What I find interesting about SkookumPlanet’s comments (besides shear lack of evidence, which is pot calling kettle black) is that he is really advocating the very thing he is against!

    “the far right will not only stay in control of government, they’ll slowly take control of other social institutions…”

    I don’t desire the far right to control government etc. (yech!) I don’t want any monopoly to control primary education. (which is what we have now) How is your position any different than the far right? You state that people don’t have the time or energy or knowledge to make their own choices.

    “The parents who need the most help are working multiple jobs, making two-bus-line commutes to work, are exhausted, poorly educated themselves, learn about the larger world through highly manipulated media channels, and so have the least ability to help their children in such a competitive marketplace.”

    So you making the choices for them is automatically better? Are you saying your system is a benevolent dictatorship? Human nature being what it is there isn’t such a beast. At some point the far right and the far left start to sound very similar – “My way or the highway”. (I don’t like either and think both are unworkable and similarily elitist.)

    You would be surprised at the capabilities of these poorly educated people. Give them a chance to make their own choices. Give them some economic power to help determine their educational future. I would be all for a voucher system that only applied to people in a lower economic class. Allow them to choose where their total educational dollars go. If they have special needs youngsters then bump it up to cover that. Everywhere vouchers have been tried has been effective for the students. In fact, in the US where it has been tried the public schools have actually ended up getting MORE money per student. (see reports on Milwakee WI)

    When the system was proposed in Milwakee WI for the poorest 500 students only there was much resistence. Peole working in those Milwakee schools wouldn’t send their own children to the schools they worked at. When the Head of the Milwakee school system pointed that out and in passing recommended that anyone who worked there should be required to send their child to the school they work at, she got death threats.(not something that would be legal, but the reaction says a lot) So clearly the people who worked there knew the schools weren’t good.

    The resistance to trying vouchers is about the threat to a monopoly. I respect teachers and think they do an awesome job. I think we should have signifigantly longer school years (more days) and teachers should get compensated at least proportionally more. Yes, it would mean more dinero out of my pocket. I could live with that.

  20. #20 decrepitoldfool
    April 7, 2006

    Funding is about priorities. For a fraction of what we have spent in Iraq – sorry to sound simplistic here – but for that amount we could have fixed every single financially-fixable problems our school systems have. Then at least the other problems would stand out in sharper relief so they could be addressed.

  21. #21 Samnell
    April 7, 2006

    “When I was in high school I had a student teacher in history. She was very nice and had an excellent classroom manner, but knew only the very basics about American history. On one memorable afternoon a student asked “If everyone was unemployed during the Depression, how did any businesses stay open?” The student teacher did not know enough to say “While unemployment was at an all time high, it was only 25% of the population. 75% of the people had jobs, but it was easy to lose your job and hard to find another one.” This was a class in American history for high school juniors and I had to answer the question for the teacher.”

    That matches very closely the content aptitude of my cooperating teacher last spring. She’d been teaching for ten years. I’m convinced she didn’t actually like history. She just enjoyed the popular culture of past decades and based 90% of her instruction around it. Dance marathons got nearly as much coverage as Prohibition in her unit on the 1920s.

  22. #22 Carlie
    April 8, 2006

    I’m sure this doesn’t need said. I’m sure everyone here already knows it. However, I haven’t seen it addressed yet.

    One of the major problems with the voucher systems that have been implemented/suggested lies with the way the schools are evaluated (a big problem with NCLB, also). Regardless of the measurement technique, a school that has a high percentage of special needs students will look worse than another. Therefore, if a school has many special needs students, it looks bad, the good students go elsewhere, the funding drops for the school, and there is even less money to serve the most needy students who are left behind, who then do even worse. Not only does this hurt the special needs students, it also sways teachers away from specializing in special needs. Why help students who will only hurt your school’s funding/merit raises/student numbers?

    It’s not just about parents and their ability to make choices about where their children go to school. It’s about how to utilize resources so that all of the kids involved get a decent education, and special needs get not only left out, but actively penalized in voucher systems the way they’re being proposed.

  23. #23 SkookumPlanet
    April 8, 2006

    .
    Psychomarketing School Vouchers
    An analytical response to Jim
    _______________________________________________
    .
    .
    [Note. The length is unintentional, believe me. If the instructional value isn’t comparable, please tell me. Even a simple “no” would suffice.]

    Jim, come on. You put words in my mouth and ideas in my brain not actually there, many of my points you don’t address, and you ignore the entire gist of my post.

    I discussed the psychomarketing campaign used to advocate vouchers. There’s nothing in my post pro or con vouchers, per se. By implication, certainly, my post was anti-voucher because I’m judging the honesty of the sales campaign promoting the idea and from that deriving judgments about vouchers. SciBlog victims can confirm my primary interest in process.

    One could take ‘graphs 3 & 4 as aimed at vouchers themselves, but that wasn’t my intent. I was detailing the likely political realities when politicians prioritize public funding that, essentially, goes into individuals’ pockets. They calibrate maximum benefit for their voting constituency. That’s not news. Those paragraphs referenced my overall point — potential negative issues undiscussed in the right’s voucher campaign.

    Just as they remained undiscussed in your post.

    Evidence

    While I intended no advocacy on vouchers, I clearly implied advocacy for honesty from the far right. So I’ll start there. I have quite a list of analyses either already written or in draft form illustrating pervasive manipulation and lying by the rightwing using pyschomarketing. My conclusion is the right will lie about any action or plan if they calculate low-risk consequences. I’ll mention only two posted in the last few days.

    A Friday post is directly related. It looks at an hour-long network TV sales pitch for the right’s education agenda. Rarely personal about politics, years of observation convince me the “reporter” authoring the show, John Stossel, is verifiably a scumbag. The post is Pat “Rush” Stosselson Speaks! at Dispatches from the Cultural Wars. [http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/04
    /that_religious_right_logic.php]

    A technical analysis of the administration’s sophisticated lying through psychomarketing in selling an Iraq invasion, is Led to War by Proximity Soundbites, posted Wednesday, on Chris Mooney’s blog.
    [http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2006/04
    /nordhaus_shellenberger_make_a.php#comment-63691].

    I’m not a priori against the concept of a vouchers. But vouchers are being sold 1) to Americans as a cure all with inadequate evidence of such, 2) with avoidance of potential negative issues, hence my originally mentioning some, 3) by a misleading pyschomarketing campaign and 4) by a disciplined, Machiavellian political cadre so saturated with dishonesty it drips from their fingertips, their chins, and the tips of their noses.

    These add up to one giant emergency siren wailing away. IF someone has to lie — by commission, omission, decontextualizing, false characterization, oversimplification, and unsupported conclusions — to sell, I assume the item suspicious. I’m just funny that way.

    Following are some examples.

    Accusational Lying/Rebranding

    You — “So you making the choices for them is automatically better? Are you saying your system is a benevolent dictatorship….‘My way or the highway'”. [my emphasis]

    I said none of these 3 things. “My system”? Yeah, right. Ain’t gotta system. Nobody’s making choices for them. As for “benevolent dictatorship”, see my discussion of “monopoly” below. The emotional communication, in case you don’t realize, is that I’m a benevolent dictator. And it’s the emotional message that counts. See the Mooney thread above.

    This non sequitur response comes to my paragraph noting that many people at the economic bottom these days live on a never-ending treadmill leaving them chronically exhausted and that devours discretionary time, so rendering them even less competitive against the highly educated, the professional, and others with family, work, financial and time flexibility and analytical experience.

    Language Non-referential to Reality.

    You — “You would be surprised at the capabilities of these poorly educated people.”

    No, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I noted educational deficit with other common factors above, specifically regarding people’s resources and “ability to help their children in such a competitive marketplace.” The right, and you, never speak to the highly competitive system that vouchers will create. There will be better schools and worse schools and parents with the highest drive, skills, and available time win and those lacking such resources lose, roughly. I should say their kids will do so.

    You, and the campaign fail to mention a highly likely, central feature of the radically new system you propose. Ignoring this ignores reality.

    Distraction by Omission

    Me — “Totally unmentioned, always, are the kids who have parents with no interest in their education, or at least won’t expend themselves over it.”

    Nothing from you either.

    Me — “The certainty with which this experimental idea is sold amounts to lying. It’s psychomarketing. Correction, its dishonest psychomarketing.”

    Nothing from you on that certainty either.

    Me — “There’s zero account of the social collapse of much of the inner city, which inundates schools there and drains financial resources.”

    Nothing from you either.

    Omissions like these can be a way to differentiate psychomarketing campaigns from real issue debates. Unfortunately, over the years the right has done another outstanding job, here blurring that boundary.

    Note. If vouchers were a stunningly brilliant solution I believed in, I’d find the worst, most socially dysfunctional school districts to be experimental testbeds. Succeeding there I’d have a campaign theme so powerful it would shine right through America’s media fog. However, if motivated by other considerations, I’d shun this obvious tactic, and it’s potential failed examples. But hey, that’s just me.

    Rebranding

    You — “I don’t want any monopoly to control primary education. (which is what we have now).”

    You — “The resistance to trying vouchers is about the threat to a monopoly.

    Huh? I said nothing even remotely connected to “monopoly”. This “monopoly rebranding” has nothing to do with my post. You’re following a script, or talking point, from the voucher psychomarketing campaign. The following applies to the “benevolent dictator” reference as well, whatever its source.

    You use the word “monopoly” twice without any reference or definition, at all! Such an emotionally negative word was carefully chosen. It’s a rebranding of public education designed to construct a villain. [An example of successful rebranding is Ed Luntz’s “Death Tax” meme, discussed in my second post in the Mooney topic above.]

    This rebranding is a necessary tactic because the public must have a, more or less, subconscious, strong negative image of public schools, long one of our nation’s strengths, before they’re emotionally capable of tossing them overboard. [For my previous victims, here’s an example of “building realities in” or “reshaping” the minds of citizens. The Stossel thread quotes Luntz on how-to.]

    It’s Psychomarketing 101, lesson plan “The Use of Rebranding in the Politics of Personal & Institutional Destruction.” Similar usage can be seen in current demonizing of faculty preparatory to the coming anti-tenure campaign and in morphing “liberal” into “one-scapegoat-fits-any-and-all-problems.”

    Voters give local school boards authority to hire and fire entire district workforces, to effect course content and other pedagogical issues, make capital expenditure and indebtedness decisions, and to decide all else up to limits set by the state the feds. For centuries that’s been known as “democracy.”

    The logic of rebranding public schools a “monopoly,” would also make Congress a law-making monopoly, the local police a law-enforcement monopoly, and the state DMV a license-and-tag-and-drive-on-the-right-hand-side-of-the-road monopoly [obviously in a cartel with the activist-judges monopoly [“activist judges” being another categorically dishonest rebranding, it’s use automatically a lie].]

    Such logic turns all of government into a monopoly. Hmmm, where have I heard….. oh yeah, privatization. The radical right’s uber-destination. Where the private sector replaces government for everything…. except the functions the right wants government to keep.

    Privatization ain’t got nothin’ to do with helpin’ poor kids learn.

    Now, see why I focused on the campaign and not on vouchers? One psychomarketing tactic is focusing on details and rhetorical argumentation to distract people’s natural pattern-recognition away from grasping larger contexts. It’s a successful, functional tactic you’ll find abundant in our topical political issue debates if you look for it.

    Narrow debate is preferable to broad, synthetic thinking, and is also a technique in negative-psychomarketing campaigns.

    Language Non-referential to Reality.

    I’ll illustrate that concept with two things you said.

    1. You — “I would be all for a voucher system that only applied to people in a lower economic class. Allow them to choose where their total educational dollars go.”

    That’s something I’d take a serious look at also. However, decades-long political and education trends argue strongly against voters installing such a system. Again, an overview shows the right successfully selling Americans the meme “personal greed is high moral principal.”

    Californians without school-age children grow resentful that their taxes fund schools, even in excellent districts. Affluent, suburban PTA’s may raise $100,000 annually for high schools. A voucher initiative in Texas, I think, justified not means-testing vouchers in order to muster enough votes and was probably correct. The poor and poorly educated don’t vote and so won’t have a say.

    It ain’t gonna happen. That’s reality and you ignore it.

    2. You — “[for a longer working year] teachers should get compensated at least proportionally more. Yes, it would mean more dinero out of my pocket. I could live with that.”

    Perhaps you’re not the problem.

    Assuming highest quality teachers, their salaries should already 50% higher. You don’t matter — a majority, in may places a super majority, of the voters do. It ain’t gonna happen.

    I’d trust your position more if you’d invest in it.

    A realistic approach to increasing teacher pay while public support for it’s source, taxes, is dwindling, might include commitment like the following.

    Teachers need better pay, which will only happen by convincing voters that teachers create our future. Nobody’s assumed that role so I’m committing the next five years to take it. I’ll give up evenings, weekends, time with my wife and kids and dog.

    I’ll bootstrap an organization. I’ll spend two years building membership, raising money and doing PR outreach. When strong enough, we’ll launch a carefully planned, 3-year community campaign to convince voters. We’ll pass legislation to raise teacher quality through education and hiring, immediately increase teacher salaries by 50%, and schedule in slower above-inflation base-pay increase also.

    Overdramatized to make the point, that’s a realistic view of what the average American community needs to give comparable pay to teachers. Perhaps not where you live, but the U.S. is going in the opposite direction. So, again here’s the use of language that sounds good but on analysis is not related to reality, here the reality of teacher pay in America.

    And finally, you said, “What I find interesting about SkookumPlanet’s comments …. he is really advocating the very thing he is against!”

    Vouchers are the radical right slowly taking over our institution of public schools. It’s a baby born from the womb and nursed on the teat of the radical right. One could check out that pedigree oneself.

    Now, if the above isn’t enough evidence for you, I’ve got lots more.

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