Monday, March 08, 2010

"Something is Needed"

Not content to quietly commit credibility suicide debating the various pop-culture frames for terrorism, (hint: it isn't terrorism when Americans do it) Newsweek is this week butchering articles about education.

The first one I ran across was promoted as Why Teachers Can't Control Their Classrooms. This was emerging as the number one problem for teachers as I was graduating from high school and was the primary challenge when I spent a year teaching for New Orleans' RSD. My friends who continue to teach call this their number one problem.

I have my own opinions and theories to answer "why teachers can't control their classrooms," and I know what solutions I would propose to improve the situation. I was hoping this article may explore something, anything along those lines.

What I read was this.

Really? A tired personal expression of the "good ole days" followed by the breathless information from a Department of Education press release?

One reason things are so bad in schools is because there aren't many individuals in the mainstream media who will dedicate the time to really investigate what is going on and actually inform the voting population about it.

Exhibit B: Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers. Inflammatory promo, dud article. I don't know a single teacher who hasn't had to pick up a mountain of slack for some shitty teacher that didn't deserve their paycheck. Fire bad teachers? Hell Fing Yes.

That's not what the article is about, however. Do not be fooled.

I'll sum it up: "Teachers bad, teachers unions bad; KIPP, Teach for America good, like Marines & Special Forces. New Orleans should be thankful for Hurricane Katrina." Or: no real information, just a bunch of tired old cliches framing an Arne Duncan press release.

We all remember how Arne investigates a situation and the wise things he has to say about it, don't we? Lets have more of that, please. Luckily, Arne proves Obama's bipartisanship is real, as Duncan would have fit right in with the Bush administration.

Heckuva job, Dunkie.

The Final Straw: The War On Education (WOE).

Wait. I'm sorry, the actual promo for that one was The Battle for Education Reform. My bad. I can get my media-driven, inappropriate military metaphors confused sometimes, what with my public school education and all.

This two-page article can be summed up thusly: "Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee are powerful, well connected women who do not like each other or communicate well; their lives are dominated by politics and media-types. They have something to do with public schools in Washington, D.C."

Lost in all of this is any actual discussion of education or any in-depth reporting. Maybe Newsweek ought to act like the small-government types they're shilling for here and contract their work out to the likes of the New Orleans Times-Picayune or The Lens.



Dante said...

Pat, we were in the first generation of kids who didn't have corporal punishment in school. I don't think it's a coincidence that behavioral problems started with us. If you want teachers to control the classroom again, then someone needs to be able to lay a paddle on a student at an early enough age that the fear carries over into higher grades. In my younger days, paddling was still ok in our school district and trouble at school meant a paddling there and a spanking when I got home. When that stopped, it was almost like a light switch being turned off, and a lot of borderline kids got really unruly really fast.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I've thought of that, too. But then I recall this: the kids that got paddled when I was in elementary school...kept getting in trouble all the way through graduation.

I'm not saying there absolutely cannot be a place for corporal punishment, I find it distasteful but if it can be proven to work, I'm not going to back away for some squishy reason.

I'm saying that there needs to be a lot more work before that particular barrier is crossed. If we had paddled students for every paddle-worthy offense when I was teaching, there'd have been a staff member who never did anything else.

Nothing would have changed.

Dante said...

The worst are going to be bad no matter what. And I'm not saying that corporal punishment is an end-all be-all behavioral control tool. But it was an effective when used properly and it did certainly have its place. Losing that option with nothing viable to replace it made most schools' discipline structures fall like a house of cards.

Personally, I think we need to ditch this notion of not leaving kids behind and start doing our best to help the kids who actually want to be there. And part of that is separating the kids who want to be there from the kids who don't (or who want to be there for reasons other than learning).

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

See, now you're getting somewhere. One of my biggest concerns (and one of the problems actually taught to me during teacher training) was trying to teach the same subject to students on widely seperated levels of learning acheivement and ability in the same classroom.

Mix in those students with some combination of far-below-level status, anti-social tendencies, moderate to severe developmental disability, or chronic (and sometimes violent) behavior disorders, and you have your modern public school classroom.

Again, the model is what is unsustainable.