Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Education and How to Get It

I was listening to talk radio this morning with my husband as we drove to a hardware store to pick up replacement parts for our gas grill.  We looked at new grills as well.  We prefer to fix rather than buy new.  Maybe that seems horrendously old-school, but that's the way we roll.

I generally hate using slang phrases like that, but if I'm going to tell you that I'm so anachronistic that I fix an outdoor gas grill 5 times rather than replace it, you should understand that I live with one foot in the 19th and one foot in the 21st centuries.  Whew.  Reading that run-on sentence makes me tired.  But Henry James would have had no problem with it.  Ernest Hemingway would have choked rather than write it.  That's why I skip the 20th century.

Another reason I skip the 20th century is that it was during that time that school attendance (Note: not education.) became compulsory.  And, even more dangerous, during the Carter administration, our country created the Department of Education.  And that's what the talk radio guy was talking about today.  He said we should abolish the Department of Education, and I agree with him.

One of the first reasons is that the Department of Education was created to provide best-practices information to struggling districts.  Maybe they haven't noticed, but there's this thing called the internet.  It allows people everywhere to share information at a speed unheard of in the 1970's.  I can tell you that you can find for FREE every kind of lesson plan, from pre-school to post graduate work on the internet.  Teachers just have to look.  Why do we need a bunch of government bureaucrats to devise lesson plans for teachers in Wahoo, Nebraska?  (I taught junior and senior high there in the early 1990's.)

The second reason for abolishing the Department of Education is that it is filled with people who think the only purpose of grammar schools and high schools is to fill colleges.  I teach at the college level.  I love my colleagues, but most of them are there to get government grants to do research.  They are not particularly good teachers.  They don't care about how to teach.  Nor do they care about who they are teaching.

A professor once told me, years ago, that he was surprised that I thought the purpose of communication was to express the truth.  He said language was generally used to hide one's true motives, thoughts, and feelings.  Really?  Do we want that kind of person teaching our children?  Or teaching those who teach our children?

The  final reason for abolishing the behemoth that is the Department of Education is that the teacher unions have taken over education, and they need to be broken.  I belonged to the National Education Association when I taught in public schools.  My college courses in education revolved around two issues:  How to develop lesson plans, and how to be a good member of the union.

I actually quit teaching in public schools a few months after being awarded tenure.  Yes, tenure is an award.  It is a way for the government to say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  But if hearing that from a union and from the government doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies, then you haven't read this far without spewing pea soup at your computer screen.  Or maybe you actually have taught in schools long enough to want to see your students explode... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSTLDel-G9k&

The only person I want to approve of my teaching is God.  Have I raised a good and faithful servant?  He's only 10, and I have my doubts.  But I still have time, and I will not turn my son's education and development over to the wage slaves of the union.  For that reason, I pay attention to the words of old, wise, white (?) men:
"Many fathers go to such lengths in the way of fondness for their money, and want of fondness for their children, that, to avoid paying a larger fee, they choose utterly worthless persons to educate their sons, their object being an expensive ignorance.

"This reminds one of Aristippus and his neat and witty repartee to a foolish father.  Questioned as to what fee he asked for educating the child, he replied, "Forty pounds."

"Good heavens!" said the father: "What an extravagant demand!  For forty pounds I can buy a slave."

"Very well," was the answer: "Then you will have two slaves--- your son and the one you buy."

 -- Plutarch, from  On Bringing Up a Boy

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