New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Educational wisdom from Jefferson


In scanning and trying to get some organization to a stack of my photographs, I came across the one above. Some years ago, I had photographed it in a small, historic museum in Kaycee Wyoming, (real cowboy country, hometown of Chris LeDoux, not far from where the Wild Bunch had their Hole in the Wall hideout). At the time, I was taken with the words. I still am today.

If you find it difficult to read, click on it to enlarge it. If it's still not clear or you don't get images, it says: "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." Thomas Jefferson.

For those today who are convinced public schools are no longer important, who don't trust the people, and yet want to take from them the educational system that has helped make this country what it has been, for those who don't think education was something our government originally saw as important, please reread the above.

In the elections about to be held there is one party in this country who believes in less taxes and favors vouchers that would benefit private religious schools at the expense of the public system. These people generally call themselves Republicans.

If you are one who values the public school system, who wants it made stronger, not weaker, you need to carefully look at which party will get you where Thomas Jefferson said we need to go.

I don't disagree that some liberals have made a mockery of the public education system by trying to mandate their moral agenda and filling the hours up with that instead of the teaching of basics-- some conservatives would do the same thing today-- different agenda, of course.

Some months back, I read Mary Lou's blog (linked to the side as Life after Nexcom) with a test showing what an eighth grade education used to mean when my parents would have been children. It was mind boggling. In the first eight years, students used to be taught what they are lucky now to get as freshmen in college.Why is this happening? Is it the fault of the public schools or is it our culture, the expectations of our children to be constantly entertained, and the need for teachers to play nursemaids?

Back when I was in school (the dark ages), teachers taught morality by example and classroom expectations. Class time was for reading, writing, science, geography, mathematics, history and if you were going onto college more of them all. Still not bad for bedrock criteria. In a nation where we see things so differently in terms of morality, I believe it's enough if we succeed in teaching not to shoot or beat each other up and no sex in the halls. Given the way a lot of parents don't seem to teach such things at home, that will stir up enough parental angst.

I believe strongly in the public education system in this country. It's very frustrating to see those, who themselves benefited from it, but today would destroy it if they could. We need to support teachers, work toward improved methods of teaching, encourage schools to hold the line on real values like not cheating, solving problems without violence, treating others with respect. Don't destroy the system that got us to where we have been.

Bush started a program that he milked for much publicity called No Child Left Behind. I guess it's definitely served to benefit his brother Neil, who according to the Kos has made a tidy profit from it (this is the same Bush who was involved in the savings and loan scandals). Just in case you think Kos is prejudiced-- No Bush left behind from Business Week . This is all so typical of the Bush administration who talk one way and do another.

Americans need to stay alert because our country is being sold out for the almighty dollar by those who claim to have high standards but in reality only value the buck. They are not only stripping our environment but our educational system of tax resources, demanding tests that accomplish nothing; and if they have their way a system of vouchers to take my tax dollars from public education and hand it over to private schools who may be teaching things that are contradictory to everything I would believe are part of being an educated and informed citizen.

If there are problems, the solution is fixing the system, not breaking it.

(Oh and one more thing, call me an old fogy, I now favor simple uniforms for school kids. This should not be a federal issue but rather local, but it just makes sense to me given some parents let their youngsters head to school with everything showing; and then wonder why the students can't keep their minds on their studies. I didn't used to think uniforms were good-- back when parents had standards that cooperated with the school systems, back when kids had to wear neat, clean and properly covering clothing to school-- back in the dark ages (and there was no more money then than there is today). Children need to understand when they head to school, it's not primarily about socializing but it is going to their job. They are there to learn. Maybe it takes uniforms to impress this on them.)

14 comments:

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I'm a product of public education--good old LAUSD--and I believe mightily in public education. My higher degrees are also from California public universities. Unfortunately, here in L.A., we are in deep trouble with K-12. My own kids went to parochial schools--uniforms were mandatory and it does make life easier. The Long Beach District wears them here. I have mixed feelings now about them for public schools. I work for a private/independent school and it is an outstanding school, but the average family in the U.S. cannot afford schools like mine--and that makes me sad. There are some excellent non-profits out there working hard to come up with ways for us to improve public education and I could be wrong, but they are non-partisan, I believe. Keep your thoughts coming as the elections draw near. Better you than me, though I am benefiting from your analysis.

Ingineer66 said...

OK where to begin. First I will start with my favorite Democrat Bill Clinton isnt he the one who taught America that Morality does not matter as long as the economy is good. Which later turned out to all be smoke and mirrors Enron and Globalcom scams. But I digress, back to Clinton with his oval office activities taught us that oral sex is not sex and its only wrong/illegal/immoral if you get caught. After all it was his "private" life and nobodys business.

Now to some real commentary. I personally want a strong public education system and I went to a private Baptist ran school for K - 8th that made Catholic school look like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And my lower-middle class parents paid for it with none of the current tax relief that exists. But my children have all gone to public school. Then again I believe in vouchers and for the same reason that most inner city blacks like vouchers. Because we all want parent choice when the local monopolistic public school is failing. I want to see vouchers that can take money and give it to the best school the parent chooses public or private. That is the whole selling point. Parent choice. There is no choice now there is $10,000+ per year per kid given to every school no matter how bad or how good a job the school is doing.
We need to focus on the basics and learning and not so much on administration. We spend way too much on administration because the California education code is 100,960 pages. I mean how many people does it take just to sort all that crap out. But we also have a problem with the teachers unions. They have so much political power and the union leadership is so entrenched in only looking out for their own power there are many bad decisions made in the name of education spending.

Vouchers are like democracy. Someone still has to choose to send their kid to that school. If no one chooses to do that then the school will not get any tax money. And it is only a percentage of what the public school gets. The public system still gets some of the money without having to do anything for it.

Why are many dems so against vouchers? You guys want choice for everything else. I dont plan to have an abortion, but I am not for stopping someone else's choice to have one. Why do you want to tell other people how to live their lives.

Well that should be enough to stir someone up somewhere.

Dick said...

Both of the previous commenters have brought up some good points. I think one of the main reasons the cost per student is so high in public schools is that they have to take everyone and there are some students with special problems that are very expensive to serve. Private schools usually get students who do not have serious problems and also have pretty good parental support.

I agree with Rain that the best thing would be to fix public education. The problem is to properly identify how. There is not one simple thing wrong that is an easy fix. I like the move toward year round school schedules that I see happening at least in my area. I would like to see schools develop two tracks for kids, one for those who want to go on in academics into college and the other for those who want to pursue a trade.

There is a lot that needs to change but who is really qualified to say what those changes should be?

Rain said...

The issue with Bill Clinton was-- is it someone else's business as to sexually what consenting adults do? I still don't think it is nor should have been even about the president. If Bush has a crush or even more on Condi, I don't care. It's consenting adults. Republicans always want to control sexuality; and unless it's minors, I don't think government should have a say in it. Clinton's mistake was in answering the question. He should have done what Bush did regarding earlier cocaine usage-- refuse to answer as it had nothing to do with the current job... hopefully in the drug usage anyway.

My concept of the kind of morality that I care about in government goes to not cheating on income tax, not using graft to get jobs, no pay-offs to get through lucrative tax benefits for businesses, not starting wars with lies, not taking away Constitutional freedoms in the name of security but in reality only to secure power for themselves.

As for vouchers, why are Republicans, who are generally against welfare, for it in this case? Vouchers mean those who pay taxes will be paying to send children to schools that might teach religious views that deny reality. The taxpayer would have no say in what was being taught to those kids but they would be paying for it.

Vouchers aren't just about parents directing the tax money they pay toward which school their child attends. It's also about taking other people's tax dollars for families that might pay no taxes.

Vouchers also assume all parents have better judgement on what schools should teach than the collective wisdom of the culture-- while those who favor it often condemn individual parents as doing a poor job with their kids.

Large families or poor families could be using my dollars to educate their children that evolution is a myth, that science is not needed to determine facts, etc etc. I don't mind paying for families that pay no taxes to go to public schools because an educated populace benefits my community and country; plus, and I can have some say in the curriculum. That is not the case with private schools.

And another opinion on this will be coming next blog (October 20th) written by a teacher who has experience with the actual situation.

Parapluie said...

For a short period of time three years ago my grandchildren went to a religious private school preschool through grade school. The four year old children were memorizing and reciting an oath to God coming before and above their pledge of allegiance to the United States.
I don't want my tax money going to this school. And I am happy that now the children attend public school.

Ingineer66 said...

Republicans, or better said, Conservatives are for Vouchers because we are for personal responsibility and self destiny. Like I said I have not sent my children to private school because I believe the public school system here does a decent job and I dont really care for the private schools here, but as we see from fran who lives in the LA Unified school district they chose private school as many people do in very large cities. The mega-school system is broke and needs wholesale change.
As for the tax payer having a say in education, do you really think you have a say in the public school curriculum. I would say it is about the same or less than what a paying customer would have in a private school. There are all kinds of things taught about homosexuality and "lifestyles" that you probably dont agree with at the public school but yet they cant seem to teach math and english effectively.
And most parochial schools are not teaching whacked out ideas they are focusing on basic instruction and a safe learning environment. You should watch the movie
"Raising Helen" to get an idea of what most parochial schools are like. I am not saying there are no whackos it just is not as rampant as you make it sound. And even if it is, what is worse a kid who cant read or a kid who didnt learn scientific method. He at least learned how to learn and will likely teach himself or learn the skills to survive and be succesful in todays society.
And as for parent input, yes I think that any parent who makes the effort to send their child to a better school knows more than the collective society. Yes there are some parents that dont care and those kids will be stuck at the same old shitty school, but we can only do so much. This is America where you are guarenteed the Pursuit of Happiness not to actually attain it.

Rain said...

You can have a say in public education if you are one of the citizens who cares, who goes to the meetings of the Board. That's a choice, but what you are saying is you want my tax dollars to pay for private education of someone else's child. Isn't that welfare? So guess it's okay now? I don't agree with a lot of what fundamentalists religions are teaching today and that's the real issue. Why should I pay for a religious upbringing for someone else's child especially when it's a religious teaching with which I disagree?

Rain said...

I also feel that to take money from the public education system, to take students out of it who happen to have those parents who do care enough to look around for schools, dooms the public system. So you want to let that go and think it's okay but what will that mean for this country as a whole when the majority of the citizens don't have an education? Fix the system and maybe as Jefferson says, we have a chance to fix our culture. Ignore public education and we don't.

Ingineer66 said...

Dont lump me in with all republicans. And yes the entire public school system could be called welfare because not too many students are paying taxes. Their parents are. And I am not advocating abandoning the public school system. I am saying lets try some things to try and fix it. If those things dont work then stop trying them and move on to something new. What we have now is a broken system and no one wants to make any hard decisions to fix anything. They all want to just throw more money at the messed up system as if that will fix anything. This country has spent about a Trillion dollars on the war on poverty since the LBJ great society and yet the poverty level in the US is about the same as it was in 1964. I say lets try some new ideas and see if they work. The status quo is not working.

Maya's Granny said...

As an ex-Montessori teacher, I find that the public schools could do a lot better job than they do. I wish they would take a page from Montessori's book and teach in a way that allows children to love to learn.

That said, I think I want to see the public schools improve rather than undercut them with vouchers. If vouchers were being used for alternative methods of education and not for religious schools, I would be more in favor of them. But so often the only private schools available are either religious or profit oriented. Neither is a good fit for my tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

I remember when it was important to know how to spell words correctly. It was a time before computers and spell check. I still value that part of my public school education....Echo

Rain said...

hey ingineer, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and defends ducks, what is it? *s*

As for education, I have said my piece on it and won't keep repeating it but tomorrow a teacher will say something and if there are others actually in the public education system, I am sure we'd all be glad to hear from them. There are still kids getting good education from public schools btw.

Having said I wasn't going to write comments on this, I nearly wrote a whole new blog but with self-restraint just erased it.

Clearly this is a topic that could be a blog of its own with a lot of ramifications to any culture. Can a people afford to write off the bottom end of their culture for educating them and not pay a price? Oops there, I go lol Quitting now and that's definite!

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Ingineer66 said...

Yes there are kids getting a good education from the public schools. My kids are among them, but I am not sure they are getting the best education they could be getting for all the money that is spent and all the teachers (around here anyway) complaing all the time about not having enough money and threatening to strike every couple of years. Teachers know how much money they will make when the get into the profession it is not a secret. If they want more then they should go somewhere else. But elsewhere they probably wont get 100% medical paid with no deductables.

I guess I am still rambling too Rain.