Before this absurd presidential election is over and the chilling potentialities have faded, I want to urgently request something of our next president.
We are a great country with a wealth of resources, a rich culture that derives from its heritage of immigration and a government that has been carefully designed by some really smart people. We are greatest when we thrive to better ourselves based on the honorable principles that guided the best of our countries designers. As such, we have an immense responsibility to ourselves and to the world.
In recent months, I have also come to realize how fragile our country is — not because of a failure of resources, culture or even our government (surprise). It’s because we have forgotten what our country is about and the spirit behind its creation — and our education system deserves a large part of the blame. We endeavor to prepare our children for their future workplace, and rightly so. But we have increasingly worked toward this goal at the expense of preparing them to become knowledgeable and responsible citizens of a democratic society.
We have angrily express our dissatisfaction with how Congress, the President and the Supreme Court conduct governmental affairs. Yet, according to an Annenberg Public Policy Center study, only 36% of us could name all three branches of government. 35% could not name a single one. Only 27% knew that two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate could overturn a Presidential Veto. 21% believe that a 5-4 Supreme Court Decision is sent back to Congress.* Yet the constitution we apparently know so little about grants us the power to select those who will fill our offices of leadership.
Therefore, I earnestly beseech our next president to use his or her Department of Education to enact a complete overhaul of Social Studies education in America. We need to understand the history and heritage of our country, both our successes and our blunders. ..And, additionally, we will not be able to accomplish this without escaping the tyranny of high stakes testing and the multiple choice knowledge that it precipitates.
The United States has an exciting history that folds into an even more exciting world history, and it all influences nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Learning about that history and its social, cultural and economic implications should be just as exciting — and it can be.
It should be.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” - George Santayana
..or worse, have it rewritten for them!
In the graphs below, I label the X-axis as “Years of Republican Led General Assembly,” referring to the years that North Carolina’s legislative branch has been dominated by the Republican Party, the first time since 1870. I regret using this distinction because I actually respect much of what I think the Republican Party represents. I am referring, instead, to the Cuckoo legislators, arrogantly conservative politicians who appear to be Republicans, holding just enough resemblance to push many fine and thoughtful statesmen out of the nest of North Carolina’s State Government.
Students in Music & Art Ed Programs
That said, I want to report on one of the many effects of their arrogance, and not the millions of dollars lost to the state as a result of their hastily written and passed HB2.
I am no longer a teacher. I left the classroom for leadership roles in a time when teachers practiced autonomy in their classrooms and were rewarded for advancing their own educations. Today, I can barely imagine how demoralizing the last five years have been for North Carolina teachers, and for school administrators who are desperately struggling to fill their classrooms with qualified teachers.
The solution to an alarming teaching shortage is simple, at least to the amateurs in Raleigh.
Appear to grant a raise to teachers in North Carolina.
Factoring in the nominal inflation of the past decade and a half, teacher pay in North Carolina has dropped 13%.1 Real and significant raises would certainly help and are certainly warranted. But there’s nothing new here. While teachers have always been grossly underpaid, we have continued to have talented and committed men and women wanting to become teachers.
In my opinion, the teacher shortage has more to do with the declining conditions of the job and the increasing barriers that stand in the way of real learning in the classroom. A teacher’s passion comes from celebrating the meaningful learning and growth of her students. But today, the creative art of teaching has been spoiled by requirements to comply with government mandated standards that are measured by tests that choke real learning.
..And why would a high school student want to do, what they’ve spent 13 years watched their teachers dispair in not being allowed to do?
Enrollment at the 15 UNC schools of education has plummeted 30 percent since 2010, a worry for a state where those programs are the biggest source of classroom teachers.2
I recently received a document from one of the state’s 15 schools of education that lists the numbers of students joining their various education programs since 2012, and the numbers SHOULD worry us.
For instance, this graph illustrates the university students who are planning to become elementary school teachers.
The decline, since 2012, represents a net loss of 213 potential elementary school teachers.
Equally disturbing are the numbers entering Math and Science programs, illustrated here.
That’s 34% few Math and Science teachers than would have been likely in a more stable environment. And, as I’ve written many times before, the real problems of this state, nation and world have less to do with Math and Science, and more to do with our social condition – and we’ve lost 65% of the Social Studies teachers we might have had. In 2016, no college student in that university sought to pursue a career as a Social Studies teacher.
Considering how teachers have been treated in this state, it is easy to fathom what these Cuckoo legislators fear the most. It is highly educated and organized teachers. In many of the state’s communities, the most educated citizens are teachers. It’s why the General Assembly and Pat McRory (Governor) stopped paying higher salaries to teachers with advanced education (part of the Appropriations Act of 2013). We are the only state that does not pay more to teachers with graduate degrees. The result?
A loss of 27%, though many teachers continue to advance their own education, even without compensation.
If you are a North Carolina voter, and you believe that the future of our state depends on the talent and intelligence of its citizens, then learn how your representatives voted on the final adoption of the Appropriations Act of 2013. If you do not know who your representatives are, go here. Then go here and click the name of your House member (here for your senator) to see their voting history in 2013-14 session. If he or she voted “No” to the final adoption of SB 402, the Appropriations Act of 2013, then they voted FOR teachers and stronger public schools in North Carolina.
2 Bonner, L. (2016, February 3). Enrollment plunges at UNC teacher prep programs. The Charlotte Observer[Charlotte].
The history of my country is accented by acts of enormous bravery, men and women who did what they were told, and more, in the face of the ultimate sacrifice. But among those acts of bravery, for which we owe our independence and freedom, were people who did what they were told by the powers of authority, not to do. The Boston Tea Party is an example, when patriots risked their freedom and even their lives to dump bundles of tea into the Boston harbor, rather than pay the British taxes, imposed without representation. Other such acts of civil disobedience include:
- Refusal to pay federal taxes in protest of slavery and the Mexican War
- Street marches, hunger strikes, and submission to arrest and jail in order to gain the right to vote for women.
- Harriet Tubman’s underground railway and other actions which helped to end slavery.
- Sit-down strikes and free speech confrontations to eradicate child labor and improve working condition.
- Sit-ins and illegal marches to gain civil rights for all Americans.
We were taught about these acts and their courageous actors in school and we celebrate them on days like “The 4th of July.” They are part of our identity as “the land of the free and home of the brave.” But, if this nation’s most arrogantly conservative legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly, has its way, such acts will be considered grounds for refusing teacher licensure, in the interest of keeping our children safe.
Protect Students in Schools (Senate Bill 867) was sponsored by Senaters Chad Barefoot, Trudy Wade, Buck Newton and others. The bill suggests that a teacher, who has been “..convicted of a crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony … indicates the employee poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel.”1
Among the crimes listed by the bill are murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, arson and…
I have written a number of blog posts (here, here, here and here) about the declining state of public education in my state, since radical conservatives took the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our state government. Without collective bargaining, North Carolina teachers have little voice in determining the direction of our schools, beyond the voting booth — which the legislature and Governor McRory seek to influence with long awaited for raises, averaging 4.7%.
To put teacher salaries into context, on average North Carolina’s pay for public school teachers averaged $1,549.93 below the national mean, between 1970 and 2010. However, between 2010 (when conservatives took control of both houses of our General Assembly) and 2016, NC teacher salaries have fallen to $7,911.66 below the national average. Part of this may be the General Assemblies elimination of a higher pay scale for teachers who continue their education through graduate degrees.2&3
It seems to me that in this time of rapid change, we need to empower our professional educators to lead in our schools with permission to be flexible and creative, as they craft and facilitate learning experiences that help students to become innovators and resourceful learners. But, if our legislature’s desire is to turn public education into a market place and our schools into customers for corporate products and sources for corporate profits, then creative, resourceful, passionate, and well-spoken teachers are a factor to be avoided.
2 Teaching Salary Data by State. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/
3 Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2009-10. (2010). Retrieved from National Center for Education Statistics website: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_083.asp
I ran across this Guardian article (Reboot: Adidas to make shoes in Germany again – but using robots) yesterday morning and posted it to my Facebook timeline immediately. I wrote, “The manufacturing jobs that once brought prosperity to many of our towns and cities will not be coming back, if this article represents a trend – and there’s no reason to think it does not.”
There is a caption on the Guardian page that reads,
If robots are the future of work, where do humans fit in?”1
I think this is an interesting question – and it should not necessarily make us afraid. Why not consider it an opportunity. If we no longer need the economic contribution of every adult to make our national economies work, then a lot of us, a whole lot of us, will be freed. I do not make this statement lightly. Having mostly retired from kmy work life, I have experienced some of the inevitable depression that comes from reflecting on how much my work has dominated more than half of my 60+ years – and I’ve had the most interesting career that I can imagine. It seems to me that working for a living, as a necessity, is a bit unfair – not that I would give up any of my time in the field of education.
Perhaps the more interesting question should be, “What would you like to be doing?”
If the answer is, “Getting stoned and watching TV.” Then we have a problem, and I have no doubt that this would be a common answer. Assuming that I am right, I would suggest that one of most important goals of our public schools in the near future might be, assuring that for our students, the answer to that question is something a lot more productive and interesting.
I ran across this article, just minutes after posting this entry: iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is replacing 60,000 workers with robots
But it’s not the tax-cuts we’ve been sold.
Retirement has given me the time to pursue some of my ongoing curiosities. Not nearly as much time as you might imagine, but more than I had when planning and traveling from gig to gig. At present, it’s some of the stories we’ve been told to justify laws and actions that benefit, I suspect, only a small portion of the country’s citizenship. I am curious, because I suspect that many of these stories are nothing more than myths.
Take the rash of tax-cuts awarded to rich Americans over the past decades, across the country and state by state. They were rationalized by the promise that rich people, with large corporations, would use that money to build more production — and hire more workers. It makes sense, assuming the the intentions of these rich people.
In fact, and according to a 2015 study by The National Bureau of Economic Research , and reported in The Wall Street Journal, employment is generated more effectively by cutting the taxes of the poorer 90% than the richer 10%. This also makes sense. Poor people will spend their extra income on goods, generating more demand and consequently, more production. Rich people are already spending enough, so they’ll save the extra. One of the paper’s authors, Owen Zidar, wrote,
The positive relationship between tax cuts and employment growth is largely driven by tax cuts for lower-income groups and the effect of tax cuts for the top 10% on employment growth is small.1
It’s a good read,Tax Cuts Boost Jobs, Just Not When Targeted at Rich, by Pedro da Costa.
My questions first: 1) Where are U.S. citizens getting misinformation? 2) What do the liars have to gain by misinforming us?
According to a May 11 Public Policy Polling press release, 43% of voters believe that unemployment as increased during Obama’s presidency.1 In truth, there are more U.S. citizens employed today (April 2016, 5,867,000) than at the highest employment period of the GW Bush administration (April 2008 5,540,000) – this from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first graph shows a devastating dip in employment during the first months of Obama’s presidency, but that was clearly a result of the banking debacle, which happened before his inauguration.2
PPP’s polls also indicate that 32% of voters believe that the stock market has declined during the current administration.1 Again, this is untrue. Microtrends’ historic charts for the Dow Jones indicate that the previous administration enjoyed a high Industrial Average market index of 15,811 in October of 2007 – only 1,070 points above the value on his first day of office. The highest index during Obama’s two terms was 18,314 on February, 2015 – an increase of 9,329 points above its value on the first day of his presidency.3
Again, Where are U.S. citizens getting misinformation? .. and what do the liars have to gain by misinforming us?
2 BLS Data Fander 0.8. (2016). Retrieved from United States Department of Labor website: http://beta.bls.gov/dataQuery/find?st=0&r=20&fq=survey:[ce]&more=0
3 Dow Jones – 100 Year Historical Chart. (2016). Retrieved from Microtrends LLC website: http://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart
A 15 year old Canadian schoolboy, with a fascination for the ancient Mayan Civilization, recently theorized a correlation between the star positions in major constellations and the geographic locations of known Mayan cities. Based on this theory, he used Google Maps to suggest the location of an unknown ancient city. The Canadian Space Agency was so impressed that they used a satellite-based space telescope to study the spot and confirm the existence of the hitherto, unknown city.
In my work I ran across many ordinary youngsters who — with access to technology, supportive teachers and unconstrained curiosity — did extraordinary things. It all begs for a more empowering and imaginative way of educating our children.
97% of scientific papers written by climate scientists state the position that global warming is caused by human activity. This is not a secret.1 Yet, according to a 2008 Gallup Poll,2 questioning people in 128 countries, only 49% of U.S. citizens believe what these scientists are telling us. That’s a smaller portion of the population than 86 other countries.3
My point is this. What we typically think of as literacy and what’s taught in schools, needs to expand. In the age of Internet, social media and 24 hour news, literacy is no long just the ability to read and comprehend. It is equally critical that the literate be skilled and inclination to detect if what they are reading is intended to inform their behavior, or manipulate it.
2 Pugliese, Anita; Ray, Julie (11 Dec 2009). “Awareness of Climate Change and Threat Vary by Region”. Gallup. Retrieved 22 Dec 2009.
3 Climate change opinion by country. (2016, March 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:38, May 9, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Climate_change_opinion_by_country&oldid=711997815
Many would disagree, but I believe that the introduction of new information and communication technologies into our classrooms has had a productively disruptive effect on education. We have certainly not seen its full potential, and reaching it may well be impossible for a human society. But I’ve recently wondered about a new disruptive influencer on the horizon, one that has the potential to further progress formal education – or destroying it – in my humble opinion.
Consider that even though some presidential candidates have promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that America has lost to China, the jobs that actually left our shores are a mere ripple, as Matthew Yglesias put it in a recent MoneyBox article,1 compared to the manufacturing jobs we lost to robots during the same years – and those jobs will not return.
And now we have driverless cars, just around the corner? Sam Tracy, in a 2015 Huffington Post article itemized the numbers of Americans who make their living by driving: taxi drivers, chauffeurs, bus drivers, driver-sales workers, school bus drivers, postal service carriers, light truck deliveries and heavy truck transport. It totaled almost four million jobs, with wages of almost $150 billion a year.
Will there really be new jobs for them to train for?
Then entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Sam Altman, says this in a recent Freakonomics podcast, that, “..90% of (the) people (may) go smoke pot and play video games, but if (only) 10% of the people go create incredible new products and services and new wealth, that’s still a huge net-win.”2 In other words, is there a national economic need for 100% employment in the near future, or even 15% employment – besides what Altman refers to as a “..puritanical ideal that hard work for its own sake is valuable.”
All this is to suggest that the job of schools, sooner than later, may be to educate our children to be unemployed. Consider the recent media interest in the concept of basic income. Here is a Google Trend graph of the frequency of the term’s searches.
In the most general terms, basic income would have the federal government handing out to all citizens enough money to live on. Those who want more would work for a wage. Those who do not, would find some other way of spending their time. Experiments are already underway in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland & the UK.
Even though I suggest an open mind, I do not want to spend this blog post arguing the merits or dangers of such an arrangement. What I do want to ask is, “What would you say to a student who says, ‘I don’t need to know this because I don’t need a job?’” What if he is absolutely right? The next question is “What would he or she need to know for a future that does not require employment?” and “How might preparing our children for productive leisure change the WHY, WHAT and HOW of formal education?”
What do you think?
2 Weller, C. (2016, April 19). A Silicon Valley entrepreneur says basic income would work even if 90% of people smoked weed instead of working [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.techinsider.io/sam-altman-praises-basic-income-on-freakonomics-podcast-2016-4
I launched Class Blogmeister in 2004, realizing that there were a lot of teachers who needed a blogging platform for their students, one that was designed for the classroom. I anticipated that the service would live for a couple of years, after which other more skillfully constructed and professionally supported services would be available. They were available, but teachers wanted to keep using CB and I wanted to keep learning from their inventive ideas and add features as they were requested.
Now, 12 years later, I have mostly retired from speaking and writing, and my wife and I are spending much of our time in the foothills of North Carolina, helping and enjoying our aging parents.
So, sadly, I will be closing Class Blogmeister around the middle of June this year. It’s seen a pretty good run, serving over 300,000 teachers and students from 90 countries, who have written nearly 1.5 million blog articles – and I have been the real beneficiary, learning from this amazing community.
I want to commend everyone who has used Class Blogmeister for your adventurous nature and your steadfast adherence to the idea that teaching is an art. Student blogging requires courageous teachers – and I believe that “courage” is one of the central defining qualities of all good teachers.
I thank you for your loyalty and patience, and especially for being a good teacher. I can think of no better compliment to pay.« go back — keep looking »