"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Shortsighted -- Who will be tomorrow's public school teachers?


It's no wonder teachers are leaving the profession and young people are not signing up.

It's not just the low pay, the mountains of paperwork, or the lack of time to get everything done. It's the lack of respect...the constant bashing of teachers and public schools by so-called conservatives along with their plans to privatize public education.

AN ACTUAL CONSERVATIVE BASIS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: The Founding Fathers, especially authors of the Declaration and Constitution, Jefferson and Madison, envisioned public schools serving everyone. Read America’s Founding Fathers Were Against School Choice. The sources for that post are here and here.

Unfortunately, too many members of the general public believe that teaching is "easy." They remember their years in school through the eyes of the children or young adults they were when they observed teachers at work. They apparently don't understand (or believe) the hours of time spent getting to the point where, to an immature outside observer, it looks easy. They think that you just stand up in front of a class, spout the information pertinent to your subject, and the students will be held spellbound by the sheer joy of learning. They think that once you present material, students will understand and retain all that information.

Today's so-called "conservatives" are apparently hesitant to give teachers respect and credit for their work. For one thing, teaching is still widely perceived as "women's work" -- glorified babysitting, and we all know how much respect that gets. It's also true that public education is a public good -- a common good -- a concept that conflicts with the attitude held by some conservatives and libertarians that individualism is most important. Education is necessary for one to make their way in society...to take care of themselves, and to keep from being a burden on society. In contrast, more liberal public school supporters -- like me -- believe that public schools are the cornerstone of democracy. A free, equitable public education, available to all citizens, is good for everyone (see links to the Founding Fathers, above).

Teachers are disrespected. We are consistently bashed in the media. We are underpaid compared to others with the same investment in education. We are treated as incompetent. We are branded as "groomers" and "predators." We are threatened and harassed.

It's no wonder that teachers are heading for the exits.

More than half of teachers are looking for the exits, a poll says?
The National Education Association poll, conducted in January, helps quantify the stress being placed on educators right now. It found that the number who say they'll leave the profession sooner has risen significantly since August. Among the NEA poll's other findings:
  • 90% of its members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem.
  • 86% say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic.
  • 80% report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for those left
Count me in as a teacher who would not recommend a teaching career to my younger self. I know that we need more good teachers. We need young people to go into teaching now more than ever, but would I recommend teaching to one of my children, grandchildren, former students, or any other young person? No. Not now. Not in the U.S.

Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits Bottom
55% [of teachers in the survey] said they were "not very" or "not at all" likely to tell their younger self to pursue teaching as a career.


We can make the teaching profession more attractive to young people by increasing our education investment...but we, as a nation, are, apparently, not interested in that. Statistically, we're 66th in the world in spending on education as a percentage of our GDP. It's true that 5% of the US GDP is much more than the 8% spent by Norway, the highest rated OECD country in the list, but we have many more students. We also have higher rates of poverty than Norway -- greater than 20% for the US versus less than 10% for Norway. And the higher the poverty rate, the more money is needed to help students reach their potential.

The United States doesn't provide enough money to compensate for our high child-poverty rate. The inequity in American school funding is baked into the system so we spend more money on our wealthy children's education than the education of our poor children. The property tax basis for school funding is partially responsible for this as is the fact that federal spending doesn't always make up for the difference in state spending. A wealthy state, like New York, for example, spends more money per student than does a poor state, like Utah. Some of the discrepancy is mitigated by local cost of living differences, but not all (see The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools).

Beyond Burnout: What Must Be Done to Tackle the Educator Shortage
For years, educators nationwide have been underpaid, undervalued, and underresourced. Now, the pandemic and everything that comes with it—physical and mental health concerns, student learning challenges, and a crushing workload— are pushing an unprecedented number of educators to reconsider their careers.

According to a recent NEA member survey, a staggering 55 percent of educators say they are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than planned.

“This is a five-alarm crisis,” says NEA President Becky Pringle. “If we’re serious about getting every child the support they need to thrive, our elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now.”
What people say when they hear I’m becoming a teacher

I wrote above that I would not recommend teaching to any young person, but this soon-to-be (or recent) graduate of one of Indiana's colleges rejects that recommendation. For her, the benefit society would gain from her teaching is more than the difficulty she will have as a teacher. I only hope, for her sake, that as an English teacher, she's allowed to teach and is not restrained by misguided and paranoid Critical Race Theory laws. I hope that she can earn enough to live on. I hope that she learns how to take care of herself both physically and mentally so she doesn't become cynical or "burned out." At this point, I would tell her, "good luck...and thank you."
These long, full days showed me how to do the job and reminded me of the positive impact teachers can have on their students (and vice versa). They also showed me what educators are up against (in addition to the low wages everyone talks about). I heard about the staffing shortages, the untenable workloads, school funding disparities, and controversial changes, such as efforts to restrict certain conversations about race, gender, and sexuality. I realize that I’m choosing a career that many veterans, discouraged and disheartened, are leaving.

But my love for education — and desire to make a difference — propels me forward. I want my classroom to be a welcoming space that fosters learning and relationships. As graduation approaches, I eagerly await my first professional job, my first classroom, my first classroom library, and my first day of school. So when people ask me if I’m sure I want to be a teacher, I’m more confident saying: Yes, and now more than ever.
Today's children will be tomorrow's citizens and leaders. If we want an educated citizenry...if we want to preserve our free government...then we need to be willing to pay for it. Not to do so would be shortsighted.
Indiana Constitution
Article 8. - Education.
Section 1. Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
Picture the education of our children as a "savings account." By fully funding an equitable education for all our children, we're "saving" for our nation's future where the citizens and leaders are competent and well-informed.
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. -- James Madison
...establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. -- Thomas Jefferson
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security. -- Samuel Adams


Saturday, April 9, 2022

In which I explain why this blog has been silent since October, 2021

The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm getting better.


I wasn't able to breathe and gasped for air. They moved me to the ambulance...wheeled me into the hospital...someone cut off my shirt (one of my favorite tee shirts!) and inserted an IV in my arm. I don't remember much else for the next few days.

On January 1, 2022, I went to the hospital, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and spent the next seven weeks in the hospital and in rehab. At first, I was on a ventilator -- which prompted the ER doctor to tell my spouse that she should call our kids and have them come home to say goodbye to their father. I spent about a week in the ICU, then time in the COVID-19 Unit, and then another three and a half weeks in rehab to rebuild my strength and regain some of the forty pounds I had lost (not a recommended weight loss plan!).

Drifting in and out of consciousness, I thought "if this is what dying is, it's not so bad. I should just let go." Of course, I had the benefit of pain-killers, sedatives, and paralytics so I didn't really know what was happening to me.

Later, in the ICU, I couldn't get out of bed. I was unable to move enough to get up. I was too weak to stand. I couldn't move from the bed to a chair. I couldn't lift my legs onto the bed. It was a helpless, and humbling experience.*

Thankfully, my body, modern medicine, and, according to the doctor, the COVID-19 vaccines, conspired to keep me alive until I could improve a bit. I decided that it was worth it to hang on so that I could experience more of life. Like the Dead Body That Claims It Isn't in the scene above, I'm getting better!

Unfortunately (or the way 2022 is going so far, perhaps "fortunately"), I was unable to keep up with the news and unable to update my blog for the first three months of 2022, but I'm getting better...so I'm back.


One of the reasons I got so sick from COVID-19 is because I'm immunocompromised and have "underlying conditions" which make me more susceptible to illness. I was vaccinated, wore a mask everywhere, avoided crowds and unvaccinated people, and stayed out of stores. It wasn't enough and the highly contagious variant got me (I assume it was Omicron since that was the variant that was going around at the time). There are millions of immunocompromised folks in the U.S. It's to keep us safe that you wear a mask and get vaccinated. Maybe this will help you understand...


Vulnerable to the Virus, High-Risk Americans Feel Pain as the U.S. Moves On
Millions of Americans with weakened immune systems, disabilities or illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus have lived this way since March 2020, sequestering at home, keeping their children out of school and skipping medical care rather than risk exposure to the virus. And they have seethed over talk from politicians and public health experts that they perceive as minimizing the value of their lives.

As Year 3 of the pandemic approaches, with public support for precautions plummeting and governors of even the most liberal states moving to shed mask mandates, they find themselves coping with exhaustion and grief, rooted in the sense that their neighbors and leaders are willing to accept them as collateral damage in a return to normalcy.
See also: The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo


Now for some of the articles...on the topics...that filled education news while I was gone...


History of Institutional Racism in U.S. Public Schools

One of the biggest educational/political uproars this year was, and is, Critical Race Theory. It's not being "taught" in our elementary and secondary schools, but it's premise, that racism is inherent in our lives and intersects with the law and society is proven by our history.

Racism is part of the U.S. Constitution. It didn't disappear with the Emancipation Proclamation, or with the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, or with various voting rights and civil rights legislation. It still sours and poisons our nation and by extension, our schools and our children.
In modern times, “New Racism” arose; concealed, more subtle, and much harder to detect, this New Racism operates deep under the radar. The Black Lives Matter Movement and the looming Trump administration have propelled the conversation of race and racial issues to the forefront of American consciousness. It is argued, however, that while these conversations are crucial, we are not recognizing the systemic racism that has been present in our educational system for decades. Racism is so deeply innate that it is believed that racism no longer exists in our country. But in our public schools, another story is being told.

In this New Racism, blame for underachieving students of color is shifted to their parents, who are portrayed as slacking or uninvolved with their children’s education. This shifts attention away from the policies and structures in action that put a student of color at a disadvantage.
See also: Racism In Education: what we know and where we go from here


Book-banning law is another way to keep voters focused on culture-war distractions

If books can turn kids gay, why didn't the gay kids who read books about straight kids turn heterosexual?

The books can be burned, but the ideas will survive.
But Republican leaders in Florida are acting like books are turning children gay, socialist or whatever group they’re marginalizing or villainizing this week. The GOP-controlled Legislature passed a bill making it easier to ban books from school libraries.

In signing the measure into law last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said "it’s going to help give parents a lot of confidence that they can send their kids to school and they’ll get an education but they’re not necessarily going to be indoctrinated into things that are very, very questionable.”
See also: The Top 10 Challenged and Banned Books of 2021


The focus of this blog has often been directed at the misuse and overuse of standardized testing, and retention in grade. The two topics come together in laws passed by states that require schools to hold students back a grade if they don't pass the state's arbitrary third-grade standardized reading test.

The Harm Caused By the Third Grade Reading Ultimatum
There’s no research indicating we should be hurrying children to read early, which started with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), or earlier. Formal reading used to begin in first grade. But with NCLB, formal reading instruction has been pushed down to kindergarten. It has become the norm.

NCLB, however, was poorly conceived. Those who wrote NCLB chose third grade as a pivotal year. Yet, studies from years ago indicated NCLB failed to increase reading achievement in fourth grade (Dee & Jacob, 2011).

Supporters of this policy promised at the time, that by following punitive accountability measures all third graders would read at grade level by 2014! That did not occur (here are excuses why) and children, who are told not to have any excuses, have been paying the price ever since.
See also: Academic Freedom Isn't Free: Don’t Buy It: The Marketing Scam of MSM and the “Science of Reading”


America’s Teachers Aren’t Burned Out. We Are Demoralized.

Where will tomorrow's teachers come from? Who will staff our schools?
Often in education we hear that teachers are burned out, but that isn’t quite accurate. As teacher demoralization expert Doris Santoro says, “burnout tells the wrong story about the kinds of pain educators are experiencing because it suggests that the problem lies within individual teachers themselves.” Those outside education assume that the teacher can’t hack it in the classroom. But in reality, teachers are forced to operate in systems that aren’t functioning properly, which makes teachers feel demoralized, discouraged and overwhelmed. According to Santoro, demoralization occurs because teachers “care deeply about students and the profession, and they realize that school policies and conditions make it impossible for them to do what is good, right and just.”
See also: Missing: Future Teachers in Colleges of Education


Finally, it's baseball season...and this season marks the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's major league, barrier-breaking debut. Racism was present when the country was founded. It was present after the failure of Reconstruction. It was present during the Jim Crow era which includes the 1947 integration of Major League baseball. It's present today (see RACISM IN SCHOOL, above).

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson’s major league debut
April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson’s major league debut
This article was written by Lyle Spatz

Jackie Robinson’s major league debut was more than just the first step in righting an historical wrong. It was a crucial event in the history of the American civil rights movement, the importance of which went far beyond the insular world of baseball.

The Dodgers signed Robinson to a major league contract just five days before the start of the 1947 season. Baseball people, especially those in Brooklyn, were still digesting the previous day’s news of manager Leo Durocher’s one-year suspension (for conduct detrimental to baseball), when the story broke of Robinson’s promotion from the Montreal Royals. He would be the first black American to play in the major leagues since catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker played for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association back in 1884.

*[NOTE: Thank you to all the nurses, nurses aides, and medical techs who took care of me during the first few months of 2022. You don't get paid enough! Oh, and the doctors are appreciated, too.]