Sunday, December 04, 2005

Public Schools Should Work Like the NFL

Over the years I have developed what I believe to be a unique theory about how public schools should run, and interestingly enough it has much to do with my passion for football. In my previous post, I mentioned how I would love to do away with public school altogether, but I understand that this is unrealistic and will never happen. Instead, I have developed a theory as to how we can make a flawed system better.

In the National Football League, in the name of competitive parity, there is a salary cap for every team, and there is revenue sharing, so that teams which bring in more fans and sell more merchandise end up giving a lot of money to teams that do not do as well. Sounds communistic right? Well, it is, but the NFL is a single product, not 32 competing economic entities. Similarly, public schools are really part of a single product (public education), but compete with each other for government resources, teachers, and achievement levels. What then can public schools learn from the NFL? The free-agency system.

The tenure system is stupid. You get paid more not because you are a better teacher, but because you have been there longer. I would go on and on about why this is stupid, but I can't imagine anyone saying that the tenure system is a good one. But nobody else is proposing a new system... but I dare to go there today.

A free-agency system would work superbly. The state would give schools a salary cap (which would keep local taxes down), and there is already a built in revenue sharing since the tax revenue from all of the districts is regulated by the state government. At this point, schools could sign teachers to contracts of varying lengths and amounts, all while fitting under the salary cap. It would be the district's job (probably the Superintendent/Principal) to come up with the right mix of teachers to fit under the alloted salary cap. This artificial market-based approach would reward teachers based on their qualifications, experience, and potential as well. Thus, a Harvard educated teacher would get paid like a 1st round draft pick, just as a proven, experienced teacher would get paid like an established NFL veteran.

I think that this system is appealing to everyone. Why wouldn't teachers want to be able to switch schools freely if they get a better offer? Why wouldn't teachers like the idea of being able to renegotiate their contract every few years? Why wouldn't schools like the accountability of teachers needing to perform to earn their money?

Clearly, one drawback is an over-emphasis on achievement scores. But, a good principal would be constantly observing teachers, seeking student input, and so on to get a good understanding of who the best teachers are and who are not.

In my system, the kids win. Almost as much as if all school was privatized...

16 Comments:

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

Superintendant: "I'm sorry Mrs. Jones, but we're going to have to let you go."
Teacher: "Whaaat? Why? I've been here 25 years! I'm the highest ranked teacher at the school! "
Superintendant: "Well, we don't have room for you under the salary cap, I need two new janitors and a math teacher, so I've traded you to PoDunk High for Mr. Smith (he taught the crap outta some kids down at the combine), a janitor, and a first round draft pick from the Community College."
Teacher: "Salary cap?! I make $35,000 a year including my endorsement deal with Texas Instruments! I've lived here my whole life! Everyone I know is in this town! I don't want to move!"
Superintendant: "Well, you can either take a substantial pay cut, or you can hire an agent... I hear Drew Rosenhaus is available"

I think it would be a whole lot simpler just to scrap tenure and add some merit pay...

 
At 6:22 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Jacks... your scenario sounds bad, but realize a couple of things:

You take a cap hit for cutting a teacher during their contract, and we can make it more steep than the NFL does. We can make the contract a bit more binding than the NFL, but either way the school has to fulfill the contract, according to the law.

Why should teachers have more job security than accountants?

 
At 7:06 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

“The tenure system is stupid. You get paid more not because you are a better teacher, but because you have been there longer. I would go on and on about why this is stupid, but I can't imagine anyone saying that the tenure system is a good one.”

Uh, right here... someone that thinks the tenure system if vitally important. I won’t go into all the details, but the point of tenure is that you have job security in order that you have academic freedom. It is also a recognition that you are doing a service to the public good that warrants certain concesions – like security – from your institution. Tenure is vital for grade and high school teachers because it ensures that politics, money, parental influence, etc. don’t interfere with academic freedom and integrity (e.g. biology faculty having the freedom to teach evolution in spite of community outrage).

“Why wouldn't teachers want to be able to switch schools freely if they get a better offer?”

Because community is more important than salary, for one.

“Why wouldn't teachers like the idea of being able to renegotiate their contract every few years?”

Because the pay-off- more money – has a problematic consequence – less certainty – that a lot of people and a lot of communities don’t want. Teachers are essential participants in the life a community. Introducing an element of uncertaintly into their lives introduces an element of uncertainty into the life of the community they serve. That is a big problem.

“Why wouldn't schools like the accountability of teachers needing to perform to earn their money?”

Because teachers have far less control over the performance of their students than professional athletes do over the performance of their teams. Educating students is not a teacher’s responsibility; it is a broad societal responsibility that starts with the family and extends into the classroom. Holding teachers solely accountable by manipulating their livelyhood when ever other social institution is failing the same students is wrong. Republicans love to scapegoat teachers when the problem, in reality, is so much larger (but is too unpopular to get votes or to provide easy answers to).

“Why should teachers have more job security than accountants?

Because they are more important than accountants. Because they do more important work than accounts do. Because their job security has more of a direct impact on the quality of their work than it does for accountants. Because they are civil servants.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

Although I think the tenure system causes some problems (see Ward Churchill getting away with things that go against the basic beliefs of the school and the people who pay his salary in the name of "academic freedom." But thats college anyway). But I don't think its the biggest problem. I think the biggest problem is all the beauracracy. Where I grew up the public schools had far more than enough money, but the teachers still didn't get paid jack and the school board was always asking for more money. Meanwhile my school had:
1. A principal with a lot of responsibilties
2. An assistant principal who had some administrative duties and some disciplinary duties (which kind of overlap with the deans')
3. An associate prinipal who did nothing except organize events that she thanked her self for (on stage)
4. A bunch of "guidance counselors" who mostly helped students make their schedules. Sometimes students would come to talk to them about issues they were having
5. A school psychiatrist to help when the guidance counselors were over their heads
6. A bunch of deans who punished kids. They called me to their office one time because I missed one day of class. Meanwhile my friends ditched daily and never got called once. But I'm not bitter. I don't know why this group is seperate from the counselors.
7. Tons of librarians, which is nice, but I don't think anyone checked out books from the library except when it was specifically part of an assignment to get a book from the school library.
8. "Security guards" who walked around in the halls and told kids not to talk in the halls. The used their fancy camera system to catch my little brother's underground newspaper but recorded over the tapes of my friend's car's tires being slashed. But I'm not bitter. I don't know why this couldn't be combined with the deans

And that's just at one high school. Then there were all kinds of superintendant's assistants and layers and layers of people in "administration" -- all taking money that could be going to teachers. I firmly believe that if teachers got paid more than more qualified people would teach and schools would be better. Take myself for example, next year I'll have a Master's in Computer Science. I can get a job in 'industry' and make something like $70000 -- starting -- or I can teach in my public school system (after getting an addition teaching degree) and make something like $25000-$30000 starting. To take a public school job right now you either have to have a really strong desire to teach students or not be very good at what you do. Unfortunately we have few of the former and much of the latter.

The solution isn't more money for schools, its just putting money in the right hands. And with good teachers tenure can be a good thing.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

J. Morgan:

1. The tenure system: our argument is over whether academic "freedom" is a good or bad thing for students. What I call accountability you deem an intrusion on academic integrity. While our fundamental disagreement here probably won't be resolved, my argument is that individual teachers should not have uncontrolled freedom in their classrooms. To further the NFL analogy, I think that would be like letting the quarterback call whatever plays he wants, without getting benched or cut. Teachers can be fired if they break the law or something like that, but if they teach things like "abortion is a good thing," then the community should have the right to decide whether they want that teacher or not(maybe they will retain the teacher, but there should be a decision here). Fundamentally, I think education should be carried out primarily by the family and community (often in conjunction), and not by the state. In a free society, we can cooperate to provide education as a public good, but it should be done specifically under the influence of parents and the community, which you wish it to be done only by the teachers themselves.

2. "Community is more important than salary." I completely agree with the idea, but what you have to realize is that forcing a teacher to stay at the same school her whole career in order to achieve economic goals is coercive, and builds a compulsory community rather than a voluntary one. I believe that community is built by the community making a commitment to quality teachers, and teachers wanting to stay in the community. Think about the Steelers in the NFL - Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward are stalwarts in the Steelers community, always taking less money than they could get elsewhere in order to stay with the team.

3. As for the uncertainty of this system: this uncertainty is no different than the uncertainty public officials have (including the school board), and every private employer requires. Good teachers have nothing to worry about, especially because of the difficulty of switching teachers during the year. Teachers would also have the ability to negotiate long-term contracts, even willing to take less money to do so, in order to have job security. But that is the choice of the schools and the individual teacher. Why should the government decide whether we would want job security instead of flexibility/higher pay?

4. Your last point, that teachers are more important than accountants, I think this is irrelevant even if true. Being a civil servant should not imply job security. I think it to be counterproductive to give job security to bad teachers. It is a waste of money and a disservice to kids.

J. Morgan - I am interested in your perspective here, and I hope that you'll respond to my rebuttal. Please do not think however that I have a low view of teachers - it is precisely because I value quality teachers that I think a system like this would be superior.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

First, I think your system is impractical. Instead of the standard contract with automatic advancement, you’ve just created another level of bureaucracy in order to manage all these contracts, which are different not only from one county and school to the next, but from one teacher to the next.

Second, tenure in colleges and universities is a whole other discussion, as it’s completely different from tenure at other levels of education. While it may not be as easy to fire primary and secondary teachers as it is to fire associates at Walmart, in my experience teachers are disciplined just like other workers. At my wife’s school, in the last two years, one teacher has been fired for inappropriate e-mails he sent to students; several have been severely reprimanded for espousing political positions in the classroom; and one teacher may be fired at the end of this year for…incompetence. (While this teacher is talented and dedicated, he can’t seem to control his younger students, and guess what? The department in which he works is pushing to get him fired.) Ward Churchill being an ass clown and shooting his mouth off has little or no bearing on this discussion.

Third, for every horror story or anecdote you can come up with about some terrible teacher rising automatically through the ranks, I can counter it with one from the business world, where efficiency and competence are supposed to reign supreme. My mother, who is at a very high level in the IT world, works with people making $150-$200k a year who surf the Internet all day and never do any work. Why aren’t they fired? Because of the thick administrative layers around them and the bureaucracy. Find me a teacher making $200k a year who surfs the Internet all day. You just can’t do it. Now, this is not to say that our educational advancement system is perfect; it’s just to say that “making it more like the business world” might not be the best answer.

Fourth, I can't tell from your analysis whether or not you are factoring this into your argument, but since school salaries are basically determined by property taxes, there is already competition built in to the system. Since teachers, just like everyone else but to a lesser degree, follow the money, districts have to figure out ways to compete with each other. Because of its staggering economic growth, preponderance of McMansions and moderate property taxes on valuable property, Northern Virginia, where I live, is stealing teachers from rural West Virginia and Pennsylvania districts, who can double their salaries by commuting 1-2 hours. These districts have to counter by raising their salaries, giving teachers greater flexibility and benefits, or finding other, community-related ways to keep them.

Fifth, being a teacher, despite summers off and automatic salary advancement, is not a cushy job, and its rigors usually weed out those who can’t hack it. Some schools, like my wife’s, end up with groups of highly skilled, dedicated individuals with decades of years of experience between them, who can nurture and mentor new teachers as they come in, and have the ability to talk to students about anything they’re interested in. For every one of standingout’s bureaucratic disasters, there is a well-run machine like my wife’s school (#94 in the country, according to Newsweek, with an ethnically diverse student body with over 2,800 students) where the administrators do their jobs. So barnabas, when you write “You get paid more not because you are a better teacher, but because you have been there longer,” you are assuming that “being there longer” and “being a better teacher” are mutually exclusive. I’d argue the exact opposite: that in education, “being there longer” and “being better” overlap, and overlap more than in many other fields. Are there lots of bad teachers out there, making too much money? Absolutely. But you’re going to have to cite studies or be more specific to advance your criticism more or propose a new system.

Sixth, it’s immoral to make teacher pay structure like the NFL, because, as j. morgan correct pointed out, “teachers have far less control over the performance of their students than professional athletes do over the performance of their teams.” I think that if you grant that this statement is true, your whole argument falls apart. Since teachers are responsible for their students’ success in a different way than players and coaches are responsible for their teams’ success, we shouldn’t view, treat or pay them the same way.

Finally, I would argue that the reason that IT salaries can start at $70,000 while teacher's salaries are so much lower is a result of our society's misplaced priorities. barnabas, you might counter by telling me that market forces have set the salaries of teachers where they are, but market forces set the salaries of slaves at $0 back in the day. There is an important moral dimension to what our civil servants are paid, and we should emphasize the active role communities play in determining such things. (One caveat: in some places across the country starting salaries are quite high. In Fairfax county, VA; Montgomery county, MD; Hartford county, CT; New York county, NY; and many California counties, just to name a few, starting salaries for secondary-school teachers are from $42k to $50k and rising, depending on the level of education that you bring in.) I have a solution to some our education system’s failings: we should make education a higher national priority than we have and divert more money to it, away from things like the military. That would increase competition, bring in better teachers, and, as you said, “the kids win.” Until we start making education a higher priority than the military, we’re stuck with what we have.

The books to read:

Dave Eggers, “Teachers have it easy”
Jonathan Kozol, “Savage Inequalities” or “The Shame of the Nation”
Deborah Meier, “Many Children Left Behind”

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Nice.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Charles, your arguments sum up opposition to my plan well, but I will respond to each of your main points.

1. I'm not saying there is a bureaucracy problem right now... I'm saying there is a lack of accountability for teachers.

2. I'm talking mainly about the tenure system for secondary education. And as for the fact that teachers do get fired - it is rarely because they aren't a skilled teacher, it is always because they did something heinous to warrant being fired.

3. Examples of people who are promoted in poorly run businesses doesn't persuade me in any way. Those businesses will be hurt by promoting the wrong people, and paying them for nothing, just like schools are now.

4. I am factoring in the slight amount of competition that exists now. That competition is limited in that it cannot provide market-based accountability to teachers already on the job.

5. Your argument about being there longer overlaps with being better is conceded, because I emphatically agree. That is precisely why schools will be more likely to resign and extend the contracts of their own teachers, because of their effectivness. The problem is that it is a logical fallacy to say that "all teachers become better over time," because many teachers are naturally ill-suited for teaching. There is no accountability to prevent poor teachers like these from moving up the ranks.

6. The moral argument about teachers and their impact on performance. I have a few responses - first, I'm not arguing that you determine a teacher's capability solely on achievement. Secondly, teachers do have a huge impact on things like student improvement throughout the year. If it helps you, don't compare it to the NFL as much as a well-run business.

7. We've had this argument before, but I think that defense is the primary purpose of government, and have no problem financially prioritizing it. I'm fine with diverting more funds toward teachers, as long as they are being taken away from something else... say Medicare or more appropriately NCLB.

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

So, Barnabas, let’s talk about the tenure system for secondary educators:

You’re claim is that it reduces accountability (you have never quite clarify to whom or for what...). So, you say:

“...our argument is over whether academic "freedom" is a good or bad thing for students. What I call accountability you deem an intrusion on academic integrity. While our fundamental disagreement here probably won't be resolved, my argument is that individual teachers should not have uncontrolled freedom in their classrooms.”

Now, in the future, I would prefer you not straw man my arguments. I was not arguing for “uncontrolled freedom in the classroom.” In my original comment, I both used the example of a biology teacher and avoided ass-clown university professors intentionally. To clarify, then, I don’t think academic freedom means the same thing at different levels of education. For the secondary school teacher, academic freedom, in my mind, means an assurance that the teacher cannot be unduly influenced by the community (in this case, by manipulating his or her livelihood to influence the content of a course or, more broadly, the curriculum of a school system) regarding the content of legitimate academic instruction. So, I don’t think that secondary educators should have the freedom to teach whatever they want, particularly not controversial political positions as if they were not, just the security to teach what they are supposed to teach without fear of retribution or dismissal.

The question remains, however: what is it that they are supposed to teach? I don’t want to give a full-blown theory of education right now, but presuming that we keep the same basic departments, subjects, goals, etc., I think that question is answered by the larger field in question, not the school board. So, to continue with the biology example, so long as biology as a field of inquiry is rooting in an evolutionary model, secondary schools are bound to teach biology as such. The classroom is not the arena in which to settle this debate (as a rule, we should avoid using children as a pawn in a political game), the academy is. School boards, parents, individual teachers, principals, mayors, etc. do not have the expertise to make such decisions. Now, I don’t mean that a committee of world-class biologists should actually design curriculum, I just mean that those that do design curriculum are ethically bound as educators (as opposed to culture warriors) to design it in such a way that it is consistent with and educationally preparatory for the large discipline of biology. The discipline of biology determines the content of a high school biology course; the discipline of history determines the content of a high school biology course; etc.

My point is that tenure does provide accountability, but when Americans confuse accountability and influence, it doesn’t seem like it. Accountability in the classroom should first be to the students then to the parents. The content of academic inquiry is not democratically decided; the classrooms the give students an introduction to it shouldn’t be either. By using money as an influence, you teach Americans that truth is not a fixity, but a negotiation that takes place in dollars and cents.

Now, I would like to respond to just a few remarks you made:

“I think education should be carried out primarily by the family and community (often in conjunction), and not by the state.”

We need to make a distinction between education and instruction. We need to forget the distinction between “the state” and “the community.”

I think that public schools should teach the content of academics without bias – education - but I also think that they should model for students good citizenship (which, as is probably clear from you paragraph above, should not include “getting your way”) and the rules of society – instruction. The family and “the community” should primarily be engaged in further instruction and, largely, should leave education to the schools. The fact is, most parents are academically ignorant. They cannot educate their children in an academic sense. As such, we don’t want them doing it. Beyond that, though, children need multiple arenas in which good citizenship and proper socialization are encouraged.

“I completely agree with the idea, but what you have to realize is that forcing a teacher to stay at the same school her whole career in order to achieve economic goals is coercive, and builds a compulsory community rather than a voluntary one. I believe that community is built by the community making a commitment to quality teachers, and teachers wanting to stay in the community.”

Part of making good citizens is making good teachers. In other words, teachers need to be properly socialized into their jobs, such that they don’t think of faculty positions as earning opportunities, but as selfless civil service. That means that part of the job description – the professional credo so to speak – should be taking low-paying jobs in underprivileged areas and staying there until you die. Insofar as that is part of the job description, it is not coercive, just definitional (surely you wouldn’t want to argue that an oath to “first do no harm” is “coercive” for physicians because it limits them in some way or that the nature of being a PFC in the Army is wrong because you are coerced, but that the job description is such that all those who enlist know what that entails).

“As for the uncertainty of this system: this uncertainty is no different than the uncertainty public officials have (including the school board), and every private employer requires.”

You are right that the uncertainty is no different, but my argument is that it should be. The role of teacher in a community is qualitatively different than the role of elected public official or private sector employee. Teachers are community pillars who not only educated generations of children, but also symbolize authority, structure, and right relationships between individuals in society. As such, continuity in faculty is essential for continuity in community.

My second grade teacher was my grandfather’s and father’s sixth grade teacher. Being aware of that relationship taught me proper reverence for teacher-as-role that a 3-year contract could not. Even though Mrs. Church was a terrible instructor, she modeled something priceless that definitely molded students more than multiplication tables ever could. Teachers have to be stable fixtures of a community in a way that politicians and private sector employees don’t in order for a community to operate properly.

“Your last point, that teachers are more important than accountants, I think this is irrelevant even if true. Being a civil servant should not imply job security. I think it to be counterproductive to give job security to bad teachers. It is a waste of money and a disservice to kids.”

Well, you brought up the comparison with accountants, so I am a little unclear on what you are getting at. Nonetheless, my point was that having job security does not necessarily affect the quality of one’s accounting, but it does for a teacher. If we understand teachers as being more than conveyors of data and, rather, as institutionalized symbols of right-order, authority, structure, balance, etc., then it is essential that they have job security.

Your view of teachers is a very thin one that is taken from the business world: if they don’t produce immediate, testable results, then they are not doing their job. I want to say that the role of teachers is necessarily thick. Conveying information is only one (fairly small) part of being a teacher. Tenure, as a system, is a recognition of just that. Being a good teacher has far more to do with what you represent than with what data you convey.

“I’m saying there is a lack of accountability for teachers.”

Clarify for me again, accountability for what and to whom?

“That competition is limited in that it cannot provide market-based accountability to teachers already on the job.”

Now, why would a “Conservative” Christian want the market – an institution that is uncontestedly amoral – to provide the model for something that is so essential to the life a republic? The market is dictated by forces that have no moral, ethical, or citizenly quality to them. Why, then, would this be the model on which you want to base your schools (implicit in that is your society)?

“That is precisely why schools will be more likely to resign and extend the contracts of their own teachers, because of their effectiveness. The problem is that it is a logical fallacy to say that "all teachers become better over time," because many teachers are naturally ill-suited for teaching. There is no accountability to prevent poor teachers like these from moving up the ranks.”

Effective at what? Look, you are still being simplistic and thin here. You still think that the role of teach is primarily to convey information (presumably information that will help students get jobs and contribute to the market). If the role of teacher, however, is to emblematize certain desired characteristics and to model a rightly-order society that is based on citizenship, then there is no logical fallacy.

“...teachers do have a huge impact on things like student improvement throughout the year. If it helps you, don't compare it to the NFL as much as a well-run business.”

That is completely untrue. Teachers have very little LASTING academic influence on students. Families, Churches, civic organizations, etc. do. If students aren’t doing well, that is where I would look first. Now, that is not to say that teachers don’t have lasting influence on students, it is just to say that it is not primarily academic.

“I think that defense is the primary purpose of government, and have no problem financially prioritizing it.”

That is a fine thing to just through out, but I don’t see any justification for it. I have provided a counter-argument in other places that I think you will have to contend with before you can make this claim:

“I don’t the United States should have a standing, professional military. The underlying assumption behind the 2nd amendment is that it would not. Jefferson wrote at length that a standing military force was fundamentally at odds with Democratic Republic. Washington extolled the citizen soldier who returns to his farm when the battles are done in direct contrast to England’s professional military. Any politician who enthusiastically spends on the military / Pentagon / defense completely ignores that principle. It is, in my opinion, fundamentally un-American.....

“My point was not that we should return to regional militias, but that, in general, American ideology has been very resistant to empowering the military beyond what is absolutely necessary, even to our own detriment. So, while I think that a professional, permanent military is essential and good in 2005, zealous investment in or expansion of the military is completely wrong to me. I think that the best soldier is the most reluctant one, and I think the same goes for the Commander-in-Chief (and by reluctant I do not mean weak or waffley in any way). Having a powerful military is advantageous in many ways, but is in fundamental opposition to our national principles.”

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

This discussion almost comes down to the distinction between ends and means. I don't know that we (we being standingout, j. morgan, myself and barnabas) differ so much in the MEANS of teaching, as we all want (A) good teachers and (B) accountability in the classroom. I think this is about what we see as the goal of education.

If barnabas wants to accomplish A by doing B, C and D, and j. morgan wants to accomplish E by doing F, G and H, we need to back out of the discussion a little bit and find out just what A and E are. As j. morgan said, he didn't want to try to develop a theory of education in a comment on a blog, but he sort of has to, because I'm realizing that we view "education" and ESPECIALLY its borders with the rest of culture very differently from you, barnabas. In my view, and probably in j. morgan's, the purpose of education is to help create future citizens by giving each student the same basic level of education and having teachers who model this for them. (Certainly, we also want mechanisms in place for the more gifted students. No more "visual math" for redhurt. Standingout, did you have "visual math", whatever the hell it is?)

We don't want mercenary teachers teaching just for the money, just as we don't want mercenary soldiers joining the US Army just for the money, right, barnabas? Or should we restructure the Army so that soldiers are free to sign short or long contracts, and advance based purely on achievement? We want our soldiers in the army for the same reasons we want teachers in schools.

Right?

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Charles...

This last comment I think does a nice job of summarizing some key distinctions. Let me throw out a couple of comments:

1. I think I need to tell you generally what I think about education: it must be more than just vocational. That's my main problem with public schools - they merely are a necessary step in the American market-machine. We've gotten away from education as a more transcendent ideal - and I blame public education for this.

2. The accountability issue: J.Morgan, you asked repeatedly to whom? To the people that they serve, not the state. It is way too 1984-ish to have the primary beneficiary of education be the state, who in turn controls education.

3. I'm going to leave the military argument for another day - I disagree on a constitutional level and a historical level, but I do not think it to be an important discussion for this topic.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

Barnabas, thanks for the recap. If you get the chance (military issues not withstanding), I am interested to see you responses to my specific points / arguments. I feel like there is more going on in this discussion than we have attended to yet.

 
At 10:08 AM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I think this does bring up an interesting difference of opinion here. Conviently enough it relates to my last post on my blog (which I will probably update in a few days once finals are done). Charles said that he, and we assume J. Morgan, want teachers and schools to help create the next generation of citizens. In my opinion this is far more than the responsibility I want in the schools, ideally. I think that families and community are responsible for shaping citizens, schools are responsible for transferring information and teaching people how to think and learn (in my experince I actually learned how to learn in school from good teachers). However, we are faced with the situation today where many parents are either incompetent or negligent and the community is apathetic. So what do we do? Do we allow the government to step in and shape children the way the community is supposed to through public school? Or do we seek some other method that will fix the problem? I don't know what a good solution is, but I think thats where the brunt of our concern should be. I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't uphold and model the values of the community, but I'm saying its the responsibility of the entire community to see that its children grow into responsible, "moral" citizens. The teachers have as much responsibilty as anyone as a member of the community, but it is not a charge given to the school system, nor, in my opinion, should it be.

I never had to take visual math. My parents moved me around between schools every time one of them starting trending towards that sort of ridiculousness.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

StandingOutInTheCold:

“I think that families and community are responsible for shaping citizens, schools are responsible for transferring information and teaching people how to think and learn (in my experince I actually learned how to learn in school from good teachers).”

To clarify my argument, I think that the distinction between “schools” and “community” is invalid. “The government” and “the schools” are nothing more than institutions in our society to which we have designated certain responsibilities; they are not something other. If we want good citizens, then, all institutions in a society need to be actively engaged in promoting it. One of those institutions is the school system. Now, that doesn’t mean that the schools or the teachers in those schools should be engaged in citizen-craft and families and “communities” shouldn’t, it is just to say that IN ADDITION TO families, the community – one aspect of which is the education system – should be intimately involved in citizen-craft.

We also want to make a distinction between state schools promoting good citizenship – which would include public ethics – and state schools promoting ideology – which would include morality, religious tenets, political positions, etc. I don’t want school teachers hosting “Abort All The Fetuses, 2006” nor do I want them hosting “This Is JesusFest.” I do, however, want schools to instruct and model – both in the faculty and their structure – good citizenship. See, citizenship is so important and so expansive, that no one institution can properly inculcate it in any full sense. As such, each institution has to be involved.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

The question then, J. Morgan, is who determines what is good citizenship and how do they get it into the school system?

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

StandingOutInTheCold:

“who determines what is good citizenship and how do they get it into the school system?”

Until a certain point (don’t ask what that point is please), in order for this to be a meaningful reform, it has to be organic. That is, teachers, parents, school boards, mayors, governors, etc. need to come to the conclusion that a) in many respect, the current educational system is fundamentally flawed, b) a market-based approach would only make those flaws more pronounced, c) public, compulsory, and free education is essential for a democratic republic, and d) citizen-craft is central to what that education should be all about. Then, those same social actors need to study history, moral philosophy, etc. and hammer out what sort of citizens we want.

That said, at some point, a moral minority
needs to take the lead. At some point, fundamental orientations in society that make it unjust, unlivable, or unsustainable have to be rectified, sometimes over the objects of the society in question. Sometimes it takes strong moral leaders and small, unwavering armies of citizens who refuse to allow a flawed system to be perpetuated. Democracy entails more than majority opinion. Fortunately for us, we aren’t at that point. So we blog.

 

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