Education

Disparate posts on education seem to have some connections or common themes:

Education and Industrialization, from The Economist:  This one discusses how as the western world became industrialized, what mattered was the level of education of the most educated people, not the minimum average, or common level of education.  In other words, % of people literate overall mattered less than % of people highly educated.  This makes some intuitive sense, even for today.  If everyone can read, but far fewer people have the opportunity to, say, do nanotechnology research, then we are less likely to find those research superstars.  Of course, in order to find the superstars, you really need to give every kid the opportunity to be discovered, or to self discover.  I would then go on to assume that this opportunity should lead to some minimum level of education for all, or at least most.

Common Core Standards and Bill Gates, from WaPo:  Here we see a history of how Bill Gates helped bring the Common Core standards into being.  It almost seems like he got sold a bill of goods.  I wonder what his thought process consists of on education, or what his goals are.  I’m not doubting his sincere wish to help.  But what are the goals?  If what advances innovation is the top end, then we need to get as many kids as possible advancing as far as possible.  Is that compatible with making sure every kid in every school district meets some minimum requirement?

CA Tenured teachers vs. Billionaire, from Prospect:  This one is just plain weird.  It seems to me that the evil billionaire in this story doesn’t have anything to gain by eliminating or restricting teacher tenure.  It seems more like he thinks that poor teachers with tenure are causing harm to the kids they teach.   It might be possible or likely that harm is multiplied many times over because poor teachers with tenure tend to be teaching in proximity (wouldn’t that be one definition of a bad or failing school?).  That is, a kid with one bad teacher might be more likely to get another bad teacher next rather than a good one to make up for the bad one.  Seems like that’s a way to eliminate opportunity among kids with potential who happen to be in a bad school.  Of course, it may not be the teachers at all.  But it’s unclear to me why elementary and secondary teachers need tenure protection, and this article really doesn’t make a persuasive case for it at all.

Make it harder to become a teacher, from Slate:  Here we have taken the goal to be “meet or exceed the standardized test scores of the rest of the world” and used the tried and true method of copying the success of others.   But I’m not sure I agree with the first point, which is that it’s really hard to get into some foreign education programs.  The skills needed to be a good teacher might not be the ones that result in high standardized test scores.   The description of how much harder the education program is for foreign teachers, however, is an important point.  We could make sure our education majors complete a strenuous program once they are there.  Let’s admit lots of potential teachers to education schools and weed out the ones who really are meant for some other profession.

This all makes me wonder,

  1. Could the Gates Foundation or some other non-profit with minimal prejudice or conflict of interest start at the beginning, and try to gather some consensus on what our education goals should be, as a country or as a society?  It seems like they started in the middle, with a list of the skills all kids need to learn.  That seems like making a grocery list without knowing what meal you are making.
  2. Then could universities or social scientists or even a non profit, again, do the research to figure out likely ways to accomplish those goals?  At least things to try?
  3. How do we keep entrenched interests from hijacking the whole thing?

 

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