My twenty ‘truths’ about education and reform

by Jim Lang

Writing and maintaining this blog has become like therapy for me, especially when some clueless legislator or governmental body pretends to know one iota about education.

On days like today, when the Indiana Supreme Court ignores our state constitution and unanimously upholds legislation that provides government-supported handouts…oh, I mean vouchers…to families to send children to private and/or religious schools, I feel like I have to vent.

On days like today, when Kentucky senator Rand Paul calls for federal legislation to expand vouchers (essentially the same irresponsible legislation supported by “Mr. 47 Percent” Mitt Romney), I feel like I have to do something to maintain the illusion that educators’ concerns and frustrations are actually listened to by our political “leaders.”

So, today, I am particularly disillusioned and annoyed. And to those who know me well, this means I must vent, often sarcastically and even maliciously, or explode. And since I do not want to explode during what has been an otherwise relaxing Spring Break, here are my own 20 “truths” about education, one for each year I have been teaching, and in no particular order:

1.  There are far more bad parents than bad teachers.

2. If your school is successful, it is primarily because it is a reflection of a successful community, quality parenting, and dedicated teachers.

3. If your school is failing, it is primarily because it is a reflection of a failing community, poor parenting, and dedicated teachers who strive everyday to make up for deficiencies of a failing community and poor parenting.

4. While critics waste time whining about teachers’ unions, for-profit corporations are shaping curriculum, testing, and schools far more than unions ever did.

5. Choosing to send your children to private schools should not in any way release you from your societal and moral obligation to pay taxes to support public schools for those who cannot afford private schools. Previous generations understood this.

6. Private and religious schools should remain absolutely independent of state and federal government intrusion…except when they accept vouchers.

7. Those who constantly criticize public schools for “indoctrinating” students have either rarely been in a classroom or are guilty of indoctrinating their own children. Or both.

8. If you are shocked that your child is suddenly failing a class, you aren’t paying enough attention to your child.

9. Teachers don’t get summers “off.” Ever.

10. Teachers don’t get weekends “off.” Ever.

11. Standardized testing is a waste of time.

12. Common formative assessment (n): an educational opportunity for children designed to ensure educators can prove to even the most illiterate person that we’re doing what we say we’re doing. Syn: waste of time. Sentence: I spent four hours grading my common formative assessments and entering the data into a spread sheet, and it revealed exactly what I already knew!

13. Voucher (n): a government-supported handout, primarily for private and/or religious schools, disguised as a tax break for people to distract them from the fact that our state government is failing in its constitutional duty to ensure a quality, public school system for all. Syn: handout. Sentence: My voucher helps ensure that I can exercise my already-existing freedom to send my child to any school I’d like without having to fully pay for it.

14. Merit pay (n): 1. a tiny or invisible token of appreciation from legislators to educators in hopes we won’t see what they’re really up to. 2. dumbest educational reform idea ever, and in Indiana, that’s saying a lot. Syn: a tiny or invisible bribe. Sentence: We’ll reward highly effective teachers with $400 of merit pay, which will prompt them to work even harder and make them feel really good about themselves.

15. If education is its own reward, then weighted grades should eliminated.

16. If Indiana citizens should receive tax credits in the form of vouchers for poorly-performing public schools, then teachers should receive tax credits for poorly-performing students and parents.

17. If anyone can now become a teacher or superintendent in Indiana with minimum of educational training, then I should be permitted to perform major surgery with a minimum of medical training.

18. Most online classes are a joke. Really.

19. Those who criticize educators and schools the most have an ulterior motive…and it’s not the well-being of our nation’s children.

20. If any of the above ideas offend you, you’re probably part of the problem.

Feel free to add your own educational “truths” in the Comments section.

I now feel much better. Until next time…

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    21. With the advent of online classes, any posturing about academic rigor is absurd.

    And amen, Jim, amen. You’ve given me something to plagarize for my “Top Ten” in a couple months. 😉

  2. says

    You forgot how merit pay makes us all feel like continued education is pointless since a) we won’t get rewarded for it, and b) we aren’t ever going to get a raise again to pay for it even if we wanted to go back.

    • says

      Very true. Why get a master’s degree now since its been de-valued so much by Indiana education reform? I haven’t run the numbers, but you’d probably be better off investing that money you’d use to take classes. Sad.

  3. Brad Lewis says

    Jim, saw your post via Ryan Gunterman on Facebook and I would like to thank you for writing this. Pretty much everything you said here I have been thinking for the last several years now. I live in Kansas and teach in Missouri, and I feel for you all in Indiana. However, I also fear that what is happening there is soon to spread to the states I live in and teach.

    • says

      Brad: Thank you for your comment. I love teaching so much, as I’m sure you do. It’s so frustrating, but writing about it helps. That’s my suggestion to all educators — we have to speak up and refuse to let this happen to kids and teachers. I just decided I’m not going to keep my mouth shut any more. Best of luck to you. I hope the nuts running our state don’t send their self-serving, goofy ideas your way :).

  4. Judy Neilan says

    Jim. what you said is so true. The unfortunate part is that those who should read this will probably never see it. Keep on writing though because hopefully in time someone will read it who can make the bureaucrates understand what they are doing to our students.

    • says

      Judy: I’m hoping that teachers and educators everywhere begin speaking up. We have to. We are headed down a terrible path in Indiana and nationally; we have to begin educating the average voter about the true motives of “education reform” and why its not in our best educational or economic interests.

  5. Lizabeth Parr says

    “15. If education is its own reward, then weighted grades should eliminated.”
    Education should be treated as end in itself, but it’s not right now. It’s job training. When people ask me what I am studying they are really asking what job I plan on getting with my degree. Because the idea that I am going to school to learn is absurd. I am getting an education because I value education. Grading is necessary, but my goal when I enter a class is to learn, not get a good grade.

    “18. Most online classes are a joke. Really.”
    From experience, this is true.

  6. says

    This was shared by a friend of mine who is subbing in your school district and she knew I would love it (I do) probably because I am often trying to incite riots over here in upstate NY. Thank you…I’m sharing this! 😀

  7. Bobbie P. says

    Always remember as a teacher;
    When students cheat on exams its because our school system values grades more than students value learning.

    Great article!

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