Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Educator Responds to Obama's State of the Union Address Educational Platitudes

[It annoys me to no end when policy makers who know nothing on an issue or topic decide to make plan to fix it.  I don't tell the auto mechanic how to fix my car.  I don't tell the doctor how to heal me.  Yet, why do people who sit in the ivory tower separated far-far from the reality of what education has actually become, what happens in a classroom, and how much a teacher works feel the need to tell teachers what has to be done.  My dad thought it was a good idea to have every person join the military for four years; it would teach discipline and life skills.  Today, I might say, every person in America should become a teacher for four years; it will solve the countries educational decline.  So here comes my commentary, in red, to Obama.  The president give a lot of platitudes, but does not give any concrete solutions.]

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future - if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas - then we also have to win the race to educate our kids. [Ok, I agree.  But are we going to do it?]

Think about it. [Now you're just going to far.  Asking me to think.  That takes work.] Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. [That's because colleges are turning into the new high school on a number of levels: education and maturity to name two]And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations [That is becuase facebook and Youtube are funner.]. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us - as citizens, and as parents - are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.[You mean people are going to have to work to become better?  It might be challenging.  WOW!  What a novel idea.  Work hard and positive result will follow]

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities [Duh, but who is going to take responsibility?  If we take H. Clinton's aprroach it is the whole town; so, let us just pass the buck to others.  Mom, Dad, don't be the primary educators of your children,  don't help them with their homework.  Just let the schools do it.]. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. [This assumes that parents are being parents to their children.  Every year I give the same talk to my students' parents, and every years half the parents do not listen.  Apparently parents know more about the life of teens than a person who is surrounded by many hundred teens for 8-12 hours a day.  The talk basically goes: you are the parent.  It is your job to raise your child.  You are not your child's friend.  YOU are the PARENT.  So stop letting your child do what they want and start telling them how it it going to be. This also means that the parent has to turn of the TV as well, set the example and help the child do their homework.]  We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline. [Well, pay scientists and teachers millions of dollar. Put the scientis on TV.  Heaven knows they will likely be better role models for our kids than the football players.  In fact, lets hold a scientist and teacher draft.  First years teachers and first round pick gets 10 million a year.  Then lets see how the education system changes in this country.]

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance [Assuming the teachers are being supported by the parents, and the parents are holding the student to the same standard--sure.  However, much of America has developed a sense of entitlement in the area of education and believe that their child deserves a good grade just for being physically present in the school.]. But too many schools don't meet this test. [How many, can you be more specific?] That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. [To the top of what?  This isn't the same race that JFK called for.  Give us a tangible goal! JFK gave us the moon. Obama gives us the unspecific 'TOP']To all fifty states, we said, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."[How about you start paying a decent salary and maybe good teachers might want to become teachers.  I remember being offered 24,000 to teach at a school in Louisiana after graduating from my undergrad.  Upon graduating from grad school I was offered 28,000 at another school.]

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. [Why aren't they developed by educators?  I'm not setting the standards of care for my doctor.  I'm not setting the standards for the government or for the plumber who plumbs.  I don't get to set the standards for the banking industry.  Then why does the government, a bunch of politicians get to set the standards for my job as an educator.  Do they know if they are setting the standards high enough?]]And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.

You see, we know what's possible for our children when reform isn't just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities. [I wasn't consulted.]
Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% [Nice percentage, but this dooes not tell us how many actually graduated.] of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college [What kind of college?  Barber College?  Notre Dame?  College of hard knocks.  This sounds great, but is it?]. And after the first year of the school's transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said "Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing... that we are smart and we can make it."[This is why people teach, but isolated incident.  Happens to few teachers.]

Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom[Then tell parents to start trusting the teacher.  Teachers aren't out to fail children.] . In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. [Define good teacher.  Define bad teacher.] And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.[What about English?  What about music?]

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child - become a teacher. Your country needs you.[Goodwill only goes so far.  Why should a young person who is looking at a career when they can find another job which involves less work and more money than teaching become a teacher?  What is the incentive to choose a teaching career over another career?  Warm fuzzy feeling and good will doesn't pay the rent.]

Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American [since when?  Why does the plumber need a college degree?  I'm not suggesting education is not needed, but why college if a person wants to pursue a trade?] That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit - worth $10,000 for four years of college.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today's fast-changing economy, we are also revitalizing America's community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she's earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams too. As Kathy said, "I hope it tells them to never give up."[Inspiring story: isolated incident]

If we take these steps - if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they're born until the last job they take - we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. [Since when is it about having college graduates.  If that is all it is about then I'll start my own college and sell degrees for $100 a pop.  What I'm saying is that I know many people who wasted their college education and have a degree.]

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

[Obama, become a high school teacher for a few years and see how difficult it is.  Sure you make is sound easy, but the fix is not going to be easy.  When people realize it isn't easy and that it will take sacrifice and hard work, how many are going to quit because of they feel as if they have been lied to?]
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