Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, January 26, 2017

School Days

I can not deal with national news right now so let's get local ... which isn't much better.

So the state is considering closing academically failing schools.  I subbed at one of the schools so I have complicated and controversial thoughts that I've been trying to keep a lid on but if the world is going up in flames why bother.

So first off I believe in school accountability. That is my foremost beef with Betsy DeVos. I've spent FAR too long just trying to get through my day and ignoring big giant warning signs that things were not right when I was subbing and I feel some personal guilt for that.

However, I do not like the fundamental choice a lot of these parents have. Send their kids to no school or send their kids to a bad school.

If those are their choices somebody somewhere FUCKED UP! I don't know who. I don't know how but somebody fucked up. And my instincts are telling that if we are ending up with education deserts it's a systemic institutional problem that goes higher than the individual schools.

School choice like that ain't school choice.

Which is to say instead of closing schools I think we should try to reform them.

Let me be honest here. My only experience with education is as a part-time substitute teacher and a guy who likes to sit in on board of education meetings for kicks with a lot of stuff going over my head. I don't have a degree in child psych and I don't have an extensive library on education policy. But here are my thoughts,

The Teacher Shortage
For a lot of reasons I've been doing some life assessments and I think I subbed too long. My life might have been easier if I laid aside other issues and just focused on getting out, but I didn't. And one of the reasons why I didn't is because in the schools I subbed in there was a critical need for substitute teachers. And let's be honest a lot of that wasn't a critical need for substitute teachers but a critical need for teachers.

In these, schools they can't find enough permanent teachers to cover classes. And until they do all other reforms are meaningless.

The EXPERIENCED Teacher Shortage
And now we can get to the heart of it. One of the reasons why I stopped subbing was that I never felt confident enough in my knowledge base that I should be responsible for teaching other people especially people not knowledgeable or experienced enough to call me on my bullshit when I screwed something up. And trust me I KNOW THERE WAS A LOT I SCREWED UP!

Gaining that sort of confidence takes time and education itself and the people with those things have options. First off, from a spectacle perspective,  why should somebody with the required degrees for certification take a job that will offer them less pay than just about anywhere else. It get's especially galling for folks with STEM degrees who could be making bank as engineers or business number crunchers.

I was/am an out of work writer so eh. But anybody else is effectively taking a pay cut to be a teacher.

Furthermore, it gets much worse for the types of schools that lack the resources to pay close to or above median salaries. The moment a teacher starts to get good in those schools they get poached by other districts leading to revolving doors of the inexperienced.

Which is a real shame because while I never gained the confidence to want to make teaching my life there was enough learning on the job to convince me that no matter how much of a natural prodigy one is a teacher really does need experience.

Beyond everything teaching is like writing. It takes time to develop a style that works for you and a lot of the teachers in these schools haven't had that time.


I want to tread very lightly here. Teaching can be hell. And part of the reason it can be hell is because the kids are rough. Most of it is kids doing stupid stuff because they are kids and kids do stupid stuff (you're going to just have to get used to it) but some of it ain't.

Across the board, if the kids see nobody cares they won't either. Sometimes it will make them mad. Sometimes it will make them lazy. But that's beside the point. What matters is that a lot of thier distaste for education is on the people above them and to be honest on the people above the people above them. We need to set a better example and that example should come from the top.  HEAR ME DEVOS AND LEONARD!

An Aside on Uniforms
That having been said uniforms are the epitome of everything wrong with the school system. To be fair everything I am about to say crosses into my general left leaning-libertarian political ideology (shut up it is to a thing.) In that arbitrary rules/laws only serve to undermine the faith of and compliance within their institutions.

If there doesn't need to be a rule there shouldn't be one.  It wastes everyone time so it won't get enforced which causes confusion regarding the rules that actually are and have to be. (I suck at hall passes.)

Let's go back on uniforms being a waste of time. There is no consensus on the effects on uniforms. They came into being for two reasons. Firstly because of cultural values and dear god we all know how I feel about that by now.

And secondarily because out of all the possible reforms they are one of the cheapest to institute even if they don't do anything.  And like I said that sums up my beef with the state legislature. If you're going to get involved. GET INVOLVED! Don't half ass it and then act like you did something. If you're going to make a rule make sure it does something meaningful. If you're going to spend tax money make damn sure it does something meaningful!

Class and Wealth

Again I want to parse my words here because if I don't it will lead me into some very uncomfortable territory. The debate regarding growth vs proficiency is ultimately about wealth and class. How do those in charge of education policy acknowledge schools, teachers, do not all have equal resources?

When I was in the first grade my mom bought a home computer for her job. By the fifth she bought me a $2000 computer for homework. I can't imagine what my life would be like if for every report I had to spend an extra half our schlubbing to and from the library to type and look stuff up on the internet or worse if there was no library or computer lab and I was just out of luck.

When I was in college and was one of the few people without Adobe's creative products on my personal computer I got a taste of how much time I had to spend compensating and working around the lack of resources but it was only a taste. Within the month I had decided I had had enough of that business.

There are students, teachers, schools and districts where that is their life! And that's just stuff I can understand. There is a lot of stuff I have no experience with at all. I can't help but feel it is a bit unfair to judge them by the same standards as Country Day

All the same, there is a line between that and giving up, saying that these students will never be able to compete with their peers because of where they grew up so why bother. Why give these schools money for teachers, books, facilities, programming and everything else they need if we know they are just going to fail?

Do I even need to say how I feel about those ideas?

Kevin Cotter AND Betsy DeVos have my lifelong enmity!

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