Education in 2010

Images There are a variety of moving pieces that I continue to read about daily in the world of education.  Unions are a big piece of the puzzle. 

This morning there is an article in the New York Times about the world's foremost experts comparing our national school system to others around the globe.  Many other countries are surpassing us such as Canada, Finland and South Korea  Only about 7 out of 10 kids in the US get High School diplomas. 

The Senate committee heard from Dennis Van Roekel who is the president of the largest teachers union in the country.  They also heard from the Business Roundtable which is a group that represent corporate America.  Certainly their concerns are directed at the difficulty in hiring qualified workers. 

Mr. Blutt, who sits on the Business Roundtable and is CEO of a supermarket chain in Texas basically says that the blame does not lie solely with public schools but with dysfunctional families that undervalue education. He says,  "Schools are inheriting an over-entertained, distracted student".  Tom Harkin, completely agreed with the over-entertained and distracted.  Really?

Here is what I say.  That is total bullshit.  To me, the problems are pretty clear.  Unions are one of the major problem.  Unions hold a very important role in our history but they have not changed with the times.  They are more interested in just keeping people employed vs how they are teaching or how qualified the teacher is.  The teaching part is irrelevant where the contract and income is all they care about.  Unions take a cut of each teachers paycheck but they are not negotiating in good faith for the millions of students that go through the education system.  I am not saying get rid of the Unions, I am saying the Unions have to change.  They have to be willing to get rid of bad teachers. If they were willing to focus on excellent qualified teachers, the negotiations over income would not be so difficult.  It is no different than healthcare.  The insurance companies could care less about the care, they care about the money. 

The other issue is about being over-entertained and distracted.  If kids of this day and age are entrenched in social media, xbox games, ichat, utube and alike, then change the way we educate the kids.  Expecting kids in the world we live in today to pay attention to the same methods from 20 years ago are not going to work. How do you entertain and engage kids in school?  Certainly each grade is different but you need to pull them in starting in kindergarten.  Create lesson plans that excite, engage and create environments where kids want to learn.  Instead, our system continues to keep teachers employed that are teaching the same lesson plans and the same way they did when our world was in a very different place. 

If kids were using interactive games to learn foreign language or playing guitar hero like games to learn how to play an instrument or fascinating interactive games to learn science, you would see kids desires to come to school and learn increase.  Kids are like sponges.  They want to learn but they want to have fun doing it. 

I suggest that if Mr. Blutt and Senator Harkin have grandchildren, they should spend a weekend with them and see how they take in information.  We must take a serious look, from top to bottom, at how unions function (total renegotiation on how we work with them) to classroom education that should focus on the students of today, not the paycheck.  If we could do that the impact would be felt for years to come. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. David Noël

    I’m currently reading “Work hard. Be nice.” It’s great. Truly enjoy reading about passionate teachers that are working hard on changing the system from within. Only half-way through and so far, I can recommend it:

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks. Will take a look.

  2. steve cheney

    solid points about the need to evolve stale learning methods – another really great read on how education must change is Disrupting Class by Clay Christensen. he’s applied his legendary take on disruption to education – not done yet but awesome so far…

  3. Timothy Post

    It seems to me that the unions have placed too much emphasis on reducing risk (i.e. job security) versus increasing rewards (i.e. teacher salaries). As you point out, the world has changed over the past 50 years while unions have not.Specifically, what has changed is that life-long employment with a single employer is unheard of today. However, teacher unions still operate with the goal of ensuring that teachers remain employed at a single school until retirement.One small step may be to institute a policy whereby teachers are required to rotate every 5 years to a new school in the same district or county.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Agreed. Too much emphasis on reducing risk vs increasing rewards. This generation can’t imagine staying at one job or company for their entire life. Moving around is a lot to ask but perhaps there is a way for shared practices as well as classes or tests required every 5 years to keep teachers fresh with continued interest to spark new ideas and interests.

  4. sharonHorowitz

    Bravo Joanne. I could not agree with you more…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Sharon. Unfortunately Government is like a cruise ship. It takesforever to turn around!

      1. sharonHorowitz

        HiI’ve been a big fan of you and your blog for a long time. But this particular entry made me reach out and comment. Maybe because I have kids in the public school system and face this problem head on.Sharon Horowitz203.273.2772www.CenterNorth.Com________________________________________The information contained in this email message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or an agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you have received this document in error and that any review, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by email, and delete the original message.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Thanks Sharon. Keep commenting!!

  5. Jill Beck

    Very insightful post…. I second reading Christensen’s book. Some great insights.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Jill

  6. Tereza

    Totally agree with you. Union incentives are totally decoupled from results. And tenure? Fuhgettaboutit.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Tenure….don’t even get me started.

      1. Tereza

        And another thing.In principle, I too am pro-union. They started in great need, for the right reasons.HOWEVER, it seems that today we don’t have them where we need them (McD’s, slaughterhouses, Wal-mart) and where we do have them, we don’t need them anymore and they’re choking off their host (auto, education, etc.).Bad paradox.

        1. Gotham Gal

          I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, the unions are very powerful andpoliticians seem afraid of pushing them into this century.