Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who is Getting Rich Off of Our Schoolchildren?

Who is getting rich off our schoolchildren?  Certainly not the schoolchildren, their parents, their teachers or even the college professors.

Who is reaping the benefits of all the "education reform"?  Certainly not the schoolchildren, their parents, or teacher or college professors.

Why are so many corporations and politicians interested in education reform?  There is big money (and votes)  in our country's education system and they want their piece of the pie.

More than 20 years ago I was a new teacher and had my first assignment as a long term substitute in a high school Learning Disabilities class.  During that time technology was just beginning to become a presence in the classrooms.  If I wanted my students to use a computer, I had to reserve it.

Yes, "it".  Singular.  There was one computer available for use and it was wheeled from classroom to classroom on a cart.  I did use that computer and helped boys who hated to write because their handwriting was horrendous find joy in writing a short story.  This computer was a glorified word processor and had no internet access.  It was a useful tool.

During that time, Channel One was just entering the classrooms.  Channel One is a program that places televisions and cable connections in every classroom as long as the students watch the Channel One news program every day.  The issues come not just from the news program and taking time away from instruction but from the commercials that accompany it.  Twenty-five years later, the program is still in classrooms.

As a substitute teacher, I have been in hundreds of classes during Channel One.  On average about 95% of the class ignored the program.  This is a completely unscientific figure but is also probably accurate.  This figure includes teachers.  So why is it still there?  Advertising.  Money.

Channel One Controversy Article from 1990

Every year there is a new and improved program that will revolutionize education and make it easier for our kids to learn.  My favorite is the "New Math".  Really?  How is math new?  What has changed in the past 3,000 years in regards to arithmetic and basic geometry?  Nothing.

The new math, I have learned, is a system of shortcuts.  Instead of "long division", the kids do "short division".   They are still doing the same work but are expected to do most of it in their head.  That is fine for math whizzes but not for kids still struggling.  It also goes against my number one rule in math...Show Your Work...Show ALL Your Work.  Most mistakes are basic computation mistakes and conceptual problems.  I can't the arithmetic error if it was only done in the student's head.

Another very basic but still costly "necessity" in the classroom...calculators.  I know.  Each calculator is not very expensive but the cumulative price is high.  I have also seen a reliance on calculator at such a young age that the students are forgetting their basic math facts.  There is no place for calculators in elementary or middle school classes unless they are used as a tool for the student to check their work.

I was trained as a middle school math and science teacher.  I have worked in countless classes including special education classes.  I remember teaching in a room equipped only with a blackboard, overhead projector, and books.  I remember learning in the same environment.

Now most students have endless resources available to them at the click of a mouse or a touch on their smartphone.   This access to information has not improved anything except the ability of corporations to market their products and make a buck off our desire to better educate our children.

Getting rich off of schoolchildren Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store