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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Effective Education

Identifying poverty—or any other government funded phenomenon—by its characteristics is problematic because progressive philosophies are firmly entrenched in both media and education.  A double-headed bureaucratic monster vigorously defends the fiefdom and the funding that keeps it expanding.  Thomas Sowell, a former economics professor, argues that what poverty means politically and in the media is whatever the people who collect statistics choose to define as poverty.  It is not mere semantics because the future of the welfare state depends on how poverty is defined.  "The poor" are the human shields behind whom advocates of ever bigger spending for ever bigger government advance toward their goal. 

Nowhere is bloated bureaucracy more evident than in education.  Journalism colleges are prolifically disgorging cultural Marxist clones to suppress inconvenient information and to gull a naïve body politic into believing their boilerplate.  With its propaganda machine in high gear, the academic types spin the tales told by the compliant and complicit media claiming that poverty causes students to fail.

They claim that underfunded war-on-poverty welfare programs create educational failure.  Bill Gates offered a different view in a speech that he gave to the Urban League.  He admits that poverty is a terrible obstacle.  But we can’t let it be an excuse…all students can succeed…you can have a good school in a poor neighborhood…let’s end the myth that we have to solve poverty before we improve education.  It’s the other way around.  Improving education is one of the best ways to solve poverty.

The key here is to determine how to make education effective enough to eliminate socially promoting students.  The Gates foundation studied how and why some poor children succeeded in school.  The researchers concluded that effective education is the product of effective teaching.  That this was not already self-evident to the national education collective reveals much.  Data now show that students with great teachers learn three times as much material in one year as students with ineffective teachers.

The studies also revealed that educators didn’t know what made teaching effective.  Gates is working with teachers to identify measures of effective teaching – and then develop ways to evaluate teachers that teachers themselves believe are fair.  That has been the rub.  To evaluate performance, one must have standards, and education unions react to standards like vampires splashed with holy water.

Whether it is standardized performance evaluations or standardized tests of students’ academic performance, education unions resist standards because they give administrators accurate tools to identify ineffective teachers who need to be culled from the herd.  As maximum class size laws attest, teachers’ unions are more interested in featherbedding their bureaucracies than getting rid of incompetent union members.

The article points out that ineffectiveness results because although all teachers are not equal, yet they are treated equally; and all students are not equal, yet they are treated equally.  This is is injustice.  Standardized performance appraisals for both teachers and students would go a long way toward proving which teaching techniques and methods are successful.  They would also provide clear indications as to which educators should be retained and rewarded and which ones need to find other employment opportunities.

May your gods be with you.

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