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Education Reform With Teeth

Let's quit mollycoddling the lil' b******s
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Here's one of my patented draconian ideas...this time to fix our moribund system of education. Bear with me.

(1) Establish a law that makes parents' tax refunds directly proportional to their childrens' score on an annual test of educational progress. (2) Make the teachers' pay proportional to the average of their students' scores. (3) The maximum salary for any teacher is equal to the lowest salary made by any player in the NBA. (4) Abolish mandatory schooling. (5) Tell the kids: "School's out. Go to the beach. Play Nintendo. Whatever. (6) Oops, forgot to mention the last part: at age 18, EVERYONE takes the SAT. Anyone who scores less than (pick a number...say 700) will be executed on live TV.

These "reforms" are intended to insert feedback into the system, i.e., accountability...make the job worthwhile for talented people by vastly increasing the pay...and make learning a survival issue. It is my belief that VERY FEW public executions would occur--after the initial few.

I know, I know. Crazy. Does anyone doubt that it would WORK? If you agree that it would work but is overly nasty, cruel, extreme, or whatever...then I have established my case. A solution exists to the incredible miseducation of American students. It is probably far less draconian than the plan presented here (with tongue in cheek). What we lack is the WILL to find and impliment it.


boris, Sep 15 2000


       Would the plan be implEmented with severe punishment for folks with spelling problems? :)
Angus, Sep 15 2000

       Oriental, and even European culture evinces a much greater respect for learning than American culture. in Japan poor grades often lead to suicide - which is perhaps taking it a bit too seriously. Europeans historically, since the split with Greek tradition, have disdained learning, and academics were relegated to the lowest levels of society - monks and clerics, and often these careers were delagated to children lower in the patralineal hierarchy. The Aristocracy is believed to have been largely illiterate, with notable exceptions, and the association between wealth and culture did not begin until after the enlightenment.   

       Ashkezaic Jews, who have traditionally promoted education among themselves (even Jewish religion consists of constantly debating and reinterpreting the Torah) were often viewed with suspicion, and the advantage that education gave them after the enlightenment may have been their undoing in Germany, where resentment over their dominence in the professions was tapped by Hitler.   

       The same sort of Fuedal mistrust of learning could be seen in this country, in the early days of computing, when management could not be induced to touch a computer - relagating this to a technological "priesthood". This technological illiteracy continued even after we experienced our own postnuclear "enlightenment" during the fifties and sixties - IBM made their fortune off of it, then very nearly lost it in the "shadetree" computer science boom made possible by "open source" DOS.
Scott_D, Sep 15 2000

       Only the increasing compexity of our technological artifacts has galvinized any interest in education, although I have found books extolling educational reform, and pointing out inadequacies in the system going back at least 40 years. Our national culture still respects athletics, and mesomorphic "physical culture" to a greater extent than more cereberal persuits, and much of conservative criticism of the educational system often centers around "Liberal Proffessors", and "Ivory Tower Academecians".   

       Meanwhile, in the secondary schools, student culture is still divided between "jocks" and "nerds", and this distinction is often reinforced through violence, and local budgets often attach a higher priority to athletics, fields and equipment, than to academic infrastructure, libraries, etc.   

       The Greeks extolled "a healthy mind in a healthy body", and we have shift our emphasis, however painful, from the worship of the ex-quarterback turned car salesman, to the flexible, technical knowledge and critical thinking that is needed to survive and excel in the modern information economy. For their part, students should be helped to realize that public education is the last thing they'll ever get for free.
Scott_D, Sep 15 2000

       Never happen, if for no other reason than you'd never get everyone to agree that the SAT was fair and unbiased. We can't even agree that all of our laws are fair.
centauri, Sep 15 2000

       Americas economic success has much to do with discarding the romanticism of aristocracy, "A Nation of Shopkeepers", I believe was the phrase. The rewards and punishments become self-evident after graduation - my idea is to expose students to what they can expect in the real world, through field trips, guest lecturers, etc. School looked a lot more attractive to me after working at labor intensive jobs for a couple of years.
Scott_D, Sep 15 2000

       "A nation of shopkeepers" was Napoleon's phrase for England, while England was rising as the leader of the "free world" - a position it held longer than the US has claimed the title.   

       Misquotations and the SAT - *middlebrow* authoritarianism! Yep, that's my nation.
hello_c, Sep 15 2000

       Shopkeeping is a foolish *end* goal; there are other things to do with one's life, once one has enough money. Cf. Attic glory, Confucian & Taoist scholars "in times when the emperor is not virtuous", duties of democracy.
hello_c, Sep 15 2000

       Same point. In various forms, the sentiment was originally a criticism of Adam Smiths economic theories. Rote learning is a good tool, but modern economics places equal, if not more, emphasis on critical and creative thinking.   

       Authoritarianism is best suited to rote learning, and tends to stifle creativity. I am no fan of behaviouism, the human mind is more complex than that, and even a rats mind is more complex - read Richard Restaks, "The Brain". Children and adolescents are not stupid, merely inexperienced.
Scott_D, Sep 15 2000

       Not to interrupt the social studies class, but I don't think the original idea would work outside of a Heinlein story.   

       This wouldn't increase incentive to learn. It would increase incentive to score above 700 on the SAT. This means that students will focus on geometry, algebra, and vocabulary, essentially taking a 12-year Princeton Review course.
bookworm, Sep 15 2000

       If parents had the power to move their children (and their children's tuition) from schools they did not feel were educating their children, an awful lot of schools and teachers would feel an immediate incentive to improve. With all the talk about "accountability", the politicians ignore the fact that accountability to parents is far more meaningful than accountability to some bureaucRAT whose goal is to make things look good.
supercat, Oct 21 2000

       I understand (not necessarily agree with, but understand) the reasoning behind most of the suggestion, but what's the point behind putting a cap on teachers' salaries?
baf, Nov 04 2000

       You're right that the system in the US is not good. Culture and a poorly designed system (teachers' unions, local control, federal control, funded by property taxes, etc., etc., what a mess!) have combined to make a system that is excellent in some places, horrible in many others, and dissatisfying overall.   

       Do not assume that the system is much better elsewhere, however. I currently live in Japan. No one here thinks the educational system is very good, and for good reasons. Kids learn to take tests, that's it. They study English for six years and have nothing to show for it. They are NOT good at math; they forget it all after college. They attend "juku" after school for hours and hours, just so they can pass the tests. The ratio of effort to result is just terrible. The only thing Japan can claim as a noble fruit of its educational system is its literacy rate: 100%. That doesn't mean that these people are literate; it just means that they can read (and not even necessarily that well, in my experience).   

       If the overpraised Japanese educational system is this poor in results, I can only imagine what other lauded systems produce. Don't believe too easily.
Vance, Jan 29 2001

       Have another beer and a fork of venison. You sound like you might have a rock in your shoe. I'm trying to be as kind as possible.   

       Teaching should be a process which includes effective, practical, and moral motivation along with a more hands-on approach with projects, labs, and computer working sessions.   

       Crap like this is actually so out in the open in America that the kids here it, they react to it, and ..... you guessed it....a new breed of malicious dissidents is born.
Bob Wade, May 13 2002

       Vote fishbone! Do it now! Again, vote fishbone for your future!
andrewm, Apr 13 2003

       There are about 13 million children in U.S. High schools right now. You are talking about a potential event that would exceed in magnitude the horror of any holocaust, any purge, any ethnic cleansing.   

       I don't think that such a plan would create the sort of independent thinkers I want to see in America. It would create a class of citizens who would accept any loss of freedom the government imposed on them, having been told that they owe their lives to the whim of the Princeton Board. It would also create a class of dangerously stupid criminals, who might as well go out in a blaze of glory, knowing that the state will execute them no matter what.
dbsousa, Apr 14 2003


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