Saturday, March 05, 2005

Education in Maine

“Those who can – do; those who can’t – teach; those who can’t teach – tell teachers what to do.”

Some might recognize that as a variation on a time honored mantra which conveys several ideas – first, that those who know how to teach, should teach; next, that some turn to teaching after they failed in other professions; finally, total failures tend toward telling teacher’s how to teach.

Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) violates the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and, apparently, is also unconstitutional. NCLB is an under funded mandate which argues that year to year performance of a grade level warrants the school being punished.

Adding insult to underfunded injury, Bush’s new budget cuts NCLB funding; had he any intention of it working, he would out front on ensuring NCLB – clearly, it was just a political gimmick.

To ensure that all schools fail, NCLB mandates that children under IDEA are forced to perform as if they weren’t. By contrast, Maine’s Learning Results describes student literacy in terms of knowledge and skills which schools use in forming local curricula and designing assessments.

There is also the Local Assessment System (LAS) – those who read my column on Feb 16 are already aware that, in accordance with Augusta’s LAS math methodology, change for a dollar is two halves and four quarters; that is, when it’s not four quarters and ten dimes.

LAS is so messed up, LD 426 has been introduced to put a moratorium on it until improvements can be made – let us hope the measure passes, and that “those who can teach” redo it.

In the area of right-wing GOP “educational idiocy” we have Creationism – “Intelligent Design” is the current nom de plume; this attack on knowledge has been around in many forms or guises, for 16 centuries. Creationist predecessors plunged Europe into the dark ages, and they want to do the same for America; word to wise, if a Creationist enters your district, kick that Satanist out.

Yes! Laugh them right out of your community. The alternative – to cry for a loss of knowledge; which precedes loss of freedom; and that is their true agenda – to remove private choice, freewill. Freewill is what was intended – an absolute right to select between choices, in certain knowledge that you will answer for a “knowingly made” wrong choice. It’s the Rule of Solomon.

Augusta must now make a choice. Do folks down there really want Maine’s children educated, or are they serving ignorance? EPS Funding serves ignorance. Not challenging NCLB serves ignorance. Dumping non-teaching tasks on teachers, usurping teaching time, serves ignorance.

Those “professionals” pushing LAS are depriving qualified teachers of the flexibility required to teach – all for the sake of il-conceived assessments. The basic goal of learning results requires the fostering of higher order thinking skills, student centered learning styles and “use of emerging technologies.”

Across the nation, schools have begun teaching via the internet – called cyberschools, they allow students to commute electronically. It is time our school districts considered this as a part of the rural normal curriculum – a means of reducing transportation costs and “snow day” losses.

Branson, Colorado – student population 65 – has 1,000 enrolled in its online affiliate, and receives $5,600 per pupil. The 21st century demands 21st century education and educational methodology.

NCLB, it’s legality and constitutionality in question, is scheduled to be in place this August – for our children to benefit, it must mesh with Learning Results, MEA and LAS. LAS doesn’t work.

Mandates – from ignorance – tell teachers what to do. Add current negative population growth, and you have a head-on collision with demographics. Bill Gates said it, the American High School system is obsolete – like of elementary system, it was designed for horse and buggy days.

Last week, Allen Greenspan called for deficit reduction – “from the outlay side”, as tax increases would be insufficient to address the problems. Federally, it’s guns of butter, and Bush promotes guns. America is falling behind the world, we need real state level solutions – not EPS, no BS.

It is unfortunate that Washington wishes to create a nation of illiterates -- that is does not do that which needs to be done, instead plays posturing games with the nation's future.

We are blessed with being Americans, but cursed with having to live in the current times of criminality in high places ... but, as they say, "This too shall pass." Let us hope we survive.

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