Mike Colera


This conversation is closed.

What will it take to recreate an educated American.

In fairness, I have to say that I have been critical of the education system in the US since my own sons went to school and I attended schools conferences and PTA meetings.
My conclusions:
Universities have found an unending source of funding accepting students with government loans that are estimated in the trillion dollar range. The number of dropouts from baccalaureate programs is outrageous, universities aren't concerned as they use the funds to build resorts, endowments, while uneducated college dropouts are stuck with loans for most of their lifetimes.

K-12 is even a greater failure in education. Many have touted pre-school programs to give children a headstart in schools. The Feds have reported the best heard start gain is lost by 4th Grade in mediorce elementary schools. Numbers vary but nearly 25% of children entering schools never graduate. A too large pecentage graduate functionally illerate. Yet bloated public school bureacracies demand more and more funds to educated our children. They acknowledge their failures and tell us money is the resolution. However, in my lifetime, the US has fallen from one of the best educated in the world to a level falling behind a number of "supposedly third world" nations, with expenditures exceeding most of the world's nations gross national product.

So, what have we got for all this money and so many uneducated young Americans. Huge bureacracies where non educational personnel make up nearly half of the staff, facilities that rival world resorts, after school athletic programs that rival professional leagues, text books riddled with current political correctness whatever that is, and my favorite, participating students are taught the mandatory state tests that are fixed to funding requests. All of this education tragedy is well supported by extremely powerful political interests.

So, solutions: I have none.

What will it take to educate America?

Closing Statement from Mike Colera

Most of the points of my initial conversation on the problems in Education were not addressed. Yes there are some schools doing an excellent job creating functional young adults that will do well in their lives. But too many young adults are not well educated and I am not addressing college, I am address daily life situations. We need to do so much more to resolve these problems and that is my problem.

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    Jul 7 2013: Not sure if this is a solution but here is a thought.....

    Stop coddling kids. Stop worrying about every last time their feelings are hurt. America has taken to this thought that no child should ever be insulted or have their feelings hurt. Nice but every time this happens we are sending the kids out there with nothing more than being unprepared for reality of failure. It happens, people screw up. There is no crime in telling kids that they did something wrong and being as demanding as necessary in order for the children to learn and get it right. No, I am not suggesting anyone be whipped or humilated, however I am suggesting that we not tell someone who has not done anything yet how brilliant they are.Tell them where they are right and wrong but make kids earn the praise.
    Here is another one....stop "Dumbing Down" the test in order to let the kids pass. Oh yeah, speaking of dumbing down...let's bring back penmanship to early schooling. I think it is great that a 1st grader can work a computer but I think it would be better if they could write their names.

    I have many more if you need them, just let me know.
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      Jul 8 2013: Oh come on you can't do that, the next thing you know you will want them to let TBTF fail.
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      Jul 8 2013: THANK YOU!!!! We are teaching our kids to be ignorant, illiterate, egocentric, materialistic...... When we should be showing them how to be human, to be real, to make a difference and to use their inborn talents (I don't think we've destroyed those yet). They are learning that the way to be remembered is to show up a in a glitzy car when they should be realising that it's what they SAY, how they say it, and what they know that counts.
  • Jul 9 2013: (g)I think my kids would debate you on the "quietly". But what I see with many of the kids is heartbreaking. Some are discouraged from the sciences, because they have parents who fear science will undermine faith. Some are discouraged from the arts & humanities, because they have parents or schools who fear those aren't economically viable. Some are just bored, because many of the things that sparked interest (museum or public works field trips, etc.,) have gone away in the name of either budget cuts or litigation/insurance fears. What is, I think, most tragic, is that we now have a growing subset of parents who see only a future of marginal employment for themselves and their kids, and therefore see no point in investing in education either as individuals or as taxpayers.

    Some of this goes to a previous poster's question: What is the purpose of education? I would submit that the American public education system was designed not only to produce an industrial workforce, but equally important, to produce active and engaged citizens. Not just consumers, but citizens. Those are very different things. My memory may be off here, but I think it was roughly the 1980s when we stopped being 'customers' and became 'consumers'. It might be instructive to look at some trend lines in education performance in relation to civic engagement through that period forward, and see what changed when.
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      Jul 9 2013: The original need for public education was to provide an informed citizenry to sustain the new Federal Government that the founding father's created. Over the next 200 years elected local school boards added skills to be taught that they perceived to be beneficial to their communities. In the 1960s with the creation of the Federal Department of Education with federal funding and federal regulations, did local school management companies (aka School Districts) found this as a new source of funds to expand their evolvement in community life in the name of educating children.
      The school districts now have restaurants, police forces, vast landscaped facilities, medical services, motor fleets and transportation facilities, well established headquarters fully staffed with every amenity all in the name of educating children... which hasn't really happened, has it.
      • Jul 11 2013: Mike, I agree with this comment. I also wish to expend your point a little further. There has been a malignant cycle of the power-grabbing and domain expansion going on as well.
        When the federal government wants to finance a new "initiative", they usually attach with their funding with a mandate, that would require the school district to hire more people to staff these functions under the mandate. So the school district not only has yo have more staff, they will also need more office space and travel and data gathering equipment, etc. Therefore the majority portion of this funding actually wouldn't directly benefit the school children at all. Furthermore, the federal education department also have to expand their personnel and equipments to accommodate such programs. Both ends of this arrangement became a vicious cycle of power grabbing as more programs such as NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, RACE TO THE TOP, and COMMON CORE, ETC. ARE PILED ON ONE AFTER ANOTHER, except the original purpose of education of school children is totally forgotten, or in name only.
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          Jul 11 2013: Bart, even if I could list all the intricacies of this mess, it would take more then 2000 characters
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    Jul 8 2013: Just to review what this conversation is all about... a little history. the founding fathers developed a really difficult Federal Governance system and properly concluded it would only work well if the people understood how it work and their responsibilities as citizens. Free public schools would instruct in what is called civics and basic reading, writing and arithmetic.... It is all too simple.

    And what do we get 200 odd years later
    A massive public school bureaucracy that is further burdened with self centered union and special interest groups.
    Too many children never finish school and too many who do are functionally illiterate.
    Civics classes have all but disappeared or reduce to side instructions in a history class.
    Teachers are no longer teaching but are now State Testing facilitators who pass out instructional materials on the successful completing of the mandatory state examines.
    Schools have been involved in a wide ranging social programs to include food, clothing and shelter of children loosing focus on their primary goals of education. In the goal of making the children more receptive to education, school systems have squandered resources permitting responsible agencies to... let the schools do it...
    The Federal Government has expanded efforts in getting involved with public education, offering financial and educational "help" complete with usually federal strings attached and a one nation wide standard for education, setting dietary standards as if in the name of equality all American children were of one level of IQ and one dress or pant size.

    I have referenced other countries, too many I believe, have done better educating their children then the USA and at a lower cost per student. Now, the biggest argument on cost is that our schools have children that come from bad homes, neighborhoods, are hungry, need clothes and all the other negative impacts on children... All countries with public education have these children.
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    Jul 8 2013: Agreed! And as an ex-educator who was paid disgustingly, we won't get the 'right' people educating our children if we don't elevate them in terms of respect and value. Too many fantastic educators leave what they love doing because they can't afford to stay.
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      Jul 9 2013: It's not about teachers, like any profession, there are great ones, good ones and a few that should be in other jobs. It's about management. Let me say that again management
  • Jul 8 2013: What will it take to educate America?

    As much as it will take to educate all those other (just as important) countries.
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      Jul 9 2013: Tify,
      I think you missed my point. The USA is spending much more in resources, time and effort then those other just as important countries and not educating the children.
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    Jul 8 2013: I doubt it will be fixed. The correction will come about by a gradual or not so gradual decline/collapse of the country. At best this countries education system will be similar to the UK's

    The question is the answer. Government is the problem, get government out of education. Go to a voucher system.
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    Jul 8 2013: TED FRIEND

    Yes, that's what the school bureaucrats keep telling us, if we just had more money, we could hire more teachers reduce class size and get the best technology... they have been saying that when my sons started school and they are saying it today, 30 years later. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me for thirty years, I am too stupid?.
    Rich Schools, Poor Schools? they all use the same lobbyist at the state capital.
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        Jul 8 2013: And your statements look like typical political agenda to keep the teacher's union in power. All of your tired rhetoric about failing infrastructure and overpopulated schools is decades old, and mostly decades fixed. As Mike said, " Fool me once, shame on you, fool me for thirty years, I am too stupid?"

        Vouchers would introduce competition and innovation, and you know this. But it would also undermine the union's power base, and you know this as well.
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          Jul 8 2013: Interesting that when I was at school, class sizes were the same as they are now. One vital difference was that teachers were hired because they were passionate not because it was a job that anyone could get. When we stop seeing teaching as a óoh I'm sorry job' - and see it as a career that is crucial to the development of a nation, then we can start making a difference. Stop blaming money, government, class sizes, technology.... and start DOING
  • Jul 7 2013: We definitely have a problem.

    But we may be assuming that the problem is with the "system" when the real problem is with the students.

    The USA has everything anyone would need to educate himself/herself; all a student needs is determination.

    Perhaps we should be asking, why do we seem to have a generation of Americans that value education so little?

    Perhaps we should be looking for the answer from high school guidance counselors rather than teachers and principals.
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      Jul 7 2013: Barry,
      I am not so sure we can blame children for a lack of enthusiasm. About every little child has inane curiosity and wants to learn new things. Somehow society, the educational system, someone, ruins that for little kids. I have had young adults tell me that they were "turned off" by the hypocrisy of modern education.
      • Jul 8 2013: I think blaming is useless, and it makes no sense at all to blame little children. Apparently my first post was not clear.

        I started thinking, perhaps the problem is not in the system; then where is the problem?

        I was suggesting that if we limit our search for a solution to within the system we might be looking for a solution in the wrong place, and there might be people who can lead us in the right direction.

        It is entirely possible that being educated is just not as valuable as it once was, and the students are responding to this lesser evaluation in an appropriate manner. Students are not determinedly pursuing education because the education is not worth the time, the work and, at the college level, the tuition. If that is the problem, changes to the system will not necessarily make an education any more valuable.

        It is also possible that an education is still very valuable, but for some reason the students (and/or their parents) do not perceive or understand that value. Perhaps there are too many media reports of unemployed college graduates.

        Perhaps the problem is cultural. Perhaps the situation of the younger generations has changed so much that education is becoming less relevant to their lives. When futurists are saying that young people can expect to have at least three careers during their working years, and the last two careers probably have not yet been invented, the whole notion of planning a future can become very problematic, and probably confusing to young people.

        Perhaps younger generations really have become accustomed to instant gratification.

        Perhaps the missing key ingredient is hope for a better future.

        Perhaps the problem is new and different and the solution will require new and different thinking.
    • Jul 7 2013: Barry,

      Agree with about everything you said, but would add to the head of the list of people that need to be providing answers-parents.

      In our house, we always felt that the education was the responsibility of the parents and teachers were there to guide academic progress. We tried to supplement lessons with family field trips, extra assignments, applications to life for course work, and teaching lessons not taught in the classroom. I think there are a lot of folks that have an idea that if they get their kid to school, they have done their job as a parent, and if their kid has problems in school, something must be wrong with the course work or teacher.

      You hit the nail on the head with the need for determination, but I will add discipline, work ethic, personal responsibility, integrity, respect for themselves and others, a healthy lifestyle and a stable home. These are attributes that school teachers might foster, but they need to be learned at home. Other programs such as Scouts, religious programs, athletics, and other similar civic organizations teach aspects of these attributes, but the core learning needs to take place at home. This is a significant challenge in environments where there are two income families and daycare is a big part of life. Failure of parents to meet these challenges may curtail the success of the child.

      I believe these issues are as big or a bigger problem than those in school systems. However, I believe the problems in schools that Mike identified are too often used as a convenient scapegoat for problems best solved outside the classroom at home.
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      Jul 7 2013: OK, Finland, a fraction the size of the USA and probably a higher standard of living and they do pay higher taxes. But, the funding of education is lower then the unit cost here, by far. Yes they hire better teachers and have two to a class. They use bright kids to bring along the slower ones. It's what they don't do... they don't have huge bureaucracies, they don't spend enormous sums on: non educational programs, facilities, on social work, on any number of programs to help children except those that educate. Here our schools are into every program to help kids except maybe education. The claim is that no one else is doing these things and no one else will as long as schools are doing them.

      I did say that there are some good educational systems going on, but your list of ways that take off burdens of education from public schools ? It's not about taking off burdens, it's about education
  • Aug 6 2013: I would push back with this, define "failure" based on the system that is currently in place.

    Yes, education needs to be better, I won't argue that point. However, I take issue with the high failure rate of education. The United States offers a free education system to every kid who enters. The education is based on nothing other than the fact you are old enough to attend school. Then, you are only required to attend and both the administration and your parents scream if you are held back because you are failing. So you are passed on from grade to grade and get farther behind.

    Then, we have removed the effective programs for teaching job skills from the schools and essentially stated, as a system, that they are less valued than the college education. So, those "25%" of kids who are failing have no place to go anyways. Where do they go? Well, some of them get GED's which are not considered "graduating" but they do finish their education. They simply have to go into the work force and get educated however they are able to, and without the help of the education system.

    It wasn't that long ago you could go into the workforce and learn a trade and make a decent living. But the schools supported it. Now, schools don't actively support that type of education, rather the perceived demand for college educated people for work and they can't find work.

    You know, I still need someone to change the oil in my car, fix my plumbing in my house, and fix the potholes in the street. None of those require college degrees and none of them are valued by the education system as "trades".
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      Aug 7 2013: Mr. Hill,
      If you don't think our schools have failed miserably, you are very generous. Between drop outs and low performance, our schools turn out 60% of young adults as functional liberates. Yes they take all. I can understand there maybe a few that are uneducable... but not 60%. All skills are of value, from janitorial service to brain surgery and that is the story the nation needs to address..
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    Aug 6 2013: As this conversation draws to a close and I will be away when it ends, I will make my final comment.
    I see schools going down since the Federal Government got into the school business. Originally, it was to provide equal education to all children. A noble cause... however, like an uninvited guest they stayed and got into all aspects of education and in the last 60 years, one of the best educational systems in the world is in the toilet. Educators who should be focused on the education of the students are focused on increasing funding.
    What I would want to see is that local educators take back their schools. Congress should close the department of education and use the monies to do something more important.... like a big tax refund.
    Local schools should provide all students that information for each one to become knowledgeable into a field or job that they desire... be it janitorial cleaning or brain surgery... in either case, the schools should make each child believe that his future career is as important as any other. Capable students who desire college should be encouraged to go and be properly prepared. Students who desire be auto mechanics should be given the same encouragement and preparation for the career choice of both with equal effort. Every young adult should receive the necessary education for them to be all that they can be. Anything less is a.... crime....
  • Jul 21 2013: Maybe the truth, maybe understanding what has been done (https://vimeo.com/16724719), and what is being done. And where you can see a 95 year old who wishes she was younger as she and so the youth, see the value.

    Maybe a change in mindset that what once was, does not make is. Maybe a change in philosophy. Maybe an understanding that not everything has to be for profit, as a large part of that trillion student debt is people selling a dream, where they are not responsible for the outcome.

    I think that's what you'll notice, and see, in other "supposedly third world" nations.

    Maybe all of this adds up to a form of self reliance and resilience, that I see lacking in supporting the student. I say that as only a friend has the numbers of a free edu site, and America is the last on the list of inquirer's.
  • Jul 21 2013: We need a major change in philosophy and direction:
    1. Remove funds from the high school and redirect it to the lower grades - if students have the basics, they do not need the help in high school and the roi is much higher.
    2. Take some of the funds to help train parents to support their children
    3. remove remedial courses at colleges and put them back into k-12 where it is part of their curriculum.
    4. know that college is not for everyone, start apprenticeship programs with courses they need
    note: if they want they can go to college after getting some practical experience.
  • Jul 20 2013: An overseas education.
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      Jul 20 2013: Do we send tens of millions of American kids overseas? Or follow working programs from the most effective countries? Knowing the excessive vanity of the American Educators, it would be simpler to ship the kids
  • Jul 19 2013: Students like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4xvPJSqvEY

    Must watch!!
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    Jul 17 2013: Mike...reborn and reborn and reborn again and again till stop your national karma...(if we are talking about a US citizen) you are not the only one americans...theres a lot of different countries in this continent....
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      Jul 18 2013: That is true, there are several counties on the American continent and I used the vernacular for the USA. And it is the USA educational system that has gone in the toilet. I am not aware of the current status of education in other countries. But I have to think that it is better then the general education system in the USA.

      On the other hand, I have known peoples from Canada and Mexico and I have never heard them address themselves as Americans.. As far as I know only US citizens address themselves as such. If the term American is in popular use of the citizens in other North American nations, I am sure we can share...
      if I can take by your repetitive tone that you are open to sharing....
  • Jul 11 2013: Parental involvement in the childs education. Parents shouldnt expect to send their kids off to school and have them come back educated.

    Schools are all about teaching a lesson for future use. Unfortunately that is not how our brain works. We want to learn as needed. Parents are good at this. Schools could work on it.
  • Jul 11 2013: Minor point - there are no educated individuals - that implies a terminal situation, there are individuals learning

    Money is not the issue. What we need to do is change the view of education - Andrew MacFee stated that when he went to a public school, he felt he went to a gulag.

    1. Lectures and research should be done at home
    2. teachers during class time should mentor individuals with "homework" done during class time.

    We need to change teachers who just lecture with no mentoring and we may need to change the tenure system. How would be a good question because teachers need to protected from "helicopter": parents and poor administrators.

    We also need to get rid of the bad teachers. I am not sure training will help. Great teaching is an art form, connecting with the student and like art, there has to be the talent.
    • Jul 11 2013: Even though MacFee's two rules are quite reasonable, but under the present system when school children are mandated to learn the "common core" teaching material and mandated to pass the standardized in order to graduate, then the teachers' job is already cut down to preparing the students to learn and pass such test. There are hardly any freedom for the teacher to lead to individualized teaching during class time.
      • Jul 11 2013: The current educational system was designed in the early 20th century to supply workers for the factories of that era. They have tried to upgrade it to fit what they think is the current needs but keeping the same framework.

        Unfortunately, the framework is the problem and like any other institution it is very difficult to change - especially when the politicians, administrators, teachers, etc, fight the change. It is also difficult because parents must take over instead of assuming the educational system would do everything instead of the family. In many cases, parents have abdicated their responsibility.

        Side issue the 2 points are mine not Andrews
    • Jul 11 2013: Wayne: I do like your point about 'educated individuals' implying a terminal solution...or perhaps a terminal state, beyond which no further learning occurs. Bravo, you!

      "Lectures and research done at home"...the only problem here is that the materials have to be available, and the environment has to be at least minimally supportive for the time & space to do it. This isn't always the case. That's not to say that schools have to solve every personal or social problem that interferes with learning, but school should at least be the place that does provide those materials and minimums.

      Individual mentoring: I think this is part of the point of the whole thing about class size. However, Bart's comment about the requirements of the 'common core' and testing have also started to play a larger and larger role here as well.

      The various comments about parental involvement are all valid, but another thought also strikes me, particularly in that mentoring connection. How many kids are spending time around trusted adults, other than their parents, who are NOT in some professional capacity? Neighbors, or local small business owners? Our local librarians were my best friends in grade school; many of the boys hung around the local garages. We learned something of the working world, but perhaps more importantly, we learned how adults behaved, and how our communities worked.
      • Jul 12 2013: Thanks - I have been at seminars where leading experts, some even Nobel Laureates, say they are just beginning to understand the topic and just learning what questions to ask.

        Materials and lectures are available and some great lectures from k-12 and college are online today.

        I agree the need for support and an environment - that is why we need to help create the situation within the child's environment. I teach and help with homework at a homeless shelter when I can.

        Class size was supposed to allow teachers to do more individual mentoring but unfortunately, it has led to individual lecturing. Many teachers today do not know how to mentor.

        I agree about common core and testing - maybe I was not clear but I consider this to be what I call checklist teaching/education which is not learning.

        I also agree about the village bringing up the child but it must start with the main care giver. Too much is established in the 1st 6 years and maybe too much is set by year 12.
        • Jul 12 2013: There are indeed wonderful things available online--if you have the computer to access them. (I even get MIT and UCal classes on TV.) Bravo, you, for working with homeless kids...they have some of the roughest problems. But even those who aren't in quite that bad a shape may not have access to a computer and an internet connection. In the past couple of years, I've discovered how big that 'digital divide' really is (and not just for kids, either!) A $40 or $50 a month cable/ISP bill is huge for minimum wage parents.

          Common core & checklist teaching...while I do think there are problems, I also think there is a need for some of that basic, relatively standardized stuff. I have fifth graders who are still counting on their fingers, and complain that their math homework takes too long. It takes 'too long' because they've never memorized those basic facts. Yet my kindergarteners think flash cards are cool. Go figure.

          Certainly everything starts with the primary caregiver (usually Mom.) Tackling that means going after the whole mind-set...connecting school/education in general to the community as a whole, recreating a society where there is hope that education leads to a better life (hopefully defined more broadly than just stacking cash,) and where parents who want to take care of their kids aren't given a choice between feeding them or going to a parent-teacher conference, because that would mean missing a shift at work. My elder son's fourth grade teacher once told me, "Feeding your child is also an act of love."
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      Jul 13 2013: Flipping classrooms is a great idea, as long as there is technology at home to support the concept. Even more important is the support that parents give to the schools. Saying something as simple as "I was never good at (subject x), and you won't be either" completely undermines the kids education. Like it or not, the parents have the most power when it comes to this area. I am not blaming the parent, per se, but am convinced that their attitude toward education makes all the difference.

      Yes standards are wonderful, and should be the bare minimum of knowledge required to earn a diploma. At the other end of that spectrum though is the accompanying standardized testing. Nothing kills innovation and creativity faster than a mandated multiple choice test. They cause anxiety in learners, and do nothing to promote education. Teachers began to teach to the test because they do not want to lose funding, and ultimately jobs.

      Another problem is the one size fits all education system that we are so entrenched in. Research has shown that when students are allowed to work at their own pace it is rare have students who are "behind." Yet, with overcrowded classrooms, teachers teach to the middle and lose the top to boredom and the bottom to confusion. Then we wonder why mediocrity is celebrated in our society.

      I have been relatively lucky in my teaching experience because there is not a standardized test associated with my field. Instead of teaching the way an ignorant bureaucrat has dictated, I can tailor my lesson plans to a specific student, with specific outcomes in mind. I can then give them the time to learn the material for themselves.

      To help with the family problems we host events were families, grandparents, and other important people in the child's life are invited to participate in fun activities designed to show that school is not a horrible place after all. Sometimes it works, and we just hope that we can slowly erode the negativity from others.
      • Jul 13 2013: I applaud the individual lesson plans and i would argue that we need individual standards. Some students have a hard time with certain levels of math and do they really need it. I agree the 1 fits all approach or the checklist education approach does not work in today's world.
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    Jul 10 2013: Public funding.
    Many of America's best were raised on public education, but that was also when we cared about it.
    Put money back into schools as well as raise standards (and that doesn't necessarily mean raise the scores needed to pass).
    I guarantee a remarkable change will happen.
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      Jul 10 2013: Matthew, Money is the problem not the solution
      Public schools suffer from the Sears, Roebuck Syndrome. This is not taught in Economic Classes today, it is a nail to Keynesian Economic Theory.

      I t goes like this. In 1960, Sears, was ' the' store in the USA... think, WalMart, Target, Macy's all in one.
      Their biggest selling point was the quality of their merchandise. The best stuff at the best price. Kenmore appliances... I personally owned an electric dryer that lasted 30 years. Craftsman Tools... none better.
      Then it happened. 1964ish as I remember. Sears came out with the Sears charge card. Suddenly the focus was not on the quality of product but selling the charge card. People loved it. Great stuff at a great price and you can charge it. Money came pouring in. After a while Sears found that charge cards are not that stable an income source. Sometimes people didn't pay. The spread shrank. and accounts had to be made up, the only place to do this was in the quality of the products. Plastic parts in place of metal here, A little less titanium in tool steel there. Well, over the years, Sears is barely hanging on and losing even more and more market share. All for the lost focus on product quality and going after the money.
      That's what has happened to public schools ... they got looking for the money and lost sight of the quality of the product ... educated young adults.
    • Jul 10 2013: Matthew, Mike: Hang on a minute. Here's a thought.

      Mike is right in that we spend, on average, more than enough per student (although note that 'on average'.)

      Maybe we need to ask when 'public' became a dirty word? And why?

      I have a military background, and what I've learned is that a military (anybody's) reflects the society from which it is drawn, and usually in a somewhat concentrated form. Let's consider this. I suspect that there may be a similar dynamic going on with our public schools, and our educational system as a whole.
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        Jul 10 2013: Sadie,
        You are right on the averages It's still way too much to pay for the average quality education we are getting from the average school district.
        But all the lamenting by the average school district on the need to get more funding to deal with all the average poor, underfed, sick, homeless, parent less, undisciplined, drug addled, gang members and try to educated them. that really sounds challenging, until you think about all the other countries that have the same challenges from their poor, underfed, etc.
        Now they get the money... And what is the expenditure: million dollar sports field for after school sports, architecturally significant office building, fleets of vehicles, and staffs to where nearly half of the school employment is non instructional. And how well is all this working ? We are falling behind at an even faster rate to the education in other countries.
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    Jul 10 2013: I love American Ads. They're so obviously damning in treating the watcher as idiotic so, why not use this medium to begin again? Start dropping interesting facts in between those out of reality ads put out there by those big burger corps? Hear it enough you remember it?
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    Jul 10 2013: A valid point Mike, sadly too often managers become more concerned with politics than education - and that spells dooms day
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    Jul 9 2013: Maybe I am wrong, there is no great sense of concern that children are not being well educated.
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      Jul 13 2013: Educators, CEO's, managers, coworkers, and others all worry about this. There is a concern here, and solutions are being sought. The real problem is that the politicians trying to solve the problem are looking for band-aid fixes to familial and societal attitudes. Education will not improve until the parents/caregivers tell their kids that education matters and is important. More testing and legislation is not the answer. After all multiple choice tests stifles creativity, and hinders innovation.

      Learning opportunities like free public education provides needs to become cool, and not thought of as a prison sentence or convenient babysitter.
      • W T

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        Jul 15 2013: Hi Michael, I just saw the conversation you started on stem in the ESL class.

        I couldn't comment on it because it is closed.

        Hope you don't mind my writing to you here.

        Does your school have FOSS kits?
        They are really wonderful to conduct simple experiments.

        And, from personal experience, an experiment a day might be a bit of a hardship Michael.

        Also, kids have a lot to learn from experiments that require observation, and recording data.

        Here is a link to the FOSS kit site for your perusal:


        MIKE C....please accept my apologies for barging in here with this comment.
        Hope you don't mind. :D
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          Jul 15 2013: TED conversations are all about barging in. Do it all the time.
          American Education is not about teachers or teaching methods so much as about management. There is too much politics and self serving powerful figures involved an extraordinary amount of money to be had....
          and the kids are the losers
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    Jul 9 2013: You are all over thinking it. They need to be kids. Children need to be left to develop at their own pace. They need to be taught as children until itnis time they need to be taught as adults. They need to p, ay with other kids, they do not need tecnology from the minute theynare born and need to develop as they were meant to.

    Stop over thinking and let them become.
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      Jul 9 2013: It's not about the kids, it's about how we've failed to provide them an opportunity for a quality education.. The opportunity for them to be all that they can be.
      What we have are huge bureaucracies we invested with that task only to find that they have become self serving and self indulgent and abandoned the ability to teach.
    • Jul 9 2013: "They need to be kids...They need to pl ay with other kids,..." Absolutely! And this, too, is part of education; it's learning how to operate with other people. Many of the activities that used to be common in school, such as field trips, were as much a playful thing as an information gathering thing. My first grade class made jam for Mother's Day; we had great fun and learned a lot...starting with basic chemistry. (Also, steam = hot.) That basic chemistry produced a real thing that we could take home. It made a connection between 'school stuff' and the 'real world'.
    • Jul 9 2013: You might find the Sudbury Valley School to be interesting.

      • Jul 10 2013: Indeed! They do look interesting. I think our public schools could achieve something in that direction, but it would take resources (those books have to be available,) and a community that values the school enough to regard letting employees take a half day off to go visit the school and speak to classes (without punishing them financially or in evaluations,) as something of value. Similarly, a community which allows its schoolchildren an opportunity to come in and see the workings of a city council meeting, or a water treatment plant, or tour the area's largest employer would greatly connect the students and the schoool to the community. I'd also note that providing the tax base to support the schools so they can re-start PE and arts programs, which many have lost, would also be a good step in that direction.
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    Jul 9 2013: Just to clarify my comments, I know that there are some very good schools out there, public, private and parochial.
    I think that my biggest problem is two fold.
    First is the national attitude. We are not raising children. We are raising young adults who are to replace us as citizens in the future of this nation.
    Second: Universities and Public School Systems seem to have lost sight of their mission to educate. Since the Federal Government got into the education 'business' and money got to be available, I almost got the feeling that students were really in the way of acquiring gifts and grants

    Just saying.
    • Jul 9 2013: Then let us consider why the Federal government got into the education business in the first place. As I somewhat vaguely recall, it was largely because we had far too many schools that were receiving minimal funding, as a result of various political machinations at the local and state levels.

      Follow that with a combination of a desire to track the money (leading to much administrative bureaucracy,) and a change in attitudes that viewed schools as the producers of a product, who should therefore be competing with each other, and you may have the source of much of your grant-chasing.

      I would also ask you to consider this: Is there any profession other than teaching whose practitioners are expected to routinely begin with a Master's, work off the clock to manage their job, keep their professional qualifications updated, and yet are so consistently vilified as lazy, incompetent, overpaid, and that's without even getting into the cases where they are physically or legally threatened by parents for daring to suggest that little Johnny might not be doing his homework and therefore could fail? Or for answering a question asked by little Johnny that might not align with the religious belief of the parents?
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        Jul 9 2013: There were instances of concern that you mentioned. But they were state and local issues and should have been dealt with at that level. I see the problems since WWII , seemingly every issue is resolved by the establishment of a federal department or complex federal law. In this case most the issues that existed before still exist and a bunch of new problems have occurred.

        I have two sons and a daughter-in-law who are public schools teachers, I am well aware.
        • Jul 10 2013: Your kids are heroes, and I salute them.

          "But they were state and local issues and should have been dealt with at that level."... Unfortunately, the situation at the time was that they weren't being dealt with, and in the absence of Federal intervention, they weren't going to be.

          "...since WWII , seemingly every issue is resolved by the establishment of a federal department or complex federal law." My sense here is that, like myself, part of your concern has to do with the increasing complexity of the systems that we live in. This is something that really did get up and running in the post-war period. We became a world power/superpower. We became a nation of less cohesive communities, as people spread out to the suburbs. We became far more diverse with post-war immigration.

          Every response to every one of those challenges creates a new challenge to be addressed, because changing any one piece of a system throws the others out of balance. That's life. I do think the concern is justified--the increasing complexity of a system generally leads to increasing fragility of that system. That, I think, is where we are now with much of our educational system.
  • Jul 8 2013: It has to begin with a belief that education is important. When I was growing up in the 1950s-60s, that wasn't even a question. Tragically, in the last 10-15 years, I've encountered _parents_ who don't think school is important for their kids, and therefore the kids don't think it's important. It's pretty damn hard to counter that. They don't see education as leading to anything.

    Another thing I've noticed: It's really hard to get the kids to make connections. One girl told me, "You can't put anything 'together'! Everything's just random!" So for her, 9/11, the Iraq & Afghanistan wars, the Patriot Act, the TSA at the airport, and the current NSA controversy are completely discrete, unconnected events. She's in her late 20's, so she's old enough to have memory of all of it. I don't know if this is a function of _how_ we are teaching, or a function of how we are living...but it's definitely a real phenomenon.

    I do know this. Parents, teachers, and the relationship between the parent and the teacher is crucial. My kids attended many public schools, all over the country and overseas. Some of those were 'good' schools and some were not. My kids are well-educated, because I insisted on it, and I kept in touch with their teachers. Some of those teachers were hugely overburdened, but all were thrilled to have a parent who worked with them.
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      Jul 9 2013: You make a good and often overlooked point, Sadie, that all the talk about school's not being important interferes with students' putting in the effort to make the most of those learning opportunities. Meanwhile kids whose families quietly encourage them to make the most of their schooling pull way ahead.
    • Jul 9 2013: Sadie, I think you made my point better than I did.

      I have encountered people and parents who think education is not important. This puzzles me, and I wonder, what is the source of this attitude?
      • Jul 9 2013: Some of it is things I put in a previous post. (Sorry, I goofed on the 'reply' part.) Fear of undermining faith, or fear of not being economically viable (no matter what education is persued,) or fear of becoming 'other' in relation to one's family or community. Did you ever see the old movie, "Mr. Roberts"? The ship's captain hated his young junior officers. They were 'high & mighty college brats' whereas he had worked his way through. I've seen communities where something like that prevails; to go to college is to be accused of a 'better than thou' attitude. There's _something_ real going on there. We've always had a socio-economic hierarchy that put professional education at the top, but we used to have respectable, stable careers for the middle, too. Many of those are gone now, and we haven't done much to fill that gap. So maybe those who would have seen a future there, now don't see any future at all. The seriously poor don't worry as much about getting to the PTA; they care, but they're too busy trying to find another hour of work to put bread on the table. It's those mid-level secretaries and mailmen, who have their evenings and weekends free to go to those PTA & school board meetings who can encourage both the teachers and the kids. And those are the kinds of jobs that we are losing, in favor of temporary this & that.

        What really infuriates me is that I've discovered the reality of the 'school to prison pipeline'. And I've discovered just how profitable it is. I'm just an ordinary old lady. I doubt I can change the system, but I'm snatching one kid out.
  • Jul 8 2013: my two cents.....

    The solution lies in the examination of the PURPOSE of EDUCATION. Not in its reform.

    "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
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      Jul 9 2013: Scott,
      We need knowledgeable adults who can properly execute a constitutional republic or this country will become the Wiedmeir Republic of 1925.
      • Jul 9 2013: Yes, and what of the masses? The ruling class is a tiny majority
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          Jul 9 2013: Masses? Ruling Class?
          American Public Education was founded on the principle that all Americans would be given the skills to sustain a constitutional republic.
    • Jul 9 2013: Scott, Agreed. Schools need specific, measurable objectives. Schools that are required to meet the goals of everyone actually meet the goals of no one. The trend toward more specialized charter schools is headed in the right direction.

      Mike, if you are stating the purpose of education, your statement is too vague to be useful.
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        Jul 9 2013: OK, once more
        The original need for public education was to provide an informed citizenry to sustain the new Federal Government that the founding father's created. Over the next 200 years elected local school boards added skills to be taught that they perceived to be beneficial to their communities. In the 1960s with the creation of the Federal Department of Education with federal funding and federal regulations, did local school management companies (aka School Districts) found this as a new source of funds to expand their involvement in community life in the name of educating children.
        The school districts now have restaurants, police forces, vast landscaped facilities, medical services, motor fleets and transportation facilities, well established headquarters fully staffed with every amenity all in the name of educating children... which hasn't really happened, has it.
        • Jul 10 2013: I understand your frustration. If a child of say 16 years old walked up to you and asked you what the purpose of education was, what would you say?
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        Jul 10 2013: Scott,
        I would say that he/she should learn everything they could. I would tell them that knowledge is power, the power to live their lives their way.as they see fit. I have more but you see where I am going.
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    Jul 8 2013: without adding a solution, i throw this video at you, to scare you to death with the possible consequences of a misstep:


    it is about intelligent design infiltrating the education system, but generalize it to other threats to freedom and free thinking.
  • Jul 8 2013: The only way to get improvement is to disassemble the local school monopolies and give parents choice. Statewide open enrollment so if your local school is no good, your student can go to anotherschool that is better. Each student should have the same economic value statewide --so rural schools without a strong tax base has the same resources per pupil that a wealthy suburban school has. Let the schools prove their worth with equal revenues and treat all parents and students like valued customers.
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    Jul 8 2013: I am a South African and so much of what has been written here is a concern to us too. I do think that there are solutions but we need people in academics and education who are passionate about development and youth and education that doesn't involve just learning ABC. We need people who will encourage accountability, responsibility, and learning for the sake of knowledge.
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    Jul 8 2013: Infuse Enthusiasm

    With devloped infra structure already present America need to put all efforts to infuse enthusiam in students to learn and educate themselves.
  • Jul 8 2013: Do you really think the education establisment is concerned about education? The first edition of Keirsey's book You Don't understand Me tells us about educators and what they do. I did have some education courses when I listened to the stuff about science teachers are needed. Reread Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath noting the Handbills. I remember an education prof who seemed very impressed by Army training when he was drafted. Folks there are ways to get things done if they can be done. The education establishment is maximizing something else.