The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Falling further behind the education curve

In his most recent article, Tom Friedman takes a look at the comparative edge enjoyed by China and India in developing human capitol and how America's antiquated school systems have led Bill Gates to warn the nation's governors that he will not be able to hire their states' kids and stay competitive. I have often expressed a couple criticisms about our education system that are touched on in this article. The first is that the system is so inefficient and systemically stratified that it is still turning out assembly line workers for the 1950's. The second is that the nature of public systems such as public education are to cater to the least, not to challenge and engage the best. The idea that you are passing the bottom third is meaningless if the top third are not learning the skills they need to become critical thinkers and leaders. Of course the policy positions on this vary widely. Most people say that the system is underfunded, but here in Washington we spend $9700 per student, per year. That is enough to send them each to a private school and still have the money left over to send them on annual study abroad excursions every year. So why can't we educate anyone with all this money? Washington, and this trend holds for most of the nation, has 5 administrators for every 3 teachers. In total, over 100,000 administrators to 60,000 teachers. The education union is one of our states most powerful and recently led the effort to defeat a charter school initiative that would have brought, at least, a small chance for some reform. But the union, like any union, doesn't actually care about the interest of its industry, educating children. It exists to obtain the maximum benefits for its members and, in this case, has done such a smashing job that they have effectively drained the pond of funds that should go to the classroom.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The numbers you give would suggest that the administrator's association, ACSA, is even more powerful than the teachers' union. Also, it seems that you have joined the legion of teacher blamers. Why is it that no one ever questions the function or the necessity of local school boards, which may be the weakest brick in the wall?

4:30 PM  
Blogger Free2Smooze said...

Different system, the teachers union and administrators union in Washington state are one and the same. I am not blaming teachers, how well they function in the class room has no baring of the effectiveness of the lobbying efforts made on their behalf. I would prefer to see local school boards have vastly more control then they do, but state and federal bureacracies often frustrate their efforts and dollars are always tied to regulations. It makes it very difficult to do anything.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same union? And you have more people employed in the higher paid jobs than in the lower paid positions? That is a problem. Our teachers' union has supported legislation to set the admin./teacher ratio to no more than 1/5 on campuses. Of course, there are countless county and state employees who work in administrative jobs. But back to my point, on the local level, teachers and the union are one and the same. Also, I think you are giving school boards too much credit. They have no standards and little oversight. They serve as an entry level job for politicians.

8:19 PM  

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