Saturday, January 22, 2011


The reform package - touted as an alternative to increased taxes or further cuts to state education funding - calls for increased class sizes and fewer teachers, balanced by more classroom technology with personal laptops and required online courses for high school students. Under the plan, educator pay would be based on merit, with bonuses for student achievement. Tenure for new teachers would be eliminated, as would job security based on seniority. The state would pay for the plan mostly by increasing the ratio of students-per-class from 18.2 to 19.8 during the next two years, saving about $100 million annually. Idaho would shed about 770 teaching jobs as class sizes increase and more courses are taught online.

Maureen Dolan. "Citizens Testify on Education." Coeur d'Alene Press 22 January 2011: A1.

Education is absolutely necessary. For some it is a way to help improve our nation and secure a better foundation for our future. For others, it apparently is a necessary evil that should be crippled with low finances and high expectations. What we must ask ourselves is what is best for our future and what will help us produce not only academically inclined students but healthy young men and women. With something as important as education - our minds should not be focused on penny pinching or on extravagant expenditures. Instead, we should be thinking about what is actually best for the the students and the education system in general.

The state of Idaho is currently in an educational debate with a set proposal being sent forth by the chiefs of education in the state - Tom Luna and Butch Otter. Their plan (as outlined by Maureen Dolan above) has been extremely controversial since its unveiling. Without tossing mud, serious questions have to be asked. Does anyone truly believe that increasing class sizes is for the benefit of kids or teachers? The more pupils per class - the harder it is to effectively teach and reach all of them. More kids per class will equal more kids being "lost" in the general education classroom. The same could be said about required online classes. I don't care how advanced technology is getting. The interaction and learning environment of a classroom with an actual teacher cannot be replaced with a laptop and cyber-classroom. There is so much more then learning the ABC's of a class that goes on inside a school. Are we willing to sacrifice that - and if so, what does that look like for the future of America?

Finally - what does merit mean? What does student achievement mean? Have we truly found a reliable method of measuring it? I do think teachers need effective accountability like any other profession. Teachers need to be held to a high standard and expected to do their best. However, simply relying upon test scores and other generic measurements does not give us an effective formula for merit or achievement. What about the teacher that has a tremendous impact upon kids who do not like school, will not try at school, and have no home life to enforce strict standards? Those kids might end up being responsible citizens and solid young men and women despite being academically deficient. The ability, attitude and home life of a student has far more weight on their performance & achievement then anything a school, teacher or class can do. Should teachers be punished when those 3 attributes are lacking?

Perhaps what is happening is that America is disgusted with what we are becoming as a nation. We are lazy, apathetic and self-indulgent. We have to have the very best but do not want to work hard to get it. We just expect things to come to us with little to no effort on our behalf. Our families continue to break down and our morality is ceasing to exist. As a result, we have become a nation that deplores our condition but refuses to take steps to correct our dismal state. So instead of taking a real hard look at ourselves, we instead lash out at things we feel our easier to blame and control. Instead of being disturbed at our broken families and lazy kids, it is much simpler to point the finger at teachers and their lack of effort. Its the schools' fault! Its my son or daughter's awful teacher's fault! Blame someone! Blame anyone! Just do not blame me.

Well taking aim at education through the elimination of teacher positions, increased class sizes, and lowered teacher salaries will certainly save dollars & look like reform. But in the end, as dead flies give perfume a bad smell, the folly of blaming education for our own iniquities will eventually bring our downfall in society.