Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Governor presents an outline of his new plan:

  • Adding 20 additional days of instruction per year. This will reduce summer vacation from about 2 and a half months down to one and a half. Assuming that this moves the school year from about 180 days of instruction to 200, that represents an 11% increase. One suspects that the NEA and AFT unions will want a corresponding increase. Not to mention utilities. Good thing the schools are all air conditioned as things warm up toward the end of June.
  • Mandating all day kindergarten. Likely to be expensive, with little positive educational impact.
  • Jiggering with financing. The key point to educational reform is to remove as much local control over taxation levels as possible, because the education bureaucracy lobby in Columbus and Washington knows better than you do.

There’s a few reasonable sounding measures – delaying tenure, facilitating he credentials of professionals who haven’t been incarcerated in Teacher’s Colleges, etc.

There are quite a few “so what” items like replacing the Ohio Graduation Test with the ACT (what if your kid’s in a vocational track? What’s the minimum “graduating” score going to be?)
Then there’s the rest of the plan, assembled in the best tradition of Democratic “Jumble o’ Crap” style*

“More than memorization

Along with core courses, Strickland is calling for new topics ranging from global awareness to media literacy to develop thinking rather than memorization skills.

‘Students will be given a chance to interact with information, to follow up on the subjects that fascinate, to think critically and creatively and to use what they've learned to draw conclusions. Our schools are not assembly lines and our students are not widgets,’ Strickland said.

The governor also called for learning outside the school day with community service, wellness programs and tutoring, and the state would dedicate dollars to instructional materials and enrichment activities.

Strickland wants to create the Ohio Academic Olympics to ‘make learning as publicly praised as athletics.'’”

When was the last time that anyone associated with public education actively advocated memorizing anything? Mr. Straw Man, call you office. One of the key reasons that our students can’t think critically is that they have little or no factual understanding of anything. Without facts, there’s nothing for the critical thinker to work with.

The second issue with this is that a) very few people can actually think critically in the classic sense of the term; and b) most kids don’t have the neurons in place to learn to reason until well past middle school. Granted, that’s a pretty sweeping assertion that I’m not in a position to document with empirical evidence, but take a random sample of a group of teenagers, and your chances of finding one that can deal with the simplest syllogism is pretty small.

The further flaw in this ointment is the notion that all subjects are equally valuable. That’s nonsense. Media awareness? Watching TV, Facebooking, and texting are now as important as math? But once you’ve bought into the notion that little precious should pick his own educational path, don’t be surprised with what you get. As for learning outside the classroom with “community service”, “wellness”, and “enrichment” activities, my guess is that some enterprising surplus store can come up with a good deal on some slightly used “New Soviet Youth” gear.