Stop towing the party line and lets talk

Atticus is the author of the progressive-right political and lifestyle blog BlogTruth. His experience spans almost a decade providing business and consulting services to firms across the globe. Stop by his blog and say hello.

*It should be noted that the ideas in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the blog owner, John Barron.

There are a few basic elements of truth that regardless of our political affiliations we should all agree on. And I think this is something we should all spend a little more time talking about, but instead we are often too busy “towing the party lines” and focusing on our differences (that are usually far less significant than our agreements).

We focus on abortion, climate change, our personal religious beliefs, same-sex marriage, and the like – but those things only serve to detract us from the bigger, more overarching issues. So in the spirit of solidarity I want to make a list of five basic issues we should all agree on and that are more important than any of the “controversial” topics we like to debate time and time again.

1. The current state of the media is unacceptable.

A recent pew research center poll of Americans showed that, even with the advancements in communication, we are less satisfied than ever with the state of journalism.

 2. The division between the “haves” and “have-nots” is too great.

Over time we have seen a constant, unfair, and unequal growth between the wealth/political elite class and the rest of the population. This has been magnified by corruption in politics and corporate interests (oligarchy), a failure of investigative journalist to educate the public, and media propaganda.

3. We can do a better job taking care of the planet.

This isn’t about climate change and to pretend that caring about the environment is only caring about climate change is a convenient mechanism used to stop conservatives from demanding corporations and countries treat the planet better. We are losing nearly 80,000 acres of rainforest a day (the actual figure is debatable, but everyone agrees that it’s a lot), many third world countries are suffering from polluted air and water supply, and worse. We have the technology and we can do better.

 4. We need to improve healthcare.

Almost everyone agrees that the ACA is terrible and I agree, but I think everyone can agree that the world would be a better place if we are all healthy and cared for. Let’s figure out how.

 5. American education is failing.

American education is terrible. We throw too much money at the problem without enough results. We don’t support our teachers and parents need to take responsibility for educating their children. We can do better. Period.

Comments

  1. 1. Journalism – known issue. And every time a media outlet tries to buck the trend they’re pounced upon by the left who demand the same lies over and over. Suggested fix: boycott unethical news sources… no wait! By MSNBC’s ratings it’s already happening
    2. Wealth Inequity – every ‘fix’ the elite (and very rich) left has put in place has made it worse. Suggested fix: Vote them ALL out and undo all the “fixes”
    3. Environment – I grew up next to Lake Erie and believe me, the environment is MUCH better now than when it was 40 years ago. As for the other countries – what do you want to do, use military force to get them in line? Thanks to the current administration we have no military left.
    4. Healthcare – HEALTH CARE IS NOT A PROBLEM. I repeat: HEALTH CARE IS NOT A PROBLEM. You can walk into any hospital in the US and get anything fixed, from a hang nail to that incorrect sex that God assigned you. And in emergency situations it’s illegal to turn away anyone regardless of their ability to pay. The lies about people without emergency healthcare are just that – LIES. The problem is not Health Care, the problem is the financial fracas that the Government has inflicted on us. Suggested Fix: (See the suggested fix in item 2)
    5. Education is Failing – duh. I dropped out of an Education degree in 2006 when I discovered that after 5th Grade Education is merely liberal indoctrination. The NEA is merely a front for the Communist/Liberal power grab with Government backing. Suggested Fix: (See the suggested fix in item 2)

    • Healthcare is not a problem? I disagree. I think the price of pharmaceuticals and healthcare for the average joe is pretty outrageous. Maybe its just me. There is a reason Big Pharma spends so much on political lobbyists.

  2. Interesting post, Atticus.

    For starters, I think you mean “toe the line” (http://grammartips.homestead.com/toetheline.html)

    As for your list, I see a commonality – money.

    The media these days doesn’t really care about accuracy or explanation. The media outlets are motivated by ratings and revenue. Unfortunately, these same outlets are changing their delivery to what they think we want to see. Many outlets are too concerned with how they deliver instead of what they deliver.

    As for the country itself, it will last as long as those “have-nots” are willing to tolerate their conditions.

    Corporate interests control our government. Period.

    Corporations and special interests write our laws and have no concern for anything other than their bottom line. They have no interest in taking better care of the planet or improving healthcare or educating the masses unless it means more money for them.

    Solution: Get special interests out of government. Reboot. Make elected officials actually represent the people and without all the luxuries currently afforded them. Most of the schmucks in office are so out of touch with the folks they supposedly represent.

  3. We focus on abortion, climate change, our personal religious beliefs, same-sex marriage, and the like – but those things only serve to detract us from the bigger, more overarching issues.

    Our society allows certain human beings to be slaughtered, dismembered, and thrown away because their lives, according to our laws, are worthless. Such evil is not merely a distraction; it’s a bane on society and the lives of those affected by it. So, no, abortion is not a distraction.

    Neither, for that matter, is Climate Change. If Climate Change is real then I’d say we have a pretty massive problem, wouldn’t you? And it’s still a huge issue if it isn’t real, You have companies going out of business for failure to comply with regulations that owe their existence to the idea of Anthropologic Climate Change. Again, not a distraction!

    One’s religious beliefs often influence the way they live their lives. How is that a distraction? Same-Sex Marriage, right or wrong, impacts society. It also impacts the lives of millions of people – but because you aren’t one of those people you view it as a distraction. Nonsense.

    That part of your post was face-palmingly absurd. But I can agree with you on 1 thru 5.

    • Abortion – My point was we have things we could focus on that we agree about. Like genocide being wrong in Africa. Or family values being important (which would lower abortion rates).

      Climate Change – My point was whether climate change is real or not we still need to treat mother nature with respect. So either way the argument is moot b/c the end result is treating the earth better.

      Same Sex Marriage – My point was that this topic is far less important than the big picture issues I addressed. Wouldn’t you agree?

      But i like how you “can agree with me on 1 thru 5” but you focus on the one sentence where you disagree with me. That is exactly the problem I’m talking about and why we can’t get anything solved. Divide and conquer my friend.

  4. Personally, I dont have a problem with a wealth gap. The only reason to have a problem with it, in my opinion, is if you’re accusing the rich of stealing from the poor. But I dont lose out on any money because a millionaire makes another million this year.

  5. You may not have a personal issue with the disparity in wealth, John, but it will eventually lead to the collapse of this nation. I think you do lose money and purchasing power as special interests keep bilking the system. These major industries control how much it costs you to borrow money, buy food and medication, heat your home and put fuel in your car.

  6. Atticus,

    Abortion – Family Values would only lower abortion rates if everyone had the same values.

    Climate Change – Meandering outside weekly and planting a tree is also an example of “treating the earth better,” but that isn’t going to do a damn thing about the wider issue of Climate Change or prohibitive regulations that arise from the idea.

    Same-Sex Marriage – No, I wouldn’t agree. You have at least 2 million people to whom the issue is incredibly important, If SS-M is right, then what kind of message are we sending to our children by denying millions of people their rights? And if it’s wrong, what kind of message are we sending to our children by allowing leftwing bullying tactics to fundamentally change our laws?

    It doesn’t matter that it was only one sentence. You managed to say quite a bit in that sentence, and it was half-assed reasoning to boot.

  7. paynehollow says:

    Taking a look at it from a slightly different angle:

    Let’s say that it’s a given that we have these differences on these issues listed by Atticus. Let’s say that these differences, to us, at least, feel huge and disruptive and disturbing.

    Even so, here we are together in this nation and in this world. Neither “side” of these arguments are going away anytime soon.

    Could we agree that, for all the other areas of interest for our country, we should set aside those differences on those issues and realize the great areas of commonalities and common goals?

    We all love our children and want a good future for them. Regardless of what else we might disagree on, we can recognize that as a HUGE area of agreement.

    Yes, we want good schooling, ALL of us. Even those of us without children can recognize that these school children will one day be citizens and neighbors and co-workers. We want to see each of these kids rise to the best of their abilities and to be taught to think well, to reason well, to be informed. How do we best go about that?

    We agree that none of us want to have poisons or toxins or pollutions that might threaten our children or parents or us. We can agree that asthma is a horrible thing, even if we aren’t affected directly by it, and we can agree to take reasonable, conservative measures to help all of our citizens enjoy a healthy environment – how do we go about that?

    And even on areas where we disagree, abortion, for instance, we can agree that we want safe medical treatment for our families, we can mostly agree that fewer abortions from unwanted pregnancies are better than more abortions and more unwanted pregnancies… how can we reduce unwanted pregnancies?

    We all have common dreams and goals and morals. How can we find commonality even in the midst of disagreements on some topics? We can do this, I think.

    ~Dan

  8. The culture war is the perfect construct for controlling the masses. For 30 plus years this cultivated mechanism has distracted us from larger more common goals, and alleviated us from some very serious “under the radar” issues, like:

    1) The continued gross devaluation of the dollar. This adversely affects all of us and has done so now for 3 generations. John says no problem with the wealth gap? I think if this problem was better understood you may have a different perspective. There is zero reason/evidence to believe that 99% of the wealth will had by 1% of the population at some point in the near future. They will have along the way in those same closed door meetings consolidated all of the power as well.

    2)There are between 8 and 12 lobbyists for every member of Congress. This is where the rich become the powerful. We are watching the birth of an aristocracy. Where Senate leaders give themselves millions in subsidies, make deals with industry and continue on to give free reign to the corpratocracy. It remains completely unchecked, there are no balances.

    3)Corporations are people to? Unlimited outside Super PAC money will continue to flood all elections in which the powerful are seeking more power and more wealth. I still don’t think that people realize what a threat this is to a free democracy. Currently the FEC has no mechanism to even track foreign monies in elections.

    4)This aristocracy and power structure do not owe you an answer and there is zero accountability. The fact that all ethical wrongdoing is only investigated by your buddies on the House Ethics Committee, would have George Washington rolling in his grave.

    5)Public education has been turned into a factory to make submissive drones for the service sector, completely incapable of independent thought they just coast apathetically through life without so much as a peep, and the status quo trudges on while we are all pacified with just barely enough money and copious amounts of TV/pop culture to keep us more than happily distracted. If knowledge is power, we are in big trouble.

  9. paynehollow says:

    Agree, agree and agree, except for point 5. There is certainly some element of truth to that, but you make it sound devious and by design. My degree is in education, I’ve taught in public schools, I know a huge number of teachers and administrators and, to a person, they are dedicated public servants who are striving to get the best education to the students as possible, given limited resources and other difficulties.

    Do teachers want students to participate and cooperate? Is that difficult to do with 30+ kids at a time, coming from different backgrounds and educational styles and abilities? Yes, it’s hard work. They are dealing with hundreds of children and they need some basic cooperation. Does that mean that they (or their administrators) want “submissive drones for the public sector…”? No, and that’s a ridiculous claim to make. Are you saying this about teachers and administrators? School boards? State education leaders? Federal leaders?

    I would have to call that an example of the sort of divisive slander that is part of the problem. Let it be enough to say, “I disagree with these policies and that teaching practice…” without demonizing those in charge suggesting some diabolic plot to create drones. That makes great movie plots, but in the real world, it is unnecessarily divisive.

    ~Dan

  10. … and the rich people control the government’s policies.

  11. paynehollow says:

    Again, looking for the common ground, I would think that we could at least agree that folks who are rich are simply factually able to and DO spend money on politicians/influencing policy. And, perhaps we could also agree that their ability to influence policy in that way gives them a power that the rest of us don’t have. What we have, instead of money power, is people power, organizing to make our interests known. But it takes a whole lot more effort to get the thousands of people organized and influencing policy than it does for a wealthy person to write a check to pay for lobbyists and otherwise influence policy.

    Thus, perhaps we could agree that because the potential is there for the wealthy to more easily and directly influence policy, that some changes could be considered? After all, this works all ways – wealthy liberal people can and do write checks, just as wealthy conservative people do, or other corporations do that don’t even have an ideology beyond their own bottom line…

    Maybe?

    ~Dan

  12. There’s the rub, Dan.

    Those wrote write and make the laws are the ones directly benefiting from the laws they make. These laws are often to the detriment of the rest of us. Banking and insurance lobbies (among others) push legislation that benefits them, not us.

    You can rally all the people you want, but they don’t have much influence without financial backing.

    That coupled with the fact that current politicians who try to buck the system get swiftly replaced by politicians corrupted by those same special interests.

    What I find ironic is that this whole system, primarily composed of self-proclaimed Christians, is built on greed. All these industries care about is their bottom line.

  13. Those who write and make the laws …

    (I’m not sure what happened there)

  14. Obama was said to have raised lots of money from small on-line donations. If this was true (and we give him the benefit of the doubt here, since he’s a liar), then corporate money isn’t as important as rousing the people from their complacency, which, is the reason we are where we are.

    Corporate money, or ANY money for that matter, has no affect on upright and honest public servants. Public devotion to electing only the best people will go a lot further than any policy. Without that interest by the population, little else matters. Tons of money is meaningless and it can’t do squat without a politician with no desire to resist its lure.

  15. Corporate money, or ANY money for that matter, has no affect on upright and honest public servants.

    Which public servants are those exactly?

    • Dan, my intent was not to “demonize” any individual teachers. The machination that is public education is driven by those “well meaning” hard working teachers. The 2 teacher’s unions are responsible for the transformation of the curriculum/syllabus in classrooms. They are the only union in the land that has such a power. Joe the rivet driver at GM does not dictate anything to his superiors. Imagine Joe telling the VP of technical engineering at GM how he was going to build a car from here on out……The 2 unions have crafted an ever worse quality product for the last 35 years. They are the problem, no matter how well meaning or well intentioned they might be. They are responsible for creating drones, whether they intended to or not. They are the mechanism responsible for crafting subservient cubicle automatons, pacifists, bystanders. And frankly no amount of apologetics can change that.

      Sorry Marshall, your summation of money in politics is lacking. To think that if we just can find a bunch of “honest” politicians we will be in a happy perfect world is naive. This mechanism of special interests has been mastering its skill set for the last 125 years. And as of right now the citizenry has no way to balance the disparity of power without the forcing of policies. Not to mention “honest politician” is an oxymoron. For it to work, even a little, will require both of these things.

      And John, aren’t governmental policies, us? Unless you have given up on the idea of a proactive, citizen driven democracy? I know I have……

  16. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    Public devotion to electing only the best people will go a lot further than any policy.

    Lord Acton might disagree.

    Here’s an interesting article on this theme…

    “Simply thinking about money can trigger people to lie, steal and make unethical decisions, new research shows.”

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/17/pf/money-corrupt/

  17. paynehollow says:

    Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    ~Lord Acton

  18. paynehollow says:

    Rnash…

    The 2 unions have crafted an ever worse quality product for the last 35 years.

    I’ve really had enough off topic rabbit chasing, but I’ll just note that this is a fine, but unsupported opinion. School boards make educational policy – school boards made up of teachers, administrators and parents – and they are all responsible for the quality, or lack thereof, of education in that school. You almost certainly can produce no data to support the conclusion that, to the degree that schools are suffering, it’s all the teacher’s union’s fault. Our teachers – the ones I know of, anyway – are heroes and selfless public servants, working long, hard, often thankless hours for poor pay.

    Maybe sometime when the topic is specifically education, we could debate the state of education and teachers, teacher unions and parents roles in it.

    As to THIS post, I would just suggest that the demonization of those who have different ideas than we have is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    For what it’s worth, my daughter is graduating near the top of her class this year from public high school – one that is at the top of the highest performing high schools in Kentucky – and that is thanks to the students, the parents, the teachers, the administrators and the teacher’s union, not in spite of them.

    One more caveat, Nash: Did you know what studies show to be the number one predictor of student success?

    Parental involvement/concern/support for academic success. Regardless of socioeconomic factors (although that’s a big one, too), school choice – public or private or homeschooled, school programs or curriculum. I think the reasonable question that we should be asking – and where we can find agreement, I’d think – is how do we help parents WANT to see their kids succeed academically? Then get busy doing that.

    ~Dan

    • Dan, you are a master of goal post moving.

      How have I demonized anyone? Do you mean to suggest that the moment we assert pointed criticism of an idea, of results, or those responsible for said results, we are demonizing them? If so that is patently absurd.

      School boards do make educational policies, yes. We agree. They also “Toe the Line” for federal dollars by getting in bed with NCLB and now CC, etc. standards and the shifting of education away from theorizing, reasoning and deductively solving problems. These federal standards along with the various state standards on which they are based were not invented by parents. Some parents, in some localities may have had something to say, but they did not write these PE curriculae. They may have voted on some of it at the local level. But we both know that .00000001% had any idea what they were looking at. What they were really doing was voting on getting matching federal funds or not. The school boards and the 2 major teacher’s unions have never definitively not agreed on these federal standards. So saying that they are 2 different groups coming together to work on these standards is not accurate, they are one in the same when it comes to the content and its delivery.

      Your painting of teachers as being all heroes and selfless means that you have never been in the room when they are clamoring to re-write these standards. Having been present in NYC in the mid 90’s for some of this re-write, I will tell you that the amount of ego involved was disgusting. We are not producing children with these standards who could pull off the moonshot.

      I would be curious to see if your daughter could pass a graduating final exam from any point between 1880-1960. Odds are, no she couldn’t. Most of those exams were the result of teaching children how to reason out solutions to complex data sets. No part of what is taught today is even remotely related to those skills. And no matter how many anecdotal superawesome teachers you might know, changes this.

      If you actually think that teachers unions are not culpable in the gross pacifying and dumbing down of the populace, your head is in the sand. It has spawned an entirely new industry. I am again back in school right now, and twice a week at my school the 3 local high schools bus 9-12 graders to our school to take intermediate courses in writing and math because the high schools cannot prepare these kids for their first year in 101 courses. There was no such thing 20 years ago and now just this one hole in the wall school has 390 of them twice a week having to learn what they should have mastered in 9th grade. How about we use that as a measure of success of the awesomeness of all of these heroic teachers?

      In spite of dumbing down the SAT 3 times in a row for the last 12 years, SAT scores have stagnated, not gotten better. More than half (57%) of all high schoolers are not ready for college as per last years announcement from the College Board. Huh, I guess all of that well meaning, heroics energy is being expended in a way that is the opposite of constructive. I mean any business that produced results like this would be out of business. The unions have had too much control for too long. Their results are terrible.

      What of my accurate analogy of Joe the rivet driver?

      And not for nothing, but referencing: “my daughter is graduating near the top of her class this year from public high school – one that is at the top of the highest performing high schools in Kentucky”, seems like a lead in to a joke. I have no doubt that your daughter is doing well, but being at the top of a well performing school in KY seems like late night Letterman material. Do you think that she would be performing this well with the criteria of 50 years ago? I mean with the standards only backsliding for decades in an attempt to first pass as many students as they could, and then later to get as many students for their matching federal funds and make the kids at the bottom feel better about themselves, is this the answer?

      Where we seem to deviate is that when you speak of “succeeding academically,” and the predictors of such outcomes, I speak to the quality of those academics, because right now they are terrible, no matter how good anyone “feels” about themselves or the outcomes.

      I think you may be a little too close to see the issue of public education without any number of biases.

  19. paynehollow says:

    Again, I think discussing education specifics is off topic, but just a couple of responses…

    These federal standards along with the various state standards on which they are based were not invented by parents.

    Are you blaming federal standards (the NCLB is a product of the Bush administration, not the teachers unions, right?) or teachers unions? Are you suggesting that George Bush and his team wanted to develop the NCLB to train kids to be compliant workers? That’s a pretty serious charge against Team Bush, do you have any evidence of that?

    Nash…

    Do you think that she would be performing this well with the criteria of 50 years ago? I mean with the standards only backsliding for decades

    Yes, I do. Again, the number one predictor for student success is parental support, and our kids have had that. I have no reason to doubt that my daughter and son would have done as well as I and my wife did when we were in primary school, 30+ years ago (we both did quite well, thank you).

    Has education suffered some over the last 50 years? Yes. Has it improved some? Yes.
    We are trying to education 100% of the students. 50 years ago, we were only educating slightly more than half. As I recall, it goes something like this:

    In the 1940s, only about 40% of kids graduated.
    In the 1930s, only about 30% of the kids graduated. Etc, etc.

    When you are only dealing with half the population of kids (ie, generally speaking, the kids whose parents most value education), then the process of educating ALL those 40% is much easier than when you are trying to educate 100% of kids – including the ones who are homeless, who don’t have parental support, who have learning disabilities or other cognitive deficits.

    Comparing education today to education from the 1950s is comparing apples and oranges. Here is a link to some of those numbers/graduation rates…

    http://www.safeandcivilschools.com/research/graduation_rates.php

    Again, I think where we could probably agree is in trying to answer the question, How do we help parents help their kids, and this will probably be the most effective approach to helping improve things.

    As to your “not demonizing” claim… here is what you said:

    Public education has been turned into a factory to make submissive drones for the service sector

    Does that not sound like a demonization of teachers to you? Are you suggesting that teachers INTEND to make school a “factory” to make “submissive drones…” (which would be demonizing, unless you have proof of intent) or are you saying that somehow, accidentally, while trying to do the right thing, teachers have accidentally had the side effect of turning students into submissive drones?

    in either case, do you have any evidence for this rather spectacular claim? Or is it just another empty rant in the face of concerns over schools? (which concern, I can appreciate, just not these rather empty sounding, unsupported claims).

    ~Dan

    • So your position is that since we are attempting to educate more students, the increase in quantity is an excuse for the disturbing drop in quality?

      The US used to rank number 1st in math, 1st in science, and 1st in reading.
      Those numbers are now 26th, 18th and 15th respectively……all on the unions watch.

      If all you have to offer is that because some teachers, in some places are working hard to improve this while being an integral part of the problem, well I think you are not seeing the forest for the trees.

      The more they have had to do with the product the lower the standards and subsequent results have fallen. A CEO of any company with this track record would be thrown out on his ear. The unions should have nothing to do with the curriculum, only the delivery of the information.

      And whether or not teachers intend to foster pacified automatons or not, does not alleviate them for their role in the process. They have had their shot, they failed, time to try something different.

      Yes I went to public school, both in the inner city and small towns. I saw all of it. I now home school my kids because the excuse for the quality of the curriculum is so poor.

      For references, read the Harvard Review: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG12-03_CatchingUp.pdf

      All of Gatto’s work, Richard Elmore’s papers, Challs, work, and SJ Balls book/work/research over the course of the last 20 years would be a good place to get a feel for an “alternative” to the lock step acceptance of compulsory education.

      Public education is 8-10 hours of very expensive baby sitting/prison in which a child learns to obey….nothing more.

  20. paynehollow says:

    Nash…

    I think you may be a little too close to see the issue of public education without any number of biases.

    I can always be won over by evidence. Just not empty claims of rather dubious charges against people and institutions that I can attest are working hard to do a difficult job. By the way, I’m not a teacher now (it really is hard work), but I am a parent of public school children and a public school graduate, myself. Does that make me “too close” to see without biases? I don’t know. Do you have children? Did you go to school? Does that make you “too close” to see?

    I think what it makes me is informed and informed is a good thing.

    ~Dan

  21. Oh the poor underpaid teacher line, let’s look at some average salaries.

    Kentucky $48,908
    New York $72,708
    Alabama $47,863
    Texas $48,638
    California $67,861
    Illinois $64,509
    Minnesota $53,680
    Massachusetts $70,752

    I’d kill to be making any of the above.

    http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/

    Let’s compare that to average per capita income for the same states.

    KY $35,041
    NY $52,095
    AL $35,625
    TX $41,171
    CA $44,980
    IL $44,815
    MN $46,227
    MA $54,687

    http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm

    So the average pay of the underpaid teachers is higher than the average for the state.

    Not demonizing teachers, just pointing out that the underpaid thing may not get much traction when the averages get looked at.

  22. paynehollow says:

    Nash…

    When did we rate number 1 in math? A source, please.

    We haven’t ever, according to this source…

    http://www.good.is/posts/debunking-education-myths-america-s-never-been-number-one-in-math

    But let’s say that in 1950 – when only half the population was going to/graduating from high school – we WERE number one. Do you see the difference between trying to educate the half of the population with parental support and financial and academic wherewithal to go to school vs trying to educate everyone – those with advantages and those without?

    It’s apples and oranges.

    Prior to the 1960s, it was a fairly simple thing for someone to NOT go to high school, to still get a job and make a living. Farm work, factory work… there were plenty of options for those for whom academic work was a challenge in one way or another. So, if half the youth just didn’t try to graduate from high school, no big deal.

    But now, we’re trying to educate 100% (or at least 90%) of the population. It’s a different thing to attempt.

    Have you ever taught a classroom on a regular basis?

    Do you know the difference between teaching a class full of students who are motivated to be there and for whom academic work is not especially challenging vs teaching a classroom where HALF the kids are ready to go and meet the challenges, but half are challenged in one way or another?

    It’s simply not the same thing. Can you see how that would impact an educational system?

    • The US ranked number 1 until 1974 and started measuring itself outside of the immediate G-6. The new report that came out in 2011 in the WP took that into account if you care to read the report in its entirety. After 1980 we measured our math rates against the G-20 and ranked 2nd, and have been cascading ever since. Be sure to know which one of 4 international exams you are referencing. There were 2 that came from Israel and Singapore respectively. US students knew little to no trigonometry in the 50’s and 60’s, so on those exams did poorly. When the exams were Algebra heavy and excluded trig, we were tied with the UK for 1st place for more than 25 years. Read David Kleins history of math education in the US for the differences in outcomes.

      As for sources, I am not sure how many more would make a difference. You keep chalking my opinions up as a way to dismiss the factual part of the proposition. You are as unimpressed with my rant as I am with your public education apologetics, none of which has any basis in reality beyond your anecdotal experience.

      And I am noticing your propensity for avoiding direct questions that paint your position in a negative light.

      I notice Dan, that you seem to be saying now twice, that it is impossible to educate “more” children with higher standards. I guess you are forgetting that along with more kids we trained and hired more teachers and built more schools to the tune of 700-800 billion dollars in the last 35 years. What is the mechanism that suggest that because something gets bigger the quality goes in the toilet, and that’s not just understandable, it’s ok? Ford makes 100’s of thousands of more vehicles, and they are all more reliable than the 10 a day that rolled off the assembly line in the teens and twenties. They got better, PE gets worse, in spite of record spending.

      And you are right John with regards to math being harder back in the day, but you are wrong about the age of children, it seems to go to 24!

  23. paynehollow says:

    As to the rest, I would just repeat, I can be won over by evidence, but not empty claims.

    It is an empty claim that my children or the many children I know or my teacher friends or their colleagues or my former colleagues… that for them… “Public education is 8-10 hours of very expensive baby sitting/prison in which a child learns to obey….nothing more.”

    That is demonstrably false. Demonstrably.

    If you have some actual evidence of places where that MIGHT be true to some degree, I will entertain actual evidence for those places, but I can see with my own eyes that it isn’t true here in Louisville. But empty claims? They don’t impress me.

  24. I remember seeing an elementary school text book from the early 1800s and the math in there was the toughest math I had ever seen, and im good at math. Converting fractions like adding 1/7to3/8 then multiplying by 2/7 all in your head.

    we coddle kids too much. Food for thought, there were teens as young as 14 as captains of battle ships in the revolutionary war. Today a 17 y/o is referred to as a child these days

  25. paynehollow says:

    Is it this 8th grade test, posted at snopes…

    http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.asp

    …as evidence for the “declining” educational system?

  26. “If you have some actual evidence of places where that MIGHT be true to some degree,”

    Do a little research on the KCMO school district. I’d suggest that for a school district to lose their accreditation is ample evidence of systemic failure.

    “… that it isn’t true here in Louisville.”

    Can you really speak authoritatively on every public school in Louisville?

    That would be impressive if you could.

    “LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41)–Many Jefferson County Public Schools are not reaching national goals, and JCPS does not think next year’s Kentucky Core Content test results will be much better.”

    ” Fewer than half of Kentucky’s public schools are meeting their academic goals with test scores. Just 27 out of 133 JCPS schools actually met their goals this year.”

    “Shawnee, Valley, and Western High Schools had some of the lowest scores on the Kentucky Core Content Test. “It is disturbing, we need to really go and do a thorough analysis as to what happened,” said Rodosky.”

    “Only 4% of Shawnee students performed at the proficient level in some areas.”

    “Facts about Louisville’s long-term, chronically under-performing schools are finally coming out since Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday unleashed a Tsunami with his recent remarks that performance in Jefferson County’s lowest-performing schools amounted to “educational genocide.””

    “First, when you average per pupil spending in the two sets of schools, it is very clear that funding isn’t an excuse. The PLAs high schools got, on average, nearly 50 percent more per pupil funding than the non-PLAs received in 2011-12.

    However, despite more financial resources, the PLAs, on average, were staffed with notably fewer highly experienced and qualified teachers.

    For example, PLAs averaged notably fewer National Board Certified Teachers than were found in the non-PLAs. If Jefferson County was really serious about helping the PLAs, shouldn’t the district have sent in a lot of these highly qualified teachers?”

    “Bottom line: the locals in Jefferson County can do all the denial dancing they want, but the facts are starting to come out, and they show a disappointing lack of any sort of really aggressive effort to do the most badly needed thing in the PLAs – namely, sending in sufficient numbers of highly experienced teachers to the most demanding schools in the system.”

    A quick search of the Google yielded what appears to be some evidence that all of the Louisville schools are not quite as awesome as the ones where you have direct experience.

  27. paynehollow says:

    Craig, I have not said that the schools anywhere are all doing great. Here are the points that I have made (including the one you took out of context)…

    * It is an empty claim that my children or the many children I know or my teacher friends or their colleagues or my former colleagues… that for them… “Public education is 8-10 hours of very expensive baby sitting/prison in which a child learns to obey….nothing more.”

    That is demonstrably false. Demonstrably.

    If you have some actual evidence of places where that MIGHT be true to some degree, I will entertain actual evidence for those places, but I can see with my own eyes that it isn’t true here in Louisville.

    * …except for point 5. There is certainly some element of truth to that, but you make it sound devious and by design.

    * You almost certainly can produce no data to support the conclusion that, to the degree that schools are suffering, it’s all the teacher’s union’s fault. Our teachers – the ones I know of, anyway – are heroes and selfless public servants, working long, hard, often thankless hours for poor pay.

    and I’ve asked these questions in response to what Nash said…

    * Are you blaming federal standards (the NCLB is a product of the Bush administration, not the teachers unions, right?) or teachers unions? Are you suggesting that George Bush and his team wanted to develop the NCLB to train kids to be compliant workers? That’s a pretty serious charge against Team Bush, do you have any evidence of that?

    * Does that not sound like a demonization of teachers to you? Are you suggesting that teachers INTEND to make school a “factory” to make “submissive drones…” (which would be demonizing, unless you have proof of intent) or are you saying that somehow, accidentally, while trying to do the right thing, teachers have accidentally had the side effect of turning students into submissive drones?

    in either case, do you have any evidence for this rather spectacular claim?

    ======
    So, to my ACTUAL points, did you have something to say?

    Again, my comment that you chose to pull out of context, put back into context:

    It is an empty claim that my children or the many children I know or my teacher friends or their colleagues or my former colleagues… THAT FOR THEM… “Public education is 8-10 hours of very expensive baby sitting/prison in which a child learns to obey….nothing more.”

    Clearly, it was speaking specifically of people I KNOW in Louisville. But even so, do you suspect that teachers are only striving to teach obedience and nothing more?

    You know one thing our teachers teach here: How to think rationally and respond in an adult manner with data, not innuendo and to not make empty claims that slander people.

    Are you trying to suggest that our school teachers are just 8-10 hours of prison where they only teach obedience?

    If you’re merely suggesting that schools can improve, well of course they can. Indeed, that is what I have tried to focus on (in fitting with the point of this post) Surely we can agree that we need to strive to learn better how to help parents help their children, since that is the number one predictor for academic success.

    To any of my ACTUAL points, do you have a response? Hopefully, in keeping with the point of the post, something positive and constructive?

    ~Dan

  28. paynehollow says:

    Nash…

    that you seem to be saying now twice, that it is impossible to educate “more” children with higher standards.

    Then let me clarify: That is not what I’m saying. I’m saying it is difficult to do so and it is comparing apples and oranges to try to compare 1950s results with 2000 era results. Trying to educate HALF the people is different than trying to educate ALL the people.

    Do you get that point?

  29. Obviously my comment with the average teacher salaries must have been constructive, since you just let that slip right on past without comment.

    “I have not said that the schools anywhere are all doing great.”

    I never said you did, you asked for evidence of areas where schools were failing and I gave you some things to chew on.

    “Clearly, it was speaking specifically of people I KNOW in Louisville”

    Strangely enough I acknowledged that in my comment.

    I even clarified that the Louisville schools that are familiar to you might be wonderful.

    Personally, my kids have gotten a good education in public schools. However, I see too many signs that would make me re think this if my kids were younger.

  30. paynehollow says:

    As to not answering questions, I just looked at your posts and did not see ANY questions that I have not answered. On the other hand, I’ve asked you several questions that you haven’t answered. So, again, claims are fine and all, but with no hard evidence to back them up, well…

    Here’s something you said that I answered, but let me REanswer it…

    your position is that since we are attempting to educate more students, the increase in quantity is an excuse for the disturbing drop in quality?

    No, I’m saying it’s apples and oranges.

    BUT, let me ask you this: In 1950, when approximately 50% (give or take) of the population went to/graduated from high school IF we were to test 90% of the kids under 18 – 90% like today, not 50% – (including the ones who dropped out of school), what would that have done to your test scores?

    Do you think that 1950s kids as a class would do as well as the whole of the 2000 class?

    Do you understand the point I’m making?

    Just to help make it clear…

    Not every child thrives in academic settings.

    Not every child thrives in particular academic settings.

    People all have different learning styles and different type of intelligences (see Gardner’s Learning styles if you’re not familiar…)

    http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html

    In a world where 50 of the kids drop out of school, what that typically meant is that the bulk of the kids who were in school either had parents that were supportive and encouraging or they were academically primed to thrive in that setting or both. Of course, getting those kids to have good test scores was easier. And, by weeding out the students that “slow class down,” indeed, they could excel even more quickly. Plus, it could be done on a lower budget because they didn’t need extra time, hands or resources to thrive, they were already primed to thrive.

    But we’re not trying to educate the most apt half of the nation. We’re trying to educate all of the nation, and that is simply a different task, which requires more resources and different strategies and it is simply going to be a more difficult task. I think we can do it, but we have to begin by recognizing what it is we’re trying to do and being smart about how we educate.

    That is what I’m saying, for what it’s worth. And I would hope that it is something we could all agree to or recognize the value of considering at least.

    ~Dan

  31. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    I never said you did, you asked for evidence of areas where schools were failing and I gave you some things to chew on.

    Then thank you. In context, however, my response was specifically about the scurrilous charge that schools are just expensive prisons where kids are taught to obey and naught else.

    But thanks for that information. I was familiar with it, but thanks just the same.

  32. If you are familiar with the relative salaries for teachers , then why did you resort to playing the “poor teachers are so underpaid card”. Unless, of course, you were just referring to the teachers you know. If you were, that’s fine, it’s just not significant to a larger discussion.

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