Education News – None of It Good

Among other understandings, teachers of America’s elementary and high school students were always expected to set examples for their students.

Aside from the obvious of not seducing their students, public school teachers were expected to establish a certain sense of decorum, which mandate in my school district incorporated into the union contract the allowance: “Male teachers are permitted to remove their jackets in the classroom.”

Times have changed. Radically.

Teacher-student assignations have become almost commonplace, student behavior has gone far beyond tossing spitballs and chewing gum, and teacher dress codes have gone the way of high-buttoned shoes. Aside from teachers hitting on students, other behavioral modifications on the part of teachers are much less forgivable, especially when the example they are setting is one of extreme misbehavior and lawlessness.

Teachers and other public servants in Wisconsin have the same rights accorded to every American under the First Amendment to the Constitution’s prohibition against infringement on freedom of speech, interference with the right to peaceably assemble, and the right of petitioning governmental redress of grievances.

What teachers do not have the right or privilege to do is to disgrace themselves and their profession, to break laws, to interfere with government functions, or to shamelessly trash both their profession and themselves by allowing teacher and outside thugs to direct and dictate their criminal activities.

In Wisconsin, teachers protesting new Republican Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to clean up the fiscal mess he inherited have reached new lows in their efforts to resist limitations on collective bargaining rights.

Despite Walker’s offers of compromise, Wisconsin “educators” have abandoned their classroom responsibilities by calling in sick in droves, falsifying medical “sick notes,” committing outright slander against their duly-elected representatives, and resorting to the same bullying tactics they decry in their schools, all of which are condoned by the nation’s Bully-in-Chief, Barack Hussein Obama

Acting more like semi-civilized Third Worlders instead of American student role models, their protests are costing millions. Their illegal seizure, occupation, and trashing of the Capitol building in Madison have, to date, resulted in some $7.5 million in damages and clean-up costs for their cash-strapped state, costs to be borne by already overburdened taxpayers: “Estimates of damage to marble includes $6 million to repair damaged marble inside the Capitol, $1 million for damage outside and $500,000 for costs to supervise the damage.”

The teacher and other unions reached rock bottom with death threats designed to intimidate not only Republican legislators who are struggling to achieve some fiscal sanity in the Badger State but their families as well.

One unedited, 2 paragraph email included the following polite threat which was more akin to a promise, replete with specific details on how the murders would occur:

“Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then itwill save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die… So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun.”

The email concluded with, “Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!.”

(In late Wisconsin news, the disruptive unionists were forcibly removed from the Capitol by police in order for the legislators-sans Democrat senators who were still in hiding-to conduct the state’s business.)

It’s not mere coincidence that, as pandemonium reigns in Madison, chaotic failure reigns in America’s public schools. Obama’s Education Secretary Arnie Duncan, who had previously officiated at Chicago’s record education failures, tore into George W. Bush’s 2002 “No Child Left Behind” education reform law.

In effect, Duncan doesn’t like NCLB’s reasonable standards because they have worked too well. However, over the course of nine years America’s teachers, school administrators, and state education departments were not capable of raising student and math skills. He “stressed the law is fundamentally broken and needs to be fixed this year, otherwise he forecast 82 percent of the schools [some 80,000 of 100,000] could miss testing targets. That would be up from 37 percent in 2010.”

NCLB left too many kids behind and therefore should be revamped to make it appear as if those left behind really should be considered as doing just fine since the NCLB requisites were, well, too exacting and unreasonable.

Lower standards sufficiently and orangutans could graduate, and teachers and administrators and states would be off the hook. It’s much easier to lower standards than to raise edcational levels.

Duncan’s scheme-which is widely opposed-is the rough equivalent of the Wisconsin teachers’ schemes in that they both are exercises in deception. Duncan wants to give up on improving education so more students can feel good about being nimrods. In Wisconsin, they’re pretending to be protesting on principles and preserving rights whereas they are really attempting to perpetrate a venal fraud.

What’s Working in Education? The Kelly Yang Project in Hong Kong

Second in the series on inspiring educational stories, “What’s working in education?” The Kelly Yang project in Hong Kong brings American creativity and critical reasoning in the mix with writing and a love of children. The workers in the project need outside resources to teach English, they serve over 600 students in Hong Kong every year and they also have a branch project starting in Beijing. But, their mission is to do so much more than just teach English, they inspire students to think more critically and creatively through writing, speaking, and debate. Kelly herself says, “When you think success, especially academic success, boils down to two things: the ability to think innovatively and come up with solutions, and the ability to communicate those ideas well on paper and in person.” Working with students from a very early age, the Kelly Yang project uses questioning to bring out students concepts and ideas, helping them build on the ideas of their friends until they come up with a solution of merit. The most popular class is critical reasoning where they discuss critical issues of today, building an argument, and then writing and defending it in debate.

Educators worldwide are discussing these issues. What are the best ways to encourage innovative thinking and critical reasoning? How can they be consistently brought out of student as they are the mainstay of entrepreneurial thinking, which brings about economic growth and development? What works in educational settings to inspire young people to tackle difficult subjects? The Kelly Yang project answers that question through relevancy. The project breaks down difficult subjects such as: privacy and the internet, the public funding of education, whether the rich should give half of their fortunes to charity & Bill Gates giving pledge. The young people in her schools tackle the world’s challenges and are energized by them. This is exciting to young people because what they are doing seems real and is likely to lead to their future success, which is key in this system. Speaking is also a key element of their curriculum. Every child is required to be able to speak in front of others from a very early age.

Further excitement is engendered in the children who attend the Kelly Yang project because what they write is published and then sold in bookstores. This gives students who come to her school huge pride as they see their work in print and sold publicly. English is the growing currency of the future in the business world throughout Asia. By merging English with critical reasoning Ms. Yang has a winning solution. She comments, “Critical reasoning is more important than ever in Hong Kong today. It is a skill which will not only lead to better test scores, but also a better country and world. Traditionally, critical reasoning and creative thinking have been lacking in Asian education, but with Hong Kong’s recent education reforms, these skills are now essential.”

Inexpensive Ways to Further Your Education

Never before has been easier for people to improve their educational prospects that it is today. The number of resources, many of them free, are being offered online at a remarkable rate. You can literally get a quality university education, seeing the same lectures as those attending the university, while you sit comfortably in front of your computer screen in your pajamas.

Among the early leaders in this field is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who has been offering free courses for some years now, recently decided to allow free access many of their courses. This is a bit of a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that you can take all the courses for free, the bad news is you won’t earn a degree for all your hard work. However, if you are more interested in learning the material than in earning the degree, this may be just the tool for you.

Scott Young had already earned a degree in business when he decided he really wanted an education in computer engineering to go with it. He looked at the free courses at MIT, courses notorious for their difficulty, and assembled the right mix for the equivalent of a degree in computer science. While the courses were free, the books were not as he ended up spending about $2,000 on study material. However, he learned that the online format worked well for him and he is now on track to earn a four year degree in computer science in about twelve months.

Speaking of books, Josh Kaufman has developed a learning system that relies heavily on books. After spending nearly $200,000 on a quality MBA, he realized that everything he learned at business school was readily available in books you can pick up at your local Barnes and Noble. He took his concept a step further and assemble a list of books for people who wanted the equivalent of an MBA education and called it the “Personal MBA.” His original list of 60 books has expanded to a list of 99 books, but if Josh is right, and a lot of big names in the business world say he is, then it’s a bargain at about 1/100th the cost of the same education at an Ivy League School. (Note: I have personally read many of the books on the Personal MBA list and can attest to their remarkable quality and depth. Even if you don’t want to pursue the whole virtual degree, the list is a great place to look for your next business book read.)

So what if your aims are a bit more modest; you don’t want the equivalent of a degree, you just want to learn a new skill or two? Again, the options are numerous and among the best is Udemy. They offer thousands of courses in everything from arts and hobbies, education, foreign languages and business. Many, though not all, are free. Still, even the paid courses compare very favorably against the cost of the same course at a university, and they can be studied from the comfort of your home.

Not to be outdone, Harvard recently teamed up with MIT to create edX, a joint agreement that would allow students to take courses at both schools free of charge. As news of the partnership has grown, so has the list of schools eager to join the endeavor. The two founding schools have now been joined by Berkley, University of Texas, Georgetown, University of Toronto, Australian National University and Ecole Ploytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Stanford is also offering similar course as are many other major universities. At a time when the price of a college degree is going up at an alarming rate, the price of a college education has dropped to the cost of books alone.

Is pursuing this kid of education right for you? That depends a great deal on what your aims are. Some careers require time in a classroom with a degree to show for it, but many do not. If your interest is primarily in acquiring the information, then choosing one of these routes may be just the ticket. Most experts agree that while a good teacher can make a significant difference, all real learning is essentially self-learning. Even if you do pay for the brick and mortar education, you can’t expect a lot of hand-holding; you are going to have to learn this stuff yourself. Borrow a page from Scott Young’s career and plot out your own course list for your own virtual degree. You may not have the sheepskin to show for it, but you will have the same quality education.

Can you use this kind of training on your resume? Some of the students who have followed the Personal MBA path have said they have listed it on their resume and it has been effective. They quickly explain that it is not an official university degree and then explain what the program entails. They say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. As a potential employer, you have to respect someone who takes the initiative to read nearly a hundred books on their own to further their education. The same could be said of those who take four year’s worth of courses from MIT in twelve months.