The problems related to Education and Funding are not unlike the problems
any large business in the U.S. has had to face. The problem is that we
need funding cuts and a cultural change and that is tough. What always
seems to happen is that the axe falls indiscriminately and good programs
lose out or are underfunded. I come from a family of teachers and
educators and I am working on my PhD along with my brother and we have all
come to answers that are simple, but very complex to carry out. I guess my
thoughts fall in the middle of the debate aired on the list - I hate to
see funding cut, but there is huge waste and there needs to be more
programs designed to have those receiving aid give a service for that aid.
Below are some thoughts related to education and education funding.
* Too many educators are not system thinkers - they do not teach a
pupil to learn how to learn. It would be a good start to have
every prospective educator reader Peter Senge's book and know it
chapter and verse.
* Too much funds are eaten up in administration - we all lament it
but for now it continues. In public schools there has been some
changes made - principals responsible for more than one school.
Some areas have a rotation scheme where teachers rotate in and
out of administrative duties and get paid slightly more when they
do so. This eliminates costs and makes administration sensitive
to the teacher because they are the same.
* Multiple measures for evaluating teachers (standard test scores,
grades, use of integrative personally prepared learning materials,
credit for creative use of computers in the classroom, student
feedback,etc) are key to (or should be key to) deciding pay.
* We all pay taxes - should the money go to corporate welfare?, education
welfare?, or social welfare? Taxes are meant to promote the common
good. Across the board the answer is that it would be nice for once
to actually get the funds into the people's hands. Adam Smith's invisible
hand has been seen time and again to lift up only the select few
(individuals acting alone and/or via the obliging government
official more interested in lining his/her pockets than the common good).
Education in the U.S. has gotten very top heavy - does anyone disagree
except those at the top? What to do?... At the University level, simply cut
away the admin and let the professors handle the diminished funds - allow
them to hire specialists and make the professors more accountable to
the students. The savings from cutting away the deadwood would
likely make up for proposed cuts in funding for students. Community service
programs in exchange for tuition help are a great idea also. Also College
students needing tuition help (in a similar vein) could get aid based
on tutoring others - including partnerships where they help tutor students
* Most of all educators have to care. I know it sounds cliche, but it
is true. My mother and father taught in the 50's and earned a mere
2100 dollars a year - very meager even back then. Yet I would argue
that there was more of a caring culture overall back then. My mother
and father tutored students (at home and school) for free. Education
was also valued more and not taken for granted - many things were different.
Most of all, the teachers felt a responsibility - they cared and they
were respected. We need that culture back again - simple answer - hard
to mobilize the change needed to attain it. Many students need inspired to
learn (there are a few that do not, but even they respond to an enthusia
stic teacher). Learning (like mentioned by others here) also needs
to be made fun! - again simple answers, but hard to change the system.
There are so many signs of apathy at the K-12 level it would be
too tiring to list the shortcomings. However, the average school has
few if any teachers that can or do integrate the computer in the
classroom other than for typing or some other mundane use instead of
using it to expand minds like it should be used. There are dozens
of canned programs that help a student learn how to learn - to think
about subjects in ways the teacher may not consider (noone is perfect)
and programs that integrate across disciplines.
For example, a computer can help in an integrated learning design
that helps guide and inspire a student through a multidisciplinary learning
experience... A student tracks Columbus's voyage in 1492 (Social studies)
while in Math Class the distances the boats travelled are computed and
investigated and the number of men and supplies are counted and
the jobs they performed and the settlements they started are studied-
Math and Social Studies together and supporting each other and
brought even more alive and organized via computer and multimedia.
Different types of storms (Science class) or other problems can arise
via computer (ones students think up). Students are at the helm of the
ships and considering wind currents and cloud formations as part of their
decisions at the helm (Science and Math). Alternate courses are considered
under various conditions and the lands that would have then been
discovered are considered and different futures are considered (Math
and Social Studies). Round trips are measured. Different wind speeds,
etc are considered (Math). Art, from the cups, paintings,
and carvings of the settlers to the master works from the
homelands are brought to life on the screen and the styles and
colors are discussed as well as their importance to the times. Music
plays on board the ships and at the settlements when the settlers have
fun after a long hard day (Art, Music, Culture). Thus computers can help
the various disciplines to be experienced in their natural integrative
form instead of in a vacuum. The more ways anyone can think of something
the better and more fully he/she will learn. In such a computer-aided
approach, all the disciplines relate to (systems thinking) and help
reinforce each other- just like they do in the real world - a reality we
have terribly neglected.
* As far as cuts in education spending, it may have to come but it is
not desireable. It sounds cliche, but education is the key and some
are not able to afford education and need at least some help. If cuts
come it would be nice if for once the axe fell on the right areas and
started with the administration. Is there anyone that would disagree
that only 1 in 10 administrators are doing work that is anywhere worth
their pay? If there are, they are nieve or they are an administrator.
To say they are needed and deserve the pay has the same folly of the
argument that there are CEO's that provide a service worth millions to
an organization. There are hundreds of energetic, inspired, well-educated
MBA's that could do a better job for much less money. People that invent
vaccines which save millions of lives do not usually gain millions
even though their expertise is held by relatively few. In
Japan it is extremely rare that a top executive makes more than twenty
times the salary of the lowest paid employee. CEO's are akin to the
weatherman/weatherwoman - they look great, are paid well for expertise that
is not rare, are paid well whether they are right or wrong, and,
when they are wrong someone else feels the consequences.