"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Citizen's Bullet Points on Educational Goals

I'm part of an email thread that has had some very interesting discussions on education. The question put to the group was to tell what we (taxpayers and parents) would like to see in our public education system in a bullet point format. Our guest editor sent this to the group:


Here are your bullet points:

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Just in case the graphics don’t work, here they are again with a little explanation:

Goals for my school district:

- Fund the essentials:

Reading, Math, Science, and HISTORY

- Promote classroom order:

Take teacher referrals of misbehavior and classroom disruption seriously instead of minimizing disciplinary consequences so your schools numbers look better. Once we regain control over our schools, misbehaving students would not become financial burdens for the school district. They would go home and learn how do a menial job until they were ready and willing to learn.

- Foster and support enthusiastic teachers:

Don’t wring the enthusiasm out of teachers by assigning them to a numbers factory. Use commonsense managerial and leadership skills to identify and reward great teachers. Likewise, identify and improve bad ones. If they can’t be improved, eliminate them.

- Retain expert, respectful administrators:

They are quite a few Phd’s running around in the school administrative ranks. At least in St. Charles, they are remunerated quite handsomely (quite a bit more handsomely than the governed from whom they derive their consent). If they are truly experts, they should be quite capable of performing the tasks outlined in the previous bullet, while at the same time creating an outstanding curriculum tailored to my community’s desires. Remember, they are gonna have more time, once we get the classrooms under control.

- Provide outstanding learning opportunities - for all motivated students:

This is where enthusiastic teachers and an outstanding curriculum converge. We might even want to implement RSMo 170.260 – Motivated Students Program. Just in case some are unaware of this statute, I must point out it is for MOTIVATED students of any IQ level.

- Wrest control from State and Federal bureaucrats so efforts to achieve these goals can be tailored to my community:

Few of these goals can be achieved until we get out from under State and Federal regulations that prevent meaningful restoration of local control. Also, as brilliant as the edu-crats are, they are not representative of the community. The winnowing process that creates the educational elites skews the normal distribution curve far too far to the left. Letting these elites devise and impose national, Common Core Standards for the masses is bound to anger the commoners. That is, IF we are aware of it. It is hard for me to believe that the brilliant edu-crats didn’t realize this. Then of course, they did almost pull it off, just like national healthcare “reform.”

BTW - The only metrics that I care to entertain my school district’s system are the teachers’ grade books ( and teachers will be permitted to give zeros). I realize every student will not get the same education, but I am more interested in human beings rather than in human capital (sorry, but I can’t get through any contemporary, educational commentary without using a little Race-to-the-Top verbiage). If we are not permitted to develop individually from varying educational experiences, how are we ever going to sustain our differences of opinion that lead to such lively debates?


Thanks again to our guest editor for his talking points. What concerns me about many of the plans presently in front of the taxpayers are the unenthusiastic feelings they engender from many of the folks who are paying for these plans. They've not been asked their opinions on how schools should be structured, what students should be studying, how teachers should be compensated, etc. From what I can pick up from the "chatter" on the ground, people truly care about their children, care about public education, and are pretty angry about the current state of education. They also feel as if they have little or no voice in educational decisions unless they choose to go through the private, parochial or home school route.

The education "choices" have been crafted by think tanks, legislators, philanthropists and special interest groups. The people who entrust their money and children to the system are frequently dismissed. When constituents begin asking questions and can't be dismissed any longer, they then run the risk of being ridiculed by the think tanks, legislators, philanthropists and special interest groups. This is not unique only to Missouri. We saw this dismissal of the citizenry present in the crafting and voting processes in the Health Care Bill.

What kind of system is this that dismisses and/or ridicules the people who support it with their money and children? When did we start thinking parents and taxpayers should take the back seat in making educational decisions for their children? I wish our guest editor and others had a forum in which they had a real vote and voice in public education decisions.

One of the main themes to emerge from this educational discussion and others is the recurring desire of taxpayers to divorce the states from the Department of Education. These citizens understand the centralization of education has crippled innovation and autonomy in local school districts. I imagine many of these people wish the abolishment of the Department of Education and resumption of true local control was a school choice being promoted by their legislators.

Maybe if our guest editor's last goal was realized (wrest control from State and Federal bureaucrats), then his other goals (Fund the essentials, Promote classroom order, Foster and support enthusiastic teachers, Retain expert, respectful administrators, and Provide outstanding learning opportunities - for all motivated students) could actually be realized.


  1. "These citizens understand the centralization of education has crippled innovation and autonomy in local school districts. I imagine many of these people wish the abolishment of the Department of Education and resumption of true local control was a school choice being promoted by their legislators. "

    Got that right!

    Btw, I met Jim and his wife in my 5k Year Leap class tonight... I'm looking forward to the next 10 Wednesdays!

  2. I really liked point #2 about promoting classroom order. We could do away with a lot of the other PC gobbledygook in the school rules if the teachers had the ability to maintain order in their classrooms. Sadly, today they do not. The administrators fear legal action from parents and so advise their teachers not to do anything about problem students. The chaos this causes in the classroom makes it difficult for the children who WANT to learn, to do so. But I also think the current strategy of locking parents out of input to the education process is one of the motivators of parents who jump on the lawsuit wagon. They do so out of frustration.


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