"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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Friday, July 13, 2012

McGhee Needs a Little Education About Education

Mike McGhee has been a Republican Representative in the Missouri legislature in District 122, which is in the middle of the state but closer to the western side than the eastern, for the past eight years.  He is currently running for the Missouri Senate in District 21.  In an article in the Richmond News, McGhee shared his thoughts on education. Of note:
  • He’d rewrite funding directives to take all the money earmarked for education and divide it by the total number of children in Missouri schools. Everybody gets the same,” saying that after criteria is set, the money would be spread out equally “to educate the children.”
  • He considers children the most valuable resource in the state.
  • He believes Missouri teachers are underpaid.
These first three are right out of the progressive handbook and should be a red flag to anyone who calls themselves a conservative.

Dividing the money completely evenly is one way to define "equitable." It is also the way a communist or Reverand Al Sharpton would define equitable distribution. It is extremely simplistic and at its core contains the assumption that money is the problem in education. If that were truly the case, then the children in St. Louis who receive $16k/student, compared to $10-12k for many suburban districts, would not only be getting a better quality education, but would also have the higher test scores to prove it. Neither of those is true. Changing the way the money is divided up will not improve education for anyone in the state, and may very likely decrease the quality of education in some areas.

Anyone who refers to people as human capital or children as a resource is highly suspect. If children are a resource then they are no different than our state's lead supply and can be just as easily exploited. Children are a family's legacy, a spiritual vessel into which they pour their culture and knowledge. The state should be there to help with the transfer of knowledge aspect of child rearing, not take it over for its own purposes.

Teachers salaries in Missouri, in terms of pure dollars, ranks us 41 in the nation. But then, who would expect our salaries to be anywhere near those of teachers in New York or California where the cost of living is so much higher.  If you look at the Teacher Portal's ranking of states on their Comfort Score, Missouri ranks 16. The Comfort Score examines average salaries (both starting and overall) and compares that to the cost of living. Our closest neighbors on the scale rank as follows: Kentucky-15, Nebraska-17, Oklahoma-18, Mississippi-19, Louisiana-20 and Kansas-21. Doesn't make us look so out of line especially considering that their economies are doing better than ours.

McGhee further thinks, 
  • Better schools would entice families to move to Missouri rather than to reject an opportunity because they fear the schools are substandard.
This is one of those political phrases that sounds really good, until you stop to think about it. Families need a job first to be enticed to come to the state. In tough economic times people will not turn down a job because the schools are less than ideal. The census showed that people are moving out of the state to follow the jobs into our neighboring states whose school systems are statistically similar to ours. Right to work, tax changes and tort reform would entice businesses to come here. Like it or not, a great school system is fairly far down on a business's list of considerations when choosing where to locate. People will move where the jobs are and worry about fixing the schools once they get there.

When asked where his interest in education came from, McGhee stated that when he and his siblings graduated from the Kansas City school system, none of them were able to read or write. He believes things are no different today.

He quotes another line right out of the education reform playbook when he says that, "Kids need to be educated first so they can do the jobs when they graduate.” This is birth-to-job training of people for the workforce of tomorrow. It sounds really good to the average parent, because one of their missions in life is to raise children who will be self sufficient and a big part of that means getting a job. But if schools become training grounds for jobs, they will only teach what corporations tell them they want their future workers to know. Why waste time on things like history or the arts? Where in this scenario does the local community get to say what they want their children to learn?

The McGhees live on a farm between Odessa and Bates City where he raises cows and horses.  If school is, as he stated, where you learn your career skills, I wonder which public school in Kansas City taught him to raise farm animals. He also somehow managed to start a business at 22 without having learned to read and write in public school. Maybe he learned some of those skills from his family, or in 4-H or Boy scouts which he is still actively involved in. Somewhere there is a disconnect in his thinking about the role of public education in a person's success in life.

From the rest of the Richmond News article Mr. McGhee sounds like a very nice and caring man. But if you are going to go out and speak about, or worse actively pursue a policy change in, education you need to educate yourself on both the current facts and also history.

1 comment:

  1. Anngie,

    Maybe Representative McGhee needs to be asked the questions in this archived blog post:


    Much of what he wants is from the progressive "Educated Citizenry 2020" blueprint (linked above) signed in December 2010. The committee was comprised with a majority of Republicans on it and their signatures appear on this document. He may just be touting the true Republican education mantra?

    "Conservative" and "Republican" apparently do not go hand in hand in describing many of the GOP Missouri politicians.


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