Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Harkin Puts His Finger On The Problem

From all the jive we see from the Gates Foundation-produced bullshit in the media these days (the steaming pile of horseshit Elizabeth Green wrote for the Times last week - no link - is the latest and best example of a journalist rewriting Gates Foundation pamphlets and calling it "journalism"), teachers and schools are the sole problem with public education these days.

If we could just get better quality teachers who would work longer and harder and sacrifice their own lives for their students, then everything would work great!

Just ask these teachers in New Orleans how well that works long term.

But yesterday in Washington, during a hearing that was the usual teacher/school bash-fest where some guy from a foundation financed by billionaires shrieked about "America's education crisis" and blamed it on teachers and schools, somebody else actually spoke truth to power and power actually kinda heard:

America’s education advantage, unrivaled in the years after World War II, is eroding quickly as a greater proportion of students in more and more countries graduate from high school and college and score higher on achievement tests than students in the United States, said Andreas Schleicher, a senior education official at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, which helps coordinate policies for 30 of the world’s richest countries.

“Among O.E.C.D. countries, only New Zealand, Spain, Turkey and Mexico now have lower high school completion rates than the U.S.,” Mr. Schleicher said. About 7 in 10 American students get a high school diploma.

Mr. Schleicher’s comments came in testimony before the Senate education committee and in a statement he delivered. The panel plans to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main law governing federal policy on public schools.

The committee also heard from Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union; John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, a group that represents corporate executives; and Charles Butt, chief executive of a supermarket chain in Texas, who said employers there faced increasing difficulties in hiring qualified young workers.

The blame for America’s sagging academic achievement does not lie solely with public schools, Mr. Butt said, but also with dysfunctional families and a culture that undervalues education. “Schools are inheriting an overentertained, distracted student,” he said.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who leads the Senate Committee, picked up on that comment. “Overentertained and distracted — that’s right,” Mr. Harkin said. “The problem lies with many kids before they get to school, and if we don’t crack that nut, we’re going to continue to patch and fill."

Forget the jive the O.E.C.D. guy said. That's the usual claptrap that we have heard before and will keep hearing as long as Gates and Broad Foundation fellows are running the education dialogue.

But that remark from the supermarket CEO bears repeating:

“Schools are inheriting an overentertained, distracted student,” he said.

And Harkin actually heard it! His comment bears repeating as well:

“Overentertained and distracted — that’s right,” Mr. Harkin said. “The problem lies with many kids before they get to school, and if we don’t crack that nut, we’re going to continue to patch and fill.”

That's it in a nutshell.

Blaming teachers and schools for not educating overentertained, distracted children from dysfunctional backgrounds growing up in a society and culture that undervalues education is not only unfair, it's counterproductive and won't solve the problems.

It will be patch and fill, patch and fill.

Thankfully Senator Harkin hears that message. Dunno his stance on charters, 60 hour school weeks, etc. He may be as bad as Obama and Duncan and Klein and Bloomberg and George Miller.

But at least he gets that there are substantial reasons for the problems American students face that do not lie with the teachers.

Obama, Duncan, Klein, Bloomberg et al. either don't seem to get that or don't care.

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