Are Our Educrats Nuts or What?

  Are our educrats nuts or what?  Why do we put up with the crazy notion that all children are bound to be scholars?  A recent study (conducted by Colin Powell and others) showed that in the urban areas of America only about 28% of the students who enter the ninth grade actually graduate.  (Detroit led the drop-out rate with only 24.9% of those entering the ninth grade actually graduating.)   Are our educrats (defined as those people, be they legislators of educational bureaucrats, who never see students each day) blind to this most obvious fact?  Do they not see that so many of our students are totally disengaged from the schooling process?  How long has it been since they have actually taught school (especially in the urban settings) on a daily basis?  They are clueless.  Are they not aware that students these days actually curse out our teachers carte blanche and say the most vile and vicious things to them (as well as physically attack them)?  No one wants to state the obvious:  Our students are not engaged in the learning process.  Remember:  Motivation to learn is a social phenomenon.  If the students are not motivated, then they will not learn.  A teacher can teach a student, but a teacher cannot “learn” a student.  Note:  I want to credit the quirky and brilliant Dr. Eugene Boyce of the University of Georgia for first putting this concept in writing.  He was an educational expert who engaged in studies throughout the world.  I always want to credit others for their research.  Dr. Boyce was a member of my dissertation committee in 1983-84 (as well as other UGA scholars like Dr. Carvin Brown whom I served as a graduate assistant).
   Educrats can blame teachers for the mess in public education but this does not make it so.  Teachers today are the more educated, better trained, and more dedicated than all the teachers whom we have seen come down the path.  But, teachers today face the most unimaginable of obstacles to overcome, viz., (1) Defiant & Disruptive Students; (2) Irate & Irresponsible Students; and (3) Angry & Abusive Administrators.  These are the three main problems in public education.  If we solve these problems, then nearly everything else falls in place.  If you poll all teachers in America, at least 90% will privately concur with our analysis, albeit this conclusion is politically incorrect.  It is politically correct to say that we need more money and resources put into public education.  Our teachers need more training, so the reasoning concludes.  Hardly anyone has the guts to state the obvious:  The students are out of control.  Discipline is no longer in the public schools (especially in the urban areas).  We at MACE know that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.  This is our mantra at MACE.  We passionately believe this.  We also passionately believe that order is the first law of the Universe.  Without order, a school is just floundering.
   Finally, let me say a word about Vocational Education.  The notion that schools should rid themselves of the very useful vocational courses is sick.  Yes, it is sick. One of the reasons that our students are tuning out all education and can hardly wait until they turn 16 years of age (to be able to legally drop out of school)  is because they do not see the educational process as being relevant to them.  I remember visiting Mr. James Whitehead’s body shop (for automobiles) classes in the late 1980s.  His classes were taught in the middle of one of Atlanta’s worst hoods at the old Archer High School.  Mr. Whitehead’s students were so engaged and were so proud of their work.  Mr. Whitehead’s students won many state competitions.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Whitehead was informed that his (and others’) vocational programs were going to be jettisoned in the Atlanta Public Schools.  What happened to “Whitehead’s boys”?  Now, so many of them just dropped out of school whereas before they were gainfully employed at Beaudry Ford and at other establishments.  Why did this happen?  You asked me, so I am going to tell you.  The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (which got heavily involved in political races for school board around this time) apparently wanted to raise the test scores of the Atlanta students on the nationally-normed tests.   You know why?   When large corporations are trying to decide where to locate their headquarters, they look at the national tests scores for school systems located in places like Dallas, Birmingham, Charlotte, and Atlanta.  If the test scores of the Atlanta students are below those of the students in Charlotte, then perhaps Charlotte becomes the location of the Fortune Five Hundred companies.  Then, these large companies deposit their monies in Charlotte banks instead of an Atlanta banks.  So, damn the students from the hood who were joyfully learning a trade at the old Archer High School!  The standardized tests do not ask any questions about bondo!  So, the students now languish until they reach the age of 16.  They are totally disengaged in the schooling process.   They resent being taught algebraic equations which they will never use in a million lifetimes (at least this is their thinking) and thus they disrupt the activities of the classroom just for fun.  Our schools are out of control, and our educrats are willingly ignorant of this fact.  Until discipline (and relevant vocational programs) is re-established in our public schools, all school reform is a joke with no hope of being successful.
                                                                  May 13, 2008

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