US has Cultural Issue with Education

No way, Jose: Like many expensive cities, San Jose, California, is struggling to keep its teachers. Of the 1,400 classroom teachers employed by the San Jose Unified School District, one in seven have to be replaced each year. In the heart of Silicon Valley, the towering gap between housing prices and teacher salaries is now so extreme that the school district has considered another idea: building apartments for teachers on school grounds.

 The idea is still in its earliest days, but it’s already being met with outrage that this housing might be located near some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. One superintendent told CityLab’s Sarah Holder how perplexed he was about the resistance: “I’m a person who works with your kid every day—you trust me with your student in my classroom, but I’m not good enough to be your neighbor?” Read Sarah’s story: Why Are So Many People in San Jose Fighting Housing for Teachers? [CityLab] See:

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The average Public School Teacher salary in the United States is $56,103 as of September 28, 2018, but the range typically falls between $48,978 and $64,766.

For comparison Truck Driver average salary = $63,250 per year

Factory Worker average salary = $24,881

Computer Programmer average salary = $69,620

Welder average salary = $37,590

Clerical/administrative average salary = $32,675

All US workers average salary = $44,564

These comparisons suggest that teachers are doing well compared to other workers. However, taking into account education, social skills, impact on professional society and responsibility for the wellbeing and meaningful education of children and indirectly reinforcing the moral fabric of American culture, teachers carry a large influence worthy of better paid managers in business whose influence extends only to monetary influence – without the responsibility to build a better society.

The American attitude toward education, that is, train our children to read, write and count so they can function in basic society, evolved out of the combination of a long period of agricultural economy and the no-nonsense economics of Adam Smith. As the nation moved toward the industrial revolution, it didn’t require much education to work in factories.

Leap forward to today. Colleges, especially small liberal arts colleges, are gutting any subject related to liberal arts. Excepting privately funded colleges and wholly state-funded universities, colleges are falling back into the community college model, offering only high level trade training, e.g., nursing, criminal justice and administrative skills. One doesn’t need Proust, Hemmingway, Nietzsche, Plato or second languages; one doesn’t need the French Revolution, Magna Carta or the mechanics of American civics. One doesn’t need to understand the dynamics of Hamilton, Madison and Franklin. One misunderstands how the spirit and scruples of the American Experiment evolve over time.

Eliminating the educated, the intellectuals, the graduate degree professionals and successful business owners/entrepreneurs, forty percent of US citizens are culturally deprived of the process and understanding needed for living in a democratic society. This forty percent is Donald’s base including twelve percent who are hard core conservatives. Without a functional education system, all they have is emotions; neither awareness nor reasoning is available.

How does one know one sees a public school? Because it looks like a factory. Once the building, utilities and ancillary responsibilities are acquired, e.g., busses, cafeteria and educators, the fun dollars go toward sports facilities. It is blatantly obvious that school architecture expresses no awareness of adventure, importance, or even community personality. Our nation has never wanted to pay for pleasantries for its citizens (God bless the Reformation). Teachers do the best they can decorating the walls and creating a fun atmosphere in an otherwise barely utilitarian room. For virtually every primary and middle school, science facilities and event centers that encourage liberal arts awareness do not exist. Even libraries in too many elementary schools, to the chagrin of mariner’s wife and librarian, do not allow children to peruse the shelves but are limited only to a text that the teacher said they must read – a practice based on ranking reading skills sans any joy of personal learning and adventure. American society still considers education only in the pragmatic sense and a responsibility of lesser importance for government – aside from inherent babysitting services.

Ironically, the concept of education for US citizens, despite some spit polish here and there, remains the same model as it did for a nation of farmers, hunters and tradesmen during the nineteenth century. Only in the last fifty years has industry slowly discovered that available employees are missing technical, social and reasoning skills for jobs that have broader responsibility and problem-solving required by this modern era. Sadly, the cultural richness that would provide a happier and productive lifestyle for our nation’s citizens still is ignored. As mariner often has lamented, business considers a human being only as a profit source. Lucky pets have better lives than culturally oppressed humans. Where is Mr. Rogers when you need him?

Several education journals and education books are trying to imagine the direction of an education methodology that will match a new century whose cultural and educational demands are totally different from today’s pragmatic and unimaginative model.

Already, we live in an age where knowledge is no longer a measure of significant importance to society. Information is free, immediately available, does not require reading printed publications or text books, and is available on any subject one can imagine – considering only Wikipedia and YouTube among tens of thousands of sources. This digital access will reduce the importance of test scoring, incremental grades (based more on age than comprehension) and ranking individual students statistically.

What will emerge in very small steps is an education program that takes advantage of a child’s natural inquisitiveness; desire to experience reality; and normal mental aptitudes. Instead of tests, children will receive group assignments consisting of group cooperation, investigative skills and problem solving. The ‘score’ will be the quality of the entire group’s solution. While individuals may not be scored per se, as groups are rearranged, various natural skills will emerge; putting together winning groups will be the teacher’s role – just as an athletic coach puts together a winning team.

The qualities of each group will be recognized and students will be fully prepared to join employment in similar situations. For example, one group may emerge with quality construction as an earmark, another may be artistic and strong in design, another in science or mathematics, etc. There will be little new to a student who is fully familiar with the work environment he or she enters.

Already there are attempts by public schools to create this new ‘group’ model. Most examples are in the trades, e.g., home construction, automobile repair and utilities. The score is how well the product is completed by the group, not how well an individual student scored. Would it be possible to put together an income tax prep team? How about a math team that configures real life computer solutions or a production team to promote plays, movies and other art forms in the community. A student would have a reputation based on the group’s achievements rather than carrying a resume full of individual statistics. As a manager for forty years, mariner has longed for employees who are well rounded socially, comfortable in their ability to achieve and aware of the responsibilities inherent in their work.

There is more to explore but that is for another post to pursue.

Ancient Mariner