By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
Not having a solution! And much worst than that is adopting a solution whose premises are flawed, whose timing is delayed, whose regulations are unfair, whose implementation is sloppy, and whose audit program results are ignored by authorities responsible for enforcing the regulations!
Doesn’t that sound like a daily occurrence in human life which any intelligent adult ought to recognize? As a former managing director of international subsidiaries of two different well-known automobile companies overseas, I learned how important appropriate, timely decisions were to building a successful company under extremely adverse social and economic times during the “Dirty War” in Argentina.
Eight people died from terrorist attacks against the company. These attacks were part of the local insurrection that was blaming the hard times in the nation on anyone who worked for a multi-national company that was doing business in Argentina.
In the U.S. today we are facing many social/economic problems that need attention at the highest level. I will address three of them from the criteria established above: proper premises; timely decisions; fair regulations; diligent implementation; fearless, honest, and competent reporting of audit or inspection results.
The three issues of inadequate top level action that I have chosen to critique are: 1. Public education, 2.) Illegal immigration, and 3.) The Great Recession.
My comments are based on certain fundamental principles that I believe most Americans heartily embrace. First, members of our government should be determining what’s best for this country, not for certain groups of people and for themselves. That principle demands integrity and honesty in searching for what’s “best” for everyone.
Second, responsible adults should not be spending beyond their means to pay for what they buy. That’s particularly important for decision-makers employed by governments and boards of directors of private corporations and banks. A sensible priority of financial obligations has not been determined in the minds of the leaders of this nation!
Third, in a democracy where supposedly free speech is guaranteed, wary citizens should pay attention to whistle-blowers and make sure that they are legally protected. That protection is not available to those who work for our governments and is inadequate for various members of the Fourth Estate.
This week the San Francisco Chronicle reported that scores of public school students on reading tests had improved again this year. The most recent results showed that 52% of the students tested passed the reading exam. The math results were slightly worse: only 48% of the students tested passed.
Improvement from such a low starting point can be encouraging “news” unless your child still happens to be in the “did not pass” category! For all the money being poured into education, parents in California ought to be looking for a better solution to such poor performance. I’m sure there are many diligent people in the teaching profession doing their “level” best. But somehow, that is not enough.
The leaders of that profession have to do what was necessary in my company to improve product quality: dedicate the whole enterprise to ensuring that a student is motivated to read and learn math. Isn’t improving individual reading proficiency, like improving quality? Shouldn’t it be an accepted goal at all levels of teaching? What are the essential premises for accomplishing that? Competent teachers, strict discipline, not promoting failed students, up-to-date teaching tools, motivated students, and supportive parents.
Talk, banter, interchanging opposing opinions in committees is not taking action. It’s the most common thing done to delay action. Someone somewhere is “working on it” or “doing something about it.” Just don’t hold your breathe while you wait to find out who the person is that is responsible for initiating some action to help your child!
Are the regulations sound and fair that pertain to the business of education? Is the introduction of the federal government necessary to improve reading and math skills at the local level? Why is it that Asian Americans are doing so well on these exams? Are their parents more involved? Are the Asian students more motivated, more talented? Are the teachers helping Asian students more that the failing students?
Assuming there is some agreement about the basic regulations, is the implementation of the approved strategy and tactics diligently being pursued when the teachers’ union have so many hurdles to getting rid of ineffective teachers? Is there a better way to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness in class? Is the modern student too distracted inside or outside of class to concentrate on learning anything?
The PTA is the only tool in place to induce parents and teachers to come together to make improvements in student performance. I served on two private school boards in two different countries, and I found a lot of stone-walling going on between the school boards and the parents. Is everyone really dedicated to improving our children’s skills? Or just doing what he or she thinks it takes to hold on to a teaching job?
Are teachers’ performance evaluations shared with parents? No. Is there an audit function to compare a teacher’s handling of discipline and education? Are such evaluations available to the public? If roughly half of our children can’t pass an exam, who actually is responsible to pick up the ball and run with it? Parents, teachers, administrators, some high level Czar in a distant federal agency that responds to someone else in the bureaucracy of the Executive Branch? What results are promised and expected from a child at your local public school?
I must admit that the problem of improving education is very complicated, but whoever is in charge is not achieving a passing grade. Reading and math skills are important to any adult. All students must be taught by parents and teachers how important it is to dedicate themselves to obtaining a “rounded” education and to becoming a responsible citizen who will be able to fit into society after high school.
The federal government does not have enough money to support 50% of our nation’s population on welfare!
Parts 2 and 3 to follow.