help-schools   


 

DEMOCRACY WON'T WORK RIGHT IF THE PEOPLE ARE IGNORANT.

 

Slavery only worked when they kept the people IGNORANT and UNEDUCATED.

 

IF WE DON'T KILL IGNORANCE, ONE DAY IGNORANCE WILL KILL US.

 

     THE SCHOOL DROP-OUT EPIDEMIC

                                                                  -- by Melvia Miller

 

If  ... RIP VAN WINKLE were to go to sleep in another century

and awaken in the 21st Century...he would be AMAZED at seeing

all sorts of new and different inventions -- vehicles, TV’s, I-pods,

cell phones, missiles,  electric gadgets, computers, and buildings.

 

          

 

But the one thing he would surely not be "surprised to see" -- for which

he would not "stand in awe" when he sees it -- or fail to recognize

what it is -- ...would be the public SCHOOLS.

 

Most of the public schools have not changed much and continue to

do basically the same ol' things the way they did them for centuries.

 

 

                         

                   WAKE UP EVERYBODY

         -- TIME TO TEACH A NEW WAY....

 

 
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      DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM--

Our public schools have dropped from being ranked in the upper 5% in the world -- to ranking

 around 45th...below many THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES.  Studies show that millions of  U.S. 

 high school students cannot pass simple tests or find their own state (where they live) on a globe.

 

Our Government has spent TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS for the War in Iraqwhich has not made us safer, has not reduced the cost of gasoline… and has not benefited us much at all.  ALMOST EVERY PHASE OF AMERICAN LIFE IS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH --- e.g.-- gas prices... food, housing & medical costs, sicknesses, job losses,  school drop-out rates, and unemployment. And yet many want to hedge on properly funding our public schools.   While seeking to establish some form of DEMOCRACY around the world, our own democracy is suffering....as DEMOCRACY WILL NOT THRIVE well -- if the people are ignorant and uneducated.   We spend more money on jails and prisons than we do on educating our youth…on HEAD START and DAY CARE or “early childhood training.”

 

 

 AND YET,  OUR SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING AND SUFFERING WITH MAJOR MOUNTING DIFFICULT PROBLEMS....ranging from lack of funds ....to increasing drop-out rates....teacher shortages...crime... poor student achievement....and many other serious challenges.

 

In several of the largest school systems across the U.S.A. -- from Baltimore to Cleveland to Atlanta and Oakland, Calif. -- half of the students are dropping out. A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of American students were dropping out or failing to graduate in the nation's largest 100 public school districts. The implications from dropping out of high school are enormous, including a higher risk of poverty and even an abbreviated life span.

 

In a recent study of U. S. high-school seniors -- 50 percent were unable to locate their own country on a globe. Far too many students cannot briefly explain what is in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights or much else regarding government or "civic matters."  And the high school drop-out rate has reached epidemic proportions in most states…and as high as 70% in poor inner city schools.

 

According to John Taylor Gatto, once a New York Teacher of the Year, military applicants in the 1930s tested 98 percent literate. During World War II our soldiers' literacy rate was 96 percent. In 1950 only 81 percent of Korean war enlistees passed literacy tests, and by the 1970s, during the Vietnam war, the percent was down to 73.  

 

 Public schools have always suffered with various problems, but in the 21st century...they seem to be intensifying --rather than lessening.  EDUCATION is essential for a participating, voting public to have a DEMOCRACRATIC GOVERNMENT to work right.  The public must be able to think critically and be able to read and write well enough to function well and make good decisions.  In fact,  EDUCATION is a highly valuable commodity...as exhibited in the historical fights over who is allowed to have it.

 

 

More than 50 years since BROWN vs. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION....and the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of public schools, the problems have become more complicated.   There continues to be a wide gap between achievement scores of White and Black students. Sure enough, today only one-third of our students graduate from high school ready for college, work and citizenship.

 

 In the 21st Century....approximately one in 20 adults in the U.S. is not literate in English -- meaning 11 million people lack the skills to handle many everyday tasks, a federal study shows. Some 30 million adults have "below basic" skills in prose. Their ability is so limited that they may not be able to make sense of a simple pamphlet, for example. This total includes 7 million adults considered not to be literate in English but with enough knowledge of the language at least to be tested. The remaining 4 million deemed illiterate did not have enough English skills to be tested.

 

CONDITIONS IN OUR SCHOOLS:

 

   Unfortunately, INEQUALITY continues to exist in our schools. Public schools that are located in the more affluent (middle-class) neighborhoods have the books, supplies, computers, and facilities that make for a good educational center.  Because of the way that most public schools are funded...if the school is located in a wealthy neighborhood -- the schools will have more funds.  They generally attract the best teachers, coaches, and other personnel too. They can afford to provide extra-curricular activities-- such as: sports uniforms, computer labs, theatres, and band equipment -- whereas many of these provisions are not available in poor neighborhoods.  Because they have access to more tax funds and other resources,  these schools set examples as to what potentially could be done in all schools.  And there are continuing problems relative to racial mix, segregation, and disadvantaged inner city students.

 

 

 BUT in far too many cases,  even the more affluent areas are having problems with issues, such as discipline and violence.  Unfortunately,  in the average American public school -- the education consists of -- long lectures, forcing rote memory of data, outdated curricula, culturally biased textbooks, and the stress of constant testing -- resulting in labeling children. Sadly, in many large cities, now students -- who cannot cut the grease to get sufficient credits to earn a regular DIPLOMA -- get a "CERTIFICATE OF ATTENDANCE."   It is just a way to verify that they were in school for 12 years. The schools cannot afford to keep all these students enrolled for 4 or 5 years, so they graduate them with the "Certificate."

 

 LACK OF FUNDING--- lack of books and supplies,  antiquated buildings, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate labs, deficient libraries, over-worked (under-paid) teachers, over-crowded classrooms, and violence -- are  very serious problems and detract from any potential teaching effectiveness. In some schools, teachers have been forced into being little more than “guards” who keep the peace all day in classes that have more than 40 students in each one. The structure and organization of classes must be changed and improved. And sadly, in far too many schools, funding is no longer available for teaching-- ART, MUSIC, DRAMA and similar classes.

 

 

Lack of access to health care, adequate nutrition, and decent housing; growing up poor and in a single-parent household; being exposed to substance abuse at a young age; and living in a crime ridden neighborhood-- are some of the variables most commonly cited in studies as causes for failures.

 

DRUG ABUSE, GANGS,  VIOLENCE, AND DRUG DEALING have become a way of life for many people who live in poverty-- and also for those who have lost a sense of  high self-esteem, hope and inspiration. Most of these addicts got started in that lifestyle because they lacked skills to get regular jobs or to attend college --and sought a life of drug dealing and crime to support themselves. Jails and prisons are filled with people caught up in the hard drug cults and addictive life styles. Most of these people are semi-illiterate also.

 

Other studies show that --one-half of all adults in federal and state correctional institutions cannot read or write at all. Only about one-third of those in prison have completed high school. The typical 25 year old male inmate functions 2-3 grade levels below the grade actually completed. U.S. Department of Education statistics show that 60% of prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. And unfortunately, LOCKING PEOPLE UP…for nearly any offense seems to be the only solution that our politicians have. And the news media spends a lot of time glorifying --locking up people. These situations are nothing but symptoms of a decaying society--and certainly NOT WORTHY OF GLORIFICATION.

 

No Child Left Behind -- President Bush’s infamous mandate for Schools --not only is not working, but results in negative impacts up and down the educational continuum - from distorting educational experiences for our youngest to ensuring when they get to college, more students than ever will need remedial courses in reading and math. It has become a system of punishment for those who cannot pass standardized tests, after sitting through class that are suffering from many of the ailments of “poor methodology” and lack of funding. And worse than all of this....NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND HAS LEFT THE FUNDING BEHIND. There is little or no money to finance this required program.

 

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND has become little more than a poorly funded “testing mill” --which forces teachers to focus most of their time on teaching to tests. Long boring lectures and uninteresting methodology for presentation of academic materials are killing our children's natural curiosity about the world and it's workings. If any of McCain's big new proposals are in any way similar to what G.W. Bush did...we must totally ignore him.

 

Many studies and survey show that the truly fundamental problem regarding--

      No Child Left Behind is this --

                                What is joyful about learning, and what therefore makes us

                          want to learn as much as we possibly can, are the intangible

                         qualities of creativity, curiosity, compassion, wonder and joy.

                          Focusing on test-taking at the expense of learning to become

                          a problem-solving, innovative, critical thinker -- is not effective...

                          it is weak and destructive.

 

This is the true failure of No Child Left Behind -- one that no amount of tweaking or funding or negotiating will ever repair.  We cannot train and produce world-class thinkers-- artists, inventors, or scientists-- through threats or fear or punishment…labeling and over-testing.  LACK OF SUFFICIENT FUNDING is a major part of the problems in our schools.  We can create all kinds of new ideas to bring in more teachers...to take students on field trips, to show instructional videos,...or to set up motivational programs...but we cannot perform at our best without money to pay the bills.

 

By reducing human effectiveness in education to test taking -- paper, pencil and marking ovals-- we are cheapening and even destroying the fundamental inspiration that drives learning. Today, even when they work exactly as designed, our high schools cannot teach our kids the important LIFE SKILLS they need to know. Inner city schools are plagued by lack of funds, lack of supplies, crime and the effects of poverty. In many cases, important information is missing from the books and has been replaced with silly trivia, cartoons and other irrelevant “fun” stuff.

 

WHAT WORKS?

 

 There are many studies available that reveal what the problems are and potential solutions.  Researchers have compiled tons of information about WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION.   Some studies also analyze and explain the root cause of failures, drop-outs, and other major problems ...  and blame  Gov't NEGLECT -- and other issues, including:  OVER-CROWDED CLASSROOMS,  INSUFFICIENT SUPPLIES,  DELAPIDATED BUILDINGS,  UNDERPAID TEACHERS, and NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. 

 

Studies have already been conducted that clearly show that there are teaching & training methods that work, that increase retention, and that result in higher achievement.  There are many books on the market written by experts...and other materials -- which also offer a variety of effective ways to improve our schools.  Thus,  LACK OF SOLUTIONS is not the problem.

 

 

 ONE OF THE ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF GOOD SCHOOLING is good methodology.

 

How the teacher presents the material is crucial to students being able to understand it and master it.  Lecturing is one of the least effective ways of teaching…BUT that is what many teachers rely upon.... for most of the school day…students are forced to listen to long boring lectures. 

 

    RESEARCH indicates that group activities, collaborative learning exercises, drama,    demonstrations, lab work,  art, crafts, games,  and "hand-on learning activities" --- stories, audio-visual aids -- result in much higher achievement.

 

Because research has revealed that there are several “learning styles” that effect the way student learn, we absolutely must train and hire teachers who are qualified in good methodology, lesson planning, creative presentations, collaberative learning processes,  and have good teaching skills.

 

Experts have identified three basic learning styles:

 

     *Auditory learners

remember by talking out loud, like to have things explained

                   orally and may have trouble with written instructions.

 

      * Visual learners easily remember visual details and prefer to see what

                         they are learning.

 

       * Kinesthetic or tactile learners prefer activities that allow them to do

                        what they are learning about.

QUALIFIED EDUCATORS

understand how to prepare and present material in order to be most effective with a wide variety of learning styles. They have the skill to present academic lessons in effective and interesting ways so that the students learn and retain.

 

STUDENTS MUST BE ABLE TO EXPERIENCE
FUN AND EFFECTIVE TRAINING ! 
 
                   EDUCATION should be interesting, challenging and enjoyable. The lessons should be interactive, creative --- and yet based upon acquiring skills.
 

FITNESS GURU-- Richard Simmons  recently testified (July 2008) before Congress regarding the serious need for more PHYSICAL EDUCATION -- recess and outdoor activities -- in our schools.  Exercise and sports helps relieve stress,  helps increase health and longevity.   And it also improves the students' concentration and focus when they are in the classroom.   He complains that students are too fat, and that they have been deprived of these healthy activities -- for one reason-- the Gov't does not want to pay for it to happen.

 

Our public schools are operating based upon obsolete ideas and structures.

By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed and under-funded – although we certainly can’t argue with any of those descriptions. All of these problems lie at the root of the school failures and disappointments. They were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age...to basically create workers  (employees) who would work in a certain environment.  We must improve the methodology, services and curriculum in order to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

 

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 POLITICAL PROPOSALS:

 

Do any of our top politicians know how to solve these problems?

 

Politicians are debating over vouchers, tax breaks, paying teachers, home-schooling, curriculum content, cultural issues, book selection, teachers' unions... and other similar issues regarding education.  What are they advocating that is really worth-while?

 

Politicians have offered many ideas and potential solutions....

 

Barack Obama’s ideas are on target toward solving these problems because he recognizes that many of the failures of the public schools lie in the fact that the funding for schools and support for teacher training. Rewarding & paying teachers, and improving the curriculum --all lie at the root of the problems. He also proposes programs to give high schoolers the opportunity to experience various jobs and businesses….thus, making school more relevant to the real world. Obama has indicated he would support some kind of merit pay system for teachers, if teachers help craft it. Involving educators in the process of reforming schools is the most important part…as they are the “generals in the field” when it comes to schools.  Teachers are expected to do a great deal of work...and yet -- pay has been limited for them.

 

 

  He wants to improve the curriculum and content of what we teach -- helping students to become "critical thinkers" with a first class, well-rounded education in many areas....including: ART, MUSIC, LANGUAGES, etc.  He advocates that we deal with the problems in our public schools, institute better programs,  pay teachers a decent salary, and TRASH "No child left behind."   Resorting to "vouchers" at the expense of neglecting our public schools will not solve our most challenging problems. Obama also proposes new ways to help college students pay for their education...without getting into heavy debt for student loans. Obama also wants to create thousands of jobs via investments and support for "alternative fuels and green energy."  He wants to put a stop to pollution of the environment.

 

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Cynthia McKinney and THE GREEN PARTY....advocate:  Free Child Care: Available voluntarily and free for all who need it, modeled after Head Start, federally financed, and community controlled. Lifelong Public Education: Free, quality public education from pre-school through graduate school at public institutions. Government should help finance and support FREE EDUCATION for all.  They are also strong advocates of  "going green"-- PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT....cleaning up sources of pollution, better conservation practices,  creating jobs via "alternative clean energy programs"-- and taking care of wild life.  This party seems to have some of the most progressive proposals of all.

 

 John McCain spoke before the NAACP in July 2008 and to the URBAN LEAGUE (Aug. 1, 2008) --   He revealed several proposals that are absolutely irrelevant and have little to no potential of solving the serious problems in our schools.  Senator McCain's main idea for "improving education" is to institute a "voucher system" which will permit parents to enroll their students in any school of their choice. That sounds good on the surface,  but he does not answer the questions as to what will be done to improve the public schools where many children are already enrolled.  He does not have any proposals for situations where there is over-crowding or under-funding. 

 

 

McCain would like to CHANGE our schools...yes -- He would abolish the
DEPT. OF EDUCATION if he could. 
Is this the CHANGE we want and need?

 

McCain also claimed that he wants to offer more opportunities to people who are “not trained in education and don’t know methodology” --but have “super achievements” which make them worthy of teaching and sharing. The idea of having "successful role models" talk to, inspire, conduct workshops,  and help students IS NOT NEW…but McCain just flowered it up a bit. Many schools already use community leaders, nurses, super star musicians, motivational speakers,  professional athletes, and businessmen as “role models” and have them make presentations in the schools on a regular basis.

 

Why do we have TEACHER'S COLLEGES and training programs for educators?   One of the biggest reasons is that one does need training and education in METHODOLOGY, LESSON PLANNING, CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT, CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT, TEAM TEACHING, DISCIPLINE, GRADING, TESTING, etc. -- and other areas to become a good teacher.   Thus, any such proposed reforms should be generated from these colleges first...not through the likes of the political whims of any politician-- and especially not via John McCain.   Although these McCain programs may serve good purposes--they are not the solution to the desperate problems in our public schools.

 

REPUBLICANS TYPICALLY DO NOT WANT TO PROVIDE SUFFICIENT FUNDING:

 

McCain claimed that… ”education needs new reforms.”  ...DUH !!!  Although a great ideal --that proposal is not news. Most teachers and others know that.  However, ironically McCain's voting record has not been one of support for programs such as: "HEAD START"  and other similar educational initiatives.  He has voted against the funding of such programs regularly. Typically, conservatives do vote against funding educational programs--particularly those for "minority or disadvantaged students."  G.W. Bush has cut funding for programs such as -- "UPWARD BOUND."

 

 

If McCain could get away with it...he would most likely ABOLISH THE DEPT. OF EDUCATION.

 

 

 If we want SCHOOL REFORM, we must also do something to improve our economy so that there are some real jobs and opportunities for those who actually finish high school and college. If millions of homes are being foreclosed upon...we are quickly losing our tax base, as neighborhoods turn into collections of partially boarded up buildings.  Right now, in some major cities (such as Detroit and Las Vegas) the schools are hard pressed to pay teachers and maintain what they have now -- as funds are insufficient.

 

 

 Ralph Nader would put a very high priority on getting schools to teach civic education and connecting the classroom with the community.   He strongly opposes NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.   He advocates more EQUALITY and DEMOCRACY in all levels of Education, including the Administration and the funding.  While sharply attacking the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind, the Nader campaign continued to attack the effects of consumerism on children and commercialism in school.   He states...."We call for equitable state and national funding of school education and the creation of schools controlled by parent-teacher governing bodies." 

 

Getting youngsters, even as young as the fifth and sixth grades, to learn how to practice democracy, to connect knowledge to action. To help people grow up civic instead of growing up corporate is an important function of the Department of Education.   Nader wants to abandon not only the standardized testing both Bush and Gore endorse, but to radically re-focus schools.   

 

 

RON PAUL  is a conservative politician  (Libertarian) who wants to DOWNSIZE THE GOVERNMENT.... He generated a lot of support for his visions of cleaning up Washington, downsizing government, cutting funding for many departments,  and stopping the Wars. He is another politician who advocated many changes in our schools.  He has been advocating "more freedom of choice" of schools.  He claims that there should be less government involvement in the schools. He was pushing for more "private school" and "home school" programs and funding

 

Ron Paul has not been a big supporter of "environmental protection" or stopping global warming.  He is in the "school of thought" that people must be more independent--not expecting much from the government -- and that government should be very small.  He does not give a clear vision of how we will deal with the many challenges  (testing, paying teachers, discipline,  school supplies, college tuition, etc.) of educating our youth for the future. He is much like the other Republicans --in that he does not want to much spend government money on schools.

 

RON PAUL’S writings in his infamous ( white racist) Newsletters were often paranoid and rambling--dominated by talk of all sorts of “government conspiracies” -- including: international banking conspiracies.  He and his supporters complain of a coming "New World Order" -- in which people will be victimized, poisoned and killed.  He was heavily involved with NEO-CONFEDERATES and other white supremacy groups.  But Paul's alliance with neo-Confederates  makes many people leary of his motives and complaints about the coming NWO and--- helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race. 

  In short, the past activities and associations of this man suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

 

 

 

 

 WE MUST REFORM OUR SCHOOLS:

 

Whatever our theories for the causes of the failures and problems, we all know that the decline of education is real and important. A nation that does not develop the minds of its young people is in a downward spiral. Each generation is less educated, less willing to support education, less capable of doing so.

 

Research has shown want really works

. It is a matter of us doing it and financing WHAT WORKS. First, we know that over-crowded classrooms, lack of supplies, books and equipment, poor funding, and ill-prepared teachers is a major contributor to school failures. Epidemiologists and psychologists have identified a number of risk factors within the social environment which, when combined, are thought to have a multiplier effect upon risk behavior.

 

In order to move our society into the new age of technology and "green energy"--and all that will come with the challenges of the 21st Century -- we absolutely must improve and reform our schools and ways of training and teaching students.  We cannot continue wallowing in the old, out-dated, failing programs.

 

We must institute more creative activities and programs that incorporate concepts such as:

         * Cultural diversity, multi-cultural awareness.

         * Human relations and problem-solving.

         * Critical thinking, plannning, and analysis. 

         * Civics, geography, politics and social studies.

         * Business skills and entreprenuerial training.

         * Learning about our Earth, Climate and Nature...via "hands-on activities."

               e.g. --Increase in outdoor (wilderness, gardening, and science) experiences.

 

ALL OF THESE SUBJECTS have been proven to be academically and psychologically beneficial -- help improve self-esteem,  improve concentration,  to help students master skills needed in real life, and to calm stressed nerves....and are enjoyable.  We must spice up the teaching process with group activities, discovery exercises, and interesting games.

 

Until we design schools to meet the needs of the 21st century,

we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year. The idea behind the old high school system was that you could train an adequate workforce by sending only a small fraction of students to college, and that the other kids either couldn’t do college work or didn’t need to consider it.

 

 

 

 
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Edutainment

is a methodology that incorporates an eclectic set

of ways of teaching, getting away from lectures and using more group

 activities --- or cooperative learning techniques, drama, art,

“hands-on-learning” exercises, connecting with Nature, and

other forms of creative activities. Not all students learn in the same

ways from the same stimuli. In fact, studies have found that males

and females learn differently …and so do people of various ethnic,

racial, or cultural heritage backgrounds. Because people learn in

different ways… MELVIA MILLER believes that we must get away

from our public school’s traditional one-track-mind way of teaching

…from the left-brain logic (only) paradigm.

 

 

All great educators from ancient Africa to China to the present modern

society--and this author -- agree with what the philosopher Plato said:

 

“ Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct

them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better

able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of

each. Ignorance is the root and stem of all evil.”

                                                                  

~ Plato

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