Sunday, June 28, 2009

Technical/business education vs College Prep

OK, this is a question. I'd like opinions, links to articles, information. I'd prefer good constructive comments, but I'd be thrilled with any comments at all.

Should there be middle/high schools devoted to technical/apprentice type careers, separate from college prep schools? Are we helping kids who will becomes electricians, plumbers, masons, etc. by giving them a curriculum designed as an apprenticeship with business-slanted courses? Or are we shuffling them toward something limited?

My thoughts, which are rambling and incomplete:

Not everyone wants to go to college, but is it necessary to survive? Do even skilled tradespeople need a college degree? Is it elitist to insist that only college prep is valuable? Is it elitist to say that skilled tradespeople don't need to read Shakespeare? Does anyone need to read Shakespeare?

If we do have apprenticeship programs, I think they should be rigorous and include rigorous history, math, English, science, business, and foreign language.

I see contractors and others who are very good at what they do but are confused about the business aspect and get caught up in payroll, business licenses, and tax problems. It would be helpful to teach business stuff to tradespeople.

What is important (relevant?) history, English, science?

Whether a child goes into business after high school or on to college, they need to be able to analyze and make decisions. We need to teach beyond the test.

Enough rambling. Help me out here, please.

Random thoughts on Edumakation

South Carolina's constitution calls for a public education system. The courts and the legislature have interpreted that to mean "minimally adequate," & some days I think that's not being met. For years, SC would entice business with the catchy slogan, "our folk don't know jack, but they work cheap." And the school system taught folk to read enough to read their Bible (sort of), to show up someplace on time, and to sit still until a bell rang.

SC wasn't alone with the factory model of education. Children rode in big yellow buses to little red school houses where they learned to sit still and regurgitate information. Their fathers rode on gray buses to gray buildings to sit in cubicles or on factory lines and regurgitate information. The training was minimally adequate. And it was training.

As the nature of the work changed, workers needed to be more technologically and scientifically aware, and so technology and science was emphasized. Nothing creative --- just enough so they don't break the laser.

Have you seen the e-mails people send around about "The good old days" and what a high school student knew in 1880 or whatever? Those things make me nuts.

What we think of as education --- great works, great discourse, great thoughts --- have always been limited to the elite. Whether they thought the masses were incapable of learning or they thought it would be dangerous to teach them, there was no widespread education. In The Good Old Days, 99% of high school graduates may have been able to read Ulysses in Greek, but then, very few people actually went that far.

Now we want to educate all kids. It's hard, but it isn't impossible. Administrators, teachers, politicians, and parents whine about each other. Teachers are greedy, parents are slack. The politicians don't want people to be smarter than they are which really lowers the bar. Administration hires another consultant for half a million dollars, then cries because they can't afford books.

Everyone is invested in the education system. Everyone has an agenda, and far too often, it's not what is best for the kids.

What is the answer? I don't know. But I'm thinking about it. And this I do know: there is not one answer. People learn in different ways. People relate to different things. People want to do different things and need different skill sets.

Good teachers already know this and act on it. How do we expand this so that it is understandable to a larger population? Should we clone good schools and good teachers? How do we encourage innovation with accountability?

I don't know, but I'm thinking about it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

33 days to go

on my 90 day goals. I am eating better and if walking around Washington DC for three days isn't exercise, what is?

I have just returned from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools national conference. I am feeling energized and excited about quality public education. I am really excited about the choices being offered to students and their parents, all with the goal of excellent education.

I am going to spend some time thinking and talking to people and writing about choices in public education. There are schools which teach all subjects in French, Montessori schools, Core Knowledge schools, legal and law enforcement focus schools, Padeia schools, vocational schools... the possibilities are endless. It's a question of what students and parents want, how students best learn, and how teachers can get the best from ALL students --- no excuses.

Right now, I am going to clean my house, sort my bills & flexible medical account forms, and work on the lessons for the enrolled agent exam.

I still think I may be able to pass all three parts by July 30 (my birthday.)

I am not sure I am going to take pottery classes in July. I may wait until August, when I have more money.

I am eating a rainbow or two a day. I was even able to get some color when we went to DC. I had Mediterranean veggies and rice one day for lunch (yellow, green, orange, maybe blue) and lots of colors with the Ethiopian meal we ate one night. Lots of ubiquitous lettuce and tomato, of course.

It is a furnace in Columbia, of course, but I think I'll throw on my shoes, grab my sweet-cake hubby, and hit the road. Walk ten minutes, turn around and walk home. How hard is that?

But first... one more cup of coffee for the road...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Focus

I have just returned from a week at the beach and it has occurred to me that 1/3 of my 90 days have passed and I haven't done Jack. In less than 60 days, I'll be 49 years old. At the end of April (on the other blog, I just realized), I set four goals to accomplish by my birthday.

  1. Study for & pass the Enrolled Agent Exam

  2. Take a pottery class

  3. Develop better eating & moving habits

  4. Clean and organize my house

I have done:

  1. Nothing

OK, I am eating at least a rainbow a day, along with a lot of other crap that needs to go. But that's something. I walked on the beach, but walking one week out of the year is not going to cut it. Sure, Forest Acres isn't the beach, but what is? Maybe I should go walk in the swamp. I'll bet the snakes are out.

On the day I discovered, I was so inspired that in a frenzy of cleaning and organizing, I swept my front porch. Yeah, I'm thinking there is more to do, too. I have managed to keep the health inspector satisfied (if she doesn't open the cupboards), but I think my standards should be higher.

I have thought about the enrolled agent exam, but since I have to take all three parts and I don't have any money, it just depresses me.

I am going to take the pottery class... maybe in August instead of July, though. No... I'll take the damn class. I've wanted to do that for 40 years. I won't put it off even a month.

OK, well now I'm going to take my Dad's car back and walk back. Then I'm going to clean the public areas of my house. I have some budgeting issues to take care of today, but maybe I can find the money and the inspiration for the enrolled agent exam.

OK: 54 days to go. Surely I can do this. Maybe.