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Education According To Beloved

I was surprised when Jan asked me to guest blog and wanted me to take on a Spin Cycle. Of course I was immediately shocked that Jen’s subject for the week would be something I knew about. I said, “The Spin Cycle is the Retail Inventory Method?!?” Fascinating stuff, but the topic turns out to be education.   Even odder that such an educated person would think I could even compete with her on this subject (Dr. Oz is still changing his shorts after last week).  As a disclaimer I take full responsibility with everything offensive in this post and all credit goes to Jan for being so well edjumacated at picking good guest writers. Oh, and for the record, although I have more education, Jan is much better educated than I.

There are so many ways to go with this subject because an education is the most valuable thing in the world for all of us; yet it is highly over-rated.  Like I tell our kids, everything we know is ultimately self-taught.  Nobody can teach us if we aren’t willingly and actively learning.  We all know people who refuse to learn – sometimes never starting, many times stopping so far before maturity, let alone death. We all learn and retain experience differently and in different ways and most of what we learn is learned outside the hallowed halls of academia. Most of the best educated people I know are self taught and most of the knowledge we rely on every day isn’t available with a degree – there isn’t even a degree available for the Retail Inventory Method (can you imagine?).  Why does it take a college degree to drive a bus fly an airplane, but only a high school degree to be the mechanic who keeps it in the air and keeps us alive?

And this is where I think education is overrated: the system fails us from elementary through post-graduate school.   We Americans want to pride ourselves on universal education while we herd our children off like sheep to institutions that are bogged down in bureaucracy and politics.  Where hard working teachers have their hands tied by regulations and standardized testing.  I am not a particularly religious person, but I don’t think anyone can teach without teaching principles and values – and of course the “public” school must honor and respect everyone’s values so much that they can’t teach any values.  I give teachers all the credit in the world for fighting through this for our kids and trying to teach and reach them, but they know that passing tests and learning aren’t the same thing.

For the price we pay for this system you would think we were getting a great return. In Ohio the average spent per student was $10,173 in 2008. On average there are 25 students per teacher.  Let’s apply some simple math here: do any of us think the teacher is making even a reasonable fraction of $250,000? How many of us would drop everything and become a teacher for half that (the other half would cover overhead)?  So you tell me why we don’t have privatized elementary schools or voucher systems? Do we really think we couldn’t do better than Big Brother? Do we not want choice?

So now we have a high school graduate (many still don’t have even an 8th grade education – but they are moved along graduated). Our anxious seniors are getting increased pressure to go to college to compete in a global economy – often unprepared.  Parents will spend a life’s savings and kids will mortgage 20 years of loans to earn degrees that bring them no economic benefit.  It always seemed silly to me that one couldn’t go get a two year degree and actually learn a trade or skill – say computer programming – and still be able to turn around at the end of two years and progress to a Bachelors degree. Wouldn’t that make them better prepared for a specialized field?  No child, you have to spend the first two years of a four year degree (which you are paying for now) on liberal arts. You know – all that stuff they have been teaching you over and over and over again for the last 13 years in the public school system.  Only then can you get a four year degree.  Oh, and they will let you take meaningless four year degrees like Psychology when to get economically justifiable work in that field you need a Doctorate.  Why wouldn’t a good business or trade degree better prepare the average person for a global economy, or better enable a student to pay their way through school to eventually help some poor sucker off the couch?

And let’s go all the way here and question the closed associations (the AMA or ABA for instance), unions, and other barriers that prevent very well educated intelligent people from contributing in a free global market without the right “educational” credentials.  Why can’t Gary Taubes write one of the best researched and most educated books on diet and not be a Doctor? Why does my barber need a state sponsored “license”? If I get a stupid looking haircut I just won’t go back.  The USDA insists on being present and adding an undesired cost to my meat when it is butchered by the people I choose to process my meat.  I don’t need USDA to tell me they are trustworthy nor do I need to know whether or not they have a degree to know they are very intelligent people – especially when it comes to cutting my meat! I like to surround myself with intelligent and educated people…some of them have even been to college.


31 comments

Michele says:

I had to get a masters in library science to work in a library yet the actual masters education wasn’t really anything except trade school. I’m so pissed about the unreality of library school education that I’ve tasked my department to develop an intern program that teaches real life hands on library work. You know, the stuff the university should have taught library students. The stuff the students paid $20K per year for.

TC says:

My name is TC and I went to college (and graduated).

Having said that, while the experiences I had while earning that degree have helped me become the person I am, most of said experiences were from motivation to learn and grow as a person. The one thing that piece of paper says nothing about are my abilities to contribute to society or to our company. The degree itself is only as good as the piece of paper it is written on. Ive always preferred experience to paper, only because it is through experience that we learn some of our most valuable lessons in life. Motivation to learn also plays a huge part in how we experience things and whether we get the most out of those experiences. You only get out that which you put in.

Children arent taught to think critically anymore. They’re only prepared for these standardized tests and passing them, thanks to our wonderful “No Child Left Behind”. Because the government only looks at the numbers. When did quantity surpass quality?

BE says:

Well put – just like Microsoft Certification.

TC says:

Thats kind of what I was thinking about when I wrote this.

Lori says:

Amen! Could you hear me hollering amen to every single line or two? :)

Something that you really hit on the head was the fact that in order for teachers to really teach they need to be able to teach principles and values. With so many kids not getting disciplined and taught these things, they come to learning unprepared. Teachers hands are tied and yet they are expected to teach…to teach so that the kids in their class pass these tests so that there school can turn around and have a better rating which gets more funding for their school.

My daughter is a second grade teacher and year after year I hear about these unruly kids that make it very hard to teach. Just when she gets somewhere with a student she has to deal with his unruly parents.

Reading this makes me concerned for my little one’s education. I fear what kind of system I am sending them into. My husband and I have talked about the possibility of us homeschooling down the road. I did homeschool my older children for 4 years when they were in their younger years. I started out doing this because of the issue of discipline or I should say lack of discipline of the kids and the teachers having to use a lot of their time to discipline instead of teach. It is a lot of work but well worth the time.

I want to say so many more things but have run out of time. Thank you for a great post.

BE says:

We never home schooled but most of our five kids learning is done at home. We sure don’t expect much from them.

This Spin is so well written, you must have went to college! Or just knew how to write what you thought in a cohesive manner. How many bestselling authors actually have a Language Arts degree?
I have a Criminal Justice degree, while I was intent on pursuing that road, I find now that I have never found a use for it. The degree itself is what opened the doors to what I do now. “Oh, you graduated college? Well, you must have some brains to compensate for the money you shelled out. Welcome aboard.”
John never stayed in college. Once he found his true calling, geekdom, he simply got a job in a help desk department while learning his way around various computers. Now, 10 years later, he’s climbed the chain of computer related illnesses and is depended on by not only his company but his own clientele to keep them out of “virusy doodoo”. (He claims it’s not a word. I claim it’s just ahead of the trends.)
Thank you for jumping into the Spin Cycle, Beloved! If I didn’t love your wife’s writing so much, I would encourage you to take over more often!
Or just get your own blog…
You’re linked!

Education comes in many forms. Sadly, acadamia (at least here in California) is often considerably lagging behind where it should be. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be at all comfortable going to a “doctor” who hadn’t gone to medical school – so there’s that ….

BE says:

You have a point there. I just wish they would remember that it is called a “practice” and that they never stop learning. Like about the low fat lie.

Jan says:

IMHO, the only doctors worth a damn are those that are highly specialized – “general practitioners” and “family doctors” are a joke. I’d take a good nurse practitioner over a family doctor or general practitioner MD any day of the week.

LPC says:

There are many paths to educated. On the other hand, with a mother who taught grammar school science, and a father who taught university literature, I also have a deep respect for the American tradition of a liberal arts education. One thing I have noticed, from dealing with work forces in other countries, is that our educational system often teaches people to ask questions, to think critically, to challenge authority. Which, to my way of thinking, is a good thing.

Jan says:

Lisa, you and your children attended a progressive, private school. Public schools are a different animal all together. After seeing five kids through them, I can tell you right now they don’t come close to teaching kids how to think critically, or creatively. They teach them to take tests. Period. Our kids think critically because WE have taught them to.

Mama Badger says:

Hear, hear. I have 3 degrees, and they’re not worth using to wallpaper my bathroom. Before you go feeling bad for teachers, though, keep in mind that the average salary for an Ohio public school teacher is $48,692 for 185 days of work. That’s $263 a day. The average accountant, with the same level of education, makes about $250 a day and doesn’t get summers off. Not to disparage, but teachers can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I have yet to see a unionized public teacher be part of the solution (and I was one)…

BE says:

Well put. I didn’t want to be so direct, but as a teacher think you have a right to say so. I didn’t even want to get started on John Dewey – my head would explode. Unfortunately, the teachers union is not really in the best interest of teachers. I wish more people would see that.

AMEN! I absolutely echo your sentiment wholeheartedly. When I worked in Admissions for a Technical College, I always referred to the resulting degree as a ‘magical piece of paper’. I was the rebel in my department, because while my bosses were all about the numbers (i.e., number of interviews that translate into applications that translate into bodies sitting in the classroom to number of students that actually graduated) I was all about the individual, the person and what kind of education they were actually seeking. I wouldn’t force someone to fill out an application just so my ‘numbers’ would jive at the end of the week, nor would I talk them into getting an education they didn’t want or need based on their hopes and dreams for their future, not because I needed the ‘numbers’ in order to make upper level management happy. Education as a whole has changed so much over the years because of regulations and whatever else has been deemed ‘necessary’. It no longer really seems to be about the children/young adults nor the actual education (or lack thereof), just about whatever ‘magical piece of paper’ you end up with to ‘prove’ that you’re…edjumicated. ;)

Dwight J says:

My thoughts:

1. bad teachers may be over paid, good ones are not. i would gladly pay a very successful teacher much, much more than an accountant. most teachers have masters degrees. most accountants that i know do not.
2. the unions need to discipline within their own ranks if they are ever truly going to raise the level of teaching
3. values are taught at school. kids that do work hard generally get the bigger rewards. those that don’t work, don’t get rewards. other values are honesty, planning, etc. are the lessons perfect? NO…but they are better than no lesson at all.
4. the majority of values should be taught at home. your five children are either committed or not committed due to the work that you did with them and the fact that you made effort a key value for them. kids that achieve are given that value by their parents. they don’t pick it up in a school.
5. schooling is way under funded (private, charter, public…doesn’t matter which one). although class sizes are set at a ratio under 20 to 1, the reality of it is that many classes have 30+ students in them. only 3% of our federal government spending goes to education. that’s $.03 per dollar. that’s a total lack of commitment. the $10K a year that you mentioned isn’t that much more than some people pay per month in car payments.
6. standardized testing doesn’t work because it assumes everyone is equal and has the same ability to be successful. so, teachers are forced to teach down to the lowest level because so much of testing is based on making the lower level children successful. some kids should be left behind.
7. i do think education is critical. good teachers can create curious minds, make students want to learn and give them a sense of accomplishment when they do so. you rarely see uneducated people making consistent contributions to our society. it can happen but when you are trying to educate several million americans, the exceptions shouldn’t be considered the norm.
8. if you are going to get a degree in something. for god’s sake, get it liberal arts (that’s my bias coming through). it teaches you how to think…not how to be production.

for some reason i think “beloved” and i might have had this same conversation over nachos and drinks in california.

Dj

BE says:

LOL – I pretty much knew what you were gonna say before I read it. I absolutely agree with your number 7 – we need to stop playing to the lowest common denominator. Yeah, but way back in the days of beer and nachos, I would have sworn that you were one of the “educated” I mentioned. Didn’t your liberal arts instruction include the proper capitalization in sentence structure? :P

Thanks for your comments.

dwight j says:

you know us liberal arts people…we like ee cummings.

Dj

BE says:

lol – good save! Just to clarify, I never said a Liberal Arts education isn’t desirable – just that it should be completed in high school.

TC says:

Values should be taught at home, but should also be reinforced in school. The problem is that there are a lot of parents who send their kids to school without said values and expect the teachers to “parent” them, but then when something bad happens, their child can do no wrong.

Schooling is severely underfunded, as Dwight mentioned. However, I don’t think we can solely place the blame on funding from the federal government. Levies were constantly on the ballot when I was in school and almost every year were voted down, because people didn’t want to pay the extra money for it. Yet, teachers are forced to pay for things out of their own pockets when they cant get the things they need from the district.

Im all for rewarding accomplishments, but nowadays they even reward failure. Everyone is a winner. Even last place gets a ribbon. When did failure become so bad? Failure is how we learn from our mistakes. Whatever happened to constructive criticism?

BE says:

DAMN straight! Not everyone can win. What’s the point of striving if it doesn’t matter if you succeed or not.
“Your best effort is enough” is wonderful sentiment from a mother, but it doesn’t fly in the real world.

Since you asked for constructive criticism, why in the hell should the FEDERAL government be involved in our education? That is a local issue. Part of the problem was pushed by Bush – to standardize a program that failed Texas across the whole nation. The best government is local. I want parents to be personally involved in decisions about their kid’s schools. And if it must be a government at least it should be a local government where parents really MIGHT make a difference.

Of course I understand the issue in Ohio – School Levies FAIL ALL THE TIME. Hmm at some point to we tell parents that since THEY don’t care they deserve stupid kids? (Was that my out loud voice? – hope Dwight doesn’t hear it).

Dwight J says:

two things:

1. i was using the federal government funding as an example. i don’t care how it gets funded. simply that all this talk about education being the future, critical to the country’s security and getting a focus is a joke when it represents only 3% of the budget…being any budget. my personal opinion would be the federal government to essentially go away and only be involved with issues that span states (currency being the most obvious thing to me…although there are others). but that’s a totally different conversation.
2. they do deserve stupid kids. frankly, when a child’s behavior becomes so poor that he/she is a disruption in class they should forfeit their right to a public education because they have negatively impacted those students that are there to learn. not everyone needs to be a doctor. everyone simply needs to know that they have a certain set of rights and that those rights entitle them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. non of which require a high wage or salary.

dj

Joan Quillin says:

Hear Hear!!!!! Good job, guest blogger.

VandyJ says:

My university instituted a new program when I started in 1991. It was called University Studies, and was supposed to turn out well rounded individuals, not just speciallized drones. I thought it was ridiculous. I had no need for lots of science and math, I was a history major. Then 15 years later when I went back for my second degree, in Geology, I was mighty glad I’d taken Chem I and still had a nodding aquaintence with math. I do think that universities don’t tell students that they need to look toward the future–major in something you can and want to get a job in when you’re done. I did not want to teach histroy to ungrateful high schoolers when I finished school the first time. So I went back and got a more appropiate degree the second time, especially for the state I live in–Wyoming.

BE says:

Exactly. A little more guidance early might have saved you some time. Liberal arts is important and has it place in a well rounded person, but we gotta eat. I would LOVE to teach history, but I can’t afford it and wouldn’t look good in orange. Sooner or later I would kill an ungrateful high school brat. Kudos to your for trying!

You hit on two of my pet peeves with the educational system today. One, parents and students mortgaging their futures to pay for college. I once had a client who had co-signed for $75,000 in student loans for her son who got a degree in graphic arts. The reality is that as a business owner, I don’t care if my graphic artist has a degree, I just want him to make my brochures beautiful. When I meet them, he was working at the Gap making $8.00/hr and struggling to pay back his loans because he couldn’t get a job as a graphic artist because most firms were looking for someone with experience.

My other pet peeve is students graduating with degrees with no economic value without a graduate degree. Colleges should tell students that certain degrees will require a graduate degree in order to find “economically justifiable work in that field” and of course, the students themselves should be researching their majors to learn that information in advance also.

BE says:

Thanks for the affirmations from a professional who sees this all the time! It just isn’t common sense is it?

Gretchen says:

First of all – welcome Beloved! Jan, you are a brave woman to hand over the reins (I wouldn’t let Jimmy anywhere close), and B has not let you down.

Thank you for standing up for the self-educated! If you read my Spin this week, you know that I am a pathetic drop-out. But I like to think that I’ve never stopped educating myself. I know so many people who have their Masters and they’re dumb as stumps.

While I received an excellent public school education back 100 years ago, things are NOT the same now, and certainly not here in CA. The Los Angeles public schools are for shit. Absolutely pathetic. I mean, I absolutely would not send my son to our local public school. Luckily, charter and magnet schools have evolved to make up for this, but they’re hard to get into because the demand is so enormous. Jude is in a private Catholic school, and I couldn’t agree more with your comments about teaching principles and values. I’ve been pleased with how little actual Cahtolic dogma he receives and how much he learns about kindness and respect and morals. And his teachers can hug him! Something that public school teachers aren’t allowed! Sad.

BE says:

WOW! Hugs not guns in our schools? Imagine that!

Erin says:

It freaks me out when I see my step daughter taking on a college education that will sink her with mortgage sized student loan payments. I am paying for my graduate degree at a public university in cash — (even though it is taking me years and years to accomplish). My son intends to go to a public university or start at a community college.

I am all over the place with this spin, because the teacher in me wants to defend our insane profession (I do hug my students, btw), BUT, the parent in me sees all the holes in our system. The system is indeed broken and from the inside out, it’s difficult to say where the break down began. At this point all I can say is that the educational system reflects the values of our culture, and many facets of our culture just suck.

My child goes to a public high school that is progressive and on the cutting edge… but the extras at his school are grant funded and/or offered by educators who work above and beyond their contract.

Great spin, BE

BE says:

Thanks for your insight Erin. It wouldn’t help us to point blame, but what we all need to do is fix it. It’s kinda like the situation we are in with our government. We have just got to get our heads out of our static traditional asses and do something different. And I am NOT talking about the kind of change EITHER of our TWO political parties are talking about. We love our kids – let’s CHANGE!

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