Monday, October 17, 2011

Have Your Voice Heard! Are Schools Making Us Stupid in America?

Want to share your thoughts about education with the nation?  Now's your chance! John Stossel recently followed up his 2006 program, Stupid in America with a show featuring new insights and observations and he wants to hear from you!  He will be taping a show live in response to the new segment where he'll be sharing reactions to the show. Below is the show broken down into six segments each with some questions to consider.  Watch, think, and respond (using labels A, B, C...) to any questions that elicit a reaction. If you do, you can get your comments on air by responding to this post.

Stossel is especially interested in any comments you have that are provocative, insightful, or hostile.  John will take a look at your comments and consider including quotes from readers of The Innovative Educator during his taping tomorrow.  You will be able to watch the show on Thursday at 10 pm Eastern time and Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm and midnight.

Additionally, if you want to attend the taping which takes place on Tuesday, October 18th at 7 pm at Fox Studios, I will be able to offer tickets to a select number of readers who respond to this post with their name, email, and why it is they want to attend.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Watch! Think! Comment! Be heard!

A - Public schools are making us “Stupid in America.” What some are doing to change that.
  • School spending has tripled. School improvement - Ziltch 
    • Since there is no improvement correlated to spending, should we reduce taxpayer burden? Why or why not?
    • Are test scores the best way to measure improvement? 
    • Are our industrial-age model schools really failing or are they doing just what they are designed to do? i.e. babysit, reward compliance, punish those who question authority
  • Charter schools are doing the same job as public schools with less money. 
    • Why is that? 
    •  How can public school learn from this? 
  • Charter school operator Ben Chavis says he can take the worst school and turn it around at his American Indian Public Schools. Keys to his success: 1) Hire students to teach students 2) Use embarrassment to keep people in line 3) Teachers know they can be fired in a moment’s notice 
    • Do you believe he can turn around any school? 
    • Do you believe this model is best for children?

B - Competition makes everything better, doesn’t it? 
  • Stossel was challenged to teach for a week. He said okay...They rescinded their challenge.
    • Why not let him take the challenge? 
    • Doesn’t that make the union look bad? 
  • Public schools test scores are the lowest of all. Public school union leader explains: I know my kids are learning when I look in their eyes. 
    • Aren’t the test scores really a result of having 1) Less parental involvement 2) Low - no students with special needs and/or English language learners 3) Ability to not ask students back 
  • If kids are free to take their money (i.e. student comes with dollars) to any school, things will get better. 
    • Do you agree? Why or why not?

C - Public school policy makers choose private for themselves 
  • A large percentage of politicians and union leaders who set policy for other people’s children, send their children to private schools. 
    • Why shouldn’t everyone have that choice? 
  • It takes dozens of steps and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fire teachers at a loss to the system to get a bad teacher removed.
    • Why have tenure when other professions don’t have this?
  • Observation
    These teachers are labeled as bad not because of test scores, but instead because they are doing things like abuse, sleeping in class, lying about credentials.
 D - Getting Rid of Bad Teachers
  • Rhee wants to get rid of bad teachers, but even by her description, it’s not test scores that makes a teacher good. It is that students want to show up to the class. 
    • Why not have students involved in teacher evaluation? After all, aren’t they the true clients of the education system? 
    • What are other / better ways to assess student learning? 
    • What are other / better ways to assess teacher effectiveness?
E - New Orleans Charter School Success 
  • New Orleans is having success with charter schools that provide many options for students to choose from. If a school is not good, they just choose another. 
    • Why not have more charter schools in more places?
F - Khan Academy - Bringing every kid the best teacher 
  • Teacher lecture can be replaced with videos to free up teacher time for hands-on support. 
    •  How will this change teaching and learning?


  1. Thoughts on segments A and E:

    In these video for section A, the question is raised: How do we measure success in schools? Currently the proposed measures are test scores and graduation rates. Yet neither of these truly measure learning. Our current system is designed to promote obedience and training rather than innovation and creativity. The students are learning to follow the rules, accept the status quo, and perform on command.

    Within my school system the most important thing seems to currently be test scores and ranking. Here is where the bureaucracy fails the students. Our kids are pulled from arts classes to practice reading and math test skills. We are training a generation to perform well on a test, not perform well in life. This is a problem.

    Daniel Pink and Seth Godin have it right. Incentivizing mechanized tasks to improve performance works, yet attempting to make students perform cognitively with incentives fails a large percentage of the time-it must be intrinsic. Students will not perform "better" on standardized tests through carrot and stick motivation techniques. They require autonomy in their field of learning, purpose in the drive to excel, and the ability to master the content.

  2. @Amanda: you are absolutely right. Schools for the most part are not teaching enough life skills but rather choose to focus their attention on test-taking skills. Granted, focusing on test-taking skills is better than focused on nothing (which is what a lot of teachers do) because at least it will motivate some students (not all) through external motivators such as competition to work hard. This will help them learn life skills.

    However, it is virtually impossible for the school system to change due to the blob that is bureaucracy that the videos talk about. Furthermore, the school system was developed to produce average people for the industrial production age. There is just too much inertia. In order to really teach students important life skills, parents should take ownership and guide their kids by leveraging the vast resources now available on the web as well as teaching them through their own life experiences.

  3. Parents are the biggest problem with education.

    Why do Charter Schools and Private Schools have higher test scores? Because the parents that put their children in those schools have a vested interest in what their child is doing during and after school.

    In public school parents berate teachers and administration anytime discipline is handed down because their child can do no wrong. Parents do not hold their children to the standard of doing homework or studying for a test. Parents move 10 times in 15 years, don't read to their kids, don't discipline their kids, do drugs, are absent etc etc.

    If you want a stronger American Education System you need to start with parent accountability.

    (No not all parents are like this and I appreciate all of the amazing parents that are out there raising their children right and helping the school and community. There are just not enough of them!)