December 8, 2009

If It Weren't for Your Kids...

Justin Katz

One expects for this sort of thing to slip out in the heat of argument — in person or in comment sections — but it's a splash of cold water to see retired social studies teacher Robert Salerno offer it as op-ed material:

I submit that they might learn that the problems of public education do not lie with the teachers but with the students themselves. Although many youngsters try to be good students, there are far too many who do not.

These boys and girls should be called "attendees," ones who go to school but give little or no effort. Their numbers are larger than ever and I will leave it to our educational leaders to find out why this is happening in many areas of our state. These unmotivated students hurt their parents, classmates, school and society. According to the research, this begins to appear in middle school and becomes worse as these "attendees" move to the high school. This phenomena is not the fault of the classroom teacher.

Two thoughts: First, if the problem is the broader society (and I'm certainly not one to argue that the culture doesn't need an overhaul), then our massive outlay for education, and especially staff and faculty costs, would seem to be misdirected. We shouldn't be spending billions of dollars to pay people to do a job that can't be done.

Second, since substandard student performance reflects poorly on teachers, one would think that their unions would be striving to implement methods of identifying such students in order to (1) help them and (2) decrease the extent to which they hinder the high performance and shining image of educators.

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As I quoted DY yesterday, they'll walk in circles all day if you try to touch any part of their compensation, but anything else? "Oh we can't do anything about that."

Does anyone know why Walsh and his people believe that a closed shop is a good idea for teachers? Why do they think it's smart to extort money from people who simply want to do a professional job but don't want to be a part of a union? I'm guessing it's because of strength in numbers, but that's not a really good selling point. I'm guessing the real reason is fear that the whole house of cards would fall down as people start leaving and the administration gives the same compensation to non-union members without them having to pay union dues, and the non-union members actually being compensated on merit instead of simple seniority. But what is the official reason?

Posted by: Patrick at December 8, 2009 7:40 AM

Privatize education and see how many families will tolerate their kid goofing off all day or skipping school when they are responsible for paying for it or the kid is at risk for losing scholarship/financial aid due to that behavior.

I can already hear the "but then poor families won't be able to afford education" canned response from the progressives. Yeah, because there are no lower-end but adequate computers, phones, apartments, cars, clothing that poor people can afford... and there are no non-profits in the world because people only care about making money... give me a break.

Posted by: Dan at December 8, 2009 8:47 AM

I like Dan’s idea but I would go one step further. Let’s have two public school systems. One for the kids who are motivated and working hard, another for the “attendees” who just show up. The former would be financed as it is now thru taxes, the latter would be financed largely thru an attendee tuition, sort of a babysitting fee.

Progressives won’t be able to complain too loudly because the attendee tuition was self generated, earned thru lack of effort. The tuition is completely avoidable, only requiring some personal responsibility.

Watch how fast the parents get on their kids to shape up.

Posted by: Frank at December 8, 2009 12:08 PM

Blame the victim mentality if I ever saw it. I hope Mr. Salerno never serves on a jury in a rape trial.

Posted by: EMT at December 8, 2009 12:17 PM

Come on! Salerno is priceless! We should, over and over and over, ask Walsh, Crowley, Caprio, Lynch, and every other Democratic candidate and NEA/AFT representative whether they agree with Mr. Salerno's views -- which, after all, are those of a career RI "educator."

Can you imagine how they would all scream bloody murder if, say, Governor Carcieri dared suggest that personal irresponsibility may have contributed to the situation faced by people who are "clients" of RI's best-in-the-nation social welfare programs?

Posted by: John at December 8, 2009 1:52 PM

Frank, you believe in FAR too much personal responsibility for the progressives to get behind that. If a plan involves anyone taking responsibility for themselves in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, the progressives will find it repugnant.

You are forgetting that in their minds, the kids who goof off are doing it because they grew up without certain "advantages" in life. Advantages that could be given to them if only we taxed a little more. It's not their fault how they are, so it wouldn't be FAIR to have a different track system for them or to charge them more.

Oh yeah, and the all important race card. Everything boils down to racism. If even one more Black or Latino student happened to be sent to the "bad kids school" for poor grades or attendance, the progressives would organize a million man march to shut the place down.

Posted by: Dan at December 8, 2009 2:20 PM

I was at the "Race to the Top" forum at Central High last night. The Providence Teacher's Union had the place packed with teachers. Their refrain: teachers are all hardworking and trying to do the best for the students. The problem is those stupid administrators who don't follow through on programs. And the parents who don't get involved. And we don't have enough seniority pay. And no one takes us by the hand and shows us now to mentor the younger teachers, even though we would like to. And we don't need evaluations, because we are all great teachers now. And on and on. What a lack of introspection.

Posted by: Pasco at December 8, 2009 3:24 PM

the problem of "attendees" is not new, it was once solved by dropping out. As the Mass. Comm. of Education once said "When we determined that everyone should graduate from High School, we implicitly lowered the standards".

For all of that, I have always believed that parents had as much to do with education as teachers. It was commented bove that if parents had to pay directly, things would change. I don't doubt this would have some effect. But, still I think that many parents just don't care. I don't know what the percentage of illegitimate kids, or products of broken homes, but these are all further dampers on appropriate support at home.

What to do? I'm not sure.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 8, 2009 5:05 PM

You're right Dan. What was I thinking?

Posted by: Frank at December 8, 2009 6:36 PM
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