Why We Need More Bill Nye and Less Government Intervention

2 Sep

Okay, so EducationWeek has this really cool interactive timeline on American education policies since the Reagan era (81-89). I know you’re all chomping at the bit to get to it, so CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Honestly though, this timeline is pretty cool. It’s great for some perspective. For instance, did you know that in 1983, education pundits were worried about the new technology of computers not allowing for equal education opportunities to all students? 38 years later and it’s the same battle with computers, Internet access, Smartboards, and oh, let’s not forget up to date textbooks and up to code buildings.

The next report in the timeline, also 1983, declares that the American education system has lagged into mediocrity.

Later in ’83, Reagan “seizes educational initiative” by suggesting a reformed method of paying teachers – merit pay (basing teacher pay off student performance on standardized tests).

Later in ’83: a shortage of teachers for math and science! Let’s create incentives.

1984: The Secretary of Education creates a program that will give $1 million in grants to districts ONLY IF they implement merit-pay measures (Race to the Top, any one?)

’85 – Bilingual policies have failed. (Fast forward to 2011 – still failing)

Later in 1985 – Vouchers are approved for private schools!

1987 – I was born.

Why is it that the issues we were fighting to solve 30+ years ago are the same issues we’re fighting to solve today? Shouldn’t we have made some progress?

Nope. Instead we’re suggesting the same solutions that failed to work in the 80’s. Let’s get teachers on merit pay, even though standardized tests are supposed to be used a tool to understand individual student achievements/areas of need so that we can better teach the individual. Let’s keep sending public money to private schools via vouchers. Let’s force districts into implementing laws by dangling big fat funding in front of their faces. And it’s still impossible to interest any one in teaching science or math.

My ideas: let’s do away with the idea that standardized tests indicate intelligence, create better evaluation systems for teachers and better assessments of student progress and academic growth, STOP giving tax money to private ventures, DO give the federal government the boot when it tries to bully/coax states into legislation, take back our ability to self-govern, and hire Bill Nye to motivate college students to become science teachers.

One look is all he needs to make those kids switch degrees

If all that is too wistful, we can always go back to to the interactive timeline and wonder at our inability to change.

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