Monday, October 10, 2011

Competing With Under-Achievement….

tarkenton I just finished reading a terrific and thought inspiring article by Fran Tarkenton. It was published in the Wall Street Journal, although the link provided will take you to Mr. Tarkenton’s personal page. Growing up, Mr. Tarkenton was one of those celebrities for whom I couldn’t form a definitive opinion. He played quarterback for the Vikings and the Giants. Two big checkmarks in the old “con” column. On the other hand, he hosted a TV show called That’s Incredible. The show was the first to ever coin the phrase “Don’t try this at home.” You can imagine the interest anything requiring that kind of disclaimer would have generated in a nine to twelve year old kid! I later discovered that Mr. Tarkenton was not only a Georgia Bulldawg, but also a staunch conservative and my opinion was cemented. He’s a man worthy of my occasional attention.

In the article, Mr Tarkenton asks us to imagine what the NFL would be like if the players were paid in the same fashion as our public school teachers. If Tom Brady was paid the same as a backup kicker wearing the jersey of his thirteenth different team, would you watch? If athletes were paid based on little other than tenure, would the competition be as fierce? If you arrived at anything other than “NO”, you’re an imbecile. Why then do we allow our education system to be run in this manner?

Mr. Tarkenton’s article raises some serious questions. Pro-Football would be about as exciting as a WNBA preseason scrimmage if players weren’t motivated by that almighty dollar. The argument can be made that athletes are paid way too much money, but have you ever heard one of them say that? (No, that wasn’t a joke.) Are you telling me that any wide-receiver would be out there taking passes over the middle if he was getting paid less than the guy sitting on the warm bench for 56 of the 60 minutes in a December game? He would not. The guys we crowd into bars, couches, and stadiums to watch fervently every Sunday are not doing it for honor. They’re doing it for money. The ones that do it the best are doing it for more money.

Just like Mr. Tarkenton, I believe there are huge problems within the education system in our country. I too believe that Teachers Unions have crippled our education system. Please don’t take that to mean I don’t think there are any good teachers out there. In fact, take that to mean that the good teachers who are out there deserve the same kind of credit as a decorated war hero. They have found a way to succeed in a broken system. That does not mean that the system doesn’t need to be retooled a bit. Right now, the sins of the American Education System include limits placed on creativity in both student and teacher, wasted resources and inhibited parental involvement. There is no feedback mechanism like there is in any other kind of business. The government continues to pour billions upon billions of dollars into a system that promotes lethargy and then fails to identify avenues of real change. They instead invent terms like “progressive” to use whenever the rest of us don’t agree with their ideology. They present themselves and their ilk as the supreme intellect and talk down to the rest of us until we are almost embarrassed to express our views even when every fiber of our being tells us that we are right! Again, there are teachers out there who are managing to thrive in horrendous circumstances. there are teachers out there who gladly spend their own money to give the kids they teach the very best they can possibly give. I applaud those teachers and again believe they deserve far more than what they receive. Even more maddening is that those few teachers often make less than the uninvolved, tenured teachers who can’t be fired unless an extreme case of wrongdoing can be proven.

For decades, we have been told that everything would improve if we just built new buildings and put computers in every classroom. I’m not saying that schools don’t need computers. They do. I’m saying that there is not a school out there without at least one computer nicer than the one you’re reading this article on. Technology is there, testmisspelled-words scores are still abysmal. Billions of dollars in, yet no results. Instead, our esteemed President has now informed us, by way of yet another stimulus package disguised as something else, that we need to give up billions for “public school modernization.” Haven’t we done that? Like several times? Where did all of that money go? When change is attempted, unions obstruct. That’s the way bullies work. Unfortunately, these bullies have more of a say in what is taught to my son, and who teaches it, than I do. If they get wind of a teacher being fired, lawsuits are initiated to block the firings and ineffective educators stay in front of the chalkboard flushing out functioning illiterates into the rivers of our economy, political landscape, and global representation every year.

I would love to see a system in place where schools could compete for students. Let’s see a system like that of the NFL for schools. I would love to watch my son work his butt off to get into a school that honored his performance with more than any other school was willing to offer. I’m not suggesting any monetary promises. I understand the dangers there. I’m talking about nicer facilities; teachers that specialize in and promote the kind of education he wants. If he shows a strong interest in science, let him go to a school with exceptional science facilities and educators. If he shows promise as a writer, let him go to a school that promotes such creative outlet. If he learns like one group of kids, don’t keep him with another. That doesn’t mean he gets a free pass in other subjects, but why not let the schools “sell” themselves to the students. If the school recruits well, and consistently hits the marks set forth for them by their governing body, then they get a bigger percentage of the shared profits than the schools who performed at the lowest levels. Take the focus off of the teachers and their damn tenure and put it on the kids where it belongs. NOW!!!

I had the rather bewildering opportunity a few years ago to work with a company that handles all of the voluntary benefits for many of the school districts in this region of the country. Things like Disability Insurance, Cancer Indemnity, etc. A full menu of options for which the teachers could pay if interested. The financial knowledge of some of the IMAG0433 people teaching your children was frightening enough, but that’s a different story for a different day. The thing that stuck out most in my mind was that the professionalism and general attitudes of the teachers had very little to do with the facilities, the technology present in the school. It had almost nothing to do with the level of income in the surrounding neighborhoods. The attitude of the teachers in the varying districts had to do with the attitudes of those in charge. Where positive energy and outlooks were present in the top tiers of a district’s leadership, it could be found in the teachers and even the students. Where rude behavior, lack of professionalism, and negativity had become the accepted norm, the schools were places I wouldn’t send my son to serve an armed robbery sentence! In one school, in a small town east of Saint Louis, I had a teacher throw a chair at me toangry teacher illustrate her disdain for life insurance. I had another tell me that she was going to “make sure her union knew that I was there preying on the younger, uneducated teachers.” Yes, how dare I protect that pregnant teacher’s income during her maternity leave. I really am a bastard, but these are not the people I want teaching my kids. In San Francisco last week, a first grade class was taken to a same-sex wedding because the school board deemed it a “teachable moment”. Why is it that the schools who encourage their teachers to teach the things that a teacher should teach (Math, Science, Reading/English/Writing, History) are always so much more positive than the ones who encourage their faculty to teach things that students should learn at home? I don’t want my son learning anything about marriage, politics, or religion at school, even if the teacher happens to believe everything I believe. Religion is a family issue, but if you’re going to send your child to a  public school in the United States, you understand that it is funded by the government of that country. A government that was founded on Christian beliefs. When your child pledges allegiance to the Flag at the beginning of each day, they do so in accordance with the laws of the government paying for your child's education. You do not have the right to abolish the pledge because you don’t agree with it. Disagree at home, not in front of my son who happens to support a Christian God and a Patriotic Family.

Hope you all had a great weekend and Thanks For Playing!