Sunday, February 27, 2011



As I heard the tread of pupils coming up my ancient, creaking stairs, I felt like a tart awaiting her clients.

A.L. Rowse
On Life as an Oxford Don.

In the classroom, where the wheels hit the road, teachers face an unrewarding and frustrating tenure. It is an absolute wonder that we can even keep teachers in the classrooms of this country. Disruptive students, unsupportive parents and unproductive government requirements are the burden teachers carry as they try to impart information and process to their students.

I have taught elementary and high school, and have been an elementary and high school principal. I have made my bones in education and can speak with authority as both a teacher and administrator.

Now that I am retired, almost everyone I associate with is a non-educator. And, when the subject of education comes up, as it often does, without exception I have to listen to complaints of how bad teachers are, how easy their job is and that they are overpaid. Both parents and grandparents seem to relish criticizing teachers in general. The less educated the respondent the more critical the complaints.

Most teachers are better educated than your bank president. Many teachers have one or more Masters Degrees and some have Doctorates. Yet, doctors and lawyers and bank presidents do not have to recertify every four years, but teachers do. The federal government is constantly devising new hoops for teachers to jump through to obtain or retain their certification. Teachers do not work from nine-to-five. Most teachers arrive at school an hour to and hour-and-a-half early to prepare their classrooms and lessons and remain after school for an hour or more. Almost all teachers work at home on their lesson plans and take papers home to be graded. Teachers are required to participate in parent teacher meetings and in school and after school enrichment and sport activities for students. Yet, when states attempt to reign in spending the first item on the chopping block is always teacher pay and benefits.

Chaos ruled in the classroom
As bravely the teacher walked in.
The havoc wreakers ignored him.
His voice was lost in the din.

Roger McGough
The Lesson

Parents have trouble disciplining two or three of their own children. They usually find that giving in and compromising with them results is a more congenial home environment. They deal with outburst, resistance to authority and temper fits at home, yet can’t understand how their child could be a problem in school.

When students come into a classroom they are required to sit in an assigned seat – which they do not want to do. They are required not to communicate with other students – which they resent. They are required to pay attention – which they do not want to do. They are required a modicum of decorum - which they resent. They are given assignments – which they do not wish to complete. Students resent the teacher’s authority which attempts to curtail the egocentric adolescent peer structure that is the primary focus of their entire lives.

Students would much prefer a chaotic classroom. When teachers can’t keep order the students are in charge. The greatest pleasure that a classroom can derive is to demoralize a new teacher.

Class discipline must be the major objective of the classroom teacher before instruction can commence. In a public school classroom of twenty-plus students you will find a small number of students paying attention – a larger number of students distracted – and a small number of students intent on disrupting the instruction. Discipline is achieved by establishing class routines. In an ideal classroom students would carry out the routine with very little input from the teacher. It only takes one or two disruptive students to destroy the class routine and disrupt the teacher’s presentation.

Little Johnny comes into the classroom every day and during the middle of the lesson drops his text books onto the floor, or in some way creates a big commotion. When given detention by the teacher (the only disciplinary tool a teacher has) Little Johnny tells his parents that he accidentally dropped his books and the teacher punished him. Into school comes the irate Mom to complain to the principle and accuse the teacher of picking on her kid. In the majority of cases the principal will not back the teacher and try and placate the parent.


Little Jill insist on talking to her girlfriend during the lesson; and when called down she is snotty, uncooperative and obnoxious. When she receives a C on her report card: in comes Mom…

The principal was hired with the approval of the school board – and little Johnny’s and little Jill’s mothers are both on the school board. The principal is responsible for the teachers and the instructional quality. But, the principal is also responsible for placating the school board that can hire and fire the superintendent: the principal’s immediate boss. At the administrative level, appeasing parents is the politics game that is necessary to mollify a school board composed of non-educators. School Board level politics absorbs most principal’s attention in deference to instructional oversight. The principal’s job relies on keeping parents (thus Superintendent, thus School Board) happy.

At the classroom level, smaller class sizes and the ability to remove disruptive students would enhance the learning environment and allow teachers to teach and students to learn. Parents of disruptive and uncooperative students should be held responsible for their children’s behavior.

At the district level, removing non-educators ( school boards politics) from the education equation would result in the ability of administrators to focus on educational quality and achievement at individual schools. It would allow principals to confront parents of disruptive students with real world choices: insist your child behave and cooperate with teachers or fund you child in a private school.

At the national level, removing the unqualified government officials from establishing education reform would be a giant step toward positive reformation of the nation’s schools. Remember, politicians have no standardized test to qualify for their job – so have no proven qualification to oversee schools.

"Is our children learning?"
George W. Bush

I am not a proponent of public schools as they exist today; and do not see vouchers as an answer.

Here is my formula for bringing public schools into the 21st century:

Congress should only have authority to approve financing for public schools. A Cabinet Level, federal education department, composed of certified educators, should have the authority to contract with professional education companies that would run schools as a business. Companies could be held accountable to the state and federal education department for student achievement. A state department of educations, composed of certified educators, should be able to modify federal standards for their unique population. School facilities, infrastructure and maintenance should be the responsibility of the state

It makes sense that companies composed of certified professional educators could run schools more efficiently and economically than the present public education system.

I am sick of hearing about the need to increasing teacher certification requirements and the existence of unqualified teachers as the problem of education. This is the barking cry of politicians running for reelection.

This nation does not respect teachers. Parents do not support teachers. And, no one wants to admit that the lack of parental discipline and parental expectation are the overriding factor in a failed education system. Students come into the classroom undisciplined and unreceptive. The education of the child should be the parent’s responsibility – the school should be there to assist.

All right - I've rethought it: One more entry on education,
The Ol'Buzzard

Sunday, February 13, 2011



My wife in her classroom - an Indian village in Alaska

I hate that adage. We are living in the here-and-now and we are fucking up our here-and-now. Children will have their own chance and time to fuck up their here-and-now, when they stick you, their parents, in the old-folks-home. (Actually, I don’t have much future and no kids to stick me in an old folks home; so, I am just sitting here reflecting on how I ended up who I am.)

To be fair to the little darlings, we have set a Herculean task for them. Not only has our population doubled every forty years, but our information base has also increased exponentially.

For those of you that don’t understand the math concept of exponential – it means doubling. If you take a chess board with sixty-four squares and place one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second square, four on the third square and eight on the fourth square etc. – you would end up burying the earth under 18.5 quintillion grains of rice (185 with eighteen zeros behind it.)

But I digress.


Let’s profile a comparison of the educated person of 1900, 1955 and 2011.


Repository of Knowledge:    The individual

Resources:    Newspapers and personally owned books

Ability:    Read and write – basic arithmetic


Basic Arithmetic/ basic science/ history/ literature

Desired Education:    High School

In 1900, high school was considered an adequate education. The individual’s personal knowledge was his repository of information and his resources were news papers and the few books that he owned. He could read, write and do mathematics computations. He had a basic knowledge of math, general science, history and literature


Repository of Knowledge:     The individual with access to books and libraries

Resources:     Newspapers, Radio, Library access: reference books, technical manuals

Ability:     Read and write – higher math and science


Math/ Algebra/ Geometry/ Calculus/ Trigonometry/ Chemistry/ Biology/ Physics/ History/ Civics/ Literature/ Grammar/

Desired Education:     College degree

By 1955 most businesses considered a two or four year college degree to be an adequate education. The individual was still his own repository of knowledge. His resources were news papers, radio, TV and books he owned or had access to through library resources, which including encyclopedias, atlases and technical publications


Repository of Knowledge:     World Wide Web – libraries and archives

Resources:     Computers, i-pads, cell phones

Ability:     Read and write – higher math and science – techno literate


Recent advances in Math/ Algebra/ Geometry/ Calculus/ Trigonometry/ Chemistry/ Biology/ Physics/ Earth Science/ History/ Civics/ Literature/ Grammar/ Electronic media/ Computer literacy/ Internet fluency/ Technology

Desired Education:     Graduate Degree

In the present, most businesses would consider a graduate degree as desirable. The base of knowledge has become so vast that the individual can not possibly retain all that he needs to known. His resources are now the World Wide Web, with instant access to information on an unprecedented scale. Our education depends as much on our ability to access and process information as to the retention of information.


The focus of today’s schools, thanks to political interference, is so broad that teachers are floundering in the information jungle. We need to get back to basics. Our elementary schools should focus on reading, writing, math and science. Our middle schools and high schools should focus on civics, history, geography, language arts, higher math and advanced science. All high school students should be furnished a laptop computer and have technology incorporated in the basic subject core. Disruptive students should be removed from the regular classroom and placed in alternative school where they have smaller classrooms and constant supervision and cannot disrupt the process of education. Sports programs should be an after school activity, but never operated in conflict with the academic curriculum

Schools should teach and parents should be held responsible for the welfare and behavior of their children. Schools can not be tasked to take over the parent’s responsibilities for health and welfare. Parents need to feed, cloth and get their children to school on time. Parents need to be held responsible for their children’s behavior in school, and out; and their supervision after school, with a responsible curfew and bed time. Birth control and the supervision of the child’s sexual activity is definitely a parent’s responsibility; though, sex-education should be a required class for junior high students. Social services, not the school, should be responsible for parenting shortfalls.

All educators know that parents and teachers must work together to educate children; but, the division of labor should be that schools supply the academic enrichment and parents be responsible for all the rest.

Is this idealistically? Absolutely, since the only require for being a parent is the ability to breed. And, as long as we have young, irresponsible women who breed and drop kids, society (and the schools) will have a problem dealing with the results.

These feral kids come to school with aberrant social behavior, psychological problems and with little or no parental control or oversight. They are incorrigible and disruptive – they have little basic knowledge and no desire to learn. When placed in a classroom with twenty or more students, these kids can and will bring teaching and learning to a halt. On the darker side, some of these kids are dangerous.

So we see that education has become a complex social issue that can not be solved with more teacher testing, standardized curriculum and a required standardized testing outcome. The failure in education is the failure in parenting and government over-regulation.


1. Remove the federal government from the educational process – their business should be funding only.

2. Remove all national standards from education.

3. Local school boards, made up of parents and other non educators, should be disbanded, or - at the most, convened in advisory capacity only.

4. Each state should have a State Board of Education, made up entirely of educators, that decides the process and standards for their unique populations.

5. Alternative schools should be instituted for habitually disruptive students.

6. More teachers should be hired and class sizes should never be more than 15 to 1 student/teacher ratio.

7. Educators should be paid professional salaries that correspond to their education and experience, with additional compensation for difficult placements.

8. Student loans should be forgiven for new teachers willing to accept difficult placements.

My next blog will be my third and final dealing with the problems of education:  we will take a look at the politics in education at the local level that negatively effects in-classroom teaching. 



What the hell has happened to men’s billfolds? I remember when men carried a thin leather envelope that contained some folding money and a paper driver’s license. You never even knew it was in your back pocket. There were no credit cards or cards of any ilk. Life was simpler then – you wanted to buy something that cost five dollars and fifty cents you took out your billfold, extracted a five and a one and received your change, which you put in your front pocket. Some men even carried small change holders so change wouldn’t clank around in their pocket. You never had more than one dollar in change because you used it.

I just took a look at my billfold: I hate my billfold. It is like a big nylon clod that bulges from my back pocket. When I sit down I have to position myself, so I don’t feel like I’ve got a stone under my ass.

My billfold doesn’t even have any bills in it. It should be called a card bomb, not a billfold. I have to carry my bills in a money clip in my front pocket because there is no room in my billfold for bills.

Instead mine contains: A commercial insurance card, a military insurance card, a VA identification card, a social security card, a prescription card and a Franklin Memorial Hospital Wellness Card. Then there is a driver’s license, a military I.D. card, a credit card and a debit card. But that’s not enough: I have an AARP card, a bowling league card, lifetime hunting and fishing license, a volunteer water quality monitoring I.D. card, a card each from two credit unions, a United Bikers of Maine I.D. card and a Gold LEAF Senior College card. I also carry the registration for my Canoe.

At home I have an envelope with more cards that I don’t have room for in my card bomb.

There should be a better way to deal with cards. Perhaps they should develop an application for cell phones that would allow you to download all your cards. Except, I only have a basic cell phone so that wouldn’t help me.

Maybe I should have a man-purse – a shoulder bag like my wife. Then I would be able to carry all my cards and even my money. I could put in my pocket knife, bandanna  and my key ring and free up all my pants pocket. I might even stick in a flint and steel in case I ever wanted to build an emergency camp fire. Small binoculars would be nice. Oh yes; my GPS. There would be room for my camera; definitely a space for my cell phone…fishing hooks, line, BC powers, reading glasses, my i-pod. I could have a built-in holster for a concealed weapon. The possibilities could be endless.

But that would never work. If it couldn’t fit in my pocket then I’d probably lay it down some place and loose it.

my next blog will definitely complete my discussion on education.
(Unless i get sidetracked again.)