Real Education: Ability Varies

March 16, 2010

Reprinted from my previous and now defunct blog…

How does our society deal with controversial ideas? For too many, the first reaction (regardless of our place on the ideological spectrum) tends to be to label those with whom we disagree in order to cast them in the worst possible light. If the ideas of those we disagree with happens to have empirical backing, another successful strategy is to simply ignore their arguments. A great example of this is Charles Murray’s book Real Education. I initially hesitated to pick up this book because of memories of intellectual pressure from my college days: The Bell Curve (which he co-authored) was reportedly the work of a reactionary, and by extension anyone who read and engaged the ideas in a work by such an author was guilty by association.

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Book Review: Smart Kids, Bad Schools

January 30, 2010

Here’s a book review that I first posted on my “old” blog back in 2008 for starters.  The book has an authentic perspective on the real frustrations of attempting to maintain a sense of professionalism as an educator.

Brian Crosby has been in the “trenches” of the education system for a long time. As a twenty-year veteran of the Los Angeles school system and a National Board Certified teacher, Mr. Crosby brings a bluntly honest perspective to the topic of education reform in his latest book, Smart Kids, Bad Schools: 38 Ways to Save America’s Future.

Mr. Crosby’s book contains a little bit of something to offend everybody. This is a good thing when dealing with a system as entrenched and archaic as the public education system. His book is literally packed with ideas on ways to make the school system work better, such as creating career ladders for teachers, curtailing the power of teachers unions, modeling administration training on MBA programs, increasing vocational education, and near and dear to my heart, mandating arts education.

Smart Kids is at its best, however, when Mr. Crosby tackles all the little indignities which pile up on teachers to destroy their sense of professionalism. His blood truly boils as he describes the “Sweatshop Schoolhouse”. Anyone who has ever worked in a public school will immediately sympathize with his description of buildings and schedules which are nearly indistinguishable from prisons, teachers denied keys to their own offices (classrooms…as if most teachers had an office!), and administrators who take meticulous roll at faculty meetings but never visit classrooms. In what other profession do adults with masters degrees need to ask permission to use the bathroom? What other profession asks employees to put in countless hours of overtime without financial remuneration? Mr. Crosby hits the nail on the head as he describes the lack of trust afforded classroom teachers by administrators, and the lack of respect given by parents and communities.

Those who have never taught yet think that teaching is an “easy” job with great perks and benefits owe it to themselves to read books such as Mr. Crosby’s Smart Kids, or his first book, The $100,000 Teacher. The stark reality of what teachers face every day can truly be a shock for those who have never stood on the teacher’s end of the desk. If we are ever to truly reform our educational system to provide students with the opportunities they deserve, we need more brave educators like Brian Crosby to stand up and be honest about the failings of our system.