Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tim "Elbows" Pawlenty?

An entire cottage industry, and at least one political party, have arisen around the blood sport of bashing public schools. One of the state's pre-eminent practitioners of the game is Tim "Elbows" Pawlenty. Timmy is to education what mold is to the bread in your kitchen: a real spoiler.

So it was therefore no especial surprise when Elbows tossed some new bilge balls at high school education in his latest State of the State address. Here's some of what Elbows had to say:
"Too many of our high school students today are engaged in academic
loitering for much of their high-school career," Pawlenty told a joint
House-Senate assembly. "In too many cases our high school students are
bored, checked-out, coasting, not even vaguely aware of their post-high
school plans, if they have any, and are just marking time." [here's a PDF of the whole speech]
Unlike Timmy, of course, who knew from an early age that he wanted to be an oily, sanctimonious, and duplicitous politician! Maybe he and Katie can get together and sing a verse or two of What's the Matter with Kids Today?

Here's one thing that Elbows wants to do:
Other features of the Pawlenty schools plan include a 2 percent,
no-strings-attached annual funding bump for schools over the next two
years, another 2 percent increase for schools that post sterling math
and reading test results, and more money for high tech, online learning
Two percent will not even cover inflation, and here's what will happen if you provide the two percent reward for "sterling" math and reading test scores: school teachers and administrators will be encouraged even more to teach to a test to whip the little buggers into earning the money for the school. (Some of you may recall the Simpsons' episode where Lisa cheated on a test that wound up earning the school some money that got spent for a lot of Principal Skinner's pet projects, including a new high-tech scoreboard.)

That will make school ever so much more interesting and relevant to the students! (Spot's not as self-referential as he used to be, but he does want to call your attention, boys and girls, to a post he did about the Yerkes-Dodson Law that shows that all the high stakes testing is counter productive for a lot of students.)

Elbows refers to comments made by Bill Gates about the inadequacy of high schools today. Bill is looking, at least in part, for the next generation of insects to secrete all the code that will be necessary to keep the economy humming. We've had an industrial, vocational-centered public school system really since Horace Mann introduced the Prussian Education System in the US in the middle of the 19th century.

If there is something wrong with public high schools, we surely aren't going to fix it by requiring even more rote drilling and testing.

Spot will have more on this later, including perhaps some words from an educator who has given this whole subject a lot of thought.

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