No doubt public education will be a topic of discussion for the upcoming elections in 2014 and 2016, and most likely those discussions will include mention of how crucial education infrastructure is for a healthy economy, which is true. At the same time, what so often gets marginalized in the miring of education and “the Knowledge Economy” or the undue focus on STEM are individuals, individuality, and the purpose for education. I think it is well worth the time taken to consider what it is that We the People want from our education system overall. For example, do we want a system that develops individual people who are civic minded, creative and critical thinkers or is our concern for our education systems solely to “prepare” children and young adults for a “world of work” or is there some way to balance these for a more integrated approach to public education?


Likewise, precisely how we value education and by extension how any potential candidate for any office values education would seem to me worthy of deep introspection and evaluation. I, for one, would like to hear more transformative rhetoric on the part of potential candidates about pedagogy and educational philosophy with respect to both public education and higher learning. A couple of items to foster some thought-provoking questions for candidates:


First up sociologist Richard Ingersoll’s research on Why Do Teachers Quit?


Ingersoll extrapolated and then later confirmed that anywhere between 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years (that includes the nine and a half percent that leave before the end of their first year.) Certainly, all professions have turnover, and some shuffling out the door is good for bringing in young blood and fresh faces. But, turnover in teaching is about four percent higher than other professions.

Approximately 15.7 percent of teachers leave their posts every year, and 40 percent of teachers who pursue undergraduate degrees in teaching never even enter the classroom at all. With teacher effectiveness a top priority of the education reform movement, the question remains: Why are all these teachers leaving—or not even entering the classroom in the first place?

“One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible,” Ingersoll says. “But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect,” he says. “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”

 Ingersoll’s conclusion:

“Respected, well-paid lines of work do not have shortages,” Ingersoll says. He adds that he is happy with his new career, but he would still be a high school history teacher had it not been for the lack of respect and low salary he experienced. For a lot of teachers I spoke with, this seems to be the common sentiment: If the overall attractiveness of teaching as a profession gets better, the best teachers will enter the profession, stay, and help increase the effectiveness of schools.

“To improve the quality of teaching,” Ingersoll says, you need to “improve the quality of the teaching job.” And, “If you really improve that job… you would attract good people and you would keep them.”



Ken Robinson on creativity – what I would term “genuine creativity” and not the co-opted (usurped) usage for the political purpose of promoting economic “innovation”  – this lecture is from 2006, but still entirely relevant to the development of strong, sustainable education systems with a human (individual) focus rather than a market focus:



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3 Responses to Some Ideas on Education

  1. Ed Heinzelman says:

    From a recent JSOnline article on UWM grads having the highest amount of student debt in the UW system:

    “A “proud” UW-Milwaukee graduate, Republican Rep. David Craig said he hadn’t studied the debt issue.

    But Craig had another question for the UW System:

    “I am puzzled as to why UW System schools would ignore our current labor demands and offer programs like dance, art history, gender and ethnic studies, folklore, music literature and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies.”

    A UWM alum and he doesn’t understand the value of various fields of study? UWM should ask for his diploma back. He don’t get it!

  2. PJ says:

    Good God, the stomach turns! I’m all for the “breadth of knowledge,” interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches in Higher Education providing that curricula isn’t too broad and leaves room for serious and devoted study of a particular field(s), but Craig’s linearity is exactly the kind of anti-pedagoical avenue leading to the development of cogs rather than people.


  3. John Casper says:

    Until war criminals like Dick Cheney, George Bush, John Yoo,…. are held to account, until Wall Street executives are held to account, I see very little chance for teachers to make an impact w/r/t teaching “civic-mindedness.”

    That, however, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make the effort.

    “Hugh Clowers Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006) was a United States Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He is best known for his role in stopping the My Lai Massacre, in which a group of US Army soldiers tortured and killed several hundred unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mutilating their bodies after they had been murdered.”

    “When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. Second Lieutenant William Calley (commanding officer of the 1st Platoon, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation:[7]

    Thompson: What’s going on here, Lieutenant?
    Calley: This is my business.
    Thompson: What is this? Who are these people?
    Calley: Just following orders.
    Thompson: Orders? Whose orders?
    Calley: Just following…
    Thompson: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
    Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I’m in charge here. It ain’t your concern.
    Thompson: Yeah, great job.
    Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
    Thompson: You ain’t heard the last of this!

    Thompson took off again, and Andreotta reported that Mitchell was now executing the people in the ditch. Furious, Thompson flew over the northeast corner of the village and spotted a group of about ten civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Pursuing them were soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company. Realizing that the soldiers intended to murder the Vietnamese, Thompson landed his aircraft between them and the villagers. Thompson turned to Colburn and Andreotta and told them that if the Americans began shooting at the villagers or him, they should fire their M60 machine guns at the Americans:[8] “Y’all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!” He then dismounted to confront the 2nd Platoon’s leader, Stephen Brooks. Thompson told him he wanted help getting the peasants out of the bunker:[8]

    Thompson: Hey listen, hold your fire. I’m going to try to get these people out of this bunker. Just hold your men here.
    Brooks: Yeah, we can help you get ’em out of that bunker—with a hand grenade!
    Thompson: Just hold your men here. I think I can do better than that.

    Brooks declined to argue with him, even though as a commissioned officer he outranked Thompson…”,_Jr.

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