10 Commandments for Education
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- Thou shall never forget that the most important people in schools are the students, first, last and always. Nothing trumps their importance, not your job or your cousin/uncle/aunt/mistress' job, not your favorite policy, not the school principal, not the school board, not even the teachers. Nothing!!
- Thou shall not oppose any one-size-fits-all testing scheme with one breath and advocate for any public school only education model with the next breath. Should thou do so, thou shall be branded hypocritical and disingenuous at best and stupid at worst.
- Thou shall not treat your job in education as a sinecure or as a property right, they are neither. If you are a bad teacher or bad administrator, then you should be terminated, as soon as possible, so as to minimize the damage to students.
- Thou shall remember that choice and liberty have a longer history as the world institution than public schools. The fact that we have public education shall not deny parents and students the right to vote with their feet if their school is failing. We can choose our church, our elected representatives and just about everything else in life, but we can't choose our schools or choose to change schools when they fail?
- Thou shall not embrace and adopt every educational or pedagogical fad that crosses your desk. Changes to pedagogy and instructional methods should only be undertaken when supported by verifiable, reliable and repeated research and testing. Just because it is new does not make it better. There is a reason why students who learn math through drill and kill do better on tests--because it works!!! New fads in teaching children come along all the time. Unless they have been solidly tested and work for a majority of students, we don't want to see them in wide use in classrooms. Education is not a progressive movement or an experimental test bed. It is by nature a conservative movement, seeking to retain the best practices. It should be slow to change in methods and quick to change in keeping up with the latest knowledge.
- Thou shall remember the immortal words of President Ronald Reagan, "Trust, but verify." Thou shall trust teachers to do their job, but understand that parents and the public have a right to verify. We entrust our children to the care of teachers and school administrators every day and for the most part they do their job well. But when it comes to the verify part, we, the public, receive a great deal of resistance when parents seek verification of the job the teacher is doing. That verification may come from regular meetings, phone calls and emails to standardized tests. The slow nature of education requires regular updates and school officials and teachers must understand that parents want something more than platitudes when it comes to their kids.
- Thou shall not ask for more money unless you can show the previous money has been properly spent. Money will no longer solve the ills of education, better management will. For decades we, the public have been told that if we just spent a little more money on education, we could educate children better.
- Thou doth not need all that bureaucracy. Schools are a place of learning for children, not employment for adults. Every time the teachers unions talk about paying teachers more, we want to scream. Every time school systems complain about poor funding, we want to scream. No school system needs as many administrative personnel as they have teachers. There is a great deal of talk about smaller student-teacher ratios, but what is the student-administrator/district staff ratio? We are willing to bet when you take all those district level employees/school support staff/bureaucrats and add them up, you will probably have a student-administrator ratio better than the student-teacher ratio and that is wrong. Catholic schools system in Washington, DC reportedly operates with a district staff of about 10 and that is for dozens of schools. If they can do it, so can public schools.
- Thou shall not make excuses based on your students’ socio-economic status, race, alienage or any other classification. It is your responsibility to teach all students equally. For every one of those stories, we hear of success stories, kids who "defied the odds." Every kid is capable of "defying the odds" and can be done if just stop calculating the odds and start working with each kid.
- Thou shall not forget Commandment One--ever.Thus endeth the sermon.