On Florida Senate Bill 6

By BloggyBayou standards, my post on the upcoming SB6 bill on education resulted in quite a few comments, all negative.  Some were more or less respectful, one or two were condescending in tone. One theme that ran through all the comments was I was essentially ignorant and really wasn’t qualified to comment on the subject.  I respectfully disagree. Here is the Link to the Post and you can read the comments yourself.  You can download a PDF of the comments here.

First, a few background facts about myself.  I have a BA in History; a Master’s degree in Oriental Studies (Mandarin) and a Masters in Computer Science (Software Engineering). I am a Retired Naval Intelligence Officer (I started off as a Surface Warfare Officer) and, most importantly, a father of a 14 year old son enrolled in public school.

It’s my Blog, so I get to cherry pick the comments I am going to write on, but please, for fairness sake, read the comments on the above link to get the commenters full gist of their thoughts. That is only fair.

The first issue I am going to address is the issue of the wearing of Red Shirts by Teachers as a sign of protest against SB6. To quote one commenter:

“About the red, we wore it to encourage each other. None of the kids cared and it was not a lesson of the day. [It could have been, after all, the red shirt was actually composed of all colors except red which is reflecting back at you so you can see it. Still with me?] “

Another said:

“Wearing red to school is in no way shape or form inappropriate.”

First, I understand red light issue, thank you very much.  However both are dead wrong about the “Red Shirt” issue.  My Son said all the students were aware of the significance of the teachers wearing “Red” and said ALL the students were talking about the bill (mostly in negative terms, strangely, just like their teachers).

My objection was (and REMAINS) that the introduction of this issue by the Teachers wearing “RED” in POLITICAL PROTEST of legitimate political activity by our legislature has absolutely NO PLACE in a public school.  It was wrong for the teachers to do this and I will actively object to any more displays or attempt to influence my son by such childish, 60’s style protests on any political issue.  SB6 and the ensuing discussion about it is for adult citizens and our elected officials. It is not for our children. As far as that act goes with me, it ranks right up there with a teacher trying to impose his or her religious beliefs on my Son.  Teachers who wore “Red” as political protest crossed a line that lowered my respect for the teaching profession, and quite frankly, doesn’t really impress me. I am the Customer.  My taxes; My son. 

The second Issue:  A reader said my Professor was joking when he said, on being granted tenure:

“I could get caught banging a student in the hallway and as long as she was 18 and willing, there isn’t anything they can do to me…”.

Err.. No he wasn’t.  And I got two words for you : Ward Churchill.  Only in an academic environment could such a scoundrel get away with the bald face lies, incompetence and outright fraud as demonstrated by that man. (Well, maybe in Politics too)  That he had support from active college students just goes to show how such malicious influence on young minds a professor can have (Bill Ayers, anyone?).  In the real world, he would have been fired in a day…Look how long it took to get rid of this jerk.  Such a system that allows this type of behavior to occur and is incapable of quick remedy (i.e, Firing his ass ASAP) needs to be rethought.

Issue three: Class Size.  One commenter said:

“You say that we should increase class size. Class size has a dramatic effect on how your child will learn. I have one class of 19 students with every child earning an A or B in that class. I teach two other classes of the same grade level and subject with 27 students in each class. These students do not do as well as the first class. As a teacher moving around the classroom assisting students as they work together, I get to each of the 19 students much more often than I can get to each of the 27 students.”

There is an honest difference of opinion on this.  Here is a link to download a study done for Congress by the Sanford’s Hoover Institute in 1998 and here is link to the site  Money quote from the author, Dr Eric A. Hanushek:

“Let me reiterate my one basic point. The available evidence provides a consistent conclusion that overall reductions in class size will not improve overall student achievement. Reducing class size is, however, one of the most expensive policies that we can contemplate. Putting resources into extensive class size reductions will preclude moving to better options – both because of fiscal drain and because such moves further lock-in the current ineffective structure of schools.”

Here is a link to more of the good Doctor’s work on the subject as well as his Curriculum Vitae.  In addition, here is the St. Pete Times assessment of Senator Gaetz’s claim the Constitutional amendment reducing class size has cost  Florida 16 BILLION dollars.  I can assure you , the Saint Petersburg Times is no friend of Don Gaetz. Much of that money was renting of temporary housing to meet the class size mandate…That is money down the drain.

Issue four: School Uniforms: I quote:

“You say uniforms are a less expensive way to clothe our children. That may be true for most children, but it shows your ignorance to the very poor families. These families traditionally get their clothing from cousins, friends, goodwill, etc. Most of their clothes are free. Uniforms would actually be more expensive for the families who have the least. Yes, donations can be asked for from those who can afford it, but that is not a guarantee. And what do we do with those who choose not to wear the uniform? Do we send them home and not give them an education? All our children have a right to an education, we cannot deny them one because of the clothes they wear.”

OK, I’m throwing the BS flag on this one.  School Uniforms can be jeans, a standard issued shirt for boys and girls or a standard issue skirt for girls and a blouse. Couple this with plain white tennis shoes from Kmart and you got a uniform.  I would say 99% of families could afford it and Churches and Charity could clothe the rest. (It would also alert the school immediately to high risk students whose family is having money issues) Schools could buy the uniforms in bulk and sell them at cost. The point is less adolescent emphasis on style and more emphasis on substance.  No gang colors allowed.

Issue five: The Voucher Program in DC that Obama killed:  I quote:

“[The] Voucher program in DC was not successful. It was wasting tax money and unconstitutionally funding religious schools with public money.”

Once again, a difference of opinion.  Here is a link that said it DID work.  Also, if memory serves me correctly, the parents that had children in the voucher program were upset it was canceled and they extended it till all enrolled students graduate.  Of note, no disputed the statement I made about the DC schools in general.  They are one of the most expensive schools system (per student) in the nation and have a mediocre graduation rate (72% in 2010). 

This tells me the issue is not money, but society.  You can throw money all day long at schools, but we won’t really make a difference until we start treating our students as children and not mini-adults with all the privileges and responsibilities that go with adulthood.  That means a reasonable sense of discipline is expected from the students and we hold parents accountable for their misbehaving children. It also calls for society to start to condemn much of the popular culture that our children are exposed to.  Hollywood’s narcissistic value system that our children are exposed to through all forms of the media, along with the Thug Rapper/hip-hop culture should be condemned and held in contempt by all, starting with the President and all the way down to the ditch-diggers of the world.

Issue six: How we are failing our sons:
Not one of the commenters addressed the issue of how we as a society, are are abandoning our sons. From reduced graduation rates to greatly reduced college admission rates (out of proportion to the actual ratio of the sexes), we have, in the name of sexual equality, done this at the expense of our sons, as if the politics of sexual equality is a zero sum game: That our sons had to lose so our girls could win. No one disputed that claim of mine. That is an ongoing problem that will continue to worsen until society and educators take responsibity for being part of the problem.

Issue Seven: There is the claim that because I am not a teacher, I truly cannot understand the issue: One example:

“I hope you continue to think about the issue and consider all of the factors that go into teaching. It is not as black and white as some would like it to be. Teaching is an art and not a science. Your comments about colleges prove that you do not understand this fundamental difference.”

Another quote:

“I have read numerous newspaper articles, forum comments, and blog posts by people no more qualified to judge a teacher’s worth than I am to judge a car mechanic, doctor, or nuclear physicist.”

I disagree.  I and my wife are teachers. We teach our son every day.  The gifted student you have before you is a product of our efforts to make him ready to be taught by you.  We taught him about respecting others and helping the less fortunate; I taught him the concept of personal honor; His mother and I taught him the concept that life is what you make of it and that sometimes, life is not always fair. We taught him that if he wants to make good grades, he must study.  We taught him right from wrong. We, in effect, made your job easier.

Finally, one reader recommended I read this article by a teacher.  I did.  Unfortunately, it was in the same publication that also published THIS.  Go figure

Have at me folks, I’ve been chewed out by Naval Masters of the Art and have managed to hold my own, if not win, most of the time.