Teaching

Editorials and commentary about teaching and related matters.
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The End of Teacher Tenure As We Know It?
Teacher tenure in our public schools is under attack. Will tenure as we know it survive? Some thoughts here.
A couple of years ago when tenure for professors began to look like a thing of the past, I remember thinking that tenure for K-12 teachers would probably be next on the chopping block. And so the rumblings which I thought I heard off in the distance were indeed the precursor of a serious storm. With that in mind let's explore the issue and try to understand what is happening with the concept of teacher tenure in the United States.
 
The California decision
 
The judge in the case certainly came down hard against teacher tenure. I am not a lawyer but it seemed to me that the root of his judicial displeasure was the way the California statutes had been written. To understand where those laws originated, you have to go back in time to the early part of the twentieth century and indeed even earlier. Back then teachers could be fired when ever a school board or administrator decided. Essentially teachers had no due process. Teacher protection in the form of tenure was a German idea which began to take hold across the United States back in the 1920s and 1930s. Tenure also curbed another abuse of the teaching profession which was interference from politicians. Teaching positions were considered patronage plums that politicians handed out.
In my opinion tenure for public K-12 teachers was a necessary protection a hundred years ago. But as with all things the times have changed. Since pbulic education is governed and
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Academic Excellence: Any Future with a C Average and No Skills?
A challenging academic program combined with training in life skills is your best weapon against mediocre results.
My late father-in-law, Dr. James Garnett Lyne, used to refer to what he called 'mass mediocrity' whenever he discussed education. Like me, he was a product of a public school education. Neither of our parents could afford a private school education.
 
What did he mean by 'mass mediocrity'? He was referring to what he feared would be the result of a general lowering of standards in our schools. He argued that the less qualified teachers were, the less they were paid and the less demanding high school curricula were, the more we as a society would descend into 'mass mediocrity'. Dr. Lyne has been gone for 45 years. Yet his prescient words still haunt me. You see, back then, I had no clue what he was talking about. None. That scholarly father-in-law of mine was given to many well-reasoned pronouncements. I figured that this was just one more and filed it away in my memory bank.
 
This video from Toastmasters International offers five tips for effective public speaking.

 
Graduates lack basic business skills
 
In my own daily life and work, I am well aware of what high school graduates - both public and private school graduates - bring to the table. The lack of basic business communication skills is appalling. And I don't think that Twitter and texting is the reason. I remain convinced until somebody can show me otherwise that most high school students are simply not taught how to write business communications. They
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Should Latin be Taught?
The benefits of studying a dead language.
Does a dead language have any place in a 21st-century curriculum? Is it useful? Is it relevant? Does it have value as an enrichment to the core curriculum? I think it does and for the following reasons.
 
1. Latin offers young people a glimpse into the life and times of the ancient Romans.
 
Yes, they can read about ancient Rome and watch videos. They can learn about expansion of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar. All that information is readily available. But it is filtered information. The whole point of learning a language is to be able to read source materials. I don't want somebody telling me what Julius Caesar said. I want to read it for myself. I want to understand what Caesar said, why he said it, how he said it - the works.
 
With that assumption in mind, it makes sense to allow students to experience the language by learning how to speak it. Perhaps Latin may be a dead language in the sense that it is no longer the lingua franca of commerce and world affairs. On the other hand, Latin is a beautiful sounding language that will delight young listeners.
 
I will disclaim that I learned Latin back in the 50s and 60s when it was taught in the rather old-fashioned way languages were taught back then. You learned endless conjugations and declensions. You struggled with Latin's nuanced sense of tense. Et cetera. It would have been rather dry and dull had it not been for a very
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Has Technology Improved Educational Outcomes?
We have spent tens of billions on educational technology since the 1990s. Has all this spending improved educational outcomes?

As a nation, we spend billions on K-12 educational technology So, the question about whether all this spending is improving outcomes is a fair one. Has technology, in fact, improved educational outcomes?

 

Pros

 

Technology has freed up administrative time.

 

Electronic grade books save time for teachers. Computerized tests and quizzes save more time. The software which allows students to master skills in maths, sciences, and languages are huge time savers. Email and blogs make communications with parents and administration instantaneous and very efficient. And the tools just keep getting better and better. The less time a teacher has to spend on administrative tasks, the more time she theoretically can spend on lesson preparation and other purely teaching-related tasks.

 

 

Technology has opened new worlds.

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Should Teachers Be Unionized?
One of the basic differences between private and public schools is the fact that most public school teachers belong to a union. Should teachers be unionized?
Opinion
 
One of the basic differences between private and public schools is the fact that most public school teachers belong to a union. Does that make a difference for public school teachers? Does having a unionized faculty benefit schools? How did unions get involved with public education? Are private school faculties unionized? Basically the question is should teachers be unionized or not? My answer to that question is "Yes" if you teach in a public school and "No" if you teach in a private school. Let me explain why.
 
In Public Schools: The Case for Protection and Leverage
 
Public schools essentially are controlled by government at the local, state and national levels. They also are funded by taxpayers at all those levels. So it makes sense for teachers to want and need some protection from and leverage with those three quarters. The most potent protection public school teachers have is their union. Teacher unions also furnish the essential leverage or negotiating strength necessary to engage administrations in frank discussions about matters like compensation, class size, accountability and so on.
 
Private schools are funded primarily by the tuition fees paid by their customers, i.e., the parents of their students. Endowments and fundraising make up the delta between what tuition raises and the actual expenses for the school year. Income and expenses must align. Each private school is an independent corporate entity controlled by school trustees, not governments. Each private school has its own particular mission and educational goals. Each school hires teachers which it
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