Alchemical Thoughts

Not a good time to be in education: Some preliminary thoughts

Posted on: February 24, 2010

Based on a few postings and stories I have been reading here and there, and on a growing feeling, a vibe if you will, I have been getting as of late, I am interested in writing some essay on why it is not a good time to be in the education field. First, it has never been a good time for teachers in public schools overall. From the helicopter parents who never hold their kids accountable to incompetent administrators to politicians who would never dream to teach a class themselves, teachers are besieged. Second, higher education is not doing that much better given the severe funding cuts that are happening across the nation. I work in academia as an academic librarian, and I find myself wondering how long before the layoff ax comes after me. In large part this situation exists because,let's be honest, people love to give lip service to education but refuse to put their money where their mouths are. And a few other things. As often is the case, writing something coherent and as thoughtful as I would like is something I do not have time for now, but I wanted to jot down a few things here for later.

Some links to look over:

  • "Students hold funeral for higher education" was the story that finally prompted me to think about this some more. Found via The Kept-Up Librarian. The cost of higher education and how society insists on passing it down to students who then have to bear a lifetime crushing burden of debt is simply wrong. 
  • The story of the less than bright Utah state senator Buttars, who was proposing eliminating the senior year of high school in his state to save money. Here's the take on it by Jesus' General
  • And then there was the case of the teacher in North Carolina who was being harrassed by her right wing Christian students. I bet if the situation had been reversed, those hypocrites would have been calling for her head as well as they are doing now because she stood up for herself. Pharyngula has the story and commentary here
  • The Annoyed Librarian responded to the idea as well in her post "We Don't Need No Education." She points out what I have said as well: that politicians love to use the verbal bullshit of needing an educated workforce to compete globally, but then refuse to fund education. She writes, "Right now we're competing globally by enticing engineers and scientists from other countries to settle in the United States and enjoy our rich cultural heritage of reality TV and Wal-Mart." The rest is worth reading.
  • And of course you have the embarrassment composed of zero tolerance and high stakes testing. Here is a study at how those two "brilliant ideas" pretty much serve to send more kids from schools to prisons. Found via Docutiker. This is one piece I need to look over more closely.
  • Inside Higher Ed has a story on Kara Miller's essay asking if American students are lazy; she answers yes, and I can concur because in my time as a school teacher and as an adjunct, I saw enough of those lazy self-entitled American kids who expect an A just because they can breathe. What should be really shameful, besides the fact that foreign students excel because they have a work ethic, is that there are people in the U.S. ready to make excuses for those lazy asses such as the following: those foreigners are highly motivated anyhow, so the comparison is not fair to our kids; Miller works in liberal arts, and we know things are different there than say in a business school (which does have its share of lazy students as well), so on. Maybe if people demanded some accountability from the students instead of making excuses or trying to blame the teacher, we would actually get an educated citizenry, which is an essential element of a good society. Just a thought.

Update note (3/1/10): The Annoyed Librarian put out another post this morning on "The Dark Future is Upon Us." Talks about the future of libraries (grim), but also relevant to education overall. The comments from some troll there about just getting rid of public schools because you can get all you need online are priceless as well. Way I see it, if troll wants to keep his kids barely literate, that is fine by me. Those brats won't be competing with my well educated child for jobs down the road. In addition AL makes a point that I often make (I just don't have as big of a soapbox). She writes, "The problem isn't that libraries aren't being used, even the traditional services. People still read books. They also use many of the other materials and services available these days. But no one wants to pay for them, including the people who use them." As I often say, put up or shut up. You want services, pay for them. And believe me, in the long term, a good library is a very good community investment.

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