As a teacher all I can say is: DUH!!!! I mean no sh@#$ Sherlock. Every teacher in this country is trying to convey that message to our passive aggressive, mentally numb students.
Almost all parents I've met support and agree with this as well, and in almost all opinion polls the voters of this country understand this simple concept too. Now if we can only get the politicians to stop trying to destroy the public schools in the ideological push for privatization. Here's my take on how politicians can support education:
1. Stop badmouthing our schools. Ever since A Nation At Risk the news media and politicians only have only bad things to say about the schools and have set up draconian testing procedure that punish schools and has siphoned money away from the classroom. It is also making it harder and harder to replace the baby boom teachers that are retiring. Who wants to go into a profession that is this disrespected and underpaid.
2. Do something that will encourage college students to enter education as a profession -- like pay a living wage or college loan forgiveness based on the number of years taught. I don't know how many first year teachers are not back the next year, not because they can't handle the students, but because they quickly realize that there is no way to live on a beginning teacher's salary and pay off their college loans. If the public and politicians are going to require a college education to qualify for the profession they need to pay accordingly. A police officer or fire fighter right out of high school makes more than a first year teacher.
3. Maintain the facilities. It is hard to teach if there is no heating or air conditioning. It's nearly impossible to teach with fifty students crammed into a room intended for thirty.
4. Return to a sane discipline policy. If students refuse to obey authority, there should be a consequence. If students bully, or are chronically absent, bring guns to school, etc. There should be no "We can't do anything because they're in Special Ed." Bullsh@#$! The insanity of thinking the sky is falling if students drop-out or are expelled is what is killing the effectiveness of most instruction. Teachers are forced to deal with the students that constantly disrupt instead of instructing those who want to learn. And if you understand Sun Tzu, all it takes is one or two examples of the consequences to get most of the students to straighten up. It is time to stop letting those who don't want to learn keep those who do from getting a quality education. There would also be less pressure on parents to put their children in private schools because they fear for the safety of their children.
5. Create a drop-in policy. The late Al Shanker when he had a column in the New York Times, once wrote that before students physically drop out they first mentally drop out. The answer to this solution is not to keep them from dropping out, but to allow them to drop in, once they've graduated from the school of hard knocks.
6. Any discussion about improving the public schools needs to have input from the teachers and administrators who are in the trenches and are facing the reality of the classroom daily.
7. Close down all Colleges of Education at every University in the country and start over from the perspective of the real world, not academia. A little throwing the baby out with the bathwater here, but the first day you're in the classroom you quickly realize that everything they taught you in those education classes, that now take up two years of your money and time, is pure unadulterated garbage. Between the politicians wanting teachers to be nothing but test proctors and the colleges of educations wanting us to be nothing but smiley face cheerleaders its a wonder that anyone in this country gets an education.
Taking deep breath now. I've purged all the pent up frustration from my system. Feeling much better. Now if I can only get these old legs out of the lotus position I'll call it a night.