Too important to test! (according to teacher’s unions)

DiscoveryMath

The most effective way to send the Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) into apoplectic fits is to propose any possible means of testing the competence of individual teachers. The union has long battled all forms of standardized testing of students and has recently displayed nothing short of hysteria when the Alberta government dared to suggest that we should test teachers directly. This of course is simply because the Alberta Teacher’s Association is protecting a great number of incompetent teachers in the system and they know it.

Let’s get the usual statements and platitudes out of the way. Our children are our future thus the role of teachers is greatly important to us all. Teaching is a terribly difficult job. Alberta’s education system is critical to the future competitiveness of the province. Investing in education is investing in our future. Our children deserve the best.

All of the above statements are accurate. The Alberta Teacher’s Association (union) uses all of those statements as reasons why we must never test the competency of teachers. Anybody with a grain of common sense knows that the above statements demonstrate why it is vital that we test the competence of our teachers!

I should save on the use of parenthesis and clear one thing up right now. The Alberta Teacher’s Association is a union that tries to cloak itself as a professional association. The second an organization is empowered to collectively bargain and go on strike, it becomes a union no matter how it tries to portray itself. The prime mandate of unions is to protect the union members and it shows with the actions of the ATA. Professional associations will look out for the profession as a whole. In their vehement opposition of all forms of quality control in the classroom, the ATA has proven themselves to be nothing more than a union.

Professional associations strive to protect the integrity of their profession in working to ensure that all members meet a standard of quality and they will eject members who do not meet this standard. In 10 years, the Alberta Teacher’s Union has not found a single one of their 35,000 teachers to be incompetent. Really? Not a single one? Here is a word that I was not taught in school but it is the best one that applies here: Bullshit!

The Alberta Teacher’s Union is currently furious that our Education Minister has permanently barred some sex-offender teachers from teaching as well. That is how deeply the member protection instinct in the Alberta Teacher’s Union runs.

We all can remember our years in the education system. We all can remember some teachers who were incredibly talented and made an impact on us for life. We all can remember some who had to use slip-on shoes as tying laces was too much of a task for them.

I will run down the road of anecdotes here as I am sure that most will be able to nod their heads in understanding with similar experiences. I attended Banff Community High School in the 80s. It is a small school as demonstrated by our graduating class of 32 people in 88. This meant that teachers had to often take on multiple specialties. I had a math teacher who was incredible for my years there. This man’s presence was incredible. I was a pain in the ass student yet never dared mess around in this teacher’s class. Myself along with pretty much every student in this teacher’s class saw a spike in our math test markings as this talented man managed to make the most dry of courses understandable. Now in biology 20 I (and others in my school) had the opposite experience. The school’s regular biology teacher had taken maternity leave so the girl’s gym teacher was brought in to teach the course. This woman’s form of teaching was literally to write the textbook matter on the chalk board and expected us to copy it verbatim in our notebooks. We then would be tested and 60% of us failed. With nearly 2/3 (my math is still good) of us failing Bio 20 the course can be safely called a waste. I signed up for Bio 20 the next year and found to my horror that this same incompetent teacher was running the course. After two classes myself and over half of the class dropped the course. I still don’t have Bio 20 to this day. That worthless biology “teacher” was compensated and protected the same as that incredible math teacher. There are of course 10s of thousands of examples if this throughout the province.

Teaching is a calling and the talent within the best of teachers is innate rather than taught. Most of the best of our teachers were drawn to the profession immediately upon graduation. They love their work and are worth every penny (likely more) that they are compensated. Imagine the talent we could draw if we drove out the incompetent teachers and gave raises to the great ones. That of course would be merit pay which again terrifies unions.

There is a hard reality about many within the teaching profession that the union really doesn’t like to talk about. A huge number of teachers joined the profession as they simply saw it as a good paycheque that provided them with extended holidays throughout the year. Some of those who joined the trade for this reason are still great teachers but that number is much lower.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the schoolmate you had who drank his way through university while gliding into a degree of Ethiopian philosophy? Ever notice that while coffee shops are jammed with baristas with liberal arts degrees that few of them are over 30? Where did the person with the music degree or dance degree go when the garage band and stripper pole became tiring? Many of these people went back to school, picked up a teaching certificate and joined the high salary, profound pension world of Alberta teachers.

Not every person who decided to become a teacher as a secondary career choice is incompetent but let’s face it, many of them are. If we do want the best and brightest teachers in the system that we entrust our children to we have to test them and test them vigorously. The Alberta Teacher’s Union has failed terribly in monitoring the quality of their members (as can be expected) so it should not be a surprise that some want to see some outside testing of the quality of our teachers.

Ignore the BS from the Alberta Teacher’s Union whenever they cry the standard vapid: “its for the children!”. When it comes from the Alberta Teacher’s Union the reality is that it is always for the union members. The call is always for more pay, smaller class sizes (less work) and of course no outcome testing of students or performance testing of teachers. At least they are consistent.

While I am far from being a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party by any means, I am fully supportive of Minister Jeff Johnson in that our teachers desperately need competence testing.

Our teachers are so important that their testing is critical.

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A ribbon for participation.

I am a surveyor who likes ranting about whatever is on my mind on a blog. I am prone to terrible run-on sentences, occasionally rambling postings, some spelling errors that slip through the spell-check function of the blog, and some grammatical errors that doubtless have made some of the grammar fixated wish that they could jump through their computer screen and slap me in the head. Some of my writings may be dull or lack in creativity at times. I recognize these literary shortcomings on my part.

Despite knowing that I do not write among the best on earth, I find it simply agonizing as the collective best among academia gather at Columbia University (an institution that I have been unfairly prevented from attending), and work to truly wreak havoc on my self-esteem through highlighting the planet’s literary best through an internationally celebrated awards ceremony. As the spotlight shines on the world’s literary best, a sidelight shines upon my inadequate writings thus humiliating me on a profound scale. How dare they openly remind me that I will never be able to reach the apex of literary achievement!! How cruel and unfair this world is indeed. Every time I see one of these award winners I nearly fall prostrate and go fetal in agony as they rub my nose in my shame of not being able to produce the world’s best.

This cruel ceremony must end! This recognition and presentation is damaging to the self-esteem of every literate person on earth who does not win it!

THE PULITZER PRIZES MUST BE BANNED!!

pulitzer

While the above demand appears to be ridiculous and the rationale behind it whining, entitled and petulant, it is pretty much the same sort of demand and same rationale being used by the idiots in a Calgary school who have managed to get the honour roll among all other academic recognitions and their associated ceremonies removed from the school.

Kurt Vonnegut (another robbed of a Pulitzer) wrote a fantastic short-story called Harrison Bergeron that I strongly recommend anybody read if they have not already. He depicts a futuristic world where equality is achieved through the removal of all recognition that anybody may have more ability than another and literal handicaps are applied to anybody who excels beyond the average in society.

Download Harrison Bergeron here

Vonnegut’s story truly does appear less and less like abstract science fiction as we see stories of the ongoing assault on all forms of recognition of excellence being successful. Scores are no longer kept in many children’s sports and games as simple as duck duck goose are actually being banned so that nobody may lose.

This pursuit and enforcement of mediocrity will not be creating children with higher self-esteem. If anything, these children are being set up for a catastrophic blow to their self-esteem when they leave the coddling walls of educational institutions only to discover that in the real world, not everybody gets a ribbon for participation. Will these kids with such a deep sense of entitlement be able to adapt to the harsh realities of life? I guess some will and some won’t, but hiding them from these lessons for their formative years will not be doing them any favors.

We need awards and heights in order to keep us striving. Ambition is not a bad thing, in fact it is essential. If the world had been controlled by these self-esteem obsessed fools 10,000 years ago, we still would never have seen the invention of fire for crying out loud. Do you think the inventor of the wheel did so for altruistic reasons? Do you think he didn’t seek the celebration of his peers as another part of his ambition along with seeking a better way to move things around?

We need to be taught to strive for the top yet accept that we won’t all make it there.

Some people are smarter than others. Some people are stronger than others. Some people are better looking than others. Some people work harder than others.

GET OVER IT!!

I think personally one of the biggest lessons I had in life has been to quit worrying about what others do or what they have. Envy and entitlement are the most poison of feelings and our attempts to enforce a form of equality where it really does not exist will only foster more entitled bitterness.

I know I won’t win a Pulitzer Prize. I am OK with that. I don’t let the knowledge of that keep me from writing and feeling satisfied with what I write. I can celebrate the top of the writing world while still being happy with my mediocre standing in it.

There are ways and there are ways to deal with inequality. I know and understand that I am not hung like Rasputin. I still make what I like to think is good use with what I have and go for a drive in my large diesel truck when it really bothers me. To follow the self-esteem movement’s lead, what I should be doing is lobbying that all men be surgically shortened to an equitable length or at least ban them from shared changing rooms in the name of fairness. It is no less ludicrous than many other proposals in the name of equality out there.

Sadly it is much easier to drag folks down in the quest for equality than it is to try to pull everybody else up. I hope this trend ends soon.

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We can’t all be astronauts.

bondar

Yesterday I listened to a radio retrospective from 1969 where excited children were interviewed just after the moon landing.

 

One of the children was asked, “Do you want to go into space one day?”

 

The child responded, “Oh yes.”

 

The interviewer asked, “Do you think you will?”

 

The child responded, “No”.

 

When asked why not the child said. “Because I am a girl.”

 

In such a short piece it was laid out so clearly how our primitive societal outlook held back the hopes, dreams and aspirations of so many children based on things such as gender, race or even family status. This was not all that long ago at all but thankfully in the developed world we have grown beyond those attitudes incredibly in just one generation. There are still archaic attitudes held by some and still unfair limitations being presented to some but we are working towards ending those.

 

As with so many things though, we have reached a target and then continued pushing right past it to the point where we have created a whole new problem. We no longer have a generation that feels that they can’t do certain things simply because of race or gender but we have created a generation that is marked by a very deep sense of entitlement.

 

We have told our young people over and over that they have the right to become whatever they want to be. The reality is that what we are creating is the equal opportunity to pursue certain careers but we can’t guarantee that the pursuit will be fruitful. Let’s face it, if every young person could become whatever they dreamed to be, we would be a world full of singers, firefighters, movie stars and of course astronauts. In the real world the openings for those roles are rather limited.

 

In Quebec we have seen riotous protests for over a year as thousands of students with a profound sense of entitlement protested an incredibly modest increase in the cost of their already hugely subsidized tuition. During the whole “occupy” thing the year before we saw young people feeling entitled to illegally squat wherever they please to demonstrate a sense of general discontent that they could not get everything they want from society. As that generation hits the working world the cold wash of reality is going to be terribly hard on them.

 

In the real world we don’t all get a ribbon for participation. We never should be trying to crush or limit the aspirations of young people. We do need to add a dose of reality though.

 

In the world of the arts we see this sense of entitlement at it’s height. Embittered interpretive dance graduates and people with doctorates in advanced finger painting are tiring of serving coffee and are demanding that the public fund them so they may work in the field of their choice even if there is no demand for it. Arts lobbies are having some degree of success as politicians fear being swarmed by unemployed mimes at election time so tax dollars keep getting tossed into the arts pit for more substandard productions. In Alberta SOFA has been yelping to a fever pitch acting as if art will outright vanish from the world entirely if we do not tax the productive further to pay for it. That of course is simply untrue. Heavily subsidized arts do lead to crappy quality arts though as I laid out in this posting.

 

Though I am sure there are people who could be more diplomatic than I about it but it has to be said to some. Not every person is actually any good in their field of choice. Somehow the interpretive dance major has to be coaxed into another trade and the finger painter informed that his work is shitty and will never sell. If these delusions are not punctured at some point, the dancer will often find herself swinging around a pole with money in a g-string while drama majors find themselves in grimy West Coast studios in a branch of the film industry that they never really dreamed of entering. Which reality dose is more painful? The first one or the second?

 

Our collective sense of entitlement has led to mass overspending provincially. Redford now is ineptly cutting from post-secondary education which has led Mount Royal University to cut some of their arts and journalism programs. Hey, we can’t have it all and if we are going to cut that is simply where it needs to be done. This does not mean that there is no arts education or journalism available, it is just that the opportunities are re-modelling a bit to reflect a realistic demand.

 

What am I to say to a person with a degree in philosophy aside from: “No thank you, I don’t need fries with that.”? How many openings for careers in women’s studies do we really ever think there will be? We have to get realistic with what we are teaching and those taking the courses need to be realistically informed about the chance of their being employed in the field of their choosing.

 

I do not owe anybody a living in their field of choice.

 

The dreams do not need to be squashed but they do need to be tempered with reality. A person can paint part time while working on a different career. A person can still attend weekend casting calls while working as an engineer. Hey, if you get your break that’s wonderful but if perchance you don’t make the cut your bills will still be paid and I won’t have to listen to the enraged howls of entitlement from you.

 

It needs to be taught that a person is not a failure if they end up in a career that was not their first choice in life. Nothing makes a job more of a drudgery than thinking that you were supposed to be elsewhere. As I type, I am in Oklahoma supervising the survey of an oil exploration program. I deal with countless nightmares at times from drug addled staff, to gross hotel conditions to picking ticks from myself nightly after having walked through the bush for a day. Rest assured I did not daydream of doing this as a child. Despite this not being my first career choice, I am comfortable with it and accept that it is what I do. Why depress myself or demand that others facilitate a change for me? If it was all that bad, I could seek something else. I have learned to enjoy the travel and the outdoor aspects.

 

As deficit budgets continue on all levels of government while we pursue the same crash the Europe is enjoying, we see a looming reality check where spending will inevitably have to be cut. When we re-balance our education system we must work to ensure that we model public-funded education based on our national needs rather than entitled wants. If we keep taking the path of least resistance we will have a mountain of unemployed arts grads while we madly draw even more immigrants to fill the labor voids created by our tilted system.

 

You never see a plumber working as a barista. Let’s work to find that balance with our youth between encouragement and reality.

 

We need not destroy dreams, but we have to let youth know that they don’t always (in fact rarely) come true.

 

 

 

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The toughest test for these kids will be that of real life.

I guess the fault lays with all of us to a degree. The election of school board trustees tends to be ignored and those who do vote often don’t look too terribly closely at who they are voting for or what these people plan to bring to the education standards table. Due to this apathy we have allowed officials to whittle away at all forms of individual responsibility or performance measurement in the classroom.

Every now and then we see eruptions of annoyance when absurd policies from the banning of games that dare to be competitive as musical chairs, dodge-ball and tag. There are movements afoot to ban scorekeeping in sports and of course decades of “social passing” has ensured that no student’s self-esteem need be damaged no matter how poorly they perform academically.

We have finally hit an apex of of idiocy when we see a teacher being suspended for giving marks of zero when no work has been completed!!

We have actually hit the point where students are being taught that even if they do absolutely nothing, they will still receive a grade. In the link above, there is a poll asking for reader input on the policy banning giving zeros in the classroom. While web-polls are of limitted veracity at the best of times, the number of voters and the clear indication of support on one side of this issue is striking.

As of this posting, nearly 12,000 people have voted in the poll. 96.7% of poll respondants oppose this myopic policy!

Despite such clear and overwhemling public opposition to this stupid policy, the Edmonton Public School Board is sticking to it’s guns and may indeed fire Lynden Dorval for his daring to not reward students for doing nothing. Who’s kids are these anyway? Does the opinion of the parents and future employers mean utterly nothing to the school board? Does it even strike these fools for a second that when 97% of the population disagrees with you that you may indeed be wrong?

Let’s look at the outcome of this culture of coddling that we are building. Literacy is a rather good skill to have going forward in life. There are fewer better ways to ensure that a person advances poorly in the professional world than to release them into it without adequate reading skills. Well as of 2006  it was determined that 42% of Canadians are semi-literate!

In light of such disturbing, embarassing and outright dangerous statistics, school boards and teacher’s unions have embarked on a crusade against testing of children on all possible levels. These groups are not as interested in educating children as they are in covering up any measures that may expose their abysmal performance. Have you ever noted how aside from demanding more money teacher’s unions are most strongly focussed on ending standardized testing? That speaks volumes.

Think of what is being done to these kids. Many kids with special learning needs are sliding through the system as they are never properly tested and graded. Social passing policies ensure that these kids graduate no matter how little of the actual learning material they have actually absorbed. A deep sense of entitlement has been built into these kids as they have not even been allowed to lose in a simple game of tag and they have learned that they will be rewarded even if they refuse to undertake even the most simple of school assignments. Now how well will these kids do when they get a job? How are these kids doing when they get to a post-secondary institution and discover that they will indeed be failed if they do not do or understand the work?

In real life there is no ribbon for participation. Learning how to fail is as important as learning how to win. Schools should not be some cruel dog-eat-dog environment of hyper-competition and strict grading. Schools should be preparing students for life though and with policies such as the “No zero” crap we can be assured that the schools are failing terribly.

In Quebec we have seen thousands of entitled post-secondary students protesting in the streets screaming against a modest tuition increase that would still leave them with the lowest tuition rates in North America. It is our public education system that has created this unrealistic sense of entitlement on the part of these students as they are essentially having a collective temper-tantrum upon discovering the most modest realities of adult life and responsibilities. I wonder how many of those students are actually staying on the streets in order to hide from the course material that they discovered that they can’t handle do to “social passing” policies?

Unfortunately this incremental idiocy takes nearly a generation to really hit us all. I like to think that it is peaking and we will push back in order to regain some common sense in our education system. The first step is for us all to engage in elections of both provincial parties and school board officials. Make it clear. Toss the ivory tower fools out on their asses if they insist on a continuation of this foolishness in education. Teach them that if they do not perform for us, we will give them a failing grade at the ballot box. We will all benefit from that in the end.

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