It seems that at least one Fourth Grade teacher in at least one school in Henderson County has used an English test to suggest that students contact the Governor to lobby against cuts to funding for assistant teachers. A photo of the first page of the test is in the illustration. Fourth graders, nine year old children for crying out loud! The Governor’s budget would reduce the amount of your STATE tax money for assistants by 50%. That’s the way it’s presented by the Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) , and as far as it goes it’s accurate, but as so often in school funding discussions the HCPS position is deliberately misleading. HCPS says the tax spending reduction will eliminate the money for 77 assistants. From what they say it seems that 77 is half the teaching assistants, but there are 269 assistants on the payroll paid for from all tax sources, Federal, state, and local. Here are some numbers we will discuss more next week.
Avg assistant pay – 31,005
X 44 – 1,364,220
X77 — 2,387,385
X269 – 8,340,345
Look for these numbers during budget talk.
So the real proposed reduction in assistants is at most 28%. And HCPS already has several backup plans to make adjustments to work rules and schedules so that the reduction would be as little as 16%, about 44 assistants. But why do we have teaching assistants at all? Do we need to reduce their number by 44, or by 269? During all the years I worked no manager ever hired me a work buddy; someone to share the load in my job so we could take turns doing the work while the other did something else. Did you? They tell us they need assistants to keep order at least in the lower grades. I’ll bet if you are over 50 and a public or parochial school veteran, your 1st grade teacher didn’t have an assistant and still kept good order.
But oh yeah, back then you had a desk, not a place on the floor. It was in a row one behind the other and was one of four or five other rows just alike. I was proud of my 1st grade desk. It was the first thing outside the family that was mine. It was for sitting and looking up front and paying attention to the one lonesome teacher transferring a part of our culture and its knowledge to the next generation. One of the most telling photos I’ve seen about our “education” system shows a Chinese girl, you know, one of the young people from the country that finished first in all three phases of international schooling tests while Americans were 17th, 23rd and 31st. She was not sitting cross-legged on the floor grinning at a video. The look on her face was intense focused determination. But I’ll bet she would say she was having fun and that the fun was in the learning. She was at a desk, in a row, bent over her paper, pen in hand looking up at and listening to her teacher. To her, schooling was obviously serious and important, not a form of play.
But that sort of thing is a throwback to dinosaur days; days when we actually had a culture to take pride in; when we wanted to impart the knowledge developed by millions over millennia so that the kids would have a base of understanding that they could begin to expand upon. Yeah, those were dinosaur days indeed; before the genius of the socialist John Dewey became the accepted wisdom and teaching became “educating”. We’ve all moved on from those old ways; haven’t we? A passage below from Dewey’s The Child and the Curriculum, 1902 suggests at least one source of the chaos that is American schooling in 2013. It also contains the implication of an frightening kind of indoctrination that is far different than the transfer of stored knowledge to the next generation and much more suited to unrepentant recruiting of 9 year olds to lobby for keeping and growing the union rolls. In an early, and almost readable, example of the professional gobbledygook now nearly universal with academics, Dewey writes: “ …as representing a given stage and phase of the development of experience . His (the teachers) problem is that of inducing a vital and personal experiencing. Hence, what concerns him, as a teacher, is the ways in which that subject may become a part of experience; what there is in the child’s present that is usable with reference to it; how such elements are to be used; how his own knowledge of the subject matter may assist in interpreting the child’s needs and doings, and determine the medium in which the child should be placed in order that his growth may be properly directed. He is concerned, not with the subject matter as such, but with the subject matter as a related factor in a total and growing experience.”
The essence of Dewey is that the central point of education is the contribution of the child not the adult teacher; that the child brings everything to the process that is important and the job of the teacher is to repackage the curriculum to suit the child, as if the “experience”, and knowledge of his learning needs, of each six year-old kid is perfect and unassailable, and that she can accurately and effectively address this 25 times a day, day in and day out. It is simply a utopian fantasy. Dewey inspired “educators” don’t teach, resist testing, and ask the student to clarify. Teaching, testing, and clarifying got us from Lascaux to the Sea of Tranquility and back, and it is 111 years past due to file Dewey’s dreamy utopia with the Alchemists and Astrologers and to leave education behind – for teaching.
Superintendent Jones says he “is gathering all the facts” and is certain this was an “isolated incidence”. (Could he be considering an IRS or State Dept. job?) The reported teacher, Mr. Kinsey of Glen C. Marlow, did not return our call by press time. I’ll be checking on the testing for you. This is my request hand delivered to Mr. Jones on May 17th: “Please provide, identified as to which school, separate individual copies of all and each of the English tests given to fourth (4) and fifth (5) graders in each and all of the county elementary schools since January 1, 2013. Thank you for your cooperation.” We know that in the age of twitter and even ancient technologies like e-Mail, that the Superintendent can communicate with all 4th and 5th grade teachers in seconds and ask for copies of their test and quiz files in hours. They know the law requires them to comply in a timely way. Today is day 6 of timely. I’ll report back to you on what I find.
If your child is in Mr. Kinsey’s class or has had similar testing to that reportedly of Mr. Kinsey’s fourth grade at Glen C. Marlow and you have concerns contact me with complete confidence in our respect for your privacy at: Bill@tribunepapers.com or BillOhSee@gmail.com or call 828 890-0412. If you don’t have concerns, I guess we should all be even more interested.