Yes, and No

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February 20, 2021-

One of my co-workers, yesterday, made the curious remark that everyone, from the age of two onward, is responsible for their actions. Yes, and no. A child needs to be taught right from wrong, from the time that receptive language can be processed. It is well to teach the child to not make excuses for one’s actions, also from the time he or she can act independently. However, to the extent that a child is dependent on parents or other adults, he or she is not entirely responsible for what happens in his/her life. This same person made the statement that the recently-retired president, a poster child for plausible denial, was a great leader. I will leave that statement to bathe in its own irony.

It is said that large amounts of money are needed, in order to bring this nation to full recovery from the pandemic-induced economic doldrums. Yes, and no. There are several groups deserving of cash infusions-among them: Workers being, or so to be, displaced by downsizing in the fossil fuel industry; workers suffering workforce cutbacks in the restaurant, hospitality and transportation industries; landlords facing economic hardship, due to the inability of renters to pay their monthly due; renters unable to pay their monthly due, owing to having been out of work; any combination of the above. There are also those, presently due to receive another stimulus check, who are not in as dire straits as the people mentioned above. (Disclosure: I am one of those in the latter group.) While we all could find a ready use for a stimulus check, at some point- and sooner, rather than later, the needs of the nation as a whole have to come first.

One of the codiciles in the American Recovery Plan is a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Yes, and no. Those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder deserve a living wage. It should be enough to allow the worker to pay a reasonable monthly rent and have enough left over, after bills are paid, to set aside savings (in fact, to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice, and “pay self first”, by setting the savings aside before paying any bills.) and to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. Such a Federal minimum wage should not, however, be buried in a fiscal stimulus package, which is supposed to be a one-off. It is worthy of being legislated and signed into law, in its own right. That such an occurrence is at all in doubt is the fault, not of the progressives who advocate it, but of the obstructionists who see their own greed stampede being interrupted.

Finally, at least for this post, there are those who call for education to be privatized. Yes, but mostly no. As a matter of fact, fiscal accountability, discipline and transparency, as many agents of the Internal Revenue Service could attest, is in woefully short supply, across all walks of life. I had to build these skills the hard way; yet many, using sleight of hand and kicking their debt cans down the road, have yet to build them at all. This applies to virtually all school systems, where adminstrative costs (including money spent on the services of Big Testing) siphon a huge chunk of the children’s money. Taxpayers, who provide the lion’s share of the funds available, rightfully expect that their assessments go to the legitimate learning of their children, grandchildren and neighbours. To the extent that charter schools can be the impetus for system-wide transparency and rectitude, long may they be part of the education scene. There is, however, no reason, save territoriality and a laconic mentality, that a public school district cannot do as much, if not more, for the good of our children than a private, or semi-private, institution,

Most coins have two sides, and some are cubes- or polyhedrons.

The Road to 65, Mile 322: Course Corrections

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October 15, 2015, Chino Valley-  We sat together, at the end of the day, and of the week.  The kids and I agreed that there was too much varied content thrown onto one page of the textbook publisher’s worksheet on perimeters.  We humans don’t, generally, speaking, absorb more than one mental skill at a time.  I will make the necessary adjustment in the lessons, next week.

I knew it would not be long, before I felt like taking the pre-fabricated material, and, like the late Richard Mulligan, in “Teachers”, open the classroom window and toss the useless book out.  I won’t go that far.  The taxpayers’ sensibilities matter greatly, after all.  One of the tenets of good teaching, however, is “monitor and adjust.” I am big on mastery, and will do whatever it takes to bring this about, for as many of the people with whom I work, as possible.

We, as a profession, are under a lot of pressure to provide ready answers to the question of “Why are our students falling behind, in the Great Global Rat Race?”  I have a few, tentative answers to that, which will not make the Testing Industry, or its political sponsors, very happy.  One, which I still remember, from having worked with Korean teachers of English, several years ago, is that many nations’ educational programs are focused on teaching one skill at a time.  That used to be the case here, when I was in school.

Now, however, I see a tendency to throw many concepts and skills together, so as to “hurry up and catch up”, with a perceived Global Mass of superlearners.  Grandma said “Haste makes waste”, and that is painfully obvious, looking in the faces of my still-trusting little ones.  We have to go back and look hard at the most basic level of the skill expected of them- and, yes, they will get it, and extrapolate the rest, one piece at a time- in time for the Great April Acid Test, which the state, in its wisdom, has cast upon us.

The journey of a thousand miles still needs that single step.