Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't Mess With Me on Education!

Here you can find Barack Obama's Education Plan
Here you can find John McCain's Education Plan

Obama's plan is written mainly with bullet points, whereas McCain's is written more in paragraph form. For this reason (and this reason only) I will quote McCain more than Obama. I'm not favoring McCain's plan, just the ability to quote his site. As you will find out, I don't favor either plan, they are both bunk. I'm not going to give you my credentials, my experience in working with children (in both the high class and minority districts- oops, I just gave it to you), or my personal experience in raising my 2 children (I did it again). Just know that I know a few things and I don't care if you agree or disagree with me, this is my opinion.

Early Childhood Education:
One of Obama's plans for fixing education is called a "Zero to Five plan" which will lead states to voluntary, universal preschool. Um-hm, sorry! Any child that really needs preschool does not have a parent that will "voluntarily" take him there. Obama also plans on quadrupling early/headstart monies. This quote is from McCain's website: "There is no shortage of federal programs targeted at early child care and preschool. State and federal funding for early childhood care and education programs is over $25 billion each year. The list of programs includes Head Start, Title I preschool programs, Early Head Start, Even Start, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Early Reading First, the Social Services Block Grant, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families." I'm not going to look this up, I will assume that a presidential candidate has these sort of facts correct. I have no idea what 25.billion.dollars looks like or spends like, nor do I know how to allocate that kind of money. What I do know is that quadrupling it won't help. How do I know this? Because McCain's plan for early childhood education is to fix the already existing programs. What, they are not working? So McCain's plan says, "Any successful reform effort requires clearly defined goals and objectives." Great, just what we need, a standardized test to get out of preschool.

But coming up here is the real answer to early childhood education. It was buried deep, deep down at the end of McCain's site: "Parental involvement is critical to the success of any pre-K program. Current federal programs will be focused on educating parents on the basics of preparing their children for a productive educational experience. These programs will place an emphasis on reading and numbers skills, as well as nutrition and general health. Reinforcing to parents the fundamental importance of reading to their children as a primary way of expanding their vocabulary and preparing their young minds to learn will be emphasized at every level." If you really want to make a difference in education you need to educate the parents, not the children! How do you do that?! I don't think anyone knows. Let's try it on a very small scale, invite a group of church goers to a Provident Living Fair, and offer a class on teaching your child to read. Oh wait, we already did that... and nobody came to the class! No, I'm not boo-hooing and I'm certainly not trying to make anyone feel bad. I'm just stating a fact that even when the information is there and available, not many people partake. You can't force people to learn and that may be what is wrong with the educational system.

That's all I've got in me for tonight. I just had to let the puppy out and realized that I left the soft scrub working in the sink over an hour ago. I sat down the check my email and what do you know... Really Scott! I appreciate you making me solidify my stance on a topic near and dear to my heart. If anyone really wants to hear more I'll conquer the rest later. I actually laughed at one idea presented. HAH.


Rachel said...

(I did not even proofread this, sorry it's a jumble of thoughts, just wanted to get them out before heading to the laundromat! SO FUN!)

Super interesting H., I definitely request more of your opinion in subsequent posts. On this one, I disagree (I know, I know, you don't care ;) on a couple points.

I taught Headstart preschool one year in Glendale, and one year in Avondale and at both locations we had a Huge waiting list of parents just dying to get their child into Headstart. And that was with practically zero outreach, I can't imagine what our list would have looked like if we had advertised/looked for those in need. We always had one or two parents (out of a class of 16, morning session and afternoon session with different children) that were so dysfunctional they struggled to consistently bring their child to class, but overall, these mothers were gratefully diligent in bringing their children. I think our immigrant population especially, is more than willing to do what they can to help their children, they simply don't have many opportunities.

I was also happy that Headstart is focused on parental involvement. Granted, this is only emphasized as much as the teacher follows through on the philosophy that she's asked to, but my classes had parent involvement coming out our butts because I fulfilled my job description. Maybe we could find more teachers that would if we paid them more than $12 an hour WITH a bachelors degree. I'd like some extra funding for that! I also loved Headstart b/c I thought their parent education component was a move in the right direction.

You said, "If you really want to make a difference in education you need to educate the parents, not the children!" I believe the outcome we want is most likely if parent and child education go hand in hand. One reason I feel so strongly about this is because I left teaching children and found a job teaching their parents, like we all agree is the most helpful, but what I found was that PARENTS LEARN SLOWLY. Seriously, change is so hard for us adults. I stayed as a home visitor once a week with the same families for years and something as simple as trying to help them read to their child daily was a HUGE challenge for them. I'd teach, and be an example, and make up games, and make goals with them and most parents I worked with still struggled to make reading to their child a lifestyle. Zero to five is so critical and teaching parents just isn't enough. Often, by the time the parents learn to interact in a significantly different way with their child, the child is past the most formative years.

P.S. Also, Headstart served to teach these kids English BEFORE they started kindergarten which the way I see it, is practically the only way they have a fighting chance of succeeding in our school system.

H said...

Crap, I totally posted a response to this over an hour ago and it is not here!

H said...

OK Rachel, I'm back and I believe the first think I wrote this morning went something like this, "Rachel, you are one of the few people whose opinion I care about in this matter. You've been in the trenches, dealt with the system, and become a better person because of it." It wasn't exactly like that, but you know I love you and your thoughts.

It's great that there was a waiting list for your headstart program, that means we need more in that area. If that is where the additional money is going to go then I'm all for it. There are also waiting lists for pricey preschools in higher income areas and not all of these parents go the extra step and take their children to another location.

I think everyone agrees that parent involvement is key but how to do that is the impossible dream, both in low and high income areas. Co-op preschools are a fabulous idea, but parents somehow still end up wriggling out of their responsibilities. With these co-ops also come parent meetings, potlucks, and seminars. The parent that is willing to put forth the effort and time might learn something, but to others it will fall on deaf ears. You just can't force learning.

Were the home visits you mention the same ones where you insisted that a parent "potty train" their child while the grandparent sat wisely by trying to tell you what you now believe? My point being, there are no universal truths on what should be taught and it will always change from year to year. We shouldn't be forcing the Federal gov. standards for good parenting on people who really may know their children better than the president.

My concern for low-income and ESL families is the message that we are sending them. Do we really want to tell people that the way they were raised or are raising their children in a loving, kind, and inspiring home is wrong? Is 15 minutes of forced reading really better than if they sit at the dinner table together and tell stories of the old days? No! Story telling is a pre-reading skill and one that is completely overlooked by all income groups to some degree. (see Waldorf theory for the goods on this)

I know my last comment was much better, but you get what you get.

PS. ESL and language development is a whole other debate!

tempe turley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tempe turley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tempe turley said...


It seems like you have already made up your mind on this issue, but just in case you are willing to open it slightly, here's an interesting website referencing some of the research by James Heckman and his findings about the importance of early education. It's here.

But there's some pretty strong evidence to suggest that:

"Key workforce skills such as motivation, persistence and self-control are developed early. Heckman concludes that K-12 schooling comes too late, and other remedies are prohibitively costly as well (e.g., job training programs and second-chance GED programs). "


"Skill begets skill and learning begets more learning.” Because skills are accumulated, starting early and over time, investing in young children is an investment in future productivity and public safety."


"The latest report found continuing positive long-term effects of high-quality early childhood care and education on low-income 3- and 4-year-olds. Overall, the study recently documented a return to society of more than $17 for every dollar invested in the early care and education program, primarily because of the large continuing effect on the reduction of male crime. These new figures are a dramatic increase in long-term returns"

I have limited first hand experience with this, but I do have some experience. Working with my little brother in VBBS, really hit home to me how hard it is to catch up later if you haven't been exposed to good experiences early on.

And I agree that the family environment is most important, but its hard to imagine what the government can do to dictate strong families.

What they can do is at least try to soften the blow to kids when their parents fail them...

There is a ton of research going on, and I don't think its helpful to be completely dismissive of it.

Let's study it, and have the debate.

That's all I've ever been asking. Keep our minds open and let's see McCain and Obama have the debate rather than the mindless lies and underhanded attacks that do nothing more than distract us from it...

But Helena, just so you know, I wasn't implying to "mess with you on education"... I was just sharing my ideas. And they weren't really my ideas, just someone else's ideas that really made sense to me...

And by the way, my views on education are no where near flushed out... And the blog forum is not the best way for me to convey even those ideas I do have about it, so you probably have a flawed understanding of my point of view, especially regarding standardized tests and the use of research in the schools.

Maybe we can have a discussion in person, and you would probably find we agree here more than we disagree...

H said...

First, I don't know who deleted 2 comments it was not I.

Second, I love Scott and all his thoughts. He gets under my skin and irritates me to no end which just makes me think all the more. I would argue that the blog is the best place for this debate however, because otherwise I might strangle him. Bill says that if we keep this up we might have an opening in our friendship circle, I believe that it is only strengthening it. Hopefully Scott concurs.

Poor Sara, who thinks she is the middle of this. Fear not fair maiden, our friendship is not in jeopardy, nor is your husbands life.

tempe turley said...

Helena, it was me, I deleted them... The first comment came out a little bit too harsh. The second one had some mistakes in it I wanted to correct.

Sorry, I don't mean to cause such a harsh reaction... Certainly I don't want to get strangled by someone I'm trying to hometeach... :-) Not very healthy to a friendship..

I don't think e-mail is the best forum for a debate however... I've been able to work through misunderstandings way faster with my friends and associates in person or over the phone than I've been able to in an e-mail or over a blog...

And I think there's been some misunderstandings at the root of our current disagreement regarding education...

Rachel said...

HA! You guys think you are going to take the fun discussion elsewhere???? IN PERSON!!!???? Well, that's fine and dandy for you who have that opportunity. HM.

J/K, I feel a bit overwhelmed at trying to discuss this online too - I'd be writing a novel every time and my house would be a mess and my child neglected. So, I will wait patiently and request that you both continue to write out awakenings you have about how best to improve our ed. system.

I must say though, that I can't quite express how excited I would be if Obama wins and funds Zero-Five programs like he's promised.

Adults change slowly, children change fast! The end. (for now)

I'll be excited to comment on posts after you two have done some more collaborating :).

The Turley Times said...

Honestly, I don't really pay attention to what is happening to education nationally. (Let the stones be cast now.) I'm busy enough figuring out how to educate my own to the best of my ability. The rest of you can have my tax dollars, but don't ask me to tell you what to do with them! Let the debate rage around me and don't worry about me feeling caught in the middle!