Saturday, April 16, 2011

Let’s Fix Education—Or Kill It Trying!

It is budget time here in New Mexico and once again the state is facing the problem of how to fund public education. Somehow, most of the discussion about the welfare of our students is lost somewhere in the muddle about teacher retirement. Education in New Mexico, where you can find it, is on life support.

For the last week, prospective new students of Enema U have been touring the campus, usually with their parents in tow. I think it is a bad sign when the parents look very interested, while the prospective students are clustered in the back of the group, looking about as interested as my sons did when I dragged them to every history museum in London.

So far, after talking to a few of these prospective students, I’m underwhelmed. These are not bad kids, but they don’t appear to be ready, academically or emotionally, to attend a good high school. And while I firmly believe that we could catch better students with a tiger pit, we will have to dig that hole some place other than New Mexico. I’m not exactly sure where, for I fear that many states’ education programs are in as bad a shape as ours is.

I have a cure for all this. I want to change public education for middle and high schools. I have no idea what to do at elementary schools, and since all I really think we need to do is keep the little rug rats out of the road until they learn to read, I will restrict my suggestions to the changes we need in secondary education:

1. Schools breed administrators like cockroaches, and in pretty much the same kinds of places. Here at Enema U, I have long thought that, if we could print up a guide to the Administration, (sort of like the program you buy at a baseball game) it might be easier to keep track of the game. High schools and school districts are no different. Line up all staff members who make over $50,000 a year, then fire everyone in that line who does not teach at least one class a semester.

2. School teachers learn how to become school teachers by getting a degree in education from other school teachers. In Biology, they call this inbreeding. If you did this with children, within a few generations, Little Johnny would sit in the corner licking his eyebrows. Come to think of it, this pretty well describes a lot of administrators. Eliminate the degree in education and require a content degree to teach every subject. In other words, if you are teaching history, get a degree in history. Qualifications for teaching at the elementary school level should be a one year certification after your BA. This kind of course could be taught in a community college.

3. Flying Flaming Bat Shit! Do we ever waste money on the wrong things in education! We need a new constitutional amendment: No school, college, or university can spend more on athletics than it spends on Math. If we want to compete in the world wide economy, it might be beneficial if our kids were better at math than at catching a ball.

4. No one who has ever committed ‘Coach’ should serve in any administrative job in education. Even if his parole is over. How many of you went to a high school where the principal or vice principal had once been a football coach? Why would you turn the school over to a person who, in all likelihood, is less well-educated than the school janitor? Athletic Directors should be treated exactly like pedophiles: Registered and required to stay 5 miles from any child.

5. No athletic facility should be built until the librarian at the school certifies that the library does not need any more space/books.

6. To graduate from high school, the student must show the ability to play a musical instrument. Suggesting that a student march with any musical instrument is a crime punishable by no fewer than 5 years serving on the PTA. Just what jackass decided that the highest form of music could be learned by marching? This must have been a coach… Quick, name three great marching symphonies.

7. Every high school student should be required to learn a new language. I don’t think it really matters which language, as long as it is something new to the student. Learning a new language stretches the brain, and our students need a challenge other than figuring out the latest TV remote.

8. Close the damn campus. The high school that my sons went to allowed students to leave the campus for lunch. This generally meant that from about 10:30 in the morning to about 2:00 in the afternoon, students could be found eating massive amounts of junk food while slowly wandering up and down the streets within a mile radius of the school. I would be willing to bet that a sizeable percentage of those students never returned to the school. What exactly is the purpose of this policy? Is the high school some form of economic subsidy for Taco Bell?

9. While we are at it, get rid of school crossing zones. Instead of lowering the speed limit, raise it. Let the students run for it: it will be educational and good exercise. Those who can’t figure out how to cross the road probably aren’t needed inside those classrooms, anyway. For the rest of them, it can help substitute for the smaller sports program.

I know these are modest changes to education, but I truly believe that if we don’t start with slow improvements like these, the public will probably never accept the big changes we will have to implement later.


  1. 1. My elementary school had 3 rooms for each grade 1-6. Our entire faculty was 18 teachers, a principal, one secretary and a janitor. The janitor wrote books on playing championship checkers. Should be sufficient.
    5. We are in trouble if the librarian coaches girls basketball, lacrosse or something.
    6. Unfortunately the only instrument that I can play is the radio.
    7. I agree by high school students should be at least introduced to if not fluent in English.
    8&9. Elimination of school crossing zones would definitely support restriction of the students to campus. Those that leave & survive would support Darwinism in athletics.

  2. I guess I did not speak plainly enough. I guess I need to stop being so subtle.

    The librarian does not coach anything, ever, ever, ever. The librarian is too busy doing something important to screw around with nonsense.

    Let me put this in perspective for you. If the school was a human body, the librarian is the heart. The math and science teachers are the lungs. The basketball coach is navel lint. The lacrosse coach is toe jam. The athletic director is a dingleberry.

    We need to fully fund the important aspects of education before we waste seven cents on fluff.
    If you are fully meeting the educational needs of your students, then and only then, should you allocate money on activities that, while they might be entertaining, have nothing to do with getting an education.

    There is a proven link between music and math. Learning to play a musical instrument seems to aid the ability to perform abstract reasoning. There are similar studies showing links between art instruction and educational achievement. Yet, as I write this, school districts across the country are cutting funds for art, music, and most academic subjects even while spending ever more money on the athletic program.

    Let me try one more time. Suppose you picked up a newspaper tomorrow morning and read that American Airlines had made a curriculum change in their flight school. They are eliminating instruction in landing an airplane so they can free up the funds to start a Pilot's Basketball Team. Stewardesses will no longer learn safety procedures in order to devote more time for cheerleading. Are you concerned?

    We will, ultimately, get the quality of education not only that we pay for; we will get what we buy.

  3. I cannot agree more. Hell, even if we only enacted point #2 it would drastically improve the quality of education in America. Well played.

  4. I actually started out at Enema U as a music major, so I am good to go there. I studied German in high school, check another one off. I never coached anything, ever. The problem is, I earned a history degree.

    I guess this is what I get for investing a lot of time in classes that teach important stuff instead of using that time on learning how to manage students.

    It's a crock of shit that I can't teach history, at least at the middle school level, but someone who took four survey courses and some education classes is more qualified.

  5. I think you already know how to manage students. Teach your classes well, show your students the respect they deserve, and have, at the very least, as much interest in the material as the students and you usually have no problems.

  6. I read this and I don't want to hit you, this is a good sign. As a teacher and former Milliorn student I agree with pretty much everything you said. I was told by Betty and Jughead to come talk to you about a master’s in History. I may have to do that this summer after I recover.

    One important factor is the condition in which the students come to us. Parents make a huge difference in the education of their child. I hate calling parents to tell them little Johnny was being an idiot in class today only to find out exactly where he learned it from. Parents who don't care breed students who don't care. Teacher's can do their best, but if mommy and daddy teach their kids public schools are just free daycare, we are all screwed.

  7. Meanwhile NMSU is breaking ground on the new turf practice field and replacing more and more classes with online substitutes. Think you covered all my complaints to start with education across the board, one thing i am glad you did not turn to was this ever trendy answer to fix all the problems is the privatization of public education, or maybe i am just listening to too much NPR and Rush Limbaugh lately.