Edumacation: Where we need to be

I’m starting to use major headings for blog posts. If you’re not familiar, Edumacation is sort of a Bushism pronunciation of Education.

Over the Labor Day weekend I had some interesting discussions with a friend. He has the unique benefit of having been involved with education for the last decade. I have the unique benefit of thinking ahead to the future needs of this country.

Before I go into this let me outline my educational background because I’ll use it for comparison.

I attended Catholic schools from grades 1 through 12. Chose a private university for my B.Sc. One of the features of grades 9 through 12 was that we were tracked. You fell into a .1, .2A, .2B or .3B class. Most of my classes spanned .1 and .2A, most of which were the math and science subjects. Only thing I got .2B on was a western civilization class.

Catholic schools are more structured and they can be somewhat discriminatory in who they will accept as students. There’s the money thing. My last year at LaSalle Academy was $2,000 for the year it is now $11,900 per year, or almost $50,000 for four years. My B.Sc was on $24,000. Catholic elementary school comes to a total of $5,000 per year. Projecting out, if costs remained fixed (Which it won’t, when I was at LaSalle it got more expensive each year!) it comes out to $90,000 for 12 years of education. If you’d done public schools it would cost $132,000.

But schools like LaSalle Academy also have another way of weeding out the undesirables. There is an entrance examination. Matter of fact when I was a kid I took the entrance exams for both LaSalle and for Classical (Providence’s premier high school). Got accepted to both but for some reason chose the Catholic school. Weird I know, it was kind of a revenge thing.

In a way I’m supporting a voucher program that would kick say $1,000 a month for eleven months. It would be spectacular. 12*11*1000 = $132,000 but like I said the Catholic schools would be $90,000 so 12*11*n = 90,000 where n is equal to $681 a month.

If I had a child, even though I’m a flaming atheist, I’d want that child in Catholic schools. I think I’m good enough to counter the religious indoctrination. I may have the problem another friend of mine had. His 8 year old son announced to a nun that religion was “bullshit”. That got him expelled from the school. I’d teach a child of mine the art of subterfuge when it comes to religion.

But the point that my other friend and I discussed was this:

We test kids at several points during their primary and secondary education so we absolutely know their capabilities. In order to fix public education we need to add a discriminatory element. Not discrimination by race or ethnicity, but discrimination based on cognitive ability.

The kids who test poorly could be shunted into a vocational track while those who have higher level skills would be shunted towards higher education.

The only thing I have to say about this is that even with the standardized testing we’ve done, there’s still a problem. The language barrier is one, since some of the kids in schools don’t use English as a first language. So you’d need some way of compensating for that.

You’d also have to seriously enhance the educational environment. This means teacher evaluations, and changing union rules so that we can rid the system of bad teachers. Take NYC as an example. It’s a real pain to discharge a non-performing teacher. Granted they also need an objective adjudication division too. Maybe a panel made up of their peers, or some such.

The nugget of all of this is that not everyone can be a rocket scientist. But if you can’t be a rocket scientist, maybe you can be an engineer or technician that helps build, maintain and diagnose issues with the next generation of space exploration vehicles.

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