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More thoughts on education: it’s still a barrel of snakes

August 8, 2011

I used this because all the images of barrels of snakes were gross!

Jerry Pournelle, who has a lot of brilliant things to say on many subjects, blogged today about the conditions of US education responding to comments recently made by Bill Gates. Gates has an educational foundation and has actually spent some time looking at excellent schools. I don’t think that I agree with everything he says, at least not in the excerpts in Pournelle’s piece, but I think it’s interesting that Gates is at least speaking out about it and not taking the government line.

Gates makes the point that excellent teachers are not enough – they require support systems to be effective. That is a point that is often ignored. As we used to say, teachers used to close the door in September and come out in June. Or something like that. Anyway, the point was that each classroom was self-contained and sort of existed in a vacuum.

That can’t happen in today’s educational environment, not with all the outside influences. Pournelle mentions that one of the of the major points Gates doesn’t bring up in the speech is the subject of discipline. I would put that both in “classroom environment” and “support.”

It’s a big issue. Without a good classroom environment nothing else can take place, but there’s no simple solution to handling school discipline problems. It’s a barrel of snakes by itself, and I’m not prepared to do a major essay on school discipline right now.

Gates’ remarks were make to the Urban League. Here is a link to those remarks.

Pournelle talks about how education was once much more a local responsibility, before it became so tied up in state and Federal requirements. I don’t think all the regulations are in any way helpful in the long run, sorry; and while lots of districts want that state and Federal aid, I wouldn’t be surprised if many districts wouldn’t need it if they could eliminate a lot of the regulations and red tape they have to deal with.

One of these days I’ll have to do a little essay on regulations in education, as seen from a teacher’s point of view.

One of the biggest problems in education is that everyone tries to simplify the issues! Discipline is a complex issue, regulation is a very complex issue, grading and promotion, special education, and all kinds of other issues are very, very complicated. Like the Federal spending issue or climate change, these things don’t really work very well as fifteen-second sound bites, no matter how hard the drive-by media tries.

Ah…well, both Pournelle and Gates make some interesting points. I invite you to read their thoughts.

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