When I was a precocious five year old (that was how my parents described me, anyway) my late father, then the founding Chairman of Bradley University’s Electrical Engineering department, used to take me to lunch with the other professors.
He’d stand me in the booth at Hunt’s Restaurant in Peoria, Illinois and have me recite the Pythagorean Theorem for them.
“The area of the square built upon the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares upon the remaining sides.”
Now, I’m pretty sure that he and the rest of the engineering professors just wanted to hear me use the word “hypotenuse” in a sentence, but you can imagine how betrayed I felt a few years later in Mr. Evans’ fifth grade math class when I learned that the theorem posited by Pythagoras was really expressed as a2+b2=c2, where C is the longest leg of a right triangle.
So why am I telling you this?
Had I not been the son of an Electrical Engineer who was a college professor, I would have learned the Pythagorean Theorem, including the correct use of the word “hypotenuse,” IN THE FIFTH GRADE!
That wasn’t a special boarding school for precocious children. It was a public school in Peoria, Illinois within sight of the GI Bill house on Orlando Drive where my mother still lives.
Somehow, I doubt they still teach the Pythagorean Theorem in the fifth grade.
And I can almost guarantee that in Nevada, they don’t.
It is a symptom of the dumbing down of the public school system. In Nevada, we have lost in short order both the state’s School Superintendent and the Superintendent of the largest district because of, among other things, the enmity of the teachers’ union.
And why such enmity?
Well, the union and its acolytes really don’t want to have results measured in any meaningful way. And these guys were all about accountability. Worse, the measurements were extremely embarrassing for the teachers, the administrators, the school boards, and the liberal politicians.
A friend of mine says we ought to print the results of the state’s proficiency tests on the sports pages like box scores. Why? “We know those who watch the sports box scores can read and understand numbers. Putting education performance data there might wake up some people and get them really pissed-and they should be pissed,” said my friend.
That makes him at least twice as smart as the head of the Teachers’ Union, who used to be the head of the Nevada branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Now Gary Peck, during his ACLU tenure, was a fair guy. He wasn’t one of the New York-style liberals who thought that free speech only applied to liberals. So, I thought that when he took his current position as the head of the teachers’ union, he might show the same fairness.
It appears, however, that when it comes to the union, orthodoxy among the leadership is universal. Peck last week objected to a proposal from the now former state superintendent to pay the top 2000 teachers in the state $200,000 a year, telling the Las Vegas Review Journal that “this kind of skewed investment, giving substantially more to a very small cadre of people, is not the answer.”
Peck said that if the raises were not “across the board,” it would diminish the efforts of the other 18,000 teachers in the state.
Well, among the other things my late father did in his career was to bring what was then “educational” television to Illinois. And I remember being there when he was selling the idea of having very skilled and experienced teachers in subjects like math and science available in every classroom.
The then-nascent teachers’ union (this was in the mid 1960s) hated it.
Because the truth is that for most unions, it’s not about doing the job well; it’s about making ever more money regardless of how well you do the job. And the teachers’ union is not an exception. In fact, they lead the parade.
Now in fairness, it is the liberals who empowered these guys in the first place who decided that our school systems needed to function as social engineers in loco parentis (look it up if you don’t understand it), leaving many teachers to do the basic jobs that parents should be doing. So I don’t totally blame many otherwise good people, who face a classroom of challenges that their degree in education didn’t prepare them for, wanting combat pay.
But, that said, nobody is forcing you to teach. There is no sin in doing something else.
And, frankly, we’ve tried just about everything else except incentives to get test scores from abysmal to acceptable. We even tried lowering the bar so low that you would have to crawl under it. That doesn’t work, either.
Why shouldn’t teachers compete for big money like the rest of the world?
Given what we already spend on public education, why should most of the well-educated kids come from homeschooling, where parents actually do their jobs?
The truth is that exceptional kids can excel even in the worst Clark or Washoe County schools.
But what about everybody else?
Why not incentivize the teachers to be exceptional? Before the really good ones quit in disgust and get a $200,000-a-year job at Apple making iPhones that teach the dummies graduating from Nevada schools to send short text messages spelled correctly?
Photo credit: Zol87 (Creative Commons)