Race to the Top & 1200 psi Propulsion Engineering

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

My 15 year old son went to school at about 80{915b2618a7c304f461205894c34b2284541042d3c677679407e2f30838792dcd} of his peak. Today is the second day of practice Benchmark Tests meaning that in early December we’re preparing for end of year tests which determine funding allocations for schools and, I suppose, performance pay for instructors. Something doesn’t seem correct about this approach. Is high school the time to learn to learn? Do these tests aid the learning process? In a vivid way, this process reminds me of systems inspections in the Navy where we artificially prepared our engine rooms for the annual inspections. We borrowed from other ships parts that we did not have; we assigned sonar men, electronics experts, to paint details; and we caught-up all of our training records just before the visit from the inspectors. Business as usual some would observe. I recall how these ‘evolutions’ just got in the way of the real chores of managing and operating a war ship. Vividly I recall that immediately after passing the standards of the engineering board, we sailed to the Philippines only to suffer a fatal failure in an engineering system that kept us in port for about 60 days. Other destroyers had to fulfill our missions. An example of ‘pay now or pay later.’

I read Diane Ravitch’s commentary in the New York Review of Books on the acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman where she contends that poverty is the fatal cause of public school failure. I wonder if the country in its current financial abyss has the interest in addressing- I can hear the chorus of ‘not again’- root causes of such issues or will we accelerate the competitive overtones of the educational system.

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Isn’t education or the notion of being educated an acquired skill of outlook similar in art school to training of the eye to see what defines shape more than what is the shape (this is the notion that the white space around a letter defines more than the actual shape of the letter). Is one every finally educated?! A parting shot might be ‘look at what all of those educated people in the banking and financial sector got us into.’

Addendum: just learned that NC receiving $400mm over 4 years in grants for Race to the Top Program. Funds will be spread across teacher education, technology purchases and curriculum upgrades. My take is that we’re inching towards making schoolwork as compelling as games on the Wii or immersive as a PS3. Would a common national education curriculum be more efficient?