Friday, May 06, 2005

Vouchers, Smouchers!

Vouchers, Smouchers!

This was written in response to a post that public school teachers were bad for sending their kids to private schools, and that the public schools were failing the Blacks, and that voucher schools would do better for them. Private schools and voucher schools are NOT EQUAL. This is the false premise that blows the argument.

A public voucher school only gets the same amount of money from the state to operate that a regular public school gets. Charter schools are sometimes seen as voucher schools. They have smaller class sizes because the staff, for whatever reason, is willing to get by on less income.

Charter schools also have typically much more parental support, as parents are often the founders. Every adult body in a classroom affects the tone of the classroom, as does reducing class size. The smaller the class size (12 -18 is optimum, based on expensive private school experience) the greater the progress of the students. Extra hours in an over-crowded, unmanagable classroom can actually be detrimental to a child's education.

As for public school teachers sending their kids to private schools, you need to consider the following: Teachers so value education that they are willing to pay WAY MORE than what the state would offer as a voucher. Teachers want their kids to get the best education, not just a $5,000/year one. Good private schools typically run between $10,000 and $30,000/year. Are you in favor of doubling or six folding the portion of what you pay in taxes for public education ?

The "average" private school is a Catholic school, with low tuition. These are NOT the schools that teachers typically chose for their kids. There are many, many, Catholic schools, so the "average" cost of a private school education is lower than the numbers I cited. The Catholic church also had the foresight to buy up real estate and has long since paid for the buildings, so their costs are lower. And, Catholic schools (and all private schools) can KICK OUT the trouble makers, unlike public schools, such as voucher/charter schools. A new private/voucher/charter school must pay for the buildings and furnishings at the current fair market value, something even the regular public schools are able to avoid to some degree. A school district with a half a billion $$$ /year budget (60,000 students) can get discounts on lots of items not available to a new school, and has entire staffs looking for foundation and governmental freebies.

As far as the public schools failing the blacks, maybe you should go to a Hunter's Point school in San Francisco called Gloria R. Davis. It sits smack on the line between BigBlock and WestMob, the two main gangs which seem to do in 20 to 30 or so on each side each year. I was the librarian there for one year. There were effigy shrines to the dead, usually a tree dressed up like the deceased, complete with a "T" shirt with a bullet hole or two. These were decorated with balloons, "we miss you" messages, and , as a nice final touch, a circle of empty liquor bottles around the shoes....

The kids seemed to be divided into several groups, plus the minority Samoans, who just tried to stay out of sight, out of mind. About 30% were doing their best to get the heck out of there, the ghetto called Hunter's Point, by studying everything and anything, regardless of conditions. Another 20% were sort of following their lead. 25% were there to party, 10% were sullen and didn't care. 5% were seriously neurotic or borderline psycho, and about 10% were there to destroy anything and everything that anyone, adult or child, was trying to do.

That last 10% are ChrisRock/Terminator/Hanibal wannabees, and they are very good at it. Since most of their parents have gone through the system, the kids have top notch tutors who know how to scam the system very well. Thus, in each classroom of 30 kids, you've got 3 who are there to make your life miserable, day in and day out. At first I thought it was racism. No, the young, talented, black staff, male and female, had the same problems, as the young whites & Hispanics. One PE teacher and one music teacher, both older white females, did fairly well, as did an older Filipino woman, and one older black guy. But we all struggled.

I have no doubt that given a charter/voucher school, with lower salaries, you'd have exactly the same disaster scenario. But you'd be less likely to get talented staff in the first place. Why is it that more money gets and keeps the best superintendents (San Francisco's Ackerman gets over $300,000 year) but the same logic isn't supposed to work for teachers, who go a full year and 1/2 to college beyond a B.A. or B.S. ????????

So, try teaching in a ghetto school yourself, it's a real fun job. Please keep in mind that educating children is not like torquing bolts onto the wheels of tractors in a factory, at $ .50/bolt. Many people like to think it is, but it is not. Bolts are made from standardized grades of ore, producing uniform steels with uniform properties.

Children, however, come from very differing ores, with so many different characteristic that it is beyond valid statistical tracking, unless you do a lot of prohibitively expensive and time consuming testing for academics and psychological profiling, including home visits. Just what sort of home is it, BTW, when the parents themselves attended such a school, and wound up as parents, often before age 18 ? Typically the dad's incarcerated, the mom's on drugs and/or barely working, and grandma's finally gotten the hang of being the parent. Is it their fault, or society's, I'll leave that one for later.

The talented teacher is the one who can size up a child, and decide just how much "torquing" and at what rate will result in maximal learning, without our "bolt" either breaking, exploding, or being totally bored.

Measuring this ability to size up and teach accordingly is likewise nearly impossible, which is why teachers reject most forms of evaluation, and merit pay. Somebody's bound to get screwed unjustly, and teachers are conservative, and are willing to settle for less cash, and know in their hearts they've done their best, and that they are "professionals." BTW when society pays the public schools what teachers pay for their private schools, then teachers will put their kids back in public schools, but not until then. In the meantime, the typical double professional income household of a teacher will just have to pay the extra price, just like the Republicans who moan about, "high teachers' salaries," to send their kids to private schools.

Douglas Keachie

PS, teachers in a big enough system can make sure their kids are prepared, and follow procedures needed to get their kids into the very best public schools. This is what we did with my younger daughter, we moved to the "correct neighborhood" in San Francisco for her kindergarten, and now she's headed for medical school. There's always more than one way to skin a cat.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Council of 36

Well I've spent about 4 months tuning up. I now have 5 different blogs on 5 different services, most of which were experimental and will now go fallow. I think this is the one where I will post posting my "morning musings," ideas which I typically have after first waking up from a good night's sleep.

This morning I woke up with the following vision, for improving the expression of new ideas and old cultural values within our political social system.

The United States needs 36 people, chosen by popular vote, from the ideas they express through Atavars, and no other information.

Their role is to advise the President and Congress, and to be the stars of a nightly tv show, one night in 3 per person, wherein they also express their opinions. Their goal, to set forth new ideas, review current issues, and allow the populace to examine these people based on their ideas, rather than their worldly party & religious positions, as potential future politicians.

For all practical purposes, any individual wishing to join, will first become a blogging atavar. An atavar is a cyberspace person, typically a 3D character with movable parts built to be a visual image to interact in 3D cyberspace. In this case I am not interested in the visual aspects, but strictly the ability of a person to express their ideas using words, and to otherwise remain anonymous.

These 36 people will go on the air in groups of 12, in rotation, for one hour each night. Each atavar (person, member of the council) will have 5 minutes that is theirs, to do with as they please. They may wish to do a monologue. They may wish to present material from other sources. They may wish to combine their five minutes and debate with others. Each will have a salary and benefits and office and research expenses equivalent to what the average U.S. Senator gets. They have complete freeedom of speech, including hate speech and religious speech and porno speech. They may even choose to sell cars. They just are not allowed to accept outside renumeration for such activities, ever. They will remain anonymous to the public for as long as they please, but once selected, they may "go public, " if they so desire.

So every 3 days, each of the 36 will get to have their say, on whatever. They will appear on tv as their real self, or as an avatar with a faked voice.

The major channels will be required to carry their stuff, in rotation, one day of three, or lose their FCC licenses. Absolutely NO COMMERCIALS allowed. 60 minutes of information, no begging for money or commercial advertising allowed. Or you could do a CSPAN like channel. None of this is set in stone.

To become a member of the 36, six months before a presidential election, a person logs into a site, and publishes to an anonymized blog, that will follow them throughout their career as a potential member and member. They will be able to set up polls, add links, etc. Each and every interested voter will get a serving of 12 blogs the first night for review. They can mark them thumbs up, neutral, and dump. The next night they get the thumbs up ones, plus 12 more. And the process repeats.

In general, no statements are allowed at this time (before selection as a council member) which would enable people to identify a particular candidate. Potential candidates may make statements about their state, and region of the state, but no geographic indicators smaller than 100 square miles are allowed. No statements about running for election or office holding are allowed. General occupational statements are allowed. Statements about membership in fraternal or religious organizations are allowed, as long as the groups so listed are not so small as to allow for identification of the individual. Lying about facts, especially general identifiers, is not allowed, and discouraged via an investigative wing, which checks out all semi-finalists.

Weeding out the losers can be done by, dumping those who, after the first 10 days, are consistently dumped by 99.5% of the voters, after the second 10 days being rejected by 99%, and so on. From those still standing at the end of the 5 months, the highest rated 99 will become semi-finalists, along with 99 more, chosen at random, and all their blogs will be viewable by everyone, and chosable by everyone. Their ratings will not be visible. At the end of the 6th month, the 33 now highest rated will be chosen and announced. Three more will be drawn from all of those remaining at month 3, at random, just to spice things up. Each time a voter gets a new batch of 12, he/she will not have any idea of how each one is ranked so far. If one of their chosen ones is eliminated, they will be notified.

We will learn volumes about the American psyche this way, and what makes America tick.

This will require a Constitution Amendment to keep it free from Congressional or Executive branch meddling. The GAO should issue the funding for the machinery to make it all go.

The normal employer of each person chosen will be funded to find a replacement for the four years. The employer must hold open a job at the salary the employee would have risen to. The employer must offer back the employee's position at the end of four years. The employee does not have to take it. Self employed individuals will be funded to find their replacements too.

Here are a few more twists for the Council of 36:

Each year, six people are voted off, to be replaced by people at random from the 5th month's survivors. The first year the most popular of the three originally chosen at random is kept, so most likely his two "outsider, random 3rd month" types get voted off, along with four "blandies." The second year the 3 most popular randoms are kept. The third year the six most popular randoms have immunity. Those voted off now move to the 2 am time slot, again with 5 minutes every 3 rd day. By the fourth year, there are 24 people there, yakking it up in counter point to the main 36.

Also, by the 4th year, the Council of 36 becomes much more random, and less "blandy." 18 people will be there, chosen from the 5th month's randoms. This should result in some interesting confrontations, just in time for the next presidential election.

Yes, I did watch "Survivor" last night. Funny you should ask !

There would also have to be a ton of money to upgrade libraries and public buildings for wifi and freely accessable/handicap accessable, Internet terminals, open for much longer hours, if necessary via special "semi-outside" enclosed areas, served by busses to the local homeless shelters, to avoid conflicts of that nature.

As I think of other modifications, I'll add them. Suggestions welcomed !

Douglas Keachie

PS For those who really want to know what's being taught in our schools, please visit:

and tell me that a Republican teacher couldn't teach all they wanted to about the history of our country. I see, you don't believe the Federalist Papers have anything to do with the founding of this country ? Maybe the relationship between salary and the expectations of the employers have much more to do with the lack of Republican public school teachers than what they can teach. Oh yeah, the qualified college educated Republicans are all off in Iraq, fighting the good fight, and so are not available to teach, sure !