Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Go Vern Go!

I attended a talk on campus yesterday given by Congressman Vernon Ehlers. Rep. Ehlers spoke about the dire need for scientists to get involved in political affairs. Some interesting points:

1) K-12 education in this country is atrocious. 60% of all science and math teachers do not have a degree in science or mathematics. Are we doing all that we can, as a society to value our teachers and pay them accordingly? Are schools funded appropriately and is current curricula adequate?
2) Congressional spending accounts for only 30% of our national budget. The rest goes towards interest and entitlement programs. Given a shrinking discretionary budget, what will come of basic science research?
3) Despite an increasingly aged and retired component of our population, volunteer work at schools is not on the rise. Wouldn't retired people make fantastic teachers? Their experience alone is worth introducing to our nation's learners.


Anonymous little john said...

I agree with #1, but are you talking about public education and private? I don't think you need a math degree to teach first graders 1+1=2. I think schools are funded adequately. Think Asians. As for #2 I think alot of R&D is done privately. I'd venture to say that the U.S. leads the world in R&D. Being about as far away from science as possible is R&D basic science research? #3 is a great point. Maybe prescription drug coverage under Medicare can be tied to some sort of volunteer work. Or maybe a tax credit.

8:39 PM  
Blogger thc said...

Vavoom: All very good points. And I wouldn't fret much about K-12 science and math teachers not having degrees in science and math. They have degrees in elementary and secondary education.

8:43 PM  
Blogger mindful said...

For kindergarten, I agree that degrees in education are more important. But high school physics and chemistry? Come on. An education degree is probably helpful, but a science degree is critical. If you don't know the material, how can you teach it?

8:57 PM  
Blogger thc said...

Mindful: Just because you don't have a degree in a subject doesn't mean you can't teach it. Not only is an education degree "helpful" but it's required in most states.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous tomw said...

The statement was 60% of math and science teachers do not have those degrees. That doesn't apply to 1st grade. Asians/school funding? Not necessarily related. All I can think about is the 1st grade Asian girl who puked yesterday. Fortunately, it wasn't on anybody I know. Do or have any of you had children in school?

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since I have to post to get any info out of Euro looking vavoom, here it goes. Many retired people would love to help volunteer in the schools. Where I come from, however, this is forbidden by the teacher unions. Indeed, it is sensible to have people with such experience helping, but they don't want to go to school to get an education degree or certificate. It's just not worth the time, effort, and money. Especially when you consider that teachers get less and less support from parents each year and school becomes more about babysitting than education. This is not just true for elementary school but high schools as well. You should see the behavior of students that attend my high school now. I can hardly believe what happens. Therefore, imagine an older retired person who has dealt with professionals his/her whole life now put in charge of a group of people who act anything but professional. The students that don't want to be there create a difficult atmosphere for teaching that tries the patience of these retired folks. It doesn't take long for them to say screw this, I'm going fishing. I earned better than this for my life.
As for funding, no teachers are not paid what they deserve and if teachers were better paid, I assure you better people would do it. Why do people slit each other's throats for medical school admissions, for the honor of it all? bullshit, it's for the benjamins. same for law school. I wish that for every missle we built, a dollar for dollar match went to teachers' salaries in the state in which the missle is built. Alas, no such luck.

11:15 PM  
Blogger mindful said...

paul: You may not need a degree to be able to teach a subject, but you do need a fairly good knowledge of it, even to teach at a high school level. I don't teach high school kids, but I do teach college freshmen, and believe me, you need both enthusiasm and a comprehensive knowledge of the subject. Otherwise how are you going to inspire the young, curious minds that come to you for guidance? Too many times, a teacher with a meager knowledge of the subject will cover up his ignorance with bluster and insult. I'm sure we've all seen examples of that. I do agree with you that an education degree is more important in an elementary school, but a high school science teacher is not qualified unless he or she has at least a minor in his or her field.

anonymous: You're right as far as I can see about the respect given teachers. Perhaps if society as a whole valued their contribution more, we would see more and higher quality teachers.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

OK, here goes.
lj: For now, we're focusing on public education. I'm not sure what you mean by think asians, could you elaborate? Recall that most companies have dramatically cut basic science from their R&D budgets. Competition has forced companies to spend more time producing products, less time working on fundamental discovery. Take Bell Labs from the 80's. Their business model simply didn't work in today's economy. As a result, they've slashed basic science research significantly. Most of their work is now applied research and development.
paul and mindful: During the talk, Ehlers also mentioned that there exists a tremendous disparity between teachers that have scientific training and those that have a trained as education psychologists. If you can agree that both are important, how can we bridge the gap?
tomw: Do you think having children in school is a must for those wishing to improve the educational system? If so, why?
anonymous: Yes, the retired community may not have been trained to work with children. Perhaps they can work in conjuct with someone who has? I agree that teachers should be paid better, but increased pay doesn't equate with increased respect. Nobody respects lawyers and they get paid with mucho benjamins. Don't you think that we need to examine why our society doesn't respect teachers more? How do you think such a profound change in perspective could come about?

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Education education is a complex area which depends on the state. In california getting a teaching certificate is a graduate program done after complete a BA or BS in something. I do not know what most people major in though. In Michigan it is an undergraduate program where for multisubject teachers (K-5/6) have to take a wide range of classes on math/science/literature/social studies/etc. and classes on teaching these. Since they are taking classes in mulitple areas they never get very deep. I believe that for teaching high school the instructors usually have the level a little above a minor in one area then often a little below a minor in another so they can be dual use and easier to get a job. I remember the high school math teachers had to take up to Abstract Algebra. So they had to do calc I-III, Dif EQ, and Linear Algebra. They generally did poorly at the Abstract Algebra level and I think could get by with a D or C-. I would not be surprised that most k-12 teachers do not have full degrees in anyone subject. Vavoom check out the article about peer review on slate.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous little john said...

tomw: I have three kids, one in seventh grade, one about to enter kindergarten, and a three year old. We use public schools. I have had some good experiences and some terrible experieinces. We have had great, involved teachers, and others who were there just to collect a paycheck. My Asian comment was addressed at funding. It appears that many of the top students in financially distressed, inner city schools are Asian. These kids are hard workers and are usually from a culture that values education. So, no matter how crappy the facilities or instruction, these kids excell. (I understand the danger of generalizations.) I agree with anon regarding seniors, volunteering and unions. Without an incentive who wants to babysit 50 Cent wanabees? I'd rather watch Jepoardy.
V-How to regain respect for the profession? How about firing the dead weight (mostly unaccountable admin staff), increasing teacher pay for those who do a good job, and replacing the large minority (oxymoron)of teachers who are there to collect a check and benefits.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous tomw said...

I questioned whether any of you do or have had kids in school was because that brings a unique expertise. I think that position is proven by the fact that I agree with most of LJ's last post.

Vavoom:I don't think having kids is a must for wishing to improve schools. In fact, without the interest and help from those who don't have kids, improving schools will not happen.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous little john said...

tomw: thanks for the compliment. We agree! I will have a smile on my face all day and will mark this day on my Palm as the day tomw and I agreed.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous tomw said...

Don't get too excited. I'm sure you've been right before! We've marked the date on our Sierra Club calendar.

7:27 PM  

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