Las Vegas Sun

May 3, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Better education requires structure

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If you look at how education is viewed in Nevada, teachers really have no chance of survival. I am sure you have heard many things in the news about the teacher’s salary cuts while the strain and stress of teaching increases. I am sure you recall how Nevada voted not to increase the tax on home-owners that would help fund education. After living here almost a decade I am frankly not surprised it came back as a “no.”

When I decided to move to Nevada from the East Coast almost 10 years ago, I assumed that since Las Vegas was a thriving city, a mecca for tourists from all over the world, and had a plethora of wealth, surely the benefits received would pour over into the education system.

So much for assuming. As the years have passed, I have seen that this is not the case. Even though America has just survived a devastating economic crash, I believe Nevada still has a chance to lead the nation in education. But it takes wise decision-making on all levels.

This can only happen with the right structure, and sadly, the Legislature — as well as the largest district in the state — possess a very poor example of organized and efficiently run structures.

The author is a public school teacher.

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  1. I studied to be a teacher at Cal State Northridge and was a teachers assistant in the LAUSD. There are many problems in education but one stands out above all others, and that is the change in society in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, that cannot be undone with ever increasing funding.

    Many fewer two parent families, many less families where only one parent works, many less parents who value an education for their child, much less parent involvement in the schools and their child's life, an influx of children whose primary language is not English, many more distractions for children, the breakdown of discipline, loss of respect for teachers and others in positions of authority, political correctness run wild, etc.

    For the states and federal government to mitigate all that is an impossible task. Even coping with all that takes more money but there is a limit to what more money can do. As a society, we need to come to grips with what we have wrought and ask ourselves if the changes are really worth the price we have paid.

    If we want to or feel it necessary to substitute the 'state' for good parenting for pre-schoolers, I'd prefer to see the money spent at the state level, not the one size fits all federal level.

    Either way, I don't expect very good results. Those may only be attainable when society decides to undo some of our so called enlightenment and advances over the last 50 years.


  2. The paucity of leaders contributes to the downward spiral of both education and the government.

    A case of the blind leading the blind. Let's hope someone rises up and stands out above the fray.

    This too shall pass.

  3. In my experience, the secret to a good education is a bad-tempered nun armed with a ruler. Worked for me! And my parents were highly supportive mostly, I believe, because they didn't want to get whacked by a ruler either. :-)

  4. Jim:

    Good comment. I feel your pain. I went to public schools in Newark, NJ. And took my Catholic instructions, for Communion and Confirmation, across the street from my grammar school after the normal school day. The nuns, most especially the Mother Superior, had a back hand that I can still remember to this day. I opine she must have been related to my father, because they both had that same trait in common.


  5. Weber & Carmine: Can't do that today. It might bruise the egos of the little monsters. Public "education" is not about "education" anymore; it's about touchy-feely apcray and political correctness. The public school system is more about indoctrination than it is about education and we see the lousy results year after year. The rights of parents over "educators," administrators and pencil-pushing bureaucrats to decide where their children will be best served should be paramount. Over the past 5 or more decades, the public school system has shown it is not to be trusted to "educate" its charges and the sooner it is scrapped, the better off the children of the United States will be.

  6. How much time do parents spend at school? Not much, if any. Do you get your opinions from what your kids tell you?

    There is no substitute for a partnership between parents and teachers. Discipline and expectations are the parents responsibility.

    Failure on these fronts results in poor achievement.

  7. Fink

    Your pejorative references to children as "little monsters" and "rugrats" accomplishes little. You wouldn't be mistaken for someone who really gives a itshay.

  8. @ Jim and Carmine.....Ten years of Catholic schools and two of Scottish Presbyterian, the last four in boarding schools for "wayward" youth....I know of what you speak.

    In the past 25 years we have made a great deal of progress in understand the art and science of teaching. The US public education system is open to all comers so teachers must deal with every conceivable student type and most do it reasonably well.

    What has not changed is the archaic model of management and administration rooted in an industrial style reminiscent of Bismarck. Multiple layers of redundant management combined with authoritarian practices are simply not appropriate for contemporary education. It has been noted that many private and charter schools teach successfully with one third the administrative staff as public schools. Think of education as an advanced technology Apply, Google, HP, IBM, or any of innovative start-ups or mid-levels have administrative structures which so stifle the creativity of their employees and customers.

    Public education needs serious the management level.

  9. Permit me to share a story, where school staff were at their wits end over 3rd and 5th graders not quieting down for lunch and eating in the lunchroom. Staff tried having them silently eat for 20 minutes, not working well. Staff surveyed other staff via email for suggestions, I suggested seating boy/girl, and if that didn't work, reinstitute swats, and another teacher suggested spacing them out, placing big offenders in the far reaches of the lunchroom. The latter will be attempted. In these days, NO one seems willing to go back to discipline of yesteryears, because of the parents.

    So to Commenter Jerry Fink, it may not be a question of "bruising the egos of the little monsters," as it is about attempting to deal with parent support, which there is little, if any, of.

    I am a BIG believer in home visits. It really does wonders in changing negative attitudes of misbehaving students and it makes the parent(s) and family feel cared about and they, in return, support the student, teacher, and school more. The home visit practice is not widely supported by administration however. Personally, I think any fears and reservations administration/ors have, could be allievated by a training during a staff development day to 'prepare' staff on the ins and outs of home visits, to reduce liability issues. It is that simple, inexpensive, and reaps overwhelmingly positive results, especially student behaviors, motivation, and academic success. Let's do it!

    Blessings and Peace,

  10. For over a decade, the entire school system has been at the cutting knife whims of a long succession line of Tea/Republican Party Governors.

    Whenever they want to save money in their precious budgets, they prefer to slash education. Especially on the K-12 level.

    Their informal motto is, "Incarcerate, not educate."

    Time to turn this around, people. The only way to fix this is to get rid of the Tea/Republican Party fixation on blaming every single thing on teachers and their unions. Get rid of Sandoval. As well as a whole host of other Tea/Republicans who only point fingers and slice and dice education non-stop.

    If you vote these people in again, they'll just be emboldened to make a law to take pencils and paper away from kids and replace them with guns and knives.

    I hate to sound all doom and gloom, but look at the past 16 years or so under Tea/Republican Party Governors. The proof is in the pudding with their actions to demonize every single teacher in Nevada, as well as trying to make education out to be nothing but the boogeyman in the closet.

    Since they have no shame with their outright blatant hate for education, the voters should be compelled to act and fix this. The future of Nevada depends on it.

  11. Demographics, true. So deal with it. We have thousands more of non-parented kids including illegal kids with "absent" parents out there taking our jobs. So kids are raising themselves. Always was and always will be that some kids, many kids, are in these situations. So TEACH BASICS and forget about bells and whistles. How about explaining to students that when they are asking for something (free on Craig's List, Freecycle, non-profit and gov. freebies) it helps a lot to be polite, considerate, and speak/write well--short sentences using capitalization and punctuation.
    Teach kids to live in this world, not the world you'd like to be in.

  12. In public grammar school, all boys had to take wood shop every year after 5th grade. The teacher's [warden] discipline was a dowel stick across the butt, thighs, and legs. He even had yellow painted lines on the floor and wall for feet and hands for the students to get positioned for the lashes.


  13. "For over a decade, the entire school system has been at the cutting knife whims of a long succession line of Tea/Republican Party Governors.

    Whenever they want to save money in their precious budgets, they prefer to slash education. Especially on the K-12 level." ColinFrom LasVegas

    There is a simple and easy solution to this dilemma. The Nevada legislature needs to separate the education budget from the rest and keep it autonomous and independent. Now, who controls the legislature and is willing to do it?


  14. It's a damn shame teachers (whose salaries are not on par) need to purchase school supplies using their own money.

    Note a few opinions from the right and left are in agreement, except for those operating on the surreal fringe.

  15. "Carmine.....

    There's a reason we don't use corporral punishment
    in schools anymore." @ Teamster

    There's alot of bad things that were done in the past and we wouldn't think of doing them today. But most of us turned out pretty darn good despite them or some might even say because of them.

    I recall IN GRAMMAR school our teachers every day before starting classes read a Bible passage to the children and we prayed the "Our Father" and Psalm 23 together. Every day! Then, with the teacher leading we all said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag together while putting our right hand over our heart. That was even before the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge which when it was added was a big deal. You know who did add it and why? President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, by Executive Order. Congress later passed a bill and President Eisenhower signed it into law making it part of the Pledge.


  16. The older teachers get the more they complain.

    Interestingly, Dr. Paul Peterson at Harvard University has found that the older teachers get they also start to become worse and worse teachers, eventually being worse than first year teachers...

  17. "But most of us turned out pretty darn good despite them or some might even say because of them."

    Is that true? I come across adults who feel no or little empathy for others. They usually blame them for circumstances out of their control, for example healthcare. Cold shoulders are turned to those with pre-existing ailments or the poorest of us.