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Education, Legal & Law,

Tearing Down the Ivory Tower: a Defense of Vocational Education

In 2012, Diane Ravitch wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that highlighted the many ways in which the over-emphasis on standardized testing has created a crisis in the education system. According to Ravitch, one of the many problems with the No Child Left Behind Act is that since “the law demanded progress only in reading and math, schools were incentivized to show gains only on those subjects. Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in test-preparation materials.” This, in turn, created a “nightmare for American schools, producing graduates who were drilled regularly on the basic skills but were often ignorant about almost everything else.”

Ravitch’s article does a fantastic job of explaining, in laymen’s terms, something that education insiders already know: in the last two decades, the priorities of the contemporary education system have completely shifted. Students have been reduced to passive consumers of information. They sit in a classroom for however many years, memorizing information until it’s time to spit out a diploma—at which point they forget most of what they learned. What was once intended to provide people with options has now become a system used to train future corporate yes-men. Everything about modern education, from the seating charts to the standardized tests, is an attempt to train students to defer to authority and assimilate themselves within hierarchies of power. Students are not trained to pursue knowledge. They’re trained to obey those who already have it.

We’re not going to fix this problem by teaching students to worry about test scores and college applications. If we want our students to learn how to think for themselves, we need to give them more control over the direction of their education—at that control needs to be handed over at an earlier age. Labor unions, trade schools and vocational programs should have the same kind of on-campus presence that military and college recruiters currently enjoy. Paid apprenticeship programs should be established and made available to high-school students, who would then have the option of spending half of their day either in the classroom or learning a chosen trade.

Trade schools and vocational programs put students in a position to utilize skills they learned in the classroom. They provide students with an opportunity to test themselves, to see where their skills and talents truly lie. These types of programs would expose students to the realities of the working world, while simultaneously providing them with the opportunity to gain valuable career experience in whatever field they choose to pursue. It would also provide students with some measure of autonomy, and encourage them to actively prepare for the future.

The problem is that there’s so much cultural emphasis on the importance of higher education that students are not encouraged or incentivized to pursue these alternatives. Many students are either unaware these options exist or they’ve been told by teachers and guidance counselors that they’d be squandering their academic potential. Our students are told from a young age (by their parents, their teachers and the media) to believe that a college degree is an essential prerequisite of a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. This cultural myth persists, despite mounting evidence (like the rising rates of debt and unemploymentamong college graduates) that our education system is broken and needs to be reformed.

Call me crazy, but I want an education system that scoffs at SAT scores and throws out the standardized tests; an education system that encourages people to do what they love, regardless of what their paycheck is going to look like. Mostly though, I want an education system that starts from the assumption that the best place to learn about the real world is the real world; the same way that the beach is the best place to learn about the ocean, or New York is the best place to learn about the Empire State Building.

And frankly, I don’t really think that’s asking too much.

Education, Legal & Law,

The New York Times Gets an ‘F’ on Education Policy

Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer
A recent New York Times editorial took a moment out to lecture mayor-elect of New York City Bill de Blasio on how he should treat teachers and their unions. We hope he doesn’t listen.

The editorial began by endorsing a pay raise for New York City teachers, but insisted that “any sort of raise will require concessions in exchange,” including loosening “work rules that stifle innovation and favor senior teachers over younger ones who may in fact be more talented.” This general philosophy was spelled out on a number of different fronts.

For example, the editorial continued: “Seniority trumps everything and is treated as a proxy for excellence. Under current rules, a school that has an enrollment shortfall or budget problem and has to cut one of its five math teachers cuts the least senior teacher, period. In progressive systems, like the one in Washington, D.C., which has made big gains on federal assessment tests, decisions about which teachers to cut are based on a combination of factors, including how they stack up on evaluations and whether they possess special skills. The goal is to keep the most talented teachers.”

There are a number of problems here. First, The New York Times editorial board is simply accepting — no questions asked — that in the richest country in the world it makes sense for schools to cut teachers because of a “budget problem.” The U.S is engaged in an insane, entirely irrational campaign of underfunding its public schools on a massive basis, thereby robbing the country of the benefit of a future well-educated citizenry. How The New York Times expects any teacher to succeed in nurturing critically thinking students, when they are surrounded by policy makers who lack any semblance of logic and who give corporations generous tax breaks rather than adequately fund schools, is at least, questionable.

Second, according to the statement above, Washington, D.C. “has made big gains on federal assessment tests,” but in a past New York Times article, the Washington, D.C. test scores looked suspect. Here is what was reported on August 21, 2011:

“At the end of March, three of the paper’s [USA Today] reporters — Marisol Bello, Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo — broke a story about the high rate of erasures and suspiciously high test-score gains at 41 Washington schools while Ms. Rhee was chancellor.
“At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion.”

Third, even if Washington, D.C. test scores were accurate, and 1 chance in a 100 billion sounds remote, there is a problem with evaluating teachers on the basis of standardized test scores. As New York Times columnist Joe Nocera reported (April 25, 2011):

“Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn.” In other words, the real cause of so much educational failure is not poor teaching; it is poor neighborhoods. But in a society in which 95 percent of all new wealth goes to the wealthiest 1 percent, nothing short of a fundamental social transformation will address that problem.

The New York Times editorial continues: “Similarly, the salary schedule in New York is calculated to reward longevity, requiring 22 years to get to the top level.” And it added shortly thereafter: “Meanwhile, younger teachers start out with relatively low salaries and are at risk of leaving the system for higher pay elsewhere. The scales should be rebalanced so that teachers who are judged highly effective under the new evaluation system can move up quickly in the pay scale.”

Again, their statement is riddled with problems. Excellent teachers do not go into teaching for the money. Rather, they love to learn, they love to teach, and they love their students. The deep rewards they derive from teaching are completely untouched by money. Of course, it is possible to force even excellent teachers to re-evaluate their priorities by paying them poverty wages, which they would probably be getting were it not for the strong teacher unions. But no one should be paid poverty wages; every hard-working individual deserves a sufficient salary so that they are in a position to buy a house, a car, send their children to college, receive quality health care, and retire with dignity.

Even granting that excellent teachers could be unambiguously identified, the merit pay being peddled by The New York Times will undermine quality education rather than promote it. It makes teachers compete against one another for rewards, thereby destroying a sense of camaraderie among them; it insinuates that material rewards are of the highest importance, not pleasures of the mind; and it militates against the development of a community of minds that in the final analysis is the most powerful tool for the pursuit of knowledge.

Furthermore, who determines who is an excellent teacher? If standardized test scores do not provide an infallible index, then who decides? This indispensable and unavoidable question is never broached by The New York Times editorial board. In fact, in most cases principals are the deciders, but they are often the people who fled the classroom themselves because they were more interested in money than in teaching, hardly a strong qualification for allowing them to discern excellent teachers.

When given the chance, however, teachers and principals together can solve the problem of evaluations. The Montgomery County public school system in Rockville, Maryland, with an excellent teaching record, has a highly regarded approach to teacher evaluations. They have created a panel of eight teachers and eight principals to evaluate teachers collectively. Importantly, everyone on the panel has an equal voice, and decisions are arrived at through a process of rational argumentation and democratic voting. But there was a special key to the panel’s success. As the teachers’ union president said: “It wouldn’t work without the level of trust we have here.” This trust could never develop in system with merit pay.

Finally, the editorial argues: “The teachers’ union has been particularly hostile to the city’s thriving charter schools, which receive public financing, are exempt from some state rules and regulations, and, on average, are outperforming traditional schools.”

But the same New York Times editorial board had this to say earlier this year about charter schools: “Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and often are worse — than their traditional counterparts, the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end.”

The hostility of the teachers’ union towards charter schools looks immanently rational compared to this year’s incoherency of The Times editorial board.

Education, Legal & Law,

What’s At Stake in Privatizing Education

Forms of Privatization in Public Education

The idea that government can’t do anything right has been trumpeted by the right wing for decades, particularly by its recently deceased leader Milton Friedman, a former economist at the University of Chicago. He campaigned to reduce government functions to a minimum while letting private enterprise step in and take full responsibility for running all industries, health care, retirement pensions, and even education, which he viewed as socialist when run by the government. Private enterprise, he argued, employs the most efficient means while always producing superior outcomes.

These ideas were typically regarded as fringe, but have gradually moved to center stage, embraced by liberals and conservatives alike. George W. Bush succeeded in privatizing many of the operations associated with the functioning of the U.S. military overseas, including the supply of food, the necessary infrastructure for housing soldiers, the use of special security forces such as Blackwater in Iraq, etc. He would have privatized Social Security had he not encountered vehement resistance on the part of the American public.

Obama’s contribution to the privatization campaign has centered for the most part on education. But before we can evaluate its impact, it is necessary to consider the different forms privatization can take in relation to schools, since it can occupy different positions on a wide spectrum of possibilities.

At one end of the spectrum lie completely privatized schools that provide their own financing and govern themselves. But many schools are more like hybrids, a mixture of private and public. Charter schools, whose numbers are growing rapidly, are funded with public money (that previously would have gone to public schools) but are privately operated. Often they are run by for-profit or non-profit national companies, as opposed to simply a group of teachers who want to break away from traditional schools and experiment with an alternative curriculum.

Similarly, essentially public universities or K-12 schools might make use of online courses produced by private, for-profit companies, and, of course, private companies produce textbooks.

Another hybrid example is where public universities have aggressively raised tuition fees at public universities so that funding shifts from the public coffers to the students themselves as private citizens. At the University of California at Berkeley students now contribute more for their education than the state does. In the 1960s the state paid for the vast majority of their expenses.

Still another example is where a publicly funded and operated school imports the corporate culture from the private sector. For example, many public universities are abandoning their former practice of promoting faculty into administrative positions, paying them only slightly more than before and, instead, are drawing on administrators from the private sector and paying them exorbitant salaries while paying part-time faculty less than a living wage. Some presidents of public universities now make over $1 million a year. Under such circumstances democratic institutions of shared governance are dismantled while power tends to be concentrated at the top, thereby destroying any spirit of collegiality.

Another cultural import from the private sector involves measuring “student learning outcomes” in order to evaluate teachers, as if one is counting gadgets churned out on a factory assembly line. Of course, the result of the evaluation will depend of the choice of measurement, and although highly controversial, standardized tests now represent the most prevalent alternative.

Still another cultural import is the hyper emphasis on competition. Not only are students required to compete against one another for grades, teachers must compete against one another in order to hold their jobs. There is a strong drive to fire teachers whose students have low test scores while retaining and rewarding those with high student test scores with “merit” pay. Thus far teacher unions have been vigorously resisting this practice.

But with Obama’s Race to the Top even schools are forced to compete against one another. By tying federal funding to the acceptance of charter schools, Obama is establishing a framework where traditional public schools must compete with the newer charter schools for students, especially for the students who will raise their school’s test scores.

Finally, partial privatization can occur simply by setting the goal of education as exclusively producing skilled workers primarily for the private sector rather than emphasizing the full development of the student or the training of a critically thinking individual who is prepared to assume the obligations of citizenship in a democratic society. City College of San Francisco, for example, in its fight for accreditation was forced to delete from its mission statement reference to teaching “life skills,” “cultural enrichment,” and “lifelong learning.” Pressure has mounted on all public institutions of higher learning to move students through quickly so that they can graduate with a degree and enter the labor market.

Why Privatize?

There are basically two distinct motives. As mentioned before, many believe that competition, emblematic of the private sector, is the best guarantee for the best outcomes. Competition compels participants to adopt the most efficient means and maximizes motivation by threatening extinction if a company does not excel.

But on a more pragmatic and less ideological level, education offers a tremendous source of profits when private, for-profit companies are allowed to move in. For this reason for-profit educational institutions have mushroomed during the past several decades.

The privatization movement is now in full force as a consequence of the growing inequalities in wealth. With the decimation of those with middle income, wealth has become concentrated at the top. With wealth comes power. Corporate owners have therefore found it much easier to impose their will and values on the rest of society.

What Is At Stake?

Nothing short of genuine education itself is at stake. What particularly vitiates the learning process is the introduction of a corporate culture or “market” forces that insist on measuring “student learning outcomes” by “objective” standards such as standardized tests; that place an emphasis on competition so that there are inevitably “winners” and “losers;” that regard democratic structures that include teachers with disdain; that narrow the curriculum so that job skills alone are valued; and that think in terms of education as valuable only as a means to material rewards.

Students will not become genuine learners unless they are imbued with a love of learning, meaning they regard learning as an end in itself, an asset not easily measured. Every teacher is fully aware that in competitive environments students will concentrate their efforts on achieving a high grade, not on truly understanding the material. They will memorize for tests and then forget everything. They will take great pains to hide their ignorance, not raise critical questions, let alone questions about material they do not understand. We know that in moments of desperation the vast majority of high school students at one time or another will cheat, which is hardly one of the skills we want them to acquire.

We also know that when teachers are judged by their students’ standardized test scores, they will teach to the test, where the highest goal is to get the “right” answer, with or without understanding the material. Here students are drilled, so that for them school becomes painfully dull and boring. And who knows if those who create the tests have themselves identified the “right” answer or even asked an appropriate question. There is absolutely no opportunity to raise critical questions.

What is particularly vile about judging teachers by their students’ scores is that we have volumes of evidence that prove that the student’s performance in the classroom is far more a function of their family situation than what the teacher does.

Knowledge is best pursued as a cooperative venture where students work together to find solutions to problems and share their information. New teachers do best, for example, when partnered with a mentor who can share with them what they have found that does and does not work. This won’t happen when teachers and schools are competing against one another.

When the search for the Higgs Boson particle, otherwise known as the “god particle,” got underway, two teams of scientists of 3000 each were created, not as a source of motivation through competition but to provide independent confirmation of the other team’s results. Those on each team worked in close cooperation with one another. Although external rewards existed, the participants were driven by their love of physics. As one veteran member told a newcomer: he will have “the time of his life.”

Because of its cooperative nature, the pursuit of knowledge cannot be disentangled from a sense of community where each participant acquires the ability to listen to different points of view, weigh their respective merits, and synthesize the best aspects of each view into a more sophisticated vision. Here everyone must enjoy an equal voice so that no one’s contribution can be routinely dismissed because of an individual’s status.

Consequently, institutions of learning that operate with a corporate top-down structure — where brute power continually preempts the force of the better argument — inevitably undermine the learning process within the classroom. If educators do not practice what they preach, then learning is transformed into a type of obedience and academic achievement becomes a form of deception.

Of course, the most valuable moments in education cannot be measured. When students get carried away with a discussion where each responds to the others and where each contributes to the other’s response, it is impossible to quantify the performance of each student, as if each contribution could be isolated from the others. And, of course, any attempt to quantify their performances would only serve to undermine the spiritual pleasure that students derive from collaborating with one another where each one plays an essential role in creating a richer outcome.


The vast preponderance of evidence unambiguously supports the conclusion that the corporate culture in all its forms is antithetic to education. And this doesn’t even take into account the inevitable and prevalent corporate corruption that has infused education in the past several decades where the well-being of students is sacrificed for the pursuit of profits. But those who champion it, including the Obama administration, Bill Gates, and all the reactionary education foundations, display little regard for the conclusions of scientific studies. In their fanatical zeal they have demonstrated a willingness to impose a corporate culture despite the resistance of protesting parents and teachers. Lacking rational justifications, they shamelessly make recourse to force, closing community schools, for example, over the objections of the families they serve.

There can be little wonder that these zealots display no interest in the indispensable role our public schools play in nurturing students into citizens who are prepared to participate in a democratic society. For them, democracy only serves as an annoying hindrance to producing compliant workers who will follow the example of the politicians and uncritically dedicate their lives to serving their corporate masters.


All About Kinesiology Training

Kinesiologists identify imbalances by using manual muscle testing. They then work to correct these imbalances. This helps the body to heal itself and improve performance.

A kinesiologist is a great resource for amateur and professional athletes alike. They can help you avoid injuries.

Education Requirements

Aspiring kinesiologists can choose from several pathways into the field. Many find that a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology on is the best route to take. Students should ensure that the school is accredited by an established body. This will impact their ability to receive federal financial aid and transfer credits. Students can also seek assistance from the school’s Career Services department to find internships and part-time jobs.

Kinesiology majors are encouraged to take as many sciences as possible in their undergraduate program, particularly biology and chemistry. If available, they should also take a human anatomy and physiology course to gain a better understanding of the physical structure and functions of the body. Students majoring in kinesiology should also seek out part-time employment in the field.

Students who are interested in becoming professional kinesiologists might consider enrolling at graduate school. Most graduate programs require a master’s degree, and some offer doctorate degrees as well. These programs offer students the chance to do advanced research on topics like athletic training and rehab, exercise physiology or motor learning and controls.

Aspiring kinesiologists can prepare for graduate school by identifying two Faculty Mentors that will guide them through the program. They should then complete a Graduate Application, which includes a Letter Of Intent. The Letter of Intent should address the student’s academic and professional goals as well as include an explanation of why the student wants to enter a kinesiology program.

In the field applied kinesiology practitioners use manual muscle tests to identify areas of the body which are not functioning correctly. They claim that by identifying these issues, physical, emotional and even spiritual health will be improved.

A bachelor’s degree can lead to many different careers. These include athletic trainer, fitness trainer, or exercise physiologist. Other job options include recreational therapists or physical therapists. Students who want to work at this level will need to obtain a state license.

Career Opportunities

With a kinesiology qualification, you have many options. Kinesiology professionals can work in many different fields, including sports medicine, physical training, exercise science, and health and fitness. With a kinesiology diploma, you can choose to be a researcher or a college teacher. The type job that a graduate in kinesiology chooses to pursue is dependent on their career goals and interests.

People who want to help patients deal with chronic illnesses can choose to become physical therapists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These professionals help their clients recover from broken bones and injuries related to the cardiopulmonary systems. They teach patients how to minimize pain at home and help them stay healthy.

A personal trainer or instructor is another option. The graduate will work with groups and individuals to improve their fitness level. The graduate designs and instructs workouts, explains the safety precautions and motivates their clients to achieve their goal. Some personal trainers can earn a handsome salary by being hired by professional sports teams.

Graduates in Kinesiology may also choose to become a coach or scout. According to the BLS, these specialized professionals find and train new players at the college level, amateur level or professional. For them to be successful in their roles, they need to understand the rules and regulations for their chosen sport.

A kinesiology degree can also lead to a job as an occupational or physical therapist, a medical doctor or a chiropractic. Some kinesiology graduates may even choose to go on to earn a graduate degree, which can increase their employment opportunities and earning potential.

Skills Required

Kinesiology courses usually cover a range of health-related topics, so students will be able to expect a well rounded set of skills. These are often hard to quantify, as they include soft skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and communication. These skills are an important part in any degree program because they will help build a strong career foundation.

Those who wish to continue their education into higher research positions can pursue a master’s in kinesiology. Those who wish to teach or direct a research facility can also opt for a doctoral degree. This degree typically takes two to four years of additional studies and research.

You will be able to identify and correct imbalances that can lead to illness with a kinesiology degree. It will also allow you to develop effective exercise plans and work with clients of all ages and fitness levels. Kinesiologists may find work in a wide range of fields including physical therapy and athletic training.

Fans of professional sports have probably seen a team trainer sprint onto the playing field to treat an injured player. These athletic trainers hold a bachelor’s in kinesiology. These athletic trainers can also be seen working with high-school athletes and conducting research on the subject of exercise science.

Your chosen kinesiology program will determine your specialization. However, all graduates must possess certain skills. Communication, interpersonal skills and an understanding anatomy and physiology are among these skills. They will also need to be patient and have the ability to listen to their patients.

Kinesiologists need to be able analyse the results of assessments and tests. They must also be able explain their results in a way that is easy to understand. Patients who have been undergoing long-term treatment may need motivation.

Kinesiologists must be able analyze the bodies of their clients and understand how different exercises and workouts affect them. They use this information to create a personalized fitness program for each client. They must also be able to solve problems quickly so that they can address any issues that may arise during treatment.