Howard County Blog

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Congressman Sarbanes Gets His Committee Assignment



Congressman Sarbanes (MD-3) has been named to the Education and Workforce Committee pending final approval by the Democratic Caucus. This committee seems like a good assignment for our new congressman. He has is work cut out for him with No Child Left Behind continuing to destroy our education system by rewarding only teaching to the test and thus only the recall level and not the critical thinking skills that are crucial to function in a democracy or a market economy. How many people remember covalent bonding or the War of 1812 five years after they finish school? Frankly, they don’t need to if they have the research skills to look it up and the critical thinking skills to assess their sources.

When I was in graduate school at the London School of Economics, which has the most internationally diverse student body among all English speaking universities, I noticed a distinct difference between the North American (i.e. US and Canadian) students and all the others. The non-North American students were great at regurgitating different authors’ arguments and giving one author’s critique of another author, but they were unable to generate their own critic of a particular theory or take information from a variety of sources and develop solutions. For example, I was taking a lot of classes on ethnic conflict and after reading lots of different theories and case studies most still could not identify which constitutional structure should be put together to reduce ethnic conflict in any giving situation. They could only say they would use Lijphart’s approach or Horowitz’s approach, not pick and choose what aspects of each would work best to mitigate conflict and what effects each of these aspects would have together. The North American students by contrast might not be able to quote back a particular author’s theories verbatim or give one author’s critique of another, but were always probing the ideas and developing their own often fresh critiques of any of the theories they looked at and given a particular problem they were good at take information from a variety of sources and come up with a creative solution. In a market economy it is crucial to have the critical thinking and problem solving skills to figure out how to best market a particular product or as a consumer sort out what is quality information to make purchase choices. In a democracy we need to have these critical thinking skills to sort out what candidates, the media, interest groups, neighbors, friends, and family all say about candidates so we can determine where candidates actually stand on the issues we care about and what their records are so we can determine who we want to vote for. No Child Left Behind is a systematic attack on the teaching of critical thinking and thus an attack on our market competitiveness (the critical thinking focus of our education system is why we have such an innovative and entrepreneurial society and is the source of so many new technologies) and our democratic process. Standardized tests do not measure what gives our society its strategic advantage over most other countries and teaching to the test only weakens America.

So needless to say I strongly hope Congressman Sarbanes will use his new committee assignment to get rid of No Child Left Behind and maybe start addressing the real issues of regional income disparities, large class sizes, bureaucratic burdens on teachers, and recruiting into the teaching field those critical thinkers that challenge their students to think, like many of the great teachers I had hear in Howard County did when I was growing up here.

4 Comments:

Blogger Eldersburg1976 said...

As a society, we must return teaching to a top tier position (socially and financially) to attract the best individuals into the profession. These statistics are disheartening:

Average starting salaries……

Education: $37,509
Electrical Engineering: $50,719
Mechanical Engineering: $57,332
Pharmacy: $61,643
Finance: $97,835

From:
http://www.studentsreview.com/salary_by_major.php3

These statistics seem to be fairly consistent from that I’ve experienced personally and my peers (6 years out of college). In an ideal world, the only reason one would choose a profession is the love of ones work. In reality in today’s society, money is an important factor. …Especially in areas with a high cost of living (AKA Columbia).

How many families can move into and live in Columbia on the average teacher’s starting salary? Does anyone know what a starting teacher makes in Columbia? I’m guessing they are a bit higher than the average but haven’t seen the numbers.

As I remember back to when I was a freshman in college, a 35% reduction in starting salary compared to my major was a significant consideration.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Di Zou said...

Starting teachers salary in Howard County is around $48,000 without any extra qualifications, ie masters degree, etc.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please also keep in mind other compensation - June, July, and August. Some teachers use that time to recharge, others to earn additional income.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Though some do make some extra money over the summer most teachers I know are working on cirrculum writing or taking classes to keep up on their subject area over the summer.

4:51 PM  

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