Whether you like The Donald or not, he’s telling the truth about the American economy…our jobs have transferred to other countries. Why won’t President Obama and other politicians (Republicans and Democrats) address this obvious fact? Why won’t these same politicians and policy wonks address the very obvious reason for the continued downward spiral of urban education in American…the appalling lack of classroom discipline and motivation to learn?
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
This coming Friday, the country’s eminent educational historian and scholar, Diane Ravitch, will be in Savannah, Georgia addressing the Georgia School Board Association. Ms. Ravitch’s recent best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, is a blistering critique of the No Child Left Behind Act, particularly the mania of testing and its accompanying systematic cheating which this misguided Federal law apparently spawned. Several years ago (actually, the exact date is February 18, 2001; I tend to write when I purchase a book and where I bought it on the inside jacket), I purchased Ms. Ravitch‘s book on the failure of school reform, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms. On September 15, 2010, I bought her recent book critiquing No Child Left Behind and have immensely enjoyed reading this very informative and enlightening book. Recently, Ms. Ravitch wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times, discussing the fact that many of the schools which have been hyped as models of reform and success are actually just hype. The reality of what has happened does not match the hype.
I appreciate Diane Ravitch‘s willingness to go against the grain…against all of the hype — and to even admit that her previous positions on national testing, etc., were wrong. So much in public education which is ballyhooed as “success” is simply hype. So much of this hype and denial (seems an odd combo, right?) is the downright refusal to deal with the alarming lack of discipline in our schools…but I am particular alarmed at the lack of discipline in our urban schools and the lack of motivation on the part of the students to learn. Let’s face it…all of the hype and wringing of hands (another strange combo, right?) is about the abject failure of our urban schools. I couldn’t help but be bemused when Donald Trump was talking on one of the cable shows the other night, and he essentially said that our politicians (including President Obama) simply refuse to address the fact that a lion’s share of our manufacturing jobs have been shifted overseas, especially to Asia. He said that he bought thousands of television sets recently (presumably for his hotels and not just to watch himself on TV!), and they all came from South Korea. The jobs just aren’t here anymore. Even many of our service sector jobs are in India and other countries. Just call your credit card company and see if an American answers!
I was totally against this hyped-up “free trade” that Presidents Bush, Sr., Clinton, and Bush, Jr., pushed incessantly. President Clinton himself signed the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and I have to admit that Ross Perot was right…there was a giant sucking sound of our jobs leaving the country. But, in recent years, only politicians like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan seemed to want to address the fallacy of “free trade,” and you see how far it got them on the national stage in politics! Ha! Unemployment is now at 9.3%. So many of the jobs are simply overseas. They are not here anymore. “Free Trade” has NEVER been “Fair Trade.” China does what the hell it wants to do…environment and working conditions be damned! Other countries do the same. Our trade imbalance is unconscionable and, besides the inordinate and inexplicable (well, if you understand the greed of Exxon Mobile and Chevron and their influence over the national politicians, it’s really not that inexplicable) dependency on foreign oil, this imbalance of trade is the greatest shift in resources of our country to other countries that our history has ever seen. And people are wondering what’s wrong with the American economy, once considered a “miracle” to the rest of the world. Our middle class, which was once the envy of the world, is now shrinking at alarming rates.
I grew up in Columbus, Georgia where you had manufacturing jobs all up and down the Chattahoochee River in huge cotton mills and other industries. They are gone. Even the Bibb Manufacturing Company (the largest textile mill under one roof in the world at one time) is gone. A whole quaint town, Bibb City, grew up and thrived around this one mill alone. The Bibb kids went to my high school. My friend was Chief of Police of Bibb City! These were the days. Yes, Columbus (like many cities in Georgia and South Carolina) had many jobs in the textile industry. But, they, like other jobs in other industries, have vanished. They are now in Malaysia and other countries on the Pacific Rim.
In the schools in Columbus (Muscogee County), you had discipline. There is still a modicum of discipline in some of the schools in Muscogee County. But, in many of the more urban areas, the discipline is wanting. There is just a dearth of discipline in our urban schools today, but no one (and I mean almost literally “no one” beside fools like me) will address this all-important (the MOST important) factor in schools, viz., discipline. In many places, discipline is not emphasized or discussed simply because the students come to school with a lot of self-discipline. Discipline is simply expected…without a lot of talk about it. But, where this is not the case, discipline has to be the order of the day. Order is the first law of the Universe, as my colleague Norreese Haynes always says.
Not talking about classroom discipline, not addressing discipline, not supporting teachers in the classroom with discipline, and not setting the tone at the school that discipline is expected and that the teachers will be fully supported in their efforts to maintain order in the classroom will only result in a chaotic and non-learning environment. Discipline and the requisite motivation to learn always precedes academic achievement. If you focus first on academic achievement without regard to discipline and the motivation to learn, you will end up with a dismal flop, which is what we have in urban schols in America today. The mantra at MACE is simply this: You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. I am still waiting for someone to even attempt to dispute this assertion. In fact, let’s just call it “Trotter’s Law of Environmental Learning.” Yeah, I like this sound. Like “The Law of Gravity” or “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” or “The Law of Biogenesis.” You can ignore these laws but you ignore them only at your own peril.
So, I am glad that Diane Ravitch with “break bread” with the folks of the Georgia School Board Association in Savannah. Maybe some good will result from this encounter. I hope so. (c) GTSO, June 11, 2011.