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Comments about ‘John Florez: Empower citizens, change education’

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Published: Saturday, May 4 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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10CC
Bountiful, UT

I usually agree with John Florez, but on this piece he's missing some essential ingredients.

I grew up with the old "industrial" system, in a classroom with a bunch of other kids, we didn't have any computers, we barely had calculators when I was in HS. After graduating with a degree in Economics in 1988, I found the job market for economists was slim, so I went into IT. I could not have been luckier, as IT has become one of the great differentiators in our economy. I scored in the 99% percentile on the ACT, so I'm extremely fortunate that way, too.

Technology works great for self-starters, for the naturally technically adept, for the 30% of kids who are bright enough to see where it can take them. I might have been able to skip school altogether if computers were around when I was in K-12.

But what about all the other kids?

There is extensive, rigorous academic research behind education and the science of how kids learn. Throwing 20-something tech-savvy kids in the classroom as teachers isn't enough.

Nothing replaces a caring, competent teacher.

cs85
Orem, UT

To 10CC, you seem to have missed John Florez's point entirely. He never said there would be no teachers. He argued for creating a competitive environment for education similar to the one that exists for business. That would lead to innovation and result in a better product for lower cost. It would also lead to a wider variety of options, allowing parents to choose a way of educating their child suited to their child's learning style.

Clarissa
Layton, UT

After I read this article, I found it to be a lot of words with no substance. I didn't read one concrete idea on how to change a classroom. As a teacher, I embraced technology. I created slideshows, lesson plans, homework which went with our daily lessons, and so many other things. We used our excellent computer lab almost daily on an excellent program to help a child work on their particular levels in language arts and math. The only thing missing was parental involvement with some students. That made a HUGE difference. How much time as John Florez spent in a classroom. By the way, class sizes are slowly inching up again. 36 just in 6th grade. Pathetic.

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

All if this sounds nice but what does it mean? I haven't read one actual idea or plan from this piece. It would essentially be like me coming out and wishing for world peace. Great concept. Yet how do we get it?

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

There is this incorrect idea, as pointed out above, that students and teachers are not using technology. There is also this incorrect idea that technology will solve all the problems that ill education. The biggest pieces are simply:

1) Student responsibility. This is seldom mentioned but at some point the student has to become accountable for their own education. At the secondary level this might mean attend class, track your own progress, tune into the teacher rather than your own technological toys or the opposite gender or the basketball game etc.

2) Parent accountability. Parents must work with their children, support their children, support the schools, get involved, track and monitor attendance and progress of their child.

A local junior high earned a grant to give every student an i-pad. It won't solve all ills. The high schools can't provide this technology. But teachers do have access to smart boards, and use labs and even the children's access to it through cell phones all the time. The premise that technology isn't being used is wrong. However, it isn't the same everywhere and without the two pieces above, technology won't solve anything.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

Another thing, I'm not sure I would grasp onto the business model. Has anyone seen our economy lately? Most businesses fail. Education isn't, or should I say, shouldn't be a business and children aren't widgets and teachers need to be more than industrial workers.

Like most of Mr. Florez's pieces, all talk and no walk. Also, a total lack of understanding the real issues of education is evident. To infer teachers and schools aren't using technology isn't the issue. But if our teachers had a fighting chance with reasonably sized classes that might help. If salaries and benefits restored so good teachers could be retained at higher rates and better skilled individuals drawn to the profession that might help. If parents got more positively involved, that would help. If steps were required to make students even more accountable for their learning that would help. By and large, the role of government might be to give the teachers and schools the tools to succeed and a better outcome might come about. And by tools I don't technology but treating the human beings that work with our children a lot better.

10CC
Bountiful, UT

Cs85:

Howard Beal effectively answers your objection. It's irresponsible to simply deregulate education. What if a group of left wing hippie parents decide that having tests and grades is wrong and they do away with them altogether? How are Universities and colleges supposed to evaluate how the students from such a system might be candidates for admission? Employers?

In the world of business, many entities and ideas fail. How do we handle students who are the products of failed, defunct, half-baked approaches?

What if we deregulated medicine, too? Surgeons generally adhere to "best practices", and health insurance companies don't pay for quack treatments. They demand results.

We should do the same with education. Why should the public have to pay for "quack" educational ideas that come and go, not based on research and academic knowledge? I don't want to pay for a group of fundamentalist Christians who think prayer replaces studying.

Under the covers, deregulating education is an irresponsible idea.

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Some of us seem to look at education as some product we can buy, take home, and latter return if we don’t like it. The thing that’s wrong with that notion is that by the time we find out it is the wrong fit, we may not have time left to try something else.

John says: “The new education system ought to allow for innovation, risk-taking, the ability to adapt to change, and yes, allow for failure.” I wonder if he would also advise that for doctors and health care.

The strategy of innovation, risk-taking, the ability to adapt to change, and even failure are great in the laboratory but don’t belong on the operating table or in the development of children’s minds.

The practice of medicine and education should use the very best consensus of knowledge available, not the whim and ulterior motives of individuals.
The problem with local control of schools is the likelihood that the children will be indoctrinated rather than educated.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

10CC:

Well said. I would add another concern over say the mantra of "local" and state control that actually happened in our schools. It was called segregation. It had heinous educational results. Only the federal government could change that because states wouldn't.

JSB
Sugar City, ID

One way to encourage innovation in education is to encourage home schooling. If parents could be paid just 1/2 of what the school gets to educate their children, and were provided with good tools and advisors along with some accountability built into the program, we'd have better educated kids at a lot less cost.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I'm not going to rag on home schooling because some parents do a real good at it. Their children are well prepared for college and life. I live next door to a family that has home-schooled and their children are well educated and capable, somewhat socially awkward but nothing to a troubling level.

However, many parents are not equipped to home school their children. They are not equipped intellectually or emotionally to do this. And with the home school situation above, what made their story ultimately successful is there came a point in certain subjects where the parents knew their limitations and actually sent their children to the local public school for a few classes. I think homeschooling through elementary is probably possible but much past that could be problematic. I know some homeschooling parents do pool together resources and knowledge to deal with these problems but even then, sometimes lack of knowledge in some areas still brings challenges.

And for other parents, homeschooling is not an economic option. Give the parents say the total amount of money Utah invests per pupil would be about 7K. That wouldn't pay the bills. Then there is single-parent issue...

bandersen
Saint George, UT

I would be interested if Mr. Florez supports the new Common Core Curriculum that directly opposes what he just proposed. If anyone thinks that the Department of Education has anything to offer other than the power to dominate a failed system, they are sorely mistaken. I challenge anyone to give me one thing that the Department of Education does with literally billions of lost dollars that couldn't be handled with greater dexterity and effectiveness at the state and local level. The Education establishment is colossal in its reach, power, and impotence. Instead of increasing class time, longer days, and more money, testing in Education should allow students to gain credit by passing a test and spending less time in class, not more. Students have access to the technology to forge ahead in unlimited ways only to be thwarted by a lethargic educational dinosaur that is used mostly as a babysitter by more and more parents. Instead of offering more freedom, government reaches for more control and more money. Reading, writing, and arithmatic should be taught. Let the students find places outside of school or after hours in specialized course offerings. Children are ready. Let them go!

Gildas
LOGAN, UT

Want to change education? Deregulate it and involve "digital natives," as Marc Prensky labeled them — the under 30 crowd that grew up with technology. They are the ones who understand how the technological revolution has changed our world and how our education system is stuck in the industrial era. QUOTE

I don't buy this idea and don't appreciate efforts to split people by generation.

There are tens of millions of people, well over thirty, who understand perfectly the widespread use of computers in the world, and that their bank accounts, utility bills, and business generally is centered on computer technology.

They see both advantages and disadvantages to such changes and experience both every day.

Middle aged and elderly people use computers, even typing with both hands and not just two fingers. They are neither stupid nor ignorant and neither is everyone under-thirty a computer whizz. Like older folk they use the internet for shopping, information, communication and media.

Admittedly there's a generation, specifically those now in their eighties and perhaps even seventies, who prefer the old ways, and who have that right, and properly retain their right to vote too.

marxist
Salt Lake City, UT

If Florez is right then the current tech revolution should be a powerful democratizing force. But the distribution of wealth is increasingly top heavy. What's going on? I agree with Florez that the under 30 crowd have a lot to teach us, but a silver bullet they aren't nor will be.

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