Monday, November 17, 2008

Governor Palin - Poster Family for Alaska Education?

During their unsuccessful campaigns for Alaska's sole U.S. House seat, both Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz (Berkowitz having a J.D. degree, Benson now concluding work on her second Masters Degree), touted the revitalization of Alaska education, from early childhood through gradate school. Both outlined, in their campaign platforms and stump speeches, concentration on vocational training and college degree programs, which point firmly and practically toward the future.

Many Alaska Democrats, running for state legislative seats, with sound, detailed platforms for improving our school system, were soundly trounced by GOP incumbents who rarely mention education to their constituents. One of many examples is that of the District 12 house race between longtime incumbent John Harris (certificates from Lincoln Welding School & Spartan School of Aeronautics) and Nancy Lethcoe (PhD University of Wisconsin). Lethcoe stressed public, higher and vocational education. Harris minimized their importance. Harris trounced Lethcoe, 72% to 27%.

In her unsuccessful presidential campaign this year, Governor Palin seldom mentioned education. And now that she is back from being absentee governor of Alaska, to being part-time governor of Alaska, one of her first acts was to skip the Alaska Dropout Prevention Summit in Anchorage, to attend the GOP Governors' annual meeting, in Miami, where she was deemed too dim a bulb to serve in any leadership capacity whatsoever. Celtic Diva has written a brilliantly scathing essay on Palin's educational priorities, promising to take the subject further soon.

Maybe it is best for the mother of two high school dropouts, the (possible) future mother-in-law to another, who let one of her younger children roam for nine weeks this late summer and early fall (sometimes wearing 5-inch heels - the kid, not the mom!), in a very formative year, with no trace of a qualified tutor or study regime, to be absent from serious discussion on how to address this problem.

The Anchorage Daily News, in today's edition, editorializes about Alaska's serious shortcomings in the realm of early childhood programs, and their possible relationship to the high dropout rates here:

Here's another gloomy statistic at the other end of the public education system: Only about two-thirds of Alaska high school students graduate in four years, compared with the U.S. average of three-fourths graduating.

And of Alaska students who do graduate, only a third start college. Nationwide, nearly half of high school graduates are college-bound. So what's the plan to improve the odds for Alaska kids?

There isn't one...

The ADN blithely goes on to put trust in the guy currently in charge of our schools:

...but state commissioner of education Larry LeDoux wants to change that. Last week, the state sponsored the first education summit in many years, engaging about 400 parents, students, educators, university officials and others in a discussion about what's needed.

I'm not so sure about Mr. LeDoux. His education administration credentials in Alaska are above average, to be sure, but he appears to have been put in place by Palin more because of his fundamentalist/evangelical credentials, than for his public education background. Here's the Statement of Faith from Azusa Pacific University, from which LeDeux claims to have graduated:

We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative word of God.

We believe that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth, eternally existent in three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return to power and glory.

We believe in the fall and consequent total moral depravity of humanity, resulting in our exceeding sinfulness and lost estate, and necessitating our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

We believe in the present and continuing ministry of sanctification by the Holy Spirit by whose infilling the believing Christian is cleansed and empowered for a life of holiness and service.

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; those who are saved to the resurrection of life and those who are lost to the resurrection of damnation.

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of these statement goals are, of course, laudable. Others are exclusionary, pertaining to Christianist supremacy.

I do wish Commissioner LeDoux all luck in getting our Alaska educational system out of the gutter into which so many idiotic, under-educated GOP slobs have thrown it. The further he stays away from Palin, her family and her ideals, the better.

I'm especially concerned about how LeDoux, who has spent a lot of higher education time in the realm of biological science education, deals with the inevitable push from Palin, as she attempts to cash in her political capital in Juneau, to "teach both sides" of the creationism versus evolution controversy in the classroom, as she promised during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign. As some realize, I've had three occasions over the past eleven years to discuss Palin's views on creationism with her. Those views appear to have evolved, so to say, but if she wants LeDoux to force the "teach both sides" meme into any legislation, I can guarantee her views will lose. And her efforts will detract from the real jobs that need to be done.

Alaskans need to work together and work intelligently to solve the structural problems that lead to our high dropout rates, high unmarried teen pregnancy rates, high domestic violence rates and low college attendance. It is often difficult for education panels like the ones conducted at last week's summit to delve very far in the important role families play in how poorly their kids do as students.

But in a state where over 138,000 people happily vote for a man convicted two weeks before an election of seven felonies, and where 148,000 people prefer a man under multiple Federal investigations to a man with a high level degree from Harvard, if we don't deal more effectively with endemic, willful ignorance, we will continue to have the most ill-educated, most violent and most superstitious population on the west coast of the United States.

image - Gov. Palin at the GOP Governor's meeting


clark said...

no time to expound now, but what a great post. you manage to encapsulate everything that is wrong with present day alaska.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you that Alaska's education system is in shambles. But creationism, and religion have nothing to do with the reason. The reason is apathy on the part of the parents and educators.

Parents do not pay attention to their children's education and educators teach to a low standard.

The answer is not how to keep kids in school. Why should they stay in school when it is such a waste of time? I don't blame them for dropping out to start working at a job. At least when they get a job they are learning something useful.

In addition, the training of educators is laughable. So much time is spent on political correctness that no time is left over to train excellent teachers.

This post is from someone who went through the state's educational system, graduated from UAF with a BEd and taught in the schools.

Spending money on the problem is not the answer. HOW the money is spent is part of the answer.

For example, if a webcam were installed in each classroom with parents given the password to log in, accountability on the part of the school, the teacher, and the students would skyrocket.

This would be opposed by NEA and the schools. They do not want the public to see what a waste of time many of the classes have become.


Philip Munger said...


I agree with much of what you say. My wife taught elementary ed for 30 years, and now teaches student teachers. She's never been much of an NEA fan, and we both were very active in monitoring our kids' education, to the point of keeping them away from teachers we knew to be inadequate or worse.

The point about the creationism in the schools information is that it is an example of just one of many foolish issues that could come up that could serve to sidetrack meaningful progress.

It may be hard to get good new teachers into the system at a time when most Alaska districts are offering job packages with benefits similar to the Brown Jug liquor store, and salaries similar to what somebody makes at a busy Starbucks.

We'd probably agree too, about how much $ is wasted on administrative positions that don't help the education process

Anonymous said...

So Phill, does these words: "Alaskans need to work together and work intelligently ..." mean you'll take down that remake poster of the movie Juno with McCain and Bristol on it? Because you posting that remake poster kinda opposes the whole working together with intellegence... just sayin...

Anonymous said...

I'm all for allowing people certain typo and spelling errors in blogs (Lord knows I make my share) but in a thread where the topic is education, this smarmy answer just begs to be red-lined:

Anonymous said...
So Phill, (one l or two?)

does these words: (do these words)

of the movie Juno with McCain and Bristol on it? (omit 'on it')

Because you posting (your)

kinda (kind of, kinda is not a word)

just sayin... (saying)

(educated in the US)

Parents set the bar. I was appalled when Piper said she'd missed a lot of school and Sarah butted in with "but it was fun, right?"

Anonymous said...

Speaking of education, did you know Mark Begich, on his way to becoming our next senator, doesn't hold a college degree?

CelticDiva said...

Speaking of education, did you know that Mark Begich, on his way to becoming our next senator, has vowed to get rid of the yoke around the neck of Alaska education, No Child Left Behind? Perhaps we can stop shelling out money for transportation and use it to pay for more important educational tools?

And thanks, Phil, for the compliment :D

Maia said...

Mark Begich has been running his own business since he was 18 years old (successfully, I might add). Much as I'm a proponent of higher education, with the economy in its current state, there's something to be said for having a senator who knows how to keep an eye on the bottom line (rather than one who can't be bothered to notice who's paying for his home renovation projects).

Anonymous said...

Education, as it is currently defined in all of the US and especially in Alaska, is an oxymoron.

I am not a Begich fan, but the fact he has run his own business and does not have a degree is a point in his favor.

In my experience the more degrees a person has, the more likely that person is to be a closed-minded, arrogant, left-winged bigot. I think we only have these in Alaska.

With a few exceptions I am just disgusted with the educational system in Alaska.

Do you know that the guidance counselors don't even inform the students in our local high school that the PSAT is the ticket to a National Merit Scholarship? They tell them it is just practice for the SAT. They never even mention a NMS possibility. Talk about low expectations.

In our school district, home schoolers have been taking a disproportionate share of those scholarships partly because many public school kids don't even know they exist.

Education in this state is a joke, and it's not a liberal/conservative issue.


Unknown said...

"Education, as it is currently defined in all of the US and especially in Alaska, is an oxymoron.

I am not a Begich fan, but the fact he has run his own business and does not have a degree is a point in his favor.

In my experience the more degrees a person has, the more likely that person is to be a closed-minded, arrogant, left-winged bigot. I think we only have these in Alaska."

Hmmm, I spy the tracks of a nearly extinct, late 20th century wedgie bird who has found their way to the end of the road in Alaska. Remember, Ophir, just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you.

Ed Darrell said...

Someone said: In addition, the training of educators is laughable. So much time is spent on political correctness that no time is left over to train excellent teachers.

So, it's been - what? - 40 years since you paid any attention to what teachers get trained in?

Either that, or your one of those idiots who thinks that education itself is "politically correct." There's that well known liberal bias that reality exhibits, and all.

Algebra, history, biology, and English, are not "politically correct." They are things that any educated person needs to know.


Anonymous said...

Sooo...what do you think about the webcam idea.

I haven't heard any of the "progressive" types talk about that. How about showing the world what really goes on in the classroom.

There are some excellent teachers out there. But they appear to be in the minority, at least in our school district.

I would say that about 1/2 of the teachers in my daughters high school are worth what they are paid. A few of them are WAY under-paid. About 1/3 should be dumped. If the kids didn't even sit in those classes they would be better off.

The admin is almost a TOTAL waste. That is where a huge amount of the waste takes place.

It's obvious by the response here that there is no stomach for real reform. Progressives only like to talk about reform so that they can get more money for their buddies and their political agenda.

I know what I'm talking about on this issue. I think a few progressives agree but most so closed minded they can't see outside of their political box.

Algebra, English and the rest are not politically correct. But they way they are taught IS. One of the reasons we don't require high standards is because of a progressive mind-set.

We teach "group think". This is where a large part of the student's grade is the result of their group projects. What happens is the lazy/stupid students are taught to let the smart ones do the work for them. The hard workers are taught to resent dragging the rest of their group along. The end result is that all of them learn less.

That's just one example. I could write a book on this stuff. Get your head out of the sand and actually do something for all our kids!

Or would you rather just keep calling names because I'm not a progressive.


Unknown said...

Ophir: Actually, I prefer naming you, such as "wearisome", rather than wasting my time with your drivel. Your observations are unstructured, amateur crap, not even close to being objective nor quantitative, and unaccompanied by any measurement whatsoever. The fact that you are angry and resentful comes through loud and clear, an attitude which does not communicate competency. When YOU stop filling your rants with politically motivated diatribes and unsubstantiated supposition, then perhaps someone might listen to you. Until then, forget it. I suggest attending a School Board meeting and testifying.

clark said...

i doubt begich goes around saying education is overrated and he's glad he didn't go to college and it's a net positive for him.
i'd probably also agree that for some people [highly motivated and brilliantly talented] that self-education works just fine.
but how did higher education get such a bad name? i remember debating this nutty old geezer in a bar way back when i was 23. he told me some crap like, i only felt that way because i'd been brainwashed by my liberal college professors. it wasn't like that, though. they were overly careful not to stake out positions. they teach critical thinking -- how to research, how to get at the truth.
if that tends to lead people away from rush limbaugh and fox news, it's not because their education was ideologically driven. it's because those sources have a callous disregard for the truth.

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