Quick Links – Union membership keeps falling; 4.4% increase in proposed spending for education in New York; our educational mess

by Grace

◊◊◊  ‘Union membership falls to 70-year low’ (The Detroit News)

Washington — The nation’s unions lost 400,000 members in 2012 as the percentage of U.S. workers represented by a labor union fell to 11.3 percent, its lowest level since the 1930s – declining by 0.5 percent over the last year.

Michigan accounted for about 10 percent of the nation’s loss of unionized workers as the Wolverine State fell to the seventh most-unionized state, from fifth in 2011.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the biggest hit was in public sector unions, where many states and cities have cut back on their unionized workforce.

Sharp difference between higher rate of union membership in the public sector and lower rate among private workers

Among public sector workers, 35.9 percent are in a union – down from 37.0 percent in 2011, as the public sector shed nearly 250,000 union workers.

The public sector union rate is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers. In the private sector, 6.6 percent are unionized, down from 6.9 percent in 2011.


◊◊◊  New York State proposed budget increases funding for most local public schools

All Westchester County school districts except for three will received increased state funding under Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 budget.  Increases range from 17.5% (Hendrick Hudson) to 0.3% (Scarsdale).  Our local district will see its state funding increase by 5.8%.

The statewide average increase in proposed education aid is 4.4%, with “no broad-based tax increases”.


◊◊◊  David Solway schools us on the Educational Mess We’re In

David Solway describes the content-free, guide-on-the-side culture of today’s classroom using language that had me reaching for a dictionary a few times.  In the comments, he’s criticized for stringing “ten dollar words into sentences one has to read twice to understand”.  I would have to agree, but it was fun to read this twice!

This paradigm is instantly recognizable by the contents and procedures that dominate our public school classrooms: films galore, computer simulations, audio-visual devices, “testable competencies,” PowerPoint presentations, concept maps, information transfer, virtual whiteboards, expurgated texts, true-or-false exams demanding little in the way of written formulation of ideas, and so on. Teachers are trained to emphasize method, to prepare “instructional designs,” to focus on “techniques” of transmission, to valorize process instead of matter, to generate “lesson plans” rather than lessons — “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” remarked the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland, “because they lessen from day to day.” Meanwhile, since they are expected to be communicators rather than preceptors, teachers are regularly shunted around the curriculum and required to teach outside their disciplines — which, be it said, they have often failed to master owing to the institutional stress placed on tactics and delivery rather than on grist and corpus. Thus the poor geography teacher becomes a worse gym instructor.

Doubtlessly, the penchant for instrumental modes of teaching has been with us since time immemorial, but in the current climate it has been exalted into a hypothetically remedial ideology and institutionalized as a pervasive method of committee-backed instruction. It is high time we became aware, then, that despite all the media hype and the inundation of formulaic pamphlets, primers, and manuals which experts, specialists, and many public school teachers have unfathomably welcomed, and the misguided policy to hire 100,000 more ill-equipped teachers, the techniques that have become so popular these days do not work. As I wrote in Education Lost: Reflections on Contemporary Pedagogical Practice, “the fundamental premise at the bottom of modern educational theory, namely that teaching is a science whose operative concepts are those of storage, dissemination and skill-replication…is faltering badly, especially in those disciplines which are not data-based.”

At the very least, I learned a new synonym for “teacher”:  preceptor.  I wonder how long it’ll be before I figure out how to slip that word into my writing.

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One Comment to “Quick Links – Union membership keeps falling; 4.4% increase in proposed spending for education in New York; our educational mess”

  1. You’re right about that quote; it’s confusing. Maybe I need to read this 3, 4, or 5 times. Or maybe this guy is confused!

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