Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A little fiber talk and a little not.

OK for those of you fiber readers here is some good news. My spinning of the black/red fiber is almost complete. In fact I was spinning at lunch Monday on the balcony in 70 degree temps and cool ocean breezes (I live close enough to run home for lunch). My Malabrigo sweater is slowly moving along. Round by round getting longer. Mrs. Twisted finished seaming her third top of the year last night while I went to spin with the ladies in Laguna Hills. Tonight we may just stay home because the Pub Knitters are not meeting or at least the ones I have heard from. I’ll have pictures of the red silk top soon.

I don't do this but the thoughts about this next subject have been festering a long time and I normally don't rant too much on here so this is your cue to exit if you prefer not to read my opinions about non fiber related issues. Most of you know me as a "glass is half full" fatally optomistic person. Mrs. Twisted read this prior to my posting and said something along the lines of "what bug crawled up .......". "This isn't like you at all" Like I said you had fair warning to leave now.

Last Chance

Before I start I know I will receive hate mail and criticism but this is just my twisted opinion.

Yesterday I was reminded again how poor the education system is in the USA or at least in my little part of the country. I’m embarrassed and Yes Bronchitkat it hurts to openly admit just how ignorant I am about things that should have been common knowledge. Let me preface this rant with some clarifiers. It’s not my intention to generalize that the whole education system is wrong. I also know we have some brilliant students hailing from the USA but what I have noticed since becoming a little more exposed personally with people who grew up outside our borders is that they seem to have a broader more in depth education. I graduated High School 3 decades ago in my little vacuum know as Orange County. I know better now but back then I was a lot more arrogant and thought the world revolved around Southern California. Maybe not so much arrogant but naive. That’s how you are raised here. It seemed like everyone new I met came from somewhere else. To me, it was like I lived where everyone else wanted to live. The surf, the Sunny weather 300 plus days a year. Movie stars everywhere you looked or so it was implied. All the hype all the time. It’s like mind control the way you are told how good it is here because everyone wants to live here. Houses were the best investment because there is only so much So Ca property and it was crazy when you told someone you lived in a 1200sqft home that cost a million dollars (or did). I’ve drifted a little off subject. We never had dreams of Ivy League Schools here. It was USC, Stanford, Cal Berkley, Cal Tech. Don’t get me wrong, these are fine schools, but I don’t think it really mattered where you went after meeting people who grew up elsewhere in the world. This eye opening really started a couple years ago when I was in the Secret Pal exchange and had some long e-mails with a lady in her mid 20’s with no college education and yet she had a broader and more substantial education than many college educated people I know. Australia and probably the whole UK looks like they do it right! In fact most European people I have had exposure to in my business life are like this. In my travels I have worked with many exchange students or foreign co-op temp workers. A previous company was based in Austria and the owner would bring 3rd year University students over for the summer for OTJ experience and have them do menial task at first but I always tried to push their envelope. It always amazed me that English was their 2nd language but they had a better grasp of grammar than most of us here. Sentence construction and vocabulary was always impressive. The part that bothered me personally was that I realized that our country minimizes the history of the world and limits most of it’s teaching to here in this country and now. It’s like we are on the self built tower thinking that we are in control of all around us and yet our jobs are leaving and our financial system is in turmoil. Our school system is in a finger pointing mode right now. This was brought on by a set of standardized tests to evaluate the students and now it’s used to judge if the teacher is doing their job correctly. Action and reaction occurred and now the only thing that is being taught is how to pass the test. I knit with a men’s group every other Friday and we have a grade school teacher in the group and to listen to him, the kids are worse each year. Not better, not smarter…. When was the last time you saw a child read for the pleasure of a good book? I was reading one ladie’s blog here in Southern Ca where the school system was so determined to keep her child in school that the child’s health and welfare was jeopardized. Our schools are rewarded with funds for each day a student attends class. If your child has an unexcused absence then the school loses its money for that day. The school district will actually prosecute the parent by involving the courts because of what they call truancy. They say it helps reduce gang activity but it’s just to have these kids in a seat so the district can obtain the state funding for each child. You are only allowed so many sick days now because I’m sure there was a multi hundred thousand dollar study ran by some insurance actuary analyst who determined a general rule that kids are sick x days a year. There is no exception and they create budgets based on these numbers. What most people don’t understand is that the Los Angeles Unified School District has an operating budget of 6.9 billon dollars per year. That’s billion! The state pays the district $9,300 per student. So if we do a little simple arithmetic if you have 30 kids in a class let say 4th grade that’s $279,000 to teach them that year. I just think we are failing the kids and I realized it’s been broken for years. We were never taught literature and art beyond the simplest forms. Every subject is encapsulated and simplified. Watered down and homogenized for your protection. The classics have been removed from many school libraries because someone found something about the content offensive. Music and sports programs are now parent funded. I took auto shop and machine shop classes in HS because I had no intention of a college career at that point in my life but none of that is even available now. I was discussing this with my wife and I posed this question…. Let’s say that you take 90% of that $279,000 or $251,000 and run a scenario.

Let’s propose you lease a property, for $3,000 a month that will be large enough to handle a conference room large enough to seat 30 students. Many churches have resorted to leasing space in large industrial parks and are holding services this way. It functions quite well and once inside the only thing missing is the stained glass windows. But this will work quite well for a school. In fact University of Phoenix was using empty conference rooms in our local hotels near the Airport as class rooms for years. You would check the sign when you arrived at the hotel before each class for the meeting room number.

Available Funds

$ 251,000.00


$ (36,000.00)


$ (7,500.00)


$ (30,000.00)


$ (10,500.00)




$ (54,000.00)

Field Trips (3)

$ (9,600.00)

Supplies (paper etc)

$ (3,400.00)

This is just for one class. Imaging your child attending a school where you had a teacher who wanted to be there because they were making 100k per year. Where each child had a new computer on their desk and it was used in the learning process. Not just going to a room called a computer lab with obsolete computers and spending 30 minutes a week because you had to wait your turn. New books each year, three field trips out to see real life as it relates to what you are studying, Museums and maybe a play. Since we are not in a housed school you would have to cater lunch each day. The point is that the schools should run as a non-profit organization from top to bottom. OK so now we take this and multiply it and have 6 classes of different topics. Each teacher has the students for 2 hours per subject each day and the subjects are on alternate days. Mon Wed Fri Math Literature The Arts. Tuesday Thursday Composition, History, Science.

I know I’m over simplifying things but there is a happy medium here. I feel the power of money is corrupting the system and the ones being hurt are our children. I witnessed how a little extra involvement can change this when my son entered the GATE program in the 3rd grade. For those of you not familiar it’s the Gifted And Talented Education program. Our district had 3 magnet schools for the elementary grades and the teachers took extra steps to secure additional funding by applying for additional grant monies from a list of resources ready to give away if you did just a little extra work. I sat on the school site council that dispersed the funds and approved the capital projects each year. My daughter went through the mainstream system and it was like night and day when you had a few motivated individuals educating the kids. The point is, education is cumulative and if it’s not mastered in the previous years lesson plan then it’s time taken away from the current year or just an omission in content all together. Some of these districts are so large they are the size of Fortune 500 companies. The problem is that the “CEO” not being held accountable buy the “Shareholders” (parents.) Would you want someone to split your company up and make you seem less important because that would mean that you would probably command less compensation… Funny how the administrators kids never attend the district they work for. I wonder why that is? The superintendent or other non value added positions should get paid the same if there is 10,000 kids or 550,000 kids. If you really want to Treat this like a business then do it right and reduce the waste and that is by cutting non value added functions. Where does this leave us? In the last 30 years the content of our education has been raped, the funds pillaged and our children are not able to compete in the world economy that we escalated in the sake of cheap labor elsewhere. “Would you like fries with that?” Or “Welcome to MegaloMart” is not what you want your child to aspire to. You hope they look for a career and not just a job. Something to be proud of at the end of the day. Have you sat down with your kids and turned off the TV and talked to them like adults? How do you expect them to see themselves as adults when you don’t show them that path? Blind luck and expecting the school councilors to guide them is not going to suit every child. Help them to create a plan to set goals. Look at possible career paths and what to do to realize them. Accept that we all have shortfalls in our lives and try to rectify as well as you can. Last, try to teach them that school is not life and that you have social situations that exist in school that go away in real life and others that can make the difference in how you succeed in life. Do I have an answer? Not really but I’m glad my kids made it through the system and are on their way to college to at least attempt to compete in the world economy. Companies now recruit all over the world to obtain the best and the brightest, not just who comes through the front door after reading a newspaper want ad. Try looking for a job these days without using sources like Monster or Hot Jobs.

I know their are schools in little pockets all over the country that are succeeding but the large majority of cities are failing around here. Many of these kids will grow up to earn less and achieve less than their parents because of what is happening now. I predict a huge separation in class will occur in the next 20 years. The middle class wages will slowly slide back and times will get tough for all but the very rich. The only homes that are increasing in value right now are the mega mansions because they are not living pay check to pay check like most of America.

Times are changing but our school systems are not doing the job. I have a few feel good days when I watch Jeopardy and do well in a few categories and then have never even heard of some of the answers in others. To me it’s a realization that we are not as sharp as we think we are.

***End of rant, the soap box is put away for a while.****

I hope my diatribe didn’t offend anyone I’ll be happier tomorrow.


  1. I understand your concerns. When teaching my college classes, I come across students who cannot spell even the most commonly used words, and a few of the professionals I type for are unable to form structured sentences. My friends who are teachers love to teach, but all of them are fed up with the system and looking to get out. It is disturbing.

  2. I have to agree with you 100%

    When my child was in JR. High she was having some problems with math. When we spoke with her teacher in regards to this, the response we got was shocking, "It's ok, she's a girl, she doesn't need to excel at math" What was even more shocking is that this teacher was female.

    The decision was made right then and there to put her into private school.

    The government, both local, state, and federal need to do more to educate our children. These children are our future and we need to start teaching them NOW before it's too late.

  3. Anonymous9:06 PM

    I think you hit on the problem in a round about way- since it is so hugely profitable the Feds (and when I say that I really do mean Republicans) and the cronies they are in colusion with (like Simon&Schuster...)want the total destruction of the free educational system to be replaced by the FEE educational system. Might I remind you that Rep. gov. Ronnie Ray-gun was the man who gave the chop to a free State college education? Why stop there? I too have a child who attended GATE and one who may still yet. To be truthful it wasn't so great especially w/ the advent of NCLB which really translates to No Child Gets Ahead.
    I also have the experience of being a student in the Prop.13 yrs. and somehow everyone was taught w/ stubby pencils, shared books, large classes and no field trips. School districts are always going to cry for more because that's the way it is when you're fat and lazy- too large to get out of your own way, but there is little incentive for change when the only real criteria to be met is that of NCLB not actual LEARNING! I think we've forgotten in the US that not everyone is a genius or cut out for book learnin' and that there is real value in physical skilled labor. Oh yeah- the Rep.'s sent all of our manufacturing offshore and we import labor! Doh! So we're left being dum Amurikuns! I don't have an easy solution either- there SHOULDN'T be one, so I'm left believing that the real responsibility for teaching my kids is with me.

  4. vickyd5:51 AM

    I completely agree - A couple of days ago I was quizzing my son (who is in the 4th grade) for a history test using the prepared study guide sent home by his teacher. The number of blatant grammatical errors was staggering. At one point, my son even said, "Mom, I really think she meant to say...." It is a sad state of affairs when a 4th grader needs to correct his teacher's work.

  5. I couldn't agree more. I think the only way to ensure a quality public education for your kids is to be involved.

    Before my husband and I got married, I made it clear that I was interested in being in the "Professional Mommy" track- meaning that I would be a room mom, a PTA mom, a SAHM. I've seen my peers who have become public school teachers and I am nothing short of horrified.

  6. Excellent "rant". You have a very valid stand here. I work in a professional environment - Design/Build on the very high end - and those who can spell and or form sentences, never mind speak well, are few and far between. Most of our architects have very educations from the Ivy League of the NE but the voids in the basic tools are still there. SAD. I am older than most of them and feel like I had the most wonderful education in the late 50's and early 60's. A gift!
    Also, my daughter sent both her boys to arts/technology based magnet schools in Ocala FL and they are both prolific self-motivated readers and writers. They attended International Baccalaureate high schools and have really been challenged by some wonderful teachers. Those schools are few and far between in New England.
    I applaud you! BTW I just love your blog. You are an inspiration Thank you.!

  7. Anonymous9:42 PM

    I am always amazed that people think they know everything about the education business because they once went to school. I don't tell doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers how to do their business; why it is that the public thinks they know better than I do how to go about educating their kids?

    I have been teaching in public schools for 32 years, half and the high school level, half in junior high. Add a stint at the community college and I think I know a thing or two. I am privileged to work in a professional environment where funds are allocated wisely and people care about doing a quality job. Sure, there are things I would change if I were in charge, but for the most part I think that students today are by far the best educated generation in terms of problem-solving, critical thinking, and ability to work in a variety of situations.

    You certainly cannot look at school funding as simplistically as described here. It's considerably more complicated than X number of dollars per student times 30 students and funding that isolated classroom with those funds. My district has a sophisticated instructional resource center for teachers, extensive continuing education opportunities, access to current educational research, updated computer technology, paraprofessionals for students who need special assistance, a myriad of after school clubs, both academic and social. Also state funding is based on "average daily attendance" not done by student by day. No one coerces parents to send sick kids to school so we can collect the funds.

    In addition, where is the responsibility of the parents and the students? I do believe that any individual can get the education he or she wants. My daughter went to regular public school with the usual mix of highly qualified teachers and few marginal ones. She was very motivated to learn and to get the most out of her opportunity. She went on to a state university and then decided to broaden her education and world view by moving to London for two years. . . to be a teacher. She is just now returning to the states, having just spent the past year traveling around the world. And I do mean around the entire globe: India, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile. She kept a blog during that year and I saw her experiences deepen her understanding of the world and her writing become quite good. She is a life-long learner. She did this on her own and paid for it herself by saving her money working in restaurants throughout college and living very cheaply while teaching in London.

    We cannot as parents or students become a nation of whiners that others aren't giving us what we think we deserve. We have a responsibility to elect school board members who spend local funds wisely and to elect state and federal officials who can be trusted to make responsible decisions about our schools. We have a responsibility to be aware and be responsible for our own education.

    This is my first visit to this blog. I am very sorry to be so adamant about this as I do not know you or anything about your background. But to blame the education system for your lack of awareness of the rest of the world or thinking that people in other countries must be more knowledgeable is to deny yourself any accountability. Just a gentle piece of advice: when you go on a rant about education, you might want to check your grammar, punctuation and use of capital letters. Style guides are readily available in every library and bookstore. People really do respect writers more when they have a good command of the language.

  8. This was just my opinion; It was never my intention to offend this teacher. The education system in Tucson Az must be much better than it is in California. Feel lucky because it’s not like that everywhere by the overwhelming response in comment form and through e-mail. I expected someone to take offense I’m sorry if you took this as a personal attack or aimed at teachers at all, it was more at the non value bureaucracy that draws so much of the funds away from what the funds are meant for. I agree that parents should take responsibility for their child’s education both in the classroom and at the ballet box.

  9. The public education system, in California at least, is broken. It is so broken that I don't know if it can be fixed. The laundry list of stupidity we've gone through here in a "good" non LAUSD district in Southern California is very long.

    I will say that for every consultant or administrator, for every clueless counselor or clerk who does not seem to get it, there is a teacher who does and who tries to make it better. I know teachers who pay for resources out of their own pockets, teachers who volunteer time (unpaid) to tutor and help their students, teachers who bend over backwards to try to help. Bless 'em, says I. Things would be so much worse without these teachers - who I imagine as bailing out the Titanic with teacups. We have had the benefit of fantastic teachers, as a rule. One or two teachers who were not so great, but they were definitely the exception!

    We are leaving lots of kids behind, no question. Easier to keep passing them up the line until they eventually fail the exit exam and it's too late to help them turn things around.


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