Saturday, December 27, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell, "Most Likely To Succeed"

I love to read The New Yorker because I can pick it up, not be sure what I'm going to read about, but know that I'll walk away from it thinking new thoughts.

Case in point is the most recent article by Malcolm Gladwell titled, "Most Likely To Succeed" which is about spotting talent. What interested me most about the article is the discussion about finding good teachers to educate our children.  

Had I thought about this much before I read the article?  Nope.

In short, our education system is fucked. Put nicely by Mr. Gladwell, "If you rank the countries of the world in terms of the academic performance of their schoolchildren, the U.S. is just below average, half a standard deviation below a clump of relatively high-performing countries like Canada and Belgium."

However, despite the dire situation, the entry to become a teacher is difficult and discouraging. In addition, powerful teacher unions have made the pay structure very rigid and tenure somewhat easy to acquire. All of this means that it is very difficult to reform the system.

Gladwell makes the point that to enter the financial services field, not much more than a college education is required. It's dog eat dog... some will succeed and some won't, but the entry to the field is low. 

On the other hand, if I decide tomorrow that I want to quit trading and devote my life to teaching children, it would be very difficult. I'd have to get a masters degree (at least) which would be both financially difficult and logistically impossible (since I'm a Dad). It would take years before I entered a classroom and got down to business.

So basically, despite my interest, there are so many hurdles to overcome that I'll never become a teacher at this point.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to link the article and get some opinions about it, since I think it's very important.

And hey, it's the weekend... why not talk about something completely different for a change?


JMJAtlanta said...

Education starts at home.

I can't imagine any parent when asked saying they don't want a good education for their kids. I do not think public schools are the best place to be educated. I doubt private schools guarantee success.

Most schools can teach the basics. I'm not sure I'd want them teaching much else. I believe it is difficult to teach someone anything without having a slant of some sort. Can one be totally objective when discussing history, social studies, etc?

I'd be more willing to fight for teacher salaries if I knew kids were being taught objectively. Evolution vs. Creation? Sure. Teach them both with the same vigor. I have no problem with a teacher saying "Some believe a god created all things, and others think it happened by chance."

Before I get totally on my soapbox and get totally flamed, let me just say that I learned a lot from a public school. I also learned a lot from my hard-working parents who sacrificed quite a bit to make sure us kids were well-rounded.

mOOm said...

I was surprised when I first learnt that US grade school teachers could get tenure and most had it. Tenure was supposed to support researchers/writers/teachers from researching and speaking out about controversial or unpopular things. I'm not sure how useful it really is at the university level today either and not every country has it. Britain abolished it for example. Teachers tend to resist merit pay or different pay for different disciplines. At private US universities there is pay for what the market will bear but it is still controversial with the more left wing professors (especially those in the humanities etc who end up getting paid less).

Complacent Panda said...

I can't believe how many people want their children to learn about Creationism. There's nothing in evolution that says there can't be a God. It just says that, from the way things look, this is the best explaination for how life developed over time. It doesn't claim to know where matter came from or anything crazy shit like that.

If you want your kid to believe the world is 6,000 years old, keep them at home. They don't need education for that.

Anonymous said...

Gladwell isn't espousing anything new, at least not new for those of us who have worked in education and/or public policy.

Public education is itself a bureaucracy that is reluctant to change. Add a teacher's union that does everything possible to protect its members while expanding its power and control over all facets of a school's operation, and the end result is an educational system that is not able to adjust to meet the changing needs of society.

Sound familiar?

Think Big 3 automakers which are all but bankrupt today because of unimaginative management resistant to change and a union that did everything in its power to restrict or limit the available labor force.

Taxpayers are losing faith in the public school system for many of the same reasons they lost faith in the Big 3.

In fact, if public education depended upon customer sales for revenue, then education would be in the same sorry financial mess as the automakers.

It is only a matter of time before taxpayers demand substantial changes in return for continued funding of the public educational system. The only question is how much more money will we waste before the demands are issued?

little2rich4u said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
little2rich4u said...

I school you fools