Saturday, October 10, 2009

Educational Thoughts From Dick Sieron

There is a crisis in public education in our country today. It is often referred to as "The Dumbing Down of America" and in spite of our comparative prosperity in Milford, it is running rampant here. I recently button holed a few students leaving our Milford high schools at the end of the school day and asked them a couple of questions. I discovered that NO student (only a slight exaggeration) in our Milford schools knows how to divide 51 by three without using a calculator. Most of them do not know how to make change without the aid of a cash register. I also found that only approximately half of our high school students can point to Great Britain on a world map.

Public education has deteriorated severely in the last 50 years. Our grandparents were far better educated than the present generation. Way back in 1957, Admiral Rickover declared that the U.S. Standards of Education were unacceptably low We can only imagine what he would say if he were to come back today. Yes, there are some good students in our Milford public schools, but there will always be some achievers. I would estimate that half our Milford students that enter high school will learn almost nothing in those four years that can help them later in in life. Those students learned how to read and write in grammar school and that was the end of significance for them. A large number of students are dropping out of school. That number was far less 50 years ago.

Milford's education budget today is $110 Million (including state grants). We are certainly not getting our money's worth. We must rid ourselves of what I call the money mentality. That is the practice of throwing money after every problem. The little one room school house of a hundred years ago produced better education then our present multimillion dollar facilities.

Now let me address an incredible situation with our current Board of Education. If you look up the names of the members of the Board of Education on the city website, you will find one member listed as the "Chairman of the Majority Party" and another listed as "Chairman of the Minority Party." You will also find these same titles referred to in newspaper articles.

It is a fact that Board of Ed members vote strictly along party lines. All members of the Democrat party vote one way and the members of the Republican Party vote the other way. Politics, practiced at the school board level is moronic (I tried hard to think of a kinder word than moronic, but it's the only one that seems to be appropriate.) These people appear to be incapable of critical thinking. As a member of the Milford Independent Party, I pledge to cast my vote based on the issues and not based on politics.

I have talked to a number of teachers and they are virtually unanimous advising me that they spend all their time teaching to the state mandated "no Child Left Behind" (NCLB) testing program and have no time for anything else. A stop must be put to that and that will not be easy to do. If Milford stops testing, it will lose millions of dollars from the state and guess where the state gets that money from? Big Brother (the Federal Government), the Fed's are prohibited by the US Constitution from being involved in education. That is the province of the State and local governments. So how do they get around it? They give grants to the states which they in turn pass on to the local governments. I am told that Milford cannot refuse to administer the NCLB tests, without losing ALL state educational grants. That is outrageous.

Teachers tell me that they are forced to teach the students what to think and how to think. A prominent school book publishing executive advises that because they must meet the standards set by each state, the text books, in general, are becoming more alike and the content is specifically associated with the outcome of the NCLB tests. All books are being produced to the same standards, which means that creativity and creative curriculum are lost.

I do not believe that Washington bureaucrats are any smarter than many good citizens here in Milford and we are perfectly capable of finding good textbooks that are not produced using a "cookie cutter." I would like to see textbooks used that explore the thinking of the Founding Fathers and challenge students to ask thoughtful questions.

If elected to the school board, I would advocate giving the Superintendent the broad based guidelines for running the schools on a daily basis and then step back and let him do his job without micromanagement. I do not advocate the same policy for the curriculum. I will be intensely interested in making major changes in that area. There are a number of schools across the country which have made dramatic improvements. We should be examining their methods.

Richard Sieron
District 5, Candidate Board of Education
Milford Independent Party

Anyone voting at Harborside Middle School can vote for Richard Sieron

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