Tag Archives: Kevin Maxwell

Government Schools: Arguing the Same Stuff for 50 Years

There’s really no reason to follow the fights over government schooling.  Unless there’s been some outrageous new low that makes the newspapers, there’s nothing new when it comes to the government’s monopoly on education.  The power structure is the same as it’s been for decades.  And the same battles that have been fought in meetings and letters to the editor for more than 50 years are still being fought today with the same predictable results.

Here’s how it goes.  The superintendent (now called a CEO!) hosts a meeting with parents and makes a show of listening to them.  The parents talk about how the schools are failing their children, and the politicians (including the superintendent) make promises about how everything will be different in the future.  Then everybody goes home, and nothing happens.

The Gazette has another story about one of these familiar, useless meetings.  Kevin Maxwell, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, came to District 9 and… wait for it… “listened to concerns.”  Parents demanded “teacher accountability,” and the CEO assured them that “his administration would evaluate teachers.”

Before they left the meeting, the CEO threw in a comforting platitude.  “If you want to be successful, you can’t tolerate mediocrity,” he said.  Then they all went home.

And that will be the end of that.

The demand for teacher accountability is not new.  The problem is that having the government evaluate its own teachers is like having the students grade their own papers.  The government will rarely fail anyone on its enormous payroll, even when his work is terrible.

Teachers and principals need to be accountable to parents, not to the special interest groups that control the schools.  And the only way for teachers and principals to be accountable to parents is for parents to have the power to vote with their feet.  They must be free to choose the school and the type of education that is best for their child, or they will never have a say in their child’s education.  All they will have is another useless meeting with a CEO who pretends to listen to concerns.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Education, Politics


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Outdoor Classroom a Gimmick

One constant feature of modern education is the endless time and money spent on every kind of untested new thing that is supposed to improve learning.  The latest example of this appears in a Gazette column by Sophie Petit.

The PTA at an elementary school in Bowie has just built an outdoor classroom “with no walls or roof or chairs.”  The classroom will be used for all subjects, not just outdoor subjects like botany or biology, and the children will supposedly learn more because of the outdoorsy openness.

Of course it’s a good thing that this school has a garden.  And it’s an even better thing that it was paid for with funds raised by the PTA and not squeezed from taxpayers.  But the idea that children learn better without walls is absurd.  In fact, we know this isn’t true because this theory of education has already been tried.  Classrooms without walls were all the rage in the 1970’s, and large sums of money were spent building entire schools based on the untested (and implausible) idea that students would learn better without privacy and quiet.  The new schools didn’t work.  Students didn’t learn because they couldn’t focus, and teachers couldn’t teach because they couldn’t be heard.  So large amounts of additional money had to be spent to retrofit those foolishly fashionable school buildings with walls so academic work could actually be done.

We should have learned from that experience, but now the idea that a classroom without walls or a roof will be an improvement is back.  Eager to do anything to improve education, we are duped by the same gimmicks over and over again.

And if the return of an old education gimmick isn’t frightening enough, then brace yourself for what Kevin Maxwell, the new superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools, had to say about it.  He said the new outdoor classroom would “raise environmental awareness among students” and educate “our children on what they need to do.”

Yikes.  This is nothing but politics in the classroom.  It’s exactly what a good school should never do.

Modern environmental issues are politically controversial, from global warming to recycling.  Students who are too young to learn about these controversies are not ready to have their “environmental awareness” raised.  And any attempt to do this is not an education; it’s just propaganda.  The superintendent admits as much when he says the goal for this classroom is to get the young students to act on these teachings.

While we can be glad that the PTA did the hard work to build a pretty garden for the students at this elementary, let’s insist that the political activism be left for the college campus and get the elementary students back inside a classroom with walls and a roof where they can focus their attention on the subjects they really need to master.

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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Education


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