Monday, April 4, 2016


Updated:  10:00 a.m.

Back on February 25th, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released data on "the state of education" across Ohio and each of Ohio's 88 counties including, of course, Stark County.  That is, insofar as test results can quantify quality.

On the 26th, The Stark County Political Report published a blog on the release which included this graphic:

Stark County education officials try every way imaginable to debunk the reliability of the results. 
Disclaimer:  My wife is an elected member of the Stark County Educational Service Center's governing board.  My expressed views in this blog are just that:  mine. 
ODE up front says that it is trying to strengthen Ohio education in coming up with new measurements.

Local education officials throughout the State are resisting the ODE's drive to educational excellence for all Ohio/Stark County students.

Could it be that they understand that the 2016 version of American students are no longer willing to zealously pursue the hard work of becoming a truly educated person?

Degrees, yes!  But really being able to think one's way out of a wet paper bag?  No!  Absolutely, NO!

To me, the above-graphed results indicate that the value of an education is not at the top of Stark County's education community priority these days.  By extension, it appears that the same condition pervades much of America.

And that impression was reinforced in spades on this past Saturday evening as I viewed "On the Way to School," a documentary on Argentinian, Indian, Kenyan and Moroccan children and the extreme hardship they experience day-in, day-out in merely getting to school; let alone attending to the rigors of study.

Here is a trailer for the film (one hour, seventeen minutes in length) which should be required viewing in all of America's schools: (trailer 1:27)

Rather than me go into a amplified narrative detailing more of the content of the film, readers should read this short New York Times review of the documentary (LINK).

Viewing the film prompted me to harken back to my own quest for an education.

While I did walk to High Street grade school (grades one through four), Lincoln School (grades five through six) and Gettysburg Area Junior High School/High School (grades seven through twelve); the walks in no way, shape or form remotely compares to what the Argentinian, Indian, Kenyan and Moroccan children experience.

By the way, High Street School was nearly 100 years old when I attended.  A far cry from may of the posh, state-of-the-art schools that many contemporary American students attend.

Note: For as history and photo of High Street School go to this LINK

Nonetheless, I, in my heart, understood the value of a "free" public education as one of eight children in a lower middle class (to be generous in describing my family's economic status) family.

My mother was high school educated and made the most of 1927 public education in making her way through the world as an adult.

I, believe, as many American do, that a 1927 American high school high school education was vastly superior what 2016 American high school graduates get.

I recall hearing a National Public Radio broadcast on the state of American education a few years ago which cited a George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) study which found that a 1946 high school degree was at the time of the broadcast (probably about five years ago or so) the equivalent of a college undergraduate degree.

My father had three years at a liberal arts college, two years at a business college and two years at electrical trade schools.

But as unfortunately happens to many families, circumstances of life intervened to dampen the effect that my parents' had in terms of their education.
Notwithstanding my father's good fortune in gaining a higher than high school education, educational achievement was not a priority in the Olson family.
Being the seventh of eight children, I was the very first in the family to graduate from high school.

As a follow on, I aspired to go to college.

I even took the admissions test at Shippensburg State Teachers College (Shippensburg, PA about 25 miles from Gettysburg) knowing full well that the family finances would allow me to actually take advantage of the letter I received from Shippensburg stating that I was admitted on the basis of the admissions test result.

By the way, had I gone to Shippensburg, I would have been there at the same time as Larry Morgan, a long time Stark County educator and head of the Stark County Educational Service Center, to wit:
Larry Morgan, 2016 Gold Key awardee in Education, was nominated by Jim Nicodemo, assistant superintendent of Stark County ESC. Morgan, retired superintendent of Stark County ESC, has worked tirelessly to advance education goals in the community and advocate for the needs of every student of nearly every Stark County public school district during his 54 year career. Morgan began teaching in the Plain Local School District and also served as superintendent of RG Drage Career Technical Center and Plain Local Schools in addition to holding various leadership board positions throughout his career. Nicodemo says, “Larry has always had a special place in his heart for the people who work hard, from bus drivers to the cooks and the administrative assistants to the teachers.”
Source: Extract - United Way of Stark County (LINK)  NOTE:  Notwithstanding the above-laudatory remarks about Morgan, there are quite a number of Stark Countians (mostly dissident educators), of course) who view him differently.  The most common complaint has been that he continued the long line of successive Stark County Board of Education (now, the Educational Service Center) superintendents who operated in an "it my way, or the highway fashion" who had a list of favorites administering Stark's 17 school districts that constituted a political base
Instead of going to Shippensburg, I enlisted in the United States Air Force for four years and thereby, on completing my term, qualified for the "G.I. Bill" benefits, which, of course, was one of the great American experiments in providing opportunities to those who otherwise would not have been able to pursue higher education.

After acquiring college credits while in the Air Force, I relocated to Akron (the residence of my sister and one of the few universities in America at the time [1964] which offered a degree for those students who could only attend at night] to finish my college education.

And beyond my undergraduate degree (which, one can easily surmise, was in political science), I was fortunate to be able to go on at The University of Akron acquire a law degree.

All-the-while, I worked a fulltime job at various employers, namely: Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Retail Credit (now Equifax) and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

In short, the opportunity to go to college was a godsend no matter what the obstacles were in store for me to overcome in my quest to achieve higher degrees of education and more importantly the capacity to think for myself.

Even as a grade schooler, I intuitively knew there was something special about a community and society committed to providing that a child of a economically depressed family, which did not have "a dime to spare" to spend on such luxuries as an education, to get what then was truly a "free" education.

Everything was bought and paid for by the Gettysburg, Adams County and the State of Pennsylvania taxpaying public.  Interesting enough, the U.S. Department of Education did not come into being until 1979.  (LINK)
Pencils, pens (fountain that had to be dipped in to a ink well in the desk) basic musical instruments (e.g. kazoo), industrial arts materials and the right to participate in athletics and  part of my "free" education.
Indeed, "no pay to play" baseball, basketball, football and track in the Gettysburg Area School District of 1949.

Had there been, guess who would have been cut out of participating in this important component of a well balanced (academics, participation in one of the arts, and athletics) education.

So in some small measure, I can readily relate to the Argentine, Indian, Kenyan and Moroccan school children and their struggle to get an education.

I believe that at the core of American education problems these days is a fundamental disdain of the value of being educated.

On the contemporary scene, many of Donald Trump's followers (many of whom are "don't bother me with the facts" folks) I see as being people who do not want to think and are looking for Demagogue Donald's to come along to do their thinking for them. 

Such as Trump-esque thinking is?  If that what one wants to call his mental processes as demonstrated outside his real estate dealings.

A few of his followers are educated enough, at least from the "having obtained formal degrees" perspective , but they are totally frustrated with the political games that "organized" Republicans/Democrats play in brinkmanship politics and are therefore willing to swallow Trump's superficiality in the hope that he will break the GOP/Dems stalemate on getting on with solving of the problems of America.

We—relatively rich Americans, compared to the rest of the world— argue about everything, much of it nonsense, to wit:
  • Common Core, 
  • No Child Left Behind, 
  • teaching to the test, 
  • Charter schools and their funding at public education's expense,
  • whether taking tests online as opposed to paper tests, 
    • Really, in the year 2016 and all those technologically advanced kids we constantly hear about?
  • advance placement students being on a 5.0 rather than 4.0 grade scale,
  • the unionization of teachers, 
  • faulty parenting, 
  • how many "snow" days will have to be made up,
  • automatic pay step increases for teachers, 
  • shall AIR or PARCC (LINK) do Ohio's assessment testing,  
  • socio-economic disparities and the like
as being the cause of the decline of education in America.

But to much of the world such arguments are of the "fat, dumb and happy" variety, commonplace in rich societies.

All many in the world want and need is "the opportunity" to gain an education.

To me, the foregoing bulleted list is excuse making pure and simple designed to make those responsible for educating our youth feel good about themselves but, which, of course, do nothing to remedy what ails America, Ohio and Stark County in terms of our educational deficiencies compared to the rest of the world.

To me, having desire and boldly setting forth to become educated is a matter of a thirsting and hungering to gain the ability to think for oneself.
In America, Ohio and Stark County, it appears such is old-fashioned.  

We have well-paid often double-dipping self-described experts as administrators who tell us that becoming an educated person is much more complex than "seizing the day" in which opportunity knocks at the door.

It is these bureaucratic types who over years and years of administering education who have created structures of educational complexity and complications.

To repeat, "On the Way to School" shows that no matter what the barriers are which are in the way, and, in the case of American education put in the say by well meaning educational bureaucrats, the human drive to "seize an opportunity" is to be empowered to overcome every obstacle.

In the bureaucratic education quagmire we Americans find ourselves, aren't we standing by and watching the rest of the world pass us by?

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