One of Alaska’s greatest weaknesses will become our greatest strength. We approach this knowing it is about the student, not the teacher, not a union. These students are our future. And we approach the situation with the understanding that the P in PTA is for Parent. The parents are the ones responsible for their child’s education.
As a soldier I was taught that you never point out a problem without offering a solution. I hope to do so here. My ideas may not be the best ideas possible and I am happy to hear all ideas. But ultimately, the yea or nay falls upon the desk of the governor of our state.
There was a time when Alaska had an education system turning out graduates ready to take their place in the world. Nowadays, we graduate kids who go on to university and have to take remedial Math and English as they learned so little here. We spend more than twice as much as our next closest competitor and our education system ranks close to last… or dead last in the entire nation.
As a soldier, I learned to look at my own weaknesses and strive to make them strengths. THIS we will do, Alaska. But how?
I spent my time in school (pre-college) in the late ‘60s through the ‘70s. All of it before the invention of the Department of Education. We had schools that demanded much, but delivered much. Perhaps the way we were taught was the best way possible. Perhaps there is something better than what we had. But one thing is sure; the way we are doing it now is not the best way possible. And as I pointed out to one voter, if we are not striving to be number one, we are losing ground. It seems that we’re not even striving to be number forty-nine anymore.
There are organizations for home school kids that allow for such things as extracellular sports, proms and all that. But Mom and Dad at home are the ones who say what their kids are to be taught.
It must be remembered by the voter, the parent, and the teacher that education is about that student. It is not about a top-heavy bureaucracy. It is not about the teacher. It is about that student. Why? Because our generation will one day pass from the scene and if we do not set our kids up for success we doom our nation. Alaska is doing an abysmal job of preparing our student. We can get our feelings hurt by what I just said, but we’ve got to get out of the business of being offended by everything we hear. It is time to face facts and right wrongs.
So, how do we fix it?
Withdraw from the National School Board Association and completely take control of the education of our kids.
To the greatest extent possible, we will have school choice. This is working its way through our legislature but it will have a champion with a bully pulpit in me. To hand a parent a voucher for a year’s tuition at their chosen school constitutes a substantial savings for Alaska. But more importantly, gives the parents the opportunity to put the student in the school that most closely aligns with their own philosophy and/or performs to a degree the parent would expect. We will not tolerate the attitude that “the parents have no business in their child’s education” any longer.
Encourage to the highest degree possible the home schooling of our kids.
Common Core and Critical Race Theory will not be taught in Alaska’s schools. We will return to the basics. We will return to Science. In some school system in the Lower 48 someone was teaching the students that “Two plus two MAY equal four,” so that those who got the equation wrong did not wind up with hurt feelings. We have seen schools leading their kids in sports and nobody scores so nobody is offended. Trust me when I tell you, the Chinese are not teaching their kids this way. They are teaching their kids to win against your kids.
Push education right down to the local level. It is not my business as a guy living in Palmer to tell Russian Mission what they should teach their kids. There are a few subjects that must be taught, yes. Math, science, and English as English is the language used outside of the village. And who is to say that the next Einstein is not coming out of Sleetmute? So they must be prepared for the bigger world, but more importantly, if the student wishes to stay in Sleetmute and never leave the village there are things pertinent to that village that do not apply in Palmer. Therefore, local control of education is a must.
One can not have the best teacher, or even a good and knowledgeable teacher in every subject in every village. When you have small villages with a population of 50 to 300, it is impossible. So, we will build or rebuild their schools so that they are set up thus:
- Set up the small village schools so that there is a classroom for grades K through 6. 7 through 12 have home rooms, with other rooms for specialized subjects. Music, Art, so forth will likely need their specialized rooms.
- Each school has an administrator who is also a computer tech who can keep everything running smoothly. He or she supervises the classrooms, but in front of each class room is a large-screen TV. So in each region you have the best teacher for each subject teaching several small school classrooms. In Russian Mission you have about 100 students K through 12. This ads up to 7 or 8 kids per grade. Likely you would have a class with only two or three students some times. But the teacher appears on the screen in front of the class. He or she sees the students through cameras at the front of the class, at the front of the student’s desk and from a camera over the student’s desk to fine tune his work.
For instance, let us say the students are studying biology. Certainly, you cannot have the best biology teacher in every school, but you can have a very good one teaching all. A student has, for instance, his frog to be dissected, lying on his desk. The teacher can zoom in with the camera above the student and, for instance, point out the spleen to the student using a cursor on the screen on that student’s desk, but do this from a remote location.
Often the teacher may be in that same classroom, but teaching other classes over the cloud. This is common at the college level. We’ll do it at the kindergarten level.
- Performance will be expected of the students (and the teachers for that matter). Tests will be given and if special instruction is necessary it is given. I have seen it at the local schools that a student is failing at, let’s say English Literature, and is allowed to bring in a diorama of Shakespeare’s works so they get a passing grade. Well, this is not good enough.
- To the Native Schools, please, teach your kids their Native Language. So much is being lost here. If I, as governor, can facilitate that, please let me know how. I will say this, and this applies to all students of languages that are new to them; we will push the “learning tricks” advocated in Barry Farber’s book How to Learn Any Language. It became my language learning Bible. I study several languages and am currently studying Yup’ik. I’ve found these so-called tricks indispensable. And they absolutely work.
Johnny Cash sang it exactly right. “All these kids you’re calling wild are gonna’ be the leaders in a little while.” We will push education down to the locality and to the parent. You, Dad and Mom are the first number in this equation. We will expect much, but we’ll give much and we’ll do so at a substantial savings for the state. We will get out of the habit of throwing bad money after… well, more bad money. We can do better, and our students deserve better. So do you as the parent. We will take our state’s pathetic education system from fiftieth to the top ten very quickly.