Friday, 18 November 2011


I was at the football game this weekend and the mission statement of the MHSA(Montana High School Association) was broadcast over the speakers. Part of their mission statement says "We believe competition is important". Why do they believe that? We used to all believe that. Competition makes a person work harder, try more, learn self discipline and hard work for a purpose. But our schools are doing away with competition. Why are they doing that? If competition builds self esteem through discipline and hard work in a person, if it builds character, why don't the schools want competition? I don't really know the answer to that (well, maybe I do, kind of) but I'll show you how they are assiduously doing away with competition in our educational system.

Let's start with testing. We used to have norm referenced tests. This meant the students were judged against a statistical norm. Students would come home with CTBS (California Test of Basic Skills) reports, or later ITBS(Iowa Test of Basic Skills) reports and you could see how your student performed against the rest of the nation. You would get a percentile rank. If your child was in the 90th percentile rank they were doing well. If they were in the 30th percentile they had some work to do. Well now that we have government tests there are no more national norms. Students are just Not Proficient, Proficient, or Advanced. These are called criterion referenced tests. In other words, either your child knows the given information or they don't, no comparing. Do you think the incentive is the same and the reporting information is as clear when you are just proficient? Do you think taxpayers have the right to know how Montana students compare to other states percentage wise? I  do.

Well, that's just testing. Competition is being taken out of the classrooms in very serious ways that I believe will have disastrous consequences for our students learning. The academies are being introduced into the high schools. At Helena High this year, as I was told by a school administrator, all freshman students are in academies. This means that a group of students take their 4 core classes together. There is no more "A" English or "C" English. Students of all academic levels are put in the same class. How do you accommodate all of these different ability levels? Do you dumb down the curriculum so everyone will succeed? I'm sure the school administrators (who don't teach) would deny this vehemently. You could individualize assignments. Kind of like trying to teach A English and C English at the same time. Maybe they'll go back to reading groups like we have at the elementary schools so that they can hold appropriate literary discussions with all ability levels, read literature that is advanced for advanced students,and offer remedial help for the C English levels. When you look at the reading lists (which are on line) you see that all the students are getting the same books, so they aren't varying literary content to meet the needs of advanced students. It was suggested at a board meeting that I went to at Helena High that they would like to go to project learning(the old cooperative learning from the 80's is back). We all know the problems with project learning, the top students do the work , the slow students learn very little, and everyone gets the same grade. What about math? How are they going to fit calculous students with students who haven't mastered algebra?

So the question remains. Why are they doing this? Is it just a way to bring low achievers up? Maybe, but it sure isn't going to get them an education (maybe a grade!). Our schools, for a long time now, have been about making a new society, not about delivering the best education. The MHSA knows that competition works. If you look at world markets, you know the only reason there is a market is because of capitalism and the incentives it provides. So, competition works but the people who are running our schools now (think BIll Ayers), don't want different levels of achievement. It seems like they're aiming for the classless society in school instead of the best education for everyone.Maybe they think if we all just learn to collaborate everyone will help each other and all of societies problems will go away. Maybe they don't like the idea that when we compete we consider ourselves as achievers INDIVIDUALLY.

Is this the kind of America you want where we are all the same? Are people ever the same? Do you like the football model where students discipline themselves, put up with hardships and overcome hardships? A model where the best get to play and others have to improve or move on to something else? Or do you like the model where we try to make everyone the same and pull out the victim card when things get tough?

Perhaps if we were all weak and dependent we would need a super centralized government that met everyone's every need.  Kind of like the schools wanting to provide education from the age of two through job training (the planning has begun). But has this model ever worked anywhere at any time in history? Have you looked at the debt clock on line lately? Are you aware of the Solyndra scandal where all the political bundlers got in on the green energy money coming from Washington, or some of the other scandals like insider trading by legislators (they use confidential information to help them make stock picks). Why do all our presidents become millionaires now? Does big centralized government that tries to be a "nanny state" breed corruption? Thomas Jefferson had the best advice "If people were angels we would not need government, but people are not angels, so we need a limited government".

I agree with MHSA, let competition and freedom ring!

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