Stony Brook Prof: Educational System Needs Massive Overhaul

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 05:18 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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The U.S. educational system is failing and in desperate need of a top-to-bottom overhaul, says Dr. Peter Salins, a professor of politics at Stony Brook University.

"We're losing ground . . . We're slipping,'' Salins — author of "The Smart Society: Strengthening America's Greatest Resource, Its People" — told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"Our poorest kids, many of them minority, are way behind the rest. That seems to have been the only focus of government policy for most of the last half-century.

"But I argue a much larger number of schoolkids are subject to what I call the mainstream learning gap, and that can be closed much more easily, but first we have to recognize it,'' he said Wednesday.

Salins said teachers in the U.S. also lack the educational chops of those overseas because they are recruited from "sort of the educational bottom" of the nation's college graduates.

"Most of our teachers are trained in state teachers' colleges . . . but the students that go to those colleges don't learn what they really need to learn to be effective teachers," he said.

"Secondly, those are not the most selective institutions. I've argued for a long time that the model that we should follow for recruiting teachers is the same model we follow for recruiting lawyers and doctors and scientists: we take the brightest students from across all of our colleges and universities, including the teachers' colleges.

"We mainly train them in substance, in education and knowledge in college, and we give them the training to be good teachers afterwards in specialized institutions or, as New York City increasingly has been doing, by the school districts themselves."

Story continues below video.



That adjustment would also mean some teachers should be paid more, Salins says.

"There's no profession that I know of where everybody gets paid the same. Not lawyers, not doctors, not even, believe it or not, college professors," he said.

"We also have variable pay depending on how effective we are as scholars or teachers. I don't know if we have to pay teachers on average more, but we have to pay some teachers more and there has to be more of kind of a career ladder the way there is in higher education and other fields."

Salins says that even if the standards for teachers are not raised, academic standards in the classroom should be.

"A beautiful example . . . [is] the state of Massachusetts. It is an affluent state and it has been for a long time, but it's been actually not radically different than its surrounding states of Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey,'' he said.

"And yet in 1993, Gov. [William] Weld . . . created a commission tasked with radically revamping the education system . . . and the state has soared educationally.

"The most radical and important of all of their reforms was to upgrade their curriculum, and that's the easiest thing to do. We have thousands of school districts; we only have 50 mandated curricula . . . So, if our 50 states or the other 49 followed Massachusetts' lead, we could radically upgrade the curriculum.''

By doing that for the mainstream students who don't need extra attention or resources, the U.S. educational system could equal those of the most advanced European and Asian countries, Salins says.

"We could do that almost overnight. Now the Common Core curriculum is an attempt to do that, and that is sort of a grassroots effort led by the governors of at least 45 of the American states," he said.

"Part of it is the embrace by the Obama administration, which maybe was well intentioned, [but] given our fraught political environment, be the kiss of death. They might have been better off if the president had opposed it."

See "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.


See "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.         


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