Hands On, Dumb Down

Hands On, Dumb Down
Tuesday, March 9, 1999

HEY, I KNOW what California public schools need: another program.

Is that what Assemblyman Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, thought when he wrote a bill to create a new California Teacher Cadet Program? The purpose of Assembly Bill 192 is to introduce “public high school pupils to the teaching profession” and to “develop a grant program to assist school districts in offering year-long course work designed to expose pupils to teaching careers through the development of a hands-on education curriculum.”

Great idea: Add another non-academic subject to the high school curriculum. Call it: Anything but math and science. After all, today’s students are so educated that they should be spending their time tutoring other students instead of studying.

I don’t even want to know what the “hands-on education curriculum” entails. Suffice it to say that Scott’s Cadet Program is based on a South Carolina program which is considered “the most successful part of the state’s reform” because 38 percent of students who participate say they want to be teachers. That’s how educrats rate success: kids say they like it.

Of course, since the teacher cadet program is supposed to be for high-achieving students who think they might want to be teachers, that 38 percent doesn’t bode well. Figure either cadet schools have pushed kids who don’t want to be teachers into the program, or the program is driving 62 percent of students away from teaching faster than you can say “hands-on education curriculum.” The latter is my guess.

A program backgrounder boasts: “The class would focus on a basic curriculum and would get students out into schools and interacting with teachers at various levels, counselors, library-media teachers, etc.” Those are my italics, meant to highlight the idiocy of this edu-think. Apparently no one told the cadet mongers that the kids already are in schools interacting with educators, wow, even without a state program.

The bill states that it wants to promote “interaction with successful administrators and teachers.” (I guess the non-cadets can interact with unsuccessful administrators and teachers. They must save the best for state programs.)

“All day long students observe teaching, or they should if they pay attention. If they’re inclined to teaching, they will pick up on it,” Assemblyman Steve Baldwin, R-La Mesa, said yesterday. “I don’t think we need a new state program. It just sounds like a stupid program that sounds good but probably will do nothing but spend more state dollars.”

And easily take away time and energy from more academic pursuits.

Studies show that teachers haven’t had enough math or science. So what does AB 192 do? Start educrat courses into high school so that future teachers will have taken education courses, instead of science, both when they were in high school and in college.

But it sounds good, so who cares what it might do? Not the Assembly Education Committee, which passed it by a 17-2 vote last week. Only Baldwin and Assemblyman Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, voted no. Despite a withering GOP analysis of the bill, five Republicans — including Jim Cuneen of Campbell and Lynne Leach of Walnut Creek — actually voted for this scheme. The committee earmarked $175,000 to start up the program, but didn’t budget for the $2,500 which AB 192 would award to each school for enrolling.

State schools chief Delaine Eastin and California State University supported the bill. No surprise: Eastin’s department gets $25,000 to implement it. CSU gets $150,000.

There was no official opposition to the bill, natch. It’s no one’s job in Sacramento to ask whether a bill is a waste of time and money. It’s in no one’s political interest to demand that legislators consider what academics might be shunted to make time for the many “hands-on” activities.

Here’s an idea for a state program. Create a scold program that reminds lawsmakers to consider how their pet programs might shortchange academics and question whether bills spend money most wisely for California students. State solons ought to do that all by their lonesomes. But apparently they’re not.

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