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Published: June 28th 2003
Confusing test results with real education is perpetuated and institutionalised through compulsory state and national testing. The testing industry is a four billion-dollar vested interest that produces dubious data purportedly objectifying student progress. These results bear little relation to any sound international educational standard. The US eschews looking at successful overseas examples in this and in so many other ways.
I think the closest equivalent to this in Australia may be found in some of the more second-rate Private Schools. These schools have good facilities but are run by politically-motivated educators who have to curry favour with fee-paying parents who cannot see why their child can't be a lawyer or a brain surgeon, even although the child does little work. If the child fails therefore, it must be their teacher's fault and the teacher will find little support from the Principal.
The teachers at the school where I worked, toiled imaginatively to make a difference in spite of the education system that didn't seem to really care about true education. Their treatment by the Principal and School District was rather shabby and cavalier indeed compared with my Australian experience. Our young upwardly mobile Principal in the US school has
far more authority than his Australian counterpart. There is little in the way of a democratic committee system to help him, as there is in Australia. So our American Principal employs humiliation when dealing with some staff and arbitrary decisions to end careers based on hearsay from parents and students. He is genuinely disliked by most staff, but they are too fearful of not having their contracts renewed to stick their necks out. The poor, hardworking American staff appear to be well-paid, but must renegotiate their own contracts every two years and pay for their own medical and insurance coverage. They cannot even escape these petty-tyrannies by moving school without serious loss in benefits. To receive a decent pension they must remain within this School District for twenty years, and cannot even transfer within the state, let alone to other states.
Our American experience has been interesting for all of us. We have met some wonderful people, such as to Poulsens, the Smeads, the Browns, the Ahos and the Aherns, who will hopefully remain life-long friends. Had we done nothing else in North America, it would have been all worth the trip just to meet these people.
me too, it was the wonderful students who I taught and the colleagues with whom I worked.
Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Minnesota were wonderful places to live: clean, safe, and very appealing in so many ways.
I have come away with just so many happy memories of students and staff at the school,
which has really made the whole experience worthwhile, notwithstanding some of the more negative experiences. These too I learnt from.
In spite of such observations on the US "warts and all", yes, we did have a great time in the US and North America and we all learnt heaps. Travel is about learning and observation and not "gilding the lily!" or just lying on a beach some where with you eyes closed, and being merely into indulging yourself with the holiday you deserve.
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