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The Civic Scene: Schools that teach will win productivity fight

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The terrorists threaten to kill us or cut off our markets or sources of raw materials, but the educated masses around the world challenge our great productivity and our access to markets and raw materials. We must have schools that produce the mass of educated workers who can run our industries, who can operate the technically complicated equipment and machines we need to maintain the productivity to maintain our standard of living. Just as important, we must cultivate those special individuals who can analyze and develop new solutions to problems and create new inventions to maintain the technological leadership that has made our productivity the envy of the world. Everyone of us must fight to improve our schools and improve the quality of our students. We must produce graduates who can discover and create for our economy. We can win the war against terrorism, only to discover we are a second-rate power because we lost the productivity war. Let's evaluate the products of the New York City schools. Principals, who have not had a raise in four years, are under mandates from the federal and state governments to improve reading and math scores. If the test scores don't rise, then the principal will be in trouble so the principals juggle the curriculum so that emphasis is placed on improving test scores. They developed Ramp Up, which means double periods of reading. That sounds important because even an entry-level mechanic must know how to read the manual to be able to run or do rudimentary repairs to a machine. However, the money for this remediation is not provided by the federal or state governments that set the standards and mandate tests. Because the school budget is limited, the money has to come from the current programs. Well, science research classes are usually small, so eliminate them. Machine shop classes are small so eliminate them. Eliminate some very expensive hi-tech courses. Don't buy those expensive new editions of books or update the technical equipment. Eliminate what our society needs to create highly educated specialized students to compete with people from other advancing countries because the programs cost too much and we have to teach remediation so students, who just can't do advanced college work, can try to score higher on a reading test. We now use computers to run machines, but there are many old-fashioned machines in small factories which need skilled mechanics who may not have high reading scores. Some students need tactical or manual stimulation to learn to use a machine. Not everyone can do hi-tech activities and read difficult manuals. The system doesn't want to realize this fact of life, so manual type classes are eliminated and they spend money to try to make some students take reading tests and do advanced work. Just talk to a classroom teacher about student learning abilities. Money was supposed to be given to New York City because the state formula discriminated against New York City. The Campaign For Fiscal Equity won a court case years ago but Gov. Pataki refused to provide the money and kept appealing the case. The money could have improved the schools years ago. The State Court of Appeals just said that the school money formula should be changed. Is that the end? Will the city get the money? I hope so! While some of our students don't receive the proper education to prepare them to compete with the educated people around the world, other countries turn out engineers and educated workers who have a work ethic to work hard 10 hours a day. While we can talk about vacation days, more holidays, the cost of gasoline for our large SUVs, newer phones that take photos and store music, buying an antique car, the latest fashion and getting cigarette breaks, (which cause expensive to treat cancer and heart disease), many advancing countries around the world turn out workers who out produce us and our way of life. It all comes from productive schools. The reality is that we have to fight the war for advanced learning in our schools, for those who can and want to put in the effort, or we lose Ð yes Ð we lose. GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Many students learn a great deal in many fine schools in New York City. I just read that the city's Education Department wants to close and redesign several high schools because not enough students graduate from there. One of the school is Tilden High School in Brooklyn. I went to Tilden High School. I graduated. Here I am today. Something to think about.

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