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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Ross Rambles: Expounding on Issues

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

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Once again it is time for me to expound on the issues of the day. Nobody has asked me, "Would you please expound on the issues of the day?" but I can tell that is what everybody wants me to do.

Steve King, U.S. representative from Iowa's fifth congressional district, has leveled an attack on Chet Culver, Iowa's secretary of state and candidate for governor.

King is accusing Culver of violating Iowa's English-only law, a law King sponsored when King was a state legislator. The law requires state government to conduct its business in English only. On the secretary of state's website Culver has posted voter registration forms in Spanish, Laotian, Vietnamese and Bosnian.

This is obviously election-time politics. The English-only law is an emotionally charged attempt to create a solution to which there is not a problem. With this stated and with the further statement that we should sometimes accommodate the needs of non-English speakers among us, I still don't understand the need to provide voter registration in foreign languages.

Can we really expect a person who understands only Laotian or Bosnian to have an understanding of the positions our political candidates take?

For some people, it doesn't really matter whether a person understands issues or candidates, only that everyone votes. North Korea reports that 100 percent of adults participate in elections. People there have no choice in elections, with only approved Communist Party candidates on the ballot, but at least North Korea can brag that everybody participates in the democratic process.

Freedom to participate in an election also means the freedom not to. We should respect that choice, especially when a person has no way of understanding the candidates or the issues.

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A proposal being considered in Iowa is allowing professionals without a teaching degree to teach high school students when no one is available with a teaching degree in that particular discipline. This follows programs in place in Kansas and Minnesota.

The professional who would be allowed to teach would need to have a bachelor's degree and three years of experience in the discipline taught. The person would also need to agree to take online education courses during the first year of teaching.

The Iowa State Education Association, an organization that represents teachers, understandably opposes the plan. It could reduce the pressure on the state to raise the average salary of teachers, which are considerably lower in Iowa than the national average.

I don't know of any official position to provide bonuses specifically for teachers of math and science, since there doesn't currently seem to be any serious proposal to do this, although the shortage in these areas appears to be the primary motivation for considering the use of non-education degreed professionals to teach high school.

I suspect the ISEA would oppose special treatment for math and science teachers, since it could be seen as indicating that other disciplines are less important. Bonuses for teachers in certain disciplines would not be placing less importance on the other disciplines. It would just be accepting the law of supply and demand that governs how the work world outside of the public school system operates.

And using teachers who do not have a teaching degree is how education beyond the K-12 school system operates. College students are taught by people with master degrees or higher in the particular discipline taught. Education degrees are required only for people who will teach children or people who will teach people how to teach children.

I once heard a report to a school board that many college students studying for education degrees were surprised at how little time colleges spend teaching classroom management skills. Of course, anyone getting a teaching degree has to spend time as a student teacher, getting hands on experience, but the statement about the lack of classroom management education makes me curious as to what otherwise differentiates education about education from education about another field.

Do students of education study ivory tower theories on how children learn, without considering implementation among a group in which there are disruptive and unmotivated kids?

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The furor over John Kerry's questionable statement regarding what causes people to go to Iraq is another example of national news media making much about little.

People would be better off avoiding broadcast news about national and international issues. Even daily newspapers are a bit too sensational in national and international news. I prefer weekly publications such as the U.S. News and World Report for depth, rationality and balance.

As far as local news, four times a week is about right although this is not enough for those obsessed with getting the most immediate obituary information possible.