Tuesday, August 7, 2012

RE: Blog Stage Seven

          Veronica Barfield’s Blog, entitled “Government: Bigger in Texas,” touched on a very interesting and recent declaration from Texas’ Republican Party, her comments on which can be found here. In their defense of Knowledge-Based Education, the party has gone as far to say they oppose teachings of critical thinking: “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority (page 20, Republican Party of Texas, 2012).” In accordance with Ms. Barfield’s commentary, such a declaration is absolutely ridiculous.
          Although the party desires obedient children, preventing students from generating their own beliefs, or imagining an alternative, is extremely unproductive. Imagination fuels innovation, understanding, and allows obstacles to be overcome. By preventing students from acquiring such problem-solving skills, how will they achieve anything new? How will they adjust to the structure of collegiate-level coursework? Will they ever desire, or be able, to understand diverse cultures and people? Without such skills, I highly doubt it. With Texas dominated by Republicans, no wonder the state is renowned for being so closed minded. To them, ignorance is bliss and knowledge is set. Hell, maybe they still think the Earth is flat. However, as students of many backgrounds and beliefs populate the state, the many non-Republican supporters should not have to suffer. This is unfair and unrepresentative, but until minorities come out to vote in greater numbers, inevitable. Such policies would be another blow to an already broken education system.

Source: “Texas GOP Declares: ‘No More Teaching of “Critical Thinking Skills” in Texas Public Schools.’” Truthout. http://truth-out.org/news/item/10144-texas-gop-declares-no-more-teaching-of-critical-thinking-skills-in-texas-public-schools

Texas' Graduation Rate Hits All-Time High

          As the state continues to grow, the future will be up to the youth of Texas. Thus, their education, creating knowledgeable and qualified leaders, will be key. Such brings me to the recent report from the Austin American-Statesman, highlighting the state’s graduation rate reaching an all-time high. Up to 85.9%, this number is a 1.6% increase from 2011. This is a great sign of improvement, especially as 92% of these graduates completed their schooling in less than five years. Also impressive was the four-year math and science requirement for these students – credentials not previously mandatory for graduates. Though the graduation for whites was highest, increases in minority graduation rates, particularly among Blacks and Hispanics, was another positive sign.
          While such increases are a step in the right direction, further work needs to be put in to ensure the future leaders of the state and world are properly prepared. First, as the minority population reaches a majority, further improvements need to be made to increase their graduation rate – especially to levels equivalent to Anglos. As our state and country becomes more diverse, the education of such minorities will be key in achieving reflective representation.
          In addition to these unequal graduation rates, the United States still lags behind many other nations in its primary education quality, ranking 25th in mathematics and 20th in science, according to this study. Such rankings are unacceptable, especially as the United States used to dominate in these fields. If Texas cannot properly educate its youth, not only will we lose respect from abroad, but also decrease the quality of our currently renowned secondary institutions. For a country of so many, with so much money, further investment is needed. In my opinion, both Texas and the country overhaul the education system, or we fall victim to international takeover in all fields of innovation – technology, energy, medicine, etc. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

“Texas' graduation rate hits all-time high.” Austin American-Statesman. http://www.statesman.com/news/texas/texas-graduation-rate-hits-all-time-high-2427631.html

 “International Comparison of Math, Reading, and Science Skills Among 15-Year-Olds.” Infoplease. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0923110.html

Friday, August 3, 2012

RE: "I Value My Education and So Should You"

          While searching through our class blog roll, I ran across Rohan Adiga’s interesting commentary on the recent funding decreases for Texas’s secondary institutions, particularly the University of Texas at Austin. As a student of UT, and especially one invested in the quality of its faculty, research, and reputation, he expresses particular disappointment in Governor Perry’s recent cuts in funding to the University – policy costing a “whopping” $92 million to UT over the next two years. With such cuts, one would think hikes in tuition could help pick up the slack. However, thanks to the Governor, frozen tuition rates leave the University in a deep hole – a predicament Adiga feels will cost the University the prestige it has worked so hard to achieve. Without the money to fund such groundbreaking research, why should brilliant scientists even think about coming to UT? A great question indeed, Rohan.
          As a fellow science and University of Texas student, I agree with his argument. Rick Perry has continued to champion his conservative ways, preventing tax or tuition increases without providing a means to pick up the slack. This well written commentary provides insight into how such policies will hurt the diverse and innovative researchers of the University of Texas – chemists, psychologists, political scientists, and more that have worked to help put UT on the world map. Though the Governor may champion the University’s success, he can’t realistically expect such groundbreaking (and subsequently expensive) research to continue without the appropriate funding. The cake may be tasty, but who’s going to keep baking it?