Showing posts with label Economist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Economist. Show all posts

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Teacher Training

Cover story in the Economist.  Their shtick is teacher training this week.  We can solve all our education problems with radically more effective teacher  training, so says the Economist.  Good teachers are not born, they are trained.  No discussion of phonics vs whole word method of teaching reading.  No discussion of Common Core.  No numbers anywhere.
  Me, I'm not so sure.  To teach public school in the US, you have to suffer thru the education major in college.  Four years of meaningless blather.  Those who survive and go on to teach, either were highly motivated, or totally dull, to put up with the total boredom of the ed major.
   I went thru nine years of public school, three years of a very good prep school and four years of a good college.  In this sixteen year educational odyssey I encountered quite a few teachers, most decent, some extra ordinary, and some worthless.  Then I went into the Air Force, and took a few classes from the Field Training Detachment (FTD in USAF speak).  The instructors in FTD were uniformly excellent, as good as any teacher I'd ever had.  These instructors were just ordinary enlisted men, pulled right off the flight line, no college, on their second hitch in the Air Force.  And they were good.  Their students were all teenage guys, of prime trouble causing age, but they never had any trouble.  And the students learned the stuff.  They paid attention, did the homework, passed the tests.
   What made the FTD instructors so good?  First of all, they knew their subject matter, backwards and forwards, standing on their heads and underwater.  Then the subject matter was interesting, jet engines, machine shop work, hydraulics, aircraft instruments, guided missiles, radar, autopilot, sheet metal work, avionics and more.  For young guys with a day job doing aircraft maintenance, all this stuff was interesting.  It really helps the instructor to be teaching something his students care about.
   And the instructors were motivated.  They knew that the teenagers they were instructing were the future of the Air Force, and they were all career Air Force men, who deeply cared about the Air Force.  They gave their best, and it worked.
  Bottom line, I don't think good teachers are born or trained.  Good teaching happens when the teacher knows his subject thoroughly, and cares about his students.  And it really helps to teach subjects that the students care about. .  

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Short for British Exit From EU. The Brits have set 23 June as the date for a nationwide referendum on pulling out of the EU.  British bookies are offering 2:1 odds that Brexit will happen. The Conservative party prime minister will campaign to keep Britain in.  He cannot get all the senior conservatives to support him. Heavy duty Conservatives like the mayor of London and the justice minister are in favor of getting out and have said so publicly.
   Prime Minister Cameron went to Brussels, dickered, and came back with some concessions from the EU. Britain will be able to refuse to pay welfare to new immigrants until they have been in Britain for four years.  There will be some poorly understood restrictions on immigration to Britain.  It probably ain't enough.  The Brits fear being overrun by foreigners and resent EU regulations on just about everything.
   Problem for Her Majesty's Government.  About one third of British exports go to the EU.  Right now they go duty free since Britain is currently an EU member.  If Britain pulls out, that stops and British exports to the EU will face full EU tariffs.  Which means the end of that huge export market.  The EU has 10% unemployment, which means plenty of EU suppliers who would be so pleased to pick up all the Brit's business after EU tariffs made the Brits noncompetitive.
   I did see one clueless letter to the editor in the WSJ claiming that it ain't so, Britain could pull out and still enjoy EU tariff preferences.  I don't believe that.
   The Economist is clearly concerned, they see economic disaster, of the lights go out and everybody starves to death sort.  They also checked with the bookies for odds.  I think the Economist is onto something.  Where do you go to replace one third of your export business?   Canada?  Australia?  the US?  Would we let them join NAFTA?
   Britain is the second largest economy in the EU.  If they pull out it will make the job of keeping the EU from falling apart harder.  Actually, the EU has come a long way since 1945, they have passport-and-customs free travel between most EU countries, they have a single currency, they have EU wide regulations of things like food purity and labeling, electrical safety standards,building codes.  They have a ways to go to become a United States of Europe, they have no EU wide foreign policy or armed forces, and the EU government in Brussels lacks a lot of powers that the US constitution gives to Washington.
   I wish the Brits every kind of luck.  They are gonna need it.