Thanks to State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Missouri is number one in an important area. Not only number one, but the only state even in the running. If you want to know more, keep reading.
Galloway was appointed by former Governor Jay Nixon after the death in 2015 of her predecessor in the office, Tom Schweich. Since then she’s been very busy doing a bang-up job. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Galloway is “on her way to becoming one of the best auditors in state history” in part because she “shows an inclination to exploit the office in unprecedented ways.” It’s the tendency to look at her job with fresh eyes that has made her a bona fide Missouri political star who does as much or – and given the current status quo – probably more to to advance quality of life in Missouri than many of our elected representatives.
A segment on the NPR radio show, The Takeaway, highlights one of the directions Galloway’s “unprecedented” approach to her job has taken: cybersecurity audits. In the wake of the Equifax hacking, Galloway has emphasized the fact that her office has made examining the mechanisms in place to insure cybersecurity “a priority across all facets of [state] government.” As the Takeaway segment noted, that goal has been extended to the data collected and retained in the public school system where digital tools have gradually become omnipresent.
So here, I bet you’re scratching your head and asking why would anyone hack a public school, why does the data schools collect need to be secured. It’s just information about kids. And there you have your answer: kids have clean credit records; they don’t usually have have a credit status at all. That means that their personal information can be used by hackers to open false accounts that will remain viable for years – until the student reaches age eighteen and finds that he or she can’t secure a line of credit because their identity was hi-jacked and their credit worthiness wrecked. There have already been incidents where school data has been stolen, although, primarily because nobody wants to be blamed for negligence, most have slipped under the radar and the problem has been under-reported.
But that’s not likely to be the case in Missouri. Thanks to Galloway’s offer to provide cybersecurity audits to public school systems, Missouri is the only state making any kind of effort to safeguard public school data. Just think. For once Missouri is playing a leading role in dealing with an emergent problem. And it’s all because we have a state auditor who is able to identify potential problem areas and act proactively to address them.
But never fear. Mediocrity – or, worse, disaster – is still out there, stalking the auditor’s office. Galloway has declared that she will run again for the office in 2018. To my knowledge, there are currently two Republicans who want her job: standard GOP drone, Bruce Wasinger and Tea Party golden boy (and, incidentally, goldbug) State Rep. Paul Curtman (R-109), whom I’m guessing is term-limited and casting about for a safe berth while he searches for a more high-profile opportunity.
Think about it. Change a fresh, vital and highly qualified auditor who has revitalized the position for ho-hum, fresh-off-the-GOP-assembly line Wasinger. Or worse, Curtman, the mini Greitens (loves guns; emotive, faux-heroic rhetoric; and reminds you of his military record every time he opens his mouth), all-in-all a Trump-lover’s dream boy. See what I mean about lurking disaster.
*Edited slightly to correct typos and add clarity (10/25/17, 1:33 pm).
Recently, at Lindenwood University, the long simmering debate over public education exploded into hateful rhetoric against public schools by voucher advocate Rex Sinquefield, founder of the right wing think tank, The Show Me Institute.
Financier Sinquefield was lecturing on how to improve Missouri’s business climate. The base of his speech was his support for no income tax.
Two years, I had written an Opinion Shaper column opposing no income tax, and had come to hear his side. I was joined by Anita Miller, Francis Howell’s NEA President, Kim Garbs, Fort Zumwalt’s NEA President, and Cheryl Heibler, former St. Charles County councilwomen.
Following is his speech, Sinquefield was asked about his support to eliminate tenure for teachers. That ignited Sinquefield into a rant not only against tenure but against public education and teachers. He climaxed with these incendiary words from a column in an Osage county newspaper:
“a long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said how can we hurt the African American children permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And what they designed was the public school system.”
Only a trickle of laughter sprouted, most were like my friends and I, just stunned. This was only the final nail in Sinquefield’s diatribe of false accusations against public schools. Prior to the KKK remark, Sinquefield had incorrectly said, “In this country, can you think of any other occupation where you can screw up, and screw up a child’s life permanently, and they can’t fire you?”
As a school board member, I have been one of the “they”; and Sinquefield is just wrong. My second year of the school board, we terminated over 80 teachers including a large number of veteran tenured teachers. A teacher’s contract is like any workers contract it allows for dismissal of poor performing employees. All a contract does is set up fair procedures for termination.
Besides, it takes two to sign a contract. If the administration doesn’t like a clause in a contract, work to change it in negotiations. Tenure does not have to be granted for five years. If it takes an administrator longer to evaluate a teacher, you need a new administrator.
Sinquefield further insulted all veteran teachers by saying, “Many teachers quit. After about three to five years many of the good ones leave … and the bad ones stay.” That is how little regard Mr. Sinquefield has for all dedicated experienced teachers.
Kim Garbs asked Sinquefield if he had ever been in a public school and talked to a public school teacher. Sinquefield said he had, but the school he cited was a charter school.
Sinquefield is Missouri’s foremost advocate of charter schools. Yet charter schools have a bleak ten year history of failure in the St. Louis. Even after closing three of the worst charter school, charter schools still underperformed St. Louis public schools by almost 25 percent last year.
This failure of charter schools was underlined by a Stanford University study of 70 percent of the charter schools in the nation. They found only 16 percent of charter schools outperforming the public schools.
Despite this clear evidence there legislation is being considered which would bring charter schools to St. Charles County. Ultimately what is wanted is a voucher given to all children to go to the school of their choice. This would mean a 12 percent cut in funding of public schools in order to bankroll private schools.
Sinquefield’s final attack on teachers came when he said, “It is, right now, illegal to consider the performance of students in setting the pay of teachers.” I questioned how my wife could be held responsible for the performance of homeless children (12 percent are in her district) or children who are beaten or sexually abuse, or are offspring of felons, drug addicts and alcoholics.
Sinquefield can be held responsible for the performance of his employees because he can fire those who are not producing. My wife cannot fire a child.
Kim, Anita, and I are members of an Education Caucus who believes in the words of Martin Luther King, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It is time for all residents of St. Charles County who are friends of public education to stand up to the Rex Sinquefield’s.
My Opinion Shaper Column from St. Charles County Surburban Journal – cwviking
“Bring me into the company of men who seek the truth, and deliver me from those who have found it.” ~ Cletus Young
One of the characteristics of our educational system has different subjects put into neat separate boxes. Math, reading, art, science. Today, we see much more blurriness and convergence between subjects like science, religion, philosophy.
This “Gnostic syncretism”-the combining of knowledge-is especially apparent when teasing out the details surrounding revolutionary innovations. The inspiration that leads to breakthroughs in technology, science-even cultural breakthroughs-many times involve a bringing together and merging of ideas formally not associated.
Many pivotal inventions, ideas, concepts have been birthed through a sort of revelatory experience breaking down barriers and opening up the mind to new ways of doing things.
For example, Nobel Prize winner Charles Hard Townes describes the unconstrained interplay of “how” and “why”-questions that both religion and science seek answers for-as he developed the principles for masers sitting on a park bench in Washington, D.C. in 1951. Masers led to lasers and an amazing plethora of inventions and discoveries in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, and computers in common use throughout the world today. Townes describes the genesis of his idea as an “epiphany”, and “revelation as real as any revelation described in the scriptures.”
Are there ways to prepare student’s minds to have revelations such as Townes had?
How do we germinate and spur on the kind of abstract thinking that leads to innovation, entrepreneurial creativity, and solutions to the larger challenges facing humankind?
The “teaching to the test” approach that initiatives like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) created, encouraged a rote and mechanistic memorization of answers to questions that a multiple choice test would ask. What gets left behind in this approach is attention toward abstract and critical thinking, depth of knowledge-the exact seeds that need to be planted to develop innovators and inventors. The bulwarks upon which whole economies are built.
Take Apple and Steve Jobs for example. When Wozniak and Jobs built their revolution in their garage the difference was in the synthesis of different disciplines together to make a truly unique product in the hobbyist computer industry. Jobs demanded that all the chips inside the Apple line up in neat little rows, blending an artistic and aesthetic perspective into what was, before, the equivalent of geeky electronic erector sets. Fast forward to the design elegance of iPods and iPads and you see the shift that has now emerged into an entire economy. Point being, the assembly line repetition that “teaching to the test” engenders does not foster the cross-disciplinary tools used in innovation.
In a recent article published on Science 2.0-“Join the Revolution”-a defense is made for NCLB, and that it’s concerted and imminent exit, possibly premature.
Hank Campbell makes statements like,
“If you teach kids critical thinking, they are not going to do as well on standardized tests, plain and simple.”-or- “Teaching ‘thinking’ means you have to teach both sides, teaching facts means young people have a lot less confusion and they can learn the subtleties in college.”
Campbell lays out the conflict between NCLB-based education on one hand and teaching critical thinking on the other as fact vs. fiction.
In other words, if we teach critical thinking, kids will have to look at all sides of a particular subject (imagine that!). For example, he warns global warming as a “fiction” will have to be seriously considered, or even evolution debunked. I understand the point, but this is a straw man argument. Critical thinking does not mean embracing falsehoods, but rather, in the finest traditions of science, examining all the evidence available to arrive at a more refined and informed perspective-a higher order of truth composed of nuances. And I’ll make the argument that in a hyper-interconnected world full of an exponentially larger set of data, information, and differing points of view, sending kids out in the world armed with only the mastery of dogmatic facts (and a lack of critical thinking) is, intellectually, sending lambs to the slaughter, so-to-speak.
We need critical thinking because in this generation we are processing more information than ever before. We have to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff from the beginning of our education-not only when students move past high school, as Campbell suggests, “…they can learn the subtleties in college.”
Hank Campbell continues in Teach Facts Or Teach Thinking? Why NCLB’s Demise Could Hurt Science Classes,
“Progressives are less likely than conservatives to dispute global warming. Progressives are less likely than conservatives to dispute evolution. But progressives are far more likely to object to a standardized national program like NCLB, because the education unions instead want the status quo of 60 years ago, except with more money each year, and progressives don’t want to anger education unions any more than conservatives want to anger the military. The fact that NCLB had more improvement in education in its first five years than had occurred in the previous 28 years, along with an all-time high for black and Hispanic grade schoolers, was declared unimportant.”
“It hasn’t been declared unimportant,” stated St. Louis Parkway School Board member and attorney Tom Appelbaum.
“Early on in NCLB there was a push to focus on the lower performing students, how they performed on standardized tests, and highlighting achievement gaps-but the fact remains NCLB is in the process of creating a crisis in education as fallacious and artificial as the debt-ceiling crisis was,” explained Appelbum, St. Louis Public Schools Examiner. “Because according to NCLB, by 2014, every school has been mandated that 100% of students reach the level of proficiency on standardized tests-an impossible task. Meanwhile, schools are often severely penalized for not being able to do the impossible.”
So facts versus thinking.
It really seems like you can’t have one without the other-and a comprehensive and thorough education will involve both. NCLB ratchets down the critical thinking piece and replaces it with assembly line precision. But the prize of the American economy is not fact regurgitation, nor even professional classes like engineers (China and India are cranking out engineers at a rate we’ll never match)-the prize of the American economy is creativity, entrepreneurialism, and innovation.
The prize is intellectual property-an industrial sector that has performed at a trade surplus since its inception. Publishing, software, technology. And all this goes down in a realm not defined by neat boxes, it happens in the nether world where ideas and disciplines collide freely and emerge as new things. In a recent appearance on the Daily Show, New York Times columnist and author Tom Friedman gave a vision for an America re-discovering its former heritage of success and becoming the place in the world where new projects are launched. If ideas flourish here, they’ll have a good chance of having global legs. It makes sense, and points toward the need to embrace creativity, entrepreneurialism, and innovation as the chief characteristics of what we teach to our children-and what we support through public policy, research, and reducing barriers for new talent to have access to our marketplace.
The study of
crossing disciplines has increasing pertinence in fostering abstract and creative thinking and problem solving. Promoting “academic symbiosis” in student’s minds-as they metabolize each individual subject-will build a higher order appreciation and capacity to utilize their total educational experience in productive and creative endeavors in the real world.
The idea for this piece came from a TED talks group discussion held on Linked-In. The question that was posed:
“What are the most important topics or things which should be taught at school, and currently aren’t, and which would give the best possible tools to children for life?”
The Smith-Cotton High School Band has to turn in its new t-shirts.
In a nutshell:
“..I was disappointed with the image on the shirt…I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school…”
They must have a really unique biology curriculum.