Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Story of Behavior Modification

The passengers in my car demonstrated a nervous twitch, especially as I approached stop lights. Out of the side of my eye, I could see them moving their foot toward the front of the floor board to step on an imaginary break and grabbing the arm rest. My wife in particular was beginning to complain more about my driving. “It was red!” she would say with some disapproving tone. Yes, I did frequently see the red of the red light as I raced through the intersection at the last moment. “If I stop too quickly,” I rationalized, “I would have been rear ended by the guy behind me.” I knew that was an exaggeration because my heart would ramp up a bit myself. Of course, it was a real pain to have to stop and wait and wait for the light to change. So after one close call and a frightened yell by a passenger, I knew I needed to do something about this potentially hazardous habit. But it was not that simple to just quit. It was a very strong habit cultivated over several years.

I had heard of behavior modification as a technique to change behaviors. Would that work here? How? After some thought I decided to make a game of it. I decided that if I was the first person in line at a stop light, it meant I had stopped instead of driving through. If I was second in line or further back, then I had no part in deciding to stop as it was necessary to avoid hitting the car in front of me. So, I made some rules. If I was first in line, I would award myself one point. If I saw red on a light as I drove through an intersection, I would loose all my points and have to start all over. I decided that was not harsh enough. Instead of losing all my points I would go to minus 10 meaning I would have to successfully stop ten times before I even got to zero. I did not count the number of times I got set back to minus 10 because it happened a lot the first couple of months. In the third month I got as high as plus 20 once only to get set back to minus 10.

I decided that making my game public to my friends and co-workers would help apply social pressure. People would ask me how I was doing, what my score was, and what the rules of the game were. Some even began to play the game too. It amused me that some wanted to know if they were following the rules correctly. I had to explain that is was not a real game, that they could make up any rules that would help them accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. After about six months, I finally reached a score of 150. I decided that I had probably been successful in modifying my behavior and could stop playing. It worked! Ever since then my wife and other passengers ride with me with more comfort or at least they don’t stomp on the break on their side of the car and I don’t see red as I pass through the intersection any more.

I am now an advocate of self made games. Something you want to change? Make a game out of it with rules that will help you change the behavior.

This week, the National Rifle Association made an interesting proposal to protect school students by posting an armed security officer in each school building in the United States.  In theory, this should provide a deterrence to anyone who might contemplate another assault like the one in Newton, Connecticut.   Not only do I have doubts about the logic of this, but I seriously doubt that the NRA made a serious proposal.  It was more of a political proposal designed to deflect the discussion away from gun control.

So, lets put this suggestion to a test.  Lets assume this is a good idea for a moment.  The question is how it should be funded.  My suggestion is to fund it with taxes on guns and ammunition, sufficient to fund the approximately $80,000 per school such a proposal would cost to staff and administer.   We could also assign a special tax on those who manufacture and sell guns.  Note, I am not proposing that we disallow guns as guaranteed in the second amendment to the US Constitution.

Second Amendment: “A well regulated Milita, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Rather, I am suggesting a way for those who own guns to contribute in a meaningful way to gun safety for all citizens including those who choose not to exercise this “right” including children.

Now ammunition is a consumable, so it can insure a continued flow of revenue.  However, to tax it alone or depend on it alone to fund the security guards, it would need to be excessively large.  A gun is relatively permanent, so although a tax on the sale of a gun would help, it too would be too small a revenue stream that would need to be supplied over time.  Similarly, a special tax or license fee to sell guns would not generate sufficient revenue.  What is required is a special “personal property” tax on gun ownership that would be paid annually by all gun owners.  Surely, given the number of gun owners in the United States, this could be a modest tax sufficient with the others mentioned above to fund the revenue for school security officer programs.

So, given it is the NRA’s suggestion that all schools deserve to be protected from irrational gun owners/users, it is time for the NRA to step up to the funding of its proposal.  Perhaps the NRA itself would be willing to make the first contribution to the national campaign to raise the funds through a special tax on gun ownership.


See also Differences in Learning Styles — Symbols and Modes of Thinking.

I was consulting with a college teacher in a beginning psychology class.  She was troubled by a particular student who was engaged, participated in class with enthusiasm but was failing all the tests.  After deconstructing how the class was taught, I had a theory about what was wrong.  The instructor’s tests formed the greater part of the grade.  The tests were taken almost exclusively from the textbook while the lectures and discussions were considered as supplementary enrichment. I suggested that the student, who was successful in other college classes might highly prefer to acquire auditory information  like in lectures and discussions as opposed to visual input like reading.  An interview confirmed that in classes where tests were dependent on lecture material, the student did well.  When tests were primarily taken from reading material, the student had more difficulty.  The student did know how to read.  I suggested the student get a tape recorder and as he read the textbook, he record it aloud and then replay it and listen to it.  He tried this.  It worked.  He raised his overall grade from failing to a B.

I had a similar experience with a High School student.  The student came to me from another school with an incomplete in algebra.  The former teacher reported the student had no self discipline, no motivation.  That seemed to contradict their participation in sports and cheer leading.  In a discussion, the student offered to come in every day during their free period to clear up this incomplete.  I asked how the incomplete class was taught.  She reported that the teacher was doing individualized teaching.  He gave the students the assignment, the students were to read the math text book description and then work the assigned exercises.  She constantly needed the teacher to explain the lesson, one on one but there were too many students so that she did not get enough time with the teacher.  Again, I theorized this was a strong preference for auditory learning, that she had difficulty with written instructions.  I found a set of lessons on tape she could use.  She came in every day during her free period, listened to the tapes and then worked the exercises successfully.  It was not a lack of motivation or self discipline.  It was a poorly constructed individualized program that was dependent on students being able to acquire their math through visual (reading) means.  Since she could not get enough time feeding her strong preference for auditory learning, she could not succeed.

If you have read my series on Brain Efficiency you understand my view on how our brains are model builders.   That process develops from birth as the newborn’s brain attempts to make sense out of the world into which it was born.  I don’t know whether the differences in physical wiring in the brain or environmental influences are responsible, but we all develop certain preferences for acquiring information.  For some, it is visual stimulation that is preferred.  For others, it is auditory stimulation that is preferred.  For a lucky few, there is balance so that either or both are preferred depending on the situation or information.  What is your preference?  Would you rather go to a lecture or read the text of the lecture?  If you would prefer to hear the lecture and would never be interested in reading the text of it, you probably prefer auditory over visual input.  In contrast, if you would just as soon read the text as hear the lecture, you may have a preference for visual stimuli.

For some people, strong kinesthetic learning is powerful in learning.  Before a child learns the formal rules of mathematics, it is helpful for many to have kenesthetic experiences first, so there are manipulatives that allow learners to carry out physical activities, work with counting items and arrays of unit cubes, etc.  Notice that children frequently learn counting using their fingers.

The point seems to be that a teacher who is focused on learning pays attention to preferences, notes who has what kinds of preferences for acquiring information and helps them learn.  In addition, at an early age, where there is a strong negative preference for visual or auditory learning, attempts to help develop the missing skill.  A good teacher realizes that in a class, there are likely some students that are effectively blind and some effectively deaf and that has to be taken in consideration in planning and preparing learning experiences.

See also Differences in Learning Styles — Symbols and Preferences.

Not only do many students have preferred sensory modes for acquiring information, they also have preferred well or poorly developed modes of making inferences, of thinking about new material.  We all build models in our brains as a way of constructing an understanding the external universe, but we don’t necessarily do it in the same manner.  Dr. Joseph Hill developed an area called The Educational Sciences a number of years ago, but before he could convey this knowledge to a broad audience, he passed away.

In a training that he conducted in the late 1960’s I learned and then applied concepts about several aspects of his learning model with great success.  I have outlined some of the basic concepts in three blogs dealing with Differences in Learning Styles,  Symbols, Preferences and this one Modes of Inference.

There are three predominant modes of assessing and acquiring new information.  Dr. Hill modeled these after the three primary ways that statisticians interact with statistical problems.  I will contrast the three modes  Magnitude, Difference, Relational.    I will explain why I tend to be an appraiser and what that means, but here I want to share my approach to teaching that was very successful although I did not understand why until I learned about The Educational Sciences.  It helps explain the various modes with a teaching example.  My general approach in the high school math classes I taught was as follows:

  1. Check the previous day’s assignment  answering students questions.
  2. Put today’s homework assignment on the board
  3. Describe the new content relevant to the homework assignment
  4. Describe how the new concept was different from previous work we had done
  5. Begin to actually work out the homework problems on the board
  6. Work with students individually that needed additional help or had additional

Now let me explain the modes of interference and then explain why this approach was successful for virtually all of my students.

Magnitude:  A person who predominantly utilizes the magnitude mode does this by organizing incoming information into a categorical structure.  When one is presented with new information, the tendency of a “magnitude preferential” learner is to build a new “pigeon hole” in which to put the information or to store the information within an existing categorical structure.  It is an emphasis on WHAT THE INFORMATION IS, how to classify it or do it.

Difference:  A person who predominantly utilizes the difference mode does this by building contrasts with what they already know.  They learn what something is by knowing WHAT A THING IS NOT.  To do this, they may have to build multiple contrasts until, having exhausted ways to see what something is not, they say, “Oh, now I understand” and if you ask they what they understand, they will tell you all the things it is not.

Relational: A person who predominantly utilizes the relational mode does this by building ASSOCIATIONS WITH LIKE THINGS.  They understand by building relationships between the new and the old.  (Contrast this with Difference where the relationship is with things that ARE NOT LIKE the current new information or thing.)

As it turns out, for reasons I don’t know enough about to describe, various people tend to have preference for one or more modes of inference, or decision making.  In the even a person normally applies all of these modes in learning every time, we can call that comprehensive mode the APPRAISER mode.  One characteristic of the appraiser mode is the built in delay in decision making or information acquisition.  In a situation in which rapid decision making is required, being an appraiser can be a handicap.  We probably prefer that our generals are magnitude thinkers, quick to determine what the new information means and able to make a decision rapidly.

I have noticed that the difference mode is characteristic and probably a necessary mode for a visual artist.  An artist has a way of seeing what is different from what other people see and being able to relate to that and express it.  I have noticed that strong magnitude students with weak relational modes can do well in Algebra that depends on a rule oriented structure, but poorly in geometry which is dependent heavily on seeing relationships, constructing proofs out of a long list of related theorems.  I have found it is frequently the case that strong magnitude thinkers equally preferred  algebra and English grammar and disliked literature while strong relational preference students preferred geometry and literature which was dependent on relationships, discovering the plot from disparate clues for example.

I noticed the students who expressed a mostly difference orientation because of the frequent question they had that had the form of “why is the way I worked the problem not correct?”   Once I noticed that was the operative mode, I would take their approach and work out how it led to contradictions and frequently got an “Ah Ha” response.  I noticed that these were frequently the same students who challenged rules and who in other classes were considered problem students.  They frustrated teachers, were frequently told “because I said so” type answers and frequently got in trouble — not because they were trouble makers, but because teachers were not tuned in to their preferred mode of understanding.  I also noticed these same students tending to wear contrasting colors.  They were budding artists, creative, wanting to learn as much as other students, just not well understood.

The magnitude mode students tended to take off on the assignment immediately after the assignment was listed or right after an explanation of the new method.  They seldom created problems, provided the homework assignment was long enough.  I gave long assignments, but I also gave a lot of class time to work on it.  The difference mode students hung in till their “how is this different” questions were answered.  And then, there were the students with strong preferences for relational learning.

For relational mode students, it did not help to repeat the “here is what is new” explanation.  It did not help either to repeat the “here is what is different” explanation.  What did help was working out homework assignment problems on the board.  And, that meant not trying to do too much explanation other than verbalizing what I was doing at each step.  If after one or two examples they still did not seem to understand, I would do another assignment problem which they would copy.  It was always amazing to watch these relational students one by one have their own “Ah Ha” experiences, not be cause I was explaining how or drawing contrasts, but by following example after example.  I admit this was the most mysterious case, but somehow, they seemed to understand by seeing lots of examples.  Of course, they had also seen the initial explanation and had heard the questions by the difference mode students, but still, it was only after a number of examples they had their epiphany.

I found some self disclosing questions I could ask people to suggest their style in test taking and shopping.  I asked “When you take a multiple choice test, which is your preferred method of selecting the correct answer:  read the question stem and then A.  read the choices until you find one that is correct, likely not reading the rest of the choices that followed your choice (magnitude)   B. Read choice 1 and 2 and eliminate the least likely, comparing and throwing out possibilities pairwise (difference)  C. Read all the choices, not making any decision until all were read, then picking the most likely answer (relational).  Or in the case of shopping, when you determine you need something do you   A. Research or know before you go exactly what you want and as soon as you find it buy it (magnitude)   B. Have not necessarily determined before you go what you want, but as you find items, compare them, one against the other, eliminating ones that you do not want. (difference)  or  C.  Have a general idea of what you want, but keep an open mind until you have found several items that are possible and then select one (relational) or D. End up doing all three and taking forever to make a decision (appraiser).  Although not perfect, these two questions have tended to help identify a person’s modes.

Of course, some people are just naturals, being able to use all three methods selectively as the situation dictates but not feeling compelled to use any particular method.  They are considered adaptable, competent, and talented people on the whole more so than the rest of us.

CONCLUSION:  Teaching is complicated.  If a teacher is focused on methods of presentation as though a particular method is evaluated on its merits without reference to the preferences of the learner, they won’t be effective teachers.  In contrast, if they are focused on the learner and the various styles and preferences they have for acquiring information, they will need a highly adaptable approach themselves and are best served by having abilities in all three modes of acquiring information so as to be able to relate to what ever mode the learner needs.  I for one wish more teachers were trained to recognize differences that mattered in learning and less attentive to differences of race, economic status, or advantages in life.

While I was a teacher, I had the opportunity to learn about “The Educational Sciences” as formulated by Joesph Hill in Bloomfield Michigan. (long time ago.)  It changed the way I thought.  Instead of thinking more about teaching, I began to think how students learned and how that should determine how I helped them learn. Simple you say, but I dare say, it is a lot more complex once you think about learning instead of teaching.  In this essay I want to discuss one aspect; the nature of SYMBOLS and how they impact learning.

How do our minds PREFER to acquire information.  In any interaction with an external world, our brains have to interpret stimuli coming in from our senses.  But there are two quite distinct types of stimuli. Lets first consider visual stimuli.  For example, when we visit places like Yellowstone, the views we see represent a qualitative symbol.  By “qualitative symbol” I mean that the visual stimuli presents to our brain the very thing which it is. We might call it an image or a view of nature.   It is still unique to you and to me; we still have different experiences even though we see the same thing because, after all, when the sensory stimulus gets to our brain, it is only a symbolic representation, a set of neural firings and our brains interpret the visual stimuli as a set of neural patterns or symbols in its own unique way.  We see the same visual view, but experience unique neural symbols,  we interpret the view, experience the view differently based on our own unique history.  We call it qualitative because we can not extract it from our brains in such a way that another person can share the experience.  They have to be there, to see it for themselves and even then, their experience will be shared, but different.

In a similar way, viewing a photograph is a qualitative experience.  The pictures in National Geographic present qualitative symbols.  They are symbols in the sense that they are a collection of ink patterns, not the actual view.  They are a visual symbol of the view captured on a camera.  Contrast this with the narrative of the story or picture headings.  While every person, literate or illiterate can “experience” the photographs, only those able to read can “experience” the narrative by visually looking at the words. That is because the words are “Theoretical Symbols.”  The words appear as images on the retina, but they are not the view, just symbols that have to be translated by our brains to some visual or other qualitative experience to which we can relate.  The words represent to our brains something other than what they themselves are.  Seeing a tree and reading the word “tree” are distinct, the first being qualitative and the second being theoretical.  The symbols that make up the word “tree” has to be decoded, translated.  The decoding process calls upon our memory of prior experiences with qualitative symbols to give them meaning.  In National Geographic, this decoding is supplemented by great graphics.  But not all experiences with theoretical symbols are supplemented with good qualitative help. For example a novel with no pictures is just a set of theoretical symbols for which we must supply a mental image.  Our imaginations must provide the “pictures” based on prior experience.

Allow me to offer an example.  What if you see the word “boat?”  Stop a moment and bring up a mental image from all the qualitative experiences you have had of that word, actual boats and pictures of boats you have seen or even drawn.  What I was thinking of was a particular 25 foot sail boat that I used to ride on moonlit nights in Biscayne Bay in Miami.  Unless you have shared that experience, I can almost guarantee that was not your mental image.  So the theoretical symbols that made up the word “boat” evoked different qualitative experiences in each of us.  This should help make the distinction between qualitative and theoretical symbols.

As learners, we show preferences in how we acquire new information.  Think about how you use a visually rich magazine like National Geographic.  Do you prefer the pictures?  Do you tend to look first at the pictures to select what interests you (qualitative symbols)?  Or do you begin with the table of contents(theoretical symbols)?  What about students in a classroom?  Would one approach tend to “speak” equally to all students?  Would it be prudent to think about this distinction when planning a learning exercise?  If you were preparing instructional materials for students that included both styles, they would need to be rich in both types of symbols but not dependent on either one.

This also applies to the brain’s auditory channels.  Hearing the rush of a fast stream is quite different than reading a description of it.  And, unless you had some prior experience with flowing water, you would be hard pressed to conjure up a meaningful interpretation from a description.  This makes the transformation of information most complex.  A lot gets lost in translation.  If you think you are teaching something, you better be aware that the learner’s experiences play a large part in understanding the lesson.

So, how have I done?  Have I accomplished my purpose to get you thinking about the difference between teaching and learning because of the difference between therotical and symbolic symbols. Next blog on this subject I will discuss working with a group of students at one time when some that can see but can’t hear and some that can hear but can’t see. That is what a teacher is faced with each day.

Let’s consider for a moment the problem presented by introducing a new topic to a class via the lecture or teacher presentation/explanation method. This is not a process like memorizing a script and providing an acting performance. It is more like improvisation for which one is familiar with the topic presented. Of course, one prepares by reviewing the material to be explained or presented, but a teacher seldom writes our a script or has a detailed script to work from. A lesson plan at best outlines topics to be presented. Depending on the teacher, it may also involve interaction with the students for which only a limited anticipation for the kinds of questions raised or comments made by students can be planned for, much less scripted. In cases where the teacher has a great deal of experience in the topic, they may indeed be able to anticipate most of what will be said and what questions will be asked. With experience, the teacher can ad hoc discuss/present considerable detail on their subject at hand.

If a teacher is particularly skilled at constructing a compelling story to go along with the topic, they may in fact provide an engaging presentation or lecture. Consider that some presentations are considered so compelling they have been recorded and are sold for subsequent replay because of their quality. These cases, unfortunately, are few and far between. So, is this description a criticism of the current state of teacher prepared presentations? Yes and No. What is being illustrated is a contrast between teacher led lectures and presentations and something students have access to outside the school setting.

Consider the work that goes into the creation of a modern day hour long television drama. If you look at the list of people given credit for the program, you get the idea that it takes many people and lots of equipment. It takes script writers, usually a team of them. At times, it requires content expertise advice to guide the script. It takes people to screen for appropriate and talented actors to act out the script. It takes rehearsals. It takes stage craft crews. It takes people to secure funding for what is likely to cost many thousands of dollars. Because this show will be viewed by thousands of people, they can interest advertisers in sponsoring it in return for their commercials which themselves cost thousands of dollars to prepare. The commercials also require psychologists to advise on the impact of the ad. The students in a class listening to a teacher is aware, if not consciously at least subconsciously, of the contrast between the low cost presentation by the teacher and the high cost presentation of their favorite TV program.

Generally, the teacher can not compete and is it any wonder that given a choice, a student would select even a low budget TV show over a teachers presentation. Furthermore, consider the level of interaction that a student can expect from a lecture. Little to none. If a teacher has 30 students in a class and 60 minutes in a class session, at most, each student can be given 2 minutes of individual attention. So, when it comes to asking questions and getting answers, students better hope someone asks the questions they need answered because odds are, there will be no time for them to get their own question answered. Either the lecture needs to be so good it anticipates everyone’s questions, or the right students are called on to frame questions for the rest of the class. Compare the mental engagement that instant messages and tweets and other modern means of communication with cell phones provide with sitting quietly trying to listen to a lecture prepared with a very low budget by a teacher that has to prepare presentations virtually daily? There is no comparison.

The idea that one teacher in a self-contained classroom can be successful reaching all their students via presentations and lectures given the current competition for attention and the comparative cost of preparing TV programs is just ludicrous. Television, interactive games, cell phones and the instant transmission and receipt of messages have made the teacher made presentations obsolete and the students get that and are turned off by the current educational methodologies. The world has changed but our way of systematic teaching has not. We are in desperate need for some new way to educate our population. Granted, teacher lecture or presentation is not the only thing that goes on in the educational process, but at least this part of it no longer meets the needs of our society, the schools, or the students we are trying to educate. We are in need of a new model.  I wish, in this case, that I knew the answer.

I have heard the story, and repeated it myself a number of times, about how the position of Superintendent of Schools got started. It makes sense to me. It goes something like this.

Somewhere, sometime in the past, there was a small school that had a single teacher for all the grades, a typical one-room school house. In the winter, in addition to the responsibility to teach, the teacher had to keep the building warm by keeping the fire going in the pot-belly stove. She, and to begin with they were all women, also had the responsibility to keep the place tidy which included sweeping and emptying the trash as needed. Even at this time, a school board was responsible for hiring the teacher, paying her, and mediating issues of underwriting the costs associated with running a school. Somewhere, someplace, one of these boards, being generous and concerned about the welfare of their teacher, decided to hire someone to help with the chores, do the sweeping and clean up, and keep the stove stoked and ready for school before the teacher even arrived. They were called the school superintendent, what today we would call the custodian. Not to be outdone, this practice caught on, easing the burden on the teacher so she could concentrate on teaching.

In some school, the board happened to hire a rather overqualified and talented person, one with initiative and a outgoing personality. Since this person was not tied down to the classroom, he, most likely a he, socialized with members of the board and discussed the issues of the day including the need to enlarge the school or even build a second one. Before long, the board, feeling the stress of needing to grow, sought some help. They decided to hire this janitor for a bigger role. He was not to be just the custodian, but an adviser to the board since he was in and around the school a lot. In this special relationship with the board, he promoted the idea of a bigger job with more pay as their agent in dealing with the issues of the day. Persuasive, they went along this easy path and hired him. Now, instead of being the school superintendent, he became the Superintendent of the School. Using his special access to the board while the teacher was busy in the classroom, his position became important. It became a filter through which the board understood what was going on in the school. His job developed to be the most important position in that district. At this point, he became the arbiter of information, the boss of the teacher, the chief honcho in the school district. As the schools grew, as they began to hire male teachers, the male teachers began to see administrative positions as the logical way to advance, to make more money, to have power to influence the direction of education. And it was not long before programs to train men how to be administrators developed to provide legitimacy to the role of administrator. Now, the building superintendent is supposed to also be an expert in educational theory as well as finance, and public relations.

This is how I have heard that the building superintendent became the most important person in a school district, a position paying several times what a teacher is paid as though the corporate model was the most appropriate model for education.  An administrator doesn’t have to grade papers or prepare for tomorrows classes.  An administrator can participate in civil sector activities during the day without having to arrange for a substitute.  An administrator doesn’t have to evaluate and grade students although he might have to evaluate teachers.  It is easy to forget what it is like to be a teacher, to prepare for a class knowing that the night before their students probably watched at least one TV show that costs thousands of dollars to produce.

Education would be more effective it administrators taught classes they had to prepare for and teachers would be more effective if part of their time was in participation with the administrative aspects of education.  As described above, we somehow got things mixed up.

I read a recent report on Finland’s education success.  It reinforced my own beliefs about how to improve public education.  Finland’s emphasis is not on excellence, but equity.  Yet  this emphasis on equity has rendered them one of the most outstanding educational systems in the world today.  You see, Finland has NO PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

If we outlawed private schools, there would be a sudden national interest in making our public schools excellent.  It is just a simple application of what some call “Market Forces” that all the people who show interest in education, sending their kids to private schools to get a superior education would suddenly be interested in making our public schools excellent and that would include spending a lot more money on education — just like those who are willing to pay big bucks for private schools know needs to be done.

In the public school settings, funds frequently run short.  When that happens, decision makers THINK they are making wise use of funds by cutting programs like chorus, band, and physical education.  What they accomplish is cutting the programs that emphasize cooperative behavior.  That is not learned in the classroom where each student is graded as an individual in competition with other students.  Then, when people enter the working world, they can become individual greedy people, not caring about society as a whole,  because they have not learned the importance of cooperation and fairness.

I was once a manager of a computer center in a small college.  I had a lot of student aides that helped other students in the computer lab.  I also had some students who were working on computer programming problems.  Once, I had a student come to me that had scored a perfect score on the SAT test, said he was good at math and computer programming.  I asked him if he had ever been assigned a task that he could not accomplish.  He said no.  So I assigned him one.  He had to develop a computer program as team leader of a group of other students and he was not allowed to write or suggest a single line of code to address the assigned problem.  He failed.  He had never learned the skill of cooperative behavior, working with a team, being a supportive person.  It may have been the only failure he ever experiences, but demonstrated to him that he could not be successful unless he learned more about cooperation.  Our proponents of private schools also need to learn more about cooperative behavior and societal responsibility.

So, I say, do away with PRIVATE SCHOOLS and let the “market forces” of all those who are using them help us make ALL schools become examples of excellence for all children and youth and help us emphasize the importance of equity in making our society a better place to live.