Toastmaster Ramblings

I joined toastmasters approximately five months ago, not really because I needed assistance with public speaking, but because I wanted to branch out and meet new people, and I wanted to relearn organizing my thoughts. So far, it has been very beneficial. I have met some wonderful people from all walks of life, and probably the most important thing is that it has encouraged me to wake up earlier on Thursdays!

This morning, however, there were only three of us, and instead of conducting a regular meeting, we got into a discussion on education and financial aid -- two of my specialties! Perhaps the one thing that struck me as the most important topic of discussion was education's financial support.

Now it isn't news to me that communities are often asked to vote to support or reject an educational levy, but one thing I hadn't stopped consider is that people's vote on any referendum is subjective. I know for me, I don't often vote for transportation levies simply because the majority of them don't serve my neighborhood. If it doesn't benefit me, why vote for it? But do people actually do the same thing when it comes to education? The common sense answer is yes. Unless you have a vested interest in the public education system (i.e., you have a child or grandchild in school, or like me you are an educator, educational administrator, or educational researcher), why would you vote to pay more of your money for education?

The more I thought about that idea, the more I considered the fact that some schools are very well financed whereas others are not. Sometimes it is because the community cannot financially support its school system. But sometimes it's because the community is not interested. In this discussion was one lady who was born and raised in Germany. She explained to us that the government and not the individuals controls the education. There are no referendums to vote for, no levies to support or reject. As far as teachers' pay and students' supplies are concerned, there is never a real need or complaints over the differences between schools.

It makes me wonder if we wouldn't be better served with such a standardized system of education. Now, I know "No Child Left Behind" has been a dismal failure, and I'm not suggesting it be revisited or that it be my definition of a standardized system of education. You cannot require schools to meet the same specific standards and then not provide them similar means of reaching those standards. But, what if all schools were provided the same amount of resources? I know there will be those who will argue with me about the amount of taxes we may have to pay nationwide for such an endeavor, but let me also present this argument:

Educational researchers are constantly faced with debates and rebuttals about their research. What works for one school doesn't work for another. Subjectivity is one bias that plagues all researchers; however, how can one educational researcher be expected to generalize his research to other educational environments when other educational institutions are not on an even plain? To provide one example, what if bilingual education succeeds in one school and not another because of variances in teacher pay, student supplies, and the amount of financial support given to one school and not another? Demographics vary by location, indeed, but resources ought not.

Just food for thought.

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