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Topic: Davis's speech last night
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Ted Alper

Posts: 118
Registered: 12/6/04
Davis's speech last night
Posted: Jan 9, 2001 2:27 PM
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I was able to watch Gov. Davis's "state-of-the-state" address
last night (thank you, C-Span!). The text of the speech is available
at the following URL:

Non-californians may wish to skip the electricity issue, though the
demagoguery there is probably clearer. But he proposed to expand
middle school by 6 weeks! (actually he said "30 days", which one
might think meant 30 classroom days, but later on he says "it's just
one month" so maybe he's including weekends, and just means 4 weeks of
classroom time). Still it will give us the longest school year in the
nation, at least until some other governor ups the ante.

You know, I've never seen a governor beat up on 7th-graders before! He
shortened their vacations and gave them more homework. He has also
just made Algebra a requirement for high school graduation.

It's brilliant. Normally, when you attack a group, you may win the
votes of others, but you lose some votes, too. The trick is usually to
pick a widely-hated group to be the "enemy" -- the tobacco industry,
or now the owners of power plants. But nobody HATES middle schoolers,
(well, except the ones who skateboard on our street), yet they're a
great target -- they won't be old enough to vote until he's done with
his second term. And when the governor spoke, I could hear the cheers
of parents all around the block (well, I could imagine the cheers,

Educationally, is it sound? I suppose it is, and full-year schooling
would be still better (why *do* we insist on such long
vacations?). Certainly, there's nothing sacred about the status quo.
(Giving teachers some opportuntity to learn outside their
own teaching responsibilities is also important, but might be
accomplished in other ways than a 12 week vacation once per year).

In the speech, he said "Educators tell me that, for all the new
investments we've made, the main thing they need is more time to teach."
Do you think this is true? I'd agree, a little more time would be good
(can they move the AP test back until June? My students should be
ready by then), but around here the main thing teachers need is either
more money or some sort of housing subsisdy so that they can remain in
the field. (actually, they may get some of this, too, at least if they
are algebra teachers)

There were some other math goodies in there (oops, is that name
copyrighted now?) -- $30 million to "attract and retain" "high
quality" math teachers, including 1,300 new ones. A 40-hour teacher
training program (with 80 hours of "critical follow-up support")
for 200,000 current math and reading teachers, along
with another program for 15,000 principals and vice-principals, "all
according to University of California Standards".

Is it *really* true, incidentally, that "90 % of all new jobs require
advanced math skills"? I wonder which jobs were counted, which jobs
are "new", and what was considered to be an advanced math
skill. Ninety percent is a nice round number (nothing wrong with an
approximation, if it is meaningful, of course, but if it's just meant
as a figure of speech it's ironic for this to come right after his
imploring young Californians to "do the math".)

I don't know why I'm writing all this -- I think all the education
proposals Davis made are probably good, or at least benign, no matter
his motivation or sincerity. It's just a bit disconcering to
find oneself a pawn in someone else's game. I suppose teachers are
used to this by now, but this time I felt like it was me, too!

Ted Alper

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