Missing the point in Happy Valley

January 15, 2008

Utah’s Cache Valley is home to the city of Logan, and to Utah State University, the land-grant college for the state. For several humorous reasons, some of them good, the place sometimes is called Happy Valley.

Small county in a beautiful setting + good university with a good school of education = good conditions for teacher recruiting. Logan’s schools have been very good over the years, in academics and all forms of competition.

As we discovered with the voucher fiasco in 2007, Utah’s education situation is not completely happy any more. Classrooms are crowded, teachers are overworked, and for the first time since the Mormon pioneers first settled Utah, educational achievement is declining.

The editorial board at Logan’s Herald-Journal noticed the problems. It’s tough to recruit teachers. If Milton Friedman were alive, we’d look for a classic free-market economics solution, something like raising teacher pay to stop the exodus from the profession.

Milton Friedman is dead. His ghost doesn’t seem to have much clout in Logan, Utah, either. What does the Herald-Journal propose? Loosen standards, look for uncertified people to teach.

When people leave the job they worked hard to earn certification for, what will happen with people who are not certified and are untrained in classroom management?

Why not just raise teacher pay, and attract more well-trained teachers?

Let me ask the key question, more slowly this time so I’m sure it’s caught: Why not just raise teacher pay?

Fishing for teachers? Bait the hook with money.

(Full Herald-Journal opinion below the fold.)

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Banksy’s graffiti sells: $407,000

January 15, 2008

A few days ago, via Peoples Geography, I discovered the work of graffiti artist Banksy — rather behind the curve, judging from his history. I posted a particularly provocative work of his in this post within the past week.

Today CBS Evening News and other outlets report some enterprising building owner in London who recognized Banksy’s work, preserved it, and has auctioned it away on eBay. It fetched $407,000 US. (CBS video here)

Banksy art from a London wall

The work, depicting an artist in old-fashioned clothes putting the finishing touches on the word “BANKSY” spray-painted in red, was scrawled on a wall on the Portobello Road in the west London district of Notting Hill.

It was offered for sale on the e-Bay auction site and went for 208,100 pounds after attracting 69 bids.

The winner of the auction may well get the painting and the wall it is on, but they will have to calculate how to get the whole work delivered and pay to replace the wall.

“I am selling the wall because I can’t really justify owning a piece of art worth as much as it is,” said Luti Fagbenle, the owner of the property on which the graffiti is sprayed.

A political cartoon changed the life of one London building owner.

Teachers need to demand respect? (Strike?)

January 15, 2008

Is this a state school board member urging teacher unions and — heavens to Betsy!  — a strike?  Tim Beagley, at Educating Utah:

In very real terms, I’m afraid that the reason the teaching profession has fallen so far is that teachers have allowed it to happen.  In the face of ridiculously low wages and poor academic environments, teachers keep showing up and going through the motions of their job.  That must change if the system is going to improve.  We need (and I believe would ALL be well served) for teachers to be more forceful with their demands for respect and dignity.  The standards that our accountability plans are based upon should be high and the expectations teachers have of us need to be just as high and stringent. There was a time when the teacher was known to be one of the most respected and strongest members of society.  We need to get back to that.  Respect and dignity are likely products of strength.

His post reminds one of Bill Bennett’s old “$50,000 solution” — hire a good principal, which in 1986 and 1987, would run about $50,000 (it’s higher now).

When will legislators and school boards really get the message that to make our schools competitive, we have to hire people who can make them compete, which means we need to compete against other hiring authorities to get the best?

Beagley is a member of the Utah State Board of Education, and a biology professor at Salt Lake Community College.

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