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Data in Column on Education

January 06, 1994

In citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics on education, Mary Laine Yarber (Education column, Dec. 30) no sooner tells us that "The conclusions that can be drawn from such data are complicated and largely subjective, so I'll leave those to you," than she offers her opinion that "the reason teachers are paid less than their equally educated counterparts in other professions is that teaching is still a female-dominated occupation."

First, Yarber mistakenly refers to teachers as professionals--as if to compare them to doctors, lawyers, certified public accountants and similar professionals. Teachers are members of trade unions that engage in collective bargaining. It is disingenuous for them to claim professional status.

That teaching is a female-dominated occupation probably does have something to do with comparative pay. Yarber implies that this is the product of sex discrimination. Of course, she fails to address the issue of a 10-month work "year." She also fails to address the fact that women are far more likely to drop out of the work force in mid-career or to work limited schedules (be they professionals or otherwise), and this factor will show up with a vengeance in statistical groups heavily weighted with a female population. In addition, teachers often retire earlier than members of the comparison group Yarber refers to--i.e., other professions. In sum, the statistical cause/effect relationship Yarber attempts to draw is insupportable.

Yarber also gives us a batch of numbers about school spending and student-teacher ratios with no "conclusions" or "suspicions" as to meaning. But she does tell us that California is in the "middle" on state per-student spending and ranks near the bottom in terms of teacher-student ratios.

There are fascinating cause and effect relationships to be gleaned from the information she does provide, through. The District of Columbia tops the per-student spending list at $9,259 and has the lowest ratio of students per teacher at 13.2, while Utah ranks at the bottom of both categories at $2,960 and 24.9. How about a simple question? Where would you most like your child to attend school--Utah or Washington? Or, guess which schools score higher on virtually every comparable test of academic achievement? Finally, in which arena does the teachers' union hold ham-fisted control?

There are conclusions to be drawn here--but you won't find the "educational Establishment" shining light on them. Money is far less an answer to fixing our dysfunctional public educational system than wrestling control from the dominant educational elites. Also, Utah is often mocked as a Christian stronghold (home of the Mormon Church) by the secular elites. But a lot of the wacky pandering to the multicultural fad of the day, the idea of "outcomes-based" education (i.e. watered-down, pablum-fed curricula and grading techniques) have not become firmly entrenched there . . . yet. Maybe Christian values . . . oh! Heaven forbid!

Our public educational system is severely at risk of implosion. It is the product of the fad and fantasy ideas (that carry consequences) of the educational elites, a unionized work force whose agenda is their own entrenchment, and politicians that want to polarize the people of this country along racial lines and economic lines in order to assure their own future. Our children's future loses its relevancy in the stormy waters churned up by these self-interested folks.

KIP DELLINGER

Santa Monica

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