21 September 2008

What's REALLY Wrong With Public Schools?

I know on Dennis's blog and in other places, we see the heart of educators who really want to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. They work for a system that isn't anywhere close to perfect, and most of them admit it. But how rotten and wrong is the system itself?

Usually the argument for public schools goes something like this: We need to educate the masses. Sure, YOU can homeschool, but not everybody can. We pay taxes so that every child gets at least a shot at a decent education. We want every child to have a chance to learn to read and write and get a job later on. Yes, some schools are way better than others and the system is broken. But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, or millions of American children will do without their basic need to learn to connect with the world by becoming literate, socialized and useful people.

Any educators who want to pop on and add to that synopsis are welcome. I don't want to misrepresent the argument they're making and create a strawman for knocking down in the next paragraph LOL! I'm looking for reasoned and rational discussion.

But I found this article on Kelly's blog and thought I'd submit it for your perusal.

"As Christians, we do not argue against abortion simply by citing the dangers of malpractice; nor should we consider it sufficient to oppose state education simply because of its evil consequences. [teaching of evolution, sex ed, and the immorality in public schools was mentioned previously] We do not work for safer methods of abortion; nor should we work to improve public schools. The basic biblical argument, you see, is that the very existence of state schools is immoral — regardless of the level of 'morality' contained in them." [emphasis and parenthetical note mine]

Ok, so we should not even try to fix a system built on a bad foundation. I get what the author is trying to say. It just bothers me that there are a bunch of children with souls IN the system we're supposed to allow to deteriorate and then vote out of existence. (Um, not that we're allowed to witness to those souls anyway, come to think of it.) It would be almost a violation of the social contract to say guys, no school next year. Enjoy it while you have it!

I'm sure I'd feel the same way about state-mandated health insurance if it were to be implemented. I'd hate having the state be in charge of my medical plan, but somehow telling Grandma to go get her own stinkin' policy because I don't want to pay for hers seems a little mean if she's been planning on being on the public dole -- I mean, receiving her rightful share of benefits after she participated in paying taxes "in." Because cha-chiiing, it's payback time now with interest and inflation. We've come so far with these medical advances, too, that Grandma is going to have a lot of expensive medical procedures totalling several million before she finally kicks the can at 94 in a taxpayer-funded nursing home with round-the-clock care.

I think the trick may just lie in not allowing stuff like this to creep in in the first place, and in not allowing our "poor so-n-so... we need the government to help him because it's the right thing to do" feelings to overtake our common sense. Because when was the last time that ANY government program or tax was discontinued? Hmm... maybe someone can dig up an example or two, but overwhelmingly, once you start coughing up money for a given good cause, you're stuck forever and I can almost guarantee costs will go way up "unexpectedly." I find it particularly interesting that during the real estate boom, our taxes went way up... but now that it's over, well, we *need* that tax money. Sorry. Why aren't you happy paying your fair share for your less fortunate brother?

Yep, I'm dogging public schools for being way too expensive. They're never, never, NEVER satisfied with the money they have, let alone returning funds to the taxpayer or setting them aside for when the school roof leaks. And "education" is such a... oh... vaporous goal that I have to wonder if there isn't a whole lot of graft going on that such good money after bad must be spent. Sure, teach the kid to read and write. But I honestly think most jobs can be done with a fifth-grade education if you truly make those first six years count and you allow businesses to hire teens at a reduced rate during their apprenticeships.

Part of me wonders if "the public" doesn't just like public ed because they don't want to see kids in restaurants, shopping malls and the local swimming pool during the time kids "should" be in school. Imagine if all the teens had no school to go to each day! I can see about five of my neighbours freaking out if I were to speak that sentence aloud in their presence.

But I also have to say the anti-public school crowd that goes around quoting strange statistics like 90% of Americans were literate before public school happened were smoking crack or something. Maybe they twisted that statistic to reflect the fact that the slaves weren't considered Americans? Or they didn't count first-generation Americans, maybe? Hm.

Actually, I think both sides to the debate are smoking a whole lot of crack, or just under the influence of some very stupid ideas. Any public educator who can look you straight in the eyes and say "free and appropriate public education" with a straight face is deluded at best, or at worst, is a total sellout lackey needing a swack on the head. Whoever heard of a "free" public education? Where on earth could I go and see this animal in the zoo? Because between "student fees," student supplies and "fundraisers" that really aren't optional, everyone knows that most public school parents spend PLENTY on their kids. Yeah, it's a little cheaper than homeschool. But give me my tax money back and I'm sure that I'll even have money left over if I had to do it myself. And I have six kids! Does the local public school really need THAT MUCH MONEY from every family regardless of whether that family has children or not? Take a look at your local school's budget and wonder aloud to yourself if you're getting a good value. I'd guess not.

And I haven't even gotten to the argument that it's not a Christian idea to allow the state to educate children... Well, I think that some of the upper-level courses are unbiblical in the extreme and oughtn't be funded by the taxpayer. I think we as Americans can all have common ground in teaching children to read, write and do basic arithmetic. It would be nice to get the kids out of state school before the condoms and bananas get passed around in health class, though. What's your opinion?

5 comments:

  1. I hear ya, Mrs. C. The whole thing is a convoluded mess, isn't it?

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  2. Oh my gosh Mrs. C, I could spend all night on a discussion about this! Let's see if I can concisely touch on a few points here: I think the problems with public education come from: a) the fact that they do not acknowledge that parents are the primary educators of their children (and most parents seem to have forgotten this as well); b) Education should be available in the free market. Instead, the market for it is messed up by the government having a monopoly... (they get tax money to fund it.. lots of problems with that) c) the education system is set up for all students to learn the same way... that's not how it is in reality.


    http://www.fff.org/issues/education.asp

    I don't know how to create a link in comments, but copy and paste the above website in your browser if you're interested in some Libertarian viewpoint on the subject.

    I have a personal interest in the history of public education. I don't think the founders of it ever intended for schools to take the place of parents, which is just about what the system has become. Personally, I don't think it will ever be a successful system again. I wonder how much taxpayer money will be wasted before some kind of education revolution occurs. In the meantime, people keep wondering what needs to be changed to make it better, more money gets poured into the system, methods and philosophies (and the silly programs and acronyms that go along with them) change every few years.... and nothing changes... kids aren't learning, teachers are getting frustrated, and parents are getting more and more demanding.

    Please do not confuse my disgust with the public school system with my regard for the teaching profession. I have the highest regard for teachers. My own sister is one and I aspired to be one as well (heck, now I am one!). Actually, if we are living the right way, we are all naturally teachers. We don't need a special degree or method to do it. It's just the way God designed us (to be parents, raise children and pass on our knowledge to them.. that's teaching!).

    I wish I had more time to talk, and could better discuss the issue! I have to run to prepare some lessons for my kids!

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  3. On the topic of "free" public education (from a comment on Amazon.com)

    I was talking to a friend of mine's little girl, and she said she wanted to be President some day.

    Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?"

    She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."

    "Wow - what a worthy goal!" I told her. "You don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then, I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food or a new house."

    She thought that over for a few moments because she's only 6 years old. And while her Mom glared at me, the young child looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

    And I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party." Her folks still aren't talking to me.

    [smile]

    ~Luke

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  4. Mrs. C., I hate to let you down, but I can only respond to this by saying something I've said before. I'm convinced that in the great majority of public schools in America, any student who really wants a good education can get one. The big problem is that not enough kids make their education a very high priority. I've just come home from "one of those days" where that lesson was brought home to me again in spades. I'll also say that I do have sympathy for people who complain about the amount of money public schools spend. That is why the two major reforms I propose--giving teachers power to remove disruptive and apathetic students from their classes, and giving principals the authority to keep their best teachers and get rid of their worst ones, regardless of seniority--would cost nothing. In fact, they might even save some money.

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  5. Well, Dennis, I'm trying to think of something new to say without rehashing the same old" stuff myself. I do have to say that I really like G's special ed teacher especially much this year. I wish all folks working in education were like that. Ya know, I never mean to demonize every teacher or administrator (well, ok, maybe **most** of the administrators, but most teachers feel the same way which is sayin' something...) when I write on education.

    I *do* have to wonder though at what point we say that it's "enough." Enough asking for more money, enough patching up a system that in MANY PLACES doesn't work. And certainly this nonsense of abuse being ok if it's conducted by a "certified" teacher is crazy. Well, actually, it can't be called "abuse" if it's done by a certified teacher and the superintendent thinks it's ok in my state. Making it legal, you know, means it's moral... That kind of stuff has to stop. I guess I have lost trust. I don't imagine anyone should trust such a large and well-funded machine to be even a benign force in society.

    And I do say that while respecting what teachers "in the system" are TRYING to do. And they do help this child or that. But overall I'm a bit jaded in that the district uses MY money to hire lawyers and the law is pretty well heavily stacked against parents. Especially special-needs parents.

    I would strongly discourage my children if they expressed a desire to become teachers.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)