October 05, 2009

On Public Education

More than a couple times I’ve been in arguments about public education, usually provoked by something inflammatory I’ve said or stood up for, but today the approach was a little different:

“I’m wondering why you hate public education so much. I am just curious and would like to hear your reasoning behind your emotion.”

I don’t know why this touched me differently, but it really made me think about my approach to the debate, and realize that I really need to be specific if I’m going to bandy public education about as a whole.

My initial response to the above question was this:

“I don't think I can narrow it down to one reason...or keep myself from writing a novel here by listing all the evidence. :) I think this is difficult because you're just catching the bitter diatribes that I throw out there, and also because a lot of possibly unrelated things get lumped together when someone says "I hate public education," so I will need to try and bring it all under one umbrella.”

*NOTE* Since this post will already be extremely long, I will refrain from offering my ideas on solutions. I also refrain because I know I’m not the smartest man in the world, I just act like it.

And so, I will refine whom and how I malign, and define my opined targets, which are oft times intertwined.

The least of all my accusations stems from a very broad idea of how things are and perhaps how they could be. I am an entrepreneur at heart, albeit a lousy one. Since I’m a poor example, I defer to someone who is good example, Robert Kiyosaki, and his book, Rich Kid, Smart Kid.

“Years ago my schoolteacher dad tried to change the [education] system. He was aware that different children had different geniuses. He was also aware that the system was a "one size fits all" type of system, which was good for about 30 percent of the kids and horrible for all the others…He went on to say, "The reason the school system does not change is that it is not a system that is designed to change. It is a system that is designed to survive."

Most of us know that the teachers are doing the best they can to educate children. The problem is, the teachers are working within a system that is designed not to change. It is a system designed for survival. It is a system that will drug kids to slow them down rather than change by speeding up. Then, after giving the drugs to the active kids, they go on to say to the same kids, "Don't do drugs." To me, that is one tough system. It is the only business I know that fails to give its customers what they want and then blames them for its failures.

Instead of saying we as a system are boring, they say, "Your child has a learning deficiency." They say that rather than say, "We as a system have a teaching deficiency." As I said, it is the only business that blames the customers for its own failures. Years ago my real dad realized that it was a system that had tremendous flaws in it. He became very disturbed when he found out that the educational system used by most English-speaking countries is an educational system that originated hundreds of years ago in Prussia. He became deeply disturbed once he realized that he was part of a system that was not designed to educate kids, but to create good soldiers and employees.” (emphasis added)

Wow. I really only remembered the bit about the soldiers and employees, but he really lays into it. I highly recommend this book and also his Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Now, I’ve already stated that I’m a lousy entrepreneur, and I could go off on a tangent about how maybe it’s because I’m also a product of the system…but that’s not my intent. Right now, anyway.

What I want to do is to tie this in to the American Dream. How many of us are sold on the idea that the American Dream is a house? If so, then I say to you “How easily you are bought, and how easily you will be enslaved.” The American Dream is immaterial, it’s telling the world to (well, originally it was telling King George III this) “get the hell outta my way, I’m the one doing the work, and I’m going to make my own fortune.” I (should) know what’s best for me and my own, and as long as I’m living by the Constitution of the United States, there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop me. THAT’S THE AMERICAN DREAM. And what are we doing with our kids? “You go off to government school so you can learn to be a good little drone for the government someday, because we all know we need the government to come in and wipe our noses when we sneeze, and tell us how to do everything else too.”

Sorry, I blacked out for a second there. Was my rant too long? Or just the post…SO FAR! Mu ha ha ha ha! Tip of the iceberg, baby, tip of the iceberg.

Okay, so I won’t go down the road of pointing out all the Bad Educators, because there are people who suck at their job in every industry. What really ticks me off is the inability to do anything about it on this one. Thanks to the relic of tenure, bad apples are kept well past their expiration date.

I also defy my friends and family who are educators to name one Administrator that isn’t wasting a TON of money on “administration,” or has stood up to those that are doing so. How many times have you heard of a District luncheon going on at some steakhouse, or some retreat they may have gone on, while schools in the same district are sorely lacking in supplies, and teachers’ salaries are shockingly low? The fact that I hear this from so many of my friends, and that they’re not all in the same district, tells me that this problem isn’t solely in the Granite, Jordan, and Davis districts.


Uh oh, you know what that bell means! Yes, my friends, it’s time to bring up Vouchers! This is just my classic argument that there’s nothing the government can do that the private sector can’t do better. In this case, I ask what is one to do when confronted with the fact that their kid is being taught (or worse, brainwashed – which we’ll cover later) by one of these bad apples? What recourse do we have? Pull the kid out - send him to private school, or a charter school, or home school? ‘Cause these dinosaurs sure aren’t going to change. Why then do I still have to pay into the government school system? If something that is supposed to be a “public benefit” (in the economics sense of the term) isn’t benefiting the public, and we’re not going to do some kind of voucher system, we may as well be burning that money for fuel.

This segues into my next point as well as reinforces my first. What are we teaching these kids? What is the goal of government schools these days? “Teach the test?” I think it’s quite obvious that there is no goal, and there hasn’t been one for a while, at least not one that you or I care about.

This accusation has two main foci, the first being summed up quite easily: do you think anyone ever asked Michael Jackson what his goal for plastic surgery was before he started disfiguring himself? No, he just went under the knife numerous times, all in an effort to “look better.” His end result could be the poster-child for not having a clear goal. In addition to this, the method of achieving that goal is equally important.

Secondly, and more dangerously, if we don’t have goals for our children’s education, someone else does. At this point, you can take your pick of the litter in the different ways our kids are being indoctrinated. There are too many to list here, but I post them frequently on my Facebook group: Stolen Rocks. However, some of my favorites include:

Now, the term “dangerous” used above is really only dangerous if you and I have the same views.

Abraham Lincoln is still regarded as a good president, right? His oft quoted Gettysburg Address states that we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” (On a side note, this phrase has become so intertwined with the cause of freedom that I’m certain that if you took a straw poll and asked people where that quote comes from, the majority would say “The Constitution” or the “Declaration of Independence”) So why is it that “the people” don’t have a voice anymore? I have more than a few off topic answers on that question, and hopefully you’ve been asking that question too. For this post, can it suffice to say that our voice is gone or falling on deaf ears?

If you’re still reading, congratulations. I am a horrible debater, and have difficulty translating my thoughts and feelings to words (no, really, it’s taken me almost two weeks to “refine” this post up to this point), which is why I usually defer to “smarter people” with whom I agree. I just bought the book “Arguing with Idiots” by Glenn Beck, and only last night read his chapter on this very topic. Coming back to my argument, I don’t think I do it proper justice. So I really think you should read what Glenn has to say, despite the cynical title of the book.

In closing, there are times when we choose between right and wrong, and times when we take a different road to get to the same place. I sincerely believe that we are no longer “agreeing to disagree” on which road will get us there, I’m saying that government schools at this point (well, government anything, really) are not even connected to the correct destination.


Emily K. said...

You do have quite the diarrhea of the mouth on the whole school system problem. I'm not saying that's bad, it's just surprising since you don't have any kids in school to be THIS upset over.
Anyhow. My two cents (not that you asked) I just thought you should know that I too think there are lots of problems with "the system" but there are schools out there that if you are lucky enough to live by, have teachers that care and work with the quick and the slow at their level. You just have to find them. Although my kids school has plenty of crappy teachers (not everyone can be perfect at their job) we have more that actually care and are making a difference. Good luck in finding your solution for your girls.
I have friends who home school and most of their kids lack social interaction, I feel that's almost more important because that's what takes you places in this world. I'm not talking about being the most popular, it's caring on a conversation with a kid your own age and not biting at age 8 when you should have learned not to when you were two. There is no perfect answer, just that we as parents stay involved in whatever, where ever your kids go to school. That's what will make the biggest difference in this broken system.

Bob said...

You have a lot of good points here and you have changed my mind on several points. Its too easy to get defensive when people are attacking public schools for people like me (employees of the public schools). But I won't disagree with you, there are a lot of things that need to be fixed. For instance, I agree that it should be easier to get rid of a bad apple, now I know why its difficult to do so. Often times parents are trying to get teachers fired because of something their kid said about this or that (usually the teacher was just getting of the kids case because they were doing something wrong - kids often times only tell half the truth to their parents). A teacher can't be fired quite so easily like that, job protection when you are going to have someone dislike you no matter what you do, but really bad teachers should get booted out. I agree with that.

Now, the whole brain washing? Well, I don't completely agree with that. I do think there are some teachers that have an agenda (don't even get me started about the green peace movement, pissed me off too). But its been my experience (at least at the elementary level), that most teachers just really want their students to succeed. Albeit, the older teachers don't understand differential instruction (teaching to students at their level, not just to the middle 30%); however, there are growing trends of teachers using such methods. My wife learned a lot about that because she got her degree in special education and you have to teach to the students level for that.

I'm not a teacher, but a speech therapist. When I get a student I set goals specifically for that student alone. I have a meeting with parents once a year to tell them exactly where that student is at with their abilities (not just a grade) and give goals for the up and coming year. What I do is much much more personal and individualized. Something as such might be better for students. I've also heard of portfolio methods instead of grading that looks a lot more promising. I did some research on the effectiveness of the system myself while I was in college (wrote an English paper on it). There should be much better ways to do things, I agree.

The best thing I can think of for parents to do now, well there are a few things. Homeschool with partial time in the school for different activities. This could allow some socializing for students while they get to work on their own level (and not just grade level work), private school (if you can afford it), try to get in on a charter school (usually they don't work the way public schools do, but they are funded by public schools so they don't cost more - but you have to be in a lottery to be able to get in), or just take a very serious interest in your kids education. Know what they are doing at school, be willing to not only help them with their homework, but to take it to another step if they are ready. Get to know their teacher well, volunteer in the classroom, communicate with the school and what you expect and would like to see. I think for to often parents just want teachers to do all the work so they don't have to do anything. Unfortunately, some teachers (high school science teachers often times) like to teach about their church (you know the new religion and system of morality - environmentalism). That bothers me to no end how society is now seeing the ultimate good is to "save the environment". Planting a tree or recycling is more important that saving babies from being aborted. The ultimate evil are businesses that pollute (and provide jobs and stimulate the economy). But I guess that's another topic altogether, isn't it.

Well, I think I've rambled enough. I just wanted to throw my 2 cents out there.

Jimbo said...

Hey, sorry for the delay, but I just wanted to thank you both for your comments.

scott thomson said...