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Improving public education

2012-03-23T05:03:47-04:00

My last post was a bit unfair. Just as it’s unfair for anti-gun activists to portray me as a murderous vigilante just because I carry a gun, so it is unfair for me to portray all public schoolteachers as lazy, misguided social activists who are deliberately attempting to turn their charges into well-behaved, politically-correct morons. Only a few of them are. I would say that most of them are dedicated, caring people, even if their politics are suspect. Most of the public schoolteachers I meet, though, express deep frustration with the system under which they labor to teach. They spend much of their class time trying to corral and focus a few poorly-motivated, disruptive or incapable students, at the expense of the students who are motivated, well-behaved and who want to learn. They have to teach to a state-mandated test, ignoring topics that are not on the test, because if their students score poorly on the test as a group, the entire school has its funding reduced. And, of course, they have to pay money out of their own pockets for supplies they need in the classroom.

Those are just a few of the complaints I hear from public schoolteachers on a routine basis. I’m an educator myself, which is why I run into them a lot. I just chose a different, more lucrative target market (adult education).

I have a few suggestions for improving the state of public education, in no particular order.

  • Bring back corporal punishment, especially in kindergarten and grade school. Many children do not develop good reasoning skills until their late teens. Until then, in some situations, the only thing they understand is force, and fear of its use. Without that fear, disruptive students have no real incentive to behave. And by refusing to punish disruptive students, they develop bad behaviors which persist well into adulthood.
  • Stop social promotion and grade inflation. Students must be allowed to fail. There must be consequences for failure. Setting up schools as a utopian lab where everyone wins, and teaching students high self-esteem without any basis for it does not prepare students for the real world and the workplace.
  • Teach home economics and business. Today, most students graduate without any concept of finance, managing a budget, or how to use credit wisely. Generations of students have suffered the results of financial ignorance as adults (Exhibit A: the subprime mortgage crisis. Exhibit B: the student loan crisis).
  • Stop mainstreaming incapable students. Autistic, mentally-disabled, and behaviorally-disordered students are now required to be in regular classes with normal students. This is disruptive to the normal students’ learning, and wastes everyone’s time. Over and over, I have observed a teacher, plus one or two volunteers, spend the entire lesson time trying to corral a behaviorally-challenged student, or try to get a mentally-disabled student to focus, while the normal students learn nothing. It’s a waste. Stop it. Segregate those student groups, and let each group learn at its own pace. They “mainstreamed” in an effort to be fair to the “special” children, and it’s resulted in massive unfairness to the non-“special” children. Everyone loses, and we wonder why our children aren’t learning anything. There’s a reason right there – massive misallocation of resources.
  • Eliminate unions in schools. Collective bargaining should not be permitted with the taxpayer’s dollar. A teacher should do the job because they love it, not because it’s going to make them rich. And many unions negotiate pay packages which reward teachers and staff for less work than the market will pay, while bleeding the districts dry of funds. They also protect incompetent or uncaring teachers. Districts need the flexibility to hire competent, caring teachers, and to dismiss those who aren’t.

Those are just some ideas. None of them will be implemented, of course. Which is why home-schooling is on the rise. Parents may continue to be forced to pay taxes to support failing public schools, but it doesn’t mean they can’t educate their own children as they see fit, if they are able. I know several home-schooling families. Their children are uniformly overachieving, sometimes by several grade levels. One girl I knew went to college at 14, and did very well there. I thought that was amazing.

People can achieve so much more, if you only let them try.

2 Comments
  1. 2012-03-27T15:51:04-04:00 15:51

    I’ll have to admit I don’t agree with your suggestions, but then I come from a different part of the world, where the public school system is working pretty well.

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    • 2012-03-27T17:52:31-04:00 17:52

      Yes, I think public schools work better in a homogenous environment, where the majority share a positive, constructive set of ethics where achievement is valued and rewarded, and failure is punished. ;-)

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