This was written in response to a post I found through Atlantic Monthly.  Excellent magazine; I recommend it.
Consider a school and the surrounding neighborhood. Run by a political entity, a School Board. Who hires a Superintendent, who in turn will select Principals and Vice Principals and establish a personnel office to hire teachers.
If the local school isn’t working very well, the tendency is to look to the quality of teachers as a place to start. Parents have this feeling that “We’re paying you to educate our children!” So every political education entity follows the same logic. And it’s wrong.
Political entities are the real control point. Begin at the top, the Federal agencies who are involved in what schools teach and how they teach it. These are also involved in social engineering. Some of the social engineering comes from congress and some of it from the interpretation of various jurists. But schools are no longer about simply educating children.
At the bottom of this, the school board has one mission. Surprisingly, it’s not about achieving a quality education; it’s about living within a set budget. And budgets are driven not by the success of the education process but by parsimony; school board members are elected because they promise not to raise property taxes. They may mumble something about the need to raise education standards, but if you attend a school board meeting, quality of the education provided within the school district is not on the agenda. The Superintendent is a bureaucrat, a manager who oversees the expenditure of the funds budgeted and who only leaves his office when he’s needed to attend board meetings.  He’s almost never seen at an individual school, and if he does come there, it’s a state visit.
If there are unforeseen developments which would require additional funds for a school, there aren’t any. Schools may be urged to keep the lights off in classrooms to save money. Teachers may be laid off. Programs may be cut. None of these improve the quality of the education provided, and no one pretends they do; it’s just necessary to take these steps in order to live within the budget.
At the bottom of the heap is the teacher. He/she is generally poorly paid compared to other college graduates. They come to the profession bright, shiny, motivated to change things, certain that all they need to do is CARE for the students and do a good job. And within five years, they have either left the profession (almost half) or have begun to be ground-down by the bureaucracy. They’ve attended numerous meetings having to do with one or two special-education students, had assemblies dealing with minority rights, spent their time overseeing students in hallways or on playgrounds, had numerous meetings with parents, and have come to realize that their expertise doesn’t count for much at all. They’ve watched a few students terrorize others through bullying and had students continually interrupt classes because they simply didn’t want to be in school but were compelled to be there (think of it in terms of prisoner mentality, the same thing that makes convicts riot), and have seen that they, the teachers, have no means of effectively controlling this, nor does the school’s administration. Expulsion is never used for bullying or class disruption; that’s reserved for firearms on campus or similar felonious behavior. The slogan is “We can’t deprive a child of an education.” In reality, such behavior by schools deprives hundreds, thousands, of children of a quality education.
Teachers teach WHAT they are told to teach, HOW they are told to teach it, and to students they had no influence in selecting. The better students are removed into Gifted and Talented programs. What are left behind are those considered ‘average’ and many who are handicapped by developmental or behavioral circumstances. Some of these are so retarded, for lack of a better word, that keeping them in school is simply warehousing them. There is no free institution for a child who has a calendar age of 14 but a mental age of 2; but the public school is forced to take him in and provide a ‘teacher’ and assistant to care for him during the day. That’s a (real) extreme example, but there is a gradation of students who are ‘in school’ but not prepared for or willing to be educated. This is the unwanted side effect of all that social engineering.
Want to watch schools be immediately improved? Expel or release the nonproductive ‘students’. They cannot be forced to become educated, despite pious wishes to the contrary. Require teachers to teach, and only teach. Expect them to bring the best information that their branch of learning offers, but don’t tell science teachers (as an example) that they cannot teach evolution or reproductive biology. Hold SCHOOL BOARDS responsible for education, and any judicial interference in education should be subject to a review from a higher court to see what the effects of that court ruling would have on general education. FUND the schools for education, not social engineering. If some degree of social engineering is necessary, then provide FUNDS from the agency or level that requires it.
Or go on doing the same thing you’ve been doing for the last half century.
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