Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's Wrong with Public Education?

This was an e-mail response to one of my brothers recently regarding what is generally thought to be the "problem" with public education and why America is continuing to fall behind the rest of the "developed" world with regards to test scores and aptitude testing.  I would appreciate any thoughts or comments on this.

Well... Having put four kids through public schools in two cities, and working for a city government as well, I have some experience in the challenges of this issue. Parents blame schools. Teachers blame parents. Both of these groups are frustrated by constraints put in place to mitigate legal risk. The rules today are not like those we encountered growing up. Not at all. If you think I'm kidding, just wait until your kid gets bullied in middle school and go meet with the "officials".

The public doesn't want more taxes, let alone alone status quo taxation, yet operating costs continue to rise, so schools cut programs and teach the bare minimum to avoid audit problems from the state and federal agencies. Do less with less. The budget forecast briefing I sat through today was sobering. I may delve into that later.

Government folks distrust school boards, mainly over political differences. Govt folks often have their kids in private schools. No dog in the fight so no concern to affect its outcome. Big business sees no value in public education because of the political, legal, demographic, racial sensitivity issues, and why would they? They're busy leveraging cheaper labor in foreign lands. A higher educated workforce requires higher pay and that's bad. Add to that an exponential increase in process automation and you have inverse diminishing returns with nobody in power giving a shit about tossing any life rings at their expense.

Kids are giving up. Parents are giving up. Schools are struggling. Politicians provide lip service. The media plays all sides to pump up outrage and revenue.

As always, I'm probably going to have this diatribe picked apart under the auspices of inferior educational absorption and substandard intellect. In any case, in my humble simpleton view: the situation as it is, and as it is evolving, is unfixable. Not because we don't possess the means or the desire to "fix" it. But rather, because no two groups (political, racial, demographic, etc.) can agree on what "fix" means. So we just let it slowly unravel. In our rush to appease every single identifiable group we have positioned the system into a standstill. To fix that you would have to reverse a lot of cultural expectations and perceptions built over the past 50 years.

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