This email sparked some good conversation about our school system; some of the limitations with it, some of the limitations with the Stossel special, and what is the most appropriate solution.
Stossel's report...Is right on. While some of us had the liberty of going to school in good suburban schools, most people in America receive a crappy education. Education research has shown that there are far better ways of educating individuals (Montessori method in particular) than are currently employed. By high school, most students have lost any desire to actually learn, something that used to excite us as young children. And teachers are not motivated to help the students learn in a manner that is inspiring or exciting.
As a good friend of mine once reported...
"After teaching railroad safety to thousands of students from kindegarden to high school, I witnessed a slow degradation of interest in school. The grade school students were bright eyed and excited to be learning. Every day was an adventure. Middle school students had lost some of that passion, though there were still sparks here and there. But by high school, they all looked like they had been beat down into submission. None of them were excited about being in school."
Because schools don't have to compete with each other, there is no motivation to push for changes or to challenge the status quo. Teacher unions compound this lack of action. There is little hope that public schools will change on their own. It will require outside intervention to make it happen.
The only problem I have with Stossel's report is his advocacy for vouchers. While vouchers do have positive short term results (as isolated tests have shown), its the long term consequences I'm worried about. It never fails that if government money is offered to private enterprises, those enterprises will come addicted to that money and will eventually submit to greater and greater controls and restrictions. In time, these "private" schools will come to resemble the "public" schools in every respect, till they become indistinguishable.
The only real solution is total dismantling of the public school system (or conversation to a private system). I know this will never happen in my lifetime, but it is the only thing that will work. Perhaps vouchers could be used as an intermediary step toward a private system, but politicians would never advocate such a radical plan and most special interest groups advocating vouchers don't emphasis enough that vouchers is only a step toward total privatization.
So in the end I'm not hopeful toward any proposed solution. That is why Brenda and I will never send our child to a public school. Either we'll find a good private school or we'll home school.
Justin Deal sums up the problem:
And, the crappy schools just keep churning out more idiots who will continue to lack objective reasoning. And thus, we are probably screwed.
I'm probably not as pessimistic as Justin, but he makes a good point. Parents that grew up in a poor school system indoctrinate their own children with I don't care attitude. Teachers working with such children become frustrated and give up trying to fix the parenting miscreants. Either the teachers lack of effort or the administrators lack of support further exasperates the situation. A war starts where everyone starts pointing fingers at everyone else for their lack of responsibility. It becomes much easier to attack others than to assume responsibility for their own actions. They don't think objectively about what the child needs nor what they can do to best help that child to succeed in life (not just school). As Justin also says:
I didn't know about logic till Logic 101 in college. For Christ's sake, 18 years go by, and you don't learn about logical thought? No wonder so many people are braindead.
No wonder indeed. School has become a place to indoctrinate children, not teach them how to think critically. That for the most part is because it is a public institution.
As for some of the limitations of the Stossel special, Tom Hockett had some insightful comments:
I know Stossel cited the results of the 2003 PISA -- Programme for International Student Assessment, but give me some context. Are there other, similar tests that support or refute the results of PISA? Also, I've heard/read there is more than one international measure of K-12 student creativity, ingenuity, independence, etc. (all attributes that I personally value near the same level as I value base intelligence), and I've read/heard that U.S. students smoke the competition using those measures. Why didn't Stossel attempt to report those findings, a.k.a. the "good news?"
I commented back that despite our supposed poor education, we still produce some of the most productive and happy adults in the world. Why is this ignored in his report? Well, like Tom noted, Stossel had a agenda. It brought an alternative educational funding initiative to the forefront of national debate. Surely, the are improvements that can be had in our education system, even if it ranks highly in multiple areas. But I still believe that the issue should be more fundamental than "what works best".
I am not a pragmatist. I am an objectivist. I want the objectively right solution. I want total privativation of our educational system because the government has no right to steal my money for any cause. The fact that the education may be substandard is irrelevant (although sad none-the-less).