It's no secret that I work at a high school. I'm not an educator by training or degree, but I watch a lot of what goes on in a high school from a layman's perspective and I've got to tell you; quite frankly, we're off the tracks. We're off the tracks in a way that isn't readily apparent until you start wandering around a school and seeing what actually goes on.
I think that the vast majority of educators want to do the right thing, to educate children, to prepare them for life as adults, but there are certain principles in education as it's practiced today that are at odds with the mission of educating children. Much of this fault I place on the federal bureaucracy that oversees education. Much more of this fault I place on the universities that educate our teachers. The bureau-speak of education.
Lets take just one example of a wrong-headed principle of education as taught to our teachers. Every child has a right to a free public education. Whether or not you agree with this idea, it is a hallmark of our current educational practice. While I don't have a problem with the idea, I have a huge problem with the implementation.
In law enforcement, we have certain principles, as enshrined in our Constitution. You have the right to remain silent. We cops make sure that everyone is told of this right, but we don't insist that they defend it. If they want to talk to us, more the better. It's a right that can be given up, and many people do purely out of self-interest. There are good reasons to maintain that right and there are good reasons to waive it.
Every child has a right to a free public education. The simple truth is that there are a certain percentage of students who don't value education. In a high school, I see it every day. Students who don't intend to go to classes, kids who come to school only to socialize, kids who fail every subject. It's not uncommon, but those students drag down the educational experience for those that went to be in the classroom.
Yet, the bureaucrats insist that those students be there. It seems that funding is based on such things as student counts and dropout rates and the schools who have the most students get the most money. An altogether inefficient way of allocating the scarce resource that tax dollars are becoming. In some school districts, truancy officers track down reluctant scholars and bring them to school whether they want to be there or not. That's throwing good money after bad.
There is a certain sub-culture in our society for which education holds no value. It's not based on race, but on the value that the parents place on education. The main education of any child is achieved in the home and if the home is anti-education then the schools can't hope to achieve success. Oh, there are anecdotal tales of rising from extreme poverty to achieve success, but those tales aren't data. As heart-warming as those stories are, the simple fact of the matter is that we're always going to have the poor and uneducated.
I'm a believer in education. However, I believe that we should expect accountability from the students as well as the faculty. If a student isn't performing to an acceptable level of achievement, then there is no reason to waste tax dollars on him. If a student is causing a disruption in the school environment, then there is no reason to waste tax dollars on him. Place the burden on the parent and the student. We can't afford to squander scarce resources on folks who don't want to be helped.
Don't even get me started on No Child Left Behind.