In this case, I am not actually talking about religion. I am talking about education.
Once again the politicians all over the country are wringing their hands over what is “wrong with our schools.” All kinds of stupid ideas are put forth by people who haven’t set foot in a classroom since Senior Ditch Day just before their class graduated. The ideas to “improve” education fall into several categories, none of which have ANY empirical evidence to support them.
The first of course is to go back to some troglodyte educational practice of the past. “We had to memorize the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ before we graduated and today’s kids haven’t even heard of him!” Whatever. The educational methods of a system that used to end at 8th grade are of no relevance today.
The next is an idea that somehow the teachers themselves (or more accurately the teacher’s unions) are to blame. Because of course, teachers know nothing about how to educate our kids, in fact, teaching isn’t even really a profession. A trained chimp can teach, you know. Here in our home state, our C-Student Governor Walker (he makes Rick Perry look like an honor student by comparison) is proposing that people with “real world” experience be able to be teachers by taking a multiple choice test. This is insane on two levels, the first is that it presupposes that there is a bunch of doctors, engineers, software designers, chemists, molecular biologists and rocket scientists who sit around their office every day saying, “Man, I wish I could go teach 7th graders in a public school and take a huge pay cut, but all those silly laws and requirements are just keeping me out.” Right. Maybe there are a few unemployed French Literature majors who wish they had minored in education might sign up for the program, but I don’t think that will save any schools. The other insanity is that it presumes that teaching is not any of kind professional skill and that the last people who know any thing about educating our kids are educators. If we keep bashing teachers, pretty soon no one is going to take the job.
The last kind of “fix” proposed is to turn things over to someone else. Private schools, charter schools, Catholic schools,or whatever. All of this without a scrap of evidence that any of those have anything new or different to offer. Or even proof that the they actually do better than the public schools. I went to Catholic schools. We used the same textbooks as the public schools, sat in rows, listened to lectures, took multiple choice tests. Yawn.
But surely some politician will point at my high school and say, “But 99% of your class went to college, that proves your teachers were doing something right!” Bullshit.
The reason almost everyone in my class went to college is pretty much everyone’s parents had graduated from college. My high school education cost more than my college education. We had guys driving BMWs and Mercedes to school every day. Their dads were doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers. Most of us were there so that we would not have to rub shoulders with the “riff-raff” in the public schools. After I left, the school bought a country club for its athletic program!
Which tells you something you already know about education. The output of an educational system depends very heavily on its input. Not to say that teachers don’t make a difference, but rather there is only so much difference they can make. Low income students don’t get as much to eat, their home life is more chaotic, they move more often and often they are less motivated as the hope has already drained out of them. And on the whole, just do not do as well at school. And this is not news, social scientists and educators have known this for 50 years or more.
So, what is wrong with our public schools? Pretty simple. Poverty. Nationwide, we just passed a tipping point, apparently, with 51 percent of public school students coming from low income families. This is due to an increase in child poverty as the middle class continues to evaporate in our current economic climate and continued “white flight” from public schools, aided and abetted by the voucher systems in many states.
Actually politicians don’t really care about saving public schools in most places any more. The schools are full of low income minority students, who they don’t give a damn about. Vouchers are there to allow the last few middle class families escape, and now the trend seems to be to turn those schools over to for profit charter operators. One more way to squeeze a few more bucks out of the poor — like PayDay Loan Stores.
If I was cynical I would say that they are just rearranging the deck chair on the Titanic. But the I think the evidence points towards that they are actually trying to sink the ship all together. If public schools go down the shitter, what better way to prove “government doesn’t work” and get rid of one of the few unions left in existence, the teacher’s unions. And their corporate cronies will make millions warehousing the poor kids who can’t escape.
Just another way that our Christian nation takes such wonderful care of our non-aborted kids. If Catholics were really “pro-life” they would have marched this week to end economic inequality. That would improve the lives of millions of already existing children. Ones the “pro-lifers” don’t seem to care very much about — unless they can get for them vouchers to help prop up the Catholic school system.