The problem with public education is that it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all program of education that addresses the diverse needs of millions of children. To compound the problem, public schools are government agencies which, as a rule, require standardized objectives, regimented procedures and linear testing methods.
As any parent or teacher worth their salt can attest, no two children are the same. They may both be able to read and write, but they may learn in different ways and have different strengths and weaknesses. One may be able to prove their skills on a standardized test while the other fails miserably and unfairly. Non-competitive children often fail tests in spite of having full mastery of a subject. Other students learn how to “work the system” to their advantage and never really understand the material, yet they bring home good grades.
The nature of public education is a complex dance of strategy, lobbying, text book sales and election results. Geometry has not changed in thousands of years and yet, new textbooks are bought and sold, costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year. The new books are not needed. Textbook sales, however, are needed by the textbook industry and they are willing to make it worth the while of school board members and local and state government officials to require that the books are purchased. Honest, fair-minded leaders are what students really need.
The fact that teachers are paid poorly while administrators are paid lavishly illustrates more of the same problem. Teachers care for dozens of children, skillfully teaching their subjects using whatever materials they have available. Unfortunately, administrators often use their political connections as an addiction to power. Teachers who fail to teach the way their district dictates, preferring to teach using whatever methods work for that particular student, often find themselves harassed, ostracized and, eventually, unemployed.
The job of public education is to create literate, critical-minded individuals who understand the lessons of the past and the tools of the present. Public education, as it stands, is unable to fulfill that obligation due to its tendency to want to categorize and codify everything. You cannot tell a child there is only one way to learn to read and you cannot tell a teacher there is only one way to teach. Learning is a fuzzy grey area and government agencies do not have the flexibility necessary to run something as holistic as education.