Public education and how it is failing students
Public education was created with the best of intentions. I honestly believe that. However, good intentions, by itself, don’t make something good. I think at some point during the Industrial Revolution a public official was taking a tour through a local widget factory when, all of a sudden, a light went off in their head. “Look at all these widgets that are being mass produced so efficiently!” We could educate kids this way!”
But the problem is that kids are humans. We don’t need to be mass producing humanity in any way, shape, or form. Sorry, humans are individuals with different skills, tastes, and temperaments. Our attempt to streamline the education of our children because we think it is the noble, progressive, and intelligent thing to do, is foolish.
Here is what public education does for us instead:
10 Harms of Public Education:
Problem #1 is that our school classrooms are often a place of tension, not synergy – In case you haven’t heard of Steven Covey, he coined the term synergy. Synergy is what you want when you get a group of people together who you want to accomplish a goal. Basically, synergy is what you have when everyone on a team is on the same page, focused, motivated, with competence to spare in the role they are playing. What we have in our nation’s public schools where we are hoping that the goal in all these individual classrooms is that a valuable learning objective will be achieved is, instead, nothing that even remotely resembles synergy.
The problem is that public education is just too, well, public. We are trying to teach every subject to every child while expecting every child to love every minute of it. Well, since kids are forced to go to school and forced to take many classes that they don’t enjoy and don’t have any proficiency in, many kids come in to their classrooms absolutely dreading, and often hating the fact that they have to be in that class for the next 45 minutes to an hour.
More and more, there are those kids who will walk in, slam down their books, scowl, cross their arms, put their heads down, talk, make mischief, or ask ridiculous questions because they are being force fed their worst subjects whether they like it or not. Teachers get to deal with these students regularly. Sometimes it isn’t pretty because students have to be sent out of the classroom or to the principal’s office. Sometimes these kids say a few choice words to the teachers before they go. Even when it doesn’t get that bad, the fact that teachers so often have to beg students to behave and learn, seriously detracts from the educational process.
Bottom line is this, real learning takes place when kids who like a subject are in a classroom with other students who also like that subject while at the same time being guided by a highly capable teacher. Yet, there are still certain disadvantages to the most ideal of group settings as they usually lend themselves to group goals and achievement, which can discourage individual tangents and goals.
Problem #2 is that an education that seems FREE is not valued by kids or parents – If you want someone to take something for granted, give them something for free when they should really should have to work to deserve what they have. When we are given something free, human nature is to overuse, misuse, and abuse it. Tell me that I can have a year’s worth of chocolate for free and I’ll gorge myself on it for 12 months and weigh 417 when it is all over. Either that or I will get so sick of the free chocolate that I will get to where I could care less if I ever eat chocolate again. No, what is more beneficial is an ever-present reminder to parents that they, and they alone, are paying for their child’s education.
As a father, I would only want to pay for my kids to have those classes that I seriously thought would benefit them. Then I would make absolutely sure that the money I was spending wasn’t going to waste because the teachers weren’t teaching or my kids weren’t learning. Additionally, if any kind of extracurricular activity ever threatened to get in the way of my child’s training, that would be the end of that. The problem is that we have the opposite today. There is very little sense of ownership among students and their parents today over the education being received. So many parents are resigned to the fact that too many extracurricular sporting events aren’t over until 11, 12, or 1 in the morning or that their kids aren’t REALLY learning that much in class. Everything seems free anyway. As long as their kids are getting enough A’s and B’s to keep them happy and keep them busy in extracurricular, that is all that really matters…
Bottom line is this, a sense of ownership is something you want, not a take-it-for-granted sense of entitlement which public education fosters.
Problem #3 is that it’s ruining the institution of marriage – “What?” I can hear you already. How does public education have ANY effect on marriage? Well, it can have plenty. Kids are being encouraged in their schools to have boyfriends and girl friends as young as late elementary and middle school. Sponsoring a dance makes kids think they need to have a date to the dance. A date to the dance turns into a dating relationship. Hands are held, kisses are exchanged, before you know it, yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
Once all these kids start dating there is an incredible amount of pressure on kids to “be involved”. For boys, once they develop a taste for intimacy with a girl, you can pretty much count on them to keep on driving until they reach their “goal”. That is the nature of the male. Once they figure out what they want they are going to continue to drive until they get it. So many of our young boys that would normally be “perfect gentlemen” given the right parenting and being placed in the right environment seem, instead, to be nothing but “jerks” interested in just one thing in today’s schools. But why shouldn’t they be this way? Our schools sponsor dance after dance where the kids can dance nice and dirty to the naughty songs while thinking they are “in love” during the slow songs. Are we bleeping idiots to put our kids through this by sponsoring these dumb events? But actually I am being too hard on all the kids and “well-meaning” parents involved. Having match making events is a perfectly natural extension of the public school experience. These boys and girls see each other in the halls, in the classes, and in the lunchroom everyday. They naturally want to “do something” with the interest they have in each other.
Young girls don’t have it any better than young boys. Girls in groups are often incredibly cruel to one another, especially cruel to anybody who doesn’t fit in or tries to go against the tide. What is a young girl supposed to do when all her girlfriends come bouncing up to her blabbering about how Johnny Appleseed thinks she is cute? Is a young girl supposed to tell her friends day after day that she isn’t interested in dating at this age because it is just too early? Give me a big stupid break. No young girl in her right mind can escape this kind of peer pressure. No matter what a young girl might have been taught or even believe was best for her at her age, all a girl can do in this situation is say “Oh, really?” and as long as the boy doesn’t completely turn her off she is going to go through the same stupid ritual of giving the relationship a try. Whatever that happens to mean for her and her group at that age at that school. These poor kids don’t have a chance. We set them up for this crap with the whole public school experience. Gee…
Anyway, the harm is that when we start kids dating so incredibly early, they really do make “progress”. If holding hands starts in one grade, you can expect kissing in the next grade, necking in the next, et-cetera, until kids are having relationships they have no business having, having relationships that can create pregnancies for kids who are totally unprepared for the responsibilities that parenthoods entails.
And it isn’t necessarily that it is even the dances per se, but simply that kids who are put together in large groups day after day and evening after evening in extracurricular activities, are going to have relationships. This premature matchmaking is doing nothing for the stability of marriage. Kids are being taught that relationships are nothing more than an exhilarating and often cruel game.
Bottom line is this: students are not finding themselves in an environment in public schools that is conducive to monogamous marriage. The whole public school experience is the problem, not that we aren’t having enough sex education classes or “just say no to peer pressure” seminars.
Problem #4 is that extracurricular activities are becoming an alternative to family and community service. Since all this “public money” is available for schools to buy band equipment and athletic equipment, our children have an incredible number of options when it comes to pursuing extracurricular activities. With coaches being paid and facilities abounding, the drive to get kids involved in sports is incredible. Of course, for the students, it’s a hoot. In the name of learning sportsmanship, we now think that sports is a pursuit so worthy that it doesn’t matter if our kids are regularly being kept up late at night or being woke up early in the morning for practices and games, most parents are happy to see their kids being a part of something they enjoy. But to what end?
How many kids can’t get their chores or studies done regularly because their sport of choice is taking up their entire evening? Wouldn’t it be better if we could actually expect our children to maintain daily habits of taking care of important duties instead of getting our kids so incredibly busy that it is next to impossible to be able to expect them to fulfill any regular duties at home or in their communities?
Bottom line is this: kids are learning that life is about me, me, me, because our kids spend countless hours practicing and playing games for their school’s athletic teams. These countless hours make regular dedication to family and community seem impossible and, not to mention, incredibly mundane.
Problem #5 is that basic homemaking skills are being completely lost – Macaroni and Cheese anyone? This is what kids are taught to cook in Home Economics. What if we to take a survey and find out how many kids across the country can make a loaf of bread from scratch or clean, cut and cook a raw, whole chicken. Would you say that 1% of kids or less of kids today can do these things? Personally, I bet one percent is a little high. Maybe .01 percent, maybe…
But really, if we want families to be able to truly eat healthy and eat cheaply, young girls need to know how to really cook. There is absolutely no way for a Home Economics teacher with the best of intentions to safely or affordably teach these skills in a class at school. More than that, there is a lot more to Home Ec than a teacher can teach in a year. And it’s not just that no one seems to be able to cook anymore, but can they sew, do they have a clue how to really clean? Can they fold clothes or iron? Families are struggling for a variety of reasons, but this is one of the big ones. Many families can’t stop eating out because they are too busy AND because they really don’t have the skill to fix truly tasty food at home. For most families home cooking is sandwiches, spaghetti a la Ragu, or frozen gourmet. The only time they get any real food is at Thanksgiving or Christmas when one of the remaining grandmas makes some real food; better hope she lives forever.
Bottom line is this: Our children need to have more time at home around their mothers and fathers learning how to perform some of the traditional chores that are indispensable to the family.
Problem #6 is that efficiency and natural order in society is completely lost – I mentioned in the beginning that our public schools are a little like factories. We think our little educational system with its buses, its classrooms, its schedules, its cafeterias, its teachers, and its principals are efficient somehow. But if we were to be honest and look at how much money we are spending teaching kids skills that they never use we might die of shock. At a time when our economy is faltering and when we Americans think the answer is having the government print more money to give to us, it just might be worth pointing out that it is usually inefficiency that leads to failure in the business sector. You don’t blow money on bad investments and expect to be prosperous. Instead, you are actually supposed to carefully pick and choose where you put your money – hoping that the place you have decided to put it will give you a favorable rate of return.
But instead of embracing pragmatism, we’ve been swimming in idealism for over a century now. We repeat our mantras: Kids need a well-rounded education. A mind is a terrible things to waste. We simply must have as many female scientists and lawyers as we have male scientists and lawyers or else we are doing something wrong and terrible in America!
Give me a break. Just let nature take its course. Wouldn’t this natural way be the best way? Those parents who are productive and disciplined will get their children some kind of education, if we can trust them with such important decisions, they may just get the children the training they really need, the training that fits their particular talents. What happens when productive and disciplined parents use their own money to procure training for their children? The training is highly valued by the parent and often even valued by the children. Ever heard of home-schooled kids who are able to really pursue their favorite subject? They often accomplish some very impressive feats before they leave adolescence. Instead, we seem to prefer to let our kids languish in our stale public school system.
Bottom line is this, when we start messing with nature the results can be pretty shocking. Open your eyes and really look at what our public schools are producing and you will see that, instead of success, is some pretty abysmal failure.
Problem #7 is that public school cause parental responsibility to be minimized to the point that it actually encourages parents to abdicate many normal responsibilities. Back in the old days that we all thought were golden, even though they had their own set of problems, parents used to actually wake up in the mornings early enough to fix a decent meal that might include eggs, bacon, toast, homemade biscuits, oatmeal, cream of wheat, pancakes, hashbrowns, waffles, fresh fruit, juice or milk.
Any idea how many kids actually eat healthy meals now with whole wheat breads, fruit, eggs, and/or meat for breakfast? If they aren’t eating at their schools with its biscuits and gravy or frozen French toast sticks, then they are grabbing pop tarts and sugary cereals for breakfast at home. Add to that the fact that many kids are not only drinking sodas regularly before breakfast, but that they are often drinking them all day in place of old fashioned water, milk, juice, and tea.
And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that kids being at school usually means that a healthy, fresh, lunch is out. The vast majority of schools could never afford for kids to eat freshly prepared meals that aren’t laden with preservatives. The whole concept of developing healthy eating habits suffers even further when you consider the fact that kids usually have to cram their food down everyday. Why? Most schools don’t want to allot any more time than necessary to lunch because it is a time when the kids are “free” and difficult to control as a group. Also, neither teachers nor students want the school day to be any longer than necessary so they make lunch a super short time where high starch, low protein food can be choked down.
And it isn’t just that kids aren’t eating a healthy breakfast or lunch, but its all the time spent at school at schools and all the extracurricular activities. There are a lot of days that kids can jump on the school bus at 7:00 and their parents don’t have to pick them up til around 7:00. That leaves parents barely enough time when their kids get home to gripe at them about homework then have them brush their teeth before going to bed. What is their left for a parent to do but say “How was school today?” day after day. School seems to be where life is taking place, very little actually happens at home.
Bottom line. Parents are increasingly becoming little more than spectators in their children’s lives. Take a brief survey of how today’s kids are acting (and how their parents are as well, since they really aren’t parents anymore) and you’ll get the picture, all parents really do is pay for some of their children’s extracurricular activities and give them a place to lay their head at night.
Problem #8 is that spiritual beliefs must be talked about in the third person in any official classroom discussion. For anyone who would like to take their spiritual beliefs even semi-seriously, public schools are no place to be. The ”public” nature of our “public” schools means that it is unlawful to let teachers share or integrate their faith into the classroom in any measurable way, shape, or form. This is, quite honestly, only fair as public schools could technically have an infinite variety of kids with different religious or irreligious backgrounds. To let a teacher go on about their faith for any length of time would neither fit into any of education’s current publicly held standards, nor would it would be fair to the kids whose teachers have them in “captivity”.
So while an active faith may seem to be an integral aspect of having a healthy perspective on life, love, and our purpose here on earth, teachers can do nothing in the course of the regular classroom or in the halls to talk about those things. All they can do is discuss those things which come up naturally in the course any classes they may be teaching and that, even then, the teacher must speak about faith and belief as hypothetical concepts while being sure to give all faiths “equal time” in the classroom.
Bottom line: Those people who truly believe that their faith can have a life-altering affect on their lives might want to have their kids in an environment where their teachers can’t get fired for talking about the very thing that might have completely changed their lives for the better.
Problem #9 is that crucial self esteem is lost in our children due to bullying and due to students struggling in classes they must take. Public schools are a poorly designed entity if we really want children to learn in a good environment, but, perhaps worse than the learning that fails to occur is the loss in self-esteem which does occur because our kids are being forced to attend these institutions.
Bullying is such a problem in our American school system that teachers are regularly offered inservices on how to deal with this problem each summer by their school districts. Signs are posted around schools saying “No Bullying Zone” or “Bulliers Will Be Prosecuted”. We even have special terms for it happening online, “Cyber-bullying”. But it doesn’t matter. It can’t be stopped and it gets more and more vicious every year. How many kids across our country lay in bed at night dreading the next day at school, hoping, just hoping that the kids who have been bullying them will leave them alone the next day? We can try to make ourselves feel better by pretending that kids grow stronger as they learn to deal with it, but that is like saying that it is good for women to be in an abusive relationship. For sure, bullying is not good for kids and the results can be drastic. Many of the kids who lose it and come to school with weapons hoping to shoot as many students as possible have had a long history of being bullied.
Even worse than the obviously harmful bullying that takes place is the more subtle bullying that takes place when kids actually behave in ways that displays a little individuality. How many kids have been taught by the time they reach middle school that they better act a certain way at school or else they will be totally ridiculed by other kids? We often think this is a good thing because it “socializes” kids so that they won’t act weird or different. But what if it is also preventing kids from just relaxing and being themselves? So many times when I pick my own children up from school they seem stuck in this “performance mode” where there are acting out some “cooler version” of who they really are. This “cooler version” is more hyped up and is incredibly obnoxious compared to the normal version of our kids, but it is what is required of kids if they want to keep their place in their circle of friends at school.
And it isn’t just bullying that hurts our kids self-esteem. When kids have to take classes that they aren’t good at, it reminds them to feel stupid about themselves each and every school day of their lives. Why do we do this dumb crap to kids? Cause we need them to fit into our neat little schedule that we have for them. Otherwise, again, it might mean that, as parents, we might have to actually be there some for them. It might actually mean that our kids didn’t need to be at school for the 8-10 hours everyday that both parents are at work.
Bottom line – schools are incredibly destructive to our children’s sense of self-esteem, peace, and the development of their true self. Any wonder that there is a very popular and very disharmonic song about how someone just wants those around him to “Let me be myself”.
Problem # 10 is that parental influence becomes second to peer influence – This is just incredibly obvious by now, right? It isn’t parents who are really raising their kids but, instead, the other kids at school along with the activities and events they participate in as well as the coaches hired by the administration. I can remember a day many years ago in high school when I basically told my dad that I didn’t care what he thought because all that was important to me was doing whatever would make my soccer coach happy. I think my dad was ready to take my head off… But this is what parents can expect with school and the relationships that kids have there. Quite frankly, it is a losing battle if you want to see your child grow up with a certain attitude and a certain work ethic. By the time they graduate, it is quite likely that they have spent a good number of years piddling in classes that didn’t challenge them, that they didn’t really need, or spending way too much time playing sports instead of engaging in more serious pursuits relevant to them actually growing up and becoming mature, well grounded adults instead of self-absorbed ones who can’t stop thinking about how swell the good old days of high school were because they got to piddle all day with their friends and be jock heroes and boyfriends or cheerleaders and girlfriends at night.
Bottom line – Our children need to be spending a majority of their time modeling adult behavior, not being stuck in an environment that makes their peers and other activities more important than their parents and the things their parents may need them to do.
Bottom, bottom line – Most Americans have committed themselves to a lifestyle that they don’t want to change. For children to stay home and be home-schooled would mean that the family would lose mom’s income which, if the family were to go down to one car, would actually result in a comparable income for most families. However, that reduction in mobility and interaction is something that most women are loathe to endure. So a second car is maintained. With a second car comes a payment, insurance, gas, greater involvement in expensive extra-curricular activities, and more eating out because there is less time to cook. At this point, most families decide that they can’t afford for “mom to stay home”. Besides, most of them have already decided to buy much more home than they can truly afford and they have a house and car payments that they can’t possibly make with mom at home. So even though their kids may be drowning in problems at school, all that these families can do is send their kids back to school everyday. Hey, maybe the counselor will solve all their problems!
But there is also this. Most mothers can’t wait for there kids to start school because there kids there kids are starting to get “in their hair.” In other words, mom doesn’t have the discipline to keep the kids on a schedule of learning, chores, and playtime. However, to be fair to mom, it is much more difficult than it used to be to “keep the kids busy”. In the “old days” (you know they were always good), there were many more simple chores for the kids to do. Milk the cow, fetch the water, bring in the fire wood, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, or put the clothes out on the line to dry. It was also much easier to just let them go outside to play if their chores were done. But times have changed. Machinery has taken over many of the “simple chores” and “outside” is a much more dangerous place than it used to be (for the most part).
What we are left with is that those who wish to have healthy families have to carefully plan their lives in a near Amish type fashion in order to keep their lives in some semblance of balance. For those who want to have something for their kids to do, they may have to intentionally do without many modern conveniences and embrace a much simpler lifestyle. As unglamorous as such a lifestyle may sound, the truth is that such a lifestyle could actually be very environmentally friendly. Usage of energy, water, and toxic detergents and cleaners could all be greatly reduced by eliminating or reducing the use of dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers. Tile or hardwood floors are also healthier but so many people have carpet which requires a vacuum cleaner which requires an adult to run the thing so that the family cat doesn’t get sucked up and so that the vacuum cleaner doesn’t get ruined by kids who never quite inspect that carpet well enough leaving pennies, paper clips and marbles to get picked up, resulting in death to the machine.
Families buying much simpler, smaller homes, with one car and less modern conveniences and more cooking and cleaning by hand and more kids in momma’s hair may not sound like The American Dream to many, but it may be preferable to the current insanity gripping our nation. It’s time we stop failing our kids by sending them to these government sponsored insane asylum’s and decide to provide them with our own education, whatever that may mean. And whatever that is, it must be better than what we have now.
Life is so much more simple than we have made it. But instead, we are all jumping on this merry-go-round which has made every single stupid aspect of our lives seem completely dysfunctional. But we can’t jump off. The merry-go-round is going so fast that all we can do is hold on and hope that the sinister force that is spinning the stupid thing will eventually quit so we can puke and go onto something else. But until then we are entirely at the mercy of this senseless madness. Ain’t it fun?