The Cost of an American Education

Education – an Entitlement Founded in Greed

In my second year of teaching school, I had decent classes and by that I mean classes where I could teach and the children were learning and test scores and class interaction were positive. That was until one fateful day.
One day Lance came to my 8th grade classroom door, with enrollment papers and a nice clean appearance. I put his name on my roll for my fourth hour class, issued him a textbook and assigned him a seat. All was well, for about thirty minutes. Lance could not sit still and what was worse he could not keep his hands to himself. Weeks went by and every day I dreaded my fourth hour class. I felt miserable that I was sacrificing the learning of 26 students because almost all my time was spent addressing Lance’s misbehavior.
Two weeks after Lance entered my world I had a heart to heart talk with my principal. This was when I learned that education had become an entitlement to every in America. My principal’s words to me were ones that I would not only hear over and over again throughout my teaching career.
“Nancy, Lance has a right to an education as does every child in America. We will keep him in the classroom so he can learn from the other students how to behave.”
I didn’t say it out loud but my first thought was, “baloney!” Okay, I admit I knew Lance had a right to an education and being the good teacher that I was, I wanted him to have one, but neither he nor his classmates were learning. So maybe it was best if Lance went to a different school (I did learn that Lance had been in a juvenile detention center before coming to my classroom which should have been a clue to some of his behavior problems.)
My Principal’s second remark topped the first, “If I kick Lance out, then I have a smaller head count for my school and that means less money for me. Therefore, therefore it was in the best interest to mainstream Lance so that the whole school would benefit from the extra money.
Throughout my career, this was the most prevailing argument for keeping children in school who cannot function in a normal classroom. Money and greed are two of the key factors that keep our children from learning. Money from the government based on headcount keeps administrators in bondage to keeping up their school’s number while sacrificing learning.
I’m not exactly stupid, so I learned very quickly two things that would affect almost every class I taught for years thereafter; (1) I could dumb down my whole classroom by keeping one student in the class who needed to be placed somewhere else; (2) money and greed would be two of the main determining factors for the make-up of the students in my classroom and what I would be able to accomplish with teaching those who wanted to learn. What’s sad is that not much has changed over the past 40 years.
Oh yes, there is one other thing I learned the best principals I ever had were those who also had been classroom teachers! It’s the old adage is really true that when someone walks a mile in your shoes they really understand what you are going through.