Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Politics vs. Efficiency: the realities of American public schools

Confidence in golf means being able to concentrate on the problem at hand with no outside interference.-- Tom Watson

Imagine how you would feel if you had to get the approval of a committee for every little thing you did. Don’t you remember how it felt in school when you had to raise your hand to get permission to go to the bathroom? Did you ever have to wait? Did you ever have an “accident?” Do you wonder why many kids think of being in school as being in prison?

On the other hand, have you ever watched shoppers crash through the doors of a supermarket or department store to be first at a sale? People sometimes get trampled and hurt, but a lot of people get bargains, too.

Both of these approaches, tight control and free-for-all have benefits and costs. Tight control favors the group (generally, its “leaders”) over the individual. Free-for-all favors lucky individuals over the group.

American public schools are caught pulled in two conflicting directions: trying to efficiently deliver services to individual children and trying to work within constraints identified by democratically elected officials, whose main concern is not, and cannot (officially) be, individual children.

To examine these issues further, see Two Faces of American Public Education

--- EGR

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