Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Destroying “Middle Class” Education

… how many times can a man turn his head
pretending he just doesn’t see?...
… how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
-- Bob Dylan
It’s all too easy to make kids hate school. Cutting back on music, art and recess, and drilling incessantly for special examinations will more than suffice. Inflicting boredom on the naturally curious and open minds of children is cruelty, and worse.

But which children have been singled out for this treatment? Public school children. The children of those who aspire to upward social mobility but who lack the money for private schooling. Perhaps they expect too much from the schools, but they support them nonetheless. Getting their kids to hate school will definitely undermine their expectations and support.

Our legislators and political leaders have long pushed the idea that public schools can provide a “thorough and efficient education” for every child. This is a pipe-dream. This is a damned, blatant lie. Public schools do a passable job in neighborhoods where parents have the wherewithal to prepare their tots for kindergarten, to clothe and feed them adequately, to socialize them out of random aggression, to engage them in group activities, to support their older kids in their studies and to give them the love they need.

Public schools can’t do much with the severely disabled, the abandoned, the underfed, the abused and the perpetually impoverished. This is not to say that these kids should be thrown away. But pretending that public schools are the institutions that can address social, psychological and growth impediments is to throw those children away. And it is to inculcate in “normal” kids a blindness to suffering right under their noses and an easy hypocrisy in believing that mere declarations of sympathy and concern count as real help.

Do public schools cost too much? Pare them back to doing what they can do reasonably well. Get rid of the sham of a universally applicable, “thorough and efficient” education. Public schools, for social purposes,  could continue to admit all kinds of children. But it is to everyone's disadvantage to hold them accountable for universal academic achievement.

For references and to examine these issues further, see Cutting Public School Costs . . . Intelligently. Can It Be Done?

--- EGR

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