I’ve been sitting here watching the State of the Union address. My favorite part is when the President walks in – it’s kind of cool to hear the Sergeant at Arms introduce him. The rest of it only catches my ear now and then. It’s no secret that I am a big supporter of our current President. But when he begins to talk about education in this country, I begin to yawn. It’s always the same, no matter who is doing the talking. No Child Left Behind becomes Race to the Top. Standards are being raised! Teachers are being held accountable! As a result, Math and Science scores are going up! Blah, blah, blah. It’s always the same.
Here are some soundbites from the Presidents’ speech when he was talking about education: “We must do what is necessary to give every child a chance to succeed… Starts in the family… Turn off the TV… Not just the winner of the Superbowl who needs to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair… Success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline… ”
Those words could have come from the mouth of any of our last 9 Presidents, all of whom at some point claimed they wanted to be known as the ‘education President’. It gets tiresome. I wish just once someone would be honest and stand up there and say something like, “Look, for kids who would otherwise wind up in street gangs or homeless or in jail, compulsory education can help them avoid that. They can graduate and even go to college and get a degree that will put them in a respectable job. A few of them may even break out on their own and do something great. But overall, compulsory education for the masses is not going to do more than that. Most people will graduate and still work 9-5 jobs that pay minimum wage or a little more. Most will struggle to pay their bills. It is the entrepreneurs who buck the system who will be the innovators and change the world. It is the privileged few who attend private elite institutions and gain a classical education who will be the CEO’s and run the country. This is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will continue to be, no matter how much time and money we spend raising ‘standards’ in public schools. There will be exceptions of course, but they will be few and far between.”
Many people would be offended to hear this, but I would vote for anyone who had that kind of chutzpah. People aren’t smarter now than they were 150 years ago before compulsory education took hold in this country. Literacy rates were higher before school became mandatory, no matter what the popular mythology would have you believe. Longer school days and more of them with more testing will not make us leaders in world innovation and technology. Anyone who says differently is selling you the same old bill of goods in a shiny new package.
Kids who attend school talk about getting a job or having a career (which is basically a job on a higher level). This is because schools stress conformity and being great followers. Most of the unschooled and homeschooled kids I know talk about the company they will start or the business they will open. This is because unschooling is all about independence, finding your own way and learning outside of the ‘school’ box. Some would say there lies the path of the innovator…