If our school system is broken, why do people still subject their kids to it?
That’s a serious question.
Every day I read at least one article about how our schools are failing, our kids aren’t learning, etc. etc. But if you suggest that then perhaps we should stop making use of this broken system, people immediately brand you as a fringe lunatic. Probably a fundamentalist fringe lunatic.
When it comes to education, we as a nation have taken complete leave of our senses.
You disagree? Well then, let me ask you this: If you wanted your kid to learn to drive a car, would you place them behind the wheel of a car that had no brakes, no working turn signals and two flat tires? Of course you wouldn’t! How could they learn to drive if the car they were in was broken?
Or what if, in order to use a telephone legally, we were all required to go to telephone school? The only problem is, the telephones at the schools either don’t work or are all old rotary phones that no one uses anymore. Of course, at home we have telephones and we could just learn to use them on our own. And what if that was seen as crazy, fringe behavior? Learn to use a phone ON YOUR OWN? Are you nuts? But, you might say, phone school doesn’t work. The phones are broken or out of date. No matter. We must all continue going to phone school.
Maybe that’s a silly analogy; I can already hear people snorting “It’s not the same thing!” Well, of course it’s not exactly the same thing – there’s that whole school as child-care element. People get really offended if you suggest that one of the main problems in doing away with compulsory schooling is that school provides inexpensive childcare. Why everyone gets so offended is a mystery, since the first objections I always get when discussing learning outside of school are that A. parents don’t want to spend that much time with their kids or B. parents say they can’t do it because they would be at work and ‘who would look after the kids during the day?’ Or in other words “the school is providing my childcare”!
Then there are those who maintain that schools can be fixed, even though most of them also admit they don’t know how to go about said fixing. We have a pretty lengthy list of what doesn’t work, so maybe we should start there – you know, kind of a process of elimination.
1) Longer school days, longer school years: All the data says that more time in a classroom does not equal better learning. If you’re bored out of your mind for 8 hours a day, increasing it to 10 isn’t going to make any difference.
2) More money spent per student: Sounds good, doesn’t work. We spend something like $10K on average per student each year, and proficiency levels are stagnant at best.
3) More testing!!!!: Tried it, tried more of it, tried it again. Guess what? More testing just makes kids stressed. It doesn’t even make them better at taking tests, let alone provide an accurate measure of what they know.
4) Charter schools: Results over the past few years suggest that they are not the savior of public schooling many people thought they might be.
5) Higher teaching standards: No link for this one, because whenever someone starts discussing ‘standards’ in relation to education, I know it’s a pointless discussion. Judging teaching standards is soooo subjective. A teacher might be a great fit for one kid and a terror for another. And anyway, even the greatest teacher on the planet will have no success if the student has no interest in the subject. So the point is moot.
6) And on and on and on.
Sorry, just can’t regurgitate any more of this stuff! Reformers have been reading from the same script for 50+ years. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
The only solution when something is broken beyond repair is to stop using it. Stop putting our kids behind the wheel of a car that doesn’t run and then expecting them to learn how to drive.