Are We There Yet?

A persistent meme in public school circles is that if parents were a bit more supportive of school teachers their job wouldn’t be as hard as it is.

Hard?  It less than a thousand hours long per year which is less than half of what it is in the private sector.  You qualify for it by getting a degree from a school of education  which schools have been described as the “slums of the university”  by Walter Williams because you can spend six weeks learning how to seal lesson plans in plastic or obtain a doctorate by writing 75,000 words about the spacing of monkey bars.  A job from which you cannot be fired that tows along in its wake every benefit known to mankind  and from which the responsibility for almost every decision about content and almost every discretion has been removed by the state department of education.  A job which doesn’t even have dress standards any longer and its – hard?

Yet as strange as it seems most parents of school age children do support the public system in some fashion.  They vote for school bond issues in the hope of obtaining better facilities, follow up on homework assignments with their son or daughter, volunteer to drive on class outings, man tables at fund raising book fairs, turn out for school board elections, get active in the PTA and religiously attend award ceremonies.

Indeed one may make the point that the parents support the public school system a whole lot better than the public school system ever supports them.

For example:


  • If a family holds to the ancient Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin the school flat out contradicts them with any amount of teaching materials, by organizing peer pressure against that belief and sometimes even by referring a child to a psychologist for treatment.


  • If a parent or grandparent wants to instill patriotic feelings in a child public schools teach that there are other “just as valid” points of view about America among other peoples.  Even denigrate pupils who display some belief in American exceptionalism.


  • If a parent or grandparent chooses to encourage a child to buckle down and master a body of knowledge with a lot of extra study it must to fly in the face of the school’s contravening message, endlessly repeated, that what education is actually about is exploring one’s “creativity” and spontaneity.


  • If a parent or grandparent insists upon unquestioning obedience to certain basic rules of behavior, politeness or demeanor the school will reassure students, and often lecture adults in the child’s family, that the best rules are those which children get to discuss and voluntarily agree to.


  • If a child’s high marks are encouraged cheered on by their family the school will often admonish the child that striving for “ability status” causes other less gifted or less well advantaged students to feel bad about themselves in comparison.


  • And of course surpassing absurdity public schools teach that children should be able to choose their own sex regardless of how parents feel about it. “Your parents say you are a boy Eddie but we want you to know that if you want to be a girl instead that’s okay too.  Or both if that’s who you feel you are” might be how it is put and is.


In summing up, the experience of a lot of parents with government run education is that all too often a rock bounce down the ugly far side of  a pernicious  agenda which neither the family or community at large shares.


One reason they do support it as much as they do that one-on-one public school teachers are wonderfully adept at convincing parents how much they care about their children, care and then care so much more.  At least in theory and so many parents aren’t inclined to write public schools off because with that many “caring’ teachers blowing kisses right and left they give the system the benefit of the doubt.  Another and perhaps far more telling reason parents tend to give the system a pass is that it does provide a world class babysitting service.


But be that as it may be, we’ve gotta start asking ourselves the hackneyed road tri-p question – are we there yet?


Because these people are out of control.   As I write this a five year old in an Alabama primary school just drew a picture of a gun with a crayon (?) , was kept upstairs in an office away from her Mum and was coerced into signing a contract agreeing that she wouldn’t suicide or murder anybody.  A five year old.  Here’s the rule my grandmother taught me about five year olds.  You lean down to their level and smile in their face, you delight in them, you gently joke with and mock surprise at whatever they do to get them laughing but you never ever frighten them!


And that child was almost too frightened to ask her Mum what the words meant that the teachers were using to describe her.


Yet the important point about this tawdry bullying is not the vicious self-righteous mindlessness of the school but the fact that it goes on all the time.  James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal’s Best Of The Web used to keep track of these “zero tolerance” violations of human rights by schools and they made an amusing read until it sunk in that you were learning about young children in every state in the union being abused by the very machinery which taxpayers established in order to protect them.


Think about what’s at stake.  A five year old looks to her parents for protection – what’s done to the relationship when the child sees they can’t protect her?  I dunno but it’s not good.  For the child or the parent.


Or America.


And so – are we at there yet?  That is at the  point where parents have to consciously choose between raising children with the values, attributes and safety they want for them or sending them to government run schools?  Because it’s beginning to look like you cannot have one with the other.


Maybe a million or so parents have made that choice because something in excess of two million children in the United States are now being kept home in order to be homeschooled.  Which one might add parenthetically doesn’t seem to be doing their studies any harm.  Quite the contrary because the home-schooled consistently out-perform those still being gathered into central locations where the state departments of education and the teacher unions rule.


Which when you think about it, is insane.  If you could build a better car than the auto companies in your spare time on your kitchen counter, there’d be an uproar.  Ralph Nader would follow up on his Unsafe At Any Speed with a book entitled Not Worth It At any Price.  Congressmen and women would wet themselves jockeying for face time at committee hearings while the President would appoint a blue ribbon commission in order to tell us what to do about it.


But leaving home-schoolers out of the equation what about that question?  That given the fact that families are the bedrock upon which our republic was built and must stand in the future – is the average family better off without a public school in any part of their child’s life


And what would be the effect upon overall learning if they were abolished?


By and large the United States outside certain regions of the South has always had public schools so it’s not possible to measure the literacy rate (to take one big yardstick) between two states cheek by jowl, one with public schools and one without or measure a state’s progress after the introduction of public schools.  But interestingly this is not the case in England where public schools were not established until well after the literacy rate was well documented in the eighteen nineties.  So what is it now compared to what it was a hundred years ago?  Well in the eighteen nineties it was 93%, now it is 95% (source: The Offshore Islanders).  An insignificant gain which might actually translate into a loss because the standards of a hundred years ago look a lot higher.


Indeed from this vantage point government run primary and secondary education looks like a boondoggle.  Maybe the biggest circus sideshow snake oil game ever perpetrated upon the gullible.  Even if they do babysit junior half the year.


Think about it.