A while back, my wife and I started a project to bring attention to some of the abject stupidity that goes on in American schools: EducatoroftheDay.com. We’ve been doing the site for over one year and have posted over 339 news stories that for the large part will leave your jaw on the floor in amazement that the story actually happened in real life. On the whole, it’s forced me to reevaluate my own position on public education.
Parents think (and rightfully so based on those 339 news stories) that public school administrators are ready to pounce on their child and ruin their child’s life for any trivial violation of the school’s rules, regardless of the rule’s effect on the child’s health. In some cases, school administrators are extending the authoritarian stupidity to home by spying on children at home and by monitoring their online activities for anti-school employee comments. If a parent does try to do something about the situation, they are attacked using the full force of the government.
It doesn’t help that teachers unions and school administrators advocate things like raising taxes, making bad teachers impossible to fire, and jailing parents. It also doesn’t help when union contracts based on
seniority tenure result in pink-slipping the teacher of the year right before the awards ceremony.
Parents were pretty sure that schools are hiding how bad they are at teaching kids. That’s why voters have rammed standardized testing down the public school systems’s throat. Now that standardized testing is in place, parents and voters are 100% sure that schools were hiding how bad they were at teaching kids. The amount of trust educators lost is almost infinite, and it does not help that there are ongoing cheating scandals in Georgia and Washington DC.
Public schools are often really bad at business. Here’s a typical example. A public school district gets solar panels installed at three high schools and saves about $50K per year. A single Catholic school gets solar panels and cuts $600K off their bill. The difference: the public school got a really bad deal where the installer got to pocket what they would have saved.
Public opinion of schools, school administrators, teachers and teacher’s unions are not helped by how schools handle problems. Maybe it’s because they are busy watching kids at home on spy laptops or maybe it’s because teachers and school administrators are waging war against Silly Bandz. When someone gets busted, the first response is often to clam up, and force a lawsuit despite the fact that every attorney in America will line up to sue a school. It’s a guaranteed payday, and easier than stealing lunch money is for teachers. In extreme cases, blame is simply shifted to someone else. Even more amazing: school administrators and teacher’s unions are equally clueless why their is sudden interest in vouchers, charter schools and pretty much anything that isn’t a traditional public school.
In the end, our Public Education System is really in dire straights. Fortunately, during a momentary lapse of sanity, the dreaded by teacher’s unions and school administrators No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was made law. I used to think NCLB was a bad idea and was unfair to teachers. Reality is that NCLB has done two very important things: it’s exposed bad performance and it requires that something be done about it.
Unfortunately, NCLB can’t fix stupid.