Open thread 2 on poverty: Education
The amount of wealth in the world is not fixed. The ‘distribution’ of wealth should not be treated as a zero-sum game, ‘knocking back what the rich get and bumping up what the poor get’. Instead, the whole society needs to be empowered to generate wealth.
The way for this to happen, as BookJunky says, is education. But rather than (as Webs05 suggests) pouring more money into the same broken system by putting everyone through junior college, I propose certain reforms in the system we have…
The first school reform is to bring back failure. Without failure, there cannot be much progress.
Teachers cannot fail because even the incompetent or dangerous ones are protected by their unions. This is a recipe for mediocrity.
Students cannot fail because it might make them feel bad. But we need to hand out f’s for nonperformance and yes, use RED ink on the papers. It does a student no kindness to prepare them for a “real world” which does not really exist. Of course, when students do well, they need to be rewarded with recognition. But only when they do well.
It is also very difficult for students to be expelled. We liberals are constantly trying to be fair but seem unconcerned about how unfair this is to kids who are really trying to get an education.
Mainstreaming handicapped children with the rest, also seems like a bad idea to me but I am still chewing on that concept.
School districts cannot fail because they have a govenment-assured monopoly. Only the wealthiest parents have any choice but to send their children to the government-sponsored mediocrity factories. If parents could apply their kids’ public-education dollars somewhere else…
On purpose, I have said nothing about John Dewey vs. B.F. Skinner, or ‘new math’ vs ‘old math, etc. If parents had choices, many methods could compete and the results would begin to show. As an aside I would like to say that overemphasis on tests is poisonous to understanding. It is a paean to ‘efficiency’ reminiscent of the Taylorism that engulfed the education business ‘round the beginning of the 20th century. Yes I want kids to learn facts but more importantly I want them to feel the need to learn way down in their guts.
The second school reform is to devalue school sports. I have no objection to kids playing kickball on the playground or tag football in PE class, but schools’ entire identity is tied up in their sports mascots. Newsflash, jocks; no one gives a crap how well you threw a ball when you were in school.
The third school reform is to put the emphasis back on real subjects. Reading, writing, arithmetic, science, geography, history. And when I say “writing”, I mean creating coherent sentences and paragraphs. I don’t give a damn if a kid ever learns cursive or not.
I might add a course called; “Drawing as a communication skill” which would teach kids how to make clear line drawings of real objects including people. Cartooning, if you will. Sometimes a clear drawing can convey an idea far more efficiently than pages of text.
(Trust me, you will not need to “encourage creativity” if you equip children with with an ability like that. If kids are not creative it is because we have deprived them of the tools to be creative with. How creative can you be if your reading comprehension is poor, you can’t write a clear sentence, you don’t know anything, and you can’t draw?)
The fourth school reform is to kick out all the sensitivity activists who worry about whether kids might be offended by reading about historical events or literature, or if a child who grew up in the plains would have his self-esteem hurt by reading a story about a child who lives in the mountains. You might think these examples are made-up, but sadly, they’re not. We do children no favors by teaching them that they are victims of something or other if they hear a word that troubles them.
With these reforms it is very possible that, as GUYK recalls from his childhood, a high-school education would actually be worth something. Give everyone more quality, not more years in a mediocre system.
Notes: See also