“The takeaway is this: Prioritize equity in education. Our students deserve it. Our nation needs it. Our future depends on it.”
This statement is true. What I question is the assumption that taking money from rich school districts and giving it to poor districts will provide that equity. It’s naive and unrealistic to believe that all schools would automatically use more money to improve anything; we live in the land of the free, not in Utopia. Here in the real world, people are free to make really bad decisions, and plenty of school boards would do just that, with other people’s money. I am all for better school funding, but money doesn’t necessarily equate with high academic standards. There’s usually a correlation, but it’s not necessarily cause and effect. My niece attended an excellent prep school and is now kicking ass at an extremely challenging college, working much harder then her Ivy League friends. My son, on the other hand, went to a public school in a small, rural district. He took several “honors” courses, and although his GPA suffered a bit, he graduated with a lot more knowledge. He’d probably be at Purdue right now if he hadn’t chosen the Marines. Our school district is what the state calls a “best buy,” with high graduation and college-bound rates and a small budget. Money isn’t always the answer. My definition of “equity in education” is to give every student the education he’s willing to earn, and it can be done on ANY budget.
Remember back in the 80’s when the Japanese told us Americans that we’re lazy and entitled? They weren’t entirely wrong. I’m not advocating the kind of conformism that rules their society; it wouldn’t work very well here, as most of us are recently descended from boatloads of “rugged individualists” (Gram’s family was closely associated with the Wild Bunch, and who doesn’t have a similar story?) I do think, however, that we have a huge sense of entitlement. We tend to put our individual desires pretty high on our priorities list, and we take too much for granted. We’ve learned that we can goof off at work and still get paid, because some schmuck is willing to get the job done. Our children have learned that they can goof off in school and still pass their classes. The curriculum has been dumbed down to accommodate the lazy and entitled. Any student can tell you that most of them spend their days listening to the teacher keep order, rather than learning much. The smart kids are bored and stifled (and often end up becoming goof-offs) and the kids who struggle can’t get the help they need. Every classroom is dominated by a handful of kids whose selfish demand for social attention overrides everyone’s need for an education. And the teachers are afraid of those students’ parents. Heaven forbid anybody threaten to sue!
Here’s the shocking politically incorrect school I want my grandchildren to attend. The goof-offs would be isolated from the responsible students. For starters, it would loosely combine grade levels, because they are about to become rather fluid anyway. It would divide each “age cluster” according to ability an *gasp* behavior. Three classes or “tracks” per age cluster, plus special ed. The tracks would be Academic, Practical, and Undecided. That last one is a euphemism for unmotivated, disruptive, and mouthy; it would provide an education typical of current public school standards. Any student would be allowed to choose his track, and even to change it. The politically incorrect part is that any student who can’t or won’t keep up in the Practical and Academic tracks, would be put into the Undecided track. Any student in the Undecided track could apply to either of the other tracks at the beginning of the next school year, provided he qualifies. He’d be tested, and he may have to spend his summer studying independently to catch up to his peers in another track. It can be done, if he’s willing to work for it.
The Academic track would be geared toward college, and frankly, there’s no reason why an intelligent child can’t finish twelve years of school with nearly the equivalent of a modern bachelor’s degree. My niece was writing sonnets in third grade. (Imagine the college professors’ reactions!) The Practical track would focus on core academic curriculum combined with vocational training, based on aptitude. These kids could leave high school fully prepared to earn a living or go on to highly specialized technical training. Without disruptive peers underfoot, students in these two tracks would get plenty of individual assistance from teachers, and would be able to accomplish a lot in small cooperative student groups. Students in these two tracks who disrupt or slow down the teaching process would get ONE warning, before being demoted to Undecided.
Sorry, Suzie Soccer-mom. That smug little shit you worship like a god, is going to have to learn to shut his damn mouth if you want him to get a good education. If Suzie’s social status can’t get her kid into the Academic or Practical track, she’s going to have to bite the bullet, and teach Junior a thing or two about personal accountability. This system would give every child an education, but it wouldn’t waste precious resources on kids who don’t want to learn. And it would give every smart, disciplined child a truly competitive education. Imagine a school board having the guts to stand up to all those excuses for mediocrity and irresponsible behavior.
One more can of worms: Tenure and seniority would have nothing to do with teaching assignments. Teachers, like the students, would have to prove themselves. The good teachers would get the good students. Yup. I said that out loud.
Welcome to Planet Suzy.