Why Oh Why (part 3)

This is the third part in a series exploring why the educational system (teachers in particular) are being attacked.  You can read the first part here and the second part here.

There’s a sure-fire way to see if a business is doing things right. If you hire a top professional, and that professional eventually comes to the same conclusions, then this business has been run correctly all along.

Wouldn't you get one of these if you could set your iPod in a dock and control it with the stereo controls? Wouldn't you also buy it if it had a GPS, 50 MPG, and OnStar standard? Plus, the ladies wouldn't think you're overcompensating for anything.

For instance, I think we can all agree that the big car companies – particularly GM – are not run the way they should be run. They should be responding to public opinion (the old adage “give ‘em what they want” applies to all businesses) and making smaller, more fuel efficient cars with some cool toys on the inside. They should be making tiny two-seaters that get 50 mpg and have Bluetooth/iPod docks/OnStar standard. They shouldn’t be wasting their time with $50,000 behemoths that get 15 mpg (well, they should have that option, but it shouldn’t be their staple). I think we can also all agree that the banks aren’t doing something right either. When I first started looking for a house about six years ago, I was making a cool $31,000 a year. I was approved for a $240,000 loan. That’s not right. There is no way I could ever afford that.

However, no matter how smart I think I might be, if I eventually came to the same conclusions while running the company – “People will buy any cars that we make” or “We get our money no matter what, so it doesn’t matter if the average American is bad at math” – then the company was right all along.

This is what’s currently happening with the educational system. Let me give you a breakdown of what most politicians find wrong with teaching and how their plan to fix it is just turning back the clock.

  1. Americans aren’t in first place when it comes to our educational outcomes. Therefore, we will make it a law that every child have the education of a college-bound student.
  2. Even special education students without the capacity to do much of anything? Yes. Even our dumbest should be smart enough to attend college. It’s a law now. Get it done.
  3. But schools don’t have funding to accomplish such a lofty goal. You deaf? It’s a LAW now. GET IT DONE!

Long ago, teachers taught the wealthy how to do what the wealthy needed to know how to do. Eventually, as America began to create a middle class, more and more people were able to afford an education for their kids; that is, they were able to get by without their kids’ incomes for 18 years. At this point – where students are either rich or borderline rich (meaning they value an education) – America is far and away number one in education. As a country, we then said that everyone should have access to education and we haven’t been number one since.

At a certain point a few decades ago, there was outrage that kids graduated without the ability to read and write; social promotion was the cornerstone of educational practice at the time. So it was changed to something called “Carnegie Units” where kids received a certain number of credits for passing classes and they couldn’t graduate until those credits were earned. Of course, there are exceptions to this, namely the kids who wouldn’t be able to ever read or write. This is our special education population.

The teachers said, “These kids are just too dumb to do what all the other kids do. They should be separated and given skills needed to survive in the real world. Learning how to correctly organize a flowchart based on characters in a Dickens novel is not a real-world skill. We’ll skip that.” So teachers suggested to parents at a certain point in their child’s education that they might be better served in a special ed classroom. At this point we had a three-track system: the college-bound went to an advanced track, the majority of the population went to a regular track, and the special ed kids had a low track where they learned more applicable skills.

Then society shifted to parents wanting more control over their children’s futures. Parents – people who have absolutely no business interfering with school matters (it’s like me telling Apple what to do because “I love my iPhone.” That doesn’t qualify me to program sync functions on a Mac) – said, “My kid is feeling bad because he’s failing some classes. He needs to be in your special ed program.” Not “My kid is too dumb and won’t ever make it,” or “I think he’s autistic and needs more real-world learnin’ than book learnin.’” Nope. “He feels bad now, so I’m going to doom him to a life of mediocrity by placing him in an environment made for people too dumb to function in the regular environment.”

That’s when it hit the fan. Suddenly we had schools FULL of dumb kids (many schools had as much a 25-30% of their population in a special ed environment). And since, in America, we can’t discriminate – although discrimination based on intelligence and/or ability level isn’t really discrimination – ALL kids take the standardized tests. With 25-30% of the high school kids functioning at an elementary level, our national competitive level naturally dropped a bit.

So No Child Left Behind comes in and says, “We’re not giving you money, but we are telling you that you can’t leave any child behind. Even the dumb ones or the ones with obvious mental disabilities.”

Then the State comes in and says, “The best way to do this is to make a law that all kids will pass college-bound classes and college-level tests.”

Then parents come in and say, “Yeah! Even though I put my kid in a program where he feels good about himself by getting an A in ’coloring inside the lines’, I think he can get a college education.”

So to please everyone – not because it’s what’s best for kids, but because everyone everywhere seems to know more about this business than the people who are trained to do it – here’s what schools did: they got rid of their special education population by integrating them into regular classrooms – same education for everyone (no one is left behind). Because these kids take up so much more of the teachers’ time, advanced tracks were pretty much canceled so educators can “team teach” to take on this challenge.

Then parents realized that their kids might not graduate; they’re thinking about suing someone (anyone!). Then the State realized these kids might not graduate; they’re thinking they might get sued (anyone but us!). Then the Feds realized these kids aren’t getting any smarter; they’re thinking about making more laws (any laws!).

So here’s where schools are now: they have an advanced track for the smart kids, a mediocre track for the regular kids, and a low track for the special ed kids. Same thing they had in 1970.

To me, this says American schools have been doing what they do best for 40 years. The Feds came in, the State came in, and parents came in all trying to run it better and they all came to the same conclusion: the smartest go to college, many don’t, and some kids just need some real-world skills. To me, that says the management of this business is just fine.


5 Responses

  1. my cousins autistic

  2. […] Pages Page 73 DoneWhy Oh Why (part 3)FavorfavorWhy Oh Why (part 2)Lost Season 3 ReviewLost Season 4 ReviewAuthorPage 74 […]

  3. […] are being attacked. You can read the first part here, the second part here the third part here, and the fourth part here. "Ford F-150: When you can't afford a […]

  4. […] part of this podcast is germane to the educator posts I had a few weeks back (view them here, here, here, […]

  5. […] Read the third article here […]

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