Saturday, March 10, 2012

Poor Return on Investment or a Misanthropic View of Education

I remember as a young, idealistic adult working in corporate America, how I vaguely valued education politically, without really understanding what that entailed.  I also held an uncertain feeling that something was wrong with education, but I would probably assume that the problem was only in inner cities or in poor areas, or that we could solve the issue simply and quickly, and not fathom the width or depth of the quagmire in which we now find ourselves.

I now have a front row seat to the disaster that is public education.  The problems are many, but it is clear to me that one of the problems is not the teachers.  If I hadn't become a teacher, I certainly would believe it is the teachers.  I had formed this negative opinion in college, when I was drawn to the profession, but steered clear due to the connotation that the career did not attract the most brilliant.  It's possible I obtained this cynical idea myself by using the contrapositive logic that if brains = money, then no money = no brains.  Whatever convinced me that teachers were not the best and the brightest, it was and still is the prevailing attitude towards educators.  And politicians have been feeding into this belief because there is unease about education, and rightly so.  The U.S. is second in the world in per student annual expenditures, yet perform worse and worse academically every year and now rak far below other industrialized nations.  We are desperate, we know something has to change, so the easiest thing to grab ahold is teachers. 

Many in our country see education as a right, which it is not.  Maybe if they were better educated, they would know that.  Education is, by law, compulsary in this country, but it was not always so.  Up until the mid-1800's, education was left to parents' discretion.  It was only after the great wave of immigrants started coming to this country that people began to worry about their judgement, and started compulsary schooling to maintain a common culture.  We have veered so hard off course since then.  Now, it's time to rethink compulsary education. 

We are getting an incredibly poor return on investment with education.  Does everyone deserve an education?  I used to think so, but my mindset is evolving.  If you disrupt everyone else's education, no, you are no longer entitled to free instruction.  You're not getting one, anyhow, if all you're there to do is keep everyone else from learning.  Out.  Your child is hungry, and that is why he can't focus?  I'm sorry, but that is not the school's responsibilty.  Your child has "special needs" and cannot sit in classroom, again, sorry, but you either have to help him or her yourself, or put him or her in a school that can help.  And, no, we're not going to foot that bill, either.  If you can't hack school for any reason, tough noogies.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating denying children with below average intelligence an education.  You don't need to be smart to go to school.  And, physical disabilities should not disqualify anyone either.  But, what you do need is the internal desire to learn, and if you and your parents are not going to be responsible for your learning, then we won't provide it automatically.  And just saying that education is important is not enough, you have to prove it through your actions.  We give kids everything.  We feed them, we give them supplies (which they lose or destroy), we give them tutors and afterschool programs, free bus travel, we get them eye exams and glasses, we give them free computers with internet, we give their parents free turkeys, we donate our time for their dances.  If they don't appreciate it, they don't deserve it.  Stop throwing money away.  Educate those that respect the school, the school's property and materials, and respect the teachers.  Educate those whose parents feed them, get them glasses if they need them, and send their children to school prepared.  That is a parent's job.  We are creating an entitled, disrespectful, uneducated, crass population whose only skill set seems to be fabricating lies to shift responsibility for anything.  The others can spend their lives watching t.v. or causing problems for society, I don't care.  Just sterilize them until their 30, though.  Please!


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