Saturday, January 14, 2006

America is Educated Stupid

If you didn`t get a chance to see the excellent 20/20 special with John Stossel Last night, you can read his article in Reason Online:

Why your kids are probably dumber than Belgians


Sovay Fox said...

when I gew up in california, kids with straight f's would go to the next grade. So I am really not surprised.

Penny Silver said...

I am a former public high school teacher, so this show didn't tell me anything I didn't already know expect that the system has gotten worse since I left teaching 10 years ago. At the school where I taught, 90% of the teachers were great, hardworking, caring and doing a great job, but the 10% who were there for the paycheck had much more influence on the system and the union, (of which I am now sorry to say I was a member) did more to protect those 10% of bad teachers than it did to reward the others who were good.

That's one detail this expose by John Stossel didn't touch on -- how many good teachers leave because they get frustrated with a system that desperately needs change and that the good teachers have no hope of changing a system that could be so, so much better than it is. I'm one of those, and I hope this show is the beginning of a much needed dialog about how to improve schools. I taught for 15 years, and I know that competition would make schools better faster than anything else anyone can do. This show proved it.

Anonymous said...

There are those who will mischaracterize Stossel and those as being “anti-education.” This label is inaccurately conveyed, as it should be labeled “pro-education reform”. So to use “anti-education.” and denominate those is misinforming.

The “War on Public Education” is a straw man. There has never been such a war. Any time spent defending against it is time that diverts much-needed time and energy away from the real issues. If there’s no war, then what’s the fuss? Who are these imaginary soldiers? They are simply observers, who pointedly remind us of the many facets of public education which can use serious reform. They however, are very interested in the views and observations of intelligent peers who can contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Part of the debate is calling a spade a spade, shining a light on egregious examples of the misdeeds of public educators, their union, administrators, and aspects of the system itself.

Yes, there are many public schools where excellence is part of the daily culture, where students are given the best chances to lead productive lives after graduation. There are countless public educators who nobly fight the good fight against ignorance and poverty, and who, despite terrible obstacles, defeat these foes daily.

It should not be offensive to truly dedicated teachers and administration to point out the ugly truth where it may lie. These blemishes aren’t just isolated in a system that is by far mostly good; they are endemic. Some examples of serious issues, in need of reform: teacher unions, political activism, teacher certification, mediocrity, opposition to competition, home schooling opposition, zero tolerance, and lack of accountability.

There are four kinds of teachers and administrators staffing public schools. First, there are dedicated teachers and administrators who are effective. Second, there are dedicated folks who aren’t. Third, there are people for whom “it’s just a job,” lastly, and most seriously, there are incompetent teachers and administrators.

Members of the first group should take no offense at any criticisms of the other three groups; they should be leading the charge for reform. The second group, (due to curriculum or techniques), can be retrained, the third group needs to be weeded out, and last group need to be fired, period.

These reforms along with tax credits and free market choice will provide the best environment. True competition can cure most of these ills.

Don’t fall for the ‘Our Schools are Great!’ mantra.

More at

Hellbound Alleee said...

Welcome penny silver, and christ, to my blog. It`s good to hear fresh voices on a fresh topic.

I was involved with the public school system from age 6 to 36, in one way or another. My parents were public school teachers, I often darkened their halls and lounges, and I certainly heard the complaints all through my childhood. My parents were absolutely dedicated and successful--and absolutely frustrated. My brother studied, paid thousands, and became a certified teacher. He was student teacher in a "good" public school, and put to work in a very, very bad one. He quit after one year and has never looked back.

My parents are still dedicated to the ideal of public education. I am dedicated to having everyone educated well, in good schools. I am afraid they might be disappointed to see these posts, actually. I was very disappointed in what I saw on the program, and what I read in Chris' site. I am starting to feel cheated by my own education--especially my state college. I'm glad I saw the program, and hope to see more.

girlatheist said...

My mom taught first grade in a mostly hispanic neighborhood. The waste was incredible. The kids would pick up a lunch tray, walk to the dumpster and throw it away. Then they would go home and eat mama's burritos for lunch. They were required by law to take a free lunch. (now it's free breakfast to throw away as well).

I watched that show and it's all clear to me now why we have to pay $200.00 per month for extra tutoring for my 9 year old step daughter. She's in resource at public school and we sit through those long, boring iep meetings every quarter. Worthless! She's almost catching up to grade level because we're paying extra.

I think that show pointed out how our system is outdated and just doesn't work any more.

breakerslion said...

"What's Wrong With Our Schools?" - cover story from Life Magazine published during the Eisenower administration.

"Mr. America walk on by,
your schools that do not teach." - Frank Zappa, ca. 1967.

This problem has been a part of American culture for so long that I really believe that reform is impossible until it is no longer valuable as a political football.

My first attempt at college, I was an Education major. When I discovered all the red tape and politics and administrative overhead that made the job of actually teaching almost impossible, I quit before I started. I have since been certified and have taught computer classes in Adult Education. A world of difference.

Anonymous said...

You know how sometimes, in a nature show or something like that, the filmmakers will show the capture of an animal, either by predators or by people? And the animal will move its head around, look this way, and that, and this, and circle, as the trap closes?

That is exactly how I feel when I contemplate the American public education system... I don't want to send my future children there, or raise kids in this country... but where can a libertarian atheist GO?

Certainly not europe! Atheist, yes, but libertarian?

Trapped. Totally trapped.