“A mind is a terrible thing to waste“
United Negro College Fund
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
The purpose of education is no longer to teach or impart knowledge. Some of that still occurs, but much of that comes from concerned parents. Learning still occurs in homes where parents are aware of what is happening.
Sadly, too many parents believe the bunk put out by their local schools. These trusting folks believe the inflated grades evidence learning and progress. Too often so do the kids.
Through high school, education has become little more than a holding pen, a form of daycare where kids go while parents work or do their thing. It also has become Orwellian indoctrination center where the State is glorified. Just as Catholic schools do not teach the Muslim religion, government schools do not teach about social coordination via free markets.
If education has an objective beyond daycare and worshipping the State, it does not show up in outcomes. The US consistently ranks at or near the bottom on test scores among twenty developed nations. One area where US students consistently rank at the top is in overestimating their own abilities. While well behind their international counterparts, their self-esteem is so pumped up that they don’t realize how ignorant they are.
Jack Kelly provides some distressing details:
In a National Geographic survey, half of Americans aged 18-24 couldn’t find New York state on a map. Only 3 percent of high school students could pass the citizenship test foreigners take to become Americans, a survey in Oklahoma found. Only a handful of the roughly 6,000 students who’ve passed through his classroom know how to form a sentence or write an intelligible paragraph, a retiring high school teacher told Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mr. Kelly’s article includes additional, depressing insights and facts.
Like the post office, Amtrak and other government-run ventures, education is a maze of inefficiencies, inconsistencies, misdirection and political correctness. It costs too much and produces too little.
Education wasn’t always this way. Students used to learn and the end was achieved at reasonable cost. Control moved upward from local communities to states and finally to the big Kahuna itself. Education became just another casualty of big government. Under central control it became subject to the loony ideas of pseudo intellectuals whose “fad de jure” changed annually rather than daily.
As a “serious crisis,” it afforded politicians the opportunity to intervene in unprecedented ways. Education became a political favorite of Democrats and the teachers’ unions who control the schools. No change can be instituted without union approval, and there is little incentive for teachers to change the gravy train on which they ride. As a major constituent of the party, teachers can count on blind support from Democrats. Instead of wasting this crisis, the lives of millions of student are wasted as a means to political and pecuniary gains.
The downward spiral in our schools now is reinforcing. Incompetent teachers were trained in incompetent schools. They came through the system, learning little. Colleges have dumb-downed their curricula in order to adapt to the ill-educated raw material coming out of our school system. Education majors in colleges are especially ignorant when judged in terms of SAT and other standardized tests. They consistently rank near the bottom. This cycle of stupidity has now come full cycle.
The products of poor schools are now the teachers in these same schools. Many have no mastery of the subjects they supposedly learned and teach. Some teach subjects in which they have little education, especially math and the hard sciences. Per Mr. Kelly:
About 30 percent of high school students studying math, 60 percent studying the physical sciences, are taught by teachers who did not major in the subject in college, or are not certified to teach it.
“How in the world can we expect our students to master science and technology when their teachers may not have mastered it?” asked U.S. News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman.
All teachers are obviously not incompetent.
If education were free in its current form, it is unclear whether it would be worth what it cost. Does free day-care offset the opportunity cost of twelve of the most inquisitive years of one’s life? Does enough learning take place to offset the brainwashing? What is the psychological damage done by certifying people as educated who can barely read or write? What good is self-esteem for twelve years when it runs smack into hard reality in the outside world where political correctness is not practiced to anywhere near the same degree.
If our educational system is so bad, why do we not fix it? No one has an incentive to do so. The majority of teachers, at least the bad ones, love the way things work now. The good ones often leave the system in frustration. Over time this self-selection and pruning process produces more bad teachers than good ones. Many are overpaid for what amounts to be a babysitting government jobs program.
Democrats love the teachers’ unions and vice versa. So long as teachers vote as a bloc matters will stay just as they are. Republicans have pushed for change, although they are not innocent either. Both parties allowed the system to get to its current condition. Frankly, neither political party truly wants an educated electorate as H. L. Mencken observed:
The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.
Confidence men need the naive in order to work their scam. Our school system output ensures that politicians can carry out their schemes to extreme degrees of exploitation and plunder.
The tragedy of public schools cannot be solved so long as they are public. Just as there is no justification (yet!) for government to supply cars, shoes, clothing or food. If it did, in a short period of time everyone (except the political class) would be walking, barefoot and indecently dressed. But we would all be skinny.
Having government provide education has reduced our educational system to little more than a holding bin or prison for our youth. The waste of potentially good minds and the utter waste of time is one thing. However the effect on lives lived in ignorance is the real tragedy. Schools must be privatized in order to correct the problems. Nothing can be solved within a political context. The politicians have no desire to see an educated electorate.
An argument can be made for a role for government in financing education, but no logical argument can be made for it supplying it. That argument is for another day.